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Los Angeles Rams: Kicking Over The Table On Defense...

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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

It took me a while to let recent player releases sink in... Chris Long and James Laurinaitis are two of my favorite NFL players. Regardless of all the arm-chair GM "yada-yada" I've been reading, releasing both of these players was - in my humble opinion - a mistake. I love being a fan of the NFL, and you do too. It's odd though, when thoughts turn to the off season, and fans shift to being more akin to "thumbs up, or down" evaluators of players they've recently seen giving their all for the team they love...

With the departure of Long and Laurinaitis, head coach Jeff Fisher kicked over the proverbial table of a defense he's spent the last 4 years trying to build. Many don't rate these two players as high as I do, and that's fine. What's looming for the Rams right now is a tipping moment, and I have little doubt everything Los Angeles fans are about to experience was driven by an edict from team owner Stan Kroenke: "Win now, and I mean RIGHT NOW...!"

So how is my lamentation of the release of Long and Laurinaitis, and the implication doing so would somehow lead the Los Angeles Rams to a chance at something better than another in a series of 7-9 seasons, not more than a bit confusing? Well, it isn't... In fact, it's down right contradictory. Yet, I can't lean away from a nagging gut feeling Jeff Fisher - and team GM Les Snead - are about to leap into free agency in a way that'll wreak of a "win now, or never" mentality. I agree Long and Laurinaitis weren't anything close to being in the top 10 - at their respective positions - over the last couple seasons. Listed as salary cap casualties by many, I think Rams fans are about to see Fisher's about to go "all-in" on a high priced free agent or two to hopefully jump statistical performance at middle linebacker and defensive end. It's a huge gamble, and set the stage a showdown year for Jeff Fisher.

So which available free agents would be capable of  replacing Long and Laurinaitis? We'll have to set aside the leadership quotient both players provided the Rams, and look at the single aspect of position improvement statistically. Let's also consider this: Long and Laurinaitis represent the tip of a possible defense gutting iceberg. You have to remember there's no guarantee William Hayes or Nick Farley will be re-signed, let alone safety/outside linebacker Mark Barron. Add in corner backs Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, and there's simply the very real possibility the vaunted Rams' defense could simply disappear prior the the 2016 NFL Draft.

Arm chair QBs may say re-signing players is why Long and Laurinaitis were release. Yet, there's no guarantee that's true, nor does it give any inclination where the $zillions saved will be directed?

On defense, the player who's going to have teams salivating the most in 2016 free agency is the New York Jets' defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson. I think he'll get franchise tagged prior to the Jets working out a long term deal, so Rams fans may want to look elsewhere... In fact, elsewhere may very well be south of "The Big Apple"; down Miami way. Olivier Vernon and Cameron Wake will be two defensive ends to watch in free agency. If the current trend of dropping veteran players fan love to save a few bucks is the norm, look for Wake to hit the road very soon in search of a new team. Vernon is only 25, and can slide along the defensive line to multiple positions. Wake's is 34 years old, and could present a good value in a short term deal.

Another Miami option is inside linebacker Spencer Paysinger, who really doesn't have a boatload of stats to woo many potential suitors. His ability to slide from inside to outside linebacker could be something Rams' defensive coordinator Gregg Williams would be interested in, or at least taking out for a tryout/test drive.

I honestly think the Rams won't re-sign Janoris Jenkins, but focus more on Trumaine Johnson. Jenkins is kind of a double-edged talent. Smooth in transition, and a capable tackler, he carries his gambler cards on his sleeve. There isn't a game Jenkins has played in where Jeff Fisher didn't have to worry about Jenkins' decision making. If you're going to pay one, and let the other go, Johnson is the clear choice to sign. Los Angeles has some depth at corner back, but adding Cincinnati's Leon Hall on a one or two year deal may be smart too...

I could go further into where I think the Los Angles Rams could spend on defense, but let's turn toward the offense for a second. Could the Rams find more "win now" bang for their bucks in a free agent quarterback or offensive lineman? I don't think so, unless they want to unleash the whole "Circle of Life" thing, and bring - GULP! - Sam Bradford back... Stop screaming! No, I'm not talking to you. I'm saying that to myself...

How about a real "life's a funny road..." return in former Rams 2005, 7th round pick Ryan Fitzpatrick? Hollywood, Fitz-Magic... You see where I'm going here? For reeeeeally long time Rams fans, you can't help but groan at the days of Georgia Frontiere signing quarterbacks she thought were cute... I wonder if Bert Jones can still throw?

The picking are slim right now when it comes to free agent offensive linemen. That'll change the closer we get to the start of the 2016 NFL year when contract options are often exercised. Right now, guard Jahri Evans might be an interesting veteran bargain to look at; though at 32 years old and injury wobbled, I'm in a "buyer beware" mode.

Alshon Jeffrey heads a decent wide receiver free agency line up, but the position is a sellers' market. Prohibitive in the extreme, Jeffrey is going to either get franchise tagged by Chicago, or get HUGE bucks from soon to be unemployed GM. The one receiver who is getting my attention right now is Cincinnati's Mohamed Sanu. While other see only teammate Marvin Jones, I think Sanu could shine on a "run first" team. Tough and talented, the former Rutgers star has been in the shadows on a wide receiver rich Bengals' team since he came into the league. He'll be a bargain, and a low risk option who could excel in a "move the chains" role...

Good Moon, or Bad, one is going to rise very soon for the Los Angeles Rams in free agency. One thing seems very clear to me though: The Los Angels Rams are going to look very different from the St. Louis Rams on opening day in 2016...

You can get all my Twitter-esk blabbles wisdom @thenovelroad