Yesterday the Vikings worked out former No. 1 overall pick Jake Long, and things must have gone well. The team’s website reported this morning they have signed the veteran offensive tackle.
As Austin pointed out yesterday, adding an offensive lineman has become a virtual necessity with the rash of injuries to the unit. Most recently, Brandon Fusco left the Texans game with a concussion, and yesterday the team announced Andre Smith will go on injured reserve. So both starting tackles are likely gone for the season and the right guard is in concussion protocol. It’s also worth noting that Mike Harris isn’t returning this season, and his future seems dicey beyond that. The team is in desperate need of depth, and will get some with the signing of Long.
The move reunites Long with Sam Bradford, with whom he played for two seasons, and offensive line coach Tony Sparano, who was the Dolphins’ head coach in 2008 when they drafted long. He is a four-time Pro Bowler whose promising NFL career was, at least temporarily, derailed by injuries; Long had multiple ACL surgeries in 2013 and 2014, and was placed on injured reserve in both 2011 and 2012 with a torn biceps and triceps.
Long, 31, spent 2015 with Atlanta, but appeared in just four games and only played 10 snaps on offense. In June, he told ESPN he was “finally healthy … the best I’ve felt in five or six years,” and that declaration was endorsed by Dr. James Andrews, who performed Long’s ACL surgeries.
Whether or not Long will start for the Vikings is still up in the air. Right now, we can probably expect TJ Clemmings and Jeremiah Sirles to stay put as the starting tackles for the Vikings, with Long providing depth at both positions and acting as an alternate if one struggles long term. Talent has never been a problem with Long–it’s about the injuries, and his health will be the factor that determines his impact with the Vikings. The fact that he reportedly passed a physical is a good sign, as is the endorsement from Andrews, for what it’s worth. At the very least, the team has another body in the offensive line group, a vitally important need that has been addressed.
This is now the second former No. 1 pick the 5-0 Vikings have acquired as an injury replacement this season. What a weird world.