Chris Long and James Laurinaitis are stalwarts on the Ram defense. They have both demonstrated excellence and consistency throughout their young careers. Laurinaitis had an exceptional 2011 season: 105 TKL's, 3 Sacks, 2 Int's, and 7 PD.
Long put the heat on opposing QB's: 13 Sacks, 2 PD, and 1 Int; all from the DE position. Pass rushers are in great demand. Which begs the question: Will the Rams be able to afford both Long and Laurinaitis come 2013? It seems unlikely. If Long goes on the free agent market, he could command a pretty penny. At 27 years of age, with his pass rush production - a five year deal for $70 million - is not out of the realm of posibility.
In my opinion, the Rams would not exceed nor match $14 million a year for Long. It is understandable why they would not. Cost. I think, it would be better to allow Long to become a FA, and use the saved cash for additional talent. The loss of Long can be addressed via draft or free agency.
I would rather have the Rams focus on signing Laurinaitis. Outstanding MLB's are tough to come by. He is, in every sense of the word; a "QB' on defense. His skills - intelligence, leadership, productivity, durability and reliability - are not easily replaceable. At age 25, Laurinatis and his talents at MLB, should be locked up long term.
Personal feelings aside, I see this as the way for the Rams to go forward.