James Laurinaitis

Linebacker James Laurinaitis Retires

James Laurinaitis is calling it a career. The linebacker announced via social media that he will retire instead of seeking an NFL home for the 2017 season. James Laurinaitis (vertical)

The thing I’m going to miss the most is the locker room,” Laurinaitis wrote. “The conversations and relationships I built with all that I’ve battled with will be my favorite memories. Players, coaches, equipment staff, medical staff, community outreach, marketing, you name it, the people I’ve met through this game is what I’ll take with me. I’ve been blessed way more through football than I could’ve ever imagined.”

Laurinaitis was with the Rams for the first seven years of his career but the team left him behind before playing its first game in Los Angeles. Prior to the 2016 season, Laurinaitis hooked on with the Saints, but things did not go according to plan. After six games, the 30-year-old was placed on IR just as rookie Sheldon Rankins was designated for return from IR. The move meant that Laurinaitis could not take the field for the Saints again in 2016.

As a courtesy, New Orleans granted him his release, but he was unable to find work. Late-season auditions with the Lions and Chiefs did not result in an offer from either squad.

Laurinaitis will be best remembered for his many years as a starter in St. Louis. From 2009 through 2015, he was first string in every possible regular season game. The former second round pick had 16.5 career sacks and 870 total tackles.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chiefs Work Out Laurinaitis, Brinkley, Irving

The Chiefs worked out a host of linebackers on Monday, including a handful of notables. James Laurinaitis, Nate Irving, Jasper Brinkley, Jayson DiManche, Nick Moody, and Miles Burris all showed their stuff for Kansas City (Twitter link via Adam Caplan of ESPN.com). KC could look to sign a linebacker with Derrick Johnson out for the season."<strong

[RELATED: Derrick Johnson Not Considering Retirement]

Laurinaitis inked a three-year, $8.5MM deal with the Saints in the offseason. Expected to provide veteran leadership for New Orleans, Laurinaitis suffered a setback when he went down with a quad injury. He insisted that he was healthy enough to return from IR, but that possibility went out the window when rookie Sheldon Rankins was activated. Last month, the Saints agreed to release Laurinaitis after having paid him roughly $2MM for his six games and 17 tackles.

Irving was speculatively connected to the Colts after D’Qwell Jackson‘s four-game suspension, but Indianapolis wasn’t interested in a reunion. The 28-year-old was dropped by the Colts at final cutdowns despite being in the midst of a multi-year deal. Injuries limited him to eight games (two starts) last year with just eleven tackles. Prior to joining Indianapolis, Irving spent four years with the Broncos, but wasn’t a starter until his final season in Denver.

We haven’t heard much about Brinkley since October when he auditioned for the Patriots. The 31-year-old had 67 tackles and one sack for the Giants last year and he has been exceptionally durable throughout his career. Still, he has been unable to find work so far in 2016.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Work Out LB James Laurinaitis

James Laurinaitis is now healthy and available for hire. The linebacker is working out today for the Lions today, a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). James Laurinaitis (vertical)

The Saints placed Laurinaitis on IR earlier this year but he felt that he could return from his quad injury. However, the Saints already used their IR-DTR slot on rookie Sheldon Rankins, which meant that the veteran could not play again for the Saints in 2016. Last week, the Saints agreed to cut Laurinaitis from the roster if he could pass a physical and he held up his side of the bargain.

The 29-year-old (30 in December) was a rock for the Rams as he started 112 consecutive games. With the Saints, he was bitten by the injury bug and saw time in only six games. When Laurinaitis signed a three-year, $8.5MM deal back in March, it seemed like a solid value for the Saints. Unfortunately, things did not pan out.

