Bobby Wagner

Wagner, Seahawks Begin Extension Talks

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.

NFC Notes: Wagner, Newton, Zeke

We learned yesterday that the Seahawks and linebacker Bobby Wagner may not have held serious discussions regarding a new contract just yet, and we speculated that if Wagner pushes for a top-of-the-market deal (i.e. $17MM per season), he may be playing elsewhere in 2020. And as Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network tweets, Wagner will indeed be looking to meet or exceed C.J. Mosley‘s new contract with the Jets, and he will not be taking a hometown discount. If that’s the case, it will be difficult for Seattle to retain him.

Now for more from the NFC:

  • Good news for Panthers fans. Per David Newton of ESPN.com, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton says his rehab from shoulder surgery is going “unbelievable,” and he hopes to be throwing before training camp. Newton, who turns 30 on Saturday, still doesn’t have a timetable for when he’ll be cleared, but everything is trending upwards so far.
  • The Cowboys may be preparing for life after Ezekiel Elliott, but Albert Breer of SI.com believes it would be a mistake for Dallas to move on anytime soon. He notes that the Cowboys are built to rely on Elliott, and if they ink him to a big-money deal now, they could spare themselves lengthy and potentially contentious negotiations, and they could still cut ties later on in the contract — once the guaranteed money is gone — if Elliott’s abilities start to fade.
  • The Packers claimed wide receiver Jawill Davis off waivers from the Giants earlier today, and Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes that Davis will compete for a return specialist role. Davis appeared in seven games for Big Blue last season, returning 12 punts and seven kickoffs. He also caught four passes for 40 yards.
  • We wrote earlier today that the Buccaneers may be preparing to cut Gerald McCoy.

No Contract Talks Between Bobby Wagner, Seahawks?

We heard at the end of March that linebacker Bobby Wagner and the Seahawks had started negotiations on a new contract. Wagner’s long-term future in Seattle was complicated by whether the team would have to commit significant cap room to Frank Clark, but now that Clark has been traded to Kansas City, the thought was that the Seahawks would shift their focus to getting a deal done with Wagner, who is eligible for free agency at the end of the 2019 season.

However, contrary to those earlier reports, Wagner himself says that he and the Seahawks have not yet started contract talks (Twitter link via Omar Ruiz of the NFL Network). There is still plenty of time to work something out, even if substantive discussions haven’t yet taken place, but if what Wagner is saying is true, that could mean that Seattle is not going to break its budget to keep Wagner in the fold.

After all, the Seahawks are now paying Russell Wilson at a historical rate, so GM John Schneider, who ended up with 11 picks in the 2019 draft when he was originally slated to have just four, needs to focus on acquiring as much cheap labor as possible. Paying a top-of-the-market price for a middle linebacker who turns 29 in June may not be the best allocation of resources, no matter how good that middle linebacker is.

And the free agent contract that C.J. Mosley recently signed with the Jets could have dashed Seattle’s hopes to keep Wagner. Mosley is now getting paid $17MM per year, and he is only two years younger than Wagner. Plus, Wagner is generally a better player, so it stands to reason that Wagner, who is handling the negotiations himself, would aim to match or exceed Mosley’s new pact.

If the Seahawks can keep Wagner for something that more closely resembles Luke Kuechly‘s $12.4MM-per-year deal, then perhaps the two sides can reach an accord. But if Wagner is determined to be paid Mosley money, then he could find himself on a new team in 2020.

Wagner told Ruiz, “I want to retire a Seahawk, but I understand it’s a business. I’m preparing like this is my last year as a Seahawk. If it is, I want to make sure I go out with a bang and make sure I give the city something to remember.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Seahawks Trade Frank Clark To Chiefs

On Tuesday, the Seahawks agreed to trade Frank Clark to the Chiefs. When finalized, the deal will send Clark and a third-round choice (No. 84 overall) to the Seahawks for their first-round pick (No. 29), third-round pick (No. 92), and the lower of the Chiefs’ 2020 second-rounders. 

