Had the Seahawks and Bobby Wagner engaged in contract-year negotiations in 2018, this would have probably been an easier process. But the Jets changed the game in March, transforming the off-ball linebacker market by giving C.J. Mosley a five-year, $85MM deal.
With Wagner having accomplished far more than Mosley, it certainly added a major element to the talks with the Seahawks. While the parties had not begun discussions at May’s outset, Wagner confirmed negotiations have started. But it is certain Wagner wants to eclipse the $17MM-per-year number Mosley received.
“That is the plan, to break that,” Wagner said, via Michael-Shawn Dugar of The Athletic (subscription required). “… Like I said, it’s a business. If it works out, it does. If not, it’s been cool.”
At this point last year, Jamie Collins‘ $12.5MM-AAV number paced all off-ball linebackers. Now, Mosley leads all second-level defenders with his massive Jets deal. Kwon Alexander (one Pro Bowl) signed for $13.5MM per year, though the 49ers can get out of that contract rather easily after 2019, and Anthony Barr followed suit with the Vikings. Wagner signed a four-year, $43MM deal in 2015. He is due $10.5MM in base salary this season.
Wagner’s four first-team All-Pro honors trail only Luke Kuechly among active non-rush linebackers. The Seahawks opted not to pay Frank Clark, trading him to the Chiefs, so they appear to be planning for a Wagner future. With Earl Thomas also off the books, the Seahawks do not have a non-Wagner defender earning eight figures annually. But moving up to the Mosley tier certainly won’t be easy, given the radical markup. The Seahawks hold $23.9MM in cap space.
For now, the soon-to-be 29-year-old middle linebacker is attending Seahawks workouts but not participating in drills. Pete Carroll called this tactic “a good decision for him right now.”
“It’s a tricky situation,” Wagner said. “It’s a business. You get hurt, they don’t pay you, so you got to be mindful of that. Y’all know I’m a professional; I’m going to be in shape. I work out every single day, so y’all don’t have to worry about me being in shape, and my mind is going to always be sharp.”
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.