While Jake Long isn't the only respected left tackle that could hit free agency next year, his place with the Miami Dolphins makes him the most interesting. Could a tackle-needy team like the Chicago Bears go after him early?
Mike Tice makes clear he wants linemen who can protect Jay Cutler
The Bears released offensive coÃ¶rdinator Mike Martz after last season because the price for scoring points with his offense was too high. Quarterbacks took far too big of a beating in hits and sacks. So the team promoted offensive line coach Mike Tice to take over the job. Those who know Tice see his coaching history and become surprised he has never actually led an offense. In his career, he has built some impressive lines and as a head coach oversaw one of the better offenses in NFL history up in Minnesota. Since taking over, Tice has drastically changed how the line will block, but kept his goals for them simple: whoever starts is men who can consistently protect quarterback Jay Cutler. The one area of the Chicago line that is up in the air as of the first week of training camp is left tackle. There both J'Marcus Webb and Chris Williams battle for the right to guard the blind side of easily the most talented passer the Bears have had in decades. They know the success of him and the offense go hand in hand. That is why Tice isn't in a hurry just yet. He wants to make sure he picks the right guy. Fans though aren't sold the Chicago Bears have a right guy. They and many experts think the team needs an upgrade.
Future of Long depends on Jonathan Martin and Joe Philbin
One players those same fans pine for is Jake Long of the Miami Dolphins. Only 27 years old and already the left tackle has reached four Pro Bowls. Injuries slowed him somewhat last season but most fully expect another great year in 2012. At least that was the thought before the NFL draft in April. There rumors swirled that Miami might look to trade or release him because his blocking strengths didn't fit the new offense of head coach Joe Philbin. That was why the team drafted Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin in the second round. Dolphins management quickly came out and said Long was part of the plans for the team. Their failure to get him signed to a new deal says otherwise. Long is on record saying getting a new contract isn't on his mind at the moment but he has to know the score. Few expect Miami to compete for the playoffs this season what with quarterback issues and a division dominated by the New England Patriots. At his age Long would fetch a high price in free agency, especially on a team who wants to have him. Chicago is one such place, who would welcome his run blocking almost as much as his pass blocking.
The Bears believe Mike Tice can find a way to get Jay Cutler protected. Still an easier way is finding better blockers. Jake Long stays with the Miami Dolphins for now, but if Jonathan Martin and Joe Philbin make a push that could change.