The Los Angeles Rams (that'll take some getting used to) cut three marquee players in order to free up a whopping $23 million in cap space.
The Rams have a lot of needs in free agency, with pretty much their entire secondary and half of the defensive line up for new deals. The three players let loose are well regarded and beg the question: could they help the New England Patriots?
Tight end Jared Cook
Cook has been an annual underachiever in the league. The 6'5, 250 lbs tight end runs a blazing 4.50 40 yard dash and is incredibly explosive with a 10'3 broad jump and 41 inch vertical. He can run and he can block and he could be everything that Scott Chandler failed to be in 2015.
While he's missed just 5 games since he entered the league in 2009, the soon-to-be-29-year-old Cook has averaged just 32.7 yards per game. That trails the like of Charles Clay, Brent Celek, Delanie Walker, and Zach Miller, placing Cook firmly in the third tier of tight ends, right alongside Chandler.
And perhaps Cook has an excuse for his lack of production. The quarterbacks he's played with are a veritable wasteland of talent or health. Matt Hasselbeck leads quarterbacks with 103 attempts in Cook's direction, but Hasselbeck was playing back-up to the oft-injured Jake Locker in Tennessee. Nick Foles, Austin Davis, Shaun Hill, Kellen Clemens, Sam Bradford, Kerry Collins, Case Keenum, Vince Young, RUSTY SMITH.
That's awful. Could Cook's production improve in New England? Would it make sense?
Linebacker James Laurinaitis
Laurinaitis has not missed a game in his NFL career. He has started 112 of 112 possible games. He has missed a mere 21 snaps in his NFL career. The 29-year-old linebacker would appear to be the perfect match for the seemingly oft-injured Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower. He's also regarded as one of the best locker room leaders around and has a tremendous football IQ.
There are a few concerns with Laurinaitis' game. While he's a very consistent tackler, he's more of a clean-up player, allowing ball-carriers to get into the second level, instead of an aggressive run stuffer. While he grades positively in pass coverage, the Patriots only use three-linebacker sets on run-defense downs.
If Laurinaitis isn't a good run defender, then he provides less value than Jonathan Freeny, who at least offers value on special teams. The Patriots would probably be better off finding a depth linebacker late in free agency or in the draft.
Defensive end Chris Long
On the opposite end of the health spectrum, the soon-to-be-31-year-old Long has missed 14 games over the past two seasons after playing 100% in his first six seasons. He has missed time with knee and ankle injuries, which probably will reduce his value on the open market.
When healthy, Long is a monster, although those days could be behind him. He averaged over 10 sacks and started every game in the four years prior to his injuries. While he might not be perfect in run defense, his production in the passing game could make him a valuable role player if the Patriots ever feel like they need additional depth at the position.
Of course, the Patriots are flush with talent at the role. They have Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, and Jabaal Sheard rotating with the majority of the snaps, and they added Rufus Johnson, Geneo Grissom, and Trey Flowers as important pieces last offseason. It would be unlikely for the team to add another top tier edge defender, unless they planned on moving one of the three key rotating players in a trade.