Seahawks are bringing back LB Bobby Wagner: ‘Yeah, I’m home’

Tribune Content Agency

SEATTLE — The reunion is on.

The Seahawks signed Bobby Wagner to a one-year, $7 million deal on Saturday to bring back one of the team’s most iconic, influential — and simply best — players in franchise history.

“Yeah, I’m home,” Wagner texted to the Seattle Times Saturday afternoon, confirming the news that he would return to play at least one more season with the team with which he forged an NFL Hall of Fame career in his first stint from 2012-21.

Wagner had earlier confirmed that he was returning, retweeting teammate Quandre Diggs, who initially broke the news, stating: “According to my sources future hall of famer LB Bobby Wagner has agreed to terms to return home to the Seattle Seahawks. Seahawks fill a huge need in the middle of their defense!”

Diggs broke the news at 4:23 p.m. with others then reporting that the deal was reported to be one year for $7 million.

The Seahawks then confirmed the news, tweeting: “BOBBY. IS. BACK. We’ve agreed to terms with the future Hall of Famer.”

And with that, the Seahawks bought back one of the best and most influential players in team history, hoping that Wagner, who turns 33 in June, is still the same player he was during his first decade with the team, counting on him to fill in at middle linebacker for as long as it takes Jordyn Brooks to recover from an ACL injury suffered Jan. 1.

The Seahawks last week signed former Steeler Devin Bush to help fill out the linebacker corps but will for now will plan to pair Wagner and Bush at inside linebacker while Brooks recovers, and with Cody Barton having signed last week with Washington.

And while the Seahawks had plenty of reasons for bringing back Wagner, it’s also thought the team liked how he played last year with the Rams in a system that is similar to the new 3-4 front that Seattle transitioned to last year under first-year defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt.

Wagner initially came to Seattle as a second-round pick in the fame draft class if 2012 — which also included quarterback Russell Wilson — taken 47th overall out of Utah State. He then became the anchor of a defense that will forever rank among the best in NFL history, the trademark win coming in a 43-8 win over Denver to win the Super Bowl following the 2013 season.

The news of Wagner’s reunion with the Seahawks was greeted by raucous reaction from numerous teammates including receiver Tyler Lockett who tweeted: “Guess who’s back…..Back again….”

It is the injury to Brooks and the departure via free agency of Cody Barton that helped create the need to bring back Wagner, even with the signing of Bush.

And the opportunity to bring back Wagner came when it was revealed last month that Wagner and the Rams had mutually agreed to part ways after he spent one season with Los Angeles, lured to come back to his hometown — he graduated from Colony High in Ontario, Calif.

Wagner was released with four years remaining on a five-year contract worth up to $50 million with the Rams in a retooling mode after going 5-12 in 2022, the worst record ever for a defending Super Bowl champion. Cutting Wagner saved the Rams $5 million against the cap in 2023.

But Wagner, who is serving as his own agent, had been given permission to begin talking to other teams. And from the start, sources said Wagner hoped he could re-unite with the Seahawks.

Seahawks general manager John Schneider had said several times in recent weeks that the team had been talking to Wagner, saying so again on his weekly appearance on Seattle Sports 710 AM on Thursday.

Schneider said two weeks ago that he and coach Pete Carroll had had “a great, awesome, frank conversation” with Wagner, a conversation that appears to have set the stage for Saturday’s return.

In those conversations, Schneider indicated the two sides had also worked through any lingering hard feelings from Wagner’s release from the Seahawks on March 8 of 2022, after which Wagner said he was told first of the impending move from others and not from the team.

“Crazy part about all this,” Wagner tweeted last March. “I played there for 10 years and I didn’t even hear it from them that I wasn’t coming back.”

Both Carroll and Schneider later apologized for the misunderstanding saying it was borne in part out of their desire to exhaust every option and use every available minute to somehow try to make it work to keep Wagner, who was released to save $16.6 million against the salary cap.

But in this case, time truly did appear to heal old wounds. Wagner indicated in just about every interview since last spring that he had moved on, calling Seattle “my second home” before a return game against the Seahawks in January.

“They accepted me, they showed a lot of love, so I’m forever grateful,” Wagner said then of Seattle.

And Wagner and Carroll hugged and talked after his first game against the Seahawks in Los Angeles in December.

“I felt really grateful that I had a chance to sit down with Bobby for a while and hang out,” Carroll said after that game. “That’s just kind of what we did.

“It was a really meaningful exchange. I saw him with a few of the guys that were in my room back there and had passed by late. Every exchange was exactly as you would think it would be. It was heartfelt. It was warm. It was close.”

And maybe it helped set the stage for a reunion barely a year after his departure.

The question will loom, of course, if Wagner can still be the same player he was.

Wagner surely will have no doubts.

And in the eyes of many, Wagner was the same player in 2022 he’d always been — he was named as a second-team All-Pro and played in all 17 games, including 99% of the snaps, with 140 tackles. He also had two interceptions — one against the Seahawks in L.A. in December and another against former teammate Russell Wilson — and a career-high six sacks.

Wagner was also rated as the top middle linebacker in the NFL by Pro Football Focus, which wrote: “Wagner playing as well as he did this season in his first year with a new team would be remarkable enough, but doing so given the injury disaster in Los Angeles and still looking like the best linebacker in the game is truly outstanding.”

All of that figured to mean Seattle would have lots of competition for Wagner. But his age and what was a somewhat loaded linebacker free agent class contributed to him remaining unsigned through the first few days.

Dallas and the Chargers were each said to have been interested in Wagner with the Cowboys likely showing the most interest due in part to the presence of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who held the same position with the Seahawks during the Super Bowl seasons of 2013 and 2014. And the Chargers would have meant Wagner could stay in his hometown of L.A. which had been a big allure of signing with the Rams.

But the Cowboys re-signed Leighton Vander Esch and the Chargers signed former Vikings standout Eric Kendricks, filling their holes at linebacker.

So Wagner and the Seahawks are back together, hoping for one final act as good as all of those that came before.