Bobby Wagner

NFC West Rumors: Wagner, Walker, Eskridge, Lenoir

Seattle made headlines earlier this year when they made the decision to release career-Seahawk Bobby Wagner. The 32-year-old linebacker may have seen the writing on the wall after the team traded away quarterback Russell Wilson, but, according to Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times, Wagner didn’t want to leave Seattle.

The Seahawks released their star linebacker in order to avoid his $20.35MM cap hit in the 2022 NFL season. Wagner understood that but, reportedly, wanted to stick around. The sting of having to leave his home of the last ten years was softened a bit by two factors: the unfortunate way that the franchise handled the news and the eventual conclusion that he would return to his old home of California.

Wagner claimed he heard the news from “so many other people” and had to reach out to head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider to confirm. Carroll and Schneider have since admitted that they regret the way the news was handled.

On returning home, Wagner said, “I didn’t want to leave Seattle. But if I was going to leave Seattle, home was the next-best thing for me and so being able to be home, like I’m at peace with the situation.”

Here are a few other rumors from around the NFC West, starting with a couple out of Wagner’s former home in Washington:

  • Seattle utilized a second-round pick to bring in one of the draft’s top running back prospects, Kenneth Walker III, and they don’t intend to let that use of draft capital sit on the bench. For a number of reasons, Walker figures to factor heavily into the Seahawks’ running backs rotation in 2022, according to ESPN’s Brady Henderson. With Wilson’s departure, and the lack of a star quarterback to step in for him, Seattle will likely rely a little more heavily on the run game. If incumbent starter Chris Carson‘s health keeps him from returning to the field (or even the roster), the team will have to lean on Rashaad Penny. Penny has missed time with injury, too, though, and, whether Penny “misses more times and/or…the Seahawks manage his touches to prevent overwork,” Walker should benefit from increased opportunities to contribute.
  • The Seahawks are set to return their top-three receivers from last year in Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, and Freddie Swain. According to Henderson, though, second-year receiver D’Wayne Eskridge could be the X-factor in Seattle’s receivers room next season. The former second-round pick has had a slow start to his career due to a number of injuries. His rookie season was marred by a toe injury and concussion, and Carroll has opined about time he missed this offseason with hamstring issues. If Eskridge can get healthy and show the talent that made him a second-round pick, he can combine with Lockett and Metcalf to provide a strong receiving corps for quarterbacks Drew Lock and Geno Smith.
  • We’ve talked a couple of times now about the 49ers’ position battle at nickel cornerback. Multiple sources have pinned Darqueze Dennard against rookie fifth-round pick Samuel Womack for the starting job with the possibility that starting outside corner Emmanuel Moseley may slide inside on nickel-formations if Dennard or Womack fail to seize the role. Someone we haven’t mentioned, though, who can’t be ruled out, is last year’s fifth-round pick Deommodore Lenoir, according to Cam Inman of The Mercury News. When he was drafted, many viewed Lenoir as the “heir apparent” to K’Waun Williams, who left for Denver in free agency this offseason, creating the vacant nickel position up for grabs now. Currently, Dennard, Womack, or Moseley are still the favorites to win the job, but Lenoir still has the potential to swoop in and take the crown he was drafted to grow into.

Latest On Bobby Wagner’s Free Agency Decision

Bobby Wagner‘s Rams contract initially came in at five years and $50MM, but like most NFL deals, the actual numbers are more team-friendly. The deal is closer to a two-year, $17.5MM pact, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

The Ravens came in with a better two-year offer, per Rapoport, who notes Baltimore sent Wagner a two-year, $18MM proposal (Twitter link). Baltimore stepped up for Wagner, with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (on Twitter) adding the $18MM offered was fully guaranteed. Incentives included in Wagner’s deal, and the future Hall of Fame linebacker’s desire to return home to Los Angeles, led to the Rams winning out. Wagner visited both the Rams and Ravens.

Los Angeles included $10MM fully guaranteed, with $3.5MM of that coming in 2023, Florio notes. Wagner will see that $3.5MM fully guaranteed Friday; the rest of his $11MM 2023 salary is nonguaranteed. Wagner being on the Rams’ roster by Day 5 of the 2023 league year will guarantee him a 2024 roster bonus worth $2.5MM, per Florio, who provides more clarity on the incentives that helped push Wagner to L.A. Wagner and the Rams appear to have agreed on names for said incentives, one of which can void the deal’s final three seasons.

