The Seattle Seahawks have a very good roster, but what's especially nice and hopeful about their team is that the vast majority of current Seahawks are young and signed through 2017, at least. This series leading up to the regular season opener on September 11 will take a closer look at 30 such players, all of whom won't be turning 30 this year.
Player: K.J. Wright, LB
How acquired: Fourth round pick (99th overall) in 2011 out of Mississippi St.
Free agent: 2019
Will there ever come a time when K.J. Wright isn’t “underrated”?
The sixth-year linebacker has missed only four games in his career and has been a starter since Week 5 of his rookie season in 2011. Before then, the Seahawks were still using Aaron Curry and LeRoy Hill, but after trading Curry to the Oakland Raiders, things soon changed. Seattle started off 2-6 that year, three times giving up 30 or more points. They finished 5-3 and the most they allowed was 23. The timing with Wright is more than a coincidence, even if he was only a single cog in the machine. (That was also around the time they started Richard Sherman at corner.)
He’s still a very important cog.
Wright averaged 55 solo and 26 assisted tackles over his first three seasons, but that’s increased to 80 solo and 43 assisted tackles over the last two. That’s a huge difference, and one that we rarely seem to acknowledge or analyze. He’s also forced seven fumbles since 2014, after forcing just two in his career up to that point. Of course, he’s also well-noted now as being a killer of the screen pass.
Even as the Seahawks’ leading tackler in 2015, Wright still gets lost in the shuffle behind five Pro Bowl teammates on the defensive side of the ball last season, because he has yet to make the trip to Hawaii. The weakside linebacker position is perhaps one of the toughest positions in football to get recognized for because you’re rarely getting sacks (Wright has 7.5 in his career) and you’re not the “leader” of the front-seven like a middle linebacker tends to be. But Wright is obviously one of the most important players on Seattle’s team, and he’s the fourth-highest paid 4-3 OLB in the NFL.
Who is above him? Lavonte David (largely the strength of 7 sacks and 5 INTs in 2013), DeAndre Levy, and now ... Bruce Irvin. But Wright has more paydays ahead of him because he’s barely 27 and he’ll probably be talking “extension” with the Seahawks again in 2018, going into the final year of his deal.
If he’s still “underrated” by then, it probably won’t show up in how much he’s paid. Not if he keeps going at this pace, because to Seattle fans, he’s quite obviously one of the most valuable players on the defense.