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Chris Long brings a competitive fire to Eagles defensive line mix

The Eagles just got a little leaner and meaner on the defensive line by agreeing to terms on a two-year deal with defensive end Chris Long.

Alex Smith broke the news for PE.com:

“A nine-year veteran, Long, listed at 6-3, 270 pounds, was originally the second-overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft out of Virginia. Long played his first eight seasons with the St. Louis Rams. He joined the Patriots in 2016 and started seven games en route to a Super Bowl LI victory over Atlanta. The 32-year-old has totaled 58.5 sacks in his NFL career. His best season came in 2011, when he recorded 13.0 sacks and forced one fumble.

“This addition provides some much-needed depth to the Eagles’ defensive front. The team released Connor Barwin earlier this offseason, meaning Long will join a group of defensive ends consisting of Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Marcus Smith, Steven Means, and Alex McCalister.

“Long is the son of NFL Hall of Famer, analyst, and Villanova graduate Howie Long, and the older brother of Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long.”

My first reaction to the signing as I posted it in the Fan Comments section previously was this move (if Long is truly still capable of making an impact) takes away a lot of the pressure of the temptation to reach for an edge rusher early in the draft. But I still believe the Eagles will look hard for a developmental edge rusher in the middle rounds. It is doubtful a true BPA 4-3 defensive end pass rush enfant terrible falls to the Eagles at pick number 14…unless they would blow their minds and trade up.

The Eagles finished this past season tied for 16th in sacks with 34. Their inability to consistently get pressure on the quarterback with their front four — a must in defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s system — held the unit back.

“We’ve always admired his level of play,” Howie Roseman, the Eagles’ executive vice president of football operations, said of Long. “And when you turned on the tape and watched him, he’s a pleasant surprise, the way he plays, and it really fits what we’re trying to bring and build in Philly.

“… When we were able to get a guy who brings a lot of the same qualities [as Barwin] on and off the field and things that we value, we thought that it made us better not only now, but the legacy he can have going forward to the players on our team.”

Long, who has 58.5 career sacks, announced before the start of free agency that he wouldn’t be returning to the New England Patriots.

The 6-foot-3, 270-pound Long had signed a one-year contract with the Patriots on March 18, 2016, choosing New England primarily for the chance to compete for a Super Bowl championship after never having been a part of a winning season in the first eight years of his career with the St. Louis Rams. He played in all 16 regular-season games, as well as all three playoff games, opening the year as a starter and finishing as a situational pass-rusher.

Long, 32, totaled 35 tackles and four sacks in the regular season. In Super Bowl LI, he made the most of his 15 defensive snaps, drawing a critical holding penalty that helped push the Atlanta Falcons out of range when they had been in position to kick a field goal late and possibly increase their lead to 11 points. The Patriots won 34-28 in overtime.

Long says it’s not about the money with the Eagles, who likely got a nicely discounted deal. Last year, he signed a 1-year, $2,375,000 contract with the New England Patriots, including a $500,000 signing bonus and $1,000,000 guaranteed. I don’t have the official money figures yet, but you gotta figure the Birds signed Long somewhere in the area of 2 years, $4 million total before incentives, and maybe only $1 million of that guaranteed.

The reason for the discount is Long wants out of the “situational” pass-rush role he was headed for with the Patriots. “This has zero to do with money. … It’s the right move in my heart because I want to get back to being the player I was before,”he said. “I’m thankful for my role [with the Pats], but as a competitor, I’m itching to do what I do best.”

In other words, with the Eagles, Long thinks he has a chance to start and finish a series as a 3-down player.

ANOTHER FREE AGENT SIGNING BY THE EAGLES:

Philadelphia also added help for the secondary, agreeing to a one-year contract with cornerback Patrick Robinson.

The Indianapolis Colts released Robinson on March 10 after he completed just one season of a three-year, $13.5 million contract he had signed in 2016.

He only played seven games last season due to an assortment of injuries, the most serious being a groin pull. It may be unfair to say it due to the injuries, but many Colts fans consider him one of former GM Ryan Grigson’s biggest free-agency flops.

Robinson, 29, played the first five seasons of his career for the New Orleans Saints and spent 2015 with the San Diego Chargers. He has 10 interceptions and 59 passes defensed in seven NFL seasons.

Robinson is 5-11, 192, and ran a 4.46 ’40 at his combine.

Draft Round: 1st (32nd Overall)
Draft Year: 2010 (New Orleans Saints)
Experience: 6 Seasons (2010 – Present)
College: Florida State Seminoles

The Colts officially released Robinson on March 10 after one year with the team. He played in seven games and made six starts, posting 26 total tackles, 5 pass defenses and 1 forced fumble.

The 29-year-old began his career with New Orleans in 2010. The Saints drafted him in the first round at 32nd overall that year. He made four starts as a rookie. Over the next two seasons, Robinson picked off 7 passes in 31 games. However, he dressed for just 16 contests over the next two years combined, which became his final two in New Orleans.

This is probably one of those “prove-it” deals for the Eagles and Robinson. I’m guessing it’s 1 year at $2 million with “only” $250,000 guaranteed. As far as I know, Robinson is still owed up to $4 million in pro-rated signing bonus money from the Colts, so he should end up okay financially no matter what happens in Philly.

 

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