Surprising statement of intent puts Commanders back on the map

The move made the entire league sit up and take notice...

Bobby Wagner
Bobby Wagner / Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Commanders signing Bobby Wagner was a surprising statement of intent that put them back on the NFL map.

Most of the chatter amongst Washington Commanders fans centered on whether general manager Adam Peters should make a run at wide receiver Mike Williams, who was released by the Los Angeles Chargers in their quest to get under the salary cap.

Then, a bombshell.

The Commanders reached an agreement with long-time Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner. He is the sixth new defensive player Peters has brought to town, five of whom could easily move into starting positions in 2024.

Commanders make huge statement of intent with Bobby Wagner signing

Wagner is a future first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer. He has played 12 seasons and was either a first or second-team All-Pro selection in 10 of those years. In his first campaign, he was on the All-Rookie team. By his tenth, he was named to the All-Decade squad of the 2010s.

He currently sits at No. 7 on the all-time tackles list. Barring injury, Wagner will almost certainly move up to at least No. 3 by the time he retires. He is a stone-cold killer who represents a significant - and surprising - statement of intent from the Commanders.

At 33 years old last season, Wagner led the league in tackles with 183 - one of the highest totals in NFL history. To put this into perspective, Cody Barton and Jamin Davis - the Commanders' top two tacklers in 2023 - had just 27 more tackles combined.

Even at 34 years old when the 2024 campaign begins, Wagner will be the best linebacker Washington has had at least since the days of London Fletcher. That isn't up for discussion.

As beloved as Fletcher was in DC, Wagner has had a better career.

Fletcher, who ranks second to Ray Lewis on the all-time tackles list, averaged an outstanding 127 tackles per year throughout his long career. Wagner has averaged 142. Think about that number.

An average year for the former second-round pick has been 142 tackles. In Cole Holcomb’s greatest season, he got to 142. In the days since Fletcher retired, the Commanders have rarely had a player even come close to that number.

Wagner provides more than just tackles. He is a smart player and a genuine leader. He should have a very positive impact on Frankie Luvu and Jamin Davis. He played under both Dan Quinn and linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr., so they know him well, and he knows the kind of defense they will run.

He has reportedly agreed to a one-year deal for $6 million guaranteed that could reach $8.5 million with incentives, another example of Peters finding quality players at bargain prices. Wagner is not a long-term solution to the linebacking problems the Commanders have had, and at his age, injuries are always a concern. But he has been a very durable player throughout his career and just turned in a remarkably productive season.

Bringing him to Washington - along with the additions of Luvu and hybrid safety/linebacker Jeremy Chinn - means that Peters has already rebuilt the linebacking corps with a combination of youth and experience. This is something to get excited about.

Other Commanders moves

The other two moves Washington made were not nearly as exciting, but should nevertheless help bolster special teams and overall depth. The Commanders are bringing back Jeremy Reaves and Jamison Crowder for the 2024 season. These are the only two players who have been re-signed to date.

Reaves was an All-Pro special teamer in 2022 and can also provide depth a safety. New special teams coordinator Larry Izzo should be happy. The details of the contract have not been clarified, but it is assumed he will be signing a two-year deal.

Crowder was signed just before the season last year and immediately took over as the Commanders' punt returner. As the season progressed, he began seeing more time in three and four-wide receiver packages on offense. He finished the year as Washington’s fourth-leading pass catcher amongst wideouts.

The veteran can still be a steady return man and can also run out of the slot. Washington may be in the running for veteran receivers Mike Williams and Tee Higgins - who has requested a trade from the Cincinnati Bengals - but they are more likely to dip into a deep receiver pool in this year’s draft to find another weapon on the outside. Ideally, Crowder would then merely provide depth while doing most of his work as a punt returner.

It is nice to have long-time players like Reaves and Crowder staying in DC, but the Wagner deal is the headline. One that made the entire NFL sit up and take notice.