DENVER — If the Miami Dolphins had gotten into a bidding war to bring back Jake Long, could they have won it?
While it is generally believed the Dolphins weren’t willing to pay the left tackle as a free agent an amount similar to the four-year, $36 million deal he got last March from St. Louis, Long said the Dolphins had little chance of signing him after his first day of having visited the Rams. While he confirmed Miami offered him a contract, he wouldn’t disclose the amount.
“I made up my mind I wanted to be (with the Rams),” Long said in an interview with FOX Sports Florida when the Rams were in Denver for Saturday’s 27-26 preseason loss. “There wasn’t much else that could change that … Yeah, (the Dolphins) definitely did (make an offer). But, in the end, I know what it was. I wanted to be (with St. Louis).”
So the Dolphins will head into the regular season with left tackle the biggest question mark on the team. Miami will start Jonathan Martin, who was just OK as a rookie last season at right tackle.
Meanwhile, the Rams have fortified their line with the guy who went No. 1 in the 2008 NFL Draft and was a Pro Bowl selection in his first four seasons. Nobody is more happy than quarterback Sam Bradford, who will have his blind side protected by Long.
“It’s been really good,” Bradford said. “Obviously, everyone knows the type of player that Jake is. He’s one of the best, if not the best left tackles in the game, and anytime you make an addition to your team, to your offensive line (like that), it gives me a lot of comfort.”
What had caused the Dolphins some discomfort was Long missing two games in 2011 with back and bicep injuries and the final four games of last season with a triceps injury. With that in mind, the Dolphins were wary about paying too much for Long, and they ended up using money that might have gone to him on several other key free agents.
“It really didn’t even bother me,” Long said when asked if he was disappointed the Dolphins didn’t look to put up a bigger fight to keep him. “It was a personal thing. I was going to choose where I wanted to go and I wanted to be (in St. Louis). … I like Coach (Jeff) Fisher. I like this team. It was the right choice for myself at this point. I’m very happy with the decision.”
One guy who wasn’t was Long’s good friend, Miami guard Richie Incognito. He had mounted a Twitter came for Long to re-sign with the Dolphins.
Incognito tweeted, “Lets all pitch in and get JAKE back in MIAMI!!!!” Later, he sent out a number of tweets declaring “#bringjakehome.”
“Richie is a great friend and great teammate, and I really enjoyed my three years playing with him,” Long said. “I understand where he was coming from. But in the end I had to do what was right for me and that was being (with the Rams).”
Long was the key offseason acquisition by a St. Louis team that hopes to make the playoffs after going from 2-14 in 2011 to 7-8-1 last season. While some have wondered if all the money Long got is a risk due to his recent injuries, Long doesn’t think so.
“I’m feeling great, probably the best I’ve felt in three years,” Long said.
Long is referring to 2010, when he was named All-Pro for the only time in his career. That’s when it looked as if he really might live up to his billing as the No. 1 pick.
To take Long, the Dolphins bypassed quarterback Matt Ryan, who would go No. 3 to Atlanta. The better Ryan did, the more pressure there was on Long to show Miami didn’t make a mistake.
Now, Long is feeling a different kind of pressure. He needs to show the Rams they made a wise investment.
“There’s always a lot of pressure, but I like that,” Long said. “I like having the bulls-eye on my back. I perform well under that. So I just got to embrace it and keep getting better and working.”
The Dolphins might not have put a big bulls-eye on Long when it came to honing in on him in free agency. But as far as Long is concerned, that might not have made a difference anyhow.