Bruce Irvin said the day after the season ended that he would consider a modest hometown discount. But conventional wisdom says he is is likely headed elsewhere.
As the 2014 season wound down, the Seahawks knew by the time the 2015 season began they would have to make major decisions on the futures of all three of their starting linebackers — Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Bruce Irvin.
Seattle eventually signed Wright and Wagner to extensions, but declined an option on Irvin, making this another area of intrigue for the team heading into the off-season.
As we continue our daily breakdown of the Seahawks’ position groups, here’s a closer look at the linebacking spot:
Starters: Weakside linebacker K.J. Wright
Snaps played: 966 (of 995 total).
Contract situation: Signed through 2018.
2015 stats: 116 tackles, which led the team, with 71 solo, which also led the team.
Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner
Snaps played: 904.
Contract situation: Signed through 2019.
2015 stats: 114 tackles, second on the team, and 67 solo, also second.
Strongside linebacker Bruce Irvin
Snaps played: 711.
Contract situation: Unrestricted free agent.
2015 Seahawks stats: 38 tackles, 5.5 sacks.
Backups: Kevin Pierre-Louis
Snaps played: 103.
Contract situation: Signed through 2017.
2015 stats: 12 tackles.
Snaps played: 15.
Contract situation: Signed through 2016.
2015 stats: 3 tackles.
Snaps played: 91.
Contract situation: Unrestricted free agent.
2015 stats: 11 tackles.
Snaps played: 2.
Contract situation: Exclusive rights free agent.
2015 stats: No tackles on defense but two on special teams.
After signing Wright to a four-year, $27 million extension in December 2014, getting an early head start on what they knew would be an off-season priority, the Seahawks then got Wagner signed to a similar four-year extension, worth $43 million, as camp began in August.
Those two proved more than worth it in 2015, with Wright having maybe the best year of his career and Wagner named a second-team All-Pro pick.
According to Pro Football Focus, Wright was among the most sure tacklers in the NFL, missing only four tackles all season. He played particularly well in a 38-7 win at Minnesota when the Seahawks held Adrian Peterson to 18 yards on eight carries.
Wagner battled a pec injury at mid-season but came on strong at the end as the Seahawks ended up leading the NFL in fewest points and rushing yards allowed.
But while the Seahawks solidified their inside linebacking corps through the 2018 season, they declined last May to pick up an option for Irvin that would have paid him almost $7.8 million in 2016. He can now become a free agent
Irvin again also filled a role as a pass-rush specialist in the nickel package and was third on the team in sacks (5.5) and quarterback hits (12).
Pierre-Louis started at weakside linebacker against Carolina when Wagner was out, with Wright shifting to the middle for that game, but otherwise played sparingly.
When Irvin missed games against the 49ers and Steelers in November, Morgan got the starts.
Otherwise, the backups played little, with Coyle missing eight games at mid-season with a knee injury and Pinkins playing six games after being re-signed in late November.
Wright was magnificent throughout, Wagner played well down the stretch and Irvin was solid. But a few lapses covering tight ends and creating turnovers keep this group just short of an A.
As noted above, the biggest intrigue here is what happens with Irvin, who is now an unrestricted free agent after the team did not pick up an option on his contract last spring that would have paid him almost $7.8 million in 2016.
Irvin said on the day after the season that he would be amenable to taking at least a modest hometown discount, specifically mentioning $3 million or so total of what he would undoubtedly hope would be at least a four-year deal worth possibly double the $2.9 million he made this season.
Conventional wisdom is that Irvin is likely headed elsewhere, with Atlanta having long been considered a possible suitor due to the fact that Irvin is from there and former Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is now the head coach there.
But if Irvin gets away the question then is who replaces him. Pierre-Louis had been regarded as the heir apparent to that spot. But he got just the one start this season and has to be regarded as still unproven. Morgan was Irvin’s official backup this season but also is now an unrestricted free agent.
Pinkins, drafted as a defensive back in 2014, is also now primarily a strongside linebacker.
The Seahawks could look to draft someone to compete at strongside linebacker or dip into free agency.
Coyle is under contract for another year to serve as Wagner’s backup.
Up next: Defensive backs.