Already cut: James Laurinaitis, LB
2015 statistics: 16 games played, 1156 snaps (99.9 percent of team total), 109 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 interception, 1 pass defensed
Pro Football Focus rankings: 39.3 (overall); 20.6 (run defense), 51.1 (coverage), 45.4 (pass rush)
While I have been pondering the idea of roster cut players to watch for, this is exactly what I was thinking of; by that, I mean a surprising cut who at least has the reputation for being a good contributor.
Laurinaitis is a guy who I never suspected to be cut for multiple reasons. For one, he was a good if underrated contributor early in his career — that’s how he originally caught my attention. Also, he has kept that reputation throughout his career.
Add in the success of his defense in recent years (including a #7 in Defensive DVOA for 2015) and it is easy to see how he could continue to thought of as a good player.
That makes it a shock to me to see how badly he came out rating this past season. He still put up solid base statistics, but Pro Football Focus in particular was able to highlight just how far Laurinaitis has fallen from what many have expected from him in terms of positive contributions. It isn’t like he just fell off at the end of the year either; this was a consistently abysmal level of play across all of 2015 for him.
Why in the world should Green Bay even consider someone like Laurinaitis then? Well, that could lie in potential.
Laurinaitis isn’t exactly young, but at 29 he still should not be considered over-the-hill. Still, the potential I’m talking about focuses less on age and more strictly on impact. The situation he was in likely wasn’t as rosy as we may think, which would have affected said impact. Sure the defense was pretty strong, but most of that came from a terrorizing defensive line; the secondary has long been an inconsistent issue — and his fellow linebackers have rarely provided much assistance either.
Given a new situation — one where he isn’t overburdened with responsibilities on a unit that is more complete around him — could allow Laurinaitis to return to the level we have previously seen him exhibit. With that in mind, he could be a decent stop-gap option at ILB for a defense that has long needed more solid play at that spot.
Next: An addition on offense