The old adage goes that the middle or inside linebacker is the quarterback of the defense. They get the play calls from the sidelines and are responsible for relaying that information to their teammates and making sure everybody is on the same page. It’s arguably the most important position on the defense.
If you want a great example of how vital a middle linebacker is, take a look at the Cowboys vs. Saints game from Sunday Night Football this past season. Sean Lee of the Cowboys went down with an injury in the middle of the game and the rest was pure chaos. Drew Brees and his receivers absolutely torched Dallas en route to a 49-17 win. They also managed 242 rushing yards, so they basically got anything they wanted on offense.
There’s no overstating how big a capable middle linebacker is in today’s NFL. The Seahawks are extremely fortunate that they have one of the best and youngest at the position in Bobby Wagner. Any chance I get when I go on the radio to talk about the Seahawks I gush about Wagner. During the second half of the 2013 season he played at an All-Pro level and ended up leading the team in total tackles.
In the epic matchup with the Patriots in 2012 Wagner tallied 14 and that’s not an accident. He is poised to put up Ray Lewis-like numbers for a long time.
He’s played so well in fact that he’s going to demand top dollar on his next contract, and he’s not even 24 years old yet. Here’s Wagner’s situation with the Seahawks today:
– Wagner is making on average a little more than a million dollars per year on his current deal
– He’s under contract until 2016
– Which in today’s NFL means he’s under contract for next year and then negotiations will begin
Paying a linebacker of Wagner’s caliber is an expensive proposition. The top earners at the position get somewhere around ten million per year in base salary, according to spotrac.com. Wagner may not get as much as a Brian Orakpo or a James Laurinaitis, but he’s definitely going to get a major raise when the time comes.
Seattle currently has about $15 million in available salary cap space and still has to extend Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, not to mention Russell Wilson. If you’re crunching the numbers you know by now that keeping Bobby Wagner past 2015 is not going to be easy. In fact it might be damn near impossible. That’s a heartbreaking fact of economics but it’s something the Seahawks have to prepare for.
Fortunately, this year’s NFL draft is stocked at nearly every position, including inside linebacker. cover32 has ranked the top ten prospects here. If Seattle can snag one of them it will go a long way towards insuring against the day that Wagner’s accountant is eagerly anticipating.