Chris Long Calls it a Career
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Chris Long told the Eagles to prepare like he wasn't coming back for the 2019 season and the veteran pass rusher has put the punctuation on that.
Long, 34, took to Twitter on Saturday night to announce his retirement:
"Cheers," he wrote coupled with a picture of a red Solo cup toasting what was a very good career for someone considered to be a Hall of Fame-level person by many around the NFL. "Been a hell of a journey. Eleven years and I can honestly say I put my soul into every minute of it. Highs and lows. I’ve seen them both and I appreciate the perspective. Gratitude and love to those who lifted me up."
Philadelphia and Long were leaving the door open, first agreeing to move a $1 million roster bonus he was due at the start of the new league year in March to after the draft on May 1 and then kicked the can down the road again until the first day veterans were required to report to training camp in the summer.
With on-field OTAs starting next week, however, the two time Super Bowl winner decided to pull the plug on any further speculation.
The real issue for Long when weighing the decision to continue his career was his role. He wanted to remain in the nickel-pass rusher niche he carved out in an effective way during the 2017 and 2018 seasons but the Eagles have penciled in Malik Jackson next to Fletcher Cox on the interior pass rush which would keep Brandon Graham at left end with Derek Barnett on the right side squeezing Long out of his preferred slot.
"When you look at everything Chris Long accomplished as a player and a person, it's easy to see how fortunate we've been to have him on our team," the Eagles said in a statement.
The returning Vinny Curry is now Philadelphia's top backup at defensive end and a host of young players will be looked at from including back-to-back fourth-round draft picks in Josh Sweat (2018) and Shareef Miller (2019), as well as the rangy Daeshon Hall and scout-team star Joe Ostman.
Executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman addressed the defensive end position after the draft and the addition of Miller.
"I think the first order of business was to bring back [DE Brandon Graham]. What BG brings to us on and off the field was such a huge move for our football team," Roseman said. "Bringing back Vinny [Curry] at defensive end and then [DE] Daeshon Hall is a guy we got last year who was a third-round pick and he's really taken a step in the offseason here, just with his body.
"Obviously we can't see him out on the field. [DE] Josh Sweat, we knew that him having a full offseason and coming back was something that he really needed to continue to develop. [DE] Joe Ostman is a guy that, again, when you look at the transition he's made with his body just in the offseason, I know a lot of the coaching staff is excited to see him in his second year.
"So you get those guys at defensive end, and then you add the guy we get today and it's a good mix of veterans and young players and obviously [DE Derek Barnett] coming back, our first-round pick, we're really excited about."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen