With the first overall selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins selected Jake Long, tackle, University of Michigan. After four seasons, with four Pro Bowl selections, and two first-team All-Pro selections, Long has proven to be a wall at the left tackle, and worth the five year contract that he signed with Miami.
Now, as the Dolphins move to enter the 2012 season, talk has begun on why Miami has not locked down their franchise left tackle with a contract extension, given this would be the final year of that five year deal. However, a South Florida Sun-Sentinel report today shed light on why the contract extension has not been a pressing need.
According to the report, Long's rookie contract included a clause that would add a sixth year to the deal if he were to meet certain milestones. That clause was triggered by his rookie year Pro Bowl appearance.
So, now, the Dolphins know they have their left tackle for two more years. And, the need to lock him down is not pressing. However, a contract extension may still be needed.
With all of the bonuses and base salary, Long is scheduled to have a cap number $12,350,000 this next season. With nose tackle Paul Soliai most likely heading to free agency this year, Long will be the most expensive player on the Dolphins' roster. While the Dolphins do have cap space to make some moves this offseason, restructuring Long's deal could free up a lot more money.
Long should be looking to exceed the Cleveland Browns' tackle Joe Thomas' seven-year, $84 million deal signed last year. If the Dolphins are willing to extend Long now, despite an injury plagued 2011 season, he's going to be expensive; but, if the contract is done correctly, he won't hamper the team's salary cap situation.
Otherwise, the team can wait until the end of next season. After all, Long isn't going anywhere.