The Seahawks showed how much faith they had in their three linebackers in 2019 by leaving them on the field more than any other team in the NFL.

That Seattle used so much base defense, meaning keeping their three linebackers on the field instead of subbing one or two out for an extra defensive back, was as much about personnel as scheme.

Seattle used a base defense roughly 70% of the time in 2019 compared to about 30% of the time in 2018 in large part because of their faith in starters Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks to play well in both run and pass situations. And the main key to that was Kendricks, a strongside linebacker, the position that most often comes off the field when the Seahawks go to a nickel.

“We like these guys on the field,’’ coach Pete Carroll said at midseason, a plan that also was influenced by the fact Seattle had no nickel cornerback it really felt confidence in much of the season, cutting veteran Jamar Taylor halfway through the year and not using rookie Ugo Amadi much until the end.

And it’s a linebacking corps that doesn’t have to change much at all in 2020 as five of the top six are under contract — all but Kendricks.

As we continue our look at the Seahawks’ position groups entering the offseason, here’s a review of the linebacking spot.



Middle linebacker

Bobby Wagner

Age: 29.

Snaps played in regular season: 1,054.

Contract situation: Has three years left on deal signed last summer that takes him through the 2022 season. Due a $10.75 million base salary with a $14.75 million cap hit this year.

2019 number to know: Became leading tackler in team history in a game at Atlanta on Oct. 27.

Weakside linebacker

K.J. Wright

Age: 30.

Snaps played in regular season: 997.

Contract situation: One year remaining on contract signed last March that pays him a $5 million base salary in 2020 with a $10 million cap hit. Deal includes a $1 million bonus on March 22.

2019 number to know: 132 tackles were a career high.

Strongside linebacker

Mychal Kendricks

Age: 29.

Snaps played in regular season: 649.

Contract situation: Unrestricted free agent.

2019 number to know: Including playoffs missed four of the last six games due to injury.

Key backups

Cody Barton

Age: 23.

Snaps played in regular season: 151.

Contract situation: Three years left on rookie contract.

2019 number to know: Four starts, including playoffs, second most of any rookie on team other than DK Metcalf.

Ben Burr-Kirven

Age: 22.

Snaps played in regular season: 4.

Contract situation: Three years left on rookie contract.

2019 number to know: 306 special-teams snaps was second on the team behind only the 317 of Barton.


Shaquem Griffin

Age: 24.

Snaps played in regular season: 96.

Contract situation: Two years left on rookie contract.

2019 number to know: Had four QB hits, including playoffs, in 110 total snaps.

2019 review

The Seahawks touted themselves going into the year as having one of the best — if not, the best — linebacking corps in the NFL.

And the raw stats indicated it largely lived up to that billing.

Wagner made his fifth All-Pro team and led the NFL in tackles, Wright bounced back from an injury-laden 2018 campaign and set a career high in tackles, and Kendricks was one of the team’s better pass rushers and seemed to usually handle his pass-coverage responsibilities well enough to make it worth it having him on the field most of the time (another reason for playing predominantly base defense was to improve the run defense, and in the first half of the year in particular it was better, before falling off at the end).

The play of Wright and Kendricks came in the context of Seattle drafting two young LBs — Barton and Burr-Kirven — as potential heir apparents.

Barton got four starts in place of Kendricks late in the year and showed promise, if also room for growth, while Burr-Kirven was basically limited to special teams.


Griffin didn’t play much as a linebacker, per se, but the team did carve out a role for him in the second half of the season in specialty packages as an edge rusher on passing downs. He was effective enough to think it’s something the team may want to expand going forward.

2020 preview

Carroll indicated at the end of the year he basically hopes to bring back the same crew, including Kendricks, the only free agent.

Kendricks, though, suffered an ACL injury Dec. 29 and also is set to be sentenced later this month on an insider-trading charge. At the least, the team will finally have clarity on his legal situation (assuming there isn’t another delay) before the free-agent signing period begins March 18.

“I hope that we’ll get him back and get him back with us,’’ Carroll said after Kendricks was injured. “Look forward for that.”

But given the usual timeline for an ACL, Kendricks may not be available until into the regular season. That could mean going into the year with Barton as the expected starter and if Kendricks re-signs, then putting him in the mix once he’s ready.

Wright’s contract was structured with a hefty cap hit and potential cap savings ($7.5 million) in 2020, giving the Seahawks a potential out if they wanted it.


But Wright’s play last season seemed to quell any doubts he’d be back (the passage of the March 22 date and bonus would answer it for good).

“I thought he had a terrific season,’’ Carroll said after the season of Wright. “The last two months of the season were his best play of the year.’’

Assuming basically everyone comes back, then this is a spot where Seattle wouldn’t seem to need to devote many resources this offseason other than for depth and/or continue to groom potential replacements down the road.

Unless, that is, Seattle made a move with Wright (which seems unlikely) or decided it needed some competition for Barton at the SLB if Kendricks doesn’t return.

Up next: Cornerbacks.