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Giannis walks away, now Bucks' No. 1 all-time

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo torched the Brooklyn Nets in an overtime win by 44 points, overtaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the franchise's all-time top scorer. (Author: Gardener)

1NEW YORK — Giannis Antetokounmpo became the Milwaukee Bucks' all-time leading scorer Thursday night by delivering the kind of incredible performance that has defined his star-studded career. Antetokounmpo broke Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's franchise mark of 14,211 points and scored 44 points on Thursday to take his total to 14,216. As part of his monster night, he hit a game-defining 3-pointer with 18 seconds remaining in regulation that helped force overtime, then siphoned two big free throws with three seconds remaining in the extra frame for a 120-119 win over the to seal Brooklyn networks. Antetokounmpo went 14-to-21 from the field, including 1-to-4 from 3-point range and 15-to-19 from the free-throw line while playing 39 minutes. "It's good because I'm changing the narrative," Antetokounmpo said with a wink while discussing the record. Antetokounmpo's performance came two days after he had 42 points, 14 rebounds, six blocks and three assists in a win over the Philadelphia 76ers. He went all out for a Bucks team that Khris Middleton understated by a 5:05 after being ejected for committing a flagrant foul 2 on Nets guard Bruce Brown. Antetokounmpo's ability to improve his game has become so consistent that his teammates and coaches are not even surprised anymore. "That's definitely the MVP," said Bucks guard Jrue Holiday. "This is definitely the most improved player, although I'm not even sure if he can achieve that at this point. He's improved his game a lot and it shows - from the free throw line to his fadeaway to his 3-point shot. I felt like we were hanging by his coattails and being able to ride his coattails that way gives us confidence too." Despite all the accolades and records Antetokounmpo continues to collect, the two-time MVP takes it all. After Having won an NBA title and Finals MVP last season, he said his only focus is on winning the next championship Antetokounmpo said he has respect for Abdul-Jabbar and has repeatedly said in the past how much he would love to stay in Milwaukee for his entire career, but he knows he'll be judged by how much he wins."Because at the end of the day, if you don't have a successful season, if you don't try to keep getting better and be humble and to stay happy until May, June play no one will remember." Antetokounmpo added: "I just want us to stay humble. I want to stay humble. I felt like the more humble I get and the hungrier I stay, the more things I can accomplish. Playing basketball is like creating art, so - - the more I can extend my career. So I just have to keep being humble, keep trying to make my teammates great, win games and good things like tonight will happen. As much as Antetokounmpo wanted to draw attention to his latest record, his teammates and coaches knew how important it was to him and the organization. "Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is just one of the iconic players in our league," said Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer. “And what he was able to achieve in Milwaukee and then of course continues, he is one of the greats. So for Giannis to overtake him organizationally as our all-time top scorer to have a front row seat for the last three and three quarters, almost four years, I just feel incredibly fortunate. Averaging 60 points per game but he's damn close." Antetokounmpo got the ball after the game and wore a smile on his face as he made his way to the podium. When asked if that was the best he had ever played in his career, he said, "I think that's the most mature thing I've ever played. I'm better at getting in my place and executing, and if the ball doesn't go in, I'm fine with that," said Antetokounmpo. I love what I've done in the past and that gives me confidence and I can go out there and perform without thinking, without having self-doubts about myself or thinking that I'm not good enough. I'm kinda okay with myself.” So that allows me to play good basketball. Mentally I'm in a very good place. Now I think I can still improve physically. But I help my team win games - I don't know if this is the best I've ever played, but I know I have a lot of room to improve.

