Five years ago, the Dolphins made left tackle Jake Long the first overall pick in the draft. Now, as his rookie deal expires, there’s little or no chatter in league circles about someone making a major play for him.
It would be a shock if the Dolphins use the franchise tag to keep Long, given that his 2012 cap number with a 20-percent raise would require a $15.3 million tender. “There’s no way they’re tagging him,” one league source said Saturday.
So the question is whether he’ll get a big contract in the early days of free agency, when cap money is burning a hole in the pockets of some teams and/or owners have decided to spend in order to create the impression that the team is trying (even if the “trying” consists of “flailing”).
Some think Long would be better off on the right side, which pays a lot less money. Regardless, if he doesn’t get a big deal early in free agency, his options could become narrow — both from a money standpoint and from the perspective of which side of the line he’ll land.
If Long leaves, Jonathan Martin most likely will become the left tackle for the Dolphins. Martin is the tackle drafted in round two last year by Miami. The guy who played left tackle exclusively in college. The guy who started 12 games at right tackle as a rookie before moving to the left side after Long landed on injured reserve.
And so it could be that speculation about Long’s future after Martin was drafted could be right on the money. Despite the things G.M. Jeff Ireland said last year.“I don’t normally go overboard on media speculation,” Ireland said after the 2012 draft. “But [Friday night] I saw an article about Jake Long. I have plans to keep Jake Long here for a long time. So, let’s don’t get ahead of ourselves. . . . We drafted Jonathan Martin to be a tackle on this football team, a right tackle on this football team. Let’s don’t speculate any further than that.”
It’s probably safe to do more than speculate now. Though there’s still a chance Long stays, it likely won’t happen until Long has determined that big money won’t be flowing his way from any other team.