In an ideal world, K.J. Wright would have played his entire career in Seattle and then retired as a Seahawk.
But even if things didn’t go entirely as planned at the end of his career, Wright got the next best thing Wednesday, signing a one-day contract with the team that will allow him to say he was a Seahawk when he officially retires.
Wright signed a contract with the team at the VMAC in Renton on Wednesday morning with much of his family in tow, and with coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider looking on.
“It was really emotional,” said Carroll following the team’s first training camp practice later in the day. “It was emotional for all of us.”
Indeed, a video released by the team showed Wright fighting back tears as he put pen to paper for what was officially the fourth contract he signed with the Seahawks.
“It was a big deal for K.J. to put his name on the dotted line there for the last time,” Carroll said. “… He was just trying to suck it up and absorb it and he just got emotional about it, like you think he should.”
Wright is expected to meet with the media Thursday to make his retirement official after 11 seasons in the NFL, the first 10 with the Seahawks.
It’s a career in which Wright created a legacy as one of the most productive and classiest players to ever put on a Seahawks uniform.
“He’s a fantastic kid, and been a remarkable leader and performer and all that,” Carroll said. “But even above all of that, he’s a remarkable person and I hope that we can always keep him close to the program.”
Wright played 10 seasons and 144 regular-season games for Seattle from 2011-20, primarily at weakside linebacker, serving as one of the most vital members of the famed Legion of Boom defense that led the team to two Super Bowl appearances and the franchise’s only title following the 2013 season.
When he became a free agent following the 2020 season, he was not offered a contract by Seattle and eventually signed a one-year deal with the Raiders and played 17 games for Las Vegas.
And while Wright, who turned 33 on Saturday, said at several points during the offseason he hoped to keep playing, he also recently said if he couldn’t play for the Seahawks then he would likely retire in part because he didn’t want to be away from his family.
“I mean, I love ball,” Wright said in a recent interview on the “I Am Athlete Tonight” show on SiriusXM. “But I’m not willing to pick up and leave my family like I did last year. Because my family had to stay back. They didn’t come with me to Vegas. I’m not doing that again. And so I think it’s pretty well known where I stand at, how I want to end my career, going into my 12th season. If it’s not in Seattle, then I’ll be all good.”
Certainly, it was all good during his career, which began when he was taken with the 99th overall pick of the 2011 draft out of Mississippi State, the team famously giving him the call as he walked in his college graduation.
He almost immediately proved to be a difference-maker on a defense that quickly evolved into one of the best in NFL history, coming in with the same rookie class as cornerback Richard Sherman and a year after safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.
“He showed himself so early to be such a factor in our team and our mentality and the culture and all of that,” Carroll said. “He will always hold a special, special place.”
And while Wright may not have attracted the same kind of attention as did the likes of Sherman, Thomas or Chancellor, he ends his career with his name inked all over the team’s record books.
Wright, a native of Olive Branch, Mississippi, is third on Seattle’s all-time tackles list with 934 behind only his longtime teammate and good friend Bobby Wagner and Eugene Robinson. He also finishes with 15 playoff games for the Seahawks, third in team history behind the 16 of Wagner and quarterback Russell Wilson. And his 109 tackles in the playoffs is second in team history behind only the 153 of Wagner.
Wright teamed from 2012-20 with Wagner to give Seattle one of the best off-ball linebacking tandems in the NFL. But with the departures of Wright and Wagner over the past two years, Seattle is now set to go into the 2022 season with an inside linebacking duo of Jordyn Brooks, a first-round pick in 2020, and Cody Barton, a third-rounder in 2019.
Wright was also the team’s 2018 NFL Man of the Year — among the charitable activities Wright was honored for was pledging $300 for every tackle he made that season to help build a fresh water well in Kenya — and in 2021 was named as the Seattle Male Sports Star of the Year by the Seattle Sports Commission.
And the next step is surely a spot in the team’s Ring of Honor, if not something more.
When he re-signed with Seattle in 2019, Wright said it allowed him to fulfill a goal of playing 10 years in the NFL.
“Let me tell you, when I first got drafted into the NFL (in 2011), I had one goal and that was to play 10 years,” Wright told SiriusXM in June. “I said, ‘Lord, if I get 10 years, I am very happy.’ And I hit that. I hit that with Seattle.”
And now he will end his career as he began it — as a Seahawk.