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Giannis Antetokounmpo breaks Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's record with the Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo broke Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's franchise record for points, which had stood since 1975 during Thursday's game. (Author: Gardener)

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar'sAs he compiled numbers and topped names on the Milwaukee Bucks and NBA's respective records over the past few seasons, he allowed himself a brief glimpse of the moment before going over it. "It's cool," he confirmed a couple of games before breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's franchise mark Thursday night at the Barclays Center, who went 3-pointer behind Brooklyn's Andre Drummond with 18 seconds left in the fourth quarter to get the Tie game with the Nets 110-110. So much so that he had a scene in his head of how he wanted it to be. "I hope they stop the game so I can get the ball," he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel with a smile. I want it to be, do you know when Kobe passed MJ? The whole game stopped and he took the ball and he was like...” “I want to do the same.” Unfortunately, the Brooklyn game operations team didn't mark that moment for him and the ball stayed in play. He finished Thursday's game with 44 points, including game-winning free throws, with just three seconds remaining in overtime. It took Antetokounmpo 652 games over nine seasons to surpass Abdul-Jabbar's 14,211 point mark, set in 467 games over six seasons from 1969–75. The 3-point shot didn't come to the NBA until 1979, so all of Abdul-Jabbar's points came via two-point field goals (5,902) and free throws (2,407). "Gosh, that's crazy," said Bucks center Brook Lopez, who joined the league in 2008 as a post-oriented center. He attempted just seven 3-pointers in his first six years, scoring 6,168 of his franchise-record with the Nets. He couldn't gather his thoughts anymore as he kept laughing at Abdul-Jabbar's total. That's crazy. That's... you can't believe these numbers. That's wild.” Antetokounmpo surpassed the mark in his ninth year with his 14th basket of the night. By the time he became the franchise leader in points, Antetokounmpo had 4,704 two-point field goals, 445 3-points and 3,471 free throws. Both men were 27 years old when they set the records. "Calls and congratulations to Giannis because when all of this is said and done, is there such a thing as 1A and 1B in terms of the greatest players in franchise history? And I think that's how it's viewed," said Hall of Famer Bob Dandridge, who played his first six seasons with Abdul-Jabbar. If Giannis can't slip in and win another championship or two, maybe he'll show up over Kareem!” Jon McGlocklin also played with Abdul-Jabbar and was a television analyst for the team until 2017. "It's a remarkable story that I don't understand. I don't think I ever -- I've been associated with the NBA for 56 years -- and I played against and with the greats in the early '60s, mid-'60s, '70s, and who even came close to that story? "That came out of left field and became what he's become. You can't name anyone that's been that surprising and grown in the NBA. Because most of the greats. He came out of left field and became who, what he's become," said McGlocklin, even then, coming in with great report cards from college. But not Giannis. It's a remarkable story. Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton, who has been there every step — and every point — along the way with Antetokounmpo, agreed: "That makes it even better — he's worked for all of that," he told the Journal Sentinel believed his skills. He believed in how great he could be and he worked for it. That's what it's all about. It makes his story even better. Lopez is the only other member of the Bucks to hold a franchise scoring record. He scored 10,444 points in nine seasons with the Nets. He set the benchmark when he was also on the road in Boston in 2017. "It was crazy for me," Lopez recalled to the Journal Sentinel. "I grew up a fan of the league and stuff and being top scorer for one of those teams is pretty wild - one team out of 30. That's fine air.It made me appreciate all the players I played with, the coaches that helped me get there get where i was me to get into those positions to be successful.” For Giannis to be in the position he is with this franchise and Kareem's record – that's incredible. Contact Jim Owczarski at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @JimOwczarski or Facebook at facebook.com/JOwczarski.

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Giannis becomes Bucks' scoring leader in OT win over Nets

NEW YORK (AP) -- Giannis Antetokounmpo loved the fact that he became Milwaukee's career scoring leader with a 3-pointer, so no one can say he's just a dunker anymore. Otherwise, there was no reason to celebrate after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's pass. "There are things that need to be done." Antetokounmpos... (Author: Gardener)

BucksMilwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) drives for the basket against Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 31, 2022 in New York. NEW YORK (AP) -- Giannis Antetokounmpo loved the fact that he became Milwaukee's career scoring leader with a 3-pointer, so no one can say he's just a dunker anymore. Otherwise, there was no reason to celebrate after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's pass. "We can talk about it when I'm done, but there's no time now," said Antetokoumpo, looking ahead to Friday's game against the Clippers. Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) shoots between Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34), Wesley Matthews (23) and Brook Lopez (11) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 31 . Antetokounmpo's record-breaking 3-pointer forced overtime and he made two free throws in the closing seconds to give the Bucks a 120-119 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night. The defending NBA champion's victory secured his return to the postseason, in which Antetokounmpo had 44 points, 14 rebounds and six assists. Jrue Holiday added 19 points and Khris Middleton had 16 before being kicked out for a flagrant foul midway through the third quarter. Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) emerges as Brooklyn Nets Kevin Durant (7) and Kyrie Irving during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 31, 2022 in New York. Kevin Durant had 26 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds for the Nets but missed a 3-pointer that would have won him. Kyrie Irving scored 25 points and Bruce Brown had 23. Just like that memorable end to their second-round streak last summer, when the Bucks overcame Durant's 48 points -- the most all time in a Game 7 -- overtime was needed to determine a winner. Milwaukee took that 115-111 and pulled it out Thursday behind a second straight 40-point game from Antetokounmpo. The Greek freak was famously dismissed by James Harden as a great athlete, but not necessarily a seasoned basketball player. But the NBA Finals MVP has become a confident shooter and is trusted by his teammates. "We fight, compete, compete and know that obviously it helps to have this big guy on your team who can literally break a game for you and make plays," said Bucks swingman Wesley Matthews. Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) is defended by Milwaukee Bucks guard Wesley Matthews (23) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 31, 2022 in New York. Antetokounmpo came on 39 points behind NBA career-leading Abdul-Jabbar, who had 14,211 points after starting his career in Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo passed him by 18 seconds to tie the game at 110. Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday (21) reaches for the ball next to Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 31, 2022 in New York. The Bucks and Nets could be heading for a first-round matchup this year. The Bucks are a half-game behind Miami for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, while the Nets are in eighth place and likely can't hope for anything better than No. 7 or 8 when they come out of the Play-In tournament. The Bucks led by four in overtime, but the Nets rallied to take a 119-118 lead when Durant was fouled on a 3-point try and made all three shots by 8.7 seconds. Antetokounmpo quickly charged into the lane and was fouled by Nic Claxton. He made both free throws and finished 15 of 19 from the line. Milwaukee Bucks guard Pat Connaughton (24) drives to the basket against Brooklyn Nets forward Nic Claxton (33) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 31, 2022, in New York. The Nets led 99-96 with 5 1/2 minutes left in regulation when Antetokounmpo got back in play but threw a poor pass that Brown grabbed and looked headed for an uncontested layup. But Middleton ran back and grabbed Brown's upper arm when he was airborne, sending him into a hard landing. The umpires reviewed the replay and informed a stunned Middleton that he had received the harder Flagrant 2 and was ejected. Brooklyn Nets guard Patty Mills (8) reacts after taking a 3-point shot against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 31, 2022 in New York. Crew boss John Goble said the game was classified as a Flagrant 2 because of a "high potential for injury". Brown made the free throws, Irving scored, and the Nets built a 108-99 lead when Durant lobbed Irving's 3:52 left pass. But they only managed two more points in the regulation. "It was just one of those games that ended up being unconventional, but we just have to end it in regulation," Irving said. Bucks: Coach Mike Budenholzer trained in Brooklyn for the first time this season after missing the Bucks' 121-109 win on Jan. 7 while on NBA health and safety protocols. Nets: Coach Steve Nash said he's not closely watching the results for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have plummeted to seventh in the East. Falling behind Toronto eliminates the possibility of having to play a play-in game in Canada, where the unvaccinated Irving cannot travel. "I'm not averse to seeing how they're doing and where they're at, but it's not something, like I said the other day, I refresh my feed daily," Nash said. Although Antetokounmpo appeared on the injury report with right knee pain, Budenholzer said it was nothing more than what the two-time NBA MVP has been dealing with for years. "I think it's in a good place," said Budenholzer. "I don't think we're worried about that, but there's a daily attention and effort that the sports performance team needs and he and what he's doing to be at his best. It is impressive."

