Bobby Wagner release should put Carolina Panthers on red alert

(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports) Bobby Wagner
(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports) Bobby Wagner /

Bobby Wagner’s recent release should put the Carolina Panthers on red alert as they look to strengthen their linebacking corps in 2023.

This is the time of year when teams up against it on their salary cap begin to make the necessary sacrifices to comply with NFL regulations. The Carolina Panthers have a few tough choices to make in the coming weeks before free agency, but dominos have already begun falling around the league with some big names looking for alternative employment.

The Tennessee Titans released a number of established veterans this week, including stud left tackle Taylor Lewan. Another getting ahead with cuts is the Los Angeles Rams, who parted ways with several influential figures including perennial All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner after just one season.

Los Angeles quickly snapped up Wagner after his departure from the Seattle Seahawks in 2022. The former second-round pick put together another outstanding campaign with 140 tackles, six sacks, and a second-team All-Pro honor, but this was not enough for the Rams to ignore a $5 million saving with his early release.

Although Wagner is on the tail end of his glittering career, this should put the Panthers and other teams around the league on high alert. Especially considering how hard it’s been for Carolina to find reliability on the second-level interior since Luke Kuechly’s retirement.

Adding Wagner to Ejiro Evero’s defense would provide a veteran presence capable of fitting into any scheme. His leadership within the locker room is unquestioned and this is matched by exceptional communication pre-snap that puts his teammates in the best possible positions to thrive.

Obviously, Wagner won’t be short of offers. Players with his credentials as a sure-fire Pro Football Hall of Famer are always highly sought-after on the market.

This could mean Wagner gets an offer from a team with a better chance of contending for a Super Bowl. But the Panthers are putting together something special if their recent coaching hires are any indication, which will make them a more attractive destination for pending free agents when the madness begins next month.

Whether the Panthers have enough financial resources to acquire someone of Wagner’s caliber is another potential stumbling block. Carolina is currently $9.56 million over the cap according to Spotrac, so some maneuvering must take place to make the necessary funds available in the days and weeks ahead.

Signing Wagner might be a pipedream, one suspects. But he’d bring instant creditability to what Carolina is trying to build and fills an immediate need for Evero ahead of his first season as the team’s defensive coordinator.

There’s always been debate about who was better between Kuechly and Wagner. So it would be poetic to see the All-Decade linebacker suit up in Carolina, however unlikely it might be all things considered.

Wagner would need some convincing to take on this opportunity if the Panthers displayed an interest. But with the NFC South looking weaker than it’s done in some time following Tom Brady’s retirement, the prospect of postseason football for Carolina cannot be dismissed if they finally get the quarterback position right this offseason.

Securing Wagner’s services would be a major statement of intent. Whether it comes off or not is highly debatable.

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