The Seattle Seahawks were thought to be in a tough situation with Bobby Wagner once the New York Jets signed C.J. Mosley to a well-beyond-the-record contract this spring. Instead they managed to let Wagner best Mosley’s average annual salary while still protecting themselves long-term. Wagner signed a three-year, $54 million extension on Friday, keeping him with the team through the 2022 season if they want him til then.
But if Wagner hits an unfortunate slide in his career before then, Seattle probably won’t find themselves in irreparable financial peril.
The Jets contract with Mosley was for $85 million over five years with $43 million guaranteed at signing and $51 total guaranteed as long as he’s with the team on the fifth day of the 2020 league year. That makes it virtually guaranteed. Wagner’s deal is for two fewer years and with $40 million guaranteed. Compared back to the Jets-Mosley deal, that one pays him $48 million over the first three years of the contract.
The last two seasons on Mosley’s deal just bump up the AAV slightly and give the Jets two option seasons if he plays at an All-Pro level and they want to pay him $18.5 million per season. Mosley is plenty young enough and good enough to earn it, but I’ll just point out that most big free agent deals, especially ones where players are changing teams and environments, never come close to getting completed.
The way I see it is that Mosley signed a three-year, $48 million deal with the Jets that is fully guaranteed with an additional $3 million to boot on top of that. Wagner signed a three-year, $54 million contract that tacks onto his 2019 season, which was set to be for $14 million. In every way, shape, and form I can imagine other than maybe age (a difference of two years), Seattle is getting a better value and better player with Wagner than the Jets are getting with Mosley.
I mean, Mosley could be the next Wagner but the current Wagner could play as long as Ray Lewis, the player that Mosley essentially replaced with the Baltimore Ravens; after turning 30, Lewis played eight seasons and had six more Pro Bowl trips with a second championship ring. These are goals I assume Wagner, a five-time Pro Bowl, four-time first-team All-Pro has as well. The Seahawks will be dedicating $18 million per year to him during a part of that pursuit, but to pay the best linebacker in the game the most money per game is not usually bad business.
It’s those types of deals — an offensive tackle or pass rusher hits the market at the exact right time and suddenly Olivier Vernon is making more than JJ Watt — that tend to bite teams. Retaining a player you already had, who has yet to turn 30, and getting to do so with fewer guarantees than a lesser linebacker that he was trying to beat in negotiations, doesn’t feel like it’s going to sink Seattle’s stock.
I believe elite inside linebackers also tend to hold up better than elite cornerbacks, safeties, and running backs, which is why they may not regret a third deal for Wagner as they did with Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Marshawn Lynch. Or the one they avoided with Earl Thomas. And consider that Frank Clark is now making $20 million per season with the Kansas City Chifs and the Seahawks got good draft picks on top of not paying him that.
Now they’re paying a guy who I personally would consider to be Clark’s “boss” over the last four years $2 million less per year. And I trust Wagner to continue performing more than I would trust Clark. Wagner makes the same per year as Trey Flowers, but Flowers got:
- 2 additional years
- $16 million more guaranteed
And Flowers is:
- a 0-time Pro Bowler
- a 0-time All-Pro
- a player with only three years of experience really
- a player who averaged only 7 sacks per season
- a player who has never succeeded away from the Patriots
Bobby Wagner has never succeeded without Pete Carroll, but he doesn’t have to. This is a player they already know works in this system, so they should feel even more assured that he’ll succeed than the Jets should with Mosley or the Detroit Lions with Flowers.
I can’t think of a study I’ve read or research that’s been done that could show me that even if edge rusher is more valuable than inside linebacker on the grand scale of things, that we don’t know if an elite ILB like Wagner isn’t much more valuable than a very good edge rusher like Flowers.
I guess there just aren’t any downsides that I see in this deal. The team had the cap space to do it and the cap space is sometimes there so you can pick two or three players that you absolutely can’t lose right now. Russell Wilson got his four-year, $140 million deal. Wagner checks in at $18 per year. Seattle was already projected to have the second-most cap room in 2020.
This move might only bump them down to 10th.
Meanwhile, why can’t we consider this a win for Wagner too? He gets to beat Mosley’s AAV by a considerable margin and he guarantees himself another $40 million on top of the $14 million he was already going to make in 2019. That’s $54 million guaranteed from now through the end of 2021, with a good chance he’ll just collect the full amount. At that point, Wagner can hit free agency another time and he’ll be just 32. And if the new CBA opens up some additional cap space or ability to pay players more money, Wagner won’t miss the change-over by too long.
Overall, this contract immediately looks like a win-win to me. If you add that up with some of Carroll and John Schneider’s other recent moves (extending Tyler Lockett for just $31 million over three years, the Wilson contract, getting a first and second round pick for Clark, extending Duane Brown to a reasonable three-year deal, and potentially getting a steal in 2019 with Ezekiel Ansah) I think we can give it a slight rest on any discussion of this front office not knowing what they’re doing. As much guff as they got for having to maneuver around dead money over some of their former greats, this last year or so has felt like a genius equal and opposite reaction.
It’s 2019 and a decade into the Carroll-Schneider era, they’re consistently making moves that I believe a reasonable NFL fan would support as “smart.” Many other teams that for decades have consistently shown that they don’t make smart moves, seem to have been bested with this contract situation as well.
Not even the incompetence of the Jets could slow down Schneider’s efforts to sign Wagner to a contract they could swallow.