The Lions have been thin at linebacker ever since Jon Bostic underwent foot surgery earlier this year. He was considered to be the team’s top candidate for return from IR, but he has yet to be activated even though he has been eligible since Week 8. It’s possible that the Lions are instead hoping to get Ameer Abdullah back in the lineup. Abdullah will meet with a foot specialist on Tuesday to determine whether he can start practicing. If he gets the green light, the Lions may opt to sign a linebacker like Laurinaitis instead of bringing Bostic back.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints Waive James Laurinaitis From IR

The Saints have waived linebacker James Laurinaitis from injured reserve, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). New Orleans’ decision to move on from Laurinaitis comes as no surprise, as Mike Garafolo of NFL.com reported Tuesday that the team would cut the 29-year-old if a doctor deemed him healthy. That’s apparently the case, which will give Laurinaitis a chance to catch on elsewhere before season’s end.

James Laurinaitis

Laurinaitis suffered a quad injury in September and his late-October return fell flat, leading the Saints to place him on IR. All told, he appeared in six games (four starts) and made 17 tackles with New Orleans, which signed him to a three-year, $8.5MM deal in the offseason. The contract included a $1.8MM signing bonus, so the Saints forked over roughly $2MM to their failed investment.

Prior to joining the Saints, Laurinaitis established himself as one of the NFL’s most durable defenders in seven years with the Rams. The 2009 second-round pick didn’t miss a game in St. Louis, where he appeared in and started 112 in a row. Despite that, the Rams released him in February.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints To Release James Laurinaitis, If Cleared

Saints linebacker James Laurinaitis will see a doctor this week and, if deemed healthy, he will be released off injured reserve and permitted to sign elsewhere, sources tell Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). James Laurinaitis (vertical)

Laurinaitis suffered a quad injury in September and his late October return fell flat, leading New Orleans to park him on IR. Apparently, he feels that he is healthy enough to play again, but the Saints cannot reactivate him after already using their IR-DTR spot on Sheldon Rankins.

Laurinaitis joined New Orleans on a three-year deal this spring with a base value of $8.5MM. The contract included a $1.8MM signing bonus, so the Saints have forked over about ~$2MM in total on their failed investment.

Prior to his issues this year, the ex-Ohio State standout never missed a game or a start since entering the league in 2009, suiting up 112 consecutive times. Last year, he turned in his seventh 100-tackle campaign in a row. If he’s truly healthy, Laurinaitis can be an impact addition for a contender in need of defensive help.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints Activate Rankins, Put Laurinaitis On IR

The Saints have used their IR exemption on a key performer, bringing back first-round defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Rankins has not played this season, going down with a broken fibula in August. New Orleans played it safe with its top 2016 rookie investment, delaying his return until November after he was initially slated to miss between six and eight weeks. The Louisville defensive tackle appears to be on track to play against the 49ers on Sunday.

To make room for the promising first-year talent on the active roster, the team placed James Laurinaitis on IR, ending his season, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter).

The 22-year-old Rankins will join a Saints defense that ranks 27th in total defense but one that’s been deprived of some key parts. Delvin Breaux has also missed extensive time, having not played since going down in Week 1. P.J. Williams also resides on IR. New Orleans gave up a league-record 45 touchdown passes last season but upset Seattle last week and has a chance to move to .500 in San Francisco on Sunday.

While they’re not on pace to give up close to the 45 TD tosses they yielded in 2015, having clamped down despite secondary losses to cede just nine through seven games, the Saints have just 10 sacks. That ranks them 30th in the league. Rankins totaled 14 sacks at Louisville between the 2014-15 campaigns and should help in this department if he’s able to contribute consistently.

Laurinaitis has never spent time on IR in seven previous seasons, starting every game in which he played from 2009-15. But with Rankins having returned, he will not be able to continue that run of making it through every season on a Week 17 active roster. The offseason acquisition missed two games for the Saints and entered as a backup after returning from the quadriceps injury that sidelined him, so multiple streaks for the durable talent have ended this season.

The 29-year-old linebacker suffered the quad injury in Week 3 but returned to play in Weeks 6 and 7 for his new team. The former Rams standout did not make a tackle against the Chiefs or Seahawks, however, and will have more time to rehab now. He finishes the season with 17 stops.