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Giannis Antetokounmpo drives Milwaukee to comeback win with record-breaking performance

Giannis Antetokounmpo passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar by 18 seconds in regular time and scored the winning free throws in OT. (Author: Gardener)

Giannis AntetokounmpoNEW YORK -- The Brooklyn Nets had just outlived the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday, with Kevin Durant dropping 41 points. He was then asked about Giannis Antetokounmpo's defense as the Milwaukee Bucks played the Nets at the Barclays Center on Thursday night. "His points are almost absolute, like a guarantee," Durant said, laughing. Durant credited the rest of the Bucks team and its continuity, but acknowledged Antetokounmpo's points: "They're going to happen, so you have to make them as hard as you can." The Nets tried in that regard, but fell short with an exciting comeback win from 120-119 bucks in overtime. It's her second ball possession win in a row. "I think the boys play hard," Antetokounmpo said of the defending performance in the last two games. "I think the guys are feeling it now... what it takes to win a game. We've played in a lot of close games, which helps.” Individually, Antetokounmpo continued on his march to his first title and Third Division MVP honor with 44 points, his 33rd game with at least 30 points this season. Antetokounmpo made 13 of his 21 shots and pulled 14 rebounds in the win. Antetokounmpo also surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the No. 1 leading scorer in Bucks franchise history with the effort and sent the game into overtime by hitting a step-back three-pointer over Andre Drummond with 18 seconds remaining to reach the game 110-110. "I knew we needed a three-pointer, so I was able to line up and shoot that one and that one went in," said Antetokounmpo. He then sunk the winning free throws three seconds from time after taking the ball coast-to-coast and drew a foul on Nic Claxton after Durant led the nets 119-118 with three free throws and 8.7 seconds from time had brought. "None of us are really surprised in our locker room that we want this moment, you know?" said Bucks guard Wesley Matthews. “What's special about him is that he wanted those moments before he was the three-point shooter he is now. He wanted to hit the free throws before he was the free-throw taker he is now Nic Claxton, who sent the Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo to the free-throw line with three seconds left in overtime. Durant had a chance to win the game when he caught a glimpse got off the three-point line from a sideline in inbound, but the ball fell off Milwaukee improved to 48-28 and remains in the game for first place in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks are at 34-9 when their big Three of Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday play together. It was enough to make up for the fact Durant was the pitch for the Nets (40-37), which fell to 32-18 as he played, regardless of the lineup around him hereabouts. Durant had 26 points on 10 of 21 shots and dished out 11 assists. Kyrie Irving had 25 of 9 of 9 shooting on 22. Bruce Brown added 23 for the Nets, Brooklyn also fell to 6-5 when Durant and Irving play together. Matthews looked at the stat sheet after the game and saw his team turned it over 23 times (resulting in 22 nets) and gave up 18 three-pointers. "I can't believe we won this game," he said with an incredulous chuckle. “Just competing against each other, for good for bad. I don't think anyone looked at the clock. Compete and know that; obviously it helps to have a big guy on your team who can literally open a game for you and make games. But possession after possession, this team doesn't give up and just keeps going." Holiday scored 19 for the Bucks on 6 of 18 shooting, including three in the extra session. His opening bucket gave the Bucks a lead they won't give up Antetokounmpo and a strong defense from Matthews in the closing seconds sent the game into overtime as Matthews (with some help from Antetokounmpo) forced Durant two-tenths of a second up in a contested 14-footer that missed. the Bucks recouped a 106:99 deficit in the final 4:10 of the rule -- a time they didn't score until after 3:01 Matthews and Bobby Portis hit offensive rebounds and Holiday added two free throws to get Antetokounmpo's clutch three to build over Drummond Antetokounmpo helped the Bucks take their biggest lead of the game at 96-92 with an 8-12, but the Bucks then stayed for the next 3 minutes ten and 23 seconds scoreless as the Nets went on an 11-0 run for a 103-96 lead. Subscribe to our Milwaukee Bucks newsletter for updates on the team. Within that stretch, Middleton was ejected for committing a Flagrant 2 foul on Brown with 5:05 left. Brown had a breakaway dunk to go but slowed to take his time and Middleton caught up to him. As Brown took off, Middleton hooked his left arm, flipping Brown horizontally in the air and committing a hard foul. After a review, Middleton was sent to the dressing room. "We talked about it after he got the flagrant 2 - it's like you let him do the dunk?" Holiday asked. I know it looked bad and we don't want anyone to get hurt but I don't want him to get it. I don't want him to get that dunk. I want him to earn it at the free throw line. I think it also looked bad because he was airborne and sometimes crazy things happen when you're airborne, but it wasn't vicious. And we know Khris. “But that would be my question to the umpires or whoever – what would you like us to do? You want us to just let him do it? My opinion, I don't think so because I know they wouldn't do the same for me." He finished with 16 points on 4 of 12 shots, nine rebounds, four assists and four turnovers. It was a tough game. The Bucks took the lead in the closing seconds of the third quarter for the first time since the first quarter and went into the fourth quarter 87-86 thanks to a dunk by Antetokounmpo with 14 seconds to go, scoring 13 points in the quarter and carrying his team during the Bucks continued to struggle offensively, on several occasions he gave Milwaukee possession only to see turnovers and misses, so he reduced to 75-74 with a driving basket and 5:07 to go. He got a breather at the 4:49- mark, but the Bucks couldn't quite clear the hump until it returned for the final 79 seconds and ended with that slam.By the end of the third, Middleton and Holiday combined had more turnovers (eight) than shots (seven ) achieved. "We were a bit off for stretches of the game tonight," said Budenholzer. Wes feels like he hit some big shots and Jrue with a big putback to start overtime and a few other games but yeah Giannis just Durant had seven points and seven assists to put the Nets in to lead to a 60-56 lead at the break, but Antetokounmpo saved the Bucks from falling into a big hole with a 20-point performance as the team struggled to get shots -- the Nets made 53.3% of theirs shots and 56.3% (9 of 16) from behind the three-point line and leading by up to 11 shots about halfway into the second quarter, but Antetokounmpo didn't let his team fall too far out of reach. Antetokounmpo made eight of his 11 shots and all four free throws while assisting on three other baskets Middleton added 12 points and Pat Connaughton 11 in assist as the Bucks closed the half with a 17-10 run to slice Brown led the Nets with 10 points and Irvinghad nine, all in the second quarter R. The Bucks overcame a slow start that saw them turnover 1-for-6 in the first five minutes of the game to end thanks to a 12-3 run supported by seven Connaughton points was triggered to take an 18-15 lead. But the Nets closed with a 15-5 run in the final 3:36 of the first quarter to go into the second quarter with a 30-23 lead. Irving and Holiday both remained goalless in the first quarter. This article originally appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Bucks 120, Nets 119 (OT): Giannis Antetokounmpo Drives Milwaukee to Comeback Victory with Record-Breaking Performance

