Dolphins Sign J. Long as Top Choice

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Some of the suspense was removed from the NFL draft when the Miami Dolphins signed Jake Long yesterday, ensuring that they will use the top overall selection Saturday on the tackle from Michigan.

"This was not an easy deal," Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland said at an afternoon news conference at the team's headquarters in Davie, Fla. "But we're very proud to get it done. . . . This was the guy we wanted. . . . This was about picking the best football player and, in my opinion, that's what we've done."

Long signed a five-year contract worth about $57.5 million, according to a source familiar with negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the terms of the deal were not announced. The contract includes approximately $30 million in guaranteed money, the source said.

"It's such an honor to be a number one pick and it's such an honor to be part of this organization," said Long, who attended the news conference.

Ireland said the Dolphins negotiated only with Long, although they reportedly had considered defensive ends Vernon Gholston of Ohio State and Chris Long of Virginia as well. Jake Long can play either left tackle or right tackle but is projected by the Dolphins to play the left side, considered a premium position in the NFL because that's who protects the blind side of a right-handed quarterback.

Long will become only the second offensive lineman drafted first overall since 1970. He joins left tackle Orlando Pace, picked first by the St. Louis Rams in 1997.

He also will become the centerpiece of the rebuilding program of a team that went 1-15 last season before hiring former Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Parcells to run its front office. Parcells hired Ireland as his general manager and another former Dallas Cowboys associate, Tony Sparano, as his coach. The three had little trouble settling on Long as the player they wanted in the draft, Ireland said.

"Jake Long was on the top of our board for a long time," Ireland said. "In terms of debate, there wasn't a whole lot of debate. . . . There's no secret that left tackle is a very pivotal part of your building process. . . . It met the needs of our team and it met the board value as well."

By signing Long before the draft, as NFL rules permit the team with the top overall choice to do, the Dolphins avoided the sort of lengthy negotiations that plagued the Oakland Raiders and the top pick in last year's draft, Louisiana State quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

So Long, Shaun

The Seattle Seahawks released tailback Shaun Alexander, according to several reports. The move had been expected after the team signed running backs Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett as free agents. Alexander was the league's most valuable player in the 2005 season but had been far less productive and plagued by injuries the past two seasons. He ran for 716 yards and averaged 3.5 yards per carry last season. . . .

Lawyers for the NFL and former New England Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh continue to negotiate an agreement that would provide legal protection for Walsh if he is interviewed by league officials about the videotaping scandal involving the Patriots. There are hopes that a deal could be completed soon and Walsh has hinted to media organizations that he has information about the Patriots' videotaping program.

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