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Long takes best deal available, becomes a Ram

PHOENIX -- In the end, Jake Long went with the most money.

Period.

The St. Louis Rams offered him the biggest contract he had on the table -- a four-year, $34 million deal that included up to $20 million in guaranteed money, if he stays healthy -- and he went with that. Football is a business as well as a sport.

Long made a business decision.

The Dolphins offer that hovered around $8 million per year but offered him a chance to stay with the same team and came with built in tax advantages, was not enough. A late Pittsburgh Steelers offer to play for a perennial winner -- neither the Dolphins nor Rams have been to the playoffs for years -- was not in the financial ballpark.

Long did not get the $10 million offer he wanted from anyone.

And the sweet but fanciful bring-jake-home twitter campaign by some teammates and fans ultimately fell on deaf ears.

"There were other teams other than Miami and St. Louis," agent Tom Condon said. "The deal makes a lot of sense for Jake. It makes a lot of sense for the Rams, especially for the quarterback."

Condon joked that St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford texted him when the news of Long's signing came out. "He's excited," Condon said.

Long spoke with St. Louis Post Dispatch early this morning. He mentioned the "great family atmosphere" surrounding the Rams. He mentioned falling in love with the "entire vision of the Rams organization."

He said he didn't visit with the Dolphins over the weekend, as was reported here on earlier Sunday. He didn't mention that St. Louis had the best offer on the table.

The Dolphins seemingly had a price point on Long and although there was room within that, they generally stuck with their belief of what Long is worth, I'm told.

The reason the team didn't blow Long away with an offer is it apparently is not sold that Long is the same player he was when he was drafted first overall out of Michigan. According to YahooSports.com there have been conflicts within the Dolphins organization about bringning Long back at all.

The club also has a "Plan B" for replacing Long.

I do not know what that is. Perhaps the club offers Cincinnati left tackle Andre Smith. Perhaps the club makes a push for New England Patriots right tackle Sebastian Vollmer. (Vollmer is a right tackle but has played some at left tackle). Eric Winston is also on the market as a right tackle and that might be a direction the Dolphins take, perhaps on a one-year basis.

Perhaps the club goes to the draft and plucks one of the many left tackle prospects with the No. 12 overall selection.

The Dolphins can also draft or sign a right tackle and hope second-year player Jonathan Martin grow into the left tackle spot. Martin finished the season at left tackle after Long blew out a left triceps muscle and finished the year on the injured reserve list.

(Martin was bad in his pass-blocking assignment at left tackle. Long yielded four sacks last year to Martin's two, but those two came in 200 fewer pass protection snaps. And in those fewer snaps, Martin allowed more hurries than Long.)

An aside about Long and his injuries: The Dolphins wanted Long back. No doubt about it. But they also have a full understanding -- they believe the most intimate understanding -- of Long's physical condition. And their offer reflected that understanding.

Let's face it, Long is a gifted and solid player. But his spate of injuries the past three years have taken a visible toll the past two seasons. He's finished both those years on injured reserve. His play has declined. His body hasn't been the same.

Last training camp he talked about "feeling the healthiest I've felt in years." But the player who once ran conditioning drills with linebackers was doing it with his other offensive linemen now, according to one player. And as healthy as he felt at the start of camp, he finished right where he was the season before.

On the injured list.

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