Free Agent Break Down: Offensive Line
By Brian Miller
There are a lot of questions surrounding the Miami Dolphins offensive line and what it might look like in 2009. Will Vernon Carey be re-signed? Will Donald Thomas return and continue to impress? Will Justin Smiley come back and road grade defenders? The free agent period is right around the corner but the questions are many.
What the Phins have:
Jake Long was the first overall pick last year and in another week will make his first appearance in the NFL Pro-Bowl making it as an alternate. Long rarely made the same mistake twice and was one of the critical cogs in the wildcat formation moving from the left to the right outside of Carey. Will he succumb to the Sophomore jinx like Clevelands Joe Thomas who had a less than stellar year or will he take the league over? Whatever the Long and short of it is, Jake will be the staple on the left side for years to come and is the only one the Phins are not concerned with.
Justin Smiley and Donald Thomas had their seasons cut short due to injuries that placed them on IR. In Thomas’ case it was week 1. Thomas is the big question as his return and continued surprise production could solidify the RG spot for a very long time. Smiley’s injury was a freak accident and had nothing to do with previous injuries. He is expected to be back at training camp.
Vernon Carey is a free agent and on that market he will bank in the 45 million range. The Dolphins need to decide whether they believe he is worth that kind of money and if he is in their plans for the long run. Carey did not have a “great” year but was consistent. Carey is not the prototype lineman that Bill Parcells’ teams have employed yet rumors persist that the Phins are trying to get him a deal before the start of FA.
Samson Satele was rumored to be on the trading block and he still could be. An undersized lineman who struggled with the merry-go-round guards and his shift to guard as well, Satele has been asked by the team to add 15 to 20 pounds of muscle in the off-season. That does not however mean that the Phins won’t try and move him. Satele is a good center but he needs to be in a quick system as he is fast and the Phins are moving to a more power attack.
The bench is a spattering of no-names. Last years 4th round pick Shawn Murphy never made it to the active roster and is still viewed as a project. Andy Alleman filled in decently when the injury bug hit but is far from a starter. The player with the most in game experience was Ikechuku Ndukwe who started in place of Thomas most of the year. Ndukwe however struggled often at times and the Oline unit as a whole was far from a power line. The Phins relied more on the WC for their running game than a smash mouth style that is a BP staple. Other on the bench, Matt McChesney, Al Johnson, Nate Garner, and Brandon Frye are not in a position to make any type of immediate impact.
What is on the market?
Not much if your looking for a lineman. The problem with free agency in the NFL along the line is that they are very well paid with the starting average to be around 40 million and it was only a couple of years ago that one 3rd tier LT signed a deal worth 49 million. If the Phins are going to go shopping for a lineman in FA, they are going to seriously pay for it.
Jordan Gross from Carolina is probably the biggest name on the market this season and should he escape Carolina without a tag, will likely be signed shortly after midnight by some team. Drafted in 2003 Gross is the type of player that the Trifecta love, but he will command some major money and it will be hard to fathom that this group of decision makers will spend it on him. It’s very unlikely that Gross leaves Carolina, it’s even more unlikely that he is signed by the Phins if he does leave.
Mike Goff of San Diego is a name that really hasn’t been mentioned a lot. He has the tools to be a very good lineman in this league and the size. He will command some decent money but in reality he is going to be a top 2nd tier lineman that the Dolphins may in fact target much like they did last year with Smiley. Will the Phins go after him? Not sure but it wouldn’t be a bad move if they did.
Jason Brown out of Baltimore is someone that could make an immediate impact on the Dolphins line, but there are two problems with him and I only mention his name because there have been some rumors about the Phins interest in him. The first is that he is an RFA which means that the Phins would have to compensate the Ravens in some form and the Phins won’t likely do that. The second is that he is a guard and the Phins may not be really eager to compensate a team for a guy that will have to battle for a starting spot.
The reality of the line:
There are some names but it will be the 2nd and 3rd tier guys that the Phins look at. The Dolphins are likely to go into the draft looking to upgrade their line or even find a starter should Carey leave.
Other Offensive Lineman
Stacy Andrews, UFA, Cincinnati Bengals
Khalif Barnes, UFA, Jacksonville Jaguars
Jordan Black, UFA, Houston Texans
George Foster, UFA, Detroit Lions
Chris Gray, UFA, Seattle Seahawks
Pete Kendall, UFA, Washington Redskins
Seth McKinney, UFA, Cleveland Browns
Jon Runyan, UFA, Philadelphia Eagles
Tra Thomas, UFA, Philadelphia Eagles
Fred Weary, UFA, Houston Texans
John Welbourn, UFA, Kansas City Chiefs