Los Angeles Rams release Canadian Lirim Hajrullahu despite being best statistical kicker in training camp

Despite leading the kicking competition in Los Angeles, veteran Canadian kicker Lirim Hajrullahu has been released by the Rams, per NFL sources.

Hajrullahu performed well in training camp and was by far the best statistical kicker, but the Rams chose to start the season with Sam Sloman who the LA selected in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL draft. Hajrullahu went 10-for-13 in Los Angeles scrimmages while Sloman hit 8-of-13.

It appears Hajrullahu was the victim of NFL politics. The 22-year-old Sloman shares the same alma mater as Rams head coach Sean McVay, Miami University. Sloman signed a four-year contract which included a signing bonus of $75,492. That investment also played a factor.

The 30-year-old played Hajrullahu in all 18 regular season games with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2019, converting 47-of-55 field goal attempts (85.5 percent) and 26-of-28 single convert attempts (92.8 percent), while averaging 43.1 yards per punt on 106 attempts.

The five-foot-eleven, 205-pounder ranked tied for first in the CFL in field goals made (47), third in scoring (162 points) and sixth in field goal percentage. Hajrullahu earned division all-star honours for the first time in Hamilton and second time in his career (2016 and 2019).

Born in Kosovo, Hajrullahu and his family fled the region when he was a nine-year-old as Serbian forces attacked their town. More than a million ethnic Albanians were displaced and 11,000 were killed in a war that lasted 18 months in the late 1990s.

The family ended up in a refugee camp in neighbouring Macedonia. The family bypassed a chance to immigrate to the U.S. and opted for Canada instead, ultimately settling in the St. Catharines area.

Hajrullahu was the only Canadian in the CFL that handled all kicking duties for a franchise last season. There were multiple NFL teams interested in Hajrullahu in March, so other options could present themselves.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.