“Maybe history wouldn’t have to repeat itself if we listened once in awhile.” Wayne McLaughlin
It’s been well documented by now, and surely as Seahawks fans you all know the story.
A team on the verge of a dynasty built around a young core develops more star players than anyone, including the team itself, could have imagined. In trying to keep them all they wreck their salary cap, while experiencing locker room strife as some of those players shift their focus to personal gains rather than overall team goals.
This is how the 2013 Seahawks became the 2017 Seahawks, devolving from Super Bowl Champion to a non-playoff team in four short years.
Now, as the Seahawks embark on what looks to be another upswing after a successful “reset” year that saw them win seven of their last eight games and get back to the playoffs, the question becomes: How do they avoid the same pitfalls that got the best of them coming off their back-to-back Super Bowl appearances?
Better roster management, for one thing. General Manager John Schneider has long talked about “making tough choices” when it comes to choosing which players to reward with lucrative contracts and which ones to move on from, but we’ve yet to really see that shocking-yet-prudent New England Patriots-style example of the team jettisoning a player in his prime in exchange for some combination of needed draft picks, players, and cap relief.
Until now? Because it’s possible that the most impactful transaction the Seahawks could make in 2019 would be to trade star linebacker Bobby Wagner.
“To ignore history is to ignore the wolf at the door.” John le Carre’
Sound crazy? Perhaps it is. But consider this; what if the Seahawks had traded Richard Sherman coming off yet another Pro Bowl season in 2016, when indeed there were reports that the team was looking to do just that? Imagine what they could have fetched in return in terms of draft picks and salary cap relief? Or if they had dealt Kam Chancellor when he held out in 2015?
Instead, we saw both players get injured, leading Chancellor to retire and Sherman to be cut and subsequently signed by the 49ers. Imagine what could have been and how it could be impacting the current roster?
I get it, this idea may sound ludicrous to many of you, maybe even all of you, but consider the following:
- Wagner is entering the last year of his deal, with a salary cap hit of $14.1 million in 2019.
- Coming off three straight First-Team All-Pro selections, he would certainly command more than the four-year, $43 million deal he inked in 2015. (Carolina’s Luke Kuechly is currently the highest-paid at the position, at an average annual value of just over $12.3 million.)
- He would turn 30 years old in the first year of any new deal.
- The Seahawks have cap space to work with, but the impending free agency of Frank Clark, along with soon-to-expire contracts of stars Russell Wilson and Jarran Reed among others, will quickly stress any available payroll flexibility.
- The team has only four picks in the upcoming draft.
Thus begs the question of what’s the best way to lock up your younger core players while responsibly managing the cap, and at the same time finding a way to add draft picks to acquire more significant young talent.
Wagner just may be the Seahawks only possible trade chip.
“Ignorance and it’s denial will, sad to say, lead us down the same road as it did in all past history.” Jordan Maxwell
What makes any thought of striking a deal for Wagner challenging, however, is to survey the market. It’s impossible to find a proper comparison, and the ones that do exist don’t exactly breed confidence and excitement. Jamie Collins was traded from New England to Cleveland after a Pro Bowl year in 2016, garnering only a conditional third-round pick. Last year, the Rams traded Alec Ogeltree, a Second-Team All-Pro selection in 2016, along with a seventh-round pick to the Giants in exchange for fourth and sixth-round picks.
On the surface, neither of those deals involves the type of bounty one would hope to get for a player of Wagner’s caliber. However, neither Collins nor Ogeltree is the kind of unquestionably elite, roster-changing type of performer Wagner represents.
THAT is the reason why you would consider shopping him. The impact he would make for any acquiring team would be worth enough in return that the Seahawks might just have to consider making, or at least taking, some phone calls.
Then again, it may also be a very good reason to keep him.
If you’ve read this far you may very well think this entire premise is insane, yet it’s not my own. I brought myself to consider this scenario after hearing the idea suggested in print and on local radio from people whose opinions I respect. And while I agree that every move should be discussed openly in front offices around the league (because great opportunity is often born out of great risk) in this case I believe Wagner is precisely the type of player who is worth more in your own locker room than he is in trade.
“Time and time over it is the ones who try a little too hard to be innovative rebels….who then turn out not quite as innovative or as rebellious as they would like to think they are.” Criss Jami
Perhaps in this case, it’s imperative the Seahawks learn from their past history, specifically the big swings they took in deals for Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham, and not try to get too cute. Adding another first-round draft pick, and possibly more, will be tempting, but they should resist.
Bobby Wagner is simply too good a player, and an even better example of the kind of leader, worker, and dedicated professional this team needs in the locker room in order to lead them to yet another possible run to contention.
It's also worth noting that even at his prime, Wagner may not command the kind of windfall the Hawks would need in order to contemplate parting with him. When Earl Thomas was reportedly available last summer, there simply weren't any teams willing to pay the asking price for the future Hall of Fame safety.
Given how well elite linebackers like Wagner tend to age, Seattle shouldn't even consider an offer from another team unless they're given a king's ransom.
With proper structure, even a massive deal for Wagner can be worked into the team’s salary cap over the next three-to-five years. There are other ways to acquire draft picks and players, and this particular player is simply too good to deal away.