It’s been one week since free agency officially kicked off and already it has slowed to a snails crawl. That’s the NFL March meat market for you. Lose out on the top players and you have to start looking for short term solutions and gap fillers. That is where Miami should be but instead they still have holes to fill along the offensive line and frankly, the NFL Draft is not going to provide the winning formula.
Rarely, even more rare than rarely, I will agree with an article that was written by the Miami Heralds Armando Salguero. Which is now behind a pay wall. The truth is Salguero is right when he says the Dolphins needed to do more on the offensive line. Frankly, Dennis Hickey who has done a good job as a first time GM needed to not look at value so early on.
The Dolphins made an offer to Zane Beadles the former Denver RT. They were about a million short. A million, maybe two at the most. That’s really not that much when you figure he shores up a big need on your team for the next three to four years. Instead, the Dolphins wouldn’t increase their offer and Beadles signed with the Jaguars. The Jaguars. Let that sink in for a second. The days of the Miami Dolphins name meaning more than the Jaguars is over. It’s about money now. Miami had it to spend and they failed.
The signing of Branden Albert is a very solid signing. He improves the left side of the line tremendously. The question is whether or not Shelley Smith is ready to improve from his high-potential tag to a full blown NFL star. He will not be handed the starting keys but will compete. Albeit against Dallas Thomas, Sam Brenner, and another rookie. So we will pencil him on the left side for now next to Albert.
The right side of the line as of today consists of Nate Garner and one of the aforementioned competition with Shelley. While I know it’s not hard to forget despite all of our desire to forget, the Dolphins line was the worst in the league last year. They gave up 58 sacks on the season produced nothing on the ground worth researching and were the base of the most controversial season in Miami Dolphins history. And they still are not fixed.
In my opinion a few extra million dollars to a RT wouldn’t have been that much more of a big deal. It frees up your draft plans. You can go into the season with a lesser experienced RG if the rest of the pieces are in place. You can draft BPA and get your football team better. Instead you have to draft higher than you may want. In addition there are no guarantees at 19 that you will get the player that you want. The Dolphins could have done something extraordinary but instead they took a passive aggressive route to filling their holes. They were careful and didn’t overspend and to show for it still have a lot of cap room left.
The free agent market still has a few names on it. Eric Winston is still available and so are a few others on the others side of 30 who’s play has declined. Tyson Clabo is still available and he shouldn’t be ruled out as an option either. An option for a one year fix while your drafted rookie gets acclimated to the NFL.
This is not to say the Dolphins didn’t do well in free agency. They did fine. The re-signing of Randy Starks and Brent Grimes go a long way to securing need positions from within. The additions of Earl Mitchell and Louis Delmas are solid defensive additions to fill vacated roster spots. As is Cortland Finnegan who must return to his previous form. Branden Albert of course was very important and Shelley Smith could become a very good NFL guard. But there is still a lot of important work to do offensively on that line. If the Miami Dolphins can’t shore it up on the right side, Ryan Tannehill is going to be laid out on the turf a lot again this year.
The Dolphins should be and could have been done with free agency right now. The addition of a RT could have ended it and left the team bargain shopping for depth from a player pool deep with aging veterans and not quite reached potential. While teams like Denver and New England get stronger and teams like the Jets try and get stronger, the Dolphins approach has been tepid. Have they gotten better in the positions they signed that were not a part of the team last year? Yes, at those positions. Have they gotten better as a team? If they have it’s not a big improvement. On paper anyways.
There is still a lot of work to do and a lot of time and options to do it with.