When he is officially liberated from the Rams’ evil clutches on March 15, the Seattle Seahawks will either pursue or pass on linebacker Bobby Wagner. Perhaps you've heard of him?
They will either sign the nine-time All-Pro, or demur, for reasons. Reasons within this article, even. (Thanks again for reading, John and Pete. A privilege, as always, to help you make up your minds before a big decision.)
So maybe the holding pattern in which we currently swirl, this three-week-long waiting game, is best played by examining the principal arguments why Seattle should not reach out to Wagner.
And then shooting all those arguments down out of the sky, like so many Chinese spy balloons and/or UFOs. Pew pew.
Why no Wagz: Doesn't make sense for the Seahawks to complete their rebuild with a 33-year-old at the center of their defense.
Counter: What doesn't make sense is fielding a defense devoid of linebackers. Jordyn Brooks has one good ACL, Cody Barton is an unrestricted free agent, and you just gave Tanner Muse, Bruce Irvin, and Alexander Johnson a combined 90 snaps in a playoff game. Which you then lost by three scores.
I will defend Bruce to the death, and Muse was honestly better than many people expected. But you cannot win in the NFC West or get far in the postseason without consistent linebacker play. The league’s most competent offenses are built to create space beyond the line of scrimmage and force mismatches. Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay will continue to find the defense’s weak link, isolate him or them, and run plays directly at him or them. It’s what they do. And why the Wagner-KJ combo was such a key equalizer for so many years.
Why no Wagz: His stats popped, but he played his best ball against the Seahawks and didn’t fill up the stat sheet in his other 15 games.
Counter: You don't end up PFF's highest graded LB by accident. I don’t take PFF grades with a grain of salt, I take them with the entire Great Salt Lake. So maybe Wagner wasn’t the top linebacker in the league, maybe his 90.7 final grade overstates things somewhat, but he definitely landed somewhere between good and excellent.
You don’t luck into two picks, six sacks, 10 TFL and 10 QB hits from an inside linebacker position. Remove the two Seattle games — which you’re not allowed to do but here goes anyway — and it’s still one INT, four sacks, six tackles for loss and seven gentle hugs of the quarterback.
In his 2013-2020 Seahawks prime, he only averaged one interception, 2.5 sacks and 7 TFL. Which is far below the 2022 numbers because Wagner’s greatness has always been off the stat sheet. And missed tackles are a better metric anyway. Part of the reason Wagner didn’t earn an extension in Seattle has got to be the 14 tackles he whiffed on in 2021. Which was, to say the very least, uncharacteristic.
Missed tackles, selected Wagner seasons
His final Seahawks season stands out like a pimple that won't pop on an otherwise unblemished body of work. Wagner bounced back. Big-time.
Why no Wagz: But surely he's lost a step. Half a step. Some fraction of steps. Hasn’t anyone mentioned he’s 33?
Counter: A slightly slower, but just as smart, Wagner is better than how many veterans available on the open market? Probably almost all of them. And better than how many rookies? Almost certainly all of them.
If the goal is to make the playoffs in 2023, in a division lacking star QB power, you have to add talent on defense in the front seven. If the goal is to make the playoffs in 2024 and beyond, you have to draft talent in the front seven.
You’re already going to be drafting for one or two years down the road. Not sure adding Wagner precludes you from thinking ahead.
Why no Wagz: Exactly. You’re gonna draft a LB, or two, because of need, and the best one should start getting his feet wet right away. How’s he even gonna get on the field with Bobby blocking him?
Counter: Okay, say you do draft a ‘backer in the second or third round. And again on Day 3. Whichever rookie emerges from the Great Linebacker Always Compete Battle Royale (GLACBAR) of training camp can always play alongside Wagner until Brooks returns, and next year alongside whichever of Bobby and Jordyn remain on the roster. And in case of injury. People get hurt. It’s a contact sport.
Why no Wagz: Speaking of Brooks, you just gave him the reins of the defense a year ago. Maybe let's not throw away all that development, eh?
Counter: No guarantee Brooks comes back as explosive as before, or on time, or that the team even wants him beyond the rookie contract and fifth year option anyway. That fifth year will cost $11.6 million.
Safe to say the Seahawks have a lot to think about.
Why no Wagz: Glad you mentioned money, finally, because there’s no cap space for Wagner. He’ll be too expensive.
Counter: There’s always money in the banana stand. Void years create cap space. You could do one for Geno Smith, you could do one for whichever free agent comes in, whether or not he is named Bobby Wagner. Renegotiations happen. Cap wizards find space where there is precious little.
And it’s almost impossible to gauge what Bobby’s market will be. The Rams might have won a bidding war for his services last offseason, or they might have been bidding against themselves. We’ll never truly know.
A nine-time All-Pro is going to have multiple suitors willing to break the bank. A nine-time All-Pro who is 33 is going to have multiple suitors who protect themselves with easy contract outs along the way in case Father Time wins right away instead of down the road. No reason the Seahawks couldn’t be just as cautious as other franchises.
I mean, LA supposedly gave Wagner a five-year, $50 million deal, and here he is on the (figurative) street less than 12 months later. Whatever contract Bobby signs won’t turn catastrophic in case he’s washed.
Why no Wagz: Would he even want to come back after the way things ended here?
Counter: Finally a real unknown. Only Wagner knows the true answer to this. In the meantime, let us enter into evidence a tweet from two days ago —
Maybe I’m grasping, but that tweet doesn’t sound like the answer of a man who’s ruled it out altogether. So neither should we.
I welcome more reasons for and against Bobby Back in Blue (TM). However, let’s be very, very real for a second. A millisecond.
There comes a point at which it doesn’t work financially. There comes a point at which your scouts say it’s too big a risk at Wagner’s age. There comes a point at which you’re chasing the winds of the past rather than the wins of the future.
Whether or not Carroll and Schneider decide March 2023 to be that point — well, let’s just say that’s what they’re getting paid for.
Which reason AGAINST adding Bobby Wagner is most convincing to you?
This poll is closed
He’s too old
He’ll cost too much
Want to see the young guys play and grow