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With the signing of Bobby Wagner, the Rams have more stars in their sights

The Rams already had two defensive players who appear to be hall of famers.

Defensive Lineman Aaron Donald is a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. A three-time All-Pro, Jalen Ramsey is changing the definition of cornerback position.

Now the Rams have added inside linebacker Bobby Wagner, a six-time All-Pro and Super Bowl champion with the Seattle Seahawks.

It’s like coach Sean McVay compiled a video game all-star list.

“Damn right,” McVay joked during a video conference call Monday, “we’re playing Madden here.”

Wagner, 31, agreed to a five-year deal with the Rams last week and signed a contract on Monday. The terms were not disclosed.

But regardless of the compensation, the Rams almost certainly broke their norm of not investing in inside linebackers financially.

After the Seahawks summarily fired Wagner on March 8 — ostensibly to save more than $16 million in salary caps — Donald and Ramsey led the recruiting effort to bring him to Los Angeles to join the defending Super Bowl champion.

“You look at it and admire it from afar,” Wagner said during a video conference about Rams culture. “You know [the Rams] are willing to do anything to win.

“But I also think you have people like that, players like this, who are all-pros themselves, who are reaching out to you and wanting to band together.”

Rams receiver Cooper Kupp grabs a pass while Seattle's Bobby Wagner (54) pursues.

Rams like Cooper Kupp no ​​longer have to keep their eyes open for Bobby Wagner (54) in the Seattle defense.

(Kevork Djansezian/Associated Press)

Donald and Ramsey said Wagner, they admired his playing, Wagner said.

“And if there was an opportunity to come to LA, I should check it out,” he said. “And I did.”

For Wagner it is a homecoming. Raised in the Inland Empire, he played at Ontario Colony High before playing at Utah State. He said he still has family in the area and that his nephew goes to Colony High.

The opportunity to play for a Super Bowl champion in front of family at SoFi Stadium and continue the community effort in his home region is too good to pass up, he said.

Under McVay, the Rams have not viewed inside linebackers as a position for large or even modest investments. But the chance to add Wagner to a defense that also includes rising sophomore centre-back Ernest Jones changed the equation.

As well as ensuring the Rams didn’t have to play the 10-year veteran again, a Pro Bowl selection in each of the last eight seasons. Wagner is expected to cement a run defense that struggled against division rivals the San Francisco 49ers.

“While that wasn’t a major emergency, there are certain players who change their approach just based on their work, their leadership, all the intangibles and the production,” McVay said. “Of course Bobby was one of those guys.”

Wagner’s resume “speaks for itself,” said general manager Les Snead.

“[ILB] are basically three letters of the alphabet,” Snead said of the acronym for inside linebacker, “but sometimes the person and the skillset that person brings to the table is bigger than those three letters of the alphabet.”

Wagner was a second-round draft pick for the Seahawks in 2012. He anchored the famous “Legion of Boom” defense that helped the Seahawks win Super Bowl XLVIII at the end of the 2013 season and nearly win Super Bowl XLIX the following season.

Wagner said he thought he would play his entire career with the Seahawks, but the Seahawks released him the same day they traded quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos.

Wagner, who is acting as his own agent, was furious that the Seahawks did not contact him to let him know he had been released. He learned the news from other sources.

“After 10 years, it could have been a simple conversation,” he said. “Even if they wanted to go in a different direction. … I have demonstrated the ability to hold difficult conversations.”

But Wagner said he has no “hate in my heart” for Seattle, the Seahawks, coach Pete Carroll or general manager John Schneider.

However, playing the Seahawks in NFC West games at least twice per season is “icing on the cake” of his decision to sign with the Rams.

“I will make sure [the Seahawks] see me every time we play them,” he said, “so they know where I am – and I’ll make sure I tell them.

“It won’t be a quiet game for me.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/rams/story/2022-04-04/rams-linebacker-bobby-wagner With the signing of Bobby Wagner, the Rams have more stars in their sights

Andrew Schnitker

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