Emerging Rams LB Pushed Team to Sign His Favorite Player in Free Agency

Andy Lyons/Getty Images Ernest Jones gets to play with his favorite player.

The Los Angeles Rams‘ big offseason addition had one of their younger stars excited.

Eight-time All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner joined the Rams this offseason on a pricey five-year deal, pairing him with Ernest Jones amongst other linebackers in Los Angeles.

In a profile piece on Jones written by The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue, the younger inside linebacker shared the impact Wagner’s already had on him before they’ve even played a game together.

Jones Pushed for the Rams to Sign Wagner, Who Is His Favorite Player

After an impressive rookie season, which saw Jones record 61 combined tackles and two interceptions, Jones has to make some room for another inside linebacker with the Rams’ addition of Wagner.

When Jones got wind of the Rams possibly signing Wagner following his release from the Seahawks, Jones urged the Rams to sign him, telling Rodrigue that Wagner was – and still is – his favorite player.

“When he came for the visit (pre-signing), I got a call, and I was like: ‘Let’s get him. Let’s do what we gotta do and get him here to help us win it again,’” Jones told Rodrigue.

There aren’t many better inside linebackers to learn from in recent history than Wagner. He’s been named a first-team All-Pro in six of his 10 seasons in the league. He’s led the league in tackling twice (2016 and 2019). He was also a key piece for the Seahawks’ historic defense that won the Super Bowl in 2013 and made it back there in 2014.

Wagner’s still playing at a top level, recording a career-high 170 combined tackles last season. Jones is excited to have a front-row seat to watching Wagner, telling Rodrigue that Wagner’s “gonna be tired of me before it’s all said and done.”

“Him being in the room every day and just watching him, it’s been amazing. It’s been the highlight of my career so far,” Jones told Rodrigue. “(I’m) learning from someone who has done everything that I aspire to do: Pro Bowls, All-Pros, Super Bowls. He’s everything that I want to (be) and more.

“Man, he’s great. Just being able to watch him do the work. … We sit there and talk football all the time, but I’m more so visualizing, watching what he does throughout the day. Watch his stance. Watch his feet. Watch his hands, how his body moves. Just trying to perfect my craft and be one of the greatest, like he is.”

Wagner’s Also Excited to Work Alongside Jones

Obviously, the Rams offered something that made Wagner want to return to his native Los Angeles. They gave him a contract that’s worth up $65 million over five years with $20 million guaranteed, giving Wagner the opportunity to help the Rams become the first back-to-back Super Bowl champions in nearly 20 years.

But Wagner’s also looking forward to mentoring the 22-year-old Jones, who will be 10 years younger than Wagner when the veteran turns 32 on June 27.

“He has all of the attributes of a great linebacker. If I could do anything to help, I will,” Wagner told Rodrigue. “I think he’s a very special player, and he has a chance to be really, really good.”

In the profile, Rodrigue notes that Wagner’s football IQ and how he operates in the open field were studied by the Rams ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft to help build Jones’s evaluation profile. Of course, the Rams liked what they saw in their evaluation of the South Carolina product. The Rams selected Jones late in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

While Jones was the Rams’ second pick in the 2021 draft, he didn’t get much playing time right away. Jones played just 45 defensive snaps through the first seven games of the season.

Los Angeles’s trade of Kenny Young to Denver though gave Jones the opportunity to start in Week 8, and he flourished from that point on. He recorded nine combined tackles, a half sack, and an interception in the Rams’ 38-22 Week 8 win over the Texans. He had seven combined tackles and a pick in a vital Week 14 win over the Cardinals and a week later, Jones had a season-high 11 combined tackles in a Rams win over the Seahawks.

An ankle injury kept Jones out of the Rams’ final two regular-season games and their first two playoff games. After playing limited snaps in the NFC title game, Jones made several plays in the Super Bowl. He had six solo tackles, two tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, and a sick in the Rams’ win over the Bengals.

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