Jake Long deal may not move OT needle

March, 18, 2013
3/18/13
11:43
AM ET
Traditional logic in NFL free agency says the biggest fish has to be reeled in before the market for a position is truly set.

Certainly a bunch of free-agent tackles around the NFL are hoping that’s the case after Jake Long struck a deal with the St. Louis Rams Sunday night on a four-year deal that could be worth $36 million.

But it is really true that the top guy has to go first?

[+] EnlargeGosder Cherilus
Tim Fuller/USA TODAY SportsWith a five-year, $34.5 million deal, the Indianapolis Colts recently made ex-Detroit Lion Gosder Cherilus one of the highest-paid right tackles in the NFL.
Gosder Cherilus got a big contract from Indianapolis (five-year deal, $34.5 million), Jermon Bushrod moved to Chicago for five years and $35.97 million. Phil Loadholt did pretty well re-signing with Minnesota (four-year deal, $25 million) well before anything happened with Long.

Taking out Denver’s Ryan Clady and Kansas City’s Branden Albert, who both received franchise tags, ESPN.com’s free-agent tracker lists 41 free-agent tackles.

Before Long got his deal, 10 of them had contracts, five with their old team, five with new clubs.

With 24 percent of the market having found work, I wouldn’t say Long was needed to set the market.

(Similarly at cornerback -- we saw Greg Toler sign in Indianapolis and Bradley Fletcher sign in Philadelphia well before Aqib Talib got a new contract in New England. And Brent Grimes and Nnamdi Asomugha are still available.)

What’s more accurate with regard to tackles is to say Long needed to go first in the pecking order of CAA, the agency that represents him, along with Sebastian Vollmer and Andre Smith, two of the top three remaining tackles along with Eric Winston.

In the AFC South, the Colts (with Cherilus and guard Donald Thomas) and the Titans (with guard Andy Levitre) have likely finished their front-line offensive line work and will resume addressing their lines in April's draft.

But Jacksonville has a couple of gaping holes at left guard and right tackle.

Will the Jaguars make a move with one of the top remaining options? Nothing they’ve done so far suggests they’ll spend big dollars on one guy, even with such large holes looming. If more time passes and players get increasingly antsy, maybe there is a point at which Jacksonville would see value and get involved.

I am not so sure we’re about to see a big spurt of tackle activity now that Long has signed.

But that’s the thing about free-agency shopping. It’s hardly easy to predict when to show interest and when guys will bite on offers.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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