The Los Angeles Rams opened up $24 million in salary cap space on Friday by releasing three veteran players in a move described by head coach Jeff Fisher as "difficult." The team released linebacker James Laurinaitis, defensive end Chris Long, and tight end Jared Cook. While the moves have just been announced, already Miami Dolphins fans are considering the possibility that the South Florida franchise could make a run at one, some, or all of the players, all of whom could fill holes, or potential holes, on the Dolphins' roster.
Laurinaitis was the Rams' second-round draft choice in 2009, starting all 112 games played since he was drafted. He has 853 career tackles, the most in Rams franchise history, along with 16.5 sacks, 10 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, and 8 fumble recoveries. Last year, he recorded 109 tackles with one sack, one interception, and one forced fumble. Playing middle linebacker, Laurinaitis would be able to immediately come in and take charge of a Miami defense that has lacked a true field-general middle linebacker the past few seasons. He was scheduled to account for $6.425 million against the salary cap in 2016, then $8.35 million in 2017.
Long was the second overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, going one spot after the Miami Dolphins drafted the not-related Jake Long. As the Rams' defensive end, Chris Long, the son of Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long, started 95 games, with another 19 appearances, in eight years. He played in 12 games last season, with five starts, recording 19 tackles with three sacks. For his career, Long has 247 tackles with 54.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles, and five fumble recoveries with one touchdown. The Dolphins could have interest in Long if they are unable to find a way to keep soon-to-be free agent defensive Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby. Long would have counted for $14.25 million against the Rams' cap in 2016.
If the Dolphins were to add Long, it would make for an interesting side note, as the team was debating between Jake Long and Chris Long in 2008, choosing to draft Jake. When Jake became a free agent, he signed with the Rams in 2013. Chris joining the Dolphins would mean both the Rams and the Dolphins had the services of the top two picks in the 2008 Draft at some point in their career.
The third player released was Cook, who joined the Rams as a free agent in 2013. Cook began his career as a third round pick of the Tennessee Titans, playing for four years with the club. He moved to St. Louis, where he has appeared in all 48 games over the past three years, with 31 starts. With the Rams, Cook recorded 142 receptions for 1,786 yards with 8 touchdowns. He appeared in all 16 games, with 12 starts, last year catching 39 passes for 481 yards. He would have accounted for $8.3 million against the cap in 2016, then $8.4 million in 2017. Cook could be signed as a replacement for Jordan Cameron, if the team were to determine his salary cap number of $9.5 million were too much for this year.
Laurinaitis is probably the player, of the three, most likely to draw Miami's interest. They need an upgrade at middle linebacker, and they need a linebacker they can count on to be on the field week-after-week. The team struggled with repeated injuries to the linebackers last year, and Laurinaitis has clearly been able to play every game of his career. Long and Cook could be intriguing options to consider, but neither really makes much sense for Miami at this point.
What do you think the Dolphins should do?