The Agent Wagz Wally’s Wage Incentive can net the self-represented linebacker up to $2MM per year in incentives geared around playing time and achievements. The Wage Wagz’s Colony Coin Incentive (these are apparently very real) would pay out $1MM per year if Wagner is named a first-team All-Pro. Wagner’s six first-team All-Pro honors trail only Ray Lewis and Mike Singletary (seven apiece) among post-merger off-ball linebackers, but he did not earn such acclaim in 2021. The void incentive — officially the Agent Wagz Archibald Ranch Au Revoir Void — would allow Wagner to scrap the 2024-26 years if he plays 90% of the team’s defensive snaps and the Rams make the playoffs each year, Florio adds. With Wagner set to turn 34 during the 2024 season, which is the first of the contract’s three nonguaranteed years, the third incentive might not affect the Rams much.

Baltimore signed Marcus Williams to a five-year, $70MM deal and is looking for defensive line help. Wagner, 31, would have provided a boost on the Ravens’ defensive second level, but L.A. native will team with Ernest Jones with the Rams instead. Although Wagner expressed dissatisfaction with the Seahawks on the way out, he said it did not play into his decision to sign with an NFC West team.

A lot of people think that it went into my decision, being able to play the Seahawks,” Wagner said, via the Associated Press’ Greg Beacham (on Twitter). “I don’t have that much hate in my heart. I really wanted to be happy, and I wanted to be close to home and stay on the West Coast. That was important to me. But playing the Seahawks twice a year was a cherry on top. I’ll make sure I’ll tell them. It won’t be a quiet game for me.”

Ravens Notes: Wagner, Dobbins, Edwards

The Ravens tried to sign LB Bobby Wagner, the former Seahawks star who was released by Seattle last month. On March 28, we heard that Baltimore had submitted an offer that it believed was “very competitive” vis-à-vis the proposal that Wagner received from the Rams, and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported yesterday that the Ravens had offered a two-year, $18MM contract.

At first blush, that looks to be a far cry from the five-year, $50MM deal Wagner ultimately signed with Los Angeles. But we are still awaiting details on the structure of that agreement, and Florio hears that Wagner will get paid $17MM over the first two years of the deal, with “small guarantees” in the second year. If that’s the case, then the Ravens’ offer — the structure of which is also unknown — may well have been as competitive as the team thought. Perhaps Wagner, an LA native, simply wanted to stay home and play for the defending champions.

Baltimore, meanwhile, has now had near misses with Wagner and Za’Darius Smith in recent weeks, leaving the club with plenty of work still to do in the front seven.

Now for several more items out of Charm City:

  • The Ravens’ 2021 fortunes were severely undermined by injury, including season-ending ACL tears suffered by running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards before Week 1. Head coach John Harbaugh recently told reporters, including Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic, that both players are making progress, but that they will likely start this year’s training camp on the active/PUP list (Twitter link). Given how important Dobbins and Edwards are to Baltimore’s run-oriented attack, it makes sense that the team would play it safe with the top two members of its RB depth chart.
  • The Ravens have hired Kerry Dixon as their assistant quarterbacks coach, per a team announcement. This will be Dixon’s first NFL gig. The former Baylor and Hampton quarterback spent the past 15 seasons as a collegiate assistant, and he served as Georgia Tech’s wide receivers coach from 2019-21. He will team with James Urban to get the most out of star passer Lamar Jackson, whose contract status remains one of the biggest storylines in Baltimore.
  • Even if Smith had followed through on his commitment to the Ravens, Baltimore may have been eyeing an edge rusher with its first-round pick (No. 14 overall) in this year’s draft. With Smith out of the picture, GM Eric DeCosta may be even more inclined to enhance his pass rush, and polarizing prospect Kayvon Thibodeaux is on the team’s radar.
  • Harbaugh, now the third-longest-tenured HC in the league, recently signed an extension that will keep him on the Ravens’ sidelines through the 2025 season.

