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The case for Jake Long as trade bait

In the summer of 2008, just before the Dolphins opened their first training camp of the Parcells-Ireland-Sparano era, the man himself, Bill Parcells, told me during a phone conversation about his team that everyone was trade bait.

"With the exception of Jake Long," he said, "but only because the salary cap ramifications make that impossible. Otherwise, everyone is on the trade block all the time."

A week or so later, Parcells traded Jason Taylor to the Washington Redskins for a second-round draft pick.

Fast forward three years and the question has to be asked: Is Long still the only commodity the Dolphins cannot consider trading, or has he joined the group of everyone that is available for the right price?

The question merits a look because Long is very good, highly marketable, and well-regarded within the Dolphins organization, but frankly, his value might be greater on the trade market than to this team.

Long will go on injured reserve this week with a torn right biceps muscle, ending what has been his most difficult season. ESPN first reported the injury on Sunday.

Long missed two previous starts with a back injury. He missed practically the entire preseason with other injury issues. He's not really been 100 percent the entire season.

And, even if he has been 100 percent healthy he hasn't played like it ... or at least he didn't play to the same lofty levels of the previous couple of seasons. It would not shock if Long misses being named to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career.

That alone probably doesn't land him on the trade block.

But this would for some teams: Long will be in the final year of his contract in 2012. If the Dolphins want to extend him, it will be very, very, very expensive. Long made $11.2 million in base salary this year and will cost $11.2 million next year. (The sixth year of his original $57.75 million contract voided when he surpassed play-time markers his rookie year.)

So in the final year of his deal, Long is no longer not tradeable due to salary cap ramifications. The only reason the Dolphins would deem him not tradeable is if they consider Long untouchable.

Obviously the decision will belong to general manager Jeff Ireland and owner Stephen Ross (yes, this one rises to that level). But if either think like Parcells, no possibility can be dismissed.

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.

If the Dolphins are in a situation where they might need to trade a significant asset on draft day to climb higher in the draft to pluck a potential franchise quarterback, say Andrew Luck, Long might be a chip that takes the place of multiple draft picks -- perhaps a first and a second-rounder.

I'm not saying it should or will happen.

I'm saying the Parcells influence is still around the Dolphins in that Ireland learned much of his GM trade from Parcells and under that thinking, practically everyone is always on the trade block.

I'm saying the Dolphins would be foolish to not consider it. The team is 5-10, people. There should be no sacred cows.

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