One of the Los Angeles Rams’ big additions last offseason was bringing in star middle linebacker Bobby Wagner after he was cut by the Seattle Seahawks.
The move made sense for both sides as the Rams addressed a position of need with one of the best in the game while Wagner could play for his hometown team and the defending Super Bowl chance with an opportunity to compete.
The contract was also uniquely structured for both sides as although it was a five-year, $50 million contract, only $10 million was guaranteed.
Things obviously didn’t go as well as anyone had hoped for the Rams in 2022 with the team finishing 5-12 and missing the playoffs. Wagner still produced at a high level though with 140 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss, two interceptions and a career-high six sacks.
Wagner was the highest-graded linebacker in the league according to Pro Football Focus and was named an All-Pro for the sixth time in his 11-year career.
Even though the team results weren’t there for the Rams, they had to have been very happy with the production and leadership they got from Wagner.
That’s why it is a bit of a surprise to see the team and Wagner have mutually agreed to part ways, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN:
Rams and nine-time All-Pro LB Bobby Wagner mutually agreed Thursday to part ways, sources tells ESPN.
Rams needs more cap space and Wagner wants to win. He will now be a notable part of this year’s free-agent class. pic.twitter.com/1A3KvudOhj
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 23, 2023
Wagner was set to have a cap hit of $12.75 million in 2023 with a dead cap hit of $7.5 million, so the Rams will be saving $5.25 million with this move.
That may seem insignificant, but it can go a long way for a team that is over the cap looking to clear some space ahead of free agency.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this report is that it says part of the reason that Wagner asked out is his desire to win. Even though the Rams went 5-12 last season, they still have a number of their core pieces from the Super Bowl team in place for 2023.
With Sean McVay, Aaron Donald and Matthew Stafford all returning in 2023, the expectation is that the Rams will continue to try to compete in a weak NFC. Wagner obviously feels differently though and now will hit the free-agent market once again next month.
As far as the middle linebacker position goes for the Rams, Ernest Jones will now lead a very young and inexperienced group that may include Travin Howard and Christian Rozeboom. L.A. could also address their lack of depth in the draft or free agency, although finding a player of Wagner’s caliber will be nearly impossible.