Wagner wants to keep playing, but future in Seattle unclear

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 26: Bobby Wagner #54 of the Seattle Seahawks takes the field before the game against the Chicago Bears at Lumen Field on December 26, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

As the beginning of his 10th season neared, Bobby Wagner decided he was going to take a stand.

If he was going to be mandated to speak weekly about the state of the Seattle Seahawks, he was going to use some of that time to focus on things he cares about.

"I know I come up here and just answer your guys’ questions and talk about the things you want to talk about, but I’ve decided to switch it up," Wagner said on Sept. 8. "This year, before we start, I’m going to talk about something that I want to talk about."

Every week for the past three months, Wagner has taken a few minutes to talk about businesses he supports or has invested in, authors he admires, philanthropic endeavors away from the field, the importance of mental health. His goal was to create a different type of dialogue.

Even his dislike of mayonnaise became a topic and somehow went viral.

"I’ve talked about a lot of stuff so far up here this year. Financial literacy, on and on and on. I randomly mentioned mayonnaise, and that’s what goes viral," Wagner said on Dec. 15.

But eventually it all circles back to football and for Wagner comes the possibility that Sunday’s game against Detroit could be one of his final appearances for the Seahawks.

He is still one of the top middle linebackers in the NFL and enters this week as the league leader in tackles with 170. While his run of first-team All-Pro selections could end this season, he’s still a six-time honoree and seems destined for a gold jacket in the Pro Football Hall of Fame sometime down the road.

But he’s also about to finish 10 seasons playing one of the most physical positions in football. He’ll turn 32 before the start of next season and carries a salary cap hit of $20.35 million in the final year of his contract. And the Seahawks will be coming off the worst season of Pete Carroll’s tenure with significant changes a possibility.

Wagner said Wednesday he intends to keep playing well beyond the 10-year mark.

"You think about what the next year looks like and just period what the future holds because this was a season that I don’t think we all planned for," Wagner said. "We didn’t plan for the season to go this way. So obviously there’s going to be some changes. And whether or not I’m part of those changes, I don’t know. All I can control is these last two games and figure it out from there."

As part of his football education, Wagner learned enough about the collective bargaining agreement to have completed his last contract without an agent. That also means Wagner is well aware of the business implications of a team being able to save more than $16 million in cap space by cutting him if it decides to spend that money elsewhere.

If nothing else, Wagner’s performance this season should at least make Seattle think about how it moves forward. The Seahawks have played more defensive snaps than any team in the NFL, giving Wagner plenty of chances to rack up tackles at a record pace.

He’s already set a franchise record for total tackles, topping the mark he set in 2016. He needs six more tackles to post the most of any player since 2000, according to the Seahawks.

As Carroll said this week, Wagner is "the standard" by which other middle linebackers are currently judged.

"To find a guy with this kind of consistency, character, and the constitution of how he does his work, how he handles his business, everybody wants that guy," Carroll said. "If nothing else, he does make a statement for the model of what you are looking for. He really is a tremendous team player in all ways. It also speaks to why we paid him the way we paid him, he was that valuable to our organization, our club, our locker room, and our community as well."

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