The Rams have confirmed the release of three veteran players, announcing in a press release that defensive end Chris Long, tight end Jared Cook, and linebacker James Laurinaitis have been cut. As vested veterans, all three players will become free agents without having to pass through waivers.
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“This is the time of year when all NFL teams are faced with difficult decisions regarding their veteran players,” Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said 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. Like Chris and James, he’s been a mainstay in the community and his contributions are commendable.”
Long, Cook, and Laurinaitis all had top-five cap hits for the Rams heading into 2016, making them logical release candidates — when PFR’s Zach Links previewed the club’s offseason earlier this week, he mentioned all three players as potential cap casualties.
Assuming none of the three veterans are designated as post-June 1 cuts, the Rams should create nearly $23MM in cap savings for 2016 with today’s moves, according to Over the Cap’s data. The trio will count toward the Rams’ ’16 cap for about $6MM in dead money.
Los Angeles had entered the day with upwards of $36MM in projected cap room already, per OTC, so the club should have a huge amount of flexibility in the coming weeks to re-sign its own free agents, including cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, safety Rodney McLeod, and quarterback Case Keenum, among others.
As for the three players who hit the market today, it shouldn’t take too long for Long, Cook, and Laurinaitis to find new homes. Cook and Laurinaitis have been regular contributors for the last several seasons in St. Louis, but perhaps weren’t producing enough to justify their increasing cap figures — on more modest deals, they’ll draw interest.
Long, meanwhile, has seen his last two seasons derailed by injuries, but he’s still only 30 years old. If he can get healthy, the former second overall pick should still have something left in the tank. From 2010 to 2013 – his last four healthy seasons – Long totaled 41.5 sacks, an average of more than 10 per year.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.