Jake Long’s season is over. Whether his Dolphins career is also done won’t be known for a while.
As expected, the Pro Bowl left tackle will miss the rest of the season with a torn triceps in his left arm. The Dolphins placed him on injured reserve Tuesday night, while also releasing safety Anderson Russell.
“Jake will be very missed,” Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline said Tuesday. “He’s one of our leaders, a staple on our offensive line.”
To fill the roster spots, the Dolphins signed offensive tackle Patrick Brown, who played for the Vikings last season, and safety Tyrone Culver, who spent the previous five years with the Dolphins.
Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said during the offseason that he very much wanted to re-sign Long, who made the Pro Bowl his first four seasons and was leading in AFC fan voting at his position this year.
But the injury — sustained during the first quarter of Sunday’s game against New England — has thrown his future into question, as has the uncertainty about whether the Dolphins can persuade him to agree to a contract more modest than the wishes of his representation.
The Dolphins haven’t ruled out using their franchise tag on him, though that would result in a $15.4 million salary for next season, higher than Miami prefers.
“All options are available,” a highly placed source said.
If the Dolphins use the franchise tag on Long, their salary-cap space would diminish from $40 million to about $25 million. And the Dolphins will need a lot of that space to address other free agents, including Sean Smith, Hartline and Randy Starks.
Long’s representation wants a contract that would make him one of the top left tackles in the game — similar to the eight-year, $92 million deal that Cleveland gave Joe Thomas.
But it’s expected that the Dolphins would not want to pay that much because Long’s play has declined somewhat the past two years, and because he has had difficulty staying healthy.
The league’s top left tackles typically cost between $9 million and $12 million a year. Carolina’s Jordan Gross and Washington’s Trent Williams have six-year, $60 million deals, and the Jets’ D’Brickashaw Ferguson is in the midst of an eight year, $73.6 million contract.
Long, the first overall pick of the 2008 draft, is making $11.2 million this season and will collect his entire salary.
Long said two weeks ago that he’s playing at the same level he had in the past. But that’s not the case, according to Pro Football Focus.
The website ranked Long second among all tackles in 2009 and 2010 and 21st last season, but just 47th this season. He rated above average in pass protection — 32nd of 75 qualifying tackles — with four sacks allowed and 10 hurries. Only 10 qualifying tackles have allowed fewer hurries.
But the site gives him a negative grade for run blocking, ranking him 51st. Long also has a team-high seven penalties.
Martin moves over
For the final four weeks of the season, the Dolphins will move rookie right tackle Jonathan Martin to left tackle, where he played at Stanford. He allowed one sack Sunday against New England, according to Pro Football Focus, but coaches said he played well overall.
“Jonathan is having a very good year,” offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said. “A young man like that, just out of college, and already having played both sides of the line and being thrown over there in the middle of the game speaks volumes of what he’s all about.”
Martin said he felt comfortable moving back to left tackle. “I was making mistakes I hadn’t made since high school, but that can be cleaned up,” he said.
Nate Garner, who filled in at right tackle after Long’s injury, also allowed a sack on Sunday but “that was his only big negative,” Sherman said. “His run game was very good.”
This marks the second consecutive season Long has ended the season on injured reserve.
He missed the finale last season with an injury to his right arm. He also has had knee and back issues in 2010 and 2011 and missed one game because of the back injury. But he had missed just two games in his career before this season.
With Long out, “now we have to move someone from one side to the other, and so we’re not quite as strong at both positions maybe,” Sherman said. “The one thing we have benefitted from is the cohesiveness of that group.”
Brown, who joins Will Yeatman as the other tackles on Miami’s roster, was out of the league this season after being active for 16 games for the Vikings last season. Undrafted out of Central Florida in 2009, he spent three weeks with the Dolphins in 2010.
Culver, a strong special-teams player, had two interceptions and two forced fumbles during his five seasons with the Dolphins. He was released in the last round of preseason cuts in August.