A few days ago, I wrote a piece on how the Bengals should try and copy the NFL's most three recent Super Bowl champions by signing some big names, for reasonable prices in free agency. And with the news of the Los Angeles Rams cutting Chris Long, Jared Cook and James Laurinaitis, there's a new player at the top of my wish list.
Laurinaitis could be one of the three best interior linebackers on the free agent market. He's young enough to still make an impact, he's a tremendous leader who has been one of the most powerful voices in the Rams' locker room and he would fit into the Bengals' scheme very well. Playing more than 99 percent of his team's snaps in seven seasons, Laurinaitis is one of the NFL's most durable players. He's a very sure tackler and has one of the best football IQs in the business. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams considered Laurinaitis "an extension of himself on the field," a testament to the linebacker's awareness and knowledge of the game.
Even considering Laurinaitis' high cap number, many analysts didn't expect Los Angeles to cut the middle linebacker, as he was one of the most influential and consistently reliable players on his team. For the right price, Cincinnati would get what it wanted but didn't receive in A.J. Hawk.
Don't get me wrong, the Hawk signing wasn't a waste of money or a pointless move. But Hawk wasn't as vocal a leader as many seemed to expect him to be, and he didn't have a big on-field impact. Laurinaitis has the track record of motivating his team, and he is still talented enough to make a difference on defense. Considering the linebacker's 2015 elbow injury and increasing age, some teams could be turned off to the possibility of signing him. At the right price, however, Laurinaitis could be a huge free agency steal and a perfect fit for the Cincinnati Bengals. And for what it's worth, Laurinaitis and Hawk were briefly college teammates at Ohio State. The possibility of returning to the state in which he played college ball or reuniting with a former teammate could potentially give the middle linebacker incentive to sign with the Bengals.
It's important to note that this signing is very improbable and likely won't happen, but a man can dream. And considering I truly believe that three or four impact free agent signings could push the Bengals over the edge, I really hope Cincinnati can work out a reasonable deal with Laurinaitis.