LOS ANGELES (AP) The salary-cap purge for the Los Angeles Rams has begun with the release of veterans James Laurinaitis, Chris Long, and Jared Cook on Friday.
In moves that will reduce the team's salary by nearly $25 million as it relocates from St. Louis, the Rams departed with two mainstays in star linebacker Laurinaitis and defensive end Long. Laurinaitis has been one of the NFL's leading tacklers throughout his seven-year pro career. Long, the son of Hall of Famer Howie Long, has been the Rams' top pass rusher for most of his eight seasons.
''This is the time of year when all NFL teams are faced with difficult decisions regarding their veteran players,'' Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. ''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.''
Selected in the second round of the 2009 draft, Laurinaitis, 29, led the Rams in tackles in each of his first four seasons, and made at least 100 tackles in each of his seven seasons in St. Louis. In 2015, he passed Hall of Famer and 14-time Pro Bowler Merlin Olsen to become the leading tackler in franchise history.
Long, 30, was drafted second overall by the Rams in 2008. He started 95 of 114 games and made 54 1-2 sacks. Long led the team in sacks in 2011 and 2012. He also has forced eight fumbles and recovered five.
Cook, 28, joined the Rams as a free agent before the 2013 season and set franchise records for most receiving yards by a tight end both in a single season (671 in 2013) and in a single game (141 on Sept. 8, 2013 vs. Arizona).
''Jared made an immediate impact when he joined the team in 2013,'' Fisher said. ''It's been a pleasure watching him grow from the time I drafted him in Tennessee to seeing him set franchise records in St. Louis. Like Chris and James, he's been a mainstay in the community and his contributions are commendable.''
Laurinaitis started every game last season and Cook started 12 of the 16. Long missed four games.
Keeping the three players would have meant significant salary-cap hits in 2016. Long's deal called for a cap hit of almost $12 million, while for Laurinaitis it would have been $5.5 million and for Cook nearly $5.7 million.
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