The Seahawks originally cuffed Clark with a franchise tag for 2019, but the defensive end said he was unwilling to play under the terms of the one-year tender. Ultimately, Clark got his way with a massive long-term extension. The Chiefs have agreed to sign Clark to a five-year, $105.5MM deal, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The pact includes $63.5MM guaranteed and gives him a potentially larger total intake than Cowboys standout Demarcus Lawrence. Joel Corry of CBS Sports tweets that the $105.5MM figure is a maximum value, and that the actual contract is a five-year, $104MM pact. The additional $1.5MM stems from $300K incentives that Clark could earn in each year of the deal for posting 11.5 sacks or more.

However, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times tweets that Clark may have been unwilling to ink that same deal with the Seahawks if Seattle had extended it to him. Instead, he was, despite his statements to the contrary, willing to hold out until September and then sign his franchise tender before the regular season started.

In a perfect world, the Seahawks would have liked to keep Clark for the long haul. However, after making Russell Wilson the highest-paid player in NFL history, space was rather limited. But now, as Brady Henderson of ESPN.com tweets, the team can shift its focus to extending Bobby Wagner this offseason, and if the Seahawks can’t get a deal done, they will have enough cap space in 2020 to put the franchise tag on Wagner if it so chooses.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs have made another major change to their defense. After ranking 31st in yards allowed in 2018, they’ve swapped defensive coordinator Bob Sutton for Steve Spagnuolo, moved to a 4-3 scheme, traded Dee Ford, and released Justin Houston and Eric Berry. Now, it’s out with the old and in with the new for KC. The Chiefs have landed one of the game’s best young edge rushers in clark, bringing him to a front seven that also includes new pickups Alex Okafor, Emmanuel Ogbah, and Damien Wilson.

Clark, 26 in June, entered the league as a second-round pick in 2015, but truly broke out as an NFL sophomore with ten sacks in 2016. After a nine-sack effort in 2017, he exploded for 13 sacks last year, his first full season as a starter.

Clearly, the Chiefs are all-in on fixing their defense, but it has come at the expense of draft capital and future flexibility. The Chiefs no longer have a first-round pick for Thursday, nor do they have a ton of wiggle room in future years after locking up Clark through his prime seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Seahawks Want First-, Second-Round Picks For Frank Clark?

The Chiefs completed a tag-and-trade transaction involving an edge defender last month. The 49ers gave them a 2020 second-round pick for Dee Ford. That type of return will not satisfy the Seahawks regarding Frank Clark.

Linked to having Clark on the trade block, the Seahawks do not plan to let their top pass rusher go for cheap. They are believed to want first- and second-round picks to part with the standout defensive end, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Both the Chiefs and Colts are interested.

While it is not certain if they are willing to meet this asking price, the Chiefs have discussed trading for Clark to replace Ford, Breer adds. Clark has been more consistent than Ford, entering 2019 on the heels of three straight nine-plus-sack seasons. He is two years younger than Ford and at 265 pounds fits Steve Spagnuolo‘s 4-3 scheme better. Clark has also only missed two games in his career. But the matter of his $17.1MM franchise tag and his past complicate matters.

Having already released Kareem Hunt and seeing Tyreek Hill in precarious territory because of an ongoing investigation, the Chiefs trading for Clark would be an interesting decision. Clark was kicked off Michigan’s team because of a domestic violence arrest, which ended up producing a guilty plea for the lesser charge of disorderly conduct. The Chiefs do have the draft capital, with three picks in the first two rounds, and feature a big need at defensive end in what is expected to be Patrick Mahomes‘ final year on a rookie contract.

As for the Seahawks’ financial situation, John Schneider said (via the Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta, on Twitter) it would be “feasible but very challenging” to keep Clark, Bobby Wagner and Jarran Reed long-term. Wagner and the Seahawks have begun extension talks. A two-year starter at defensive tackle, Reed became extension-eligible this offseason. The franchise just authorized a four-year, $140MM Russell Wilson re-up, further complicating its ability to fortify the defense.

