A learning experience. That’s how Bobby Wagner continually referred to representing himself in contract negotiations with the Seattle Seahawks. His acumen as an agent proved to be on par with his All-Pro ability as a linebacker.
Wagner signed a three-year extension on Friday worth $54 million – the richest contract ever for an inside linebacker. He’s set to make $18 million annually from 2020-22 with more than $40 million guaranteed.
“For me to be in this position, on my third contract, something that statistically nobody gets to do, I’m grateful,” Wagner said after making his training camp debut on Sunday. “I’m humbled. I’m blessed. There’s nothing that anyone can say to take that away from me.”
A trip to France in late June proved to be a pivotal few days for Wagner in his pursuit of becoming the best possible agent for himself. The linebacker signed with Jordan Brand two years ago, and over the summer, Michael Jordan took Wagner and the rest of the brand’s athletes on a little Euro trip.
Jordan, a part owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, consulted Wagner as to how he’d deal with a player who wanted to represent himself. The advice was invaluable.
“It was dope,” Wagner said. “He took us out to France, and we got a chance to sit down and have a conversation. We talked about his playing days. We talked about his mindset. We talked about training. We talked about a bunch of different things. … It’s just really cool to have a guy like that in your corner.”
The learning experience ended up being a successful (and lucrative) one, but Wagner admitted he feels the peace of mind now that the burden of negotiations is behind him.
“It’s definitely taxing,” Wagner said. “Just like when you’re playing, it takes a certain level of focus to be great. Trying to get a deal done, there was a certain level of focus that I had to have to ultimately get the deal done. But you had a guy who wanted to be here and a team who wanted him here. There was respect on both sides, and that’s always a good recipe to get a deal done.”
Pete Carroll was effusive in his praise of how Wagner handled himself throughout contract talks. It was simply one more example of how exemplary Wagner is in all facets.
“He’s been such a treasure in so many ways,” Carroll said. “He’s meant so much to our franchise. He’s an extraordinary player on the field and a great competitor and just tough as nails to always show up and always be there for us.
“Better than that, he’s a great guy to have on your club to represent your franchise. If a guy is going to get paid, you want it to be a guy like this. He just stands for so much positive and so much good.”
The four-time All-Pro is now signed through 2022. He’ll make $10.5 million in 2019 before the new contract kicks in next season.
Upon signing the deal, Wagner couldn’t help but reflect on the loss of his late mother. His mom passed in 2009 from a heart attack while he was still at Utah State. Wagner said he gave serious consideration to quitting football and returning home to California. Now he’s a Super Bowl champion, a five-time Pro Bowler and he just signed his third NFL contract – a rarity for any player.
“She (taught) me to finish what I started,” Wagner said. “I gave her my word that I’d finish what I started. Today I feel like she’d be proud.”