The Tennessee Titans could be in contract negotiations with their 2019 NFL draft class. Several of those players are set to enter contract years in 2022, including safety Amani Hooker and right guard Nate Davis. We recently compiled articles on what potential extensions could look like for Hooker and Davis, and we’re now turning our attention to starting inside linebacker David Long Jr.
Long originally joined the Titans as a sixth-round selection out of West Virginia in the 2019 NFL Draft. Long has steadily grown into a playmaking role ever since, earning more playing time with each passing season. In 2021, Long finally leapfrogged veterans Rashaan Evans and Jayon Brown on the depth chart while establishing himself as an every-down starter when healthy. Both Evans and Brown departed in free agency earlier this offseason, and Long is entering the 2022 campaign as an unquestioned starter for the first time in his professional career.
In 2021, Long recorded career-highs in total tackles (75), tackles for loss (4.0), pass breakups (six), interceptions (two) and quarterback hits (2.0) despite being limited to 10 appearances and nine starts due to a hamstring injury. Long formed an elite duo alongside midseason addition Zach Cunningham. Long and Cunningham will continue their partnership in 2022.
Long and his representation could use Myles Jack’s contract as a starting point for negotiations. Jack has enjoyed an up-and-down career since entering the league in 2016, but recently signed a two-year contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers worth $16 million. Long would likely want more than two years, but the $8 million annual salary could represent Long’s ceiling/hopeful asking point. The Titans would likely aim to keep an extension in the $5-6 million per year, range.
The Titans could also consider letting Long leave in next offseason’s iteration of free agency if he prices themselves out of their price range. Losing Long would be a blow, but Titans General Manager Jon Robinson has routinely flashed an ability to draft quality linebackers on Day Three of the draft. Robinson previously allowed Avery Williamson to walk in free agency, and has drafted the likes of Long and Brown in Rounds four-through-seven. The Titans also drafted Monty Rice with a third-round selection last year, and Rice will eventually find himself in the team’s plans. Robinson landed Cunningham midway through last season, and also drafted Chance Campbell this year. Linebacker has been a replaceable position for Robinson. We’re not advocating for Long to reach free agency, but it’s certainly a possibility.
If the Titans want to keep Long at an affordable rate, Robinson would be wise to engage in contract negotiations with Long’s representation sooner rather than later.