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Rams steal Bobby Wagner from Seahawks: How it happened, what to expect

And carry off a great linebacker on a great contract

NFL: Los Angeles Rams Minicamp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Back in early March and within two weeks of Bobby Wagner’s unceremonious release from the Seattle Seahawks, the Los Angeles Rams hosted the star linebacker on a free agent visit. It only took another week or so for Les Snead to hammer out a deal bringing the SoCal native home.

Wagner and the Rams agreed to a five-year, $50 million contract with $20m of that guaranteed. Incentives, if met, could substantially raise the the guaranteed number. There is one interesting twist to the contract, according to

“If Wagner plays 90% of the snaps in 2022 and 2023 and the team makes the playoffs in both seasons or he is selected to the Pro Bowl both seasons, Wagner will have the right to void the final three years of the contract.”

Acrimonious split with Seattle

Before the 2021 season was over, the rumors in Seattle started flying. The Seahawks were going into go full-on rebuild mode and Wagner was 32 years old, played over 95% of defensive snaps in his 10-year career and was due to make $20.35 mil for the upcoming season. General Manager John Schneider and Head Coach Pete Carroll did not control the situation and handled the expulsion of a fan favorite poorly.

The question of why Seattle did not try to re-negotiate with a future first ballot Hall-of-Famer has, so far, gone unanswered. Wagner’s release did free up around $16 mil, but the Hawks were not salary cap bound by any stretch. And yes, while that kind of money can be put to good use in a rebuild, in the hole at linebacker you have to replace not an over-paid, under-achieving player but rather, a generational talent that was coming off a career high in tackles. In the end, business is business in the NFL and whispers of a lost step always follow players on the wrong side of 30, no matter their pedigree.

Bobby Wagner can afford to lose a step

Wagner compared to the top athletes in the 2012 draft, not just the linebackers, but across all positions. Although he was ill, and missed the NFL Combine, his Pro Day results were stellar. He measured in a shade over 6’ tall and 241 lbs with 9 1/2” hands and 33” arms. In the speed and the short area drills, Wagner ran a 4.46 forty, a 7.10 3cone, and a 4.28 shuttle. He showed out in the explosion drills with a 39 1/2” vertical, 11’ in the broad, and 24 reps on the bench.

The long road returning to LA

Wagner played high school linebacker and tight end in Ontario, Ca. He received second team All-State honors, All-CIF Division honors and the All- San Bernardino County team. He only received one college offer and accepted it to Utah State.

A four-year starter in college, Wagner chalked up 445 tackles, was a three-time All-League performer, and named Western Athletic Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. He was selected to the 2012 Senior Bowl and was named the games Most Valuable Player after recording 22 tackles and an interception.

The Seattle Seahawks selected Wagner in the second round at #47 of the 2012 NFL Draft. He was named as the starting middle linebacker as a rookie and held that role until his release this past March after 10 seasons.

What he brings home

  • 2010’s NFL All-Decade team
  • Six-time First Team All-Pro (2014, 2016-2020)
  • Two-time Second Team All-Pro (2015, 2021)
  • Eight-time Pro Bowl selection (2014-2021)
  • Led NFL in tackles twice (2016, 2019)
  • Super Bowl ring (2014)
  • Professional Football Writers Association Rookie of the Year (2012)
  • 1536 tackles over 166 regular season and playoff games, 9.2 per game

How it’s going so far

Wagner was active in the Rams OTAs, absorbing film of Defensive Coordinator Raheem Morris’ scheme and putting the theory to work on the field. His reputation is as a tackle machine with solid form and relentless pursuit who is also very adept at dropping into coverage, perfect for his role in LA. He’s had sacks over the years, but is not known as a blitz linebacker.

From an article on the Rams closing of OTAs, I’ll give Morris the final say on the the progress Wagner has shown since joining LA,

DC Morris understands how important Wagner’s versatility, durability, and football IQ are and said:

“...He’s really a pleasure to communicate the defense to. The why’s, the what’s, the where’s and the how’s...I could go on and on about him...It is certainly great to add a player who slows the game down for everyone around him...He’s one of those guys that can play very single down...also you want to figure out how to play (him) with Ernest (Jones) a little more. Maybe more nickel, maybe more two backer (sets).”