While the Seahawks have inked defensive end Cliff Avril and outside linebacker K.J. Wright to extensions in recent months, the club still has another key defensive contributor — middle linebacker Bobby Wagner — set to play on an expiring contract. Entering the final year of his rookie deal, Wagner is in line for a multi-year pact, and John Clayton of ESPN told Brock and Salk of 710 ESPN that the 24-year-old could command between $8MM and $10MM per season on a fresh contract.
According to Clayton, Wagner could conceivably garner a $10MM AAV even without hitting free agency, meaning Seattle would be willing to pay a high price to retain its inside ‘backer. Such a price tag would make Wagner the highest-paid ILB, as the current top earner — New England’s Jerod Mayo — averages $9.7MM per season. If Wagner were to settle for $8MM, the low end of Clayton’s estimate, he would still place among the top five highest-paid inside linebackers.
It’s hard to argue that Wagner isn’t worth the money, as the former second-round pick has been a key cog in the center of Seattle’s defense since his entry into the NFL in 2012. He’s started 40 games during his first three seasons, averaging about 86 tackles per year during that span. In 2014, he graded as the league’s fifth-best inside linebacker, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), rating as the No. 2 ILB against the run. Wagner also (somewhat infamously) earned one vote for 2014 NFL MVP, courtesy of former NFL head coach Tony Dungy.
We heard last week that the Seahawks will try to hammer out an extension with Wagner before the 2015 season begins, so if mid-September is their deadline, the club certainly has time to work out an agreement. Of course, Seattle has a larger priority on its plate, as quarterback Russell Wilson is also eligible for a long-term deal.