The offseason just keeps getting better and better. The Los Angeles Rams signed All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner to a five-year, $50 million contract, worth up to $65 million with incentives, per former Seattle Seahawks teammate Richard Sherman.
After the Dallas Cowboys decided against reuniting Wagner with Dan Quinn — his former defensive coordinator during the Legion of Boom era — and pairing him with a potential generational talent in Micah Parsons, the primary suitors for the future Hall of Famer were whittled down to two teams.
Wagner ended up choosing the Rams over the Baltimore Ravens, where he will play in front of his hometown crowd in Los Angeles. There are a multitude of reasons to love the partnership between the Rams and Wagner. Here are four of my favorites.
The best mentor for Ernest Jones
There isn’t a better pro for Jones to learn from than Wagner, who has been one of the best middle linebackers in the league since he was selected in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft.
Always valuable to add one of the Top 5 tacklers in NFL last season (third w/ 170 total) & overall (1,383 total most among active players), but one of the biggest reasons I love the Bobby Wagner addition is the mentorship value to an ascending talent in Ernest Jones.
— Stu Jackson (@StuJRams) March 31, 2022
They are similar in size and play style, with Jones taking immense pride in being a tackling machine from the middle linebacker position. Wagner will only add fuel to that fire, hopefully giving Jones a trick or two to add to his toolbox from him. He is the active leader in tackles, bringing down opposing ball carriers 1,383 times during his illustrious career.
Possesses an intimate knowledge of the NFC West
The eight-time Pro Bowler has spent his entire career in the NFC West. His familiarity with him within the division cannot be understated, especially when it comes to LA’s biggest nemesis.
It’s no secret that the Rams have struggled with the San Francisco 49ers, losing six in a row until finally defeating them in the NFC Championship. Wagner has never had an issue with the 49ers. The Seahawks have been victorious over the rival Bay Area 17 out of the last 20 contests. Wagner’s physicality and thorough understanding of their scheme and tendencies may be the key in Los Angeles starting a streak of their own against San Francisco.
The Rams already had the Seahawks’ number. I do not believe Wagner will pull an Eric Weddle and decide against divulging his former team’s secrets from him; remove the opposite. I think he’s going to stick it to his old club, especially with the Seahawks somehow failing to inform him directly that they will be releasing him.
Crazy part about all this. I played there for 10 years & I didn’t even hear it from them that I wasn’t coming back.
— Bobby Wagner (@Bwagz) March 11, 2022
Improves run defense immediately
The former four-year starter at Utah State will be a threat all over the field, as he remains a true three-down linebacker. He can still play well in coverage, but his biggest impact on the Rams’ defense will likely be helping against the run.
To be clear, LA was not bad against the run in 2021. The Super Bowl champions actually did well stuffing teams on the ground, limiting opponents to 95 yards rushing per game including the playoffs, according to teamrankings.com. Inserting Wagner into the middle of the defense behind Aaron Donald, Greg Gaines, and A’Shawn Robinson is likely to lower that average even more.
Creates a chance for an elite defense
Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris now has a future Hall of Famer at each level on defense in Donald, Wagner, and Jalen Ramsey. And to be clear, all are still at worst top five at their respective positions. The expectation has been set.
This version of the LA defense will likely look a bit different than previous years. While Von Miller was a monster off the edge, Wagner’s addition makes the defense much more stout up the middle.
Rich Eisen of the NFL Network and The Rich Eisen Show had an interesting quote about how the Rams have a gift in adapting their schemes based on the personnel of the roster.
“Let’s say they figure out how to scheme fit him. Let’s just say they figure it out, because the Rams have shown many things that they’re good at. Figuring it out, they’re one of the greatest figure it out people of all time.”
Figuring it out will be much easier with such elite talent.