However, if Seattle trades Clark, defensive end becomes a major need. The team already has a deficiency there, given the lack of a reliable edge complement for Clark. But Schneider also indicated he would like the Seahawks — who have traded down in the first round in nearly every draft this decade — to acquire more picks. They hold an NFL-low four now and are without a second-round choice.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Seahawks, Chiefs, Broncos

Speaking to the media on Thursday, Seahawks general manager John Schneider indicated Russell Wilson‘s four-year, $140MM extension won’t impact the status of franchise-tagged defensive end Frank Clark, tweets Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. Seattle had already accounted for a new Wilson deal when it decided to tag Clark at a one-year rate of $17.128MM. Schneider also admitted the Seahawks haven’t made a decision on offensive tackle Germain Ifedi‘s fifth-year option for 2020, and singled out linebacker Bobby Wagner and defensive tackle Jarran Reed as extension candidates (Twitter links via Brady Henderson of ESPN.com and Condotta).

Here’s more from the NFL’s two West divisions:

  • Wilson received an NFL-record $65MM signing bonus as part of his new Seahawks contract, but he won’t actually collect all that money immediately. He’ll earn $30MM of the bonus this year with the rest deferred until 2020, per Joel Corry of CBSSports.com (Twitter links), who notes this mechanism is common in most quarterback deals. The deferral won’t affect Wilson’s cap charges, as the $65MM will still be prorated over the next five seasons. Corry adds Wilson received better cash flows on his current extension than on his previous four-year, $87.6MM pact.
  • Authorities have recently removed Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill‘s three-year-old son from Hill and his fiancee’s custody, according to Laura Bauer, Brooke Pryor, and Steve Vockrodt of the Kansas City Star. Hill is under investigation for a pair of incidents involving child abuse, but still showed up for workouts earlier this week. The NFL is expected to allow the investigation to unfold before considering discipline for Hill.
  • Broncos free agent signee Kareem Jackson played safety at Denver’s minicamp this week, reports Mike Klis of 9News. Jackson, who can also play corner, spent time at both positions for the Texans in 2018 before inking a three-year, $33MM deal with the Broncos in March. “[T]here’s more to learn at safety than there is at corner,” said Broncos head coach Vic Fangio. “He’s played much more corner in his career, so I wanted him to get more work in this camp – all of his work – at the safety position, to feel comfortable there.”

Seahawks, Wagner Begin Extension Talks

Entering a contract year, Bobby Wagner has begun negotiations on a third deal with the Seahawks, Pete Carroll said Tuesday (via Brady Henderson of ESPN.com, on Twitter).

This round of negotiations will feature Wagner representing himself, per Henderson. Carroll, whose team jettisoned numerous defensive cornerstones last year, said Wagner is “going to be a Seahawk.”

Wagner signed a four-year, $43MM deal in 2015. At the time, that was the benchmark for inside linebacker accords. But C.J. Mosley‘s new contract changed the market earlier this year, and Wagner has been a more decorated performer than the new Jets linebacker.

While Mosley is a four-time Pro Bowler, Wagner is a four-time first-team All-Pro. Among active off-ball linebackers, only Wagner and Luke Kuechly (five times All-Pro) have been named to more than one All-Pro first team. Three of Wagner’s All-Pro honors have come since he signed his 2015 extension. This will be Wagner’s age-29 season, so he figures to have some prime years remaining.

Given Mosley’s new $17MM-AAV deal — in another stratosphere compared to every other non-rush ‘backer — this process could become quite interesting. Inside linebacker now features one of the biggest gulfs between its highest- and second-highest-paid players (Kuechly is at $12.4MM per year) at a position in modern NFL history. Of course, the Seahawks probably are not eager to pay a pure linebacker $17MM per season. But Mosley’s deal may complicate this process, since Wagner almost certainly will not get to test the market anytime soon.

