This frenzied NFL free-agency period has shown that the chaos tactic can pay off.
Antonio Brown — who was deactivated for a must-win game at the end of the season, who scorched every bridge to force his way out of Pittsburgh, who trashed his quarterback and the organization just to make sure he made his point — was rewarded with a trade to Oakland and a three-year, $54.1 million reworked contract.
Earl Thomas — who spent an entire work year agitating for a new contract, who missed all Seahawks team activities leading up to the 2018 season, who reported just before Seattle’s opener but declared that he would skip practice if he had so much as a headache to protect his value — was rewarded with a four-year, $55 million contract from the Baltimore Ravens.
And then there’s K.J. Wright. Score one for decorum. Score one for calm over chaos. Score one for grace.
Wright, like Thomas, was entering the final year of his contract in 2018. He showed up for every Seahawks minicamp and organized team activity. When training camp started, Wright embraced the role of defensive leader, along with his linebacking partner, Bobby Wagner, vowing to help the young players in a year of transition.
The word holdout was not in his vocabulary, the strategy of browbeating for a new deal not part of his world view.
“A lot of guys approach it differently,” he said of his expiring contract. “You can approach it how you want to approach it. I’m approaching mine with peace.”
And now Wright has shown that the diplomatic approach can prevail, too. Late Wednesday night, word filtered out that Wright had agreed to a new deal with the Seahawks. It’s a reported two-year contract worth up to $15.5 million.
It’s not break-the-bank money, but it’s a nice payday for the senior member of Seattle’s defense, who turns 30 in July and missed 11 games last year because of a knee injury.
It’s also an important message for the Seahawks to send to their players. Namely, that if you go about your business in the right way, on and off the field, the team will take care of you — even if you’re entering the dreaded third contract.
That has become a sticking point with the Seahawks, because some of those past deals have gone off the rails. But this was a risk the Seahawks felt was worth taking, based on Wright’s body of work since coming to Seattle as a fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State in 2011.
Yes, the injury, which required surgery and the Regenokine blood-spinning treatment, is a red flag. But until last year, Wright had missed just five of a possible 112 regular-season games over seven seasons. That doesn’t count Seattle’s playoff runs — two of them all the way to the Super Bowl, one to a title.
Those championship links are dwindling fast on the Seahawks, now down to just Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Wagner and Wright. It was important not to let another one get away — particularly after Wright offered a reminder in the playoff loss to Dallas just how valuable he could be.
Wright was a monster in that game, contributing an acrobatic interception that he tipped to himself, as well as eight tackles. After that game, Wagner advocated passionately for the return of his friend, as he had done periodically all season.
“The right thing to do will be to bring him back,” Wagner said.
Wagner indicated he would be paying attention to the outcome of these negotiations, with his own contract up after the 2019 season.
Maybe the Seahawks were thinking of the big picture, and trying to enhance their chances of retaining the indispensable Wagner. But there is still an undeniable role in Seattle for their 2018 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee.
Wright, when healthy, remains a linebacker of prowess. He is still the sort of role model that teams, and communities, covet. Coach Pete Carroll indicated as much at his news conference after the Cowboys’ loss ended their season.
“He’s been a fantastic player for us for years in every way,’’ Carroll said of Wright on that day. “In every way he’s been a leader, he’s been tough, he’s been here, he’s been consistent. His messaging, everything he stands for is what we love about him, and we’d love for him to be here throughout.”
But that didn’t necessarily mean that Wright would be back. This can be a cold business. In fact, the smart money was on him leaving via free agency, especially when Seattle re-signed Mychal Kendricks, who plays the same weakside linebacker position as Wright.
You can theorize that the Seahawks have been sending a message over the past couple of years by dispatching three players who had become squeaky wheels — Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett and now Thomas.
The retention of Wright sends a different sort of message to a locker room that no doubt was paying keen attention.
Score one for peace.