As part of a string of high-profile releases Friday, the Los Angeles Rams cut ties with linebacker James Laurinaitis.
The team announced the decision to cut the seven-year pro along with defensive end Chris Long and tight end Jared Cook.
In the Rams' official press release, head coach Jeff Fisher praised both Laurinaitis and Long for their contributions to the organization:
This is the time of year when all NFL teams are faced with difficult decisions regarding their veteran players. 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. Beyond the field, they took pride in mentoring the younger players and doing their part to make a real difference in the St. Louis community. We will always be grateful for James and Chris' unselfish commitment to the Rams and wish them the best moving forward.
Laurinaitis also released a statement on Instagram regarding his time with the Rams:
After seven unforgettable seasons with the St. Louis Rams, I am saddened that my time with the team has come to an end. I would like to thank the Rams organization for giving me the opportunity to live out my dream of playing in the NFL! I am forever grateful for the time I spent playing alongside my incredible teammates who have become brothers and lifelong friends. I'm going to miss going to battle with you guys. Thank you to the fans
The Rams selected Laurinaitis in the second round of the 2009 NFL draft out of Ohio State, and he became an immediate starter.
In fact, he has yet to miss a single game as a professional, and he started all 112 contests he appeared in for the Rams.
Laurinaitis has topped 100 tackles in each of his seven seasons, along with 10 career interceptions. He registered 109 stops in 2015 with one pick, one forced fumble and his first career safety.
According to Neil Hornsby of Pro Football Focus, Laurinaitis has especially excelled in pass coverage with the exception of 2015:
Neil Hornsby @PFF_Neil
On James Laurinaitis release: May have seemed long time coming but note 2015 first year he graded -vely in coverage https://t.co/Ko8zxeNGRk2016-2-19 19:48:20
Per NFL Network's Albert Breer, Los Angeles' bevy of cuts will save it a substantial amount of money against the salary cap entering 2016:
Albert Breer @AlbertBreer
By cutting Chris Long, James Laurinaitis and Jared Cook, the Rams save $24.375 million on their 2016 cap. They'll carry ~ $4.7M in dead $$.2016-2-19 19:48:47
The 2016 season was already guaranteed to bring a great deal of change to the Rams franchise after moving from St. Louis to L.A., but that is true from a personnel standpoint as well.
Assuming the Rams don't attempt to re-sign Laurinaitis at a reduced price, they will be tasked with replacing his production.
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Daren Bates is the only other true middle linebacker on the roster currently, but it seems unlikely that they will enter 2016 with him in a starting role.
Making up for an automatic 100-tackle-per-season player won't be easy, but with a strong defensive front that includes Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald, the Rams may be able to get away with not having an elite linebacker corps.
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