After the St. Louis Rams released him, James Laurinaitis is doing what free agents do: Touring and trying to find their next team. The inside linebacker has already met with the New Orleans Saints, and next up are the Atlanta Falcons, and that might not be the end of the list.
The seven year veteran has played his entire career with the Rams, beginning in 2009 after taken 35th overall in the draft coming out of Ohio State. He has started in all 16 games each season as a pro, finishing with 100 tackles or more in each of these seasons. However, despite his dependability as an inside linebacker which has made him the 5th highest paid in the league at the position, he’s been declining as a tackler and in pass coverage each season. Pro Football Focus (who don’t always get the most accurate and realistic of results) graded him as one of the worst in the league at the position.
The Rams released him with two years left on the deal. There was a $6.4 million cap hit coming in 2016, and by cutting him the Rams saved $5.5 million in cap space. In 2017 the cap hit would have been $8.35 million. Now, it’ll be interesting what the 29 year old with no history of injuries but without a Pro Bowl selection in his career is going to command in free agency. There definitely is demand for his skills, but how badly do teams want him?
The Saints don’t have a lot of room to work with under the cap right now (around $8 million) and Laurinaitis leaving New Orleans without a deal suggests both sides couldn’t find something they’re happy with. That bridge hasn’t been burnt just yet, but Laurinaitis, even with a pay cut, isn’t looking for too much of a demotion in salary, and what the Saints can probably offer isn’t too appealing.
The Falcons have other targets besides Laurinaitis on their mind, like Danny Trevathan recently leaving the Denver Broncos. However, he’s going to be a more expensive pick up. The Falcons have $33 million in spending money and a middle linebacker they’re not too happy with, which probably makes them a better landing spot for Laurinaitis than the Saints at this point.