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The details of the Bobby Wagner contract with the Rams

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Tuesday marks exactly four weeks since the Seattle Seahawks rocked the offseason for their fans in a single afternoon. On that crazy afternoon the team first agreed to trade Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos, with reports emerging later in the day that the team would also move on from future Hall of Famer Bobby Wagner.

Wagner, of course, then spent several weeks exploring his options in free agency, with interest from a myriad of teams. That interest included free agent visits to both the division rival Los Angeles Rams and the Baltimore Ravens before Wagner finally came to agreement with the defending Super Bowl Champion Rams on a five-year, $50M contract.

As is always the case, the true terms of any contract needs to be evaluated, rather than simply oohing and aahing over the top line numbers. This is no different in the case of Wagner’s contract with the Rams, and the terms of the deal are finally public. So, without wasting any further time, here are the specifics:

  • Signing Bonus ($5M, amortizes against the cap at $1M per year over the life of the deal)
  • Base Salaries: 2022: $1.5M, 2023: $7.5M, 2024: $8.5M, 2025: $8M, 2026: $8.5M
  • Roster Bonuses: 2022: None, 2023: $3.5M*, 2024: $2.5M**, 2025: $2.5M, 2026: $2.5M
    *Fully guaranteed if on the 90-man roster on 4/8/2022
    **Guaranteed for injury at signing, fully guaranteed if on the roster on fifth day of 2023 league year (should be 3/20/230

That’s a whole lot of numbers and explanations, so here’s what it boils down to in an easier to read format broken out by cap hits by year:

  • 2022: $2.5M ($1.5M base salary, $1M of signing bonus)
  • 2023: $12M ($7.5M base salary, $1M of signing bonus, $3.5M roster bonus)
  • 2024: $12M ($8.5M base salary, $1M of signing bonus, $2.5M roster bonus)
  • 2025: $11.5M ($8M base salary, $1M of signing bonus, $2.5M roster bonus)
  • 2026: $12M ($8.5M base salary, $1M of signing bonus, $2.5M roster bonus)

Putting it all together, the deal works out to be:

  • One year for $10M (2022 cap hit + $7.5M of dead money)
  • Two years for $20M (2022 cap hit + 2023 cap hit + $5.5M of dead money)
  • Three years for $28.5M (2022 cap hit + 2023 cap hit + 2024 cap hit + $2M dead money)
  • Four years for $38M (2022 cap hit + 2023 cap hit + 2024 cap hit + 2025 cap hit + $1M dead money)
  • Five years for $50M

Thus, it’s a bargain for the Rams during the 2022 league year when Wagner will count less against the cap for Los Angeles ($2.5M) than he will count against the cap for Seattle ($3.5M), but the bill comes due down the road. This, of course, leads to the question of whether this is a good deal for the Rams or not, and at this point, given what is known, it is likely not a great deal for Los Angeles.

However, what will determine how good of a deal this is for the Rams could come down to exactly how they use Wagner not just in 2022, but in future years as well. $10M per year for an off ball linebacker is certainly a lot, and represents a significant departure from how Los Angeles has addressed the position in the past. Thus, it raises the question about what exactly they are doing and whether they have anything special planned for Wagner.

If the intent is to simply have him as a traditional three-down, off ball linebacker, it’s likely not a great deal. If the intent is to have him as a three-down, off ball linebacker who shifts to the edge and rushes in passing situations, it is still likely not a great deal, but could pay off because if he happens to be decent or better as an edge rusher, $10M per year could prove to be a steal. Of course, there is no indication regarding how the Rams plan to deploy Wagner, so fans will need to wait until September for any clues since Sean McVay doesn’t play his veterans in the preseason.