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Fisher's 'recruiting' acumen helps land Long ..
• By JIM THOMAS
Once a player leaves town from a free-agent visit without a contract, it’s rare that he signs with that team. In fact, it’s pretty much the kiss of death. Such was the case with Miami Dolphins free agent tackle Jake Long.
“I was really disappointed when he left without signing,” said Hall of Fame tackle Dan Dierdorf, who like Long is a University of Michigan man.
But among his other skills, Rams coach Jeff Fisher apparently is a pretty good recruiter.
“I think it’s the good food in St. Louis, you know,” Fisher joked.
“We spent quality time with Jake, and I think he really enjoyed getting to meet the staff, the medical staff, and took advantage of the time to meet everybody in the building,” Fisher said. “We basically outlined an opportunity for him to finish his career with us — and how we go about doing that.”
Dierdorf, who covered Fisher’s Tennessee teams for a long time as a CBS television analyst, said Fisher’s recruiting acumen shouldn’t be overlooked in landing a player such as Long.
“It tells me a little something about Jeff Fisher,” Dierdorf said. “This is the type of deal that shows why Stan Kroenke gave Jeff Fisher as much money as he did. Because Jeff Fisher has always been a guy that players want to play for. And let’s be realistic, there’s some similarities here (in NFL free agency) to college recruiting.
“When you are and have been a losing program, it’s harder to get guys to want to be a part of that. And I think that’s where the credibility that Jeff brings to the dance comes in — it’s why he’s getting the big bucks.”
Speaking of big bucks, Long’s four-year deal is worth up to $36 million if incentives are met. According to league sources, the salary cap hit in 2013 is a modest $4.5 million, which leaves the Rams with roughly $3 million in cap space at this point.
About $15 million of Long’s contract is guaranteed, but that can grow to $20 million if certain incentives — believed to be playing time — are met.
In broadcasting AFC games for CBS, Dierdorf also has seen plenty of Long over the years. In fact, he was covering the game against New England on Dec. 2 when Long suffered the torn triceps that ended his season.
“He’s a good football player,” Dierdorf said. “The last couple years he was fighting through some injury problems. But he’s what the Rams have sorely been (missing). I think he’ll really anchor that side. He’s the kind of a player that makes the guys around him better.
“He’s got a tremendous work ethic. He’s in the building early. He stays late. He is a real competitor.
“And I’ll tell you what else he is, he’s a great run blocker. I think this was just really a smart move by the Rams.”
Long said Sunday night that he wants to get going as soon as possible with his new team. The official offseason program doesn’t begin until April 15, but Long can use the weight-training facilities at Rams Park on his own, and would like to get further acclimated to St. Louis.
“I don’t know what day, but I’d like to come back as soon as I can and start working out, getting to know the area, getting to know everybody in the building, and just get back to football,” Long said. “I’m glad that all this business stuff is over.”
Long met and talked football with the Rams’ offensive coaches during his free-agent visit, and watched film with them. Now, he’s eager to meet his new teammates.
“I’m excited to play with Sam Bradford,” Long said. “He’s young, he’s tough, and just watching him from afar you can tell he’s a great quarterback. I’m excited to meet the guys on the line. I just think this is a young, energetic, up-and-coming team.”
Long and tight end Jared Cook were signed to contracts potentially worth more than $70 million. Throw in the three-year, $10.5 million deal to re-sign defensive end William Hayes, and it pushes the total over $80 million. So does that put the team out of the free agency business for this offseason?
“Not necessarily,” Fisher said. “We’ve still got some things to do.”
For example, the team still wants to re-sign center-guard Robert Turner and has made a contract offer to him. As for outside players, in another week or two the “garage sale” period of free agency starts, so the Rams could do some bargain hunting.
Otherwise, as general manager Les Snead put it, “The big-ticket items are over.”
With Long in the fold, Snead said maybe “98 percent” of the Rams’ focus becomes getting ready for the draft. Signing Long means the Rams no longer have to target an offensive tackle in the first or second rounds.
“It frees us up to do some other things in April,” Fisher said.
“I think I’ve stated many times,” Snead added, “you don’t want to get to where you have to draft a position. You’re successful in the draft when you draft the right human being. ... I definitely love the fact that OK, we’re not desperate for anything.”
Well, except maybe a safety and wide receiver.
Re: Fisher's 'recruiting' acumen helps land Long ..
I've really gotten to like Turner a lot. Wells needs to have a good camp.With all the gravitas of Jackie Treehorn.
Re: Fisher's 'recruiting' acumen helps land Long ..
Turner signed with the Titans today.
THE DREAM TEAM
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