The free agency market for offensive tackles had been blocked by former Miami Dolphins left tackle Jake Long. The 2008 first overall draft choice was the top player at the position this year, and his contract would set the market for the rest of the league. Late last night, Long agreed to a 4-year, $36 million deal with the St. Louis Rams. Now, the Dolphins, and the rest of the league, can start to move on the rest of the market.
Long spent three days with the Rams last week, before returning to Miami on Friday to decide between St. Louis or staying with the Dolphins. In the end, he chose to head to the NFC West for a contract that will pay him a $9 million per season average. The Dolphins were thought to be offering Long between $7-$8 million per year.
Miami has already had discussions with free agent Eric Winston's representatives, prior to Long's deal, and will likely move in that direction fairly quickly. The team could also look to the NFL Draft in April to address the position.
Other tackles on the market looking for deals this offseason include Sebastian Vollmer, Andre Smith, and Jammal Brown. All of them, as well as the other 25 offensive tackles still searching for new teams, will find the market a much easier working environment with Long's deal finally in place.
For the teams, Long's deal also helps with salary cap management. The four time Pro Bowl tackle had been thought to be trying to find a contract paying him at or above the $11 million per year he was making on his rookie deal. Coming in below that will help teams get solid tackles at a reasonable price, rather than having to overpay.
Whatever way you look at it, Long's deal was good for just about everyone.