Home NFL Is Bobby Wagner a future Hall of Famer?

Is Bobby Wagner a future Hall of Famer?

Will Bobby Wagner make it into the Hall of Fame?

By: Khari Demos

On arguably the toughest day in franchise history, the Seattle Seahawks parted ways with first Russell Wilson, then Bobby Wagner, on March 8. Those two moves marked the end of an era, as they were the last two Seahawks from the team’s Super Bowl XLVIII victory to close the 2013 NFL season.

The Wilson trade almost seemed inevitable ”” just a year after Russ’s camp released a list of teams he’d prefer to be sent to if he were to be traded. The move with Wagner came out of the left field. I mean even for Wagner, the move even caught him by surprise.

How could Seattle let that happen? The franchise’s all-time leading tackler, a team co-captain, and one of the cornerstones for a team that played in back-to-back Super Bowls. The Seahawks should have done better. So now a soon-to-be 32-year-old Wagner will hit free agency for the first time and he’ll have a huge chip on his shoulder. Coming off a second-team All-Pro selection (his eighth consecutive All-Pro nod) and his eighth straight Pro Bowl campaign in 2021, Wagner compiled a career-high 170 tackles last season.

There’s no question Wagner has built up a case for the Hall of Fame already in his 10 NFL seasons. But how does he rank all-time amongst the game’s best middle linebackers?

According to Pro Football Reference’s Pro Football ILB Hall of Fame Monitor, Wagner is currently 10th on the list with a career score of 101.33, as the average HOF score is said to be 109. The top 10 on that list are also the only MLBs in NFL history that have compiled a score of 100 or more. There are only four players above him on the list that have not made the HOF yet, but they all figure to do so ”” Zach Thomas, Brian Urlacher, Luke Kuechly, and Patrick Willis.

Also of note, Wagner is one of only five players within that top 10 that has won a Super Bowl.

Despite only playing 10 seasons thus far, Wagner’s six first-team All-Pro selections (he also has two second-team selections) are tied with Pittsburgh’s Jack Lambert for second-most all-time for an MLB, trailing only Ray Lewis and Mike Singletary who each have seven, respectively. His eight Pro Bowl selections are tied for the fourth-highest MLB total of all-time, as he’s matched Urlacher, Dick Butkus, Nick Buoniconti, and Willie Lanier.

Two of the coolest stat rankings, in my opinion, for Wagner are his combined tackles and QB hits. Coming in at third all-time with 78 QB hits, the Utah State product only needs 20 more to surpass Ahmad Brooks for the most ever for an MLB since it became a stat in 2006. As for the combined tackles, he’s already ninth all-time with 1,383, as he’s one of three players to rank inside the top 10 that has played no more than 10 seasons, joining Kyle Clifton and Chris Spielman.

Moving up on the all-time tackles list should not be a problem for Wagner. Averaging 138.3 tackles per season, if Wagner were to hit that average mark next season he’d place himself sixth all-time ahead of Clifton and right behind Hardy Nickerson (1,586). And if he keeps on this pace, Wagner should be a top-five tackler of all-time before the end of the 2023 season.

Now let’s get into some comparisons. As an NFL 2010s All-Decade performer, let’s start with the team’s other MLBs, Luke Kuechly and Patrick Willis. One thing to keep in mind with both Kuechly and Willis is that their careers were cut short ”” both players only stuck out in the league for eight seasons.

Let’s start with Kuechly vs. Wagner. The former Carolina Panther superstar did win the 2012 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award over Wagner, but he also has a nod over Wagner by claiming the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year, an honor Wagner has yet to achieve. Wagner does, however, have more All-Pro nods (8 total vs. 7 total).

