But coming home was not what he expected. Wagner spent a nightmare season with the Rams as they experienced a hangover from the Super Bowl, dealing with various injuries and going 5-12.
After he and the Rams mutually agreed to part ways this offseason, Wagner sought to return to his old team. He patched things up with the Seahawks and signed a one-year deal worth up to $5.5 million to return to Seattle.
Wagner took the field for Seattle on OTA this week, wearing the familiar No. 54 jersey after wearing No. 45 for the Rams last year. He is the only member of Seattle’s 2013 Super Bowl-winning team now on the roster.
“It feels good to be back,” Wagner told reporters. “It’s good to be back in ’54. It’s good to be back in beautiful weather, so that’s great.”
Part of Wagner’s return included smoothing over the hurt feelings that resulted from Seattle’s awkward throw from one of the best players to ever wear a Seahawks uniform.
“I know I could have handled things a lot differently,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider told “The Rich Eisen Show.” “We had a great conversation about it. But then just our culture, clearing the air and being able to come to an agreement and have those private man-to-man conversations. And he was excited to be back.
“He’s a legend, a first-ballot Hall of Famer.”
While the Rams struggled last season, Wagner’s play wasn’t the problem. He started all 17 games in 2022, leading the team with 140 combined tackles, including 10 tackles for loss. He also had six sacks and two interceptions. He was named the team’s defensive MVP and also served as a mentor to younger players like linebacker Ernest Jones.
Wagner, who turns 33 next month, now joins a Seattle defense that needs veteran leadership and run-stopping upgrades. Jordyn Brooks, who replaced Wagner in Seattle at inside linebacker last year, is recovering from an ACL injury suffered in January. That means Wagner will resume his role as the leader of Seattle’s defense, including using the green point as the defensive play-caller on game days.
Rams, Giants, Seahawks among NFC teams making a big leap
Wagner’s presence should help a Seattle run defense that allowed 150 rushing yards per game last season, its 30th in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, Wagner was the highest rated linebacker during the regular season. His tackle missed rate of 2.9% was No. 3 among his position group, according to Pro Football Focus.
“Getting Bobby back is a big deal,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told Seattle Sports 710 AM. “He’s a great professional, and he just gives us the stability and background that we need to make sure we’re well coordinated in games.”
Wagner is just one part of a revamp of Seattle’s defense, which the Seahawks had to do to truly compete with the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC West division crown. The revamp also includes the return of veteran defensive end Jarran Reed, the signing of defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones, linebacker Devin Bush Jr. and safety Julian Love in free agency, and the selection of cornerback Devon Witherspoon and running back Derick Hall.
Carroll and defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt switched from a 4-3 base front to a more complex 3-4 defensive scheme popularized by defensive guru Vic Fangio. Wagner played in Fangio’s scheme while he was with the Rams, which should ease his transition to Seattle’s defense.
“It’s kind of a combination of many defenses,” Wagner said. “But there are some things that we’ve executed in the past. There are some things that I was introduced to with the Rams. So this is the time to build a new defense. We’re trying out new looks, new formations. I’m excited to learn and meet everyone. again”.
Wagner said his home will always be divided between Seattle and Southern California. But she gained a renewed sense of joy for her adopted home of Seattle during her year away.
“The most important thing is to appreciate how good things are,” Wagner told reporters this week. “You see how things are when you’re winning. You see how things are when you’re not winning.”
“[It’s important to] you value people and relationships, because you think that you will be around all these people for a long time, and then everything can end like this.”
Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.