ST. LOUIS, MO - NOVEMBER 27: James Laurinaitis #55 of the St. Louis Rams waits to be introduced prior to playing against the Arizona Cardinals at the Edward Jones Dome on November 27, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals beat the Rams 23-20. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
The St. Louis Rams expect to have a contract extension with James Laurinaitis done before the start of the season, says Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports. The team has been working on a new deal to extend a player who has been a cornerstone of the defense since being selected in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
Locking up Laurinaitis follows a deal to keep defensive end Chris Long in a Rams uniform through 2016. It would also take away the team's two biggest question marks for free agency in 2013, eliminating a sticky situation with the franchise tag.
That move would put the Rams on very solid financial footing, from a salary cap standpoint. As LaCanfora points out, the Rams will have 12 players picked in the first and second rounds of the draft signed at cut rate rookie prices by 2014. That financial flexibility could be used to get Sam Bradford signed to an extension, depending on what Bradford does in the 2012 season.
As for what Laurinaitis' deal might look like, TST took a guess at that based on this year's modest market for middle linebackers.
Once a deal gets done with Laurinaitis, the two biggest free agent issues to deal with next season are Danny Amendola and Bradley Fletcher. Both could prove to be too valuable to let walk with a strong season in 2012. Both players also have plenty of younger models in line behind them, ready to challenge for a bigger workload.