Los Angeles Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis has been released by the team, according to ESPN. The veteran isn’t done playing just yet, so he’s seeking out a new home in the NFL. While very much beloved by Rams head coach Jeff Fisher and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, Laurinaitis was let go simply because the team needed to clear out some salary cap space to sign younger players.
In addition to James Laurinaitis being released, the Los Angeles Rams also released Chris Long and Jared Cook. Long, the son of NFL legend Howie Long, played defensive end and was a part of a dominant unit that gave a team with a struggling offense a chance to compete every week. Cook was listed as a tight end for the Rams, but he also spent some time all over the field, which gave Los Angeles a little bit of an advantage.
By releasing James Laurinaitis, Jared Cook, and Chris Long, the Los Angeles Rams are saving themselves approximately $24 million in salary cap space. That flexibility is going to come in handy because the team needs to sign Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson, Rodney McLeod, and Mark Barron. The defensive secondary would be pretty depleted if that group of guys are allowed to walk away in free agency.
To replace James Laurinaitis, the Los Angeles Rams are planning on having two players changing positions. Alec Olgetree is going to move from weak side linebacker to middle linebacker, the position that Laurinaitis manned for years. There are some concerns that Olgetree is not going to be able to guide the defense like his predecessor did. To replace Olgetree at weak side linebacker, Jeff Fisher plans on moving Mark Barron from the safety position.
In a sign of just how dedicated he is, James Laurinaitis was actually working out at the Los Angeles Rams facility when Jeff Fisher had to break the bad news to him. Laurinaitis was a bit surprised by the release at first, but once it kicked in, the former Ohio State Buckeyes star understood that the NFL is a business. Tough decisions like these are made all the time, so he knows that it’s time to play elsewhere.
Prior to the releases of James Laurinaitis, Jared Cook, and Chris Long, there were only five teams in the NFL that had more than $50 million in salary cap space to chase top-flight free agents. Those are the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Chicago Bears. The Rams become the sixth team on that list, so it should definitely be an entertaining signing period this off-season.
The San Francisco 49ers are looking for linebacker help. They would love to be able to pair James Laurinaitis with Navarro Bowman, who recovered from a torn ACL injury to become an All-Pro player again. The Niners fully know the advantage of having two dominating inside linebackers, as their defense was anchored for years by Bowman and Patrick Willis, who retired early because he wanted to make sure that his body doesn’t take any more damage.
Another team that might be interested in James Laurinaitis is the Dallas Cowboys. Sean Lee made a splendid transition from middle linebacker to weak side linebacker, making the Pro Bowl for the very first time in his injury-riddled career. The Cowboys aren’t sure what they’re going to do with Rolando McClain, their starting middle linebacker this past season. If McClain is retained, then he can shift over to strong side linebacker so Laurinaitis can cover the middle.
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