How does Seahawks’ change at DC impact Bobby Wagner’s future?
The Seahawks now have an uncertainty at defensive coordinator, which may only add more uncertainty with a player whose future with the team was already in question.
While perennial All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner is still under contract for one more year with Seattle, he is a clear candidate to be a salary cap casualty this offseason.
The 31-year-old Wagner has a cap hit of over $20 million for 2022 on his current deal, but cutting him would only cost the Seahawks $3.75 million in a dead cap money. That’s a big difference compared to each of the previous three seasons when his dead cap hit would have been over $20 million.
The fact that Wagner suffered a knee injury on the first defensive play in Week 17 and missed the final game of the season also makes it more likely that Seattle could cut him in order to bring him back at a cheaper rate or even let him walk in free agency, as does Cody Barton’s performance in Wagner’s place in the last two games.
Wagner is known to be close to Ken Norton Jr., who was let go by the team after four seasons as Seahawks defensive coordinator on Tuesday. Norton was Wagner’s linebackers coach for his first three seasons in the pros, and comments Wagner made late in the season about Norton’s role in a defensive turnaround from a rough start in 2021 indicates just how much respect Wagner has for him.
“I think he deserves a lot of credit. I think his job is a very hard job,” Wagner said. “When we’re doing well, it’s the players (who get the credit); when we’re doing not so well, it’s him. And so he’s done a lot, a really good job of making the adjustments, putting guys in different positions to try to make some plays. And he’s been a big key to why we’ve been able to turn it around these last few games.”
That led 710 ESPN Seattle’s Wyman and Bob to a question on Tuesday afternoon.
“Do you worry at all about the loyalty factor because Bobby loved Ken?” asked Bob Stelton. “By all accounts, everybody – all the linebackers, all the defensive players – loved him. … (Wagner) is a guy, if he comes back, John Clayton says he’s going to come back at a reduced rate. Is he going to be willing to do that if his guy’s not here?”
Dave Wyman, Stelton’s co-host who is a former NFL linebacker and the current Seahawks Radio Network color commentator, shared what he thinks could be going through Wagner’s head.
“I think it makes it less likely that he’s back (now) that Ken Norton is not here, (but) I just don’t see him starting over somewhere else,” Wyman said. “I don’t know where he would go. And, you know, how (is a new team) going to play him in their defense? I think the third option is that he just retires. Maybe he’s like, ‘I’ve had enough.’ … He’s made a good, good amount of money so maybe (he decides) it’s time for him to just hang ’em up.”
Wyman added that Wagner looked “devastated” on the sideline when he suffered his late-season injury earlier this month, possibly hinting that he knew the end of an era was waiting in the offseason.
As for the Seahawks’ decision to make a change at defensive coordinator, Wyman said he saw issues in Seattle’s defense that were on the coaching.
“If you have a guy like Bobby that’s out there making mistakes, you could do much better with (reserve linebacker) Ben Burr-Kirven – and I’m not saying Bobby made a ton of mistakes, but just as an example, Ben Burr-Kirven always goes to the right place. Now I’m sure he makes errors here and there, but not that I can see. … That’s what has been the problem to me is that you have not had guys in the right place, and that falls on the coach. The older I get, the more I kind of want to defend the coaches, but I think we’re to the point where I think they have enough talent, and that’s not the problem.”
You can hear the full discussion in the final segment of the podcast at this link or in the player below.