After an earlier report from ESPN’s Vaughn McClure indicated that former St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Jake Long is expected to sign with the Atlanta Falcons this week, his fellow ESPN blogger Dan Graziano reported late last night that Long is scheduled to be in Atlanta and sign with the team today. The Falcons worked out Long last week, the second workout the team conducted with the eighth-year veteran in the past seven weeks.
The delay in signing Long is likely due to the fact that the Falcons wanted to avoid guaranteeing his base salary, which occurs for every player on any NFL team’s 53-man roster during Week One. By waiting until after the team’s season-opening win over the Philadelphia Eagles, the only guarantees built into Long’s contract will likely be limited to any bonuses he receives. McClure reports that Long and his agent Tom Condon sought around $4 million in compensation at the start of free agency, but that his price tag has likely lowered to half that by this point in the calendar year.
Long, 30, has wound up on injured reserve for each of the past four seasons, with the last two years seasons in St. Louis ending due to torn right ACLs. Prior to that Long played for the Miami Dolphins and his 2011 and 2012 seasons were cut shot by torn biceps and triceps injuries, respectively. Long has started all 96 career games he’s appeared in but has missed a combined 16 games over the past four seasons due to season-ending injuries.
Long began his career as the No. 1 overall pick of the Dolphins in 2008, selected two spots ahead of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Long earned three consecutive Pro Bowl bids to begin his NFL career before injuries began to sap him. He signed with the Rams in free agency before 2013.
Long is a continuing part of a process where the Falcons have overhauled their offensive line in the past two weeks. It began when the team shipped two late-round draft picks to the Tennessee Titans for Andy Levitre, who started the season-opener against the Eagles at left guard. The team followed that up by claiming offensive tackle Bryce Harris and center Gino Gradkowski off waivers from the New Orleans Saints and Denver Broncos, respectively. Both Harris and Gradkowski were inactive against the Eagles.
Long’s potential role with the Falcons is not quite known and his addition could lead to the departure of reserve backup tackle Tyler Polumbus. Polumbus was active against the Eagles as the Falcons’ swing tackle, but is coming off a subpar performance in the preseason.
Long likely will provide improved depth and insurance for the Falcons at the tackle position, but he could be an eventual replacement at one of the starting tackle positions. Long could see action at right tackle where the Falcons currently have Ryan Schraeder starting. Schraeder had a very rough outing in the Falcons’ third preseason game against the Miami Dolphins. Poor performances in that game already led to the benching of guard/center James Stone and the Falcons could be looking in that same direction with Schraeder.
However Long has spent the entirety of his NFL and most of his collegiate career at left tackle. He has not played the right tackle position since 2005. Thus his addition to the roster could also prompt the Falcons to move Jake Matthews back to right tackle, where he played at Texas A&M and where his NFL career began before an injury to Sam Baker last summer prematurely forced him to move to left tackle.