After just one season together, the Rams and eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker have mutually agreed to part ways. The Rams need to shed salary cap space ahead of the new league year. Wagner, a Super Bowl champion with the Seahawks in 2013, wants to play for a title contender.
An All-2010s performer with Seattle, Wagner showed that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank during his one season in Los Angeles. While his streak of Pro Bowl selections was snapped, Wagner nonetheless filled the stat sheet with 140 tackles, a career-high six sacks and two interceptions.
Wagner also provided welcomed leadership during a rocky year for the Rams, whose 5-12 record was worst record for any defending Super Bowl champion.
A likely future Hall of Fame player, Wagner, who will be 33 before the start of next season, has not missed a game since the 2018 season and has missed just one game since the start of the 2016 season. Ironically, his first of six All-Pro selections came during the season (2014) that saw him play in a career-low 11 games.
The NFL’s tackling leader in 2016 and 2019, Wagner will surely receive attention on the open market. With that in mind, here’s a ranking of teams that make the most sense for Wagner.
1. Cincinnati Bengals
Wagner wants to play for a title contending team, and the Bengals are coming off consecutive AFC title game appearances. Cincinnati, led by Pro Bowl quarterback Joe Burrow, is expected to contend for a Super Bowl again in 2023. Wagner would serve as the perfect replacement for Germaine Pratt, who is expected to depart in free agency.
Money is the biggest roadblock between Wagner possibly signing with Cincinnati. The Bengals have cap space, but they expect to use most of it on re-signing Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and (down the road) Tee Higgins. Wagner would have to take considerably less than his market value in order for this to happen.
2. Philadelpiha Eagles
Another title contender that could use Wagner in the middle of its defense. The Eagles came up just short of winning their second title in six years after allowing 38 points to Patrick Mahomes and Co. in the Super Bowl. Wagner’s presence would surely make an impact on what is already a solid defense.
Money, however, is once again an issue in this scenario. Unless the Eagles shed significant cap space, they likely don’t have the means to sign a free agent of Wagner’s caliber.
3. New York Giants
The Giants have cap space and could use Wagner to shore up the middle of their defense. A possible question here is whether or not Wagner believes that Big Blue will be a true title contender in 2023. While they advanced to the divisional round last year, the Giants face uncertainty regarding the futures of quarterback Daniel Jones and Pro Bowl running back Saquon Barkley. The Giants also play in arguably the NFL’s toughest division, which doesn’t help.
4. Detroit Lions
One of the NFL’s biggest surprises last year, the Lions won nine games largely on the strength of their offense. In Detroit, Wagner could strengthen the other side of the ball while serving as a mentor to young unit that includes Aidan Hutchinson, James Houston and Kerby Joseph.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers will be looking for someone to replace former first-round pick Devin Bush, who is slated to test free agency. If they could get him, the Steelers would have one of the best starting linebacker units in the NFL in Wagner, fellow inside linebacker Myles Jack and outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. This scenario largely comes down to whether or not the Steelers would buck from their recent trend of bargain buying in lieu of spending more money on a prized free agent.
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