As with any time a team releases a player, a void is created. For a team like the Rams, creating more needs wouldn't seem to be a wise decision. But these moves were a little bit different.
This time, the Rams believed they had most of their replacements already on the roster. Let's take a look at how the Rams could go about replacing Long, Laurinaitis and Cook.
1. Alec Ogletree moves to middle linebacker to replace Laurinaitis. Assuming the Rams can re-sign Mark Barron to step into Ogletree's spot on the weak side, this is the Rams' plan to replace Laurinaitis. After Ogletree suffered what turned into a season-ending injury in Week 4 last year, Barron stepped in at weak side linebacker and played well in his stead. That left the Rams with a dilemma of trying to figure out how they can have Barron and Ogletree on the field at the same time moving forward. And not just on the field together but on the field together enough to justify what figures to be a decent-sized contract for Barron. So sliding Ogletree to the middle (a position he played in college) and keeping Barron in Ogletree's former spot was the solution that they ultimately came up with. Ogletree certainly offers playmaking ability but he will be tested when it comes to holding up to the rigors of playing inside.
2. William Hayes re-signs to replace Long. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Rams ended up spending the No. 15 overall pick on a defensive end. We've seen that they love spending high picks on defensive linemen and this year's draft is loaded with them. But the more logical move would be to re-sign Hayes and then spend a later pick on a young defensive end to develop behind him in a draft that has plenty of depth there. Hayes has played well as a starter in Long's place each of the past two seasons and though he's going to be 31 at the start of next season, he still has gas in the tank. The Rams also have youngsters Ethan Westbrooks and Matt Longacre, who both have flashed potential and should be able to contribute in a rotation. For his part, Hayes prefers to play for coach Jeff Fisher, who drafted him in Tennessee and signed him with the Rams. So long as the money is about equal, that's a deal the Rams should be able to get done.
3. Lance Kendricks takes on a larger role to replace Cook. The Rams re-signed Kendricks to a fairly lucrative contract last offseason and used him in tandem with Cook on a regular basis. Of these three openings, this is the one where the Rams will probably have to go outside their roster to find help. Kendricks could get an increased role but after him, there's not much in the way of sure things. Cory Harkey is an unrestricted free agent and Justice Cunningham has value but more as a blocker than a pass-catcher. The Rams could use a tight end who can be a consistent threat as a receiver but Kendricks is the guy on the roster most likely to step in and play whatever snaps Cook leaves behind.