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Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner leave Seattle Seahawks with legacy of triumph, reliability

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Why Bobby Wagner's release comes as no surprise (1:27)

Brady Henderson reports on the Seahawks releasing Bobby Wagner and what it means for the team. (1:27)

SEATTLE -- Days don't get much tougher for NFL teams than the one the Seattle Seahawks experienced Tuesday. It began with word from ESPN's Adam Schefter that they had agreed to trade quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos. And while Seattle was still processing that bombshell, Schefter reported that the team had informed linebacker Bobby Wagner of his impending release.

Two franchise icons were gone in the span of a few hours.

It had to be a gut-punch for fans, even if those departures came with plenty of warning. And yet there was something fitting about the Seahawks moving on from two of the most significant players in team history on the same day.

After all, they arrived together on the same day 10 years earlier. And they did so without a ton of fanfare.

When the second day of the 2012 NFL draft began, the shock was still lingering from Seattle's first-round selection of pass rusher Bruce Irvin. Their second-round pick, Wagner, was a little light for an inside linebacker and hardly one of the draft's bigger names, having played at Utah State.

And while Wilson was a well-known prospect after leading Wisconsin to a Rose Bowl title three months earlier, it was no secret why he was still available in the third round: he stood only 5-foot-10 and 5/8 inches. Besides, the Seahawks already had an intriguing QB option in Matt Flynn, whom they had just signed in free agency.

Even if they had arrived with much bigger expectations, no one could have expected a pair of Day 2 picks to have Hall of Fame-worthy careers. Wagner earned six first team All-Pro selections and a spot on the All-Decade team for the 2010s. Wilson became the NFL's highest-paid player and one of its most recognizable stars. They combined for 17 Pro Bowls while helping lead the Seahawks to eight playoff appearances in their 10 seasons, the only Super Bowl title in franchise history and another Super Bowl appearance, as painful as it ended.

As the best quarterback in Seahawks history and the only one to win a Lombardi Trophy, Wilson should be an automatic pick for anyone's Mount Rushmore of Seattle athletes. While it certainly helped to have an all-time great defense and a Marshawn Lynch-led ground game early in his career, Wilson was so much more than a game manager during those Super Bowl seasons.

This now-bygone era of Seahawks football will be remembered for the brashness and ruthlessness of the Legion of Boom, the unprecedented team success and for how nothing seemed impossible with Wilson at quarterback.

Not even a 12-point deficit with four minutes left. That's what the Seahawks overcame in the 2014 NFC Championship Game, when Wilson threw four interceptions (two came on drops) and then helped engineer a stunning rally over the Green Bay Packers that he capped with a walk-off, 35-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse in overtime.

Earlier in the game, Wilson took a horrific blindside shot to the head and walked off the field as though it was nothing, showing the trademark toughness and durability that allowed him to go nine full seasons without missing a game.

The 36 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime that Wilson led are tied for most of any quarterback since he entered the league in 2012. He passed for 37,059 yards and 292 touchdown passes for the Seahawks while adding 4,689 yards and 23 touchdowns rushing.

And if one play best illustrated his ability to make something out of nothing, it came in the Seahawks' 2015 wild-card win over the Minnesota Vikings in subzero temperatures. When a premature shotgun snap bounced off his shoulder, Wilson eschewed damage control. He instead scooped up the ball, scrambled and hit Tyler Lockett for a long gain that set up the game's only touchdown.

While Wagner made his share of wow plays, his time with the Seahawks will be remembered more for consistent production than signature moments. He's made eight straight Pro Bowls and has topped 100 tackles every year he's been in the NFL, including a career-high 170 this past season. He also compiled 23.5 sacks and 11 interceptions in his 10 seasons in Seattle.

"Bobby is one of the great Seahawks of all-time," coach Pete Carroll said in the team's announcement of Wagner's release on Wednesday. "His leadership in the community, locker room, and on the field is a tribute to his character and consistency."

Wagner was equally as consistent of a person, not given to the impulsive behavior that led to some ugly moments for a few of his teammates. It took that kind of temperament -- not to mention a great deal of preparation and business acumen -- for Wagner to negotiate his record-setting $54 million extension in 2019 while serving as his own agent.

He had become the Seahawks' defensive leader a year earlier when Seattle began transitioning away from its LOB stars.

"Bobby has been at the center of our defense for the past 10 seasons and always represented our organization with class," general manager John Schneider said in the team's announcement, calling it an "extremely difficult day" for the organization. "He is a special player and person, and we are forever grateful. Bobby will always be a Hawk."

The team can't announce Wilson’s trade or comment on it until the league year starts Wednesday, but you can expect a grand tribute with plenty of praise.

To be sure, Wilson upset the organization when he publicly voiced his frustrations in February 2021. But save for that one episode, he was an ideal face of a franchise.

No review of his legacy would be complete without a mention of his work in the community, which included frequent visits to sick kids at Seattle Children's Hospital and more than $10 million he helped raise for its pediatric cancer research. Wilson and wife Ciara opened up a tuition-free charter school south of Seattle, among other charitable efforts.

This past season, Wagner began each of his weekly news conferences with a non-football topic, using the platform to discuss important topics such as mental health and financial literacy. He offered to bring a group of students interested in venture capital and business with him on an offseason trip to Silicon Valley.

"Bobby set an incredible example for all to follow," Carroll said, "and we will continue to follow him all the way to the Hall of Fame."