The Seattle Seahawks should avoid signing a once prominent Pro Bowl linebacker, according to one analyst.
According to Bleacher Report’s Alex Kay, the Seahawks should avoid replacing one aging linebacker (Bobby Wagner) with another — the New England Patriots‘ Dont’a Hightower. Hightower is a former two-time Pro Bowl linebacker (2016, 2019) and a Second-team All-Pro selection (2016) who is finally showing his age (31) with the Patriots.
“The front office may believe drastic changes are needed to get back to the playoffs, but the Seattle decision-makers should be careful about signing a veteran linebacker to their aging defense,” says Kay.
“The Seahawks have gotten a remarkable amount of mileage out of Bobby Wagner over the last decade, but the 31-year-old is due to make a whopping $16.6 million in 2022. With the team needing a shake-up, it’s a good bet the six-time All-Pro parts ways with the organization this spring.
Replacing him with Dont’a Hightower, another linebacker from the 2012 draft class on the wrong side of 30, would be a poor choice.
While Hightower may have a little less mileage on his tires after opting out in 2020, the 31-year-old is clearly in the twilight of his career. He remains a key piece of New England’s defense, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be as successful of a defender outside of Foxborough.”
ALL the latest Seahawks news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Seahawks newsletter here!
Hightower a Downgrade From Wagner
According to Pro Football Focus, the 31-year-old linebacker ranks 42nd of 88 players at his position in defensive grade (54.7). While his ability to stop the run remains at a top-tier level (69.0 grade, 15th among all linebackers), his coverage grade (40.8) ranks 75th among 84 qualifying linebackers.
The Seahawks ranked a respectable 11th overall in points allowed per game. However, it was in the pass defense department that they truly struggled. Seattle’s defense ranked second-to-last in passing yards allowed. Meanwhile, the run defense ranked second in rushing yards allowed per attempt.
Seattle will have to make the decision whether or not to retain Wagner, the last remaining member of the “Legion of Boom” defense from the 2010’s. Wagner will be 32 years old next season and will command a $16.6 million cap figure in 2022.
Wagner is the highest-paid inside linebacker in the NFL and the second-highest paid member of the Seahawks, behind only Russell Wilson.
Despite his age, he remains a productive member at this stage of his career. Wagner’s 69.7 defensive grade ranks 15th among 88 qualifying linebackers. His 72.3 run defensive grade ranks 12th and his coverage grade (62.8) ranks 27th among all players at his position.
If the Seahawks do move on from Wagner, replacing him with a linebacker of the same age with even less production just doesn’t make much sense.
Hasselbeck’s Theory on Why Seahawks Struggle
Former Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has a theory as to why Seattle struggled this season. According to Hasselbeck, one of the reasons for the Seahawks’ demise is possibly due to the coaching staff turnover.
The former quarterback played for the Seahawks (2010) during Carroll’s first season in Seattle and explained what might be the difference now.
“I’m really not there, but I would say that when Pete came in, as a group he brought so many people with him from USC, that everyone was together and they’d had years together,” Hasselbeck said on 710 ESPN on Wednesday, January 12. “And they all knew – like, I didn’t need to ask the question to Pete Carroll to get the answer that Pete Carroll was going to say. I could go to the strength coach, I could go to the O-line coach, I could go to the linebackers coach – they all would know how Pete would answer the question.”
Hasselbeck explains further how Carroll’s coaching philosophy may not be spread the way that it once was.
“When you do have a lot of coaching turnover like they have had, and player turnover, after a while you look around and not everybody in the building understands (Carroll’s philosophy),” Hasselbeck said. “… Little things that I think (Carroll) brought from a winning culture at USC to our team (in 2010) – it was kind of a, ‘Whoa, hey, yeah, you’re right. That’s not us. We’re not going to be that.’ And then when you have all this turnover, it’s sort of hard to keep everybody on message the same way that he did initially, I think.”
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what has gone wrong in Seattle. Prior to this season, the Seahawks had clinched three consecutive playoff berths. But it’s very clear Seattle hasn’t been anywhere close to being a Super Bowl contender since they last made an appearance in the big game at the conclusion of the 2014 season.
The Seahawks may not need a rebuild. But they definitely need to make some changes heading into the offseason.