With the 2016 NFL season now in the books, and the 2017 league year not yet upon us, now is a good time to take a look at where things stand with the Seahawks roster. This week, we'll take a position-by-position look at the Seahawks, both looking back at the 2016 season and looking ahead to 2017. Today, the focus is on linebacker.
The Seahawks have had so much talent in their secondary that, in past seasons, the play of their linebackers could sometimes go overlooked. That definitely wasn't the case in 2016 when Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright were not just two of Seattle's best defensive players, but also arguably the best linebacker tandem in the league. Wagner earned first-team All-Pro honors for the second time in three years, and both he and Wright went to the Pro Bowl.
"They've demonstrated great consistency during the course of the season," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said late in the 2016 campaign. "Throughout all of it, they haven't missed a trick. They've been able to be very productive. They're playing their best because they're their most experienced and they understand the scheme the best. They just have everything working for them and they've had the benefits of good health and all throughout. Their communication is off the charts about what's happening in anticipation of plays and stuff. That's what really has allowed them to improve and continue to get better. I think really the consistency has been extraordinary."
Wright and Wagner's standout play wasn't just appreciated by their teammates and coaches; players around the league are taking notice as well.
"I think when you look at K.J. and Bobby, by the way they work on the field, you can tell that those guys have been around each other for a long time," Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis said at the Pro Bowl. "The chemistry is there that you need to play the position when you're out there. I sort of look at the way me and Luke (Kuechly) have been able to play as unit, and that's what I see in those guys and they have fun doing it. They play fast and do it the way you're supposed to do it at the position and I definitely feel like they have the potential to be the best tandem in the league."
While the number of plays the Seahawks spent in their nickel defense limited the playing time of strongside linebacker Mike Morgan, he too was very solid in his first season as a starter when the Seahawks did have three linebackers on the field.
Notable Number: 293
Wagner and Wright's combined tackle total, which includes a league-leading and franchise-record 167 from Wagner, and a career-best 126 for Wright.
Morgan is an unrestricted free agent, and while he isn't an every-down player like Wagner and Wright, he was an important part of the defense as well as a big contributor on special teams, so if he isn't re-signed, that will be a vacancy the Seahawks need to address.
And in addition to the starting spots, Carroll made it clear in his end-of-season press conference that he wants to get more competitive depth behind his Pro Bowl linebackers.
"We need some youth at the linebacker spot," Carroll said. "Bobby and K.J. played thousands of plays this year between the two of them and were extremely successful. We need to address that. We didn't get anybody that made a difference in the last couple of years that can really fight to take those guys jobs. Think if someone can battle K.J. and Bobby for their starting time—that's what we need to draft towards."
What The Future Holds
As was the case last year when Bruce Irvin left in free agency, the Seahawks could have an open competition for the strongside linebacker job if Morgan isn't re-signed. And as Carroll noted, the Seahawks want to add depth to the position group that can push for playing time, so there could be some interesting competitions in camp this summer. Most significantly, however, the Seahawks can go into 2017 knowing they have a duo as talented and productive as Wright and Wagner to help lead the defense.
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Wide Receiver
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Offensive Line
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Cornerback
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Defensive Line
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Quarterback
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Safety
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Running Back
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Tight End
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Special Teams
The best photos from Seahawks practices at Virginia Mason Athletic Center throughout the 2016 season.