STACY ROST

Rost: 3 big questions after Seahawks’ release of LB Bobby Wagner

Mar 11, 2022, 8:54 AM

Seahawks Bobby Wagner...

Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner reacts after a 13-10 loss to the Saints on Oct. 25, 2021. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

The Seahawks released six-time First-Team All-Pro Bobby Wagner this week shortly after trading their franchise quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos – a sentence that still feels surreal to read.

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While Seattle acquired Drew Lock as part of the trade, most critics expect the former second-round pick to be a bridge between Wilson and Seattle’s next franchise star, a long-term answer that isn’t yet on the roster.

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Things are different when it comes to Wagner, or rather, when it comes to the giant hole he leaves behind. Granted, that’s mostly because some fans are understandably holding out hope that Seattle’s former defensive captain and franchise leader in career tackles returns on a new contract. And we’ll get to that. For now, though, let’s talk about what happens in the middle of the defense without him.

Who fills the hole in the middle of Seattle’s defense?

The quickest answer here is Cody Barton, and perhaps that’s also the likeliest. The former third-round pick out of Utah has spent his career as Wagner’s backup and a special teams stalwart, but he played well in relief of an injured Wagner in Seattle’s final two games. The big question mark? Experience. Wagner’s typically healthy career kept Barton from seeing too much starting time; in three years he’s made just five starts (nearly six, considering he played 98% of snaps in a game Wagner started last season).

There’s also Jordyn Brooks, who has been an outside linebacker with Seattle but played both spots with Texas Tech. Brooks’ most productive season with the Red Raiders (three sacks, 20 tackles for loss) came in his final year when he started at middle linebacker under new defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. Versatility makes Brooks an option inside, but it’s worth noting he spent his first two seasons at the weakside spot and excelled there last year, finishing with 190 tackles.

Pass rusher Darrell Taylor has played at strongside linebacker, but Seattle could turn to free agency to add additional depth.

Could Wagner return to Seattle on a cheaper deal?

Wagner ends his Seahawks career as one of the most celebrated of Seattle’s players. He holds the franchise record for career tackles and was a leader on the team. He’s an eight-time Pro Bowler and six-time first-team All-Pro. Hoping this isn’t the end of the road makes sense. After all, Seattle ran a similar course last year with edge Carlos Dunlap. The 32-year-old vet carried a hefty salary cap hit, so he was released by the team and, after exploring options in free agency, re-signed on a cheaper deal.

I don’t know that I’d expect the same ending for Wagner. Without conjecture about the pride that may be involved on either side of a release, there’s also his market. Seattle may not have been willing to absorb his $20 million cap hit, but other teams vying for the services of a future Hall of Famer are sure to have lucrative offers.

Where will Wagner land?

Numerous teams reportedly interested, including a couple in the NFC West. As many as nine teams have been rumored to be interested, including Rams and (interestingly enough) the Broncos. It’ll require some salary cap maneuvering for a few of those teams (like the Rams), while others (Steelers, Broncos and Lions) have the cap space to get something done quickly.

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Rost: 3 big questions after Seahawks’ release of LB Bobby Wagner