Grading St. Louis Rams Signing of Jake Long
Jake Long agrees to terms with Rams, per league source.Chooses St. Louis over Dolphins.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 18, 2013
Long spent many days in St. Louis before signing and will now protect Sam Bradford's blind side.
Let's grade the Rams' decision to ink the veteran offensive lineman.
Fit: Exactly What's Needed
On average, Sam Bradford has been sacked 35 times per season during his three-year NFL career.
While that number isn't exceptionally high, the offensive line in front of him has been far from dominant.
Rodger Saffold had a fine start to his NFL career as St. Louis' franchise left tackle, but he has dealt with nagging injuries over the last two years and would be a much better fit on the right side.
Jake Long solidifies the position that has the most direct impact on the play of the quarterback.
If healthy, he should give Bradford more time to scan the field and deliver the football.
In a division with Aldon Smith, Bruce Irvin, Cliff Avril and others, a sound blindside protector is vital.
Talent: Still Plenty There
To many, Long's play regressed in 2012.
ProFootballFocus (subscription required) ranked him as the 46th-best offensive tackle in football in 2012.
However, when healthy, his size, talent and power combination is special, and he has shown he can be a premier edge-protector.
At 6'7'' and a chiseled 315 pounds, Long often uses his brute strength and deceptively quick footwork to dominate pass-rushers even when his technique falters.
Paying Long $8.5 million per season certainly isn't a bargain, but it's hard to argue he's not worth that money, especially for a team in need of offensive line solidification like the Rams.
There's $16 million in guarantees in his deal and another $4 million guaranteed if he's on the roster at the start of the 2014 league year.
Frankly, Long's contract aligns with the going rate for offensive tackles—Branden Albert and Ryan Clady will actually be paid $9.28 million as franchise players in 2013.
Risk: There's Some
Due to the triceps injury he suffered in 2012, signing Long does come with some risk.
Also, because his level of play has slipped somewhat over the course of the last two seasons, there's a chance he doesn't return to elite status.
However, it's highly unlikely Long completely busts if he can stay healthy.
Despite the criticism he has taken of late, he's still a fine left tackle.
The Rams were aggressive in their pursuit of the best left tackle on the open market, and although it took a while, they were able to get their guy at a reasonable price.
The NFC West is distinctly becoming the most ferocious division in football, a four-team grouping loaded with defensive talent.
With a tremendous amount of money invested in quarterback Sam Bradford, a sound edge-protector was needed. In the end, this was a logical decision for St. Louis.