Original Post: February 19, 2016
The Rams have a brand new home in Los Angeles — and a rapidly changing roster to go with it.
The team released defensive end Chris Long, linebacker James Laurinaitis and tight end Jared Cook on Friday. The club later confirmed the moves.
“This is the time of year when all NFL teams are faced with difficult decisions regarding their veteran players,” Rams 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. 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.
In an Instagram post, Long thanked St. Louis fans (and even potential L.A. fans) “for all your support over eight years.”
“I love you all so much for sticking with me through the ups and downs,” he wrote.
Still, he stated he understood why the Rams decided to release him.
“Bottom line is — this is a production business. No excuses, the last two years have been (expletive). It’s been painful to experience because I care deeply about my performance and my responsibility to my teammates.
“Before the last two years, I’m very proud of what I was able to accomplish in St. Louis,” he continued. “I’m not surprised, but it doesn’t make it any easier to lose your family.”
The trio of cuts will save the West Coast-bound Rams a combined $24.375 million in salary-cap space for 2016, per NFL Media’s Albert Breer. The team will carry an additional $4.7 million in dead money off the veteran contracts.
Although surprising to some, the cuts aren’t shocking when you consider that Long was set to cost $14.25 million in cap space this season. He and Laurinaitis have served as the face of Fisher’s defense for years — and their absence will take some getting used to — but both should find work in a hurry on the open market. Long especially will draw interest as a pass rusher. After all, he’s just a few seasons removed from operating as one of the league’s more disruptive forces.
As for Cook, he was long whispered about as a potential cut. His $8.3 million cap hit was too rich for an underwhelming blocker who accounted for just 481 yards off 39 catches last season.
The Rams surprised some by keeping Fisher around as their coach, but make no mistake: This team is rolling toward the Pacific with plenty of changes in store. That will happen with a new quarterback or two and — after Friday — a vastly altered front seven.
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