The Miami Dolphins have been quite busy during the beginning weeks of the free agency period. General Manager Jeff Ireland made it clear shortly after the Dolphins played their last snap of the 2012 season that the organization would be looking towards getting faster, more explosive and younger. Ireland has not let the fan base down so far.
As of today Miami has signed former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver – Mike Wallace, former New York Jets tight end – Dustin Keller, former St. Louis Rams wide receiver - Brandon Gibson, former Baltimore Ravens linebacker – Dannell Ellerbe, former Oakland Raiders linebacker – Phillip Wheeler, and has re-signed many of their own free agents (WR Brian Hartline, S Chris Clemons, QB Matt Moore, DT Randy Starks – Franchised all come to mind as “key” players being re-signed). Ireland’s plan is becoming quite clear. The team is signing players that are explosive and young, while also filling a position of need.
But there are still quite a few “glaring” needs the team must address. CB, DE, RB, OT, OG..
After a negotiation period that took forever, offensive tackle Jake Long opted to join the St. Louis Rams rather than returning to Miami. Losing Long puts Miami in quite a pickle. The team is said to value last year’s second round selection, Jonathan Martin, as a left tackle rather than a right tackle. Boom. Miami instantly has a gaping hole along the offensive line at the right tackle position.
Shortly after Jake Long left Miami for greener pastures in St. Louis, Kansas City Chiefs‘ franchise player, Brandon Albert, signed his franchise tender making him interesting trade bait for the up and coming Chiefs. Albert, who was drafted as a guard, has been the Chiefs’ stud at the left tackle position for years. Although the Miami Dolphins have been linked to a possible trade, likely sending a second round selection this year plus a 2014 mid-round selection, I’m not buying into it. Albert would command a decent contract – not a huge one but a significant one. Miami would be losing an important draft pick plus valuable cap space. No thanks.
The team recently re-signed versatile offensive lineman, Nate Garner, leading many to assume Garner would become the team’s right tackle. Please, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Garner is not a starting caliber offensive lineman. Garner was brought back to add depth along the offensive line.
Another in house option would be moving right guard, John Jerry, to the right tackle position. Jerry has had an up and down career in Miami and has had issues maintaining his weight – last year he reportedly showed up to camp well over 350 pounds. Jerry is at best a decent guard, therefore I for one am not crazy about the idea of putting the former Ole Miss Rebel at the right tackle spot.
Miami also has brought in former Miami Hurricane Eric Winston for a visit. Winston, who is one of the National Football League’s better right tackles, was recently released by the Kansas City Chiefs even after putting together a decent season. Reports are swirling that Winston wants to play for Miami, but the Dolphins have not offered a contract and there is no report if the team is interested in doing so.
If Miami lets Winston get away for a second straight season, where could the team go from here? Well, the Dolphins are in a decent position during the upcoming NFL Draft. No, I do not expect one of the draft’s top three tackles (Joeckel, Fisher, Johnson) to fall to the team currently positioned in the number twelve slot during the first round. But the team has ammunition to make a trade with a team looking to trade out of the top ten. Miami possesses two second round picks, two third round picks and two fifth round picks. There are a few possible suitors such as Arizona, New York and Buffalo, but whether or not these teams would like to trade back depends on what happens with the first six selections (all three teams are quarterback needy and may not want to “reach” for a quarterback at their current position).
If Miami was to trade up for an offensive tackle, one prospect to keep an eye on would be Lane Johnson. The former Oklahoma Sooner is an incredibly athletic offensive lineman – ran a sub 4.8 forty-yard dash at February’s NFL Combine – that projects well at both offensive tackle positions. Johnson would be an excellent compliment to Jonathan Martin. Not to mention Johnson fits the mold that head coach Joe Philbin wants in his offensive linemen – strong and athletic. Johnson is the perfect fit for the zone blocking scheme Miami has in place on offense.
Clearly the team’s biggest hole is the right tackle position and it must be addressed first and foremost – yes it is an even bigger need than corner. Eric Winston is the clear-cut favorite as of right now – maybe I am just a little biased being a Cane fan. But if the team passes on Winston, keep an eye on Johnson during the draft. Best case scenario would be Johnson falling to Miami at twelve come April if the team passes on Winston. Worst case, well I will let you come up with that one – it’s not that hard…