Instant analysis: Five takeaways from Eagles signing of veteran DE Chris Long

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The Eagles have officially announced the signing of veteran defensive lineman Chris Long to a 2-year deal.

The 32-year old Super Bowl winner was drafted by the Rams with the second overall pick in 2008, spending eight years in St Louis, before heading to New England and earning himself a ring. So, what does this signing mean for the Eagles? For Long, it just so happens to be the perfect Birthday present!

 

Defensive line Depth:
After Connor Barwin reunited with Wade Phillips in LA, the Eagles were left with a lack of consistent starting quality on the outside to partner Brandon Graham. Vinny Curry is yet to play up to the money he’s set to earn and depth behind him is thin.

Long spent the majority of time with the Rams as a defensive end, having an incredible 2011 season in which he amassed 13 sacks. Since then, his form has varied and he’s failed to play to the level you’d expect from a second round pick consistently. However in New England, Long racked up 4 sacks and flashed signs of the dominant pass rusher he has become renowned for.

It’s unclear whether or not Long will be a designated starter alongside Brandon Graham, or whether he will compete for a rotational role, such as that of Curry, Barwin, Smith and Means last season. But the Eagles don’t just need bodies on the defensive front, they need explosive playmakers..and the nine-year veteran ticks those boxes with 58 career sacks and 217 tackles.

 

Prove-it:
Like Torrey Smith, Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith before him, a two-year deal implies that the Eagles are continuing their low-risk, high-reward trend..giving Long a chance to play in a schematic fit with a young core in need of veteran presence, that could lead to a secure deal in the future.

Long has struggled with injuries previously, with back to back setbacks in 2014 and 2015. However, the 6’4. 275 lbs, defensive end rebounded strongly under Belichick, playing in all 16 of the Pats games last season..and even leading them in quarterback hurries with 46.

Long fits the bill for the Eagles..and a two-year “prove-it” deal works extremely well for both parties. If Long shines and can emerge as a starter, then the Eagles have a chance to develop their younger players while potentially investing in a short-term, incentive based extension for Long. If Long fails to achieve the aforementioned within that span, it will likely be of little consequence to the Eagles.

 

What about me, Coach?
Vinny Curry is the player who could probably be impacted the most by this move. If there was ever a sign that Curry needs to go above and beyond this year, it’s the addition of Long. With Barwin in LA, this was a perfect opportunity for Curry to show coaches that he can thrive as a 4-3 DE. He will have even more pressure to do so when Training camp rolls around.

As for Marcus Smith, Steven Means and Alex McCallister, that’s one less backup spot that will be available on the final 53-man roster, regardless of who starts. The DE training camp battle is set to not only be one of the most important on the roster, but one of the most exciting. This is without the possibility of drafting an edge-rusher, making the prospect of which even more enticing.

 

First round flutter?
The move to sign Chris Long does beg the question of whether the Eagles are perhaps looking elsewhere with their first round pick. The DL is in need of playmakers to support the likes of Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, especially after losing Logan and Cox. But Long isn’t exactly a player who will ride the bench as Stephen Tulloch did last year. The length of the deal would also imply that although not a long-term solution, Long has a role to play in the future of this Defense.

Long was absolutely vital in run defense for the Patriots last year, just as he was throughout his storied campaign with the Rams. At the very worst, Long’s role will be rotational. So the question is..does this give the Eagles comfort with their DE corps?

Marcus Smith is entering a season in which he simply must breakout if he is to shed the “Bust” label from his shoulders..and Vinny Curry as we all know by now, needs to step things up. But if the Eagles have faith in what is still a young core..then maybe they can tick the DE spot off of their immediate needs list, fortifying the position with a veteran presence. However, signing a top talent in this draft class to develop in such a strong environment should still be of the upmost importance. Building through the draft is a priority for the Eagles..and this move shouldn’t affect the direction at DE too much.

 

Forget the Salary cap, The Eagles aren’t done:
The Eagles may have an extremely minimal amount of cap-space, but if this signing, along with those of Warmack, Smith and Jeffery tell us anything, it’s that the Eagles can and will make things work if the move is right for the team. Of course, there will still likely be some fallout and corresponding moves, but the Eagles have found a new way of attacking free agency..incentives.

It’s those incentive based deals that have given the quartet of new additions the chance to play themselves to a long-term deal, while contributing in a sustainable culture that’s built on growing and developing. Even though Long may not be a premier pass rusher, or a run stopper in his prime, his ability, experience and numbers from last season alone, make him an incredibly valuable asset to an organization craving some explosiveness at the position.

The team learned the hard way that overpaying for goods you haven’t delivered doesn’t seem to be working, so by potentially underpaying for goods you’ve grown more than aware of in the last nine-years..only makes sense for a team strapped for cap space. Don’t be surprised to see a few similar moves as the offseason continues to progress.

 

Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

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