Over the years, the Seahawks have been best known for producing standout cornerbacks and safeties in the secondary, most recently drafting and developing the “Legion of Boom.”
But Seattle also has had plenty of success at linebacker as well, with seven different players at the position appearing in at least one Pro Bowl during the franchise’s 42 years of existence. Four of those players, including Julian Peterson, primarily played outside linebacker during their time in the Pacific Northwest.
Which outside ‘backers rank among the franchise’s best? Here’s my final ranking for the top five outside linebackers to wear a Seahawks uniform.
5. Anthony Simmons
Seahawks Tenure: 1997-2004
Career Stats: 586 tackles, 39 tackles for loss, 9 interceptions
A strong argument can be made for Peterson’s inclusion on this list despite playing just three seasons in Seattle, as he appeared in three Pro Bowls with the team. But Simmons had an impressive tenure with the Seahawks in his own right and it’s a bit of a travesty he never appeared in a Pro Bowl. If not for injuries derailing his career and forcing him to retire at 28 years of age, there’s a chance the former All-American out of Clemson could’ve been higher in this ranking.
After being selected in the first round of the 1997 NFL Draft, Simmons led the Seahawks in tackles during the 2000, 2001, and 2003 seasons. His best season came in 2000, as he registered a whopping 147 combined tackles, 4.0 sacks, and two interceptions. When the organization released him after the 2004 season, he ranked seventh all-time in franchise history with 450 solo tackles and fourth overall with 39 tackles for loss while adding nine interceptions.
4. Rufus Porter
Seahawks Tenure: 1988-1994
Career Stats: 388 tackles, 37.5 sacks, 3 interceptions
Seattle’s current coaching staff would’ve been enamored by Porter, who made the Seahawks roster as an undrafted free agent out of Southern University in 1988. After making the Pro Bowl as a special teams contributor during his rookie season, the 6-foot-1, 228-pound linebacker became a breakout star with 49 tackles and 10.5 sacks in 1989, garnering First-Team All-Pro honors from Pro Football Weekly and once again making the Pro Bowl roster.
Though Porter didn’t play in another Pro Bowl for the remainder of his career, he remained a reliable pass rushing threat for the Seahawks over the next three seasons, recording 24.5 sacks along with 226 solo tackles. His production tailed off substantially from that point, as he had only 2.5 sacks in his last two seasons with the team before ending his career unceremoniously with the Saints and Buccaneers. He concluded seven stellar seasons in Seattle with nearly 400 tackles, 37.5 sacks, and five fumble recoveries.
3. Terry Wooden
Seahawks Tenure: 1990-1996
Career Stats: 625 tackles, 10 fumble recoveries, 6 interceptions
Like Simmons, Wooden was a tackling machine who somehow didn’t make a single Pro Bowl during seven seasons with the Seahawks, likely as an unfortunate punishment for playing on lousy teams during the 90s. Selected in the second round out of Syracuse in 1990, he became a full-time starter for the first time in 1991, finishing with 105 tackles, 2.0 sacks, and four fumble recoveries in 16 games.
After injuries limited him to just eight games in 1992, Wooden amassed 100 or more in tackles in three consecutive seasons for Seattle, including posting an NFL-leading 114 solo tackles in 1995. When he left to join the Chiefs in 1997, he ranked fourth on the franchise’s all-time list with 557 solo tackles and added six interceptions in coverage, outstanding production considering he appeared in only 89 games with the team. More than 20 years after his departure, he currently still ranks seventh in Seahawks history for total tackles.
2. K.J. Wright
Seahawks Tenure: 2011-Present
Career Stats: 744 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 50 tackles for loss
Since arriving as an unheralded fourth-round pick in 2011, the 6-foot-4, 246-pound Wright has been a model of consistency for the Seahawks. After being installed as a starter at weakside linebacker early on during his rookie season, he never looked back, averaging 103 tackles and nearly seven tackles for loss per year from 2011 to 2017.
Often overlooked due to the talent around him, including lining up next to perennial All-Pro Bobby Wagner, Wright has only been to one Pro Bowl in his career. But his overall statistics indicate he belongs in the discussion as one of the best outside linebackers to play in his era. From 2014 to 2017, Wright produced at least 108 tackles every year, recorded 7.0 sacks, and also showed off his exceptional coverage skills with 18 passes defensed during that span. Assuming he bounces back from an injury-marred 2018 season, he’ll have a chance to jump to the top of this list in short order, as he already ranks ninth in solo tackles and sixth in tackles for loss.
1. Chad Brown
Seahawks Tenure: 1997-2004
Career Stats: 741 tackles, 48.0 sacks, 10 forced fumbles
A complete package at the linebacker position possessing excellent athleticism, size, and toughness, Brown initially blossomed with the Steelers before signing a six-year, $24 million contract with the Seahawks in 1997. Though he never quite replicated his breakthrough 13.0 sack season for Pittsburgh in 1996, he became a force in Seattle’s defense over the course of the next eight seasons and helped guide the team to three playoff appearances.
Brown enjoyed his best all-around season as a pro in 1998, registering a career-best 149 tackles along with 7.5 sacks and an interception while receiving First-Team All-Pro honors. He surpassed the 100 tackles mark twice more, produced 33.5 sacks, and returned three fumbles for touchdowns over the next five seasons, quickly etching his name into Seattle’s record books. Upon his exit for New England in 2005, he ranked third overall in franchise history for tackles, fifth overall for sacks, and first overall in 55 tackles for loss. Nearly 15 years later, he still sits in the top five for all three categories and deserves to be inducted into the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor.