It might seem like only yesterday the Dolphins were on the clock with the first pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, however in reality, the Dolphins are already faced with a sad realization, that that first pick may have played his last snap as a Dolphin by 2012. When Bill Parcells chose OT Jake Long over a potential franchise QB Matt Ryan, Parcells made it clear what he wanted from day one, size, and lots of it.
Parcells believed in overpowering teams by having bigger, stronger players all over the roster and physically wearing down opponents. The Dolphins placekicker that year was 6-2 225lbs, or the size of some small linebackers. Taking Long, who is now 6-7 320, certainly fit the mold that Parcells liked to follow and for the first couple years of Long’s career, he was every bit the player one would hope for in a franchise left tackle.
MDD Staff Writer: Chad Pullen
Injuries began to take their toll on Jake the past two seasons however, and his play has suffered because of it. A bad back, a torn triceps, a balky knee have all slowed Long down and he’s become less dependable than he was when he was an All Pro early in his career. While not the dominant left tackle he once was, he’s still more than adequate at the position and capable of playing the position another 3-4 years as long as he can remain healthy. Because of this, the Dolphins need to do their absolute due diligence in determining if Long is worthy of a new contract in Miami, and one that would satisfy both parties.
GM Jeff Ireland has spent a lot of money and high value draft picks to develop his offensive line for the hopes that one day they would find a franchise quarterback to put behind it. That day appears to be here as Ryan Tannehill was selected with the eighth overall pick in last year’s draft and fellow rookie Jonathan Martin was chosen in the second round to play the right tackle position. With 2011 first round Center Mike Pouncey, that’s three linemen Ireland has built up as the core of the unit to not only protect Tannehill, but also pave the way for a dangerous run game the Dolphins hope to provide Tannehill with. Choosing not to re-sign Long would create yet another hole on the roster, and one that would need to be addressed quickly.
For the sake of where the franchise wishes to go, the Dolphins simply cannot afford to let Jake Long walk away after only five years. Number one draft picks should last well over a decade on most teams as they are viewed as the surest things there are in the draft. The Dolphins draft history since the new millennium has been anything but a sure thing with first round picks specifically the culprit. No Dolphins first round pick since 2000 has made it past six seasons on the roster. Zero.
A complete and utter failure on the franchises part to build a talent base over the course of years. Letting Long go would in effect close the chapter on yet another failed draft as 2010 would then become the last draft to have a first round selection still on the roster. (DE Jared Odrick)
With the right value and a fair offering from both Miami and Long, the two parties should be able to agree on a deal that would help the Dolphins cap space while also securing Long for a few more years of service. Doing so would help to build continuity on the offensive line and let the team focus on other areas of need in this important offseason. Provided the Dolphins find a way to scheme some tight ends to help out on Jake side, and rest him during practices as much as possible to limit his wear and tear, the Dolphins could improve the team greatly and address the O-line for depth purposes beginning in 2014.
Doing so would help keep one of the leaders of the offense in the mix while still preparing for life after Jake moving forward. If Long seeks a high value contract that is simply not feasible in today’s market, the Dolphins may have their hands tied, but if he asks only for a fair deal with some concessions made on his part considering his overall health the last two years, then Miami should take the risk of keeping one of their franchise cornerstones and getting the maximum value they can out of the 2008 number pick in the draft.