Rams To Sign LB Bobby Wagner

Bobby Wagner has made his decision, and the Rams will add another future Hall of Famer to their defense. The longtime Seahawks star is headed to Los Angeles on a five-year deal, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

After visiting the Rams last week, Wagner will sign a deal worth $50MM. The contract can pay the 10-year veteran up to $65MM. Wagner visited both the Rams and Ravens but will stay in the NFC West to join the Super Bowl champions’ Aaron Donald– and Jalen Ramsey-led defense. Ex-Wagner teammate Richard Sherman was the first to report the news (on Twitter).

Since signing Donald to an extension in 2018, the Rams have not spent much on the off-ball linebacker position. But they were connected to Wagner immediately after his mid-March Seahawks release. While the Ravens made what they believed to be a competitive offer, the Rams ended up handing out an eight-figure-per-year deal to a non-pass-rushing ‘backer. As a result, they now have two six-time All-Pros on defense, with Wagner and Donald combining for 13 such honors. No active NFLers match either’s All-Pro count.

This amounts to a homecoming for Wagner, who is an L.A. native. The Seahawks drafted Wagner in the second round out of Utah State, on the same day they acquired Russell Wilson, and plugged him in at middle linebacker. Although the Legion of Boom received the most attention on the Seahawks’ Super Bowl defenses, Wagner began his Canton-caliber ascent for those teams. His 2014 return from injury catalyzed Seattle’s run back to the Super Bowl and earned him his initial All-Pro honor. Wagner’s six first-team All-Pro selections, among pure off-ball linebackers, rank behind only Mike Singletary and Ray Lewis (seven apiece) since the AFL-NFL merger.

Wagner, 31, will join 2021 third-round pick Ernest Jones as the Rams’ top second-level defenders. The Rams were prepared to pay Von Miller around $15MM annually. Miller signing with the Bills freed up some money, and Matthew Stafford not venturing into the Aaron Rodgers/Deshaun Watson contract realm did as well. And, as the Rams have done in recent offseasons, they subtracted role players (Darious Williams, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Corbett) in exchange for bigger names (Wagner, Allen Robinson) in free agency.

While the Seahawks felt comfortable parting ways with their defensive anchor, Wagner made a career-high 170 tackles last season, doing so despite missing a game. Wagner has compiled 23.5 sacks and 68 tackles for loss over the course of his career, adding 11 interceptions as well. The Seahawks gave Wagner two extensions — in 2015 and ’19. Wagner’s Rams deal runs closer to the 2015 extension, a four-year, $43MM pact that topped the linebacker market at the time.

Cowboys Not Pursuing Bobby Wagner

Conflicting reports surfaced on the Cowboys’ interest in reuniting Dan Quinn and Bobby Wagner. Executive VP Stephen Jones effectively cut off the Wagner-Cowboys connection Tuesday.

Despite Wagner remaining a free agent, Jones said the future Hall of Fame linebacker is not a Cowboys target. The 10-year Seahawk has been connected to several teams this offseason, with the Rams and Ravens being the two leaders at this point.

Obviously Dan’s had a history with Bobby and knows him well [so] you look into it,” Jones said of a Wagner pursuit, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Clarence Hill (on Twitter). “He’s a great, great football player, Hall of Fame-type player. But as it turned out, it didn’t work out with us.”

Even as the Cowboys looked into Wagner, the price point never appeared to make sense for the team. The Cowboys made Amari Cooper a salary dump in a trade and made La’el Collins a cap casualty. The Cowboys have $15MM-plus in cap space, but they never appeared a serious Wagner suitor. Quinn coached Wagner for two seasons in Seattle, but they last worked together in 2014. In the time since the Cowboys were connected to Wagner, they re-signed Leighton Vander Esch to a one-year deal worth just $2MM.

The Rams and Ravens have hosted Wagner on visits, with the Ravens believing they have submitted a strong offer to the eight-time Pro Bowler.

Ravens Submit Offer To LB Bobby Wagner

MARCH 28: The Ravens have made an offer for Wagner, one Josina Anderson of USA Today notes the team believes is “very competitive” (Twitter link) compared to the Rams’ effort. Baltimore is pitching Wagner on being a key cog for a defense already housing notable veterans, a group that now includes Marcus Williams.

