Unlike past Seahawks who have represented themselves, Bobby Wagner holds all the cards

May 10, 2019, 1:59 PM | Updated: May 13, 2019, 12:30 pm
Bobby Wagner, Seahawks...
Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner holds the franchise's single-season tackles record. (Getty)

The Seahawks locked up their quarterback for another four seasons in April, but Russell Wilson wasn’t the sole franchise player in line for a new deal. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, now entering his eighth season, is also due the third contract of his career.

Unlike Wilson, whose deal was negotiated by an agent, Wagner will be representing himself.

While Wagner’s is an approach that has been adopted by some past Seahawks – Richard Sherman and Russell Okung being the most notable examples –  it’s unlikely he’ll run into the same problems. As one former NFL agent explains it, Wagner’s situation is entirely unique for Seattle.

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Former NFL agent and current salary cap expert Joel Corry joined John Clayton on 710 ESPN Seattle Wednesday to explain why Wagner’s contract situation and his decision to represent himself shouldn’t be compared to the negotiations of Sherman and Okung. Further, the Seahawks should be taking his approach very – I repeat, very – seriously.

“First thing is, we’re not talking about quantum physics when you’re negotiating an NFL contract,” Corry said. “Players, at least the guys I represented, were pretty smart and could pick up on the concepts when explained to them. The most prominent agent, Tom Condon, is a former player. If Bobby Wagner’s willing to study the market like he would a gameplan for whatever opponent, then he’s going to be fine. If he approaches it like Richard Sherman – ‘I’ve read six, seven, eight, nine contracts and now I think I’m an expert’ – that’s a recipe for disaster.

“Now, I understand Seattle’s concern about not wanting to have tough conversations with him… but (Wagner) isn’t Russell Okung, who was a top pick under the old system and hadn’t played his best football. That was going to be a challenging negotiation (whether) by himself or with an agent. (Nor is he) Richard Sherman, coming off an injury, (which is a) difficult situation to deal with. You’re talking about a guy who’s at the top of his game, who Pete Carroll said was at a Hall-of-Fame-trajectory. If you aren’t paying lip service to that type of stuff, the first offer would be one that makes him the highest-paid inside linebacker. He’s a lot better than C.J. Mosley. He should be the highest-paid inside linebacker by a considerable margin.”

What factors affect Wagner’s deal?

There are two factors that could complicate negotiations between the Seahawks and Wagner. The first and most obvious is the fact that Wagner is representing himself. But the second factor is the most recent contract at Wagner’s position, which belongs to Jets’ linebacker C.J. Mosley.

Mosley signed a five-year, $85 million deal with the Jets in March. The deal includes $51 million guaranteed and carries an average salary of $17 million. Mosley’s deal drastically altered the market for inside linebackers; consider that just five days beforehand, the San Francisco 49ers made Kwon Alexander the league’s highest-paid inside linebacker with a four-year contract worth $54 million (or, about $13.5 million per year).

Corry isn’t wrong; Wagner’s accolades exceed those of the two highest-paid players at his position. Accounting for the same time period (2015-18), here’s how Wagner’s performance compares to that of Mosley and Alexander:

Player (2015-18) Total tackles Solo tackles Sacks TDs QB hits Pro Bowl All-Pro Playoffs
Bobby Wagner 553 334 7.5 4 43 4 3 5
C.J. Mosley 446 299 5.5 1 20 3 x 1
Kwon Alexander 380 271 7.0 1 17 1 x x

The biggest knock against Wagner will likely be his age – at 28, he’s three years old than Alexander and two years older than Mosley – and a recurring hamstring injury.

To that point, Corry argues few players, regardless of age, have matched Wagner’s production.

“Wagner is one of two guys in the past three years who has been First-Team AP All-Pro (every year),” Corry said. “There are only two guys who have done that. Aaron Donald’s the other. So, you’re talking about a guy who is one of the best defensive players in football. So treat him like he is one and there will be less acrimony that if you take the position of, ‘He’s representing himself, let’s try to get over on him.'”

When should Seattle try to get a deal done?

“They’ve got, I’d say, until Middle of June to talk to Wagner while he’s in the building,” Corry said. “I would do it sooner rather than later if I’m them, just because that’s your best window of opportunity. And as I said, if you’re going to treat him the way you should treat a guy who is clearly better at what he does than anybody else is better at what they do on the team, your first offer is going to make him the highest-paid inside linebacker.”

Corry also talked about what a potential extension for Jarran Reed could look like. Listen to his full interview with Clayton here.

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Unlike past Seahawks who have represented themselves, Bobby Wagner holds all the cards