If drafting Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks in the first round of the NFL draft last week caught many observers off guard, it makes a little more sense after Seahawks general manager John Schneider revealed Thursday that veteran linebacker K.J. Wright recently had shoulder surgery.
Schneider said in an interview with KJR-AM 950’s Dave Mahler and Dick Fain that the surgery was not serious, but that it was unclear when Wright would be back. He also said that Brooks could slide into the weakside linebacker spot while Wright could be used on the strongside.
Brooks is regarded as maybe fitting best at the two inside linebacker spots — middle or weakside — where the Seahawks has entrenched veterans in Bobby Wagner and Wright.
Wright has just one year left on his contract, and is coming off shoulder surgery, which would be the second time in a little over two years he has had a surgery. He missed 11 games in 2018 with knee surgery to repair an injury suffered that August.
While Schneider said Wright’s procedure was “not a serious surgery,” he also said there is no timeline for his return and noted that because of the limitations on working with players due to the coronavirus pandemic that recovery time for players who have surgery this offseason could be impacted.
“K.J. just had surgery,” Schneider said. “He is rehabbing from his surgery. I’m not sure of the timeline of when he is going to be back. So hopefully he makes it back on time and we will see how it goes. It’s just a weird offseason for everybody but especially for guys who have had offseason surgery.”
Wright signed a two-year contract last offseason that runs through the 2020 season and carries a $10 million salary cap hit this year with $5 million in base salary, with $1 million guaranteed. Wright did get a $1 million roster bonus last month. The team would save $6.5 million if he were to be released, but he carries a $3.5 million dead cap number.
Schneider said he wouldn’t talk about anyone’s job, but he noted the impact that Wright has had since being taken in the fourth round in 2011 out of Mississippi State and becoming a defensive mainstay.
“Hopefully his name is up there on the Wall (of Fame) someday, right?” Schneider said. “He is an amazing person and amazing player. That’s why we did our deal with him last year.”
Wright has played all three linebacker spots in his career but has been primarily at weakside since 2013, teaming with Wagner to form what has been among the best — if not the best — inside linebacking duos in that time.
But echoing comments coach Pete Carroll made following the draft, Schneider said the team could look to see if Brooks would be a better fit at weakside with Wright moving to the strongside spot. Mychal Kendricks was the primary strongside linebacker last year and was replaced by Cody Barton for the playoffs when he suffered a knee injury.
Kendricks remains unsigned. The Seahawks kept their strongside linebacker on the field about 70 percent of the time last year, but could decrease that total this year if it decides to go with five defensive backs more often.
“We’ll figure it out where K.J. goes,” Schneider said. “If he plays WILL or SAM or however those guys want to do it. They will figure it out. But everybody was really, really excited to put this guy (Brooks) on our football team.”
Carroll said after the draft that “it’s a really good situation. We’re really not worried about it at all. We love the versatility in our players. K.J. can play inside and outside, you saw Barton play inside and outside and Bobby has really been the fixture inside. Everybody’s got flexibility. This is going to be something that’s really fun to figure out.”
Wright returned from the knee surgery he had in 2018 to fix an injury that occurred in a preseason game to start all 16 games in 2019 making a career-high 132 tackles. He turns 31 in July.
Here are a few other quick notes from Schneider’s KJR-AM interview.
Iupati, Haynes to compete at left guard while Lewis will play right guard
Schneider said the decision to release center Justin Britt and guard D.J. Fluker on Sunday occurred when it did because the Seahawks had gotten through the draft comfortable with what they had added to the offensive line.
Specifically, that meant the addition of right guard Damien Lewis in the third round.
Schneider said of Lewis that, “once we drafted Damien everybody felt like we were drafting a starting right guard in the National Football League. He’s just a man.’’
That’s the same spot Fluker had played the last two seasons.
As for Britt, Lewis’ drafting allows the team to feel comfortable that it could use free-agent signee B.J. Finney at center.
Schneider seemed to confirm the team plans to use Finney at center when he said that Mike Iupati and Phil Haynes will compete at the left guard spot.
He said of re-signing Iupati the week before the draft that the Seahawks wanted to “bring Mike Iupati back to add some stability on the left side to compete with Phil Haynes.’’
Cutting Fluker and Britt saved $12.2 million against the salary cap.
Penny may not be ready for season but Carson will
Schneider also provided injury updates on running backs Rashaad Penny and Chris Carson.
Penny is recovering from an ACL injury suffered Dec. 8 at Los Angeles and while Schneider said he is “doing great” he noted that it’s a “late-season injury so it’s going to be really hard for him to make it on the 53 (-man roster).”
ACL injuries typically take 9-10 months, so even an on-time recovery would make it difficult to be ready by September.
Schneider’s comments seemed to imply Penny could begin the year on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, which allows for some roster flexibility and for a player to come back either at the start of the regular season, or after six weeks.
As for Carson, Schneider said he is doing well and will be ready for the start of the regular season. Carson suffered a hip fracture against Arizona on Dec. 22.
“We’re expecting Chris to be ready, yeah,” Schneider said.
Door still open for Clowney
And stop us if you’ve heard this a few hundred (thousand?) times already, but Schneider said the door remains open for unsigned free-agent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
“We’re not shutting the door on Jadeveon Clowney,” Schneider said.
But he reiterated what he has said previously, that the Seahawks “took a good run” at signing him when the free agent period opened on March 18 but eventually had to move on to making sure they had the defensive end positions covered well enough in case he doesn’t sign.
“He just was not in a position to make a move,” Schneider said. “So we gave it a good run and now you’ve got to keep going and that’s what we have done.”
A tweet by Seahawks defensive lineman Jarran Reed Wednesday that he was taking back his older number 90, which he had sold to Clowney last year, seemed to some a further sign that Clowney won’t be back.
But Schneider said any talk of jersey numbers is irrelevant.
“Not sure exactly what happened there,” Schneider said. ” … whatever number that is, is neither here nor there in my opinion.”