Eagles

Eagles

Chris Long has been very transparent as he tries to figure out whether or not he wants to keep playing football. 

The 34-year-old defensive end has been consistent, saying his decision will have nothing to do with money and will be based upon his role in the Eagles’ defense and whether or not he’d be willing to subject himself to the rigors of an NFL season for that role. 

Since he hasn’t reached a decision yet, the Eagles and Long have reportedly agreed to push back a roster bonus that was due today. 

This seems like a pretty logical solution for now. There’s no reason for Long to show up for OTAs, so this will give him some extra time to see if the itch to keep playing returns. Veterans will likely report in late July, so this gives him another three months. On Philly.com’s Birds’ Eye View podcast, Long recently said he told the Eagles to plan as if he isn’t going to return. They kind of have. 

For now, the Eagles have Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Josh Sweat, Daeshon Hall and recently-drafted Shareef Miller at defensive end. Getting Long back in 2019 would help the Eagles, but even before the Birds took Miller with a fourth-round pick, it seemed like Long was leaning toward walking away. 

This shouldn’t be a money issue on either side. Long is scheduled to have a cap hit of $5.6 million in 2019, which shouldn’t be a problem for the Eagles, who still have around $24 million in cap space. And Long showed last season that he’s still worth that kind of money after his 6½-sack 2018 season.

Likely at the crux of the issue here is the addition of Malik Jackson in free agency. No, Jackson doesn’t even play Long’s position, but Jackson is a three-down defensive tackle. In the last two years with Long on the roster, Graham or Curry would bump inside on third downs, which was when Long would get the bulk of his snaps. But Jackson will likely be on the field for third downs, which means Long will have less opportunity. 

Throughout this offseason, Long said he wouldn’t want to return as just a “locker room guy.” He wants to still have a significant role and it looks like that might not be possible here, even though I think the Eagles would clearly still be better off with him on the roster.

Long is a guy with a lot of other passions, his charity work being at the forefront. When he came back last year, he said part of the reason was because he knows his charity work gets more exposure as long as he keeps playing. But this is a football decision for him. Is it worth putting his body through a grueling training camp and season for a limited role? That’s one of the questions Long will have to answer over the next couple months.