THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Historically, inside linebacker was not a position the Rams invested in at a premium level over the last five years.
Then again, it's not every year that a player of Bobby Wagner's caliber becomes available.
That, among multiple reasons, was why the Rams departed from their previous approach and signed Wagner to a five-year deal.
"He was a really good player, a lot of experience, that was available, that wanted to try to continue his journey in football with a hometown team, a team that he felt like had a chance to continue winning like he's been a part of in Seattle," Rams general manager Les Snead said during a video conference with reporters Monday. "All things considered, an opportunity that we definitely analyzed, and jacked that Bobby chose the Rams."
Prior to returning to home to Los Angeles, the 31-year-old Wagner set a franchise record with 1,383 total tackles across 10 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, collecting six First-Team All-Pro selections and eight Pro Bowl nods in the process.
Snead said the Rams "weren't really planning for the opportunity" to sign Wagner, who was released by the Seahawks on March 12. After it became apparent Wagner wanted to play for the Rams, Snead said he sat down with head coach Sean McVay, defensive coordinator Raheem Morris and the rest of the defensive coaching staff to figure out how they schematically play both Wagner and second-year linebacker Ernest Jones on the field at the same time. They encouraged Wagner to take the time to go through the process and survey the landscape since this was his first time as a free agent, while staying patient on their end.
Eventually, the Rams internally arrived at the conclusion that a Wagner-Jones tandem was viable without being detrimental to Jones' development, while Wagner arrived at the conclusion that the Rams should be his next NFL stop.
"It's gonna be big," McVay said during a separate video conference with reporters Monday afternoon. "And I also think it's huge for Ernest Jones. A lot of the reasons why we drafted Ernest Jones when we did was because he had some traits and characteristics that reminded us of Bobby, and so to be able to pair those two together is something that we're really excited about, and there's going to be a nice spin that we can put on, some of these different personnel groupings to take advantage of getting our best 11 on the grass."
Another piece to the decision, according to McVay, was addressing the leadership lost to offseason departures and retirements.
"We're losing some big-time locker room leaders, when you look at what Andrew Whitworth meant to our football team, when you lose a player like what Von Miller's meant, I thought Eric Weddle's leadership during the playoff run was vital," McVay said. "And to be able to have a guy that will be thrust into a leadership role based on the nature of how you communicate from that middle linebacker spot, but then also just who he is as a human being, there's a lot of positives, a lot of reasons you can be excited about Bobby joining the Rams."