Primary Starter: Ernest Jones
There is no doubt that ILB Ernest Jones is the heir apparent now. When the LA Rams drafted him, the team wanted to find a young rookie who could develop into a Bobby Wagner-type inside linebacker, and in many ways, the Rams appear to have hit the bullseye. He was the 'other guy' in the middle of the Rams' defense, and he seemed to be an equal candidate to Wagner in terms of production.
Per Lineups.com, Bobby Wagner played 1080 defensive snaps for the LA Rams, while Ernest Jones played just 723. The difference was simply the occasions when the Rams pulled Ernest Jones in order to add an additional defensive back in either the nickel or dime sub-packages. So if you look at Ernest Jones 113 tackles on 723 defensive snaps, had he played for 1080 defensive snaps, he was on pace to record 170 tackles. That's huge, and perhaps leads to understanding why the Rams were willing to part ways with Wagner here and now.
The student becomes the master
Ernest Jones had developed into more than a solid defensive starter. He was beginning to rival his mentor, and had likely passed Wagner in pass defense. So the Rams likely view Jones as the future starter at the position. That begins to make a lot of sense as Wagner and Jones worked very closely together throughout the 2022 NFL season. With the release of Wagner, the team has created an opportunity to promote Ernest Jones in 2023, a promotion that he certainly deserves:
So the LA Rams can go cheaper at the position and at least count on comparable production. So far, so good. But if the Rams promote Ernest Jones to the starter who calls the defensive plays, then who will backfill into his role in 2023? We have three options for you.