As the magic dust from the Rams’ first Super Bowl championship in Los Angeles lingers over the city, there have been significant changes to the roster of one of the team’s biggest rivals over the last decade.
In a stroke of good fortune, the Rams actually acquired a longtime standout player from one of their familiar opponents, which instantaneously moved their NFL odds.
First, the Seahawks traded away Russell Wilson, who may be glad to get away from the Rams, the one team that gave him the most trouble in the division. When they also released six-time first-team All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner, it was the official end of the most successful era in Seahawks franchise history.
It also opened the door to a homecoming, as Wagner signed a five-year contract to join the Rams at the end of March.
Bobby Wagner: Back Where He Belongs, as a Winner
Still Playing at an All-Pro Level
Wagner, who grew up in Ontario, California, starred at Colony High School before he went to Utah State University and went on to a stellar career with the Seahawks. Rams fans became very familiar with Wagner as the tenacious and calculating middle linebacker on one of the greatest defensive units of the modern era.
Wagner was both a terrific run stopper and coverage demon who was a centerpiece of the Seahawks defense that won Super Bowl XLVIII. He was drafted the same year as Wilson in 2012 and was considered the quarterback of Seattle’s front seven.
Eventually, Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” secondary dissolved, and other key players from the front seven moved on. By the 2021 season, Wagner and Wilson were the only players remaining from the team’s Super Bowl-winning roster. But Wagner’s play certainly did not fall off in any significant way.
Wagner finished with a career-high 170 combined tackles in 2021, which were three more than when he led the league for the first time in 2016. His Pro Football Focus Grade of 71.6 ranked 10th in the NFL. Wagner will be 32 years old when the new season starts, yet he certainly does have at least another top-notch season or two in him.
The Rams did lose Von Miller, but adding Wagner was a trade-off in terms of losing an outstanding pass rusher for a pillar of stability in the middle of the defense. Wagner now becomes an unquestioned crux of the linebacking corps, ensuring a high-quality approach from a strategic standpoint. Miller was a great addition to a team that already had a formidable pass rush yet now becomes stronger with a tremendous all-around player who can be a stellar “backbone” of the unit.
Having played 10 years in the NFC West only makes Wagner a bigger immediate asset to the Rams. He is very familiar with the schemes and tendencies of the 49ers and Cardinals and will instantly be a great fit to help limit those teams twice a year. Wagner will be in a familiar comfort zone going up against San Francisco and Arizona in key divisional matchups.
Of course, he also practiced against Seattle’s offense every day, and even though some of the key players will have changed, he should know many tendencies well, including those of offensive coordinator Shane Waldron. Obviously, Waldron is also a former Rams staffer, so he will certainly absorb more intel from those who worked with him on the current Los Angeles staff.
A New Beginning for Bobby Wagner in Los Angeles
Adding Wagner is almost akin to bringing in a “spy” who has worked in the same division for the last decade. It’s also a big motivator for Wagner to play close to home. He will also get the opportunity to become a very important part of a quality defensive unit after the Seahawks fell off from their best form over the past four seasons.
Wagner continued to make plays at a consistently high level even though the players and schemes changed around him in recent years, and in 2021 the Seahawks suffered their first losing season since he and Wilson were drafted in 2012.
Wagner recently told KIRO Radio that times had certainly changed for him in Seattle by his last season.
“I was looking at it at some point in the season; I believe myself, (free safety Quandre) Diggs, and (strong safety) Jamal (Adams) had the most plays in the league by a long shot. I think we had like 200 more plays than the next closest person, and that just shows we had trouble getting off the field,” he said. “I just think some of the fronts didn’t necessarily allow me to come downhill the way that I was able to come downhill earlier my career,” Wagner added.
Now he will be playing behind Aaron Donald, and Leonard Floyd will also continue to disrupt defensive fronts, freeing Wagner up more to be a frequent playmaker. He will return to being a central figure on a winning defense, and it will be a rebirth of sorts for him to not only come home but to play on a good defensive unit again.
From an intangibles perspective, Wagner is also an ideal piece. While this is certainly Aaron Donald’s team on the defensive side of the ball, Wagner has already worked well with big personalities and other stars on the Seattle defense. Wagner is a leader in terms of directing the defense as a play-caller, but he also lets his other teammates shine. He is not a loud braggart or a guy who plays to the cameras and crowds. Wagner lets his impressive levels of performance do all the talking.
After winning a Super Bowl, many teams lose important players. This time, though, the Rams gained an incredibly important new presence on their defense despite one getting away.
Acquiring Bobby Wagner was a move that certainly keeps them as a favorite to win the NFC again, rather than becoming just another champion that didn’t look quite as strong after they won it all.
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