Reviews on how well Wagner played in his first season after signing a four-year, $43 million deal were mixed. Neither Pro Football Focus nor the NFL Network placed Wagner on its offseason list of the league’s top 100 players.
With the Seahawks set to report for training camp July 29 (practices begin the next day), it’s time to look at the players I feel are most pivotal in 2016.
Call it “16 for ’16,’’ as we count down the 16 most important Seahawks in 2016, unveiling one new player each day until the team reports.
The countdown continues with No. 12, middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. He is the highest-drafted player remaining from the now-legendary 2012 draft class.
Player: Bobby Wagner.
Position: Middle linebacker.
2016 contract status: Wagner is in the second season of a four-year, $43 million deal that included almost $22 million guaranteed. Wagner signed the contract as training camp opened in 2015.
Expected 2016 role: He again will be the starting middle linebacker.
Why he’s ranked here: It hardly needs stating how important any Pro Bowl-level middle linebacker is to a defense.
And the Seahawks made clear a year ago how critical they consider Wagner by signing him to a contract extension that made him the NFL’s second-highest-paid middle linebacker after Carolina’s Luke Kuechly.
Reviews on how well Wagner played in his first season as one of the NFL’s richest defensive players, though, were mixed.
Neither Pro Football Focus nor the NFL Network placed Wagner on its summertime list of the league’s top 100 players.
In an apparent response to being left off the NFL Network list, Wagner tweeted simply “Disrespect’’ within minutes after it was fully unveiled.
One knock on Wagner’s performance a year ago was for a few plays in pass coverage, notably when he was caught in a one-on-one situation far downfield against Green Bay that resulted in a pass-interference penalty.
Wagner also missed the home loss to Carolina due to a pectoral injury, which he had largely played through the week before at Cincinnati. The injury seemed to hamper him for a few games afterward.
Down the stretch, though, Wagner seemed like his old self, and he finished second on the team in tackles with 114, behind the 116 of fellow linebacker K.J. Wright.
Wagner and Wright are in their prime, giving Seattle one of the NFL’s best inside-linebacking duos. Wagner mostly needs to avoid tnagging injuries as he has missed at least one game in each of his four seasons with Seattle).
Coach Pete Carroll cited Wagner and Wright entering their fifth season working together as among the reasons to be excited about where the Seahawks are headed.
“You really can’t draw on great experience until you are together for five years,’’ Carroll said. “ … You watch (quarterback) Russell (Wilson) and the level that Bobby and K.J. are at now and their understanding of the game. It is not just that they know how to play or they know their assignments, but they have so many past experiences that we can draw from.
“It allows us to communicate on such a high level and so quickly that we are just connected. It does make a difference, and hopefully we will be able to bank on that. We set out a long time ago to keep these guys together, and we’ve done that, and hopefully it is going to continue to keep us moving ahead.”