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K.J. Wright’s return a big deal for Bobby Wagner, Seahawks’ defense – NFL Nation

This time last year, the Seattle Seahawks‘ defense was in the early stages of a major transition.

Richard Sherman was gone, Earl Thomas was preparing to hold out and it was becoming clear that Kam Chancellor would never play again.

Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright were two of the last remaining cornerstones, and with their former position coach, Ken Norton Jr., returning to coordinate Pete Carroll’s defense, the focal point of that side of the ball was shifting from the secondary to the linebacker corps.

That was the thought, anyway.

Wright’s knee injury sidelined him for 11 games of his contract year, putting his future with the team in question all the way up until the moment he agreed to remain in Seattle last week on a two-year deal that can be worth up to $15 million.

Wright told Sports Radio 950 KJR that the contract contains no guaranteed money beyond 2019. But at the very least, the Seahawks will have perhaps the NFL’s best linebacker tandem together for one more year.

“I get to play right beside him again,” Wright told KIRO Radio 97.3 FM. “We’re going to keep dominating like we’ve been doing in the past.”

Wagner is coming off his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl appearance and his fourth first-team All-Pro selection in five years. He and Wright are second and seventh, respectively, on the franchise’s all-time tackles list. Wright had topped 100 tackles four straight seasons before last season, and he would have more than one Pro Bowl nod on his résumé if the voting weren’t so skewed to favor linebackers who rush the passer.

As good as they’ve been together on the field, they’re as close off of it as any two Seahawks other than the Griffin twins. Wright said he and Wagner hung out at the team’s headquarters for a couple of hours Thursday when he showed up to sign his contract. When someone at the facility asked them which of the two was happier that Wright was sticking around, Wright replied, “Probably this dude,” referring to Wagner.

“Our personalities just match up,” Wright said. “We’re two guys that take our jobs very serious. We’re two guys that are leaders on the team and leaders in the communities, and we just want to be great at what we do. Not everyone is like that. I’ve had a lot of people come through and not everyone has that mentality that both of us have. It’s something that’s always jelled. It just matches up perfectly.”

Wright said he and Wagner were in communication throughout his free-agency experience. It figures that Wagner would pay close attention to how the Seahawks handled Wright’s situation, not only because of their friendship but because of the uncertainty regarding the organization’s willingness to commit big money to players nearing or over 30.

That’s been in question since Seattle gave third contracts to Chancellor and Michael Bennett. The way those deals came back to bite the Seahawks was considered a primary reason why they weren’t interested in giving Thomas the type of top-of-the-market contract he just got from the Baltimore Ravens.

That uncertainty was on Wagner’s mind last summer when he commented publicly on Wright’s contract situation and made it clear that he’d be disappointed if the Seahawks didn’t keep him around. After all, Wagner was entering the second-to-last year of his own deal, which makes him eligible for an extension from Seattle now that he has one season left.

“You definitely have to appreciate guys like K.J. because he’s been here, he hasn’t missed a practice, he’s been available and he’s letting that play out,” Wagner said in August, while Wright was in training camp and Thomas was not. “But there’s also a side to that. If you don’t get the deal done, you give a guy like that an opportunity to walk away. So it’s like, as a team, you have to figure out what you want to do and who do you want to pay?

“That comes from the guys upstairs, but when you have certain situations where you’ve got guys that hold out but then you’ve got guys that stay and do all the right things and is a leader in the room, is a guy that everybody looks up to, you can’t let a guy like that walk away. For me, if you let a guy like that walk away, it would be telling.”

Extending Wagner won’t be easy now that C.J. Mosley, a comparatively less accomplished player, has raised the top of the market for inside linebacker to $17 million per season. That’s more than $6 million per year above what Wagner is making on his current deal. The New York Jets can afford to pay Mosley that type of money while they have quarterback Sam Darnold on his rookie contract, a luxury the Seahawks don’t have with Russell Wilson, who, by the way, is in line for a massive extension of his own.

That Wagner is now representing himself without an agent might only complicate negotiations, whenever those begin.

But the Wright signing only makes it easier to envision the Seahawks getting a deal done with Wagner.

Either way, they’ll have that tandem together for at least one more year. Now that Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly have split up in Carolina, Seattle should have the league’s best linebacking duo as long as Wright’s knee holds up. He told 710 ESPN Seattle that it should be OK with proper maintenance. If the Seahawks are indeed guaranteeing him $8 million for 2019, as Wright said they are, that suggests a certain level of confidence that it will. The way he played when he returned late last season is an encouraging sign as well.

