Dolphins LT Jake Long placed on injured reserve

By Ryan Wilson | Blogger

December 4, 2012 7:24 pm ET

Long's season is over, Martin will replace him at left tackle. (US Presswire)
Dolphins left tackle Jake Long was forced from Sunday's game against the Patriots after suffering a left triceps injury. On Tuesday, he was placed on injured reserve, ending his season, the team announced. It's a huge blow to a young squad that needs to protect its rookie franchise quarterback, Ryan Tannehill.

Another rookie will now protect Tannehill's blind side: second-round pick Jonathan Martin, who started the first 12 games at right tackle. (In college, Martin was Andrew Luck's left tackle so he has some experience playing the position, just not at the NFL level.)

"I was making mistakes I hadn't made since high school, but that can be cleaned up," Martin said of his performance against New England.

Complicating matters: The Dolphins need to find a right tackle to replace Martin. Nate Garner filled in last Sunday but the Miami Herald's Armando Salguero writes that the team might consider moving guard John Jerry to right tackle (he played there last year) and having Garner kick inside.

Whatever lineup coach Joe Philbin decides, it's going to be a baptism by fire -- the Dolphins travel to San Francisco to face the 49ers and one-man terror Aldon Smith.

But the problems extend beyond Week 14 and even the regular season. Long's contract expires after the season. The former first-overall pick has been an elite player for most of his career but has seen his productivity slip this season. The implications: Miami may not be interested in paying Long like a top-five left tackle when it's not clear he still is. Alternatively, to franchise him would cost some $15 million for 2013.

A source told Salguero that "all options are on the table" regarding Long's future with the Dolphins and the franchise tag might prove to be the most palatable option -- it keeps the organization from making a long-term commitment, plus they have the salary-cap room for it.

Ultimately, Long's fate could be tied to how well Martin performs over the final four games. If he can handle the job, the Dolphins have the leverage. If he struggles, Long's agent will probably bring it up a time or two during negotiations.