According to multiple reports, the Los Angeles Rams agreed to terms with free-agent linebacker Bobby Wagner on a five-year contract worth a staggering $50 million. Incentives could help Wagner’s contract reach a total of $65 million.
Wagner previously took a visit to the Baltimore Ravens, who allegedly made a valiant effort to secure his services. Wagner ultimately chose the Rams, and it’s easy to understand why on the surface. Wagner was born in Los Angeles, California and attended Colony High School in nearby Ontario. The Rams awarded Wagner with an opportunity to play for his hometown team and one that also happens to be the defending Super Bowl champions. Wagner immediately improves the Rams’ linebacker corps and represents an excellent addition for a franchise that’s fully capable of hoisting the Lombardi in back-to-back seasons.
The Rams haven’t historically prioritized the services of elite off-ball linebackers under General Manager Les Snead and Head Coach Sean McVay, but the paradigm is beginning to shift given the amount of money they’ve committed to the 31-year-old. Wagner represents a massive upgrade over Troy Reeder, who is currently an unrestricted free agent and is not expected to return to L.A. next season. Reeder was a downright defensive liability last season while earning an overall grade of 46.7 from Pro Football Focus. The Rams eventually benched Reeder in favor of the better performing Ernest Jones, who unfortunately got hurt in a Week 16 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. Reeder was then placed back into the lineup until Jones was ready to return in the postseason.
Wagner’s role in Los Angeles’ defense is rather straightforward. A dominant defensive line that includes Aaron Donald should be able to help keep Wagner’s pads clean, allowing Wagner to key in on diagnosing plays and eliminating the middle of the field.
Rams Defensive Coordinator Raheem Morris spent the majority of the 2021 campaign utilizing just one middle linebacker in nickel package formations on the majority of the team’s defensive snaps in an effort to get more defensive backs and speed on the field, with the second linebacker typically playing in sub-package looks. It wasn’t rare for Reeder to play 90-plus-percent of defensive snaps on a weekly basis. Wagner is expected to overtake Reeder’s workhorse role while Jones serves as the team’s second linebacker. Jones was terrific in the postseason and has certainly earned more playing time next season. The discrepancy shouldn’t be as large as it was in 2022 but Wagner will undeniably be utilized as Los Angeles’ most trustworthy ‘backer moving forward.
An eight-time Pro Bowler, six-time first-team All-Pro, Super Bowl champion and member of the NFL’s 2010s All-Decade Team, Wagner was released from his contract with the Seahawks in early March in a move that saved Seattle a whopping $16.6 million against the salary cap. Wagner’s release occurred just one day after the Seahawks traded away franchise quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos. Both roster moves essentially confirmed the Seahawks are embracing a rebuilding period. Wagner will now play against his former Seahawks squad twice annually seeing that he remains in the NFC West.
The apparent cash-strapped Rams have done incredible work this offseason. Snead and McVay have constructed a roster that will contend for another Super Bowl in 2022, despite losing some key contributors such as Von Miller, Austin Corbett, Robert Woods, Darious Williams and Sebastian-Joseph Day. It was an inevitable outcome given the amount of star power they possessed on expiring contracts. The signing of wide receiver Allen Robinson does however all but guarantee Los Angeles’ offense will be an effective unit for the second consecutive season.
The addition of Wagner helps shore things up on the defensive side of the ball and Wagner now has an excellent chance to win his second Super Bowl title as a member of his hometown Rams in 2022.
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