Branden Albert is a pro-bowl left tackle and a big part of the Miami Dolphins offensive line. Will he be a part of that line in 2017?
Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel sat down with general manager Chris Grier and Mike Tannenbaum to talk a little about the play of Jay Ajayi and the offensive line and while neither of the Dolphins executives made any major statements regarding Albert’s future, it’s not too hard to at least sense that something might be in the works.
Albert has two years left on his current contract and that seems like a good place to start when talking about his future. Kelly pointed out that Tannenbaum has called this “rebuild” (my words not his) a two-year “blueprint” (his words not mine) and that any player or players not part of the future could be gone by 2018.
That brings us to Branden Albert.
Albert will cost the Dolphins $10.6 million in cap space this year. If the Dolphins release him they will save over $7 million and will carry $3.4 million in dead money. Miami however is fortunate as they have Laremy Tunsil waiting to be moved outside.
Tunsil showed that he could handle both the guard and tackle positions during the course of the 2016 season. A college left tackle, Tunsil was a “can’t pass up player” in the draft and the Dolphins watched him fall into their laps. If the Dolphins are ready for that move to LT, Albert becomes expendable.
Furthering the conundrum with Albert is his injury history. Albert has not played a full season since his arrival in Miami but when he is in the game, the Dolphins offensive line plays far better.
Kelly also points out that the Dolphins have been “dropping hints” of a change along the line without saying exactly what that change might be.
"“It’s important that we can keep those guys together,” Grier said. “But at the end of the day, we know that they may not all be here, and we just have to make sure that whoever the next five guys are next season that we do our best to keep them on the field together.”"
The only player not under contract for next season is right-guard Jermon Bushrod who signed a one year deal ahead of 2016 and may do so again. He is over 30 and last years deal was just over $1 million.
Mike Pouncey would be a huge surprise release and his contract termination would carry $5 million in dead money and only save the team $3 million. Ja’Wuan James hasn’t played well over his time in Miami and in reality he is not very consistent but James’ contract is just north of $2 million for 2017 with all of it dead money if released. In other words, it’s not likely.
Of course Grier could be absolutely referring to only the right guard but that really doesn’t make much sense unless he is dropping external hints in the hopes that the team can restructure Albert’s deal. Or potentially move him out of the LT spot to maybe the right side of the line.
If the Dolphins do release Albert there will be a major need for left guard and possibly right guard. The Dolphins’ Chris Grier told Kelly that they want more consistency and durability on the offensive line.
Miami has neglected the offensive line in free agency the past few years specifically targeting depth players instead of starters outside of the Branden Albert signing three seasons ago. They were fortunate with Tunsil in last years draft and it’s still up in the air about James’ future.
While most will be paying a lot of attention to the defensive side of the ball this March when free agency begins, it might be the offensive line that makes a bigger splash. Perhaps by who will not be here as opposed to who will be.