A big-name inside linebacker just hit the market and there’s good reason to think the Pittsburgh Steelers will make a run at him when free agency opens next month.
According to ESPN senior NFL insider Adam Schefter, the Los Angeles Rams and perennial Pro Bowl linebacker Bobby Wagner “mutually agreed Thursday to part ways, sources tell ESPN. Rams need more cap space and Wagner wants to win. He will now be a notable part of this year’s free agent class.”
2 Steelers ILB’s Are Unrestricted Free Agents
As it happens, the Steelers figure to have a pressing need at inside linebacker, in part because of a relative lack of talent but also because both Robert Spillane and former 1st-round pick Devin Bush are unrestricted free agents.
Assuming both Spillane and Bush sign elsewhere in free agency, the Steelers would be left with veteran Myles Jack and 2022 7th-round pick Mark Robinson as projected starters on the inside.
But with Jack entering the second year of his two-year, $16 million contract, there’s no guarantee he will be retained, not with an $8 million salary and an $11.25 million cap charge. The Steelers can save the $8 million by releasing him and incur a relatively modest $3.25 million dead cap charge, as per overthecap.com.
That helps explain why Bryan DeArdo of CBS Sports has already named the Steelers as one of the top landing spots for Wagner, who completed just one year of the five-year, $50 million contract he signed with the Rams in March 2022. The 2012 2nd-round pick might be approaching 33 years old, but he’s still playing at an exceptionally high level.
Bobby Wagner Was PFF’s No. 1 Ranked LB in 2022
In fact, he earned a 90.7 overall grade from Pro Football Focus (PFF) in 2022, making him the highest-graded player at his position last year, well ahead of Fred Warner of the San Francisco 49ers (85.7 PFF grade). Along the way he recorded 140 tackles, including 10 tackles for loss, with a pair of interceptions and a career high six sacks.
The Steelers were said to be interested in Wagner at this time last year, but not at the kind of money and term the Rams were offering.
Moreover, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has been known to sing the praises of the former Utah State product.
“Bobby Wagner, their man in the middle (is) an all-situations linebacker — has been that for them for over a decade. I’ve got a lot of respect for his body of work and his business is detail. His communication, his leadership is all very evident when you watch the tape. So much of it goes through him. He provides great fluidity for those guys. Very rarely are they collectively out of place and I think it starts with him,” said Tomlin before the Steelers played the Seahawks in 2021.
More notably, on Wednesday Feb. 22, the Steelers officially announced the hiring of new inside linebackers coach Aaron Curry, who came from Seattle and coached Wagner during the latter portion of the 10 seasons he spent with the Seahawks (2012-21). During those 10 years, Wagner was named to the Pro Bowl for eight consecutive seasons, earning first-team All-Pro honors six different times.
Thus far in his career, Wagner has played in 168 career games and has been credited with 1,523 tackles (900 solo), with 78 tackles for loss, 29.5 sacks, 88 quarterback hits, 13 interceptions, six forced fumbles and nine fumble recoveries, as per Pro Football Reference.
Before getting released by the Rams, Wagner was scheduled to earn a $7.5 million salary in 2023, with a total cap number of $12.5 million.