The Miami Dolphins are set to let several key members of their team test the free agent market next week. Perhaps the biggest name available in free agency this year is Miami's left tackle, Jake Long. Long is a four time Pro Bowl selection, in just five years in the league. He has been one of the top two tackles in the league during his career. However, injuries, and a seemingly degraded playing level, have the Dolphins ready to let Long walk away in free agency.
In 2012, Long missed four games after suffering a torn triceps muscle. He had to have surgery, which was performed by the renowned Dr. James Andrews. The doctor visited with Long on Wednesday, giving him a full clean bill of health.
"I just saw him and he looked great," Andrews told Yahoo! Sports.
However, the triceps muscle is not the only concern with Long. The Dolphins' number one overall pick in 2008 has battled an ankle injury, back problems, knee injures (which needed surgery), and a torn biceps muscle (which ended his 2011 season early).
Andrews, according to Yahoo!, asked Long about his surgically repaired knee as well. "I asked him about his knee and he said it's the best he has felt in years," Andrews said in the report. "Like I said, this is the kind of kid you want. I'm not worried about him at all."
Andrew recommended Long take another month to finish healing, but said, if the NFL season started today, Long would be cleared to play.
Which brings us to the current free agent situation. Long is thought to be looking to receive an average salary of around $11 million per season with his next deal. The injuries and degraded play make the Dolphins, and presumably several other NFL franchises, weary of giving him a contract that large. However, all it takes is one team to offer the money, and Long will be on his way out of Miami.
The Dolphins have said they want Long back, but clearly have a value in mind for their tackle. Can the team allow Long to walk away, and hope they either land a free agent or draft a prospect to strengthen up the offensive line Long is leaving?
We'll know this week, as Miami general manager Jeff Ireland has stated tomorrow, March 8, is his own personal deadline to re-sign players, keeping the players from negotiating with other teams during the NFL's new "legal tampering" period from March 9-March 11.
The Dolphins could also let Long hit the market, hoping that he realizes he's not going to get the elite tackle money he thinks he is worth, and that signing back with the Dolphins for less money makes the most sense.
The NFL free agent signing period begins at 4pm ET on March 12.