The Los Angeles Rams did some roster maintenance Friday, releasing three players, including former No. 2 overall pick Chris Long.
The Rams announced the release of Long, linebacker James Laurinaitis and tight end Jared Cook on Twitter.
The writing has seemingly been on the wall for the 30-year-old defensive end since last season ended. In an interview with Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com posted on Jan. 20, Long admitted he didn't know what his playing future looked like:
Those decisions aren't all mine. Certainly I know the last few years I have been injured and the production is way down. So the bottom line is it's a production business. Do I deserve to play my last one here? I don't know but I know that I'm pretty committed to getting back to being me and I think that's very possible. It's two plays that kind of derailed the last two seasons for me and that's the way it goes. Bottom line is, I'm very motivated but I need some time to just get away.
The Rams are saving more than $24 million against the salary cap by releasing Long, Cook and Laurinaitis, per NFL Media's Albert Breer. Long was scheduled to make a $2 million roster bonus on March 11, per Tom Pelissero of USA Today.
Laurinaitis started all 16 games for the Rams last season, but he managed a career-low 61 solo tackles. Cook finished second on the Rams in receptions (39) and receiving yards (481), his lowest totals since 2010. He was set to make $7 million in base salary next season, and his $16 million in guaranteed money was tied for third among tight ends, per OverTheCap.com.
Long took his newly unemployed status in stride with a message of thanks to Rams fans and the organization on Instagram:
Injuries have taken a toll on Long, who was a dominant pass-rusher from 2010-13 with 41.5 sacks during that stretch. He's been limited to 18 games the last two years and made just five starts in 2015 as William Hayes took over on the left side of Jeff Fisher's defense.
While Long's tenure with the Rams has come to an end, he will likely find suitors this offseason as a low-cost bounce-back player. He may not be a star defender anymore, but teams are always seeking depth on the defensive line.
Long will get some benefit of the doubt because he does have a history of succesfully rushing the quarterback. A change of scenery can be just the motivation a veteran player needs to add an extra year or two to his career.