After winning a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots, Chris Long will explore his options in free agency.
The veteran defensive end announced his decision on Instagram:
Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower spoke highly of Long on Twitter:
Dont'a Hightower @zeus30hightower
I have not one negative thing I say about this guy! Love and respect the hell out of you bro and wish the best you damn well deserve it! https://t.co/23I3IoUm9u2017-3-1 19:49:20
Long enjoyed a relatively resurgent 2016 season. Beyond the Patriots' team success, his four sacks matched his combined output from 2014 and 2015.
The 31-year-old bet on himself by accepting a one-year deal with New England worth a little under $2.4 million, and he more than earned a pay raise in 2017 with his on-field performance.
Considering his age, this may be Long's last chance to earn a lucrative multiyear contract, too, so it makes sense he'd want to test his value on the open market.
The Patriots have over $61.4 million in available salary cap space, per Spotrac, but they'll have to reserve some of that for a combination of Hightower, Alan Branch, LeGarrette Blount, Martellus Bennett and Malcolm Butler, all of whom are free agents.
Long is hitting the market at a good time. The three best free-agent pass-rushers, Melvin Ingram, Chandler Jones and Jason Pierre-Paul, all received the franchise tag, per NFL.com. That will help Long's leverage in any contract negotiations.
Teams looking for an experienced, cost-effective defensive end could do much worse than looking at Long this offseason.