All-Pro inside linebacker Bobby Wagner and the Seattle Seahawks have agreed on a three-year, $54 million contract extension. Wagner will receive $40.2 million in guaranteed money. He is soon entering the final season of his 2015 four-year, $43 million contract that came with $19.97 million guaranteed. With the unpredictability of the violent sport, Wagner wanted to protect himself with an extension now, rather than play out the final year of his previous contract. He will see a steep rise in both his average annual value (AAV) and guaranteed money with the new contract. $54 million will make #54 the highest-paid ILB in the league. Wagner negotiated his deal without an agent, making this pay raise especially impressive. The 1-3% of contract dollars that players send to their agents will instead remain in Wagner’s pockets.
What Bobby was able to accomplish without representation speaks to both the player and person that he is. If it weren’t for his strong bonds with Head Coach Pete Carroll and General Manager John Schneider, this situation could have played out a lot differently. The Seahawks had the option to let Wagner play through his final contract year without an extension, and then slap a franchise tag on him; it happens all the time in the National Football League. Wagner has commanded and earned the respect to make Seattle Executives scoff at that idea, however. Schneider spoke on Wagner’s character. “He exemplifies everything that we’re all about, his professionalism, intensity, the way he handles himself off the field.”
Wagner handles himself just fine on the field as well. In 2018, Bobby Wagner received a 91.8 grade from Pro Football Focus. To those that say his best days are behind him, 91.8 is a better grade than legends Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher, and Patrick Willis ever received in a single season during their careers. Only Aaron Donald and Bobby Wagner have been voted First-Team All-Pro in each of the last 3 seasons. With his extraordinary credentials, it was clear that the 99 overall rated Madden player deserved league-leading money. He has linebacker CJ Mosley to thank, in part, for the determination of that dollar amount. Mosley will be handed a lofty $17 million per year over the next 5 seasons from the New York Jets. The Seahawks acknowledged that Wagner is the superior player and handed him $18 million per season. The quarterback of the offense, Russell Wilson, had the following to say about the quarterback of the defense: “He deserves to be the highest-paid linebacker, there’s nobody better than him in the game.” Super Bowl XLVIII champion Bobby Wagner is clearly a tremendous talent on the field, but it is his leadership and professionalism both on and off the field that ultimately led to his painless contract extension.
Wagner not only negotiated his contract; he constructed his own holdout as well. It didn’t look like the typical player holdout, however. Around the same time last summer, Wagner’s former Seahawks teammate Earl Thomas held himself out of training camp. No one had doubted the talent that Thomas possesses, but he went about his holdout in a way that ultimately cut his career in Seattle short. He took to social media, making countless Instagram posts provoking the Seahawks brass to either pay or trade him. He had also approached Dallas Head Coach Jason Garrett and told him to “come get me.” With no leverage and immature behavior, the Seahawks did no favors for Thomas, as he ultimately played out the final year of his contract with no extension. He would then go on to suffer a season-ending injury in just his 4th (and final) game, while promptly flipping Pete Carroll the bird during his short drive off the field. This was all with representation from one of the most respected agents in football, David Mulugheta. This went to provide an example to Thomas’ colleagues that no matter how well a player’s on-field production may be, behavior always plays a role.
The 29-year-old linebacker Wagner conducted his holdout in a slightly different fashion. Instead of passive-aggressively posting on Instagram, Wagner showed up to training camp and made a positive impact. While he held out of physical activities for his protection, he was still one of the most vocal people on the field, acting as the leader he has always been. He participated in light drills and ensured to his teammates that the contract would be figured out soon. Wagner and Seattle Executives saw eye to eye and were patient enough to ensure the right deal was made for everyone. To make cap room for Wagner, Schneider traded promising young edge rusher Frank Clark to the Chiefs. It is not typical of the Hawks to defer a younger player for a veteran on their third contract.
The entire 3-man legion of boom did not make it to their third Seattle contracts. All of Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor parted ways with the Seahawks before they were able to secure a third contract. Bobby Wagner signed his third contract from the Hawks without an agent. Sherman holds no malice towards Wagner for his accomplishment. “Hell yea! Get ya money! Who was his agent?” tweeted the cornerback who has also negotiated a contract without representation. Richard Sherman is Stanford educated and very knowledgeable and outspoken about NFLPA and labor agreement matters. He is a proponent of players representing themselves and saving the fee. However, Wagner and Sherman are not regular players, or people for that matter. These are two men that excel above their peers both on and off the field. They hold the leverage that they do because of the respect they have earned and the knowledge they possess. NFL Players need to know that representing themselves is not a flawless practice and takes a certain caliber of man and player to do successfully.
Like Earl Thomas, Wagner did take to social media to make a comment on his recent affairs, “Excited to continue my career with the best organization! It was a great process I learned a lot.” Wagner’s Twitter bio reads “Tackle Everything in Life.” We already knew that running backs and tight ends were included in his testament but have now learned about his ability to tackle contract negotiations as well. Not all have this capability, though, and players need to make sure they don’t become their own worst enemy by not seeking representation. To the select few Bobby Wagner’s of the world: go save that 3%.