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Bobby Wagner skipping practices at OTAs wanting new Seahawks deal. Signs are he’ll get it soon

Bobby Wagner says he, Seahawks “have a plan” towards a new contract—at top of NFL market for LBs

All-Pro Bobby Wagner says he, Seahawks “have a plan” towards a new contract—at top of NFL market for linebackers.
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All-Pro Bobby Wagner says he, Seahawks “have a plan” towards a new contract—at top of NFL market for linebackers.

Bobby Wagner chatted and smiled with his favorite coach, coordinator Ken Norton Jr.

He poked his head into the offense’s huddle and slapped hands with quarterback Russell Wilson.

He gave pointers to younger, fellow linebackers including Shaquem Griffin during drills.

Wagner did just about everything at the Seahawks’ second voluntary organized team activities day on Tuesday.

Except practice.

The All-Pro who wants a new contract has chosen to show up--”honoring my contract,” as he put it. But until he gets a new deal, he’s not practicing.

Wagner said he is fully healthy, unlike the nearly two dozen Seahawks who weren’t practicing Tuesday because of injuries or offseason surgeries. Wagner has enjoyed the rejuvenating powers of the 4 1/2 month since he last smashed into opponents in his most recent NFL game.

He isn’t practicing to remove any possibility of getting hurt entering the final year of his contract.

“This is a business,” he said. “You get hurt, they are going to cut you.”

He and the Seahawks are continuing to negotiate toward a new contract.

“Obviously, I would like something to get done before the season,” he said of talks in which he is representing himself to the Seahawks without an agent.

“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. And I believe in myself. I bet on myself. And either way to me, it’s a win. You get a contract, you win. You don’t, it’s a learning experience, you win.

“A lot of people aren’t willing to take that chance. I am.”

Tuesday provided more signs Wagner will win by getting his this summer--and that his new deal will be the richest contract for an inside linebacker in the NFL.

“We’ve had some communications. So we know we have a plan,” he said. “You know, just got to figure the plan out. But I’m just being patient, and I’m letting things happen.”

Except practice. That’s not going to happen until he gets a new deal.

He’s not going to risk anything by getting hurt and losing value and leverage on that new contract before the season even begins.

“You’ve got to be mindful of that,” he said. “Y’all know I’m a professional. I am going to be in shape. I work out every, single day. Y’all don’’t have to worry about me being in shape, and my mind is always going to be sharp...

“I’m not trying to turn this into some big drama thing, some drawn-out thing. Like I said, it’s a business. If it works out, it does.

“If it doesn’t...um, it’s been cool.”

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Gregg Bell/The News Tribune

Coach Pete Carroll is fine with Wagner not practicing because of business concerns.

“He’s doing what he has always done: been a leader,” Carroll said. “He’s been an integral part of everything that we’ve ever been about. He’s continuing to do that.

“The decision to do what he’s doing, at his tempo, is a good decision for him right now.”

As has been for years--pretty much since Wilson and Wagner led the Seahawks to consecutive Super Bowls as part of Seattle’s otherwise departed or retired nucleus in the 2013 and ‘14 seasons--there remains no Plan B for this team beyond Wilson and Wagner.

Wilson will be the foundation of the offense and Wagner of the defense for as far as Carroll and general manager John Schneider can fathom.

Tuesday, Carroll called Wagner’s situation as the next one in an offseason process that began with settling Frank Clark’s expired-contract situation, then re-signing Wilson to an NFL-record $140-million deal, selecting 11 draft picks and signing free agents to fill needs, such as former Pro Bowl pass rusher Ziggy Ansah earlier this month.

Coach Pete Carroll says all Seahawks plans remain on track to re-sign All-Pro Bobby Wagner. The linebacker’s contract ends after 2019.

“As you’ve watched, as you have, all through the offseason it’s been a process of step by step process,” Carroll said. “And we are right in stride with the process. Bobby’s been great. Everything’s going to come together in time. ...

“Everything is in order, and we are in order with what we want to do. It feels very comfortable and very amicable, and all that.

“So everything’s going just right.”

Indeed, Seattle has been planning since the summer day in 2015 it signed Wagner to his second contract to pay him at the top of the NFL’s market for inside linebackers again in 2019.

Thing is, this offseason that market got a jolt. Seahawks general manager John Schneider and his chief salary-cap executive Matt Thomas were not banking on it, either.

Since Wagner re-signed for $46 million with Seattle in the summer of 2015, Luke Kuechly with Carolina ($61.8 million, five years) and C.J. Mosley with the New York Jets have eclipsed Wagner as the NFL’s highest-paid inside linebackers.

The Seahawks planned for Kuechly’s deal; he’s regarded as the closest contemporary in the league to Wagner in skill and accomplishment.

The Seahawks absolutely did not foresee Mosley’s deal. Perhaps no one in the NFL did.

Except for the Jets. They signed Mosley for an out-of-whack $85 million over five years, with $51 million guaranteed.

Mosley will turn 27 next month. He has been selected to four Pro Bowls. That’s one fewer than Wagner, who turns 29 next month. Mosley has zero All-Pro selections, to Wagner’s three. Wagner has won a Super Bowl and played into two of them. Mosley has never played in a Super Bowl, let alone won it.

Maybe even the Jets don’t like how Mosley’s deal came about. Last week they fired the man who largely settled Mosley’s contract in New York, general manager Mike Maccagnan.

That move came two months too late for Seattle’s talks with Wagner.

Wagner made it clear the cost for the Seahawks to keep him beyond 2019 starts at Mosley’s deal at $17 million per year with the Jets, and goes up from there.

“I mean, the number’s the number. The market’s the market. That’s the top linebacker market,” Wagner said.

“So, that’s the standard. So that is the plan, to break that.”

These OTAs are by definition of the NFL collective bargaining agreement voluntary. Seattle has had stars skip them for years, from Earl Thomas miffed about not getting a new contract this time last year to Michael Bennett and Marshawn Lynch simply because they didn’t have to be at previous ones.

But Wagner made it point to be here entering the final year of his deal.

“Just being the leader, you want to send the right message. You want to be here to support the guys,” he said. “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, 28, told NFL Network’s Omar Ruiz early this month at a charity event in Wagner’s hometown of Ontario, California: “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.”

On Tuesday, Wagner explained what he meant by that

“I’m a professional. This is what it is. As of right now, my contract ends after this year,” he said. “So, that’s where it stands. I’m honoring the contract. I’m here. I’m participating. I’m helping the young guys be the best that they can be.

“So, I’m here. And that’s what I want to do. That is my decision.

“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.

“But,” Wagner added, “I believe that something can happen.”

Wagner was a Seahawks teammate when left tackle Russell Okung decided to drop an agent and negotiate his own way into free agency in 2016. Wagner was even tighter with All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman before the All-Pro cornerback negotiated without an agent with Seattle last offseason and then, when the Seahawks waived him rather than pay him $11 million in 2018, with San Francisco on a new free-agent deal.

Wagner has talked in the past with Okung and Sherman on their experiences of self-representation with the Seahawks. But Wagner made it clear he is not being advised by his former teammates on his current situation.

“You learn from it. You see how he handled it,” Wagner said. “Obviously, every situation is different. You look at Russ’ situation; he was coming off a shoulder, I believe. You look at Sherm’s situation, he was coming off two Achilles. So those were different situations.

“You pay attention to it, but we haven’t talked much about it. This is my decision. I learned from them. But they are not helping me.

“This is myself.”

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.
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