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Facts, opinion on Long's 'complicated' negotiation

The Dolphins and Jake Long have been talking about a new contract on and off for nearly five months now. And while the talks started out as a straight contract extension and morphed into a lull in talks, the sides now are seriously considering what a break from one another really means and whether that is truly what everyone wants.

For the Dolphins, keeping and losing Long is an impactful decision on various levels.

If the team keeps Long, it feels it must happen at a salary that addresses what Long is today rather than what he was as a rookie when he came to the team as the first overall draft pick of 2008. What he is today is a hard working, solid, experienced player, who also has been diminished by injuries and is no longer elite but is still a good player to have.

"I think Jake can still play in this league for sure," Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said Tuesday.

Ireland said this in response to a question whether Long is elite anymore. If Ireland thinks Long is elite, then the Dolphins are in trouble because the general manager isn't properly grading his own left tackle. (And if you can't grade your own players, how in the world can you evaluate players that you're scouting?)

My sense, however, is Ireland doesn't believe Long is elite. Thankfully. And that is what is making the negotiations difficult.

If Long was elite, the Dolphins would simply shrug shoulders and offer to pay him like he is elite. That would make Long one of the highest-paid left tackles in the business and probably the highest paid as he has been the past five seasons.

But Long is no longer the best LT in the business. He isn't the best LT in his conference. He's isn't the best LT in his division. He's like ... third in his division.

And what that means is if the Dolphins want to pay value for Long they cannot continue to pay the $11.2 million per season Long made in 2012, for example. Nope, that's way overpaying. That's highway robbery, actually, when one considers the top tackles are making around $8 million per season on average.

The Dolphins also have to understand that Long seems headed in the wrong direction devlopmentally. He's going to be 28 in May and should be right in the prime of his career, but instead he played worse last season than the season before. And again, he tore a triceps muscle (significant injury that often haunts) and finished the season on injured reserve. It was the second consecutive season he finished the season on injured reserve with an arm injury. And those injuries are numbered among the multiple injuries he's battled in recent years that have seemingly played a role in his decline.

So the team has to guard against paying a steep price for a player that is declining and showing signs of falling apart.

Balance that against the idea that Long, when healthy, is still solid. He's doesn't suck. He's good. He's not as great as he once was, but he's still good. And letting good players walk is painful, particularly when the team has so many other holes it needs to address.

Letting Long walk creates another hole. Maybe the hole isn't at left tackle where Jonathan Martin proved during the final month of the season he can play. But it definitely creates a void at right tackle, which is the position Martin manned before he moved to the left side.

So those are all issues the Dolphins are weighing.

Long's issues?

He'd love to stay in Miami. He'd love to be an all-timer who spends his entire career with one team. He and his wife love it in South Florida. But ...

He wants to get paid. His agent wants to get paid. Someone out there in free agency is likely to pay him.

And then there's ego.

Long, a stoic team guy publicly, apparently has a sizeable ego.

"He's one of those guys that likes the idea of being the best at what he does and one way he proves to everyone that he is is by being the highest paid at what he does," one Dolphins source told me recently. "Yeah, there's a considerable amount of professional ego there."

And that's where we encounter a problem because the truth of the matter is Long needs to take a pay cut to be a value to the Dolphins. He needs to take a pay cut to come into line with the current market for left tackles. But his ego might hinder him from accepting that cut in Miami. His ego might demand he go out on the market and test how much love he gets because, he's convinced, lots of teams want the best left tackle in football on their roster.

And even if those teams aren't going to pay tons more than the Dolphins, sometimes getting that warm embrace from a new team feels better than getting a warm embrace from the current team that also had misgivings about you in contract talks.

Oh yes, the Dolphins have their misgivings about Long. They made that clear, I'm told by a source, in that an offer they made to Long during the season was considered by the Long camp as something of a low-ball attempt to re-sign him.

So this ongoing negotiation is delictate. It's so delicate, Ireland doesn't even want to admit Long isn't elite anymore -- perhaps for fear that will offend or tip the balance of the talks in some way.

"Well I’m not going to tell you whether I think he is elite because I’m still in a contract negotiation," Ireland said. "We certainly take, and I’ve had a good conversation with Jake when he exited the building, in fact I’ve talked to him a lot because he has been in the training room, but Jake has a decision to make and we have a decision to make.

"It’s a very, very difficult decision and it’s a very complicated negotiation, so we’ll have to see how things go."

OK, so those are the facts. That's the anatomy of the delicate negotiation for your information. Store that.

Now ... you want my opinion? If not, you're done. Go to the comments section and discuss playmakers like we all like to do ad infinatum.

