The Rams initially were going to be the last team that Eric Weddle planned to speak with after the Baltimore Ravens released the six-time Pro Bowl safety.
Weddle, a Southern California native, figured he could meet with other suitors and then circle back to the Rams.
But the Rams pushed to meet with him first, and the strategy paid off.
“Shoot, what a day!” Weddle exclaimed Tuesday during an introductory news conference at the Rams’ facility in Thousand Oaks.
Weddle, 34, last week signed a two-year, $10.5-million contract. He replaces Lamarcus Joyner in a secondary that includes cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib and safety John Johnson.
“This is really a great opportunity for myself to continue my dream,” said Weddle, a 12-year veteran.
General manager Les Snead said Weddle’s name first came up during the last preseason when the Rams held two practices with the Ravens.
Much like 37-year-old offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, the Rams are adding a player who brings experience and the ability to mentor other players, Snead said.
“He definitely helps the Rams now but I do think when he does decide to move to the next chapter in life all of our young players on defense, and offense, will be better for him being a Ram,” Snead said.
Weddle on Thursday went to dinner with a Rams contingent that included McVay, safeties coach Ejiro Evero, cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant and linebackers coach Joe Barry, who had been on the Chargers staff when Weddle played for the team during the first nine years of his career.
“We visited and hung out,” Weddle said. “Sean and I probably talked four or five hours over Thursday and Friday. Just everything — football, life, people, players, scheme, and it was great to see the guy behind the guy…. His personality and mine, it was like we’re talking to each other, it was really weird at times, but it was awesome because I knew after a short time that we were going to mesh.”
McVay described Weddle as a perfect fit.
“You talk about being perfectly in alignment with what we look for with the character, the passion for football,” McVay said, adding that testimony from some of Weddle’s former teammates solidified the Rams’ thinking.
Weddle, who played at Alta Loma High School in Rancho Cucamonga and in Utah, said he was “ecstatic” to join a team that made a Super Bowl run last season.
“I haven’t hit my prime yet!” he exclaimed, adding, “From the onset, when you get a game plan together and think what the future holds, obviously the Rams were my No. 1 destination.”
Weddle joins a defense that is going through a reconfiguration. The Rams retained edge rusher Dante Fowler, but they released linebacker Mark Barron and defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, and others are testing the free-agent market.
Johnson, a second-year pro, said he tracked Weddle during his Chargers years and that he was looking forward to playing with the veteran.
“Getting a guy in with experience, that’s done it at a high level for a long time is great, especially for me,” Johnson said. “I can learn a lot from him and I’m just excited about it.”
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein