With the move from St. Louis to LA, the Rams are already adjusting their roster to the bright lights of Hollywood. The team announced the release of veteran defensive end Chris Long, linebacker James Laurinaitis, and tight end Jared Cook on Friday. Long, selected second overall by St. Louis in 2008, and Laurinaitis, a second round pick, have only suited up for the Rams during their eight and seven-year careers, respectively. Cook signed a five-year deal with the team in 2013.
Head coach Jeff Fisher praised all three players in a statement, “Chris and James are the epitome of what it means to be a pro in this league and it’s been an honor to coach them both. They’ve been the pillars of our defense for many years and not enough can be said of their love for the game and for their teammates…Jared made an immediate impact when he joined the team in 2013. It’s been a pleasure watching him grow from the time I drafted him in Tennessee to seeing him set franchise records in St. Louis.”
While Rams will free up around $23 million in cap space with these cuts, they are releasing some potentially valuable players. The departure of Long makes the most sense. After playing 96 games and recording 50.5 sacks through his first six seasons, Long played only 18 games while reaching the quarterback four times in has last two. Cook also had a down year last season, as he was unable to reach the endzone for a Rams team that finished 29th in scoring. Laurinaitis, however, remained very productive, playing in all 16 games and recording over 100 combined tackles for the seventh straight season.
Laurinaitis showed a little less understanding for his release than Long or Cook when he commented, “I’m going into Year 8, and I’m still 29 and I still feel like I’m playing at a productive level. I was a little shocked from that point of view but man other than that, it’s a business.”
All of these players will be on teams before next season begins, but the Rams are hoping they will be able to upgrade their talent with the allure of playing in Los Angeles, and the near $50 million in cap space they now possess. They will also look to retain several of their many free agents, particularly cornerback Janoris Jenkins.
With so much cap space, who will the rams look to add in 2016? Some names to consider (barring franchise tag designations): Alshon Jeffery, Von Miller, Muhammad Wilkerson, among others.
Of course, the Rams biggest need is at the quarterback position. While the free agent pool is thin (Kirk Cousins, Brock Osweiler and Sam Bradford top the list), others may become available. Colin Kaepernick may be on his way out of San Francisco and Robert Griffin III will surely not find himself in Washington next season. And of course, the Rams have already been linked with Peyton Manning. The increased cap space could be used to facilitate a deal for any of these options.
Whatever the Rams choose to do this offseason, we can be sure of one thing: It’s going to be BIG.