After being a free agent for the first time in his career, defensive end Chris Long found a new home with the New England Patriots on Tuesday.
Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports reported the one-year deal is worth $2 million.
Long tweeted out his excitement about the deal:
This is an opportunity and I am so thankful!!! Whatever it takes!!! See you soon Boston. GO PATS 👊🏻— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) March 16, 2016
One reason for the Patriots to take a gamble on Long, per Neil Hornsby of Pro Football Focus, is his past ability as a pass-rusher:
On Chris Long release: From 2010 to 2013 one of NFL's premier rushers. Never played run well but at peak who cared? pic.twitter.com/O602HuVlq4— Neil Hornsby (@PFF_Neil) February 19, 2016
While Long has been a shell of his former self over the last two years, he will only be 31 years old when the 2016 season starts. His diminished production makes him a worthwhile risk because he's not going to cost much in terms of dollars or years.
Given the market for free-agent pass-rushers, especially with premier names like Olivier Vernon and Malik Jackson off the board on expensive contracts, it was more prudent for New England to invest in a cheap veteran with upside.
Never a team to sit idly by in free agency, the Patriots often pick calculated spots when they want to add talent. Their model has never been to drop big money on players in their prime, which is one reason they often maintain such a high level of financial flexibility.
The defensive line became a need for New England after it traded defensive end Chandler Jones to Arizona on Tuesday, per Darren Urban of the Cardinals' official website. While the Patriots still have Jabaal Sheard and Rob Ninkovich along with pass-rushing linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower, getting a strong rushing end was essential this offseason.
Depth is always critical up front. Long certainly brings that to New England as well as the upside of a player who is capable of recording 10 sacks if he's able to stay healthy and plays a regular complement of snaps.
Because of the top-tier talent on New England's defensive front, Long is walking into a low-pressure situation. Rather than feeling like he's responsible for shouldering the pass-rushing load for the Patriots defense, he can focus on doing what he does best on one of the NFL's top teams.
Long does have a steep climb ahead of him. He has only played in 18 games since 2014, and last year was the first time since 2009 that he didn't start every game in which he appeared.
Health is a fickle beast, especially in the NFL. Once a player gets the reputation of being injury-prone, it's hard to convince teams you are worthy of being a prominent part of their roster. All a player needs is an opportunity to rewrite his story.
Long should be motivated to prove he still has something left in the tank, and he will assuredly work hard to make this opportunity count. There's no downside in this move for him or the Patriots.