MARCH 25: Bobby Wagner continues to survey an active market. After his Rams visit, the future Hall of Fame linebacker trekked to Baltimore for a Ravens meeting Friday, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter).

The Ravens possess “high interest” in Wagner, per Fowler. Wagner has been connected to mostly NFC teams thus far. The Rams, 49ers, Cardinals, Broncos and Cowboys have been linked to the 10-year veteran, though Dallas — despite Wagner and Dan Quinn‘s offseason conversations — is not expected to be a top player here. The Broncos have been mentioned as a suitor as well, with Russell Wilson attempting to recruit his longtime teammate.

Baltimore and Los Angeles reside next to one another in terms of cap space, with the Ravens holding just more than $10MM and the Rams sitting at barely $8MM. Neither team has a notable veteran off-ball linebacker contract on its books. Josh Bynes, a 12-game Baltimore starter last season, is a free agent. The Rams are not big on veteran inside linebacker contracts, given their big-ticket deals at higher-priority positions, but Wagner’s pedigree has GM Les Snead considering an exception.

Wagner, 31, has made the past eight Pro Bowls and is one of the few six-time All-Pros in linebacker annals. He is one shy of Raven cornerstone Ray Lewis‘ seven, though Wagner reached six quicker than the first-ballot Hall of Famer did. The Seahawks made him a cap casualty hours after trading Wilson, severing ties with the franchise’s Super Bowl cornerstones. Despite missing a game, Wagner recorded a career-high 170 tackles last season. The longtime Seattle middle ‘backer has missed just three games in the past seven seasons.

The Ravens devoted a sizable chunk of their offseason funds to Marcus Williams, who signed a five-year deal worth $70MM, and are targeting defensive linemen. But gauging Wagner’s market certainly is not out of character here. The Ravens have not been shy about acquiring proven veteran defenders under Eric DeCosta, having added 30-something Pro Bowlers in Calais Campbell and Justin Houston in recent years and signed ex-Wagner teammate Earl Thomas.

LB Bobby Wagner Visiting Rams

The Super Bowl champs are eyeing one of the best remaining free agents. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that linebacker Bobby Wagner is visiting with the Rams. There is “mutual interest” in a deal.

It was only yesterday that GM Les Snead admitted that the Rams “talked about” adding the veteran linebacker, and the executive met with his defensive coaching staff to determine if Wagner was a fit. That wasn’t the first time we’ve heard the Rams connected to Wagner; all of the NFC West teams were mentioned as suitors after the linebacker was let go by the Seahawks. The Broncos and Cowboys have also been connected to the 31-year-old.

Wagner started all three playoff games during the Seahawks Super Bowl-winning 2013 campaign, and he then proceeded to go on an eight-year run of Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections. During that stretch, Wagner averaged 145 tackles per season, and he left the organization as the Seahawks’ all-time leader in tackles. The 31-year-old was still productive in 2021, compiling a career-high 170 tackles to go along with three tackles for loss and three QB hits.

Wagner would be a huge get for a Rams defense that recently lost a pass rusher in Von Miller. Wagner wouldn’t necessarily play the same role, but he’d surely provide an upgrade over Ernest Jones, Travin Howard, and Christian Rozeboom at inside linebacker.

Latest On LB Bobby Wagner

Bobby Wagner still hasn’t found a new home, but we’re learning some details about his suitors’ pursuits. Rams GM Les Snead admitted that the Rams “talked about” adding the veteran linebacker (via Michael J. Duarte on Twitter). The GM even met with the defensive coaching staff to break down tape and determine if Wagner would be a fit.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard the Rams connected to Wagner; all of the NFC West teams were mentioned as suitors after the linebacker was let go by the Seahawks. The Broncos and Cowboys have also been connected to the 31-year-old.

Speaking of the Cowboys, Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News reports (on Twitter) that “no momentum exists” between Wagner and Dallas. Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is familiar with Wagner dating back from their days in Seattle, and according to Gehlken, the coach has been in contact with the player, who is serving as his own agent. While there is a “strong relationship” between the two, the reporter says a deal was considered “unlikely” and a “long shot” from the start.

