Shortly after the Seahawks agreed to trade quarterback Russell Wilson on Tuesday, they decided to move on from the quarterback of the team’s defense the last 10 years — middle linebacker Bobby Wagner.

ESPN was the first to report that the Seahawks will release Wagner in what is a salary-cap-cutting move — releasing Wagner will save Seattle $16.6 million against the cap. A source confirmed to The Seattle Times that the team had told Wagner on Tuesday night he will be released and that the team will make the move official on Wednesday. Wagner had a $20.35 million overall cap hit for 2022, with Seattle taking a $3.75 million dead-money hit with his release.

Trading Wilson and releasing Wagner within roughly eight hours mean the Seahawks now have no players left who have been with the team continuously who were part of the squad that won Super Bowl XLVIII (defensive end Benson Mayowa, who played in two games as a rookie that year, returned in 2020 and remains under contract).

The potential savings and the fact there was no remaining guaranteed money in Wagner’s contract led to conjecture as the 2021 season ended that the team would move on. 


Before what turned out to be his final home game with Seattle against Detroit, Wagner said he knew there was a chance he might be released and was playing his final games as a Seahawk.

“You think about it,” Wagner, 31, said then. “You think about what the next year looks like, and just, period, what the future holds because this was a season that I don’t think we all planned for. We didn’t plan for the season to go this way (a 7-10 record). And so obviously there’s going to be some changes.


“And whether or not I’m part of those changes, I don’t know. But all I can control is these last two games. And you know, figure it out from there, whatever the team thinks is the best thing to do moving forward. We’ll see how that plays out.”

Wagner then suffered a knee injury on the first play against Detroit and did not play in the season finale at Arizona.

Before that game, he was asked if he would be willing to take a lesser deal to stay with Seattle and he indicated he would not. Having said “I’m just going to go into my businessman mentality and work some stuff out,” Wagner was asked if that meant he’d be willing to redo his deal.

“I didn’t say that,” Wagner said. “I did not say that. I did not say that. I said I’m a businessman.”

General manager John Schneider was somewhat ominous about Wagner’s future when asked about it at the NFL combine last week in Indianapolis, saying, “We learn a lot this week when we meet with everybody’s agents and we will come around next week and kind of reset, like kind of recalibrate where we are at, what does that look (like),” Schneider said. “… Obviously got to evaluate every position. He’s an amazing player.”

Cody Barton filled in for Wagner the final two games of last season and could be an option to take his place in 2022 alongside Jordyn Brooks in the middle of a defense that is expected to go with more 3-4 looks under new defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt.


But the Seahawks could also use one of what are now three picks in the first 41 of the 2022 draft to fill the middle linebacker spot or pursue options in free agency when the signing period begins next Wednesday.

Wagner was famously taken with a pick ahead of Wilson in Seattle’s 2012 draft, which may be the best in team history, at No. 47 overall.

Like Wilson, Wagner became an immediate starter and standout. 

Wagner had 104 or more tackles in all 10 seasons as a Seahawk and finishes with 1,381 for his career, a franchise record.

A five-time team captain, Wagner was also selected to eight Pro Bowls and to the first team All-Pro team six times, most in franchise history and two more than the next player on the list — left tackle Walter Jones.

Wagner again made the Pro Bowl and was a second-team All-Pro pick in 2021 when he set a career-high with 170 tackles before spraining his knee against the Lions. The injury was expected to heal without surgery and is not considered to be a factor in his release. That number was a franchise single-season record until it was surpassed by Brooks in the final game of the year. Brooks finished with 184.

Wagner served as his own agent when he negotiated a three-year contract extension with Seattle in 2019 that paid him an average of $18 million per year, at the time the most ever for an inside linebacker.


Wagner is still listed as his own agent and will now have to search for a new team if he wants to continue to play, as he said in December that he will.

“I don’t see myself stopping playing,” he said then. “I feel like I’ve got a lot of room to grow as a player, to grow as a leader. I feel like there’s a lot of new technology that’s going to let me play a little bit longer, so I’m excited to dive into that stuff and we’ll see how it works out.”

That Wagner had such a significant cap hit for 2022 also undoubtedly hampered any efforts by the team to trade him.

But by releasing Wagner now, the Seahawks do him something of a favor as he can immediately begin searching for a new team instead of having to wait to negotiate until Monday, when the league’s so-called “legal tampering period” begins.

The move to release Wagner comes six days after coach Pete Carroll said at the combine that the team hoped to still figure out a way to keep Wagner.

“We expect to play with Bobby,” Carroll said. “We love playing with Bobby. He’s been a great player, another great season. At this time of year, there’s a lot of guys that are in the position where we’ve got to figure out where everybody fits together, and Bobby’s been such a steady part of it. We’d love to be able to play with him, so we’ll work towards that. If we can do that, we’ll do it.”


Ultimately, the Seahawks decided to move on, making Tuesday one of the most momentous in team history, Seattle saying goodbye to two players who for sure will one day return to see their numbers retired.

Before the finale against Arizona, and after what turned out to be his final game as a Seahawk, Wagner was asked about the possibility of the 2021 season being his last with Seattle.

“Obviously, I can’t control everything,” he said. “I can only control my part, and my part on this is I feel like I love this city, I love this team, I love the Seahawks. I always wanted to be a part of a franchise in the good times and bad times and every time. This is a team that I would love to be able to be a part of for a very, very long time. On my end, that’s where I’m at, that I’m a Seahawk until they tell me I’m not.”