The Seattle Seahawks are facing several hard personnel decisions this off season with top performers across the roster entering next season on the final year of their contract or set to hit free agency this spring, KJ Wright happens to be the the latter. Wright has been in Seattle since the Seahawks drafted him in 2011 in the fourth round out of Mississippi State and he spend most of 2018 off the field due to a pesky knee injury, in a year when he, Earl Thomas, and Bobby Wagner were the only remaining members of the 2012 Super Bowl champion defense. Now set to hit the open market, is Wright worth the investment to keep him in Seattle with Wagner to mentor this defense going forward?
First we have to evaluate Seattle’s cap situation going into free agency. With the contracts of Cliff Avril and Kam Chancellor, who both did not play in 2018, off the payroll, the Seahawks are going from ten million in cap room to over fifty. Seattle was able to make the playoffs after resetting their depleted roster through the draft and with just ten million in free agency last year so it will be exciting to see what John Schneider can do come March. As for how their cap situation relates to Wright, the Hawks hold a lot of the power in their upcoming negotiations and can get KJ back on a team friendly deal even though they have cash to blow. Wright is coming off of a bad year statistically from only playing in five regular season games, couple this with the fact that he will be thirty years old by the time next season starts and you can see how most teams wouldn’t be eager to mortgage the franchise on him. Instead of having to pay him at the top of his position, as his performance prior to 2018 would suggest, the Seahawks can get him for top ten type of money instead.
KJ Wright really is worth top three outside linebacker money given his career performance. From 2011 to 2017, he played in all sixteen games four times and only missed more than one game once in 2013 when he still played in thirteen games. In total he had played in ninety-five percent of possible games before 2018. From 2014 to 2017 Wright recorded over one hundred tackles every year and was consistently near the top of the list for linebackers, even though he played alongside Bobby Wagner who has lead the league in tackles and placed in the top five multiple times in that same span. Making tackles is a key indicator of success for linebackers, but Wright really flexes his value with his efficiency on the ground and versatility in the passing game. KJ doesn’t have to wait until the ball carrier reaches the second level to bring him down, he has nearly fifty stuffs over his career, meaning he made the tackle at the line of scrimmage. He has also recorded thirty-three passes defended in coverage and eleven and a half sacks in his career in the passing game. Year over year he had performed at the same elite level until injury slowed him down this season and his veteran leadership on a defense with thriving young players will be invaluable going forward.
The best deal that the Seahawks can come to with KJ is in the Dont’a Hightower range. A three year deal with a fourth year option at around nine million dollars a year with a high signing bonus and front loaded payouts in the first two years. Some are worried that Wagner will get an extension this off season and leave the available funds too low to get a deal done with Wright, but even though Bobby is one of the corner stone of the franchise, usually teams are not as eager to get third contracts done compared to the second and they have an entire season to negotiate with him. The opportunity is right in front of Seattle to save up to four million dollars a year and they should jump on it as soon as possible and hopefully we will see KJ Wright resigned and back on the field for the Seahawks in the 2019 season.