Rams make big cuts: Chris Long, James Laurinaitis, Jared Cook

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 28: Defensive end Chris Long #91 of the St. Louis Rams looks on prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on December 28, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

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SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 28: Defensive end Chris Long #91 of the St. Louis Rams looks on prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on December 28, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Rams are leaving three big, expensive pieces behind in St. Louis.

Tha Rams announced Friday that they have released linebacker James Laurinaitis, defensive end Chris Long and tight end Jared Cook.

"This is the time of year when all NFL teams are faced with difficult decisions regarding their veteran players," Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said. "Chris and James are the epitome of what it means to be a pro in this league and it's been an honor to coach them both. They've been the pillars of our defense for many years and not enough can be said of their love for the game and for their teammates. Beyond the field, they took pride in mentoring the younger players and doing their part to make a real difference in the St. Louis community. We will always be grateful for James and Chris' unselfish commitment to the Rams and wish them the best moving forward."

The moves are not completely stunning, and they do provide salary-cap relief, but this is a shockingly young team as of now that's relocating to Los Angeles in the coming weeks.

Long assessed his play quite honestly in his farewell Twitter post (make sure to click on the photo to read his ... savory choice of words).

He was the Rams' highest-paid player, yet the past two seasons have been, well, Long said it best. He went six full seasons to start his career without missing a game but then missed a combined 14 games in 2014 and 2015, starting only five of those and logging three sacks. It was thought the team might value his leadership enough to restructure his deal and bring him to L.A., but that didn't happen and there was no chance of his $14.3 million cap hit ever hitting the 2016 books.

Laurinaitis had a chance to return, too, as he's only turning 30 this offseason and has been incredibly durable over his seven-year career, playing more than 99 percent of the team's total snaps each season. But the Rams will save $5.5 million on the cap by cutting him and likely felt the emergence of linebackers Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron helped ease the loss.

Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis, left, and defensive end Chris Long (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)
Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis, left, and defensive end Chris Long (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

Those are two on-field and locker-room leaders who are almost impossible to replace.

Cook's loss will be felt, but not nearly as much. He's coming off a season in which he had only 39 catches (and zero touchdowns), and he averaged only 595 receiving yards in his time with the Rams after signing as a big-money free agent from the Tennessee Titans.

"Jared made an immediate impact when he joined the team in 2013," Fisher said. "It's been a pleasure watching him grow from the time I drafted him in Tennessee to seeing him set franchise records in St. Louis. Like Chris and James, he's been a mainstay in the community and his contributions are commendable. We hope for the best for Jared and his family as he embarks on the next steps of his career."

This really was a no-brainer: The Rams will save $5.7 million by cutting Cook, who was set to count for $8.3 million against the salary cap in 2016.

The Rams have found themselves in this position often in recent years, cutting high-priced veterans prior to free agency, such as Jake Long, Cortland Finnegan and others. Creating more cap space was needed, and the Rams now have little excuse but to upgrade an offense that badly needs help. But the leadership void, especially on defense, could be huge.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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