The Seahawks’ Super Bowls-era secondary has been disbanded; ditto for their defensive line. Linebacker, though, houses multiple veterans from those acclaimed units. Seattle just re-signed K.J. Wright and added Mychal Kendricks, who may or may not be available for the 2019 season due to a possible prison sentence for insider trading. Carroll called the Wagner-Wright-Kendricks trio potentially “the best we’ve had” (Twitter link via Henderson).

Helping a younger Seahawks team to the playoffs, Wagner made 138 tackles in 15 games last season. He registered a career-high 11 passes defensed and returning an interception 98 yards for a touchdown. He graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 off-ball ‘backer in 2018.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Rumors: Rodgers, Hawks, Linehan, Bucs

The Aaron Rodgers watch now includes a practice return. The Packers saw their best player resurface at Saturday’s practice after he’d missed all week of workouts. Although NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero points out Rodgers is still questionable (Twitter link) and the Packers will see how he looks Sunday morning, now that he’s gotten in a practice it’s a bit difficult to see the 34-year-old quarterback not suiting up Sunday against the Vikings. Swelling in Rodgers’ left knee remains an issue, per Pelissero (on Twitter), and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein tabs it as unlikely the Packers will give their centerpiece a green light if he’s still sore or experiencing swelling from Saturday’s workout. But the 14th-year passer has dealt with myriad left knee trouble at several points in his career. That said, the Vikings’ defense may be the toughest unit he faces all season; and Minnesota’s front seven will be facing a surely less mobile Rodgers than it ordinarily would.

Here’s what’s new out of the NFC going into Week 2 Sunday.

  • Bobby Wagner serves as the anchor for the Seahawks‘ front seven, having played in 42 straight games. That streak will end on Monday night after the Seahawks declared their top linebacker out for their Bears game. K.J. Wright also will not play. Wagner is battling a groin injury, while Wright is still recovering from a knee scope. Perhaps this explains the team’s need to make the controversial decision to sign Mychal Kendricks, who may face prison time after pleading guilty to insider trading. Barkevious Mingo is the only starting linebacker Seattle will have available in Chicago.
  • Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan saw increased latitude this offseason in the team’s effort to restructure its offense, with Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News writing the fourth-year Dallas OC was involved in the decisions to release Dez Bryant and move on from four offensive assistants. Linehan signed an extension in 2017 that calls for him to be paid approximately $2MM per season, George notes. This makes the Cowboys’ OC one of the NFL’s highest-paid assistants. George adds Linehan could well be on the chopping block if Dallas’ offense nosedives. The Panthers did not see much from Linehan’s unit in Week 1.
  • DeSean Jackson appears set to have another chance to face his original team. The Buccaneers wide receiver is expected to surmount concussion protocol and be on the field against the Eagles on Sunday, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Jackson had his best game as a Buccaneer last week, hauling in five passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns.

NFC Notes: Seahawks, Carroll, Foster, Saints

Appearing on Dave Dameshek’s podcast, Cliff Avril said that following the Seahawks‘ loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX, Pete Carroll started losing the trust of his players. The former Seattle defensive end said “a lot of guys got turned off” when the head coach opted for a potential game-winning pass instead of handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch.

Of course, we know what happened next. With the ball at the one-yard line, quarterback Russell Wilson ended up throwing a game-deciding interception to New England cornerback Malcolm Butler.

“If we win that Super Bowl I think we would have won another one,” Avril said (via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com). “I do think the team would have bought in more to what Coach Carroll was saying, instead of going the opposite way.

“Guys started kind of questioning him more instead of following his lead if we had won the Super Bowl.”

