The Los Angeles Rams added a major piece to their defense last week when they signed former Seattle Seahawks All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner to a five-year, $50 million contract.
Wagner was a surprising addition to the free-agent market after the Seahawks suddenly released him in March. He immediately drew interest from several teams, including the Rams, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens.
The veteran took visits with the Rams and Ravens before making his decision. While the Ravens are believed to have offered him a higher average annual salary, the eight-time Pro Bowler ultimately chose to remain in the NFC West.
Wagner, who was born and raised in the L.A. area, revealed that getting a chance to return home was a big factor in his decision to sign with the Rams, via Stu Jackson of TheRams.com:
“Feels great to be back home,” Wagner told theRams.com after arriving at the team’s facility on Monday. “I was just telling my dad, I hadn’t played in this situation since high school, being able to be in front of my family and friends consistently. So it’s fun. Obviously, the weather is a lot different in Seattle, so I’m looking forward to that.”
In addition to playing closer to his hometown, Wagner credited the Rams players and coaches for making him feel wanted during the recruiting process:
“I just think the love that I got from the coaches and the players,” Wagner said, when asked what the deciding factor was in picking the Rams. “As soon as I got released, I had pretty much a lot of the players reach out to me and talk about playing together. And I just started to fall in love with idea.”
Two of those players, Wagner told reporters in his introductory press conference Monday afternoon, included All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald and All-Pro defensive back Jalen Ramsey.
Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey are widely considered to be the best players at their respective positions, so it isn’t surprising they pushed hard for the Rams to add another elite talent like Wagner to the defense.
The 31-year-old accumulated a career-high 170 combined tackles in 16 games for the Seahawks this past season. Inside linebacker historically has been a weak position for the Rams, so Wagner should immediately come in and become a difference-maker on that side of the football.