The New York Jets fired general manager Mike Maccagnan on Wednesday, a move that caught the NFL world off guard because of its timing. Such moves are rarely made in May, after a team has basically assembled its roster for the upcoming season.
But one apparent reason for the firing, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, is that new coach Adam Gase — who is acting GM — “didn’t love the price tag” the Jets paid in free agency for linebacker C.J. Mosley (Gase also apparently didn’t like signing running back Le’Veon Bell).
The Seahawks, who have to be wishing the Jets had fired Maccagnan two months ago, didn’t like the Mosley signing either.
In March, the Jets signed Mosley — who had played the previous five years with the Ravens — to a five-year contract worth up to $85 million (or $17 million per year) with $51 million guaranteed, shattering the market for inside linebackers.
The next highest-paid inside linebacker is Carolina’s Luke Kuechly at $12.359 million per season on a deal that runs out following the 2021 season. Next is the Seahawks’ Bobby Wagner, who makes $10.75 million a year on a deal that runs out following the 2020 season (a deal that included $21.97 million guaranteed).
The Seahawks went into the offseason hoping to get an extension done with Wagner, who is one of only two players left on the defense from the team that won the Super Bowl following the 2013 season (the other is fellow linebacker K.J. Wright).
But first, they had to take care of quarterback Russell Wilson, particularly once he set a deadline of April 15. Their plan had been to handle extensions after the draft.
Now, with the draft and free agency over, the Seahawks can turn their focus to Wagner, as well as defensive tackle Jarran Reed, who is also entering the final year of his contract.
But in Wagner’s case, the Mosley deal complicated things, not just resetting the bar but having done so to a level that surprised almost everyone in the league. (It was the loss of Mosley that compelled the Ravens to hand a big contract to Earl Thomas after having not been linked to him previously.)
Wagner is serving as his own agent, following in the footsteps of former teammates Russell Okung and Richard Sherman. Neither re-signed with Seattle while serving as his own agent — Okung signed with Denver and Sherman was waived and signed with the 49ers.
The Seahawks maybe have been hoping it could sell to Wagner that the Mosley contract is an outlier, and maybe Maccagnan’s firing can help further reinforce that point.
But Wagner has shown at least one early sign of being ready to dig in for the long haul to get what he wants. He told the NFL Network’s Omar Ruiz earlier this month that he’s preparing like the 2019 season could be his last in Seattle.
“I want to retire a Seahawk, but I understand it’s a business,” Wagner said. “I’m preparing like this is my last year as a Seahawk. If it is, I want to make sure I go out with a bang and make sure I give the city something to remember.”
The Seahawks may also point out to Wagner that he is at a different point in his career than Mosley, who was drafted two years later and is almost exactly two years younger.
Mosley’s most recent contract is the second of his career following a four-year rookie deal with a fifth-year team option and will take him from playing year ages 27 to 31.
Wagner is seeking a third contact after playing on his rookie deal (and as a second-round choice was not in play for a team option for a fifth year) and landing a four-year extension in 2015.
Wagner’s next contract will take him from playing year ages 30 and up.
Former NFL agent Joel Corry, who now writes about league financial issues, recently told ESPN 710 Seattle that he thinks the Seahawks are going to have to make Wagner the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL to keep him.
“If you’re going to treat him the way you should treat a guy who is clearly better at what he does than anybody else is better at what they do on the team, your first offer is going to make him the highest-paid inside linebacker,’’ Corry said a few weeks ago.
Thanks to the now-fired Maccagnan, that price tag is a lot higher than the Seahawks wish it were.
Firing also shows Seahawks’ stability
Maccagnan’s firing also highlights the vagaries in NFL award-winning as well as the stability that the Seahawks have enjoyed in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era.
While the Seahawks have been consistent winners since Carroll and Schneider arrived in 2010, making the playoffs seven times in nine seasons, neither has won an official NFL award as coach or GM/executive of the year.
Maccagnan won the PFWA’s Executive of the Year Award — the closest thing there is to an official award for someone in a front office as the NFL does not include such an honor among its sanctioned awards — following his first season in 2015 after the Jets went from 4-12 to 10-6 (though they still did not make the playoffs).
Wednesday, he became the sixth person to win that award since 2010 to be fired. The others are Kansas City’s Scott Pioli and John Dorsey, San Francisco’s Trent Baalke, Indianapolis’ Ryan Grigson and Oakland’s Reggie McKenzie.
The three to win the award in that time and remain in their job are Cowboys owner and de facto GM (who is essentially unfireable) Jerry Jones and the two most recent winners — the Eagles’ Howie Roseman and Colts’ Chris Ballard.
Only three NFL teams have longer coach/GM partnerships than the Seahawks — New England (with Bill Belichick essentially always doing both but officially in charge of everything since 2009); Pittsburgh (Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin, together since Tomlin became head coach in 2007) and New Orleans (Mickey Loomis, Sean Payton, together since Payton took over in 2006).