A day after Seattle's playoff loss in Dallas, linebacker K.J. Wright cleaned out his locker, unsure if he would be back in the building he has called his NFL home since the Seahawks selected him in the fourth round of the 2011 draft.
"I want to end my career as a Seahawk, but it's a business," Wright said in January. "… This is my first time, I never went through (free agency) before. We've just got to see when that time comes."
After eight seasons as a Seahawk, Wright briefly tested the waters in free agency for the first time in his career, but ultimately decided to stay in Seattle, signing a multi-year contract Thursday.
"I'm very happy," Wright said after signing his contract. "This is home, and it feels good to make it 10 years with one organization. It took a team effort to get to this point with my teammates, coaches, training staff, equipment staff, everyone's a part of it. I'm thankful to be back."
Wright, 29, has teamed with middle linebacker Bobby Wagner to form one of the league's best linebacker tandems for years, and this deal means those two will keep making plays together in 2019. Wright recorded 100 or more tackles in four straight seasons from 2014 to 2017, earning Pro-Bowl honors in 2016 when he recorded 126 tackles, four sacks, five passes defensed and a forced fumble.
Last season was a difficult one for Wright, as a knee injury caused him to miss 11 games, but he finished the year playing as well as ever, recording seven tackles in Seattle's regular-season finale, and eight tackles and an interception in the Wild Card playoff game at Dallas.
"It was a frustrating, frustrating year for him, and like Doug (Baldwin) he didn't get to play like he normally does," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "But when he did he played really, really well. He's an incredible part of our program. He's such a tremendous asset, leader, performer, personality—everything about him. It's great to have him around."
Asked about Wright at the NFL Scouting Combine, general manager John Schneider said, "He has been incredible for us. He had a rough year with a knee injury, but when he played, he was phenomenal. We love him."
Wright acknowledged that he had some concern about how his 2018 injuries would affect him in free agency, but in the end, things worked out the way he had hoped.
"I believe the way I played, and just the type of person I am helped in bringing me back," he said. "They know I can still play, they know I'm good for this team and this organization."
Continuing his partnership with Wagner was also important for Wright.
"It's special, man," he said. "I believe when we look back 10, 20 years from now, it's going to be one of the best (linebacker tandems) to ever do it. He'll get locked up as well and we'll get 10 years together."
In addition to a long career of making big plays—Wright long ago earned the nickname "Spider-Man" for the instincts that allow him to sniff out a play and make a tackle in the backfield or break up a pass—Wright has also been a difference-maker off the field, giving his time, money and energy to various causes both locally and globally, which is why he was the Seahawks’ 2018 nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
"This guy does it all," Wagner said last year after Wright was nominated for the award. "If you see some of the work that he does in the community—this offseason, I'm watching him build houses, I'm watching him go to Africa and build libraries, he's trying to help kids in the community, he's trying to help adults in the community, and then comes and gives that same energy in the building trying to help younger guys. Even last week, when he was down in San Francisco (getting treatment on his knee), he was FaceTiming Austin (Calitro) just to check on him and making sure that he was doing good with the playbook and things of that nature. I think it just shows his personality, shows he's a caring person who wants to give back and wants to see everybody around him do well."