Parcells had set internal deadline on Jake Long deal

The early signing of Jake Long by the Miami Dolphins seemed to catch a lot of people off guard. It was by design, and there was a Plan B ready to go.

Bill Parcells, the vice president of football operations for the Dolphins, had set an internal deadline of Tuesday to get the deal done or he would have turned to Virginia defensive end Chris Long, according to team sources.

Parcells even sent a letter on Monday to Jake Long's representatives -- Tom Condon and Ben Dogra of Creative Artists Agency -- suggesting Parcells would have to move on if the deal didn't come to a conclusion.

The principal terms of the contract -- length, money, payout schedules and guarantees -- were done last Thursday. However, the deal hit some potholes related to the "what-ifs" of a work stoppage in 2011 or beyond.

For example, if Long is injured in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and doesn't achieve some otherwise easily attainable play-time escalator clauses tied to the guaranteed money, what happens if there is a work stoppage in 2011, after the owners opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement, as expected, this November? Or if there's a strike?

Those issues had to be resolved, and both the NFL management council and NFL Players Association were monitoring the process because all of the contracts negotiated this year will have to be attentive to that possibility.

Ultimately, the Dolphins agreed to advance Long his $30 million guaranteed money over the first three years of the contract. There was a stalling point in the final 72 hours over the advance and Parcells had his Tuesday deadline. Matt Thomas, the Dolphins' lead negotiator, never went to bed Monday night and didn't go home for 48 hours.

If the deadline had passed, the Dolphins were prepared to negotiate with Chris Long, who is represented by Marvin Demoff. They believed they could have taken the framework of Jake Long's deal and wrapped up negotiations easily with Demoff.

It never came to that because Parcells instructed his negotiators to begin the process with Jake Long on April 7. That's when the Dolphins had set their draft board with the Michigan tackle at the top.

It's a good thing they started early. We may never know whether Parcells was bluffing. In the end, it didn't matter. Jake Long was paid handsomely at market prices and the Dolphins got their top-rated player.

Chris Mortensen is an NFL reporter for ESPN.