The Los Angeles Rams are doing their best to be the 2000s New York Yankees. While the NFL is a hard-salary capped sport, they are doing their all to keep as much big-named talent on the roster as possible. They were not able to re-sign midseason acquisition Von Miller, so they instead added a big name to the next level of their defense by signing long-time Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner yesterday.
It’s a five-year contract that is worth $50 million and could be worth as much as $65 million, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Wagner is the Rams’ second big free-agent signing of the offseason. Earlier this month, they inked former Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson to a three-year contract, with more than $30 million guaranteed.
NFL football may never fully take off in Los Angeles, but it won’t be for a lack of effort on the Rams’ end. It started with signing Todd Gurley to a record contract going into their 2018 NFC Championship season, and Jared Goff getting a huge deal the next season. It didn’t take long for Gurley to get hurt and Goff to look far closer to the quarterback he was during his rough rookie season than the player who quarterbacked one of the best offenses in NFL history in 2018.
The Rams signed Goff to that contract in 2019, and by 2021 they had moved on from both him — whom they traded to the Lions for Matthew Stafford — and Gurley, and added Jalen Ramsey to the roster while still finding the money to make Aaron Donald the highest-paid defensive lineman in the league. Last season, near the trade deadline, they brought in both Miller and Odell Beckham Jr. to make a playoff push that resulted in Los Angeles’ only Super Bowl championship besides the one that the Raiders won in 1983.
They then lost Miller to the Buffalo Bills — that’s right, the Bills are signing big-name free agents these days — and retooled again. Also, prior to last season they signed pass rusher Leonard Floyd to a 4-year contract with $32.5 million guaranteed. This is like that stretch when Dan Snyder was handing out major free-agent contracts like club flyers, except the Rams are a competent franchise, even if their owner is also not the greatest human being in the world.
What better way to try and gain ground in L.A. than to be like all the other teams in L.A. The Dodgers recently signed Freedie Freeman away from the Atlanta Braves. The Lakers traded a fifth of their roster and a first-round draft pick to the Washington Wizards to acquire Russell Westbrook and his $40-plus million per year contract, and let’s not forget the lengths that the Clippers recently went to in order to bring in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
While bringing the Rams back to Los Angeles made all the sense in the world for the business of the NFL, it was no secret that they were going to have problems generating local interest. Sports are not the main attraction in the entertainment capital of the world, and the Rams did not play in L.A. County from 1980-2015. It was going to take a great deal of money, which the Rams had plenty of, and star power, which is hard to find in the NFL, to get the team to rate in the minds of the locals.
The Rams are preparing for their seventh season back in L.A., and if nothing else, they have a clear business strategy. Do everything big, and bring in as many players as possible that people recognize. It has worked as well as it could so far, and is one of the reasons I wish football didn’t have a salary cap. Unleashing the Rams on the NFL free-agent market like the late George Steinbrenner would be almost as entertaining as watching Donald swallow everything carrying a football in the second half of the Super Bowl.