Bumpus: Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner has ‘earned the right to ask for premium dollar’

Jan 15, 2022, 12:52 PM
Seahawks Bobby Wagner...
Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner talks with referee Clete Blakeman during a November loss to Arizona. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

During a conversation on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Mike Salk Show about the Seahawks’ defense during the 2021 season, Mike Salk and former NFL receiver Michael Bumpus brought up the pass rush, which came alive near the end of the year, but Seattle still finished the year in the bottom half of the NFL in sacks.

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Salk quipped that Kerry Hyder Jr. and Benson Mayowa’s lack of production made you wonder if they were even on the team in 2021.

The Seahawks re-signed Mayowa after a six-sack season, but he had just one in 2021. Hyder was a free-agent addition after an 8.5-sack season for the 49ers in 2020, but he had just 1.5 sacks. Overall, just three Seahawks – Carlos Dunlap, Darrell Taylor and Rasheem Green – had more than two sacks in 2021.

“Well, that leads to then the big question if you do want to try to free up the cash and the ability to go get guys on your defensive line, where do you get it from?” Salk said. “And unfortunately, that leads to this tough conversation about Bobby Wagner. And no one wants to have it because Bobby is the best and has been the best, but can you get the same production or more out of Cody Barton plus $16 million spent somewhere else than you got out of Bobby Wagner?”

Wagner, the 31-year-old linebacker, has been with the Seahawks since 2012 and was just named to his eight consecutive All-Pro team. He’s been the Seahawks’ defensive captain six of the last seven years and just set a career-high in tackles with 170 in 16 games.

But Wagner is entering the last year of his contract and his cap hit is over $20 million. By cutting him the Seahawks would only eat $3.75 million in dead cap due to his signing bonus, freeing up over $16 million, per Spotrac.

Barton just finished his third season and he started in place of Wagner in the season finale, where he recorded 12 tackles in his first NFL start at middle linebacker. The Seahawks also have another young talented linebacker in Jordyn Brooks, who plays weakside backer for Seattle and just finished his second NFL season.

“Yeah, it’s decision-making time. And what makes it an even tougher decision is because you saw what Jordyn Brooks did, right? He had a great season and followed Bobby’s lead. Cody Barton comes in the last couple of games and plays decent, like he doesn’t ‘wow’ you and in the last game he had 12 tackles, but doesn’t make any huge mistakes,” Bumpus said.

Bumpus said that if the Seahawks are indeed looking to “cut a deal” or free up more cap space – they enter the offseason 10th in the league in that department – then Wagner is naturally where the team will look to.

“But Bobby is a Pro Bowler. He’s a Hall of Famer, he’s earned the right to ask for premium dollar,” Bumpus said. “It’s really all about Bobby Wagner because I think that they have to restructure that contract for them to really continue to build off of this nucleus. Can you convey that message to him to where it makes sense? Like, ‘Look, Bobby, this is the last hurrah. Russ has three or four years in him, Pete Carroll’s towards the end of his career. Let’s keep the band together.'”

“I think it all depends on how Bobby views himself and what he wants to do,” Bumpus added. “Bobby can go out and get prime money. It’s out there for him. Is he going to give a hometown discount? I don’t think that he is. But I think if the Hawks come at him with a plan that isn’t disrespectful and you’re not low-balling them, he might think about it. But if you’re gonna free up some money, that’s where you go.”

Listen to the full conversation from Wednesday morning at this link or in the player below.

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