Jake Long agrees to terms with Rams, per league source.Chooses St. Louis over Dolphins.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 18, 2013
UPDATE: Friday, March 22 at 2:00 p.m ET by Michael Cahill
The official twitter account for the St. Louis Rams reported that the deal is finally done for the top free agent.
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com comes through with the contract details:
For Jake Long and the #Rams, it's a four-year deal that can be worth up to $36 million. And the tackle market is set.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 18, 2013
The contract is for four years and $34 million, with incentives that could push it to $36 million, according to the source. Breer also reports that $16 million is guaranteed at signing, with another $4 million guaranteed if he is on the roster at the start of the 2014 league year.
The Miami Dolphins drafted Long with the first-overall pick in 2008, and the left tackle proceeded to make the Pro Bowl in his first four seasons. In a league where top offensive tackles are placed at a premium, those type of accolades are always going to generate interest.
Long was coming off a down season, though. Pro Football Focus gave him a subpar grade for 2012, meaning he didn't enter free agency at the opportune time. Still, given his track record, he was a very coveted target.
Outside of the offensive skill positions and pass-rushers, finding an offensive line anchor is one of the biggest keys to building a successful team. If a line can't protect a quarterback, the chances of an offense succeeding are slim to none.
Long will bring a steadying presence to the Rams' O-line. At 6'7'' and 319 pounds, he possesses ideal size for the position, and he combines it with good athleticism to keep both speed and power-rushers at bay. He appeared a step slow last season, likely leading to the lower outside grade.
Will Long be worth the investment?
At 27, it's still far too soon to be talking about a potential decline. So it was more likely a case of Long just having a down season on a Miami team that had plenty of players falling below expectations. He's a strong bet to bounce back.
He doesn't have to play at an All-Pro level to succeed. As long as he provides a stable, consistent presence on the left side of the St. Louis line, the signing will be considered a success. Easier said than done, but a player with his track record should be able to handle it.
As with most free agents, Long comes with risks. But front offices have to take some chances to build a playoff roster, and he's one worth taking.