Why Commanders should sign Bobby Wagner after Seahawks release
Why the Washington Commanders should sign Bobby Wagner
First things first, Bobby Wagner immediately would fill the role of being Washington’s MIKE Linebacker going forward. While Washington has a plethora of guys that thrive on the outside like Cole Holcomb, Jamin Davis (potentially), and Landon Collins, Washington’s inside backer spot continues to be the largest hole on the team not named Quarterback.
For starters, Bobby Wagner has been the most valuable linebacker in the NFL since 2012, according to Pro Football Focus. With an average Wins Above Replacement (WAR) rating of 0.34 throughout his career, which by the way, is well above average for the position, the numbers match the tape when you watch this caliber of player.
Moving on to the fit, it is as perfect as you could imagine. Wagner is a balanced MIKE backer that thrives in every ask of the position. He’s still one of the best run-defenders on the inside, with a run-stope rate of 61% and a run-defense grade of 76.7 via PFF in 2021.
In addition, there are things on tape that scream how strong his instincts and football IQ are against the run, even as he’s beginning to age, he relies on his knowledge of the position far more than he does his sheer athletic ability. A great article breaking down the intricacies of his game on tape was written by my good friend, Mark Bullock, I echo every sentiment from the man about Wagner and his consistent play against the run.
In coverage, Wagner thrives with the best of them. With two PBU’s, 14 stops in coverage while allowing just one touchdown in 2021, again, the instincts coupled with his football IQ shine again. Granted, Wagner isn’t a man-to-man coverage linebacker as the bulk of his coverage responsibilities were standard zone assignments, but one play specifically stood out to me when watching his tape in coverage.
His lone interception this season came off a play that San Francisco runs pretty often, it’s a basic PA concept with a crosser going into the second level, and as Wagner initially takes two steps forward to identify the ball/ball-carrier, he immediately recognizes the play, gets the proper depth on his coverage assignment, clouds the throwing lane and ends the play with an interception. His ability to diagnose plays, his knowledge of the game, and his overall talent continue to shine as he ages whether it’s against the run or against the pass.
One final on-field dynamic that some may be interested in is his ability to rush the passer. Wagner wasn’t used as often as a pass-rusher, but he showed an ability to get skinny, cause pressure and maneuver around the line-of-scrimmage when necessary in pass-rushing situations.
His lone sack of 2021 came down in the red zone against the Titans, where you see Bobby dart off the snap, get skinny, and shred through the b-gap en route to sacking Ryan Tannehill. His pressure numbers have hovered from 10 pressures to 30 pressures over the last five seasons, so regardless of how you envision his role in Washington, he’s versatile enough to use in any package or situation on the field.
Lastly, Wagner’s leadership ability is well attested to in the locker room and on the field. A natural leader and someone that’s continued to grow in every dynamic of being a “professional”, the final box and in some cases the biggest box as you’re looked at as the “QB of the Defense”, Bobby Wagner fits the leadership mold that Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio desperately say that they need.
Concluding, Bobby Wagner at age 31 makes too much sense for a Washington Commanders squad that needs a long-term answer at middle linebacker. A player of Wagner’s caliber not only doesn’t hit the market often, but when he does, he has the potential of elevating the totality of your defense from a “decent” group, to a good group that can tap into greatness as their ceiling.
Regardless of your feelings about his age, his play doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon, and with the plethora of strong defensive coaching that Washington has at it’s expense, making Bobby Wagner a Commander makes too much sense.