The Los Angeles Rams had shuffled through so many inside linebacker options over Sean McVay’s tenure, it’s still a little surprising that they finally spent some money there this year. After letting Cory Littleton walk in 2020, then holding competitions between the likes of Troy Reeder, Kenny Young, Travin Howard, and Justin Hollins, the Rams decided enough was enough when a future Hall of Famer presented himself as an option recently.
And this one should be in better condition than Clay Matthews.
2022 L.A. Rams Inside Linebackers
Here: Bobby Wagner
Not here: Troy Reeder
Bobby Wagner - 6’, 242 lbs, born 6/27/1990
Contract: 5-year, $50 million contract (1-year, $10m or 2-year, $20m is more accurate)
After 10 years of playing with their NFC West rivals, Bobby Wagner was released by the Seahawks and signed to play at least a year or two with his hometown Rams. Last season was the first time since 2015 that Wagner wasn’t first-team All-Pro, but the best endorsement of his current abilities is the interest that he received on the market and the $10 million fully guaranteed at signing.
Wagner registered a career-high 170 tackles last year. He should provide greater range in coverage and much better tackling than Troy Reeder (Pro-Football-Reference puts Reeder around 15-percent missed tackles the last three years, compared to 6-percent for Wagner) while bringing the type of veteran leadership that only comes with a decade of high-level experience.
Ernest Jones - 6’2, 230 lbs, born 11/22/1999
Contract: Third round pick in 2021, signed through 2024
Jones was in on most special teams snaps, but few defensive snaps, over the first seven weeks of last season. Then he started against the Texans in Week 8 and he saw a lot of time on defense, no time on special teams for the rest of the season. Jones missed Weeks 17, 18 and two playoff games with an ankle injury.
He played 57 snaps in the Super Bowl, totaling seven tackles, three QB hits, two tackles for a loss, one sack, and one pass defensed.
It’s going to be interesting to see him develop for a year or two next to Wagner.
Travin Howard - 6’1, 219 lbs, born 5/10/1996
Contract: Howard signed his restricted free agent tender
The Rams get one more year to take a look at Howard. The 2018 seventh round pick missed all of his rookie campaign and all of 2020. He played in 102 snaps in 2019 and 101 snaps in 2021. He’s one of L.A.’s main role players on special teams.
I noted earlier in the offseason that it would be surprising if the Rams only expected to bring Jones, Howard, and Rozeboom into training camp without a significant addition. Then Wagner signed. That makes the most sense, because Howard is great depth to have at inside linebacker but not a safe bet as a starter.
Also: Christian Rozeboom
Is it a need in the draft? No way
Nothing more than adding an undrafted free agent or two should be necessary.