Bobby Wagner had a curious — if not ominous — reaction minutes after 2012 draft classmate and Seahawks teammate Russell Wilson signed his new, $87.6 million contract extension early Friday morning.
“Can’t keep everyone,” Wagner tweeted.
The perception for hours was that Wagner — who is entering the final year of his rookie deal and could command as much as $10 million per season in his next deal — saw an average of $21.9 million, $31.7 million guaranteed at signing and $61 million guaranteed in all for the quarterback.
And he figured there’s no way Seattle general manager John Schneider, coach and executive vice president Pete Carroll and the team’s salary-cap guru, Matt Thomas, are going to be able to fit a new extension for its All-Pro middle linebacker under this year’s salary cap, too.
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Somebody must have explained to Wagner the nuances of Wilson’s deal by the time the Seahawks’ first practice ended after noon. Either that or the shock of the early-morning news and the sweat of being back running the league’s top defense on the field softened Wagner’s view.
Asked if Wilson’s deal made him feel the team couldn’t keep him beyond 2015, too, Wagner said, “Nah, I’m hopeful they reach a contract.
“I think that’s not really up to me. I think my agent and the organization, Pete and John and everybody, that’s their job to figure that out. And my job is to continue showing you guys I’m the best linebacker in this league. And that’s what I am going to do.”
Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, said Friday his client insisted the start of camp would be the end of negotiations because he didn’t want the distraction of talks during the preseason or regular season.
Asked if he had a deadline when he’d like to have a new deal, Wagner said: “Now. That’s my deadline.”
Carroll strongly hinted that the Seahawks got Wilson’s deal done with the expectation they can get Wagner re-signed before the Sept. 13 opener at St. Louis. Wilson restructured his 2015 base salary from $1.54 million to $700,000 fully guaranteed to help Seattle still have just over $4 million in cap space remaining for this year.
“We’re on it. We’re on it,” Carroll said, alluding to a national report that said Wilson’s deal makes Wagner endangered in Seattle beyond this season. “Whoever thought that we were done with that thing, that was not right. We’re on it and we’re going to keep competing to get that done. We have planned for this for a long time and nothing has changed in all that. Our guys are working at it by the hour here.
“The sky is the limit for the guy. We love him. He’s going to be with us for a long time.”
Pittsburgh’s Lawrence Timmons is the highest-paid middle linebacker in the league with a five-year contract averaging $9.5 million per year. San Francisco’s NaVorro Bowman is averaging $9 million on his five-year deal. Brian Cushing is averaging $8.75 million with Houston.
Those three have combined for half as many Super Bowl starts as Wagner has had in his three-year career. None of them is an All-Pro.
Asked if it’s important to him to be the NFL’s highest-paid middle linebacker, Wagner said: “It’s important to me to be recognized as one of the best.
“Like I said, it’s not up to me. I let the people who get paid to figure that out figure that out. My job is to go out there and make sure this defense is run right and be the best defense. And it will be the best defense you’ll see on this field. Again.”
BENNETT SHOWS, DANCES
Wearing a new, neon-green practice jersey that was as bright as the brilliantly sunny day, Michael Bennett beamed, too.
Any time he wasn’t taking part in defensive-end drills at the start of the first day of Seahawks training camp, he was dancing. Shimmying his big shoulders. Swaying his head and beard, with his helmet on and when it was off.
He certainly didn’t look disgruntled.
The defensive end had made some waves across the Pacific this spring when he told a Honolulu television station he was considering staying at his family’s offseason home in Hawaii rather than report on time to camp. That was after he skipped all voluntary team activities this offseason to show he’s unhappy with how many other ends in the league have deals that surpass the four-year, $28.5 million contract with $16 million guaranteed he signed before the 2014 season.
But he was present and participating Friday. He said he went up “until the last minute” Wednesday before deciding with his wife and family to report on time to team headquarters. He added he believes “I made the right decision.”
“It’s important for me to be out here to show to continue to show them what kind of player I am in a dominant fashion every day, in and out. Just show that I am a leader to just come out here,” he said.
“I’m still upset about my contract situation,” he said with a shrug. “But it’s one of those things where it is what it is. I have to be professional and be out here and be the leader that I’ve always been, and help this team get back to where it’s supposed to be.”
PATIENT WITH THOMAS
Earl Thomas was in his neon-green, No. 29 practice jersey but watched journeyman Steven Terrell play free safety during practice. Thomas is on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list.
Carroll said there will be no rush throughout August to get Thomas on the field. The All-Pro veteran had surgery Feb. 24 to repair a separated left shoulder and torn labrum tissue. Initial estimates were for a six-to-eight-month recovery, which is Aug. 24 to Oct. 24 — at the longest five games into the regular season.
Thomas told ESPN last week he wasn’t sure if he’d be ready to play in the opener. He hasn’t missed a start in 80 career regular-season and eight postseason games.
“We’re going to be really patient at this time of year, not jump to a decision,” Carroll said. “He’s working hard, making great progress. We’ll wait and see how long it takes to be safe and secure before he goes out. He plays with such reckless abandon that he’s got to be ready to go 100 percent.
“We’re not going to jump the gun. Whatever that means, I don’t know.”
JESSE WILLIAMS’ REMARKABLE SUMMER
Defensive tackle Jesse Williams was on the field wearing his jersey but not participating in practice. But just being out there was remarkable. It’s been two months since doctors removed his cancerous kidney. This week the Australian, who missed his first two Seahawks seasons with knee injuries, climbed 832 stairs to the top of the Space Needle to benefit Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Carroll reiterated Williams will have a chance to get back on the field in August to compete for a roster spot. For now, he and DB Dion Bailey (hamstring) are on the non-football injury list.
“This is remarkable that Jesse’s this close this time,” Carroll said. “He’s got to get in football shape. He’s missed two months of workout stuff so he’s got to get back in football shape. He’ll have some more evaluations done here soon but there is a chance that Jesse can make it back and play. And it will be just remarkable if that happens.
“He’s busting his tail to get that done and we’re pulling for him every step of the way.”
Lemuel Jeanpierre, backup to recently traded Max Unger for the last five seasons, and 2014 practice-squad guard Drew Nowak split first-team plays at center. Patrick Lewis, one of four starters at the position last season, and rookie converted college defensive tackle Kristjan Sokoli alternated as backups. Carroll said all four are in the running to replace Unger as starter this season. Jeanpierre would appear to have the inside track because of his familiarity with line coach Tom Cable’s calls and system. … CB Jeremy Lane (compound arm fracture, knee surgery in February), CB Tharold Simon (shoulder) and WR Paul Richardson (reconstructive knee surgery in January) are on the PUP list. Players on PUP at the start of camp are eligible to go on it to begin the regular season if they are still not ready to return then. The team can then activate those players starting after the sixth week of the regular season. … DT Brandon Mebane (torn hamstring in November) did most drills but was held out of team scrimmaging. He will try to do everything in practice on Saturday. … The Seahawks had a new player, No. 30, former Kansas State DB Ty Zimmerman, on the field watching practice but they’d yet to announce his transaction.