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Chris Long and James Laurinaitis Destinations
The Los Angeles Rams released defensive end Chris Long and middle linebacker James Laurinaitis recently, and both have been the discussion on social media and the water cooler. The main topic being where they will both end up. In the infamous words of James’ father’s(WWE Hall of Famer Road Warrior Animal) long time tag team partner Hawk: Weellllllll…..(keep in mind that when you read that, you have to scream it in your head as a deep, guttural voice)
I figure we’ll take a look at Laurinaitis(109 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception) first:
1. New Orleans Saints: the Saints ranked 31st in total defense in 2015, allowing a ridiculous 129.8 rushing yards per game(rypg). That is crazy! Laurinaitis has been linked to the Saints as his first stop in free agency, so this move would make sense. Laurinaitis is a run stuffer, and the Saints could absolutely use that in their defense. I mean, just look at their defense allowed on the ground. Dannell Ellerbe is the only notable name in that linebacker corps, so Laurinaitis would be a HUGE upgrade.
2. Atlanta Falcons: the Falcons ranked 16th in total defense, allowing 105 rypg, which actually isn’t bad. I listed Hotlanta as a destination because Laurinaitis is linked to them as his second visit in free agency, and the Falcons’ defense just isn’t any good. Outside linebacker Vic Beasley(headed into his second year) can use all the help he can get, and I think a thumper like Laurinaitis is exactly what Beasley needs with him, a proven veteran that will stick his nose in and make tackles.
3. New York Giants: The G-Men ranked dead last in total defense, allowing 121.4 rypg, which actually could have been much worse. Starting middle linebacker Jon Beason has announced his retirement and Uani Unga is limited in what he can do. Laurinaitis provides an instant plug in that sieve of a defense.
4. Detroit Lions: My Lions released starting middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch, and it doesn’t appear that Tulloch’s replacement is on the roster. The Lions ranked 18th in total defense, allowing 112.8 rypg, which, again, isn’t awful. With outside linebacker Tahir Whitehead looking like he’s going to hit the free agent market, Detroit has a clear need at linebacker, which Laurinaitis would fill. The potential pairing of Laurinaitis and outside linebacker DeAndre Levy makes my mouth water with the potential to wreck running games. I really hope, in all seriousness, that Detroit lands Laurinaitis.
5. Cleveland Browns: Cleveland ranked 27th in total defense, allowing a staggering 128.4 rypg. That’s awful. Just plain awful. Starting middle linebacker Karlos Dansby isn’t getting any younger with 13 years of NFL service. An upgrade is needed. Plain and simple, cut and dry. Laurinaitis, who is familiar with Ohio, having played at Ohio State, would be an immediate impact for that defense. Think of this combination: Kruger, Laurinaitis, Dansby as the other middle linebacker, and Mingo. Good gravy, that could be scary!
6. San Fransisco 49ers: San Fran ranked 29th in total defense, allowing 126.3 rypg. Considering in the recent past this team once had Patrick Willis paired with Navorro Bowman, this number is disgusting. Bowman is left to do all the dirty work with Ahmad Brooks as his tag team partner in the middle. I don’t have a problem with Bowman, but I do feel Brooks is the weak link here. Insert Laurinaitis, and you’re going to have a hard time running against San Fransisco.
7. Indianapolis Colts: Indy ranked 26th in total defense, allowing a jaw dropping 122 rypg. Simply put, this defense needs a stallion. I firmly believe Laurinaitis provides that. D’Qwell Jackson could be shifted to the outside, and paired with Laurinaitis, this defense becomes better.
Now, we’ll take a look at potential homes for defensive end Chris Long(19 tackles, 3 sacks in 12 games):
1. New York Giants: with Jason Pierre-Paul expected to hit the free agent pool with a splash, Big Blue is going to need a replacement. Chris Long, coming off of a down year, could provide a suitable replacement. Long has 54.5 career sacks and 246 career tackles, so he’s a legit playmaker. The Giants could do a lot worse than having Long wreaking havoc for them.
2. New Orleans Saints: aside from Cameron Jordan, the Saints don’t have a legitimate starter at defensive end. Long would be a nice bookend opposite Jordan.
3. Atlanta Falcons: As I said in regards to Laurinaitis, Atlanta’s defense is bad. Vic Beasley is the only guy generating any type of pass rush, and I think Long would go a long way to helping Beasley cause chaos against offenses.
4. Detroit Lions: My Lions could use a veteran bookend opposite star defensive end Ziggy Ansah, and Long provides that. I see Ansah as the pass rusher and Long as a run stuffing defensive end with the ability to pass rush. Long isn’t a slouch, he just had a bad year in 2015. Seeing Long in Honolulu blue and silver would be pretty cool, not to mention scary for the other three teams in the NFC North.
5. Oakland Raiders: Well, well, well. Here it is. Could Chris Long actually play where his father, Howie Long, played? Absolutely!! Khalil Mack is the only guy really generating any results on that defensive line, and I feel Long would be a huge help here. Mack and Long on the ends is a scary duo, period.
6. Indianapolis Colts: Kendall Langford is the only defensive end of note on this team, and while he’s solid but not spectacular, he doesn’t get much help in any facet of the defense from his linemates. Long steps in and provides that help.
These are just a few possibilities on where the NFL’s version of the Road Warriors could end up. I don’t feel they’ll end up on the same team, but at the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised. This is the NFL, nothing surprises me anymore.
Follow me on Twitter at @Martifilus