RENTON — It was a deal that ultimately gave each side what it wanted.
Bobby Wagner wanted to stay with the Seahawks while also achieving the title of the NFL’s highest-paid inside linebacker.
The Seahawks wanted to make that happen — they have never questioned Wagner’s value — but do so while keeping as much future salary-cap flexibility as possible.
The compromise that ended Wagner’s “non-holdout holdout” was finally reached Friday when the middle linebacker signed a three-year contract extension worth $54 million that keeps him with the Seahawks through 2022, an $18 million average per year that tops the $17 million for the New York Jets’ C.J. Mosley, who signed a deal in March that vastly re-set the linebacker market. Wagner, 29, also got a reported $40.2 million guaranteed — Mosley, 27, got $51 million. (Wagner will make $10.5 million in 2019 in the final year of his current deal).
Wagner may hold the crown of the highest-paid inside linebacker for a while, but Seattle didn’t go to five years the way the Jets did with Mosley, meaning Wagner got his per-year average and a big, new payday while the Seahawks kept the commitment at a comfortable level. Wagner will be 32 when the extension expires.
It was a deal Wagner negotiated himself, which didn’t go unnoticed by one former Seahawk who has also served as his own agent, Richard Sherman, who tweeted “Hell yea!!! Get ya money!!! Who was his agent?”
The contract was first reported by the NFL Network and confirmed by the Seahawks on Friday evening.
“I’m really excited to have this done, excited that I get to be a Seahawk for a long, long time,” Wagner said in a team statement. “Like I’ve always said, I want to play my entire career here, and I feel like today is a step toward that. It feels amazing being here. I’ve watched people stay, I’ve watched people go, and to have the trust from the organization to continue to let me lead this team, lead the defense, it’s a great feeling. I’m excited to get back to work.”
Said Seahawks general manager John Schneider via the team statement: “We feel blessed that we were able to draft Bobby in 2012, keep him here on a second contract, and now to have him sign a third contract is a huge deal for us. Everyone in the whole building is excited, I’m sure his teammates are going to be very excited. He exemplifies everything that we’re all about, his professionalism, intensity, the way he handles himself off the field. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll go down not only as one of the greatest Seahawks, but also as one of the greatest middle linebackers in NFL history. It’s a major deal for our organization moving into the future.”
Wagner was entering the final season of a four-year deal signed in 2015 that was worth up to $43 million and had been seeking a new contract all offseason. He had not taken part in on-field drills throughout the team’s offseason program and the first two days of training camp.
He’d announced that getting a deal to top Mosley’s was his goal.
“That is the plan, to break that,” Wagner said in May.
But if Wagner hoped the deal might get done in the spring, the talks lasted through the summer and through the first two days of training camp.
Wagner, not wanting to put himself in harm’s way until a new deal was secured, watched each of the first two practices from the sideline.
On Friday, Wagner put on a helmet and jersey.
That was in stark contrast to Day 1 of training camp Thursday when Wagner wore only a hoodie turned inside out, with no Seahawks identification visible.
That may have irked coach Pete Carroll a little bit. He mentioned after Thursday’s practice that he would “visit” with Wagner about how he was dealing with practices while he remained without a new contract.
Teammates, though, said Wagner was not frustrated and had indicated optimism a new deal would come soon. Wagner had not talked to the media during training camp.
“I’ve talked to Bobby (about his contract situation),” quarterback Russell Wilson said after Friday’s practice. “ … He deserves to be the highest-paid linebacker. There is nobody better in the game, that’s just the honest truth. He’s done great things, he’s put up all the stats, he’s done all the things. I think he will get taken care of. I have all the confidence it will work out.
“We need Bobby Wagner. He’s a great football player. I don’t want to play (against) him, that’s for sure. I love for him to be on my team. Let’s play together for a long time. Bobby and I have goals, too. We are very similar. We want to win a Super Bowl together again, a few more Super Bowls and end it the right way, you know what I mean? So that’s kind of our mentality.’’
As Wilson’s comments indicated, there had been increasing speculation in recent days the deal would get done. For one, the Seahawks have often signed extensions with key players right as camp opens, as they did with Wilson and Wagner in 2015.
The contract is Wagner’s third with the Seahawks, something that hasn’t been a guarantee for other players in recent seasons. Seattle didn’t give safety Earl Thomas the third contract he wanted a year ago, and the team was seemingly warier about the nature of the third contracts it wanted to hand out in the wake of a few that went wrong, notably one given to safety Kam Chancellor before the 2017 season. Chancellor suffered a career-ending injury that year, and the Seahawks still owed him $12 million in injury guarantees. He was released this year.
But it was considered likely all along that Seattle would keep Wagner. And the contract means Seattle has its two cornerstone players — Wilson and Wagner — in the fold for at least four more seasons (kicker Jason Myers is the only other player not on a rookie contract who is under contract through the 2022 season).
In April, Wilson signed a four-year contract making him the NFL’s highest-paid player at $140 million total, $35 million per season.
Wagner, essentially the quarterback of the defense, is now the highest-paid player at his position. Both are members of the team’s great NFL draft class of 2012 — Wagner was selected in the second round and Wilson in the third.
“He’s my great friend,” Wilson said. “He’s a guy that came in in 2012. When we came in in 2012 they (some draft analysts) gave us an F-grade, and we sat down, Bobby, myself, Bruce Irvin, the rest of the guys, we sat down in the room and said, ‘Hey we’re going to change the outlook.’ And so that was the big thing and so that’s still the case today.”
Schneider said keeping Wilson and Wagner secured was a major goal of the team’s offseason, as well as also re-signing linebacker K.J. Wright, Wagner’s good friend.
Those three are the only three players left from the team that won the Super Bowl after the 2013 season.
“Those are two pillars that we want to build a young football team around,” Schneider said of Wilson and Wagner in a comment to Seahawks.com. “That was a primary goal for us as we entered the offseason, and knowing that we’re going to be a young football team with great leadership on both sides of the ball — Bobby, K.J. and Russ — that’s big for us.”