The Miami Dolphins plan to place their franchise tag on left tackle Jake Long if the team does not reach a long-term deal with Long during the season, The Miami Herald reports Sunday. From the report:
Jake Long said he is unaware of any contract talks, but Miami will use the franchise tag on him next spring if a deal isn’t reached. Expect offers eventually to Brian Hartline and Sean Smith, entering the last year of their deals.
The 27-year-old Long enters the 2012 NFL season as one of the premier left tackles in the sport. By comparison, the Cleveland Browns' Joe Thomas signed a seven-year, $84 million contract last August. After that deal, SI's Peter King wrote that only Long eked out Thomas as the best left tackle in the game.
Long is durable — he's only missed two games in his four-year NFL career. But he has battled through a number of injuries over the past two seasons. Those injuries include a shaky left knee, a torn right biceps, a lower back injury that kept him out for a game and for the Pro Bowl, and a dislocated left shoulder.
Rumors surfaced from a bogus report after April's draft that Long's days in a Miami uniform were numbered after the Dolphins selected Jonathan Martin to play right tackle. After that report, Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said he "plans to keep Jake Long right here for a long time." "We have plans to keep Jake around here," Ireland said, according to The Miami Herald. "We drafted Jonathan Martin to be a tackle on this football team. A right tackle on this football team so let’s don’t speculate any further than that."