On the April day in 2011 when K.J. Wright was drafted in the fourth round by the Seahawks, he made a little prediction.
“I believe this will be a good spot,” Wright told reporters that day. “I said before the draft started that I would probably go to Seattle and that is just the perfect spot for me.”
If perfection can be bettered, than it’s possible that is what has happened for Wright in Seattle.
The Mississippi State grad — he got the call that he was being drafted while he was in line to get his degree in criminology — quickly emerged as a key player on one of the best defenses in NFL history, winning a Super Bowl ring in his third year, while also getting married and starting a family.
So when he entered NFL free agency for the first time in his career eight years later, it was going to take a lot to make Wright leave.
And before the first day when players could officially sign with other teams had passed, the Seahawks made it easy for Wright to stay, offering him a two-year deal worth a reported $15.5 million.
Thursday, Wright told the Seattle Times he couldn’t be happier.
“I’ve been here eight years,” Wright said in a message to the Times. “It’s only right to make it 10.”
The agreement puts a happy capper on what has been a challenging year for Wright from a football standpoint. One of the team’s iron men during his first seven seasons with the Seahawks, Wright suffered a knee injury in the third preseason game against Minnesota that hampered him most of the year. He missed six games after having surgery to repair cartilage damage and then suffering a setback when he tried to push it to return quickly.
“Damn, this is the worst timing,” Wright said he recalls of what he thought when he had the surgery entering a contract year and with his NFL future uncertain.
Wright — who had missed only five games in the first seven years of his career — came back to play three games at midseason before again shutting it down, saying he wasn’t yet 100 percent.
He finally returned for good for the final two regular season games and the playoff contest against Dallas, with an interception and seven tackles against the Cowboys proving to himself he was finally back.
But whether the team agreed was another matter, and Wright was forlorn in the locker room afterward not only because of Seattle’s loss but also because he had no idea if it would be the last time he would be in a Seattle locker room.
“I head into free agency,” Wright said. “We will see how that goes. I want to be here. I would love to be here. I love playing for this team, with Bobby (Wagner). I believe it would be in the team’s best interest if I stayed here.”
Ultimately, the Seahawks agreed, though not that they ever really need convincing. It just needed to make sense financially.
“Having K.J. back is so valuable to us,’’ coach Pete Carroll said after the Dallas game. “He’s such a great player and a great leader and his mentality, he gives other people strength just being around him. He’s unbelievably valuable in that regard.’’
That Wright is signing for two years instead of the four years and $27 million on his previous contract surely helped ease his way to stay with the Seahawks. What also helped is Wright’s team-first attitude and leadership. Seattle has let other big-name veterans leave whose time they felt maybe had simply passed both in on-field production and locker room influence.
That isn’t the case with Wright, who will now return to again give Seattle one of the best inside linebacking tandems in the NFL working alongside Wagner.
Wagner’s contract expires following the 2019 season, and he said following the Seahawks’ playoff loss at Dallas that he felt they needed to keep Wright, saying he thought it would be the key to making a long playoff run in 2019 — one of several times he had lobbied publicly for Wright’s return, even saying he would look at how the team handled Wright’s future when it comes time to decide his own.
“The right thing to do will be to bring him back,” Wagner said. “He’s been an amazing teammate, amazing person in the community. He helps young guys. Never held out. Did everything right. Sounds to me like a guy that you should pay.’’
Seahawks solidify o-line
Suddenly, in the span of a few hours Thursday morning, the Seahawks offensive line fell into place.
When the day began, the second of the NFL free agency signing period, there remained the question of who would fill the team’s guard positions in 2019 in the wake of the departure of J.R. Sweezy to Arizona earlier in the week and uncertainty over whether D.J Fluker would return.
But then it was revealed that the Seahawks were signing nine-year veteran Mike Iupati away from Arizona to replace Sweezy — a trade with the NFC West rival Cardinals, in a sense — and shortly after came even bigger news, that Fluker was also set to return.
Fluker posted confirmation on Twitter, first stating “unfinished business” next to a picture of him running out of the tunnel at CenturyLink Field in a Seahawks uniform and then later tweeting: “GOD HAS BLESSED ME AND MY FAMILY WITH A GREAT OPPORTUNITY. I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE WHAT THIS SEASON HAS IN STORE.” Details of the contracts of each had yet to be revealed as of Thursday afternoon. But the bigger news for the moment was that the two signings appeared to set Seattle’s OL heading into the 2019 season with Fluker returning at the right guard spot he manned last season, Iupati stepping in for Sweezy at left guard and the other spots remaining the same — left tackle Duane Brown, center Justin Britt and right tackle Germain Ifedi. Seattle also put a second-round tender on restricted free agent George Fant, who played a valuable tight end/eligible tackle role last season, essentially assuring he will return, and also still has on the roster the likes of Ethan Pocic, Jordan Simmons, Jordan Roos, Joey Hunt and Elijah Nkansah, who all have seen action over the last two seasons.
Details of the contracts of each had yet to be revealed as of Thursday afternoon. But the bigger news for the moment was that the two signings appeared to set Seattle’s OL heading into the 2019 season with Fluker returning at the right guard spot he manned last season, Iupati stepping in for Sweezy at left guard and the other spots remaining the same — left tackle Duane Brown, center Justin Britt and right tackle Germain Ifedi.
Seattle also put a second-round tender on restricted free agent George Fant, who played a valuable tight end/eligible tackle role last season, essentially assuring he will return, and also still has on the roster the likes of Ethan Pocic, Jordan Simmons, Jordan Roos, Joey Hunt and Elijah Nkansah, who all have seen action over the last two seasons.