The 49ers should be one of the teams fully in on going after former Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner, who’d still be an upgrade despite his age.
Signs are pointing to the San Francisco 49ers’ chief NFC West rivals, the Seattle Seahawks, undergoing a large-scale rebuild in the hours after trading away perennial Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos earlier this week.
Niners fans everywhere have to rejoice about that transaction, yes. But it wasn’t the only notable move the Hawks made during the week.
In addition to Wilson being dealt, Seattle also released six-time first-team All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner.
Wagner, who’ll turn 32 years old by the start of the 2022 season, doesn’t have to wait until the start of the league new year on March 16 to sign with a new team. He can join a squad right away in NFL free agency, and one might figure there’ll be plenty of interest.
So, should San Francisco be interested? Absolutely.
How Bobby Wagner could upgrade 49ers linebacker corps
The 49ers already have an All-Pro linebacker in their locker room with Fred Warner, but the options behind him remain questionable at best.
Three-year pro linebacker Dre Greenlaw missed all but three regular-season games last season with a groin injury. And while his immediate backup, Azeez Al-Shaair, played well in Greenlaw’s stead over the course of 2021, there’s no doubting how much of an upgrade Wagner would be.
Some may even argue Wagner is as good a player now at this stage of his career as Warner, too.
Sure, Wagner might not be quite as prolific a defender as he was during the heyday years of his career. But Pro Football Focus still handed him a respectable 71.8 overall grade from the season, and one might figure his level of play would increase again amid a much better Niners defense.
They’d probably look to trade Greenlaw to make room for Wagner, but that would be an easy transaction to absorb.
Could 49ers actually afford to sign Bobby Wagner?
It’s a good question. Assuming San Francisco moves on from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason, it’ll have approximately $23 million in available cap space, and one would think the team reserves about $7 million to sign its 2022 NFL Draft class, leaving $16 million left to attack NFL free agency.
According to Over the Cap, Wagner’s play in 2021 held a value of $9.412 million, but the high likelihood of him drawing a lot of interest could mean he’ll be due as much as $12 million per season on an annual average.
A down amount from the previous $18 million APY he received earlier, but still a cost that’d be tough for the 49ers to afford.
However, the Niners have the wherewithal to splurge on one big-name free agent this offseason.
And if Wagner is open to staying within the division while competing for his second Super Bowl ring, San Francisco might end up being a preferred destination.
Would Bobby Wagner actually choose the 49ers?
The road to a Super Bowl is expected to be much easier through the NFC than the AFC, particularly considering the lopsided nature of quarterbacks in the opposite conference from the 49ers.
The NFC West is also going to be much weaker in light of Wilson’s trade, so staying within the division (and on the West Coast) might be an attractive option, too.
The Draft Network suggested another one of the Niners’ NFC West rivals, the Los Angeles Rams, as a potential fit, particularly with the need to upgrade their second level of the defense:
"Wagner is a native of Los Angeles, California and he attended Colony High School in nearby Ontario. Wagner could have the Rams high on his list of potential destinations. The Rams possessed an interest in drafting Wagner back in 2012 and just missed out on landing his all-pro talents.General manager Snead has now been awarded a golden opportunity to right one of his previous wrongs. Plucking him away from their division rival Seahawks would be the cherry on top, as Seattle fans would despite the thought of witnessing Wagner don a Rams jersey in 2022."
However, the Rams are currently $20 million over the cap heading into the league new year, so it might be even more difficult for LA to afford him.
If Wagner wants to “stick it” to his former Seahawks team twice a year, San Francisco might be an excellent fall-back option.
And the 49ers should welcome him if he feels that way.