Two years, $11 million dollars is a free agent contract that does not immediately jump off as a needle-moving transaction for an organization in the NFL these days.

A sixth-round pick in the 2019 draft by the Tennessee Titans out of the University of West Virginia, David Long Jr. was the man who landed that contract by the Miami Dolphins, and it may end up being the biggest free agent signing when all is said and done. 

Sure, a handful of 6th-round picks have had incredible careers (Tom Brady and a few rings), Jason Kelce and Antonio Brown, to name a few, but that is a few of the many. Immediately, I started researching who David was as a player.  In his final season in college, in 2018, his play earned such accolades as 2nd Team All-American, Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, and Butkus Award semifinalist, to name a few.

He led the team with 111 tackles and finished his collegiate career with 11 total tackles against Syracuse in the Camping World Bowl—solid numbers coming from the Will linebacker position.

Flash forward to this year’s free agency period, and most publications had Miami’s signing of Long for $11 million as one of the best free agency moves.  That really makes you think when all these ‘experts’ are in sync with a signing.

Long was initially projected to receive roughly a four-year contract for around $50 million or so. Big numbers like that generally amount to a player on the verge of becoming ‘one of those guys.’  Then his previous coach, Mike Vrabel, comes out, speaking on two of his former players on their recurring soft tissue issues, which has caused Long to miss time over the past two seasons.  Is he one of those players who plays great and elevates the defense at times but does, in fact, miss too much time?

Vrabel’s comments likely impacted the contract offers that Long received.  During his introductory conversations with the Miami media, Long was quick to mention Vrabel’s comments.  He welcomed all to view his previous tapes, showing how he attacks each play like it is his last.  This clearly has put a chip on his shoulder for the upcoming season.

The Dolphin defense has several playmakers and upcoming studs who, under the tutelage of Vic Fangio, have the chance to make a leap into the top 10, if not top 5, defense in the entire NFL.

Miami’s front seven is led by Christian Wilkins, Zach Sieler, Emmanuel Ogbah, as well as Jaelan Phillips, and Brandon Chubb.  That is a formidable group, at their floor, but at their ceiling, downright unstoppable. The backside, even without Jalen Ramsey for part of the season, includes potential breakout player, safety Jevon Holland, ‘X’ Howard,  Kader ‘Darth’ Kohu, and a returning Brandon Jones, who was one of the most efficient blitzing defensive backs in his rookie campaign.

Now, we get to the linebackers, more clearly the interior linebacking unit. Jerome Baker has been a solid all-around linebacker since entering the league.  Duke Riley and Channing Tindall, at the moment, are decent backups.  Think about this defense’s potential if they can solidify the middle of the field.  Elandon Roberts was our thumper for the couple of seasons that he was here. Still, it was a liability in coverage and not a ‘technique’ tackler, more of an if I hit you, you’re going to know I hit you, and if I miss, then add on some nice, additional yardage.

Enter David Long Jr., and if you’ve paid attention to Miami’s training camp the past week, you are seeing impact plays by Long.  He has certainly caught Fangio’s attention.  The way he hits the hole, breaks through blocks and makes tackles, he looks and plays like a heat-seeking missile.  The talent is obvious; you see it in most plays.  The intelligence in reading plays stands out as well.  It has been quite some time since Miami had a linebacker that has the potential to complete the defense as Long can do.  All the talk is on the defensive line and the defensive backs, but watch out NFL; if Miami gets their linebackers on even close to the level of the other levels of their defense, this team is going to hit a whole new level.  Would you really count out the son of a former professional heavyweight boxer who once went toe to toe with one of the scariest dudes in the entire world, Deontay Wilder?  I surely would not.