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Crashes, spinouts plague Thursday mornings on the way to work

Multiple roads and spinouts are reported in the greater Twin Cities area Thursday morning. (Author: Gardener)

ThursdayMultiple spinouts and off-road vehicles are being reported in the Twin Cities area Thursday morning. The Minnesota State Patrol reported 87 accidents -- including seven that resulted in non-life-threatening injuries -- as well as 34 slips or vehicles going off the roads between 4 a.m. and 10 a.m. across Minnesota. Two shortened half-vehicles were also reported. That includes what the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is reporting as "numerous accidents" on eastbound Interstate 94 near Oakdale. The agency says several lanes of the roadway reopened Thursday after being closed at MN 120; century avenue. The section of road was completely closed early in the morning and traffic was diverted to exits and access roads. As of 8:15 a.m., one lane was open to traffic. 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Meteorologist Matt Serwe reports that half an inch of sleet and slush fell at MSP on Wednesday. As of 6:30 a.m., the Minnesota Department of Transportation listed some roads as partially or fully covered. Others have been reported south of 494 near Burnsville, Apple Valley, and Lakeville. 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Traffic reporter Hanna Conway tweets about the traffic situation. You can find their latest tweets below and a map of current traffic speeds by CLICKING HERE. Chief Meteorologist Ken Barlow says Thursday afternoon temperatures will only reach the upper 30s, though the sun will appear.

