When the Ravens released safety Eric Weddle last week, it came as a surprise to some throughout the league. But not necessarily those at the Rams building in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
"[I]t was probably before Eric was actually released, I remember reading one article that he might be, let's call it — we usually call it in our world a 'cap casualty,' or something like that," general manager Les Snead said on Tuesday. "So I do know that at that moment, our scouting staff, we were able to go, 'OK, let's just prepare for that.' But you're never sure. And, again, the caliber of player he is speaks for itself. But when you do read a little nugget, you prepare and [get] ready to act if something like that occurs."
So once Weddle was actually on the open market, Los Angeles was more than prepared to respond.
The 34-year-old safety told the media in the Tuesday press conference that the Rams were his No. 1 destination as he began his foray into free agency. But initially, his plan was to actually visit L.A. last instead of first.
"And that was the game plan set kind of initially. And then it probably changed within a half hour — they came back and said, 'We want to be your first trip. Let's get him out here. We like what we've seen. Let's get him in the building,'" Weddle said. "And that kind of changed the dynamic of the teams I was scheduled to visit from there on out, because with me personally, I knew what L.A. brought and how it could fit."
Having raised the urgency on both sides to get Weddle to Los Angeles, head coach Sean McVay said he and Snead had discussed the landscape of how they could put the 2019 Rams together — particularly with the club having a good chance to lose safety Lamarcus Joyner as an unrestricted free agent.
"[W]e talked about how being able to acquire Eric would then change some of the approaches that we can take as we move forward and navigate through the rest of the offseason, ultimately trying to find the most competitive roster that we can have," McVay said. "And [Snead] and I discussed some things we felt like that if it was something that he wanted to be here, we would be able to work through that. And I think it was more along the lines of us being able to communicate how did we anticipate how this would play out, and if it was something we felt good about."
"And I thought [Weddle's agent] David Cantor did a great job, too, of enabling us to kind of get a clear-cut understanding of what Eric's intentions were," McVay continued, "so then that enabled us to be more aggressive in saying, 'Why don't we get him here? If it's something that this is where he wants to be, we think we can get it worked out.' And like Eric said, it was a mutual appreciation that I think myself and our coaching staff had for Eric."
As McVay alluded to, he and Weddle — along with the rest of the coaching staff — hit it off right away.
"Sean and I probably talked four or five hours over Thursday and Friday [about] just everything — football, life, people, players, scheme," Weddle said, noting just how similar he and McVay were in terms of personality. "And it was great to see the guy behind the guy. We just see him on TV or in interviews, but to actually get to know him on a personal level was impressive. And to see his confidence but also his humility in the same sense is hard to find in people."
"I think for us, when you really look at what he brings to the table, just watching his production from afar, if you know nothing about football, you can just see that this guy is a playmaker," McVay said of Weddle. "You meet the human being and you talk about being perfectly in alignment with what we look for with the character, the passion for football. I think, you talk to any of his teammates that was one of the things, I know a lot of people reached out and really they didn't have to do that, but just couldn't say enough about the teammates that have played with Eric and how highly they spoke of him and it was really after we signed him. That to me is what continues to reiterate why we're excited about this."
McVay noted that he, Weddle, and members of the defensive coaching staff — including coordinator Wade Phillips, assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Barry, corners coach Aubrey Pleasant, safeties coach Ejiro Evero, and left tackle Andrew Whitworth — all went to dinner together, which helped solidify just how good of a fit the veteran safety would be. Part of that comes from Weddle's familiarity with Barry — who spent 2011-2014 in San Diego with Weddle as the Chargers LBs coach.
"When we went to dinner and whether it's interacting with our defensive staff where we had Aubrey and Ejiro, Aubrey was there, and Joe Barry, there was a very comfortable interaction that I think existed where there's a rapport and excitement about let's see if we can build on this relationship that we're starting to develop right here," McVay said.
From that point, as Weddle said, both the team and the player had an understanding that they wanted the signing to get done. And when that happens, it's only a matter of ironing out the details.
"[A] player wants to be somewhere and the team wants you," Weddle said, "then usually it gets worked out."
The Rams were able to do that with Weddle's representation, and now the Rams have a secondary led by Weddle, cornerback Aqib Talib, cornerback Marcus Peters, safety John Johnson, and slot corner Nickell Robey-Coleman.