Will the Seahawks move forward with — or without — K.J. Wright?
When the Seahawks drafted linebacker K.J. Wright out of Mississippi State in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, they probably weren’t expecting to receive a core defensive starter for nearly a decade to follow. And when they selected fellow linebackers Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin in 2012, they may not have realized they’d just rounded out the linebacker group of a two-time Super Bowl team with an historically dominant defense.
Nearly five years removed from their second championship appearance, Wagner and Wright were the lone defensive veterans remaining not just from that linebacker group, but also from Seattle’s entire Super Bowl XLVIII defense to play in Saturday’s Wild Card loss to the Dallas Cowboys. But with Wright one of 13 Seahawks who will become unrestricted free agents when the new league year begins on March 13, will that list be narrowed to only Wagner in 2019?
Why the Seahawks could give Wright a new deal
Wright saw limited action in 2018 due to a lingering knee injury, but he was effective in games where he saw extended playing time. He had five tackles and a pass defensed both in Week 8 – his first start of the season – and in Week 9 before exiting again in Week 10. He was productive when he returned to full action in Week 16 and Week 17, and saw his best game of the season in the playoffs against the Cowboys with eight tackles, one pass defensed and an interception.
That interception came on a play Wright recognized from Week 17, and in both instances it wasn’t his job to cover the intended receiver. That invaluable, veteran savvy makes up for learning curves with a young defense.
That presence is needed in a linebacker group struggling with depth. The Seahawks saw a rotating group of starters at Wright’s position when he was sidelined, and while Mychal Kendricks was the preferred starter in Wright’s place, his future with the team is also uncertain.
Retaining Wright could also make for a smoother contract negotiation with four-time All-Pro Wagner, who has spent the entirety of his career playing alongside Wright.
“It’s a crazy business so you know I’ve watched a lot of guys leave last year so I don’t know. The right thing to do will be to bring him back,” Wagner said about Wright’s status to The Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta. “He’s been an amazing teammate, amazing person in the community. He helps young guys. Never held out. Did everything right. Sounds to me like a guy that you should pay.”
Why the Seahawks could part ways with Wright
The Seahawks haven’t had much payoff with third contract extensions, and their decision not to extend Earl Thomas makes for a questionable outlook when it comes to Wright’s own future in Seattle.
Wright turns 30 in July and would be one of the oldest players on the Seahawks’ roster. He’s far from being the oldest linebacker in the league, though; in fact, there are 25 linebackers older than Wright, who is the same age as Von Miller and Justin Houston. But fair or not, it’s an argument lobbed toward aging players when it comes to contracts.
Wright’s knee injury also couldn’t have come at a worse time. After having missed just five games over his career, he missed 11 weeks this season.
710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton believes the Seahawks could get something done with Wright, but it may have to be at below market value.
“I was going through the numbers yesterday,” Clayton told Brock and Salk Tuesday. “You go back to Thomas Davis a couple years ago. He was a little bit older than K.J. and he was able to get two years at 18 (million). You figure the market’s still going to be $10 to 10.5 million. I don’t know if they can go that high. If it’s going to be like $7 million, with $2 million in incentives, then I can see it happening. But I think he’s going to be out-priced.”
Check 710Sports.com on Wednesdays this Seahawks offseason as Stacy Rost looks at one of the 10 biggest questions facing Seattle in 2019.