Moore: Seahawks drafting Brooks could signal the end for Wagner and Wright
Is there a chance that the drafting of Jordyn Brooks in the first round could lead to the beginning of the end for Seahawks legends K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner?
Before assessing that possibility, I’ll admit there’s a better chance that Brooks works his way into the lineup this year, perhaps replacing Wright at weak-side linebacker while K.J. slides over to the strong side, Mychal Kendricks’ spot last year. Kendricks is a free agent, and it appears the Seahawks are not interested in bringing him back.
Cody Barton, who was drafted in the third round last year, could share time with Wright, and it might benefit them both as Barton develops in his second year while Wright, at 31, might be more effective in a reduced role.
Meanwhile, Wagner will man the middle again after coming off of a statistically sound season – 159 tackles, three sacks and seven tackles for loss, right around his career average.
That scenario would be the betting favorite in Las Vegas. But if you gave me 10-1 odds on Wright being cut this year and Wagner next year, I might take that bet.
In the NFL, teams are always looking to get younger, better and cheaper. Brooks is certainly younger and cheaper than Wright, but not necessarily better. In fact, I’d give K.J. the edge in that department right now, especially since he’s coming off one of his best seasons.
But there are growing injury and age concerns with Wright, whose 2018 season was derailed by a knee issue and had offseason shoulder surgery this year.
As much as everyone loves K.J., have the Seahawks reached a point where they’d rather see Barton, Wagner and Brooks on the field? Particularly when you consider the salary-cap savings of $6.5 million if they released Wright?
If Barton’s level of play is in the neighborhood of Wright’s, they might look to make the switch considering that Barton will make $675,000 in 2020.
Wagner’s status bears watching too. Not this year but next year. Brooks played the first three years at Texas Tech as an outside linebacker. But coach Matt Wells moved him in the middle last year. Some think – and Wells feels this way – that Brooks is better in the middle of the field than on one side of it.
Wells was also on the coaching staff at Utah State before he took the job at Texas Tech. So he’s very familiar with Wagner and made favorable comparisons with Brooks, falling just short of calling him “the next Bobby Wagner.”
Oftentimes, as you know, I put 2 and 2 together and get 5, but what if in the following scenario, I get 4? No matter what the stats indicate, Wagner had a good season in 2019, not a great one. A lot of his tackles were made downfield. Was that his fault? Not necessarily. You could put that blame on the defensive line in front of him.
But does Wagner take on blocks the way that he should? Is he always playing with gap integrity? Don’t the linebackers have to take some of the blame for the Seahawks having a below-average run defense the last two years? And isn’t Wagner in the middle of it all?
Wagner might be a future Hall of Famer. He’s clearly going to be in the Seahawks Ring of Honor someday. But his contract extension starts this year, and did you see a player who played at an $18 million level last year? Maybe $8 million, even $10 million, heck, I’ll give you $12 million, but $18 million? No. Yet that’s what he’ll be making in 2020.
So let’s say he has another productive year in 2020 like he did in 2019 but the Seahawks are still subpar in stopping the run. Entering the 2021 season, would you still want to pay a 31-year-old Bobby Wagner $18 million when you have 24-year-old Jordyn Brooks at around $1 million a year?
I could see Brooks replacing Wagner when you consider that Brooks might go 3-for-3 in the younger, cheaper, better analogy by 2021. Keep in mind the Seahawks thought so much of Brooks that they picked him 27th overall, 20 spots higher than Wagner in 2012
Call it crazy speculation if you want. But we all know how cold the NFL is. We saw it this week when the Seahawks cut Justin Britt and D.J. Fluker. They were starting offensive linemen with a team that won 12 total games last year. But the Seahawks felt they were better off without them, team-wise and salary cap-wise.
At some point – perhaps sooner than later with Brooks’ arrival – that’ll be the case with Wright and Wagner too.
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