One of several veteran Rams cut this offseason, Laurinaitis signed a three-year deal with the Saints and stands to see his base salary balloon from $900K to $2.45MM next season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints Sign James Laurinaitis

MARCH 25, 9:55am: Laurinaitis’ three-year deal has a base value of $8.5MM, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (all Twitter links). More details on the deal:

  • Signing bonus: $1.8MM
  • Workout bonus: $50K annually
  • Roster bonuses: $250K in 2017 and 2018 (due on third day of respective league years)
  • Incentives: Up to $500K annually via playing time and team ranking
  • Annual base salaries $900K (2016), $2.45MM (2017), $2.45MM (2018)
  • Annual cap hits: $1.55MM (2016), $3.35MM (2017), $3.35MM (2018)

MARCH 17, 3:35pm: The Saints have officially confirmed their agreement with Laurinaitis, announcing that it’s a three-year contract for the veteran linebacker (Twitter link).

MARCH 16, 8:30pm: The Saints and free agent linebacker James Laurinaitis have agreed to a deal, tweets Rand Getlin of NFL.com. Details of the contract aren’t yet available.

After the Rams released Laurinaitis last month, the 29-year-old made two confirmed visits. One was with the Saints, who beat out the other – the NFC South rival Falcons – for his services.

Laurinaitis will add durability and productivity to a Saints defense that ranked 31st in the NFL last season. The ex-Ohio State "<strongstandout has never missed a game or a start since entering the league in 2009, suiting up 112 consecutive times. He’s also fresh off his seventh 100-tackle campaign in a row and has racked up 16.5 sacks and 10 interceptions during his career.

Laurinaitis added 109 tackles, an interception, a sack and a forced fumble last season, but Pro Football Focus (subscription required) rated his performance a below-average 83rd out of 97 qualifying LBs. He graded out especially poorly against the run, which doesn’t seem to bode well for the Saints – who allowed the league’s highest yards-per-carry average last season (4.9).

In New Orleans, Laurinaitis will join a corps of linebackers that was likely to feature Stephone Anthony, Hau’oli Kikaha and Dannell Ellerbe in starting roles. It’s unclear how the addition of Laurinaitis – a middle linebacker who played 99.7 percent of the Rams’ defensive snaps last season – will impact Anthony. After the Saints took him in the first round of last year’s draft, Anthony started all 16 of their games, made 112 tackles, forced two fumbles, and added a sack and an interception while manning the middle of their defense.

In addition to Laurinaitis, the Saints inked linebacker Nate Stupar on Wednesday. He’s mainly a contributor on special teams, however. Previously, the Saints made changes to their LB group by releasing David Hawthorne and Ramon Humber in February.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On James Laurinaitis

2:28pm: The amount of interest in Laurinaitis appears to have been exaggerated. Per Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the report below indicating five teams have already met with the free agent linebacker came from a Twitter account posing as Laurinaitis’ father (Twitter link). The Saints and Falcons appear to be in the mix, but it’s probably not safe to assume any of the new teams are pursuing Laurinaitis.

12:00pm: Add the 49ers to that list of questionable inclusions. Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com writes that the linebacker hasn’t met with the 49ers, and it’s uncertain whether the player will even meet with the organization.

10:18am: ESPN’s John Keim tweets that a person within the Washington organization wasn’t aware of a meeting with Laurinaitis. The writer notes that he’s “putting no stock” in the comments by the linebacker’s father.

9:18am: James Laurinaitis has been a busy man since being cut by the Rams last month. We knew that the linebacker had already traveled to New Orleans and Atlanta to meet with the Saints and Falcons, respectively. However, it doesn’t sound like his travels ended there.

James Laurinaitis (vertical)According to the Laurinaitis’ father (via Evan Woodbery of NOLA.com), the 29-year-old has met with five other teams: the Patriots, Bears, 49ers, Giants, and Washington.