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Could the Rams use a late round pick at quarterback?

Three potential late-round quarterback picks the Rams could make. (Author: Gardener)

RamsWith the emergence of quarterbacks who have become superstars in their rookie seasons in recent years, such as Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert, it has become more common for fans to expect a quarterback to come along and see instant success. However, if your quarterback is Matthew Stafford, who just guided you to a Super Bowl win, your team can afford the luxury of not having to rely on a young talent in that position. However, despite Stafford's success, he won't be in the NFL forever, and the Rams are a team that can afford to hit a potential future passer with a late-round draft pick. The Rams' current backup quarterback is journeyman John Wolford, but unless they think he can be a successor to Stafford later on, these are a few options worth considering later in the draft. Nevada's Carson Strong is one of the most interesting quarterback prospects in the 2022 NFL draft. Strong has shown first-round talent in Nevada, but overall he's unlikely to leave until the third or fourth round. In his 2021 season, Strong threw for 4,186 yards from time with 36 touchdowns and eight interceptions. McVay could see Strong as someone drafted and left sitting behind Stafford for a couple of seasons with the possibility of the Rams taking a flyer on him later in the draft. J. Perry, an athletic quarterback from the University of Brown. Perry clocked a 4.65 40-yard dash time, showing his speed that could lead the Rams to see him as a viable late-round option. During the 2021 season, Perry ran the ball 111 times for 402 yards and seven touchdowns and 3,034 yards and 23 touchdowns. Coming into the 2021 season in Iowa State, Purdy was viewed by some analysts as a Heisman dark horse contender with the potential to lead the Cyclones to a Big 12 title. Purdy could be the ideal late-round quarterback for McVay and the Rams, whom he'll dump for a few seasons while they decide if he's a potential quarterback in the future. Want the latest news and inside information about the Rams? Click here to join the Ram Digest message board community today!

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Believe it or not, the Rams have signed a big-name free agent

In a move that shocked (read: didn't shock) the NFL world, the Rams added one of the top remaining free agents Thursday. Former Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner stayed in Los Angeles at the NFC West on a five-year, $50 million contract. The Rams haven't re-signed... (Author: Gardener)

RamsWhile the 49ers defense was very good at generating turnovers, the 49ers offense was just as bad at giving them away. San Francisco forced two Seahawks turnovers inside their own 5 to keep Seattle out of the endzone, but a fumble by Travis Benjamin on a kickoff combined with two interceptions from Garoppolo undid the work of the San Francisco defense. They usually can't get over more than one takeout and it's hard to believe they wouldn't have walked away with Sunday's contest if they had limited sales to just one or even two. Former Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner stayed in Los Angeles at the NFC West on a five-year, $50 million contract. The Rams failed to re-sign some of their best free agents like Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr., which paved the way for them to fit into the future Hall of Famer under the cap. Wagner, 31, has been terrorizing the 49ers since Seattle selected him in the second round of the 2012 draft. The Ravens made a late push to draw Wagner to the AFC via Wagner's former teammate Richard Sherman, but the Rams ultimately won the sweepstakes for the eight-time Pro Bowler and six-time First-Team All-Pro. Russell Wilson's departure from the division was a big offseason win for the 49ers, and getting Wagner out of the NFC West would have been another significant offseason win. In 20 career games against the 49ers, Wagner has 172 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 6.0 sacks, five interceptions and 14 pass breakups. While Wagner may not be the player he once was, he is still among the best players in his position and gives the Rams another elite player in a position they struggled with last year. He joins a defense that already includes Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, making the Rams likely NFC West favorites with a strong chance of putting in another Super Bowl run next season. The 49ers still had a nice offseason, but Wagner staying in the division is hurting their chances of regaining NFC West dominance.

