We’ve officially reached the part of the offseason where teams are making the releases that make you go ”what?” Earlier this week, the Titans released their starting left tackle Taylor Lewan and their leading receiver Robert Woods. Those are big in their way, but a much bigger one happened on Thursday when it was announced that the Rams and future Hall of Fame linebacker Bobby Wagner have decided to mutually part ways. This, of course, would make Wagner one of the more intriguing options in this year’s free agency class.
So, naturally, the question now is whether or not the Detroit Lions should sign Wagner. Why don’t we break that down today? Let’s do it the Ted Mosby way. Let’s break out the yellow legal pad and make a pros and cons argument. Turns out I don’t have a legal yellow pad. So I guess we’ll do it here.
Let’s start it off with the obvious. Wagner is a future Hall of Famer. He’s a nine-time All Pro, eight-time Pro Bowler, and o a Super Bowl champion with the Seahawks. Those are some big time accolades. The Lions have had players like this come through in the past, but usually it's guys who are on the back end of their career. Sometimes they show up for a few practices and then disappear.
While Wagner is 32, he’s very much not like the rest of those guys. Wagner is still one of the best in the league at his position. Scratch that. He might have been the best at his position in 2022. Wagner’s 90.1 PFF grade was the highest in the NFL for linebackers. He also was a second team All-Pro linebacker this past season. He’s legit.
Imagine what Wagner could bring to a young Detroit defense that’s moving in the right direction. Specifically, his addition to a linebacking corps that could use some help in the run defense category. Wagner’s 91.1 run defense grade could really help put a group that got gashed regularly by running quarterbacks and the occasional running back. It’s a match made in heaven.
Wagner has leadership in spades and the talent to go along with it. In essence, he would be a huge upgrade over Alex Anzalone on the field without losing any of the veteran’s leadership abilities in a young linebacker room.
It’s hard to look at anything I just laid out there and think that there are any cons. But here’s the issue: he is 32 years old. He’ll be 33 by the time that training camp rolls around. Any contract that the Lions bring Wagner in on is going to be expensive and short. This seems like the kind a move a team that’s on the verge of winning it all would make. The Lions may be closer than they’ve been in a long time, but they’re not quite there yet.
With that in mind, maybe the Lions shouldn’t spend all that money on a position that’s not at the top of their needs list. If Wagner is was a cornerback, I’d say you go ahead and call his agent today. But he’s not. He’s a linebacker on a team that has some decent young linebackers who have shown early signs of promise and development.
At some point, too, Father Time will catch Wagner, as it has caught every NFL player. He may have been really good in 2022, but what if that was his last good year? What if his decline finally starts in Detroit? It seems like even the slightest decline wouldn’t be so bad when it’s a slight decline from the top spot. Still, the Lions don’t need another Michael Brockers situation, even if he is a great locker room leader.
I say do it. Wagner is still very good at what he does. Even if his play declines, a slight drop in play still makes him a pretty good player. Plus the rest of the defense can learn from one of the best defenders to ever do it. Why not sign them up for a masterclass? Plus, it would just be really cool. I mean that’s one of the bigger parts of my argument. How cool would it be to have a future Hall of Famer on this team?
Of course, it’s not completely up to the Detroit Lions. When Wagner becomes a free agent, he’ll have many teams reaching out to his agent, and he’ll undoubtedly be looking to play for a contender. Have the Lions improved enough to convince free agents that they will compete for a Super Bowl in 2023?
Either way, Lions general manager Brad Holmes should get Wagner’s representatives on the phone and make his best pitch.