The Ohio State product was a consistent force in the Rams’ defense for the past seven years. The linebacker started every possible game during his tenure in St. Louis, and he never finished with less than 100 tackles in a single season. This past year, Laurinaitis compiled 109 tackles, one sack and one interception. The linebacker has averaged 122 tackles, two sacks and five passes defended per season.

Despite these consistent numbers, the advanced stats have not been particularly friendly. For his 2015 performance, Pro Football Focus ranked Laurinaitis 83rd among eligible linebackers, which placed him third on the Rams (behind Mark Barron and Akeem Ayers). He still earned a spot on our rankings of the best free agent inside linebackers, placing seventh.

James Laurinaitis To Visit Falcons

Free agent linebacker James Laurinaitis, who visited the Saints last week but who left New Orleans without a contract,will visit the Falcons on Monday and Tuesday, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). We heard after Laurinaitis’ visit with the Saints that both sides still had some interest in getting a deal done, but now division-rival Atlanta will have a shot at adding the former Buckeye to the middle of its defense.

James Laurinaitis (vertical)Laurinaitis, who was released by the Rams on February 19, had spent his entire career with the club since being selected in the second round of the 2009 draft. Since that time, he has not missed a single game, starting all 112 of the Rams’ contests at inside linebacker. He has never received a Pro Bowl nod, but he has racked up over 100 tackles in each season he has been in the league, adding 16.5 sacks and 10 interceptions in the process. However, he graded out as one of the worst linebackers in the NFL in 2015 per Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required), and his performance has shown a small but steady decline over the past several seasons.

Nonetheless, he may still represent a boost for a club like the Falcons that is seeking an upgrade in the middle of its defense. Atlanta deployed Paul Worrilow, a restricted free agent, as the middle linebacker position last year, but they are clearly considering other options. Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan is also said to be high on the Falcons’ radar, and while Trevathan is a better player than Laurinaitis at this point, he would come with a higher price tag. Atlanta does, however, have over $33MM in cap room.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

 

FA Rumors: Freeman, Laurinaitis, Matthews

Appearing on SiriusXM NFL Radio (SoundCloud link), Colts free agent linebacker Jerrell Freeman said he loves Indianapolis and would be open to re-signing with the Colts. However, Freeman also acknowledged the possibility that he might be playing in a different city. The veteran linebacker alluded to the fact that, as an unrestricted free agent, this will be his first real opportunity to have some freedom and flexibility when it comes to signing a contract, since the Colts didn’t appear to seriously pursue a long-term extension with him a year ago when he was a restricted free agent.

“I’d been playing for the league minimum for three years,” Freeman said. “Then I ended up signing the [RFA] tender, which I guess was best for the team…. I’m in free agency now, so I guess I have to do what’s best for me.”

Here’s more on a handful of free agents and free-agents-to-be:

  • After paying a visit to the Saints, linebacker James Laurinaitis left without a contract, but there still appears to be some mutual interest between the two sides, writes Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. Per Triplett, Laurinaitis has drawn interest from multiple clubs since being cut by the Rams last month.
  • As Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk details, Dolphins free agent wideout Rishard Matthews is aiming to be a No. 2 receiver in 2016, so Matthews figures to prioritize suitors that will give him the best opportunity for playing time.
  • Washington nose tackle Terrance Knighton admitted during an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio (SoundCloud link) that he let his emotions get the best of him in free agency a year ago, adding that he heads to the market this year prepared to better recognize the business aspect of the process. According to Knighton, he hasn’t received a strong indication from Washington that the team wants him back, but he’s “not going to stress about” it.
  • After being released by the Bills this week, defensive end Mario Williams figures to garner interest from many teams around the NFL. Paul Schwartz of the New York Post takes a look at the Giants as one possibility for Williams, while D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explores the veteran pass rusher’s potential fit with the Falcons.