With the news that Andre Smith is heading to injured reserve and that the Vikings don’t expect fellow offensive lineman Mike Harris to play this season, the next next next man up will be Jake Long.
The Vikings finalized a deal with Long on Tuesday morning. after he worked out for them at Winter Park yesterday.
Long’s physical was probably more important than his workout. He was one of the NFL’s top tackles in his first few seasons before a pair of knee injuries derailed his career. So while Long might be able to help the Vikings out, it’s probably unrealistic to expect to see the Long of his heyday.
Long, now 31, was the first overall pick in 2008. The Dolphins, whose coach was current Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano, coveted Long so much they selected him over quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco and waited to address the need in the second round that year.
The 6-foot-7 tackle made a sizable impact right away, making the Pro Bowl as a rookie and the next three seasons after that. He was named a second-team All-Pro in 2009 and a first-team All-Pro a year later.
But injuries started to become a problem for Long, who finished the 2011 and 2012 seasons on injured reserve due to a torn biceps and a torn triceps, respectively. His back also gave him trouble in 2011. His performance dipped, too. Pro Football Focus graded Long as their 46th-ranked offensive tackle in 2012, his final season in Miami.
Long opted to sign with the Rams in 2013 over the Dolphins. He got his game back on track that year, ranking as PFF’s 11th-best tackle, but he tore the ACL in his right knee. The following season, Long was solid, ranking 35th among tackles, but he tore that ACL a second time.
Long spent 2015 with the Falcons but was often inactive on Sundays. He appeared in just four games, playing 10 total snaps on offense.
The Ravens, after parting ways with left tackle Eugene Monroe, agreed to terms with Long on a one-year contract this summer. But after sending Long to get looked at by the renowned Dr. James Andrews, they were concerned about the condition of his left knee and asked him to sign an injury waiver. He balked and the deal fell through.
The Vikings obviously feel more comfortable with his current health and believe he can help them at the tackle spot. Long was certainly worth a look given the other, underwhelming options out there.
After all, when coach Mike Zimmer tabbed the now struggling T.J. Clemmings as his left tackle when Matt Kalil went on IR last month, he noted, “At this point in time, I think it’s hard to find left tackles that are on the street.”
We’ll see if Zimmer and the Vikings have found a capable one in Long.