James Laurinaitis: Rams Sign Young LB to 5-Year, $41.5 Million Deal

Ben ChodosCorrespondent IISeptember 8, 2012

ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 2:  James Laurinaitis #55 of the St. Louis Rams returns an interception against the Washington Redskins at the Edward Jones Dome on October 2, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Redskins beat the Rams 17-10.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The St. Louis Rams have locked up their standout middle linebacker James Laurinaitis to a long-term contract.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported via Twitter that the deal is for five years, and it will pay Laurinaitis a total of $41.5 million, including $23.5 million in guaranteed money. The Rams confirmed the deal via Twitter.

Rams signed LB James Laurinaitis to a five-year, $41.5 million extension that runs through 2017 and includes $23.5 mil gtd.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 8, 2012

We are thrilled to announce that LB James Laurinaitis has signed a 5-year extension to stay with the #Rams... twitter.com/STLouisRams/st…

— St. Louis Rams (@STLouisRams) September 8, 2012

Laurinaitis is entering his fourth season in St. Louis after the team drafted him No. 35 overall in the second round of the 2009 draft.

The 25-year-old recorded 142 total tackles last season, ranking eighth in the NFL. That was Laurinaitis’ most productive season so far, but he has recorded 114 tackles or more in each year as a pro.

The middle linebacker also took a step forward in coverage in 2011, finishing the season with seven passes defended and two interceptions.

Laurinaitis’ signing comes on the heels of a deal that will keep defensive end Chris Long in St. Louis until 2016 and pay him a total of $48.2 million. The 27-year-old lineman has quietly turned into one of the best players at his position in the NFL.

With the two recent extensions, new head coach Jeff Fisher will have two cornerstones of his defense securely under contract for several years.

This will give Fisher—a defensive-minded coach—players he can build around to create competitive units just as he did during his 17 years as head coach of the Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers.

Fisher and the front office certainly still have holes to fill on a team that went 2-14 a season ago, but both recent deals are smart moves that will benefit the team going forward.