Only a couple of years ago, the notion that the Rams — not exactly known for brilliant personnel decisions over the past decade — would award defensive end Chris Long a four-year, $50 million contract extension (with more than half of that guaranteed) would have seemed absurd. The team's first-round pick in 2008 (and the second player taken overall), Long didn't look like a bust on the field, but with only nine sacks over his first two seasons, he didn't look like a franchise cornerstone, either. But something clicked prior to the 2010 season, and suddenly Long was channeling his father, the fearsome Hall of Famer Howie Long, sweeping past offensive linemen and burying the quarterback. He registered eight-and-a-half sacks that year and thirteen in 2011, pretty much the lone bright spot of the Rams' otherwise miserable season. The team's future is in doubt, but whether the team calls St. Louis or Los Angeles home, when it finally returns to the NFL elite, Long will be leading the way.
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