The Seahawks ended up losing in the divisional round during the 2015 and 2016 playoffs, and they failed to make the postseason in 2017. The team ultimately let go of a number of veterans this offseason.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFC…

  • Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner has left Athletes First and is without an agent, reports Liz Mullen SportsBusiness Daily (via Twitter). Wagner signed a four-year, $43MM extension (about $22MM guaranteed) with the Seahawks back in 2016, and he still has two years remaining on that deal.
  • According to Tuscaloosa County District Attorney Hays Webb, 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster had “several months of clean drug screen results” during his pre-trial diversion program (via the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch on Twitter). Foster ultimately completed the program. In this past week, Foster has seen both of his offseason arrests lead to dismissed cases. Yesterday, the former first-rounder had a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge dismissed, and we learned earlier this week that he wouldn’t be charged in a domestic violence case.
  • The Saints are still hoping that special teams coach Mike Westhoff will return to the organization after he successfully completes recovery from offseason surgery, according to Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com. The 70-year-old underwent surgery for “an issue from his hip all the way down his leg,” and he’s yet to return to New Orleans. Sean Payton had previously expressed some optimism in Westhoff’s return, but he also said he didn’t expect the coach to come back until training camp. After retiring in 2012, Payton convinced Westhoff to return to the NFL towards the end of last season.

NFC Notes: 49ers, Eagles, Injuries

The 49ers have won every game that Jimmy Garoppolo has started this season. However, general manager John Lynch knows that the team’s priority this offseason must be to surround his new signal caller with better talent, reports Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk.

Smith relays quotes that the first-year decision maker made on FS1 today that expresses his decision to move forward with the plan of building around Garoppolo.

“It frees you up in the draft to go looking for other needs and build your team around him,” said Lynch.

At the moment, San Francisco seems to have found two solid play makers in Marquise Goodwin and rookie Trent Taylor. But with running back Carlos Hyde‘s future with the team uncertain being that he will become an unrestricted free agent, the team needs more guys that can help elevate Garoppolo’s game.

It’s certainly a team with a number of holes, but there’s undoubtedly newfound hope that the organization has found their next franchise quarterback given this late season run.

Here’s more notes from around the NFC:

  • While the Eagles have a number of assistant coaches that could be in-line for head coaching gigs after the conclusion of this season, the team’s Vice President of Player Personnel Joe Douglas has gone a bit under-the-radar in terms of garnering interest from general manager needy teams, opines Jeff McLane of The Inquirer. Douglas surprisingly wasn’t mentioned in the league’s annual list of prospective GM candidates. But despite not being named, owner Jeffrey Lurie has spoken highly of the number two football man in his front office. “The hiring of Joe Douglas, I thought, was the pivotal moment of the last year,” said Lurie. With Douglas’ guidance, the Eagles have made a number of quality football decisions that has led them to being on the verge of clinching home field advantage in the NFC. McLane does mention that while Douglas is highly-regarded in league circles, he’s still viewed as strictly a “football guy”, which isn’t the type of person that is now needed to lead an entire front office, according to McLane. Nevertheless, if the Eagles continue to dominant with Douglas partially at the helm, he definitely should start to become more sought after for a lead job in the years to come.
  • Despite the Cowboys getting Zeke back for the first time since Week 8, the team is still dealing with a number of injuries entering their season-defining Week 16 game against Seattle. Star left tackle Tyron Smith is currently dealing with back and knee injuries, but he will “give it a try” this Sunday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Defensive tackle David Irving has been officially ruled out for a third straight game because of a concussion as well, reports David Moore of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). Although, there is some good news on the injury front for the Cowboys as stud pass rusher Demarcus Lawrence practiced fully on Friday and is ready to go, per Todd Archer of ESPN.com.
  • The Seahawks are also dealing with a few critical injuries of their own prior to the Week 16 contest, even though the injury news seems to be a bit better on Seattle’s side. Head coach Pete Carroll said after practice that linebacker Bobby Wagner and strong safety Bradley McDougald are on track to play on Sunday, but the team would “wait-and-see” if cornerback DeShawn Shead would be activated from the PUP for this weekend’s matchup, reports Brady Henderson of ESPN.com.