Bobby Wagner Watch is OVER! After many starts and stops, rumors, fake accounts, and a lot of angst, Bobby Wagner is a Ram. The Los Angeles Rams have locked up the former Seahawk with a 5-year $50 million deal that could be worth $65 million. That might seem like a lot for a 32-year old linebacker who isn’t a dominant pass rusher but for the Rams, it’s money well spent.
Before breaking down why Wagner and the Rams’ defense will be like lamb and tuna fish (perhaps you prefer spaghetti and meatballs), let’s dispel the notion that the Rams are screwing themselves by nuking their cap space. Everyone knows that the salary cap is a fugazi and a bigger myth than Hercules or The Academy’s embrace of “The Power of the Dog”.
Furthermore, the idea that he’ll be there at the age of 37 is laughable as the big money is likely only for the first three years, so the Rams will have an out before the full life of the deal is lived because that’s the way NFL contracts work.
Moving on, Bobby Wagner is not only the best inside linebacker the Rams have had since London Fletcher, he solves the biggest defensive issue they’ve had since God knows when.
The Rams’ defense under Raheem Morris was maligned for most of the year (he got fired in the first quarter every week) and the big issue was stopping runs up the middle. This of course was no more evident than in the Niners games where Kyle Shanahan was content to run all over the defense like Hulkamania.
They struggled to develop an in-house inside linebacker until Ernest Jones this past season (more on him in a minute). They ranked 25th in rush defense and now they have a guy who is one of the best tacklers in the league. Wagner had 93 solo tackles and a total of 170 last season. Pairing him with Jones who emerged as an incredible defender in his rookie year should immediately elevate the run defense and fix a major defensive flaw.
Furthermore, having both of them line up behind Aaron Donald, Greg Gaines, and A’Shawn Robinson gives the Rams one of the best front sevens in the league. He’s also adept in pass coverage and has 11 interceptions and 60 pass deflections in his career. That’s been a missing aspect of the Rams’ defense as well, so Wagner can solve two major issues at once.
When Wagner was openly pursued by Sean McVay (he’d get eaten alive by Teddy KGB), some wondered why the Rams would want Wagner given he’s not a replacement for Von Miller. This is true. Wagner isn’t known for collecting sacks like Dianne Warren collects Oscar nominations, but that’s okay. They felt that after settling for the likes of Troy Reeder and Micah Kiser it was time for Les Snead to bring in a ringer.
The Rams weren’t going to replace Von but they still have Leonard Floyd on one side and can use a rotation of Justin Hollins, Terrell Lewis, Chris Garrett, and perhaps someone else the Rams draft or acquire at the deadline. Not to mention that Ernest Jones can get to the quarterback as evidenced in the Super Bowl.
The other reason Wagner wasn’t seen as a necessity is that it means the Rams can’t sign Stephon Gilmore and the Rams will have to dedicate draft picks to finding more capable corners to pair with Jalen Ramsey.
The reason that the Rams’ defense neglected inside linebacker for so many years is that they use a DB heavy system and now they have to find a young corner to pair with Ramsey, so Wagner allows for a slight schematic change while they rebuild their corner room and won’t have to rely so much on using their safeties as run-stoppers.
It’s insane to think the Rams now have three All-Pros on their defense and one at each level. Donald, Ramsey, and now Wagner. They get a guy who will make it a point to embarrass Seattle twice a year (a nice bonus) and can help shut down the Niners’ vaunted run attack. He is also someone that can help fill the Von void as a locker room leader. He’s a Super Bowl champion and the reason he was deciding between Baltimore and his native LA is that he wants to play for a winner.
Seattle squandered some of Wagner’s prime and now he’s motivated to win another title after over a decade since his last title and a little over a decade since his last Super Bowl appearance.
The Rams are clearly trying to maximize their five-year window with Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Allen Robinson and an eight-time All-Pro linebacker in Bobby Wagner isn’t a bad way to do that. With forthcoming extensions for Donald, McVay, Snead, and Cooper Kupp next up, the Rams are proving that they’re ready to “RUN IT BACK” for years to come.