After extending one pillar of their defense recently, Chris Long, the Rams are currently in talks with another, James Laurinaitis, about a long term contract extension, as the 2009 2nd round pick heads into the final year of his rookie deal. He has graded out positively overall on ProFootballFocus in each of the past 3 years as a starter and ranked 14th overall among middle linebackers in 2010. He’s managed 100+ tackles in each of his first 3 years in the league, good for a combined 376 tackles, a whopping 310 of which were solo.
The Rams would be wise to extend him now as the franchise tag is not a realistic option next offseason. The linebacker franchise tag value (8.8 million in 2012) is inflated by the salaries of rush linebackers and thus non-rush linebackers rarely get tagged. After an offseason in which Curtis Lofton, Stephen Tulloch, and David Hawthorne got 27.5 million, 25.5 million, and 19 million respectively over 5 years, the Rams are unlikely to commit 8.8 million to Laurinaitis over just one season.