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Patriots' Chris Long was pursued heavily by Lions

Patriots defensive end Chris Long almost became a Detroit Lion this past offseason.

"Coach (Jim) Caldwell was awesome throughout that whole free agency process," Long said, via The Detroit Free Press. "They showed me a lot of respect that I didn't necessarily deserve, in my eyes, because the last few years were so tough for me. But coach Caldwell thought I could get back to who I was, and I'll always respect him for that."

Long said New England entered the bidding a little later in the game. If not, his four sacks and 32 tackles would have been bolstering a surprisingly strong Lions defense in 2016.

While neither destination would have been an awful choice for a championship-seeking late-career veteran whose prime years were gobbled up by Jeff Fisher in St. Louis, New England was always the obvious choice here.

Long was the perfect Patriots defensive player -- versatile and heady, with the ability to rush the passer and do all the little things well. His approximate value this season, according to Pro Football Reference, was higher than it's been since an 8.5 sack season back in 2011 with the Rams.

"This opportunity here that I've been lucky to be a part of is what I had in mind," Long said. "My first experience in free agency was all about that."

While the Rams took a lot of heat for letting Long go -- a particularly gruesome day for the franchise back in February of last year when they also canned long-time staples James Laurinaitis and Jared Cook to save cap space -- they were never going to have the defensive flexibility and aptitude to use Long this way. At 31 going on 32, he is in the perfect position while the Rams were able to get younger and faster.

The only difference is that Long has a real shot of emerging with a Super Bowl ring.

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