The Rams will head to Los Angeles without three veteran members of the team.
The team announced Friday that they have released defensive end Chris Long, linebacker James Laurinaitis and tight end Jared Cook. Long was the second overall pick of the 2008 draft and Laurinaitis joined the team in the second round of the 2009 draft, so both had long runs with the team before getting their walking papers.
“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. 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.”
Long said last month that he was open to redoing his contract to stay with the Rams, but it’s not clear if there were any discussions on that front before the team decided to move in another direction. Long battled injuries the last two seasons and had just four sacks after recording 50.5 of them in his first six seasons, a drop in production that left him “not surprised” to learn the news on Friday.
Laurinaitis never missed a game in seven seasons with the team and leaves the Rams as the franchise leader in tackles.
Cook signed with the team as a free agent in 2013 and Fisher credited him with making “an immediate impact” upon joining the team. That impact included a franchise record for most receiving yards by a tight end during his first year with the club.
The three moves will create a lot of cap space for the Rams. Long was set to count $14.25 million against the cap and the team will get nearly $12 million back as a result of his departure. Dropping Cook and Laurinaitis clears another $11 million-plus for the team to put toward building the first group of players for their second stay in L.A.