The Miami Dolphins are gearing up for a Super Bowl run.
And if their five-decade championship drought ends next winter, it’ll be the low-key savvy moves like adding David Long on Day 1 of free agency that will deserve much of the praise.
ESPN reports that Long will sign a two-year, $11 million contract with Miami after the league year begins Wednesday — giving new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio the final major piece for what, on paper, should be a championship-caliber defense.
Miami Dolphins To Add LB David Long
Long joins the Dolphins after spending his first four seasons with the Tennessee Titans. He appeared in 50 games during that stretch, with 12 of his 26 starts coming in an injury-shortened 2022.
Long missed the final five games of his Titans career due to a hamstring injury, but before he got hurt, he was solid in both the run and pass games.
He was targeted 53 times in 2022 but didn’t allow a touchdown pass thrown in his coverage area and held opposing passers to a 74.1 rating.
That aptitude was a big reason why he was the 20th-ranked free agent (and No. 3 linebacker) on PFN’s Top 100. And unlike the best of this year’s linebacker group — Tremaine Edmunds –, he fit within the Dolphins’ tight budget.
MORE: 2023 NFL Free Agents by Position
Edmunds agreed to a four-year deal with the Bears, reportedly worth $72 million with $50 million guaranteed. Long costs a fraction of that.
PFN’s Dalton Miller wrote this about Long prior to free agency:
“Long is like an old-school, slashing two-guard in the NBA. He knifes through defenses on the way to the line of scrimmage. This allows the young thumper to blow plays up in spectacular fashion. According to SIS, he’s the only player in the NFL with an average tackle depth below a yard (0.9.)
“Improvements as a coverage linebacker are necessary, but responsibility within the Titans’ defensive scheme is partially the reason why he’s so gung-ho on defending the run before he frantically scoots back into his zone coverage. But even so, Long is far from a liability in the passing game, and he’ll continue to grow as he adds seasoning to his NFL resume.”
Miami Dolphins Are Building a Super Team
The Long deal comes a day after the Dolphins agreed to send a third-round pick and tight end Hunter Long to the Rams for star cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
Ramsey and David Long fill two major needs as the Dolphins try to build a defense in new coordinator Vic Fangio’s image.
Fangio’s 6-1 tilt defense doesn’t work without high-level cornerback play and a glass-eating linebacker who can make every tackle.
In Ramsey and Long, they seem to have addressed both concerns.
Long’s signing could potentially make Jerome Baker expendable. Baker is due $8.4 million in base salary in 2023, and the Dolphins would save $8.8 million by cutting him with a post-June 1 designation.
Whether by omission or by design, Fangio did not mention Baker’s name once during his introductory news conference last month.
“I think there’s some good young talent there,” Fangio said in February. “Obviously, just from two years ago in the draft with [Jaelan] Phillips and [Jevon] Holland, those are two really good players that I really liked in the draft.
“Bradley Chubb is here, who obviously I know about. And several other guys. Christian Wilkins is here, another guy I liked in the draft. … There’s a good nucleus of players here.”
And with Long and Ramsey aboard, it’s gotten even better.