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How the Rams' signing of Bobby Wagner is helping Ernest Jones' development

Every Los Angeles Rams fan has been staring at their cell phones unhealthily for the past few weeks, waiting for the news that Bobby Wagner will be signing. After weighing his options, Wagner has decided to play close to his home and team up with him (Author: Gardener)

Bobby WagnerThe Rams are getting a couple of their key contributors back at a perfect time. Along with Whitworth on the offensive side of the ball, Los Angeles are expected to have Jones back at center defense for the first time since Week 16. It's going to be a physical game between the Rams and the 49ers as San Francisco is going to look to base on Elijah Mitchell and Deebo Samuel on the ground to win the game. Jones and the other 10 guys on defense must be prepared to match the 49ers' physicality by being physical right back. It all starts with the Rams stopping the 49ers from gaining a bunch of yards in the same toss game that takes them to Mitchell and Samuel that Los Angeles couldn't stop in their first two meetings this season. Every Los Angeles Rams fan has been staring at their cell phones unhealthily for the past few weeks, waiting for the news that Bobby Wagner will be signing. After weighing his options, Wagner has decided to play closer to home and join forces with the reigning Super Bowl champions to defend their title. The Rams are getting an All-Pro level linebacker (albeit one who will be 32 in June) to bolster their center defense. Los Angeles not only gets one of the league's inside linebackers, but also an accomplished linebacker who can help Ernest Jones develop. Jones, a third-round pick by the Rams in the 2021 NFL Draft from South Carolina, has shown plenty of upside potential this past season. In 15 games (seven starts), Jones recorded 61 combined tackles, four pass separations, two interceptions and a sack. But in the NFC title game and the Super Bowl, Jones combined nine tackles, a pass separation and a sack. Nothing against Troy Reeder, but Jones gave the Rams much-needed athleticism at the inside linebacker position in 2021. Athleticism as an inside linebacker was a rarity for Los Angeles outside of Cory Littleton in 2018-19. While Jones was a bright spot in a fantastic season for the Rams, there's plenty of room for growth. Jones will be just 22 when he enters the 2022 campaign, and he now has a potential Hall of Famer linebacker to learn from on the job. Wagner has a total of 1,383 tackles in his 10 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. The veteran linebacker has not recorded fewer than 100 tackles in any season of his career, has received six All-Pro nominations and even a Super Bowl ring, which he won with the Seahawks in 2013. There is no doubt that the Rams will likely see Jones as a building block for their defense for years to come. And with Wagner now playing alongside him for the foreseeable future, there really is no limit to the South Carolina product. Rams shouldn't lose too much sleep if Bobby Wagner signs elsewhere

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8 things to know about the new Rams LB Bobby Wagner

In Bobby Wagner, the Rams get a 6-time All-Pro who happens to hail from LA. Meet their new linebacker. (Author: Gardener)

Bobby WagnerBobby Wagner was surprisingly cut by the Seahawks this offseason, making him one of the best free agents available. He took his time choosing his next team, eventually ending up with the Rams on a five-year contract. It's surprising the Rams would pay that much ($50 million) for an inside linebacker considering how they've treated the position over the past five years. Signing with the Rams allows Wagner to return home. He left his home state while visiting Utah State and was then drafted by the Seahawks in 2012, but is now returning home to play in L. That was a huge perk of playing for the Rams, as was the idea of ​​meeting up with his former team, the Seahawks, twice a year. In his 10-year career, Wagner completed a total of 1,383 duels. Wagner ranks 17th all-time in total tackles, and as long as he maintains his current pace of 138 tackles a year, he'll climb into the top 10 next season. Additionally, Wagner never had fewer than 104 tackles in a single season, a testament to his consistency and reliability at the second layer of defense. Speaking of consistency and reliability, Wagner is the paragon of those things at Linebacker. Since 2016, Wagner has missed two games in total: one in 2021 and one in 2018. Before suffering an injury in Week 17 of last season, he had played every single defensive snap in 19 straight games since Week 15 of the 2020 season. If you go back to 2018, there are only five games where Wagner hasn't played every defensive snap for the Seahawks. Aaron Donald has the most first-team All-Pro players of any active player in the NFL with seven players. Wagner is second with six such selections. Wagner was a first-team All-Pro in 2014 and each year from 2016 to 2020, and received second-team honors in 2015 and 2021. So every year since 2014, Wagner has been either a first-team or second-team All-Pro. There hasn't been a better linebacker than him in the past decade, which is why he was selected to the 2010 NFL All-Decade Team. Wagner reportedly welcomed the idea of ​​facing his former team twice a year, especially after the Seahawks cut him without giving him a heads-up first. The Rams were 11-8 against the Seahawks when Wagner was on the field, but he has a much better record against NFC West's other two opponents. In his career, Wagner is 16-4 against the 49ers and 9-8-1 against the Cardinals, a combined record of 25-12-1. However, if you compare Wagner's 5.9% career tackle rate to Troy Reeder's (14.2%), you can see just how much Wagner will improve in the center of defense. He missed 14 tackles on a total of 184 attempts last season and posted a career-high 170 tackles in 16 games. In 2017 and 2018 he missed just five tackles in total and finished that season with a total of 271 tackles. Wagner rarely misses when shooting at the ball carrier. He has 23.5 career sacks and 78 QB hits, and finds ways to pressure the quarterback when he blitzes from his linebacker spot. He also ranks first in run stuffs and defensive stops and has done everything for the Seahawks throughout his career. The Rams actually had a chance to draft Wagner back in 2012 when they were ranked 45th overall. Les Snead decided to trade despite liking Wagner, and the Seahawks took him two picks later. Snead now has a "Bobby Wagner Rule" that says you shouldn't trade away from a player you like -- even for the benefit of adding picks. It's taken 10 years, but Wagner's with the Rams now, which should at least make Snead feel a little better.

