The Los Angeles Rams cut ties with some prominent players on their roster, trimming salary cap space. They let go of defensive end Chris Long, linebacker James Laurinaitis and tight end Jared Cook. Now they are on the open market and can sign with any team. Because they were cut from their current contract, they do not have to wait until the start of the new league year in March when free agency begins.
It is that time of year -- the time of rampant speculation about every released player or free agent, so let us fuel this fire a bit. Would Laurinaitis be a player the Arizona Cardinals should look at?
Why it makes sense
Laurinaitis has been a symbol of consistency at the linebacker position. In seven seasons with the Rams, he has missed exactly zero games. In seven seasons, he only was off the field for 21 defensive snaps. Just last season he had 109 tackles, a sack and an interception. The 109 tackles were the fewest he has had in a season.
He is durable. He is productive. He is also very smart. At 6-2, 248 pounds, he certainly would be able to line up next to Deone Bucannon and handle the mike linebacker position ably.
Arizona has virtually no proven depth at inside linebacker. They have Kevin Minter, who enters the final year of his contract, Bucannon, who is actually a safety. Sean Weatherspoon is going to be a free agent. Then they have a collection of former undrafted players who have not seen much playing time.
Laurinaitis could come in and compete immediately for the starting job with Minter. If signed to a two-year deal, he could bridge the gap to the next younger player. He would make Bucannon even better, who already was one of the most productive linebackers in the NFL last year.
Why it doesn't make sense
Minter played solidly last season. Laurinaitis is going to be 30 at the end of the upcoming season. How much money will he command? with his durability and production, he will likely command more than the $3.85 million Sean Weatherspoon signed for last offseason.
The Cardinals are looking to get more athletic. They like getting younger. Adding him would not do that. He has also never played in a 3-4 defense. While he appears to be more than capable with how well he has played in his career, there would be a learning curve.
Laurinaitis is not the type of player who would get the Steve Keim one-year contract specials. He would be more like a John Abraham two-year deal, but his age might still say longer term. The best linebackers can play the position for a long time and play it welll, especially when there is athleticism around them.
The Cardinals would be a good fit, but do they want to sink money into an aging veteran? Minter was as productive as Laurinaitis was last season and already costs less.
So if Laurinaitis were willing to take less money and compete with Minter, who already knows the defensive system, it makes sense. Otherwise, it seems unlikely he would find a home here with the Cardinals.
Would you like Laurinaitis on the Cardinals?