Bumpus: What Seahawks are losing if they don’t bring K.J. Wright back
The Seahawks have finished organized team activities and are on to mandatory minicamp, but a longtime presence for the team isn’t at the facility for the first time in a decade.
That would be linebacker K.J. Wright, a 2011 Seahawks draft pick who was its longest-tenured player in 2020. Wright entered free agency this offseason and remains unsigned, however, and it’s unclear whether or not he will be back in the mix for 2021.
Wright, who turns 32 this summer, has been a staple of the Seahawks’ defense since his rookie season as a weakside (WILL) linebacker. In 2020 he changed positions to strongside (SAM), and he thrived playing closer to the line of scrimmage as 2020 first-round linebacker Jordyn Brooks took over at WILL.
Brooks is slated to be the full-time WILL linebacker in 2021 alongside perennial All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, but the SAM spot is currently up for grabs.
If it were up to former Seahawks receiver Michael Bumpus, Wright would be that SAM linebacker in 2021. When asked by 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy whether the Seahawks were “one player away” from greatly improving their chances at a Super Bowl title, Bumpus immediately pointed to Wright.
“It’s all about K.J. to me. K.J. had two great seasons before this offseason, and if you don’t have K.J., you need someone to fill that void,” he said. “You have Jordyn Brooks, you have Cody Barton, Ben Burr-Kirven is in the mix, too, though I see him more as a special teams guy. Because you have the chance of losing that guy (Wright), you have to replace him.”
After injuries limited Wright to just five games in 2018, he re-signed with the Seahawks on a two-year deal. He subsequently played in every game in 2019 and 2020 and was wildly productive. Over those two seasons combined, Wright had 218 total tackles, 16 tackles for loss, two sacks, four interceptions, 21 pass deflections, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
And while the SAM spot may not be the most critical position in the Seahawks’ defense, if Wright doesn’t return then Seattle will be replacing someone who’s been one of that unit’s best players over the last few seasons. Barton, Burr-Kirven and 2020 second-round pick Darrell Taylor are all pretty unproven at this point in time, as well.
“He was arguably one of the top three players on defense for this club last year,” Bumpus said. “… Either they bring K.J. back and they keep the good times rolling, or somebody has to step up in that position.”
Because of the uncertainty at linebacker with Wright unsigned, Bumpus said that position group is the one he feels least confident in right now.
“I feel good about the corners … I feel good about the safeties, the O-line is decent, the receiver corps I feel good with,” he said. “Really it’s just if you don’t have K.J., who’s going to step up?”
Wright, Bumpus said, was someone who always seemed to be in the right place for the Seahawks on defense. That’s hard to replace.
“Who’s going to hold the edge? Who’s going to make an interception against the Vikings late in the game to seal the deal?” he said. “K.J. always came up with a play or two when you really needed it, so that’s where you’re going to miss him. Who’s going to make those 10 plays a year to kind of change the game?”
Listen to Bumpus’ full conversation with Jake and Stacy in the podcast from Friday’s second hour at this link or in the player below.