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Wilson, Wagner exits sign of major change ahead for Seahawks

Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson walk off a practice field. They are carrying their helmets.
Ted S. Warren
The Associated Press file
Russell Wilson, right, walks with Bobby Wagner after Seahawks training camp on Aug. 14, 2020, in Renton.

With two brush strokes over the span of about 10 hours, the Seattle Seahawks said goodbye to giant foundations of their Super Bowl history.

Gone is quarterback Russell Wilson, traded to Denver in a blockbuster move. Gone is Bobby Wagner, the defensive stalwart and likely future Hall of Famer, released as part of a salary cap squeeze.

So long history. Hello, rebuild.

That is the apparent direction the Seahawks are headed after a Tuesday that won’t be forgotten by their fans. The team agreed to send Wilson to Denver early in the day, according to two people familiar with the negotiations who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the trade can’t be announced until after the start of the new league year next week.

Hours later, Wagner confirmed to the AP that the Seahawks had informed him he was being released, his $20 million salary cap hit for 2022 deemed too much for Seattle to absorb.

And with that, the final two starters still around from Seattle’s Super Bowl winning team from 2013 — ones that seemed destined to be lifelong players for the team — were no longer Seahawks.

Their situations differed. Wilson had to waive a no-trade clause to accept the move to Denver. Wagner spoke at the end of the season of wanting to return but also knew the weight of his contract.

“I understand there is a business side to this, but there’s a lot of optimism on my end that I’ll be back,” Wagner said in early January. “I’m not worried about it. Obviously, I can’t control everything. I can only control my part.”

No matter the reasons behind their departures, it’s a massive change for the Seahawks.

For the majority of 10 seasons, the leaders on both sides of the ball for Seattle were never questioned. Taken in the same draft one round apart in 2012, Wagner and Wilson walked into Seattle’s practice facility and almost immediately laid claim to spots they never relinquished other than for injury.

Wagner was a six-time first-team All-Pro selection, building a resume that no matter the next phase of his career is likely good enough for a gold jacket and induction to the Hall of Fame.

Wilson will forever be the starting quarterback of Seattle’s first Super Bowl championship team, and for a decade gave the Seahawks a franchise QB and one of the most exciting players in the league.

Just days after coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider indicated at the NFL combine that Seattle wasn’t open for business regarding Wilson, the duo made arguably the most impactful trade in franchise history.

In some ways, they are staking their reputations to being able to find Seattle’s next quarterback, and the additional move to release Wagner only added to the major questions about where the franchise goes next.

Is this the start of a full rebuild for the Seahawks with a head coach that will turn 71 in September?

Do the Seahawks believe quarterbacks Drew Lock — reportedly part of the trade — or Jacob Eason have the chance to be the starter this fall?

Did Seattle fall in love with one of the quarterbacks at the combine and is hoping to land another Wilson-like home run in the draft?

Or will the Seahawks use the capital obtained in the Wilson deal to try and find another veteran quarterback available either in free agency or via trade?

Those answers will come beginning with the start of the new league year. None may be able to satisfy Seattle’s fans stinging from the trade.

The news of Wilson’s trade and Wagner’s release evoked painful reminders for those fans of the past when some of the top players in their respective sports called Seattle home only to be dealt away.

Ken Griffey Jr. was seemingly in the prime of his Hall of Fame career and arguably the best player in baseball when he was traded by the Mariners to the Cincinnati Reds in before the 2000 season. Gary Payton was a Seattle SuperSonics lifer and the face of the franchise when a spat with ownership led to his trade to Milwaukee in 2002. The Seahawks went down this road of saying goodbye to fan favorites in the previous years with the likes of Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and others that were keys to that Super Bowl team.

And now it’s Wilson and Wagner added to that list.