A season ago, the Baltimore Ravens were among the final bidders to sign free agent linebacker Bobby Wagner. Wagner, then 31, visited the Ravens in late March and it appeared to be a perfect match. But in a turn of events, Wagner wanted to play for his home town and against the Seattle Seahawks, his previous home of the past 10 years.
Now, after one season with the Rams, Wagner is set to be released, according to ESPN’s Nick Wagoner.
The Ravens, since losing out on Wagner, retooled in a big way as they traded for linebacker Roquan Smith and shortly thereafter signed him to a a five-year, $100 million deal with $60 million in total guarantees.
Did this work in the Ravens favor?
First off, yes. The difference in play for the Ravens defense since acquiring Smith showed absolute dividends and he was praised by his teammates and defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald for helping to transform the unit into a cohesive and successful squad. However, Wagner was also a dynamo in 2022, and earned his ninth All-Pro selection, this time Second-Team All-Pro, with Smith being named First-Team.
Going over PFF grades, you can tell why the Ravens coveted Wagner and envisioned he could produce the same boost to their defense last March.
In 2022, Wagner was the No. 1 linebacker by overall defense, with a 90.7 grade. He was a 91.1 in run defense and 91.0 in tackling, all No. 1 among NFL linebackers.
Comparing this to Smith is a bit unfair, seeing as Smith’s first eight weeks were with a porous Chicago Bears defense that saw him score the lowest grades of his career. Afterward, however, Smith rallied and produced an 85.9 overall in his Baltimore tenure.
The Ravens surely would’ve saved money had they signed Wagner, but a build for the present and future went into the trade and signing of Smith. After all, they now have Smith, who is turning 26 in April, signed through 2027 and his entire peak.