Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Where Jake Long fits among left tackles
By Mike Sando
The St. Louis Rams have scheduled an introductory news conference for Thursday featuring recently signed left tackle Jake Long.
Long's addition gives the NFC West three left tackles with Pro Bowl experience. Long is a four-time Pro Bowl choice in five NFL seasons. The San Francisco 49ers' Joe Staley has earned Pro Bowl honors each of the past two seasons. The Seattle Seahawks' Russell Okung made his Pro bowl debut following the 2012 season.
None of the three is older than 28.
Long, Staley, Okung and Arizona Cardinals left tackle Levi Brown were all first-round draft choices. Brown was once named an alternate to the Pro Bowl. His new coach, Bruce Arians, has called Brown "elite" -- counter to general perceptions that Brown has not lived up to expectations since entering the NFL as the fifth overall choice in 2007.
All four NFC West left tackles are making a good living. The chart ranks their current contracts by guaranteed money. I've also included average per year, average for the first three years and 2013 salary-cap charges. The three-year averages can be telling because they sometimes represent what a player is likely to receive, whereas the per-year average can be inflated if a deal is heavily back-loaded. Guaranteed money is king, of course.
I would rank Okung and Staley as the best left tackles in the division right now. Long has the potential to be as good or better than both if he can regain the good health that helped him dominate during his first three seasons in the league. Brown would rank fourth based on his overall consistency.