If you want my opinion read on:

***************************************

Jake Long needs to grow up. And the Dolphins need to grow a pair. That's the only way this is going to resolve itself for the good of the team. And that's all I care about -- the good of the team.

Long needs to check into reality. He's made nearly $60 million from the Dolphins the past five seasons and he hasn't exactly delivered $60 million worth of production. Oh, he was well worth it his first two or even three years. But the last two?

Overpaid.

So he needs to understand he is not worth $10 or $11 million a year. That simply is not the market. He's not even worth $8 million a year, frankly. He needs to understand that the team signing him to a four-year deal is risking a ton of money because he's lately shown few signs he might last to the end of that contract.

Tony Boselli -- the player I closely link with Long based on ability and career arc -- started breaking down in his fourth year with the Jacksonville Jaguars. By his seventh season he was effectly done. He played from 1995, when was the NFL's elite left tackle, to 2001. In 2002 the Jacksonville Jaguars, eager to get him off their books, offered him up in the expansion draft to Houston. Boselli retired instead.

I'm not sure Long will be playing four years from now -- not with his recent rate of injuries and decline.

Long has to understand the Dolphins must worry about that. So if he truly wants to stay in Miami and isn't, in fact, about the money, he needs to sign a realistic contract that addresses the concerns he raises.

Otherwise, walk my brother. But don't for one second consider yourself a team guy. You're a lot about money.

The Dolphins?

Yes, they have multiple holes. Yes, letting Long walk creates another hole. But signing a player that is headed toward a bad finish, knowing that he's headed toward that bad finish, is personnel department malpractice.

It's like signing Justin Smiley, who has suffered multiple shoulder injuries, to a big contract and then being surprised when he suffers more shoulder injuries and can't reach the end of his contract. It's like signing Jake Grove, who spent approximately one-third of his Oakland days on the sidelines injured, to a big free agent contract and then being surprised when Grove is injured in Miami and cannot play to the end of his contract.

The Dolphins made those predictable mistakes that were pointed out before those players played one down for Miami. So it wasn't second-guessing. And the Dolphins got bit in the behind by those signings exactly as predicted.

And now they're going to make exactly the same mistake? And worse, they're going to make it with a player they know intimately? And they're going to make it at a higher level because Long would be much more expensive than either Smiley or Grove?

Are they nuts?

Look, sometimes teams have to let good players walk. The Steelers are likely about to let Mike Wallace walk (hey, receivers talk!). The Indianapolis Colts let Pierre Garcon and Peyton Manning walk last year. The Arizona Cardinals let Karlos Dansby walk. The Texans did just fine after allowing Mario Williams to walk.

You know what? It's not the end of the world.

The Dolphins cannot afford -- or they should realize they cannot afford -- to continue paying offensive linemen as if they are game-changers. They are not. They do not score TDs. They do not win games. The Dolphins were mediocre with Long. They were mediocre after Long was injured. The team did not collapse.

Miami's record without Long as the starting LT? 

4-2. 

Yes, the team should try to re-sign Long. But it should be a deal that won't hamstring Miami's ability to add playmakers. It should be a deal that doesn't extend beyond four years for reasons stated above. It should be a deal that takes into account that the NFL's best LTs are making far less rather than more than what Long made last year.

And if they explain it that way to Long, hopefully he relents. And if he doesn't, you lost a player that was mostly thinking about money after making truckloads in his rookie deal. You lost a player that can be replaced.

Move on.

Comments

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Long has sacrificed his body to this team. His future will be a pain-riddled one with a string probability of a shortened life span. Pay him, I say. He has already earned it.

Hmm.....

Whenever oscar's around so are the new aliases. Isee Marcia In Toronto is still a gullible heshe. Thinks that "GUY" is me. LOL...

Marcia In Toronto,

Dumbass, Im not the only blogger here that cares very little for you. So, another blogger(oscar) calls you "Marcia" and you immediately thinks its me.

Dumbass, Ive been calling you Marcia nearly a month now. You dont think "other posters(oscar)" knows how to "READ"?

Boy, do you continue to sink your brain-deadness to new depths. You know for a "FACT" that I dont need an aliases to tell youi what I think of you retardomongul boy. LOL...

Good article one obvious reason Long will walk is that he knows his time in the NFL is limited especially with all the injuries he has suffered so I believe he will go and get paid for the years he has left in the NFL.

Great work Armando, I agreed with you 99.99%.. I hope that Mr.GM doesn't fall in love with this player, but if he does decide to bring him back the contract should be base on incentives , Long has to not give up sacks, play the entire season , be a dominant player like Richmond Webb, and maybe playoffffs __ if his agent or Long does not like the offer than seeee yaaaaaaaaaa ~~~

Armando,that's a much better evaluation of the situation than i have read before. Not completely sold on the ratings the packers guy used but it is all about getting the player at a decent price. overpay and he better perform like someone who is getting very very well paid, pay fair money(tbh i don't know anyone in football that isn't on too much money) and the player should still be able to perform to a high level. In a sport with a salary cap players have to realise that by not wanting to be paid obscene amounts'should' mean more money to sign other quality players along the same lines.

