RENTON — Bobby Wagner took on the challenge of representing himself when it came to negotiating a new contract with the Seattle Seahawks.
The risk paid off.
Wagner and the Seahawks reached agreement on a three-year contract extension Friday night, locking up the anchor of their defense for the foreseeable future. The lengthy negotiations came to a conclusion on the second day of training camp and keep the All-Pro in the only uniform he has played in as a professional.
“We feel blessed that we were able to draft Bobby in 2012, keep him here on a second contract, and now to have him sign a third contract is a huge deal for us,” general manager John Schneider said in a statement. “Everyone in the whole building is excited, I’m sure his teammates are going to be very excited. He exemplifies everything that we’re all about, his professionalism, intensity, the way he handles himself off the field. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll go down not only as one of the greatest Seahawks, but also as one of the greatest middle linebackers in NFL history.”
NFL Network first reported the deal and said it’s for $54 million with $40 million guaranteed. The contract makes Wagner the highest-paid middle linebacker in the NFL in average annual value, surpassing the $85 million five-year deal signed by C.J. Mosley with the New York Jets in the offseason.
The 29-year-old is represented himself in negotiations, bypassing an agent for the first time in his career. He did have a target for the kind of contract he’s seeking after Mosley’s deal averaged $17 million per season. Mosley’s deal reset the entire market and put Seattle in the difficult position of having to match or exceed.
It wasn’t easy and Wagner appeared to be getting slightly more annoyed as training camp arrived and a new deal wasn’t in place. Wagner watched the first day of camp wearing a sweatshirt inside out and without his team jersey.
But he was on the field in uniform and with his helmet on Day 2 — although not participating — and by the end of the day had his new contract done.
“I’m really excited to have this done, excited that I get to be a Seahawk for a long, long time. Like I’ve always said, I want to play my entire career here, and I feel like today is a step toward that,” Wagner said in a statement. “It feels amazing being here. I’ve watched people stay, I’ve watched people go, and to have the trust from the organization to continue to let me lead this team, lead the defense, it’s a great feeling. I’m excited to get back to work.”
Wagner was a second-round pick by the Seahawks in 2012. He instantly became a starter and arguably the most consistent piece of its standout defense earlier this decade. Wagner is a four-time first-team All-Pro, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and is regarded with Carolina’s Luke Kuechly as the premier middle linebackers in the league.
Last season, Wagner had 138 tackles, two forced fumbles and the first interception return for a touchdown in his career. He’s one of three players remaining on the Seahawks roster from its Super Bowl champion team.
Wagner opted not to holdout in search of a new contract. He made the decision in the offseason to be in attendance but not participate in any of the offseason workouts in order to protect his health.
He saw last year both sides of what can happen in with two players entering the final year of their deals.
Earl Thomas held out last year, appeared to create friction with the front office and left in free agency following an injury that ended his season early. Meanwhile, K.J. Wright showed up for the offseason program before the start of last season, missed significant time with a knee injury, but was still rewarded with a new deal.
Wagner toed the line between the two options, remained an influence voice for Seattle’s young players and ended up getting rewarded.
“It’s a major deal for our organization moving into the future,” Schneider said.