Nearly a month after his release after 10 seasons with the Seahawks, newly signed Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner has spoken publicly about the messy split with the only organization he’s ever known, calling out coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider for not communicating. with him.
“I think after 10 years it’s just a simple communication,” Wagner told reporters shortly after signing his contract on Monday. “I don’t think it had to be that difficult.”
Wagner, 31, finished with 170 tackles in 15 games for Seattle in 2021, earning second-team All-Pro honors and an eighth Pro Bowl selection in the process. It was the 10th consecutive year he had reached the century mark for tackles, making him the third player (Ray Lewis, London Fletcher) since 1987 to achieve the feat. Despite his impressive productivity, however, the franchise decided to walk away from him with the aging defenseman carrying a whopping $20.35 million cap for next season, opening up over $16 million in instant cap space.
In late December, Wagner admitted he had been thinking about his future with the Seahawks as the team neared the end of a disappointing 7-10 campaign. Understanding that big changes could be in store with the team’s final spot in the NFC West, he seemed prepared for the possibility that he could play elsewhere in 2022.
That said, however, Wagner didn’t appreciate how he learned of the news last month, writing on social media that the Seahawks themselves never informed him of his release.
“It’s crazy in all of this. I played there for 10 years and didn’t even hear from them that I wasn’t coming back,” Wagner tweeted on March 11.
In response, Schneider and Carroll both took responsibility for not handling Wagner’s departure during a March 16 press conference, with the former suggesting that the linebacker’s self-representing status further complicated the situation.
“It’s on me. I own that. I wish I could have handled it better in that regard, communication-wise,” Schneider said. “I owe it to him, the organization owes it to him. It’s a little awkward when a player reps themselves. Very high-profile people have repped themselves here. You never know exactly what’s going to happen at the end of the day, so approach someone and say, ‘He maybe there’s a trade possible, would you consider that?” and that player coming back to you, that’s not a good situation. From a timing point of view, I would have liked to handle things differently.
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From Carroll’s perspective, the longtime coach didn’t want to see Wagner go and hoped the two sides could find a way to make things work for him to stick around for the foreseeable future. But once reports started circulating on the internet just hours after news broke that the team had traded quarterback Russell Wilson to the Broncos, the player unfortunately found out before he or Schneider cannot speak with the eternal All-Pro defender.
“I kept encouraging John [Schneider] to see what all the possible options might be to get out of it, that we don’t have to. Every day was crucial as we got closer to it,” Carroll explained. “It seemed that when Russ [Wilson] the news came out, then it all hit the fan. We were supposed to meet Bobby a few days later and the timing just didn’t work out. I regret that we didn’t do a better job in terms of timing.”
From Wagner’s perspective, he was grateful to Schneider and Carroll for acknowledging their mistakes. But he didn’t take too kindly to Schneider’s position that his representational status played a role in the lack of communication.
“I feel like it was weak,” Wagner remarked. “I don’t feel like I’m representing myself – whether I have an agent or don’t – I still feel like it was a conversation they could have had That’s where I’m at. I’m I’m not going to dwell on it. It’s changed. They’ve already moved on. I’ve already moved on, so that’s what it is at this stage.
With the Seahawks back off the table, Wagner wasted little time exploring his options, visiting the Rams and Ravens. Other teams such as the Cowboys were reportedly interested, but pulled out of the draw due to a lack of salary cap space or mutual interest.
In the end, Wagner opted to sign with the defending champions, officially signing a five-year, $50 million deal on Monday and ensuring he would face his former side twice in 2022. Bringing his point guard skills back playing in Southern California where he grew up, his presence will add another future Hall of Famer to an already loaded Rams defense with defensive tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey, giving the team a better chance of repeating next February.
While Wagner has enjoyed his decade in the Pacific Northwest and will always call Seattle home, he has moved on from an unfortunate divorce and is looking forward to the opportunity to compete for championships with his new team. In the process, while continuing to rack up tackles in clusters, he hopes to accomplish one of the few things he couldn’t do during his time with the Seahawks: persuade the Rams to add an alternate black jersey.
“Even though they wanted to go in different directions, I don’t think representing me played a part on my side. It was more on their side. Maybe they didn’t want to do it. Maybe that they kind of wanted to burn that bridge. But I feel like through this process and the last process I showed the ability to handle the tough conversations that we had, tough conversations all through my tenure there. So it was easy to pick up a phone and call. I should. I don’t need to find out how I found out. But it is what it is, and I Found a great place, and now I’m working to get black jerseys here.