The Miami Dolphins are entering yet another off-season with a need at guard. It has become an annual problem that the team simply can’t find a solution for.
Miami has spent more time trying to piece together an offensive line rather than just spend the money and get it right. It’s similar to buying a cheap table but replacing every other year because it can’t hold up to daily use. At some point, just invest the money in something long term.
The problem is that more often than not “long-term” doesn’t come via free agency and Miami has struck out significantly with their draft picks at the position. In free agency top young guards tend to be overly expensive and eat into the cap while going cheap gives you players that are one or at most two year fixes or discount brand coffee tables.
This off-season will be no different. Miami’s starting guards from last year are Jermon Bushrod and Laremy Tunsil. Bushrod’s play was serviceable but nothing out of this world and Tunsil is the teams future left tackle. At some point he will slide outside and leave a hole at LG. That could be this year depending on what Miami does with Branden Albert.
Most casual fans will not know who the players backing up Bushrod and Tunsil are. Which also means that they likely are not suitable replacements for either one should Bushrod leave and Tunsil slides outside. They are Anthony Steen and Kraig Urbik by the way.
So enter the draft and free agency. Miami really can’t afford to draft a guard early in the draft. They need to draft defensive players in at least three of the first four rounds and drafting a tight-end is important as well. Chances of the Dolphins finding a day one starting guard after round four may be impossible or at the very least risky.
That leaves free agency.
Circling back to the top of this article, the Dolphins need to be willing to pay for a long term solution. Luckily for Miami, there are options.
Three players sit on top of the free agent list and the Dolphins would vastly improve their offensive line by signing any one of them. The price however will not be cheap.
Kevin Zeitler – Bengals – 27
Every list of free agent guards has Zeitler at the top or at the very least in the top two. Zeitler is well rounded and is equally strong in run blocking and pass blocking. Zeitler can pull as well. The addition of Zeitler would instantly make Miami’s run game better.
T.J. Lang – Packers – 29
The Dolphins will find Lang cheaper than Zeitler but also older by two years. That shouldn’t and won’t disuade teams from trying to sign him. Well rounded in all facets of blocking, Lang should be a target for Miami at some point.
Larry Warford – Lions – 26
Another still young free agent guard, Warford was very good for the Lions in 2016 after injury issues in 2015 derailed his season. Warford is better at protecting the quarterback than run blocking but he isn’t bad in that area either.
Ron Leary – Cowboys – 28
Leary was part of a great Cowboys offensive line. Some believe the best in the NFL. Leary is leaving the Cowboys simply because the Cowboys don’t need him anymore given their depth and talent level. Spotrac.com is putting Leary’s market value around $9.1 million per year and most of the names on this list will garner at least that much in free agency. Leary brings a physicality that Miami could use as well and he is solid in both run and pass blocking schemes.
For a complete list of guards visit Spotrac.com.