Any Seahawks fan old enough to have followed the team over the last 10 years can recall the “Legion of Boom” defense. It was a swarming unit that disrupted NFL offenses en route to two consecutive Super Bowl appearances following the 2013 and 2014 seasons. The first of those appearances gave Seattle its first and only Lombardi Trophy, thanks to a 43-8 dismantling of a Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos squad that shattered nearly every offensive passing record that year and remained the lone team to record 600 or more points in a single season (606).
While the so-called “founding members” of that heralded LOB defense consisted of stand-out secondary players – namely cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, as well as safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor – the heart of any defense lives in the linebacking corps. And for those LOB Seahawks, the starting linebackers included Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, and KJ Wright.
As any defense dominant enough to earn a nickname before them – i.e., the Purple People Eaters, Doomsday Defense, Orange Crush, Steel Curtain, No Name Defense, Monsters of the Midway, etc. – the LOB’s time eventually came to an end. It fell victim to an inevitable progressive dismantling as key players signed elsewhere, were traded, or simply retired.
With Wright’s decision to sign with the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday, the number of former LOB members still on Seattle’s roster now stands at one – the six-time All-Pro Wagner.
Perhaps overshadowed by Wagner and other players on the Seahawks’ Super Bowl teams, it could be argued Wright’s contributions to the franchise are underrated.
Despite only being selected to one Pro Bowl (2016), the now 32-year old was a staple on the Seahawks defense for 10 seasons. His 2016 campaign featured career highs up to that point in total tackles (126), tackles for loss (12), and sacks (4). He set a new career-best in total tackles with 132 in 2019 at the ripe age of 30, the same year in which he came away with three interceptions – his only multi-pick season.
Over a six-season stretch from 2014 to 2019, Wright tallied more than 100 total tackles five times. The lone outlier came in an injury-riddled 2018 campaign, where he finished with 23 tackles in a mere five games played. He just missed hitting the century mark in 2012, when he notched 98 tackles.
The last decade not only saw Wright wear No. 50 for the entirety of his Seahawks career, it also witnessed to him compile 941 tackles – 593 of them solo – with 66 tackles for loss, 54 passes defended, 13.5 sacks, 11 forced fumbles, nine fumble recoveries, and six interceptions.
A former fourth-round pick (99th overall) out of Mississippi State, Wright quickly became a full-time starter during his debut season of 2011. The 6-foot-4, 246-pound linebacker started 12 of 16 games as a rookie, and those four games turned out to be the only ones that didn’t start for Seattle – he played 144 games in all for the Seahawks. He also played in 15 playoff games, racking up 110 tackles – 66 solo – and finished with six tackles for loss, two sacks, and an interception.
It’s easy to make an argument for Wright to be someday selected into Seattle’s Ring of Honor. Still, first, Seahawks fans must bear witness to their formerly beloved outside linebacker donning the Raiders’ silver and black.
The former Seahawk agreed to a one-year deal with Las Vegas but cannot officially sign until he passes a physical.
Perhaps the “cup half full” view for Hawks fans is they won’t have to see Wright on the same field as their team during the 2021-22 season unless the unlikely pairing of a Seattle-Las Vegas Super Bowl showdown takes place. The two don’t play each other in the regular season and are in opposite conferences, which makes playoff matchups impossible – until Super Bowl Sunday, that is.
Regardless, Wright’s presence in Seattle will surely be missed.
It’s always difficult for fans to see long-tenured players move on to play for another team, but Wright will forever remain a key piece of Seahawks history.