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Rams bring home Bobby Wagner on 5-year deal

The six-time All-Pro linebacker and former Colony High star scores a reported $50 million deal to return to his hometown of Los Angeles. (Author: Gardener)

RamsLOS ANGELES — Linebacker Bobby Wagner on Thursday agreed to a five-year deal to join his hometown Los Angeles Rams. The Super Bowl champion outmaneuvered several suitors for Wagner, one of the NFL's top inside linebackers after his decade with the Seattle Seahawks. A little over three weeks later, Wagner agreed to join Seattle's NFC West rivals to provide the inside linebacker power the Rams have lacked for several seasons. Wagner joins receiver Allen Robinson as the most prominent offseason signing for the Rams, who have once again proven their adeptness at casting stars below the salary cap. The Rams lost a handful of starters and key contributors to free agency, retirement and a trade last month, but also managed to retain two key offensive linemen while adding Wagner and Robinson as veteran playmakers. Though Wagner has a markedly different role as a linebacker, his arrival will ease the Rams' disappointment at the midseason loss of Von Miller, who accepted a slightly higher offer from the Buffalo Bills rather than handing it back in Los Angeles. Selected for the last eight straight Pro Bowls, Wagner has amassed a total of 1,383 tackles -- the most by any active player. He set a career high with 170 tackles for the struggling Seattle last season. The only active player with more first-team All-Pro selections than Wagner is Aaron Donald, Wagner's new teammate. Wagner was fired by the rebuilding Seahawks for costing them $20.6 million against this year's salary cap in the final season of his contract. But Wagner had no shortage of teams keen to pick him up after he left Seattle. The Baltimore Ravens were the most prominent among the other teams eagerly pursuing Wagner in the free hand, but the Rams closed the deal a week after Wagner visited the team's training complex in Thousand Oaks. Wagner should step in immediately to help a defense that has combined two stellar years despite not having a versatile, hard-hitting linebacker in the middle of their scheme. A linebacker hasn't led the Rams in tackles since 2019, when Cory Littleton turned his breakout play into a free-agent deal with the Raiders. The Rams used unsung Troy Reeder and rookie Ernest Jones as inside linebackers for most of last season. Jones, whose late-season improvements were punctuated by injury, is likely to line up alongside Wagner in the middle of the 3-4 scheme under defensive coordinator Raheem Morris this fall. Rams general manager Les Snead has admired Wagner since the linebacker's college career at Utah State. Snead still regrets passing Wagner on in the 2012 draft when he opted to trade for more picks rather than picking a player he knew would be a star. The Rams' offseason deal also included a new contract for quarterback Matthew Stafford, and the team have confirmed they are working on a new deal for Donald.

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