Totally agree,Armando...well said.

Should have picked Ryan....

One of the best articles I've seen regarding Jake. For those that stillwant to believe he is a star or top tier LT? I would never call anybody names for their opinion but watching the games it is VERY obvious Jake is not the same player he once was. His CONSISTENT injuries are a huge concern. But even more than the injuries, his level of play is. When he has been on the field for two consecutive years, and really streatching back into his 3rd yr. in the league there was definitive proof of his downward trending performance. Yes, he made the popularity contest, er, ProBowl that year but the entire league knew it was a joke. I'd keep him at $5-6 million for 3 years with an option for the 4th but nothing more and he won't accept that (pride/stubborness). We've been bad with him, we can be bad without. RT aren't that tough to find & I get the continuity thing & its true but ya can't make a bad deal just to keep an average OL around. I think he's gone....and not too bothered by that.

Armando,

I do concur with your opinion and direction to handle the Jake Long negotiations. If Jake and his wife love south Florida they will face reality. Jake knows himself that he got a great deal that took care of him financially when Parcells wanted him as the #1 overall pick in the draft. Enough; you made excellent points with other teams that moved on. Let him walk if he does not accept reality......

You have to be able to build the line through rounds after the first round. You can't spend that kind of money on the line. This isn't 1980. This is why "Tuna" is gone.

Let Jake walk if he wants too much money. Let some other team eat that cost. We don't need it. Use one of the 2nd round picks on a good, serviceable tackle. It will not be any worse than the way Jake Long has played and will cost pennies on the dollar.

I dont know what games you were watching but Martin got blown up against the 9ers and the Pats, and played OK the other 2 games against Jax/Bills. He was consistently bull rushed right into the QB or just dropped to the ground.

Long is a bust.

First off no one is worth 10 million a year. The only person I could possibly think of a profession that deserves that is a doctor aka a person that saves lives. Jake Long needs to get over himself from a team that picked him #1 and paid him 60 million. If he can't get over that move on their is always someone else to take your job!

I agree Armando. He isn't worth really large money. He never was to tell you the truth. The results not a lot of sacks from his side. When you have a dolt for a coach and a qb that can't hit a guy in stride then it don't matter who your LT is.
That year would have been better spend trading away #1 overall for two or three lower pics. In hindsight of course. But really, if the number one overall is a LT then trade the pick. You can get a real good lineman at 18. And pick up a couple of other guys along the way.

This team had many opportunities to build a solid O-line, but failed. Terrible free agent signings as well as terrible draft picks were the reasons why. Even the Jake long over Matt Ryan pick was terribly wrong. You do not sign a LT over a QB with the first pick of a draft. But thats been done and history. Now I say if Long does not accept a fair contract from the Fins-show him the door. Even though it will not happen, I'd rather them pay big bucks for Derril Revis. He would make a hell of a much bigger impact than Long.

well here we are...we are at the point where the future of this franchise is in site Ireland has structured this year to be the make or break offseason for the dolphins make the right choices in free agency and the draft and we are set for the future make the wrong choices and thre dolphins are mired in mediocrity for years to come. Our own free agents can cause us more pain than good if we over pay IE: Long,Bush Hartline, Smith NONE of these palyers are ELITE they have just been the best on a mediocre team so pay them accordingly...and MR.Ireland and Philbin both know what that worth is we can address every need with free agency and the draft picks we have Philbin will help tremendously with the evaluation of offensive talent available while Ireland seems to have a better feel for defense together if they make the right choice on our own free agents and the ones available in combination with all the draft picks we can challenge in our own division thats where it starts beating the patriots. the only free agent i would not want to lose is Bush because he is a team player and his work ethic can help in more ways than just on the field.everyone else(long,Hartline and Smith)are expendable so let another team waste cap space on them.Bush while his talent seems to be waining i think the main reason for that is he is not used to his potential use him more on screens and in the flat catching short passes and see what he can do after the catch another year for Tannehill will help as well RG3 and wilson are not the norm look what Kapernick did from year one to year two! i for one am excited about where this team is headed BUT if we do not challenge for the division next year and another7-8 or 8-8 season with all the oppurtunity that ireland has in his arsenal THIS offseason if that happens it will be his last in Miami and he knows this so he WILL make the hard choices regarding Long and others this has to be a franchise changing offseason or MR Ross will make the only desision he has left new GM.

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