Huard: Seahawks may not need ‘hometown discount’ to keep K.J. Wright
The Seahawks’ current longest-tenured player is set to hit unrestricted free agency next month, and based on recent comments K.J. Wright made during an interview, it may cost Seattle a pretty penny to keep him in town.
Wright, who will turn 32 in July, just finished his 10th season with the Seahawks, and the last two years have been among the best of his career. He moved to the strongside linebacker spot and finished the year with 86 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, two sacks, two fumble recoveries, an interception and 10 pass deflections. That came after recording a career-high 132 tackles in 2019, which went along with three interceptions and 11 pass deflections, which were also career-best numbers.
Last month, NFL insider Josina Anderson reported that Wright was looking to be compensated for his elite play, and Wright echoed those comments during an interview on the national Jim Rome Show on Monday. Rome asked Wright about the possibility of staying in Seattle on what’s often referred to as a “hometown discount.”
“I do way too much on the football field to take a discount,” Wright told Rome. “It makes absolutely no sense. If you want to win all these championships and look good on Sundays, you’ve got to compensate your guys that are making plays.”
Wright did say that he would prefer a return to the Seahawks, however, and that it would be a “beautiful story” to come back to Seattle and finish his career as a Seahawk.
“That’s some legendary-type stuff. And like I said before I left, I believe it would be a great investment for Seattle to keep me because as you’ve seen, since I’ve been here, we’ve been nothing but awesome – always making it to the playoffs, winning our division, so they know how much I want to be here,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I get it. They’ve got to clear some (salary cap) space to make things happen, so they’ve got to get busy.”
The question is, what kind of offers will Wright get in free agency? And will the Seahawks be able to pay him what he wants to ensure a return?
Former NFL quarterback and current NFL on FOX broadcaster Brock Huard joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant on Tuesday and shared why he thinks recent history shows Wright won’t have the amount of suitors he’s likely expecting to drive up his market.
“I think if you went back and found some sound from K.J. a few years ago when he was a free agent, I think he was expecting a huge payday,” Huard said of Wright’s 2018 free agency, which resulted in him re-signing with the Seahawks on a two-year, $14 million deal. “I think he was thinking the market was going to pay him $10 to $15 million a year and he would have a bevvy of choices (after) playing on that Legion of Boom defense, that historic defense. And then that market said ‘thanks, but no thanks.’ And he came back to Seattle on a pretty reasonable deal (and met or exceeded his contract’s value).”
Huard said Wright’s age, history with injuries and just overall wear and tear from being in the NFL since 2011 hurt his market, along with the NFL shifting towards wanting younger, faster and sometimes smaller linebackers. All of those factors lead Huard to believe that Wright’s best bet may be another reunion with the Seahawks.
“I think the best deal, more than likely, is going to be the team that knows him inside and out and I think put him in a position to also succeed (in 2020), playing him a lot more on the line of scrimmage at strongside linebacker where his savvy and his technique and his instincts were able to outpace some of the speed and explosiveness that is not there like it was 10 years ago,” Huard said.
So, what exactly is Wright’s value? He averaged $7 million a year the last two seasons but seemingly outplayed that deal. Danny O’Neil asked if Wright could earn $8 million or more, and Huard said the Seahawks’ litany of other players to address this offseason should make them weary about spending that much on Wright.
“Of course you can (pay $8 million), but as far as, once again, prioritizing (defensive end) Carlos Dunlap, prioritizing (safety) Jamal Adams … (keeping enough money) to take care of your younger, more explosive players (should be the priority),” Huard said.
If Wright were offered a multi-year deal worth roughly $10 million a year by another team, Huard thinks the Seahawks would thank Wright for his tenure and wish him good luck elsewhere, but there are too many factors that lead Huard to think that Wright’s demands will exceed what he’s actually offered.
“I don’t know if the market will be willing to pay that for what is now a strongside linebacker who is not a pass rusher,” he said.
Huard noted that the Seahawks reunited with former first-round pick Bruce Irvin last offseason to play strongside linebacker as well rush the passer, and he made roughly $5.5 million.
“And that was for a guy who was a strongside linebacker and a pass rusher,” he said. “… K.J. can’t really rush the passer, doesn’t play in coverage the way he did five years ago. He is good and proved to be a very valuable strongside linebacker last year, but at that age … and that wear and tear, I don’t know how favorable the market is going to be.”
You can hear the full discussion in the Blue 42 segment of Danny and Gallant in the podcast at this link or in the player below.