Heading into the offseason, Earl Thomas’ departure was a foregone conclusion. Frank Clark sticking around was as well, whether it was going to be via the tag or an extension. K.J. Wright’s future with the Seahawks, however, was all but certain.
Wright was fresh off the most injury riddled season of his career and, early on in 2018, had looked like a shell of his former self. It wouldn’t have been a shock to see Wright leave Seattle. Instead, the longest-tenured Seahawk received a two-year extension. Had Wright not been re-signed—independent of Mychal Kendricks’ status—linebacker would’ve become a legitimate need for Seattle in the draft. And that could’ve proved difficult.
Over the course of Pete Carroll and John Schneider’s tenure, linebacker has become one of their more strict positions in terms of sticking to athletic thresholds. Wright was truly the exception when it came to the draft: Prior to Shaquem Griffin—who in a way transcended the team’s thresholds—Wright was the only linebacker drafted by the Seahawks who failed to meet their vertical jump, forty yard dash or three cone threshold. And he came up short in two of the three (vertical and forty) by a significant margin. However, Wright also possesses outstanding, 98th percentile arms, something that would’ve surely drawn in Carroll and Schneider.
The class of linebackers in the 2019 NFL Draft who appear on the Seahawks Draft Board are similar to Wright—all 12 of them miss on one or more thresholds by a decent amount. Former Stanford Cardinal LB Bobby Okereke, a player I pegged as a potential Wright replacement due in large part to his length (97th percentile), had an even worse vertical and three cone than Wright. Former TCU LB Ty Summers, who met with Seattle at his pro day, tested close to the Seahawks standard—but still came up short in the vertical jump, something once thought to be a non-starter for Seattle.
All the way down the line, linebackers 1-12, there are shortcomings in their testing. Over eight seasons, Wright has barely put a foot wrong, playing as consistent as one can while overshadowed by multiple Hall of Famers. The Seahawks were faced with a decision earlier in the offseason, whether they wanted to move on from that model of consistency in favor of a younger option who didn’t fit their mold. They chose the former, and the prospects available to them in this year’s draft likely impacted that decision.