One day after being cut by the Los Angeles—nee St. Louis—Rams in a cost-cutting move that saved $24.5 million, could former Ohio State standout James Laurinaitis be on his way to being the new top dawg for the Cleveland Browns?
Laurinaitis, 29, was part of a salary cap purge that include former No.2 overall pick in 2008 NFL Draft Chris Long and veteran tight end Jared Cook, will likely be on of the most sought-after targets in free agency. In his seven years in St. Louis, Laurinaitis accumulated 852 total tackles, the most in Rams franchise history.
In 2015-16, Laurinaitis racked up 109 total tackles, 31 assists, one sack and one interception. While his production has steadily dropped from 142 in 2011-12 and 2012-13 to 116 total tackles in 2013-14 to 109 in 2014-15, his type of “maddog in a meathouse” aggressiveness could invigorate a perennially stale run defense that has traditionally been gashed on the ground and in their 17 years back as a re-born expansion franchise, have lacked a “quarterback” on defense.
Much like their long, arduous and seemingly futile search for a signal-caller under center, Cleveland has never had a true leader on the defensive side of the ball. Yes, while Jamir Miller and Karlos Dansby come to mind as savvy veterans who added some leadership, Cleveland has never had a Ray Lewis/Brian Urlacher-type of alpha dog on defense.
With the forementioned Dansby likely on his last legs in Cleveland, plus the uncertainty over the utilization of former first-round bust in Barkevious Mingo, Laurinaitis could help inject some much-needed fire at linebacker in providing help in run support and rushing the quarterback.
Not as good in pass coverage as Craig Robertson and Christian Kirksey, Laurinaitis would be a much-needed upgrade for the NFL’s second-worst run defense that surrendered over 128.4 yards a game on the ground.
Likely to take either a pass rusher or linebacker in the later rounds of the upcoming 2016 NFL Draft, Cleveland would be wise to invest in a proven commodity such as Laurinaitis to bolster their defense instead of risking a pick on an unproven prospect instead.