Monday, December 3, 2012

Long's future with Dolphins highly questionable


The Miami Dolphins have a number of free-agent decisions to make this offseason, but none loom larger than that of four-time Pro Bowl tackle Jake Long.

After Long suffered a potentially season-ending triceps injury in the first quarter of Sunday's loss to the New England Patriots, speculation on that decision has been thrust to the forefront.

Coach Joe Philbin was mum on the injury's severity after the game, but is prepared to move forward without the former No. 1 overall pick. (photo: June Rivera, Flickr)

"Injuries occur with every team in the NFL, ours is no different," Philbin said, according to the Palm Beach Post. "If that is the case, we’re going to go to work and get five guys ready to go up front.”

The health problems are becoming a recurring theme for Long, who sat out two games last season after missing none in his first three seasons.

When on the field, Long has struggled to meet his own high standard of play. His 11 combined sacks and QB hits allowed through 12 games this season ties the most given up in any year of his career, according to Pro Football Focus. He was also on track to have his most-penalized season yet.

The injury concerns, along with declining production, are clouding the future of a player once expected to anchor the offensive line for many years in Miami.

When (or if) the Dolphins and Long sit down at the negotiating table, these things must be considered.

Miami could still place the franchise tag on Long, and hope that he regains his early-career form and durability then revisit a possible extension in the next offseason. But that would carry a $15 million price tag for a team with many holes to fill across it's roster.

The alternative is the one-time unthinkable notion that Long is allowed to leave in free agency.

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