The 2023 NFL free agency period is in full force, and many of the top players on the board have already found new homes. But there’s still a glut of talent on the open market, among which is star linebacker Bobby Wagner, who most recently finished up a campaign with the Los Angeles Rams.
With Wagner likely looking to join a contender, given that he’s squarely in the back-nine of his career, which teams make sense as the best fits for his services?
Bobby Wagner Free Agency Best Fits
Wagner is a surefire Hall of Fame inductee and likely one that will receive his gold jacket as a first-ballot nominee. The longtime Seattle Seahawks stud has six first-team All-Pro and three second-team All-Pro selections to his name. Add that to his eight Pro Bowl honors, and there’s no doubt he’ll be enshrined in Canton in short order.
But Wagner isn’t just a legendary relic of the 2010s. He’s still a highly effective player, as evidenced by his second-team All-Pro selection in 2022. He’s also proved incredibly durable, even this late in his career. Wagner hasn’t missed a game since 2018 and even then was only absent for one contest.
As one of the best all-around defenders in the league, Wagner can immediately jump into the starting lineup for a contending team. At 32 years old, it’s a near-certainty that the veteran will only entertain offers from teams that have a realistic shot at providing him with a second Super Bowl ring.
It also stands to reason that he’ll still command a substantial salary, even at the grizzled veteran stage of his career. Spotrac estimates his value at $9.3 million per year, though I think there’s a reasonable chance that he surpasses that number. As such, available salary cap space should also be taken into account when discerning which landing spots make the most sense.
The Buffalo Bills Could Use Reinforcements at Linebacker
The Buffalo Bills are a Super Bowl contender; that much is certain. Yes, they’ve disappointed in the playoffs in recent seasons, but with Josh Allen under center and general manager Brandon Beane assembling one of the league’s top rosters, there’s no question that the Bills will be playing meaningful January football.
There’s a need here, too. The Bills lost LB Tremaine Edmunds to the Chicago Bears after the rebuilding squad in the Windy City enticed the ascending defender with a massive contract. Buffalo extended Matt Milano and re-signed Tyler Matakevich, but adding Wagner would do wonders to reinforce what can continue to be a dangerous defensive unit.
Wagner and Milano would immediately comprise one of the most experienced and talented inside linebacker duos in the NFL. You likely couldn’t find a better pair of field generals taking the field together for any one team. Wagner wouldn’t completely heal the long-term wound of losing a young stud like Edmunds, but Buffalo is competing now. The future can wait.
As for cap space, the team currently has $10.8 million available, according to overthecap.com. More can be cleared with restructures to the likes of C Mitch Morse and S Micah Hyde. It’d be a financial stretch, but Beane could likely make it work.
Will the Dallas Cowboys Make a Big Splash at Linebacker?
Around the start of the free agency period, NFL Network’s Jane Slater reported that Wagner and the Dallas Cowboys had “at least some talks, preliminary talks.”
The idea of Wagner landing in Dallas has been floated around for some time, and if he’s looking to contend, the Cowboys certainly make sense in that regard. As for cap space, the team has plenty, currently sitting in the top five in the league.
Dallas brought Leighton Vander Esch back on a short-term, relatively cheap contract, but the fifth-year linebacker’s health has always been a question. A team like Dallas that’s looking to win now could certainly use a reliable, star, veteran presence on the interior of its LB unit.
Putting Wagner alongside Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs, Demarcus Lawrence, and the recently-acquired Stephon Gilmore would give the ‘Boys one of the most talented defensive units in the league. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who coached Wagner in Seattle, would certainly approve.
Could Wagner Return to Where It All Began With the Seattle Seahawks?
A reunion? Between Top Gun: Maverick, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Star Wars, the entertainment world is all about sequels today, so why not football too?
The second run of Wagner in Seattle could make plenty of sense for both sides, so long as the longtime Seahawks linebacker thinks his old team has what it takes to compete for it all. There’s no doubt head coach Pete Carroll’s squad isn’t what it was when Wagner and his defensive teammates constituted the Legion of Boom, but the team proved in 2022 that it’s still competitive.
It even sounds like the two sides have broached the idea. Seahawks general manager John Schneider explained as much on Seattle Sports, saying, “Pete Carroll and I were able to talk to him, and we had a great, awesome, frank conversation, so he knows where we are, and we know where he’s at.”
That’s by no means a ringing endorsement of the possibility, but it shows that the two sides have explored the idea. In terms of cap space, Seattle has enough to make it happen, sitting in the top half of the league.
As for positional need, Seattle re-signed Nick Bellore and secured former Pittsburgh Steelers first-round pick Devin Bush, but with Jordyn Brooks on the mend from a torn ACL and Cody Barton departing for the Washington Commanders in free agency, further reinforcements certainly aren’t out of the question.