With Wagner having outplayed Kuechly for 33 more games, it’s hard to evaluate some raw totals. Wagner wins the combine tackles (1,383 vs. 1,092), sacks (23.5 vs. 12.5), defensive touchdowns (3 vs. 1), and in QB hits (78 vs. 31). But Kuechly was much more of a ballhawk, surpassing Wagner in picks (18 vs. 11), pass deflections (66 vs. 60), as well as in tackles for loss (75 vs. 68). Both players tied with nine career fumble recoveries and they both led the NFL in tackles twice each.

Now looking at the Willis vs. Wagner debate, the former played in even fewer games than Kuechly (112 total, 39 fewer than Wagner). Wagner’s eight All-Pro nods outpaced Willis’ six total (5 first-team, 1 second-team), and his eight Pro Bowls were one more than Willis’ seven, but it’s almost unfair to pit the two against each in raw totals. Wagner’s career numbers are higher than Willis in the categories of combined tackles, INTs, pass deflections, sacks, TFLs, QB hits, and defensive TDs. But amazingly, Willis does have the advantage in forced fumbles, edging Wagner by a margin of 16-6.

Willis also matched Wagner by leading the league in tackles on two separate occasions.

Now another MLB I believe Wagner stacks up to comparatively is a fellow All-Decade performer, and that’s 2000s selection, Zach Thomas. Most known for his tenure with the Miami Dolphins, Thomas also led the league in tackles twice (2002, 2006). Wagner’s eight All-Pros are just one more than Thomas’ seven (5 first-team, 2 second-team). Wagner also has the edge in Pro Bowls over Thomas, coming in at an 8-7 margin.

Thomas has played a few more games than Wagner (184 vs. 151), and the latter had that advantage in the other comparisons. Thomas has a clear lead in tackles with his 1,734 combined total (fourth-most ever), but he also takes it with INTs (17 vs. 11), forced fumbles (16 vs. 6) and tackles for loss (74 vs. 68) even though that did not become a stat until Thomas’ fourth year in the league. Wagner has outperformed Thomas in some areas though too, including in sacks (23.5 vs. 20.5), fumble recoveries (9 vs. 8), and pass deflections (60 vs. 48), although it must be noted that PDs were not a stat until Thomas’ fourth year as well.

Another name that I want to compare Wagner to is Thomas’ fellow 2000s All-Decade MLB, Brian Urlacher. In a dominant career with the Chicago Bears, the former New Mexico Lobo tied Wagner with eight Pro Bowl selections and was named the 2005 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Urlacher does hold the DPOY over Wagner, but his five All-Pro nods (4 first-team, 1 second-team) just fall short of the former ‘Hawk’s total.

This may be the most back-and-forth debate of them all. Wagner outpaced Urlacher in terms of seasons leading the league in tackles (2 vs. 1) and has more career tackles (1,383 vs. 1,361), despite playing in 31 fewer games. But Urlacher has the advantage in INTs (22 vs. 11), fumble recoveries (16 vs. 9), forced fumbles (11 vs. 6) pass deflections (90 vs. 60), defensive TDs (4 vs. 3), and TFLs (138 vs. 68).

All of these figures are great, but one that was not mentioned was playoff statistics. All the players mentioned above were tremendous, but they may not stack up to Wagner here. The former Seahawk has 153 combined tackles in the postseason, the second-most in NFL history only behind Lewis (218).

Overall historically, Wagner would need two more first-team All-Pro selections to tie Bruce Smith, Lawrence Taylor, Joe Schmidt, and Bill George for the most ever for a player that plays defense primarily (8). In terms of active players, only the great Aaron Donald (7) has more first-team nods than Wagner.

So it’s safe to say Wagner should end up with a gold jacket once he hangs up the helmet. But the question now will be what team will he be adding to his HOF resume with next season?

Written by
Khari Demos

Award-winning sports journalist, enthusiastic and versatile writer, which engages in copy for a diverse audience. Looking for a challenging position as a sports writer where I can further develop my skills. A team player who will integrate with other to form a strong unit striving to provide exceptional sports content. Committed to accuracy and able to meet deadlines. Proficient in coordinating sports content across multiple mediums and platforms.

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