On several blogs, to include Armando Salguero's Miami Herald blog, the idea is starting to float of the Miami Dolphins trading their All-Pro left tackle Jake Long. Long is expected to be placed on injured reserve today with a torn bicep, ending a season where a back injury cost him two games, and multiple other injuries have hampered his usually dominating play. But, would the Dolphins actually consider trading their 2008 first-overall draft choice?
Salguero points out that Long is entering the final year of his contract. For the Dolphins to extend the cornerstone of their offensive line, it's going to cost them. The Cleveland Browns signed their Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas to a seven-year, $84 million contract extension ($44 million guaranteed) back in August. Long would be looking for something similar, if not exceeding Thomas' numbers. Can the Dolphins afford that price tag?
As Salguero puts it, in making his case for the Dolphins to shop Long:
"The fact is while Long is very good, he doesn't score touchdowns. He doesn't prevent touchdowns. The Dolphins missed the playoffs in three of his first four seasons. The Dolphins had significant injuries to their starting quarterbacks in three of his four years. The Dolphins at times had injuries to their backup quarterbacks in two of his four years.
"And now Long is coming off a year in which he is starting to show wear. He dealt with back, knee, shoulder and now the biceps injury this season. He had shoulder and knee issues in 2010."
But, what happens to Luck, Baylor Bears Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, or any other quarterback the Dolphins have, without Long? The team invested in Long three-years ago to serve as the blind-side protector for a franchise quarterback the team would eventually find. Now, in 2011, the team can actually get that franchise quarterback, but would it be worth losing the top player on the offensive line, possibly giving the new quarterback no time to pass every time he drops back?
While the team obviously needs a quarterback, and moving up in the draft seems to be the only way to do it now, losing Long now would continue to hurt the team. The offensive line would not be able to protect Luck, RG3, or even Peyton Manning. If the team can't protect the quarterback, what good is the quarterback?
With three years of investment, and the obvious impact Long has on the field - as seen by not just fans, but other players around the league - trading the left tackle now would be a big mistake for the franchise. The offensive line is a piece or two away from dominating the game. Rookie center Mike Pouncey has shown he was worth the first round choice it took to get him - a full offseason and another year of development will make him a top center in the league. Richie Incognito is a very solid left guard, who thrives off of Long's presence. Right guard Vernon Carey is aging, but still has value. Right tackle Marc Colombo is the weak link, and wasn't worth the man hours it took you to read this sentence. Behind them, John Jerry is starting to develop into a solid, possibly starting caliber, offensive lineman. Lydon Murtha was playing well this offseason, filling in for Long during the preseason, and could very easily be the team's answer to the Colombo fiasco.
Now isn't the time to trade Long. Now is the time to realize that Long is the offensive captain of this team, and with a rookie quarterback, his leadership is going to be needed. If a trade is made to get a young quarterback, Long is going to be more valuable to the team than he would in the trade. Keep Long, and find another way to get the quarterback.