Wagner started all three playoff games during the Seahawks Super Bowl-winning 2013 campaign, and he then proceeded to go on an eight-year run of Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections. During that stretch, Wagner averaged 145 tackles per season, and he left the organization as the Seahawks’ all-time leader in tackles. The 31-year-old was still productive in 2021, compiling a career-high 170 tackles to go along with three tackles for loss and three QB hits.

Inside Linebacker Market

There are many inside linebackers waiting patiently on the open market. A wild first week of free agency has come and gone with other positions seeing record deals and big names moving. The market for inside linebackers, however, has been quiet and less than lucrative.

In years past, we’ve seen monster deals to players like C.J. Mosley, whose contract has an average annual value of $17MM and guaranteed him $43MM at signing, and Darius Leonard, whose contract has an average annual value of $19.7MM and guaranteed him $33MM at signing. The largest payout we’ve seen this offseason to an inside linebacker was when the Packers kept De’Vondre Campbell from entering free agency with a five-year, $50MM deal, with a guaranteed $15MM. It’s certainly an impressive deal, and one the esteemed linebacker deserves, but no other deals have come close.

After being cut by the Jaguars, Myles Jack signed a two-year, $16MM deal to become a Steeler. Josey Jewell remained with the Broncos after signing a two-year, $11MM deal. Minnesota’s new inside linebacker, Jordan Hicks, joined the Vikings on a two-year, $10MM contract. Christian Kirksey signed a similar deal to remain with the Texans. We’ve seen a few other small deals like Zaire Franklin signing a three-year, $10MM deal to remain in Indianapolis and Alex Anzalone signing a one-year, $2.25MM contract to play another year with the Lions.

While that may sound pretty active, there are many big names who have yet to find deals. The biggest of these names is Bobby Wagner. Cut after ten outstanding years in Seattle, Wagner was expected to be a highly sought after free agent. While there have been many teams who’ve voiced interest in the eight-time All-Pro, there has been no word of negotiations. Any deal Wagner signs will likely top the numbers posed by Campbell and the Packers, but the fact that he has yet to find a home may hint at the fact that the money he’s looking for isn’t being offered.

There are many other impact names on the open market: Kwon Alexander, Jayon Brown, Jarrad Davis, Dont’a Hightower, Anthony Hitchens, Nick Kwiatkoski, Reggie Ragland, Joe Schobert, and Danny Trevathan.

Due to the low spending we’ve seen thus far and the plethora of names available, these players will likely have to search for the right fit and accept a decent deal if offered. They may end up having to wait until injuries provide an opportunity for them to fill in on a roster. The exception, of course, is Wagner, who can afford to be patient. Wagner will have the luxury of being able to wait and see how rosters form throughout the league, biding his time until he’s sure he’s joining a contender. Look for the others to give up on looking for a lucrative payday and settle for decent deals from teams with schemes they like.

Broncos Interested In Bobby Wagner?

Linked to every non-Seahawks NFC West franchise, Bobby Wagner appears to have heard from their other future Hall of Fame 2012 draftee. Russell Wilson is attempting to recruit Wagner to Denver, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets.

Wilson is not officially a member of the Broncos yet, with trades not yet official until Wednesday’s start of the 2022 league year, but he is getting an early start as the face of the franchise. Wilson and Wagner played together in Seattle for 10 seasons. Each departed on the same day, with the Seahawks trading Wilson and making Wagner a cap casualty.

Wagner still has seen extensive interest come his way, per Fowler. The Cardinals, Rams and 49ers are believed to be interested, though the Cowboys — who employ ex-Seahawks DC Dan Quinn as their defensive play-caller — do not appear to be a serious suitor. The Broncos have a need at inside linebacker, with both Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell in free agency. But they have needs at premium positions — such as edge rusher and right tackle — as well.

A six-time All-Pro, Wagner has made the past eight Pro Bowls and would certainly help a Broncos defense that has seen several starters either traded (Shelby Harris) or hit free agency (Johnson, Jewell, Kareem Jackson, Bryce Callahan). Denver has also used a 3-4 defense for the past seven seasons, though with sub-packages more common than base sets, the veteran middle linebacker moving from Seattle’s 4-3 scheme to a different front-seven setup likely would not be much of an issue.