Wagner will be at Seattle OTAs, but won’t practice
Wagner will be at Seattle OTAs, but won’t practice
RENTON, Wash. — Bobby Wagner is present for the Seattle Seahawks‘ voluntary offseason program, but he’s not practicing as he awaits an extension that he hopes will make him the NFL’s highest-paid inside linebacker.
“Just being the leader, you want to send the right message,” Wagner said Tuesday. “You want to be here to support the guys. I do feel like the quarterback of defense is pretty important, so not having that piece would kind of put a damper on the defense. I just feel like it’s important for our success and so I’m here.”
Wagner, a four-time All-Pro and the Seahawks’ defensive captain, said he’ll continue to take part in offseason work without practicing. He’s not injured; he just doesn’t want to risk getting hurt while his contract situation is unsettled after seeing that happen last year to teammates Earl Thomas (who held out all offseason) and K.J. Wright (who did not) in their contract seasons. Wagner said he’ll “be here helping the young guys, doing whatever I can,” which was the case Tuesday as he watched the Seahawks hold their second Organized Team Activity.
He made it clear that his participation won’t include any on-field work.
“No, I will be here,” he said. “That’s all I will be, is here.”
Coach Pete Carroll seemed fine with the approach Wagner is taking. Other Seahawks in recent past in addition to Thomas — Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett and Marshawn Lynch, to name a few — stayed away from the team for some or all of the offseason because of their contracts.
“He’s doing what he has always done — he’s been a leader,” Carroll said of Wagner. “He’s been an integral part of everything that we’ve ever been about and he’s continuing to do that. The decision to do what he’s doing at this tempo is a good decision for him right now.”
Wagner, who is representing himself in negotiations as he enters the final year of his contract, said he would like to get a deal done before the season. He declined to specify where things stand to that end, only saying he’s had conversations with the team.
“I’m not trying to turn this into some big drama thing,” he said. “… It’s a business. If it works out, it does. If it doesn’t, it’s been cool.”
Wagner, who was previously represented by Athletes First, said he wanted to eventually represent himself even before he saw former Seahawks teammates Richard Sherman and Russell Okung ditch their agents and do the same. He refuted the notion that he would have had a new contract by now if he still had an agent, noting that his four-year, $43 million extension he signed in 2015 didn’t get done until early August.
He knows that handling his own negotiations with general manager John Schneider and cap guru Matt Thomas will mean having direct and blunt conversations that an agent would otherwise filter. Asked in April what it’s like working with players who are acting as their own agents — as the Seahawks did with Sherman and Okung — Schneider called those conversations “a necessary evil” and said that even when an agent is there to serve as a buffer, both sides almost never come out of a negotiation feeling great.
“At the end of the day, me representing myself shouldn’t be a big deal,” Wagner said. “They should look at it as any other deal. I think it’s a lot of people worried about them saying things and me being able to take criticism. That’s part of the game. You’ve got to be able to take criticism. At the end of the day, you want the person to say something straight to your face how they feel versus to somebody else. I don’t need a third party.”
Carroll also downplayed the difficulty in working with a player who’s his own agent. He expressed confidence at the owners meetings in March that a deal with Wagner would get done and did so again Tuesday.
“We’re right in stride with the process,” he said. “Bobby’s been great. Everything’s going to come together in time. Everything’s in order. We’re in order with what we want to do. It feels very comfortable and very amicable and all that. So everything is going just right.”
But Wagner’s situation is further complicated by the five-year, $85 million deal that C.J. Mosley got from the New York Jets in March, which blew the market for inside linebackers out of the water at $17 million per season. The 26-year-old Mosley has made the Pro Bowl in four of his five NFL seasons but has yet to make the All-Pro team. Wagner, who will turn 29 in June, has a much more decorated resume with five consecutive Pro Bowls while being named a first-team All-Pro four times in that span. He has topped 100 tackles every season since Seattle drafted him in the second round in 2012, and according to ESPN charting, he leads the NFL in tackles over the past five seasons with 656.
“I mean, the number is the number,” Wagner said when asked about Mosley’s contract. “The market is the market. That’s the top linebacker market. So that’s the standard, so that is the plan, to break that.”
Wagner added: “I know my value. Nobody has to tell me my value. I know my value. No team, no person, no agent can tell me my value. I believe in myself. I’ll bet on myself. Either way, to me, it’s a win. You get a contract, you win. You don’t, it’s a learning experience, so you win. A lot of people are not willing to take that chance. I am.”
Wagner was asked about his recent comments to the NFL Network that he’s preparing as though this season will be his last in Seattle.
“As of right now, my contract ends at this year, so that’s where it stands,” he said. “I’m honoring the contract. I’m here. I’m participating. I’m helping the young guys to be the best that they can be. So I’m here and that’s what I want to do. It’s my decision, so as of right now, there is no other years left for me here. So that was just a very honest opinion. That if I don’t get a deal done, that’s it. But I believe that something can happen.”
May 21, 2019 at 05:50PM