Time to ask: What if?
What if the Los Angeles Rams didn’t sign old nemesis Bobby Wagner to his breakthrough five-year, $50 million deal with $65 million guaranteed on Thursday, March 31?
What if the Rams allowed “Bobby Wagz” to drift off to the Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys or any other team linked as a possible suitor?
And, what if the Rams had to find a contingency plan if there was no way to pay Wagner and get the eight-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl 48 champion inside the “Rams House?” Who could’ve been that backup option?
Before general manager Les Snead and the Rams’ brass secured Wagner to his blockbuster contract, there was one insider on Monday, March 28, who believed the Super Bowl 56 champs could be “looking” into a linebacker described as “violent” as the potential fallback option if the Rams didn’t get Wagner.
Who the Possibility Was
In the article titled “NFL Beat Writer Mock Draft,” The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue may have selected Georgia running back James Cook as her projected No. 104 overall pick. But the Rams insider wrote this possibility down if the Rams were unable to land the former Seattle Seahawks All-Pro: Leo Chenal from the University of Wisconsin. Rodrigue wrote:
“If the Rams don’t sign free-agent inside linebacker Bobby Wagner (who visited, but such a move will come down to whether Wagner would take a team-friendly offer), I can see them looking at a physical inside linebacker such as Wisconsin’s Leo Chenal to pair with Ernest Jones.”
“Physical” is one word to describe Chenal. But Bleacher Report’s Derrik Klassen used “violent” to verbally illustrate his linebacker game in his draft profile of the Badgers’ star.
Chenal was described by Klassen as one who “wants to bring the hammer against blockers and ball-carriers alike.” He also showed scouts, general managers and NFL coaches who attended the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis that he can fly.
Here’s two examples of the violence the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Chenal played with during his time in the always-rugged Big 10 Conference.
While suiting up for the Badgers, Chenal took on projected first rounder Tyler Linderbaum of Iowa — who also won the Rimington Trophy (honors the nation’s best center). Chenal still found a way to beat the man who’s considered one of the best center options in the upcoming April draft.
Klassen and B/R placed Chenal as a third round talent — which would’ve made him available to the Rams since they don’t hold a first or second rounder.
How Wagner Fits the Rams
Does Wagner’s signing officially nixes the idea of drafting Chenal?
The addition of the 6-foot, 241-pounder immediately bolsters the one area of the Rams defense that was considered a weak spot: Inside linebacker.
Rodrigue wrote on Thursday after the signing how Wagner “will align next to Jones.” However, she adds “because Wagner’s skill set is wide-ranging, he and Jones won’t likely have to rotate in and out when the Rams get into their subpackage work,” which Rodrigue detailed how the Rams have had to scheme around the ILB area in the past — as their defense has mostly been reliant on stout defensive line play and pass rushing from the outside linebackers.
For what it’s worth, perhaps Chenal is no longer considered to be on the Rams’ draft board with the former NFC West rival Wagner now rocking the Rams horns. However, with Troy Reeder not expected to return and only Christian Rozeboom and Travin Howard as the other ILB options next to Wagner and Jones, Chenal could still be considered a draft day option on April 29 for the defending champs.