Earlier today, this shocking news came out of Los Angeles.
The Rams announced they've released LB James Lauinaitis, DE Chris Long and TE Jared Cook.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) February 19, 2016
Those are three of the biggest stars on the Rams and three of the longest tenured players on the team, and they also represented about $20 million in cap savings after being released today.
While James Laurinaitis is my favorite of that group, he doesn't fit on a San Diego Chargers team that is very deep at Inside Linebacker.
Jared Cook was not very good last year and didn't deserve the big money he was getting paid at TE, especially when he represented about $5 million in cap savings when cut.
If he wants, Cook could sign with the Chargers as a backup, in hopes of rejuvenating his career with a good QB (which he has never really had) and being the TE-in-waiting when Antonio Gates retires. More on that over the weekend or later today.
Right now, I want to focus on Chris Long.
The 2nd overall pick in the 2008 draft and the son of Hall of Famer Howie Long, Chris Long was a superstar once.
From 2010-2013, Long averaged about 10.5 sacks per season. For reference, that's what Melvin Ingram notched this season, making it the first time anyone on the Chargers had gotten double-digit sacks in a season since Antwan Barnes did it in 2011. And Long was doing it as a 4-3 DE, which means he had a lot more responsibilities than Ingram had coming off the edge as a OLB.
So, why was Chris Long cut? Because the last two years were shit. The man himself said so on Instagram:
That's Chris Long, well-known as being one of the most down-to-earth and fun players away from the field.
Why he might fit with the Chargers
Long hasn't been terrible on the field as much as he just hasn't been on the field over the last two years.
Knee and ankle injuries have kept Long from playing in all but 18 games over the last two seasons, and he's only started 11 of those.
There is reason to believe that Long could still be a dominant player if he were able to get healthy. San Diego has an opening at DE, and plays a hybrid 3-4/4-3 system that could allow Long to focus on what he does best. They also have enough depth that he wouldn't need to play every down.
The Rams were right to cut Long, who was set to make over $11 million if he made the roster this season and represented about $9 million in cap savings if cut. He'll be lucky to find any team in the league that would pay him anything close to that number. What he should be looking for is a good fit, and San Diego might be it.
Long is almost the exact same size as Jarret Johnson, and offers a bit more as a pass-rusher. Johnson was very effective for John Pagano's defense, as both a 3-4 OLB and a 4-3 DE. His versatility kept offenses from being able to figure out San Diego's formations by personnel. I think Long could fit that same role.
What he's worth
I could see Long signing a deal with a team like San Diego that pays him a low-ish base salary ($3 million?) that goes up quite a bit if he starts a certain number of games (an extra $8 million if he starts 12+ games?). The NFLPA won't love it, but Chris Long might plead with them and explain that this is his best chance to make the most money.
In addition to the money, though, Long was known as a leader in the Rams locker room in addition to being a fan favorite. If the Chargers are expecting to lose Eric Weddle, this could be a nice litter replacement in the media and in the locker room.
It's at least worth a phone call, since the Chargers are set to have about $34 million in cap space this offseason. Since Long was cut and is not waiting to become a free agency, this is one player the team could target and sign right now.