Is LT Jake Long still in Miami's long-term plans?

Jake Long’s future in Miami is uncertain. (US Presswire)

Only three seasons ago, Dolphins left tackle Jake Long was considered one of the best in the league, and it appeared that Miami, by drafting him No. 1 overall in 2008, had found its long-term solution protecting the quarterback’s blind side.

But he struggled in 2011, and his play was even more spotty in 2012. Pro Football Focus ranked him the No. 46 tackle in the league this season before Long suffered a season-ending triceps injury in December.

The Dolphins responded by moving 2012 second-round pick Jonathan Martin (ranking No. 76 according to PFF) from the right side to left tackle to replace Long and protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The question now: Is that a permanent move?

Long is a free agent heading into the offseason. Though the two sides have discussed a new deal, it sounds like those talks cooled off lately. According to the Miami Herald, “the sides now are seriously considering what a break from one another really means and whether that is truly what everyone wants.”

Earlier this week, Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland was asked if Long was still an elite player, and he responded by saying, “I think Jake can still play in this league for sure.” By not answering that question, Ireland kind of answered that question, right?

Ireland might not want to say Long is an “elite player” because that means Long would expect to be paid like one. And there’s little chance that Miami wants to shell out that much money for a guy who is having a tough time staying healthy (Long now has finished the past two seasons on injured reserve).

Miami Herald reporter Armando Salguero writes that the team already has low-balled Long in contract talks. That probably didn’t sit well with Long’s camp.

“So the team has to guard against paying a steep price for a player that is declining and showing signs of falling apart,” Salguero writes. “Balance that against the idea that Long, when healthy, is still solid. [He] 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.”

But if the price to pay is too much for a guy who used to be elite but no longer is, it might be best to let Long walk away.

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