STACY ROST

Rost: Bobby Wagner is suddenly available — time for a Seahawks reunion?

Feb 23, 2023, 3:13 PM

Seahawks Rams Bobby Wagner...

Rams LB Bobby Wagner looks on during a game against the Seahawks at Lumen Field. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seahawks could use an inside linebacker, and one of the best in the league just became available.

Throwing a wrench into this one, though: that linebacker is Bobby Wagner.

But a reunion could still happen… right?

Lefko: Weighing three Seahawks options on defense in free agency

The Rams and the nine-time All-Pro mutually agreed to part ways Thursday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Schefter added that Wagner is a willing salary cap casualty – the Rams need more cap room (they’re $14 million over) and Wagner wanted to win (which may or may not be in the cards for a team that went 5-12 last year).

Wagner won’t be able to sign with a new team until the start of the league year on March 15, but signing him would certainly still help the Seahawks with their greatest issue (more on that in a moment).

Wagner, who spent 10 seasons and won a Super Bowl with Seattle, signed a five-year, $50 million deal with Los Angeles in March 2022. Despite LA’s dramatic stumble following a 2021 Super Bowl win, Wagner himself played well. He started every game and finished with 140 tackles, a career-high six sacks, and two interceptions.

He also excelled against the run and missed four tackles all year, according to Pro Football Focus.

What a smooth transition to the Seahawks biggest issue! Seattle improved against the pass last year. That was in part due to great contributions from its defensive backs, particularly rookie cornerback Tariq Woolen. But it was also because teams didn’t need to throw as often when they could run. Only two teams allowed more rushing yards per game than Seattle: Chicago and Houston, who own the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in this year’s draft, respectively. The Hawks allowed nearly 152 rushing yards per game, up from 113 in 2021 and 99.6 in 2020. A number of opposing rushers – including Cordarrelle Patterson, Jamaal Williams, Alvin Kamara, Rachaad White, and Josh Jacobs – all recorded their season-high in rushing yards against Seattle.

Who knows whether Wagner or Seattle would be open to a reunion. Both Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have publicly praised Wagner for his time spent with the team, though the professional relationship ended on a sour note when Wagner reportedly learned of his release through other sources.

“Crazy part about all this. I played there for 10 years & I didn’t even hear it from them that I wasn’t coming back,” Wagner tweeted following the news.

Schneider took ownership of the miscommunication during a March press conference, telling reporters that while Wagner’s role as agent made things difficult, he wished he would’ve handled things better with the former Seattle star.

Now, normally I’d argue against bringing Wagner back. Not because of Wagner himself, who was as consistent a performer and leader as you’ll see, but because this is a team that should be getting younger and more competitive. A team that should avoid overspending for short-term fixes. A team that focused on moving onto a new era in 2022 and can continue that quest in 2023.

That was until a giant hole opened up in the middle of the defense.

Inside linebacker Jordyn Brooks suffered a torn ACL near the end of last season and underwent surgery in January. Fellow interior linebacker Cody Barton was inconsistent and is set to become an unrestricted free agent. Regardless of Wagner’s status, Seattle will need to add a linebacker this offseason. If draft priority is assigned to the defensive line, a free agent fix can be a short-term solution for linebacker depth issues.

If only Bobby Wagner could play for a veteran minimum. Alas, labor laws for the NFL aren’t dictated by cartoonish railroad tycoons, which means paying for talent costs money, and Wagner is a heckuva talent. It’s worth mentioning again here that he was a consistently impactful locker room presence and a valued leader on the team. But even with top-10 cap space, it would be a tall order for Seattle’s capologist to maneuver deals to re-sign quarterback Geno Smith, bring back Wagner, and woo a top-tier free agent defensive tackle like Javon Hargrave.

Wagner would be a nostalgic cherry-on-top of a drastically improved defense, but that kind of reunion – as sentimental as it would be – could be too rich for Seattle’s blood. Fans hoping for Wagner’s return may instead be left rooting for his success elsewhere.

It won’t stop them from trying, though – and Pro Bowl safety Quandre Diggs has already taken the first shot.

K.J. Wright’s offseason Seahawks observations: The trenches, Geno Smith

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