The 49ers should rightfully have interest in former Seahawks All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner, and he’d transform the defense in a massive way.
If you’re one of the relatively few San Francisco 49ers fans out there thinking the team shouldn’t have any interest in former Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner following his release, think again.
And then again.
The eight-time Pro Bowler and six-time first-team All-Pro is expected to have a massive market in NFL free agency this offseason. Yet some of the early reports from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport are indicating the Niners have interest, as would the rest of the NFC West:
Granted, San Francisco isn’t going to have the financial resources to be massive players on the NFL free agency market this offseason. Even with moving quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, the team would have roughly only $20 million available to spend, and a hot market for Wagner would assuredly eat up a massive chunk of that remaining space.
However, the soon-to-be 32-year-old Wagner may opt to forego a lucrative contract elsewhere to stay within the division, having the chance to face his former team twice a year, and he also might prefer joining a top contender like the 49ers with the hopes of securing his second Super Bowl ring.
Also, former Niners cornerback Richard Sherman, who also switched sides from Seattle back in 2018, might be more than willing to “lend some friendly advice” to Wagner and convince him to head to San Francisco over other choices.
Wishful thinking, perhaps, but it’s worth the conversation.
At any rate, should this deal go down, how would Wagner impact both the 49ers’ linebacker corps and the defense overall?
How Bobby Wagner would make 49ers defense better
Sure, at this stage in his career, it’s safe to argue Wagner isn’t quite the same caliber of player he was only a few short years ago. Pro Football Focus awarded him a still-quality 71.8 overall grade on the season, the lowest it had been since 2015 (69.9). Yet it’s important to note the other defensive deficiencies Seattle had last season.
The Seahawks lacked a pass rush in 2021, accumulating just 34 sacks (tied for ninth fewest), while they allowed an average of 379 yards per game (fifth most).
Wagner was responsible for having to clean up a lot of the “mess” left behind by the lackluster talent surrounding him.
Should Wagner join the Niners, who had 48 sacks a year ago (tied for fifth most), he’d be allowed to revert back into a playmaker, which he was easily earlier in his career. And being able to line up next to fellow All-Pro Fred Warner would effectively give San Francisco its best one-two tandem at linebacker since the days of Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman.
Of course, the 49ers would have to clear space to onboard Wagner, but that wouldn’t be a tough issue.
Linebacker Dre Greenlaw, who missed all but three regular-season games last year with a groin injury, is already being discussed as a potential trade candidate heading into the final year of his rookie deal, while fellow backer Azeez Al-Shaair is a restricted free agent.
Whatever sentiments Niners fans may have towards Greenlaw and Al-Shaair should be infinitely overshadowed by a would-be Wagner upgrade.
Especially viewing the potential tandem of Warner and Wagner.