|Jake Long signs with Dolphins, will be top pick in NFL draft|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 23 April 2008 00:54|
``My understanding is St. Louis is on the clock,'' said Long's agent, Tom Condon.
The Dolphins opted to dispense with any on-the-clock drama by signing Long to a five-year contract Tuesday with $30 million guaranteed. They'll select him with the top pick in the draft Saturday.
``Jake Long was on the top of our board for a long time,'' general manager Jeff Ireland said. ``We thought it was a very good fit with the Miami Dolphins.''
Both sides were pleased the deal allows them to avoid a possible holdout.
``I'm real glad we got the contract done so I don't have to worry about any of that,'' Long said.
``It's really important for us to know Jake is going to be on the field for us on time when training camp begins in July,'' coach Tony Sparano said. ``That was critical.''
Long's total contract package is for $57.75 million, said a person familiar with the negotiations who didn't want to be identified because the Dolphins declined to reveal terms. Last year's top pick, JaMarcus Russell, signed for $61 million with the Oakland Raiders but missed all of training camp before reaching a deal.
Long becomes the highest-paid lineman in the NFL and a 6-foot-7, 315-pound cornerstone in a rebuilding project for the new Miami regime led by Bill Parcells. Last season the Dolphins went 1-15, and the offensive line has been a chronic problem in recent years.
They have many other needs as well, and were interested in trading the top pick for multiple lower choices. When no suitors surfaced, Miami began negotiations last week with Condon.
The Dolphins said they didn't conduct contract talks with any other potential pick.
``It was a very straightforward negotiation,'' Condon said. ``They didn't leverage us with other players, and we didn't tell them we wanted to be on some different team or any of those kinds of things.''
Reaching a contract agreement before the draft isn't unprecedented. The Houston Texans signed defensive end Mario Williams as their No. 1 pick on the eve of the 2006 draft.
In the past 40 years, only two other offensive linemen have been taken with the No. 1 choice - Ohio State tackle Orlando Pace by the Rams in 1997, and Southern Cal tackle Ron Yary by the Vikings in 1968.
Pace made the Pro Bowl seven consecutive times, and Yary made the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Dolphins would be thrilled with comparable achievements by Long.
``Jake has all the qualities we're looking for in our linemen,'' said Sparano, who coached the offensive line with the Dallas Cowboys. ``He's very tough, smart and disciplined. Those are the people we want to surround ourselves with here.''
Long started 40 games at Michigan and was Big Ten offensive lineman of the year in 2006 and 2007. He finished second to LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey in balloting last season for the Lombardi and Outland trophies.
``Coach Parcells and I have had several conversations during the last few weeks,'' said Lloyd Carr, who coached Long at Michigan. ``I know this: Jake Long is his type of player.''
The Dolphins decided to use the top pick on offense rather than take Dorsey, Virginia defensive end Chris Long or Ohio State linebacker Vernon Gholston. It turns out Ireland's comment last week about drafting ``a pillar of your defense'' was a slip of the tongue - or a smoke screen.
``That's for me to know,'' a smiling Ireland said, ``and you to guess about.''
AP Football Writer Dave Goldberg in New York contributed to this report.