Over the past several months, many Seahawks fans held out hope the team would eventually bring back free agent linebacker K.J. Wright. But with less than two weeks until the season opener, the door has officially been slammed shut on a potential reunion, bringing an end to one of the most successful careers in franchise history.
As reported first by Josina Anderson, Wright agreed to terms with the Raiders on a one-year contract on Thursday, assuring he would wear a different uniform for the first time in his 11-year career. By making the move, he will reunite with defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who held the same position in Seattle during his first two NFL seasons in 2011 and 2012.
One of the most beloved players to ever don a Seahawks uniform and best known for his propensity to sniff out and destroy screens, Wright provided rare reliability and dependability during a decade with the organization. Drafted in the fourth round out of Mississippi State back in 2011, he quickly found his way into the lineup as a rookie, starting 12 games and producing 65 tackles, 2.0 sacks, and three passes defensed and never looking back.
Over the next four seasons, Wright served as a key cog and invaluable leader for Seattle's defensive juggernaut, helping guide the team to four straight playoff appearances, two NFC Championship victories, and a Lombardi Trophy. With the team finishing first in the NFL in scoring defense all four of those seasons, the steady linebacker played his part by averaging 100 tackles, five tackles for loss, four pass breakups, and two forced fumbles per season.
Even as the "Legion of Boom" secondary slowly disintegrated due to injuries and the defense slipped compared to their historically dominant predecessors, Wright's play did not. Aside from an injury-marred season in 2018 in which he was limited to five regular season games, he remained a beacon of consistency, eclipsing 100 tackles in three of the past five seasons.
Interestingly, Wright may have saved his best football for last in regard to his time in Seattle. After the team somewhat surprisingly gave him a two-year contract in 2019, he bounced back from a challenging season to set new career-highs with 132 tackles, three interceptions, and 11 passes defensed.
Then in 2020, illustrating the selflessness and team-first mentality that has endured him to fans and earned the respect of teammates throughout his career, Wright willingly slid to strongside linebacker in Week 3 to replace injured teammate Bruce Irvin. Adapting to his new position with ease, he excelled setting the edge for Seattle's defense and continued to keep Father Time at bay in coverage, ending the season as the only player in the league with double-digit tackles for loss and passes defensed.
Despite turning in arguably the best season of his career, the Seahawks made the difficult decision to move on from Wright this spring, ushering in a youth movement with athletic defenders Darrell Taylor and Jordyn Brooks ready to play extensive snaps alongside Bobby Wagner. Brooks, who came on strong late in his rookie season, will step into Wright's former stead at weakside linebacker, while the team expects Taylor to offer more pass rushing chops at strongside linebacker.
Now heading to Las Vegas, the book on Wright's career in Seattle will be closed with him amassing 941 combined tackles, the third-most in franchise history, 66 tackles for loss, 54 passes defensed, 13.5 sacks, and 11 interceptions in 144 games. He also started 15 playoff games, yielding 110 combined tackles, six tackles for loss, and four passes defensed.
Through it all, much to the disappointment of coaches and teammates alike, the ever-so-instinctive Wright never received the national acclaim he rightfully deserved. Caught in the shadows on a star-studded defense featuring Wagner, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor, "Spider Man" has only one Pro Bowl selection on his resume and never sniffed All-Pro consideration, making him one of the most underappreciated stars in team history.
But in Seattle, Wright's greatness will be remembered long after he hangs up his cleats and not just for his football accolades. Always flashing his signature smile, the Olive Branch, Miss. native left a remarkable imprint on the local community, serving as a mentor in Future Leaders, a program where he worked with selected inner city youth to team them basics of entrepreneurship and technology to help solve problems in their community, along with helping tiny homes for the homeless.
Wright also made a difference outside of the United States on a global scale, traveling to Kenya's Maasai Mara region on multiple occasions to deliver books, teach English to children, and construct a fresh water well for the primary school in 2018 and 2019. In addition, he joined forces with former teammate Cliff Avril to help lay the foundation for a school in Haiti and coach a youth football camp in Port-au-Prince.
The aforementioned examples of Wright's generosity and kindness only scratch the surface in regard to all of the programs and initiatives he supported during his time with the Seahawks and will surely continue to support in the future.
Turning in his blue and green threads for silver and black, Wright will be looking to show he's got plenty of fuel left in the tank with his new team. If the last two years were any indication as he silenced critics who questioned if he could still play, the Raiders just landed a damn good football player and as a cherry on top, a damn good leader in the locker room and a damn good human being who will make an immediate impact in a variety of ways.
While the front office's reasons for moving on from Wright are understandable, his presence will undoubtedly be missed by teammates, coaches, media, and most importantly, a rabid fan base that will now be cheering him on from afar. Even in an era where it's increasingly rare to see a player spend his entire career with one team, it will be odd seeing him wearing anything other than a Seahawks uniform.
Someday down the road, however, one of the NFL's true good guys should join the other 14 members of the team's "Ring of Honor" with Wright's name and No. 50 hoisted in the rafters at Lumen Field to ensure his contributions on and off the field are forever memorialized for future generations.