“I believe when you look back 10, 20 years from now, you’re going to see that Bobby and K.J. was the best to ever do it,” Wright said, “and we’re going to go down as the greatest that ever put on this uniform. It’s just real special.”

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With Tevin Coleman, 49ers’ running backs get even more versatility – NFL Nation

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Take it from one of the San Francisco 49ersnewest and most expensive additions — running back Tevin Coleman is a positive addition to a running back room that seems to be overflowing with speed and versatility.

“Oh, I’ve got a scouting report on him,” linebacker Kwon Alexander said. “I had to play him twice a year, so, yeah, I know him. … He can catch the ball, run, and make great cuts. He’s got great vision, very fast too. He’s going to be a great addition to this team.”

Alexander and Coleman know each other well from their twice-yearly clashes in the NFC South when Alexander was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Coleman with the Atlanta Falcons. That the 49ers prioritized adding Alexander came as no surprise after Reuben Foster‘s release during the season, but some might have been caught off guard by the Niners’ pursuit of Coleman.

After all, with coach Kyle Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner in place, the 49ers have demonstrated the ability to get production from low-cost, lesser-known backs like Matt Breida and Jeff Wilson Jr. And with Jerick McKinnon returning from a torn ACL and Raheem Mostert coming back from a fractured forearm, the Niners’ need at running back paled in comparison to most other positions.

But Shanahan has long been a fan of Coleman’s, and when the free-agent market didn’t yield the type of big-dollar contract some expected he might land, Shanahan and the Niners couldn’t resist signing him to a two-year deal worth up to $8.5 million.

“We were very fortunate to have a chance to get Tevin,” Shanahan said. “(We) didn’t really think that at all that would be a possibility of going through. It ended up working out.”

As the Atlanta Falcons‘ offensive coordinator, Shanahan was part of the team that took Coleman in the third round of the 2015 NFL draft and spent two seasons helping him develop. After getting his feet wet as a rookie, Coleman was a productive tag team partner with Devonta Freeman in 2016, breaking through with 941 scrimmage yards, 11 touchdowns and averages of 4.41 yards per carry and 13.6 yards per reception. Coleman put up similar numbers in each of the past two years before hitting the free-agent market.

While the ties between Shanahan and Coleman made San Francisco a possibility, it seemed unlikely unless Coleman’s price landed somewhere close to bargain status. When it happened, the Niners pounced despite already having McKinnon, Breida and Mostert in the plans, along with high-priced fullback Kyle Juszczyk. That group was already expected to count about $14.38 million against this year’s salary cap before signing Coleman or finalizing the three-year deal the team did with Mostert on Friday.

Coleman’s addition immediately raised questions about how all the pieces will fit and whether one of the backs could be on the way out. McKinnon, who is due to count $5.75 million against the cap, seemed to have the most tenuous status considering his guaranteed money has already been paid and he is coming off a torn ACL.

When Shanahan was asked whether the 49ers were concerned about McKinnon’s recovery or if he was comfortable carrying four tailbacks on the roster, he didn’t sound like someone who was going to shy away from doing something a little different at the position.

“I consider it a very good thing,” Shanahan said. “There’s a lot of guys we have confidence in and a lot of guys with some different skill sets too that we can use differently.”

While all four backs are known for their speed — Coleman has already mused that the quartet of tailbacks would make an excellent 4×100 relay team — they all bring something different to the table.

McKinnon was expected to be a serious factor in the pass game before his injury last year. Breida showed he can be a dynamic outside runner in his second season. And Mostert is one of the game’s best special teams players who also showed some running ability in 2018.

In Coleman, the Niners landed their most balanced and, perhaps most important, their most durable. In the Niners’ injury-plagued 2018 season, perhaps no position on offense was hit harder by a variety of ailments than running back. McKinnon missed all 16 games, Mostert missed seven and Breida missed two, though he also departed multiple games with a nagging ankle issue.

By the end of the season, the Niners had four backs assume the role of the primary option in the run game at one point or another. And while that group still managed to produce 2,580 scrimmage yards and nine touchdowns, those numbers tailed off toward the end of the season with just 481 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown in the final four games.

All of which helps to explain why San Francisco could go into the season with more backs than Shanahan has ever carried on the roster.

That isn’t to say the Niners wouldn’t listen if someone showed interest in a trade for one of the team’s backs, but it’s far from outrageous to think all four will stick around for the season. Even if that quartet isn’t active on game day each week, last season served as a resounding reminder that depth is likely to come into play at some point.

“You can do anything you want,” Shanahan said. “But, you’ve got to make sense of it all. I think we’re in a situation right now, just looking at our roster, that I think it could make a lot of sense this year.”

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