Move over, Rodger Saffold, the Rams agreed to terms with a four-time Pro Bowl left tackle.
Jake Long is a St. Louis Ram after seven mysterious days. Long visited the Rams on March 12th, the first day free agents could do so, and stayed around for another two. His wife tweeted about St. Louis, the Rams CEO Kevin DeMoff posed for a picture with Long’s agents at dinner, and there was even a premature “agrees to deal” headline on the credible Pro Football Talk.
But after his three-day visit, Long’s former team, Miami, found renewed interest in their cornerstone left tackle. The Dolphins drafted him #1 overall in 2008 as their foundation, not a five-year rental.
Everyone, myself included, believed Long was duping the Rams as a leverage to get more money, but Rams GM Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher remained strangely optimistic. Typically, when a player leaves town without a deal, it’s not a good sign.
But late Sunday night, news broke that Long agreed to a 4-year deal worth $38 million ($16 million guaranteed). Ironically, the Rams now have the first two picks from that draft in the fold as Jake Long joins end Chris Long.
Long started the first 63 games of his career before missing two games in 2011 and four in 2012. Injury concerns dropped his initial asking price of $11 million annually. While injuries have diminished Long’s play the previous two seasons, the Rams medical staff was clearly satisfied.
This is a big move for St. Louis…and Long. While Saffold is a respectable player, he’s not a top left tackle in the league. Perhaps at right tackle, but not protecting the quarterback’s blind side. In Week 16 last season, Sam Bradford ended a streak of 30-consecutive games getting sacked at least once. It’s safe to say he’s got a new best friend.
Meanwhile Long cashes in South Beach for St. Louis … and it likely had to do with money …
If the Rams stay healthy up front, a crusade of Long, Saffold, Harvey Dahl, Scott Wells and Rokevious Watkins projects as a top offensive line in the NFL. The move also provides flexibility with their TWO first-round draft picks. The Rams can invest in playmakers knowing the trenches on both sides of the ball are strengths.
As we saw in 2012, the NFC West is becoming a defensive powerhouse, and getting better. San Francisco added Glenn Dorsey to a line that already includes Aldon Smith and Justin Smith. Seattle recently agreed to terms with defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril to play with Chris Clemons and Brandon Mebane. Arizona signed defensive end Matt Shaughnessy and linebacker Jasper Brinkley with Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett on the squad. The Cardinals possess linebacker Darryl Washington, a top blitzer in the game. The Rams have to protect Bradford — something previous regimes failed to realize. Offensive weapons are useless if the QB has no time.
This is a big move.
Trust in Fisher.