With an exciting and fruitful free agency period start, the Miami Dolphins looked to be very quiet this past week. Early on in free agency the Dolphins made some significant changes to their secondary as well as on the offensive line. Their work put them much closer to stabilizing an offensive line that was in complete disarray but there is still plenty of work left to do.
In 2013, Miami’s front line was just completely awful. A line that gave up a league big 58 sacks as well as having the very first major locker room bullying scandal in the 94 years of the history of the NFL left a sour taste in the fans. Now four of the five starters from last years opening day are likely gone and Miami has made some significant changes to make up for the distress play of 2013.
Bringing in the Pro Bowl tackle Branden Albert was huge as the ex kansas City Chief will protecting third year quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s blindside. The only lone returning starter is another pro-bowler, Mike Pouncey, so having two pro bowlers on the line is definitely a good start.
Another signing came via guard Shelly Smith. As a St. Louis Ram over the past 8 seasons, he only started in 8 games but comes with some versatility as he can be moved around the line as needed. The question remains though if he is capable of being a full time starter at guard instead of a stop gap option.
Now even if Smith is named the starter right away, there are still two question marks for the Dolphins up front, at guard and at tackle. Short term fix options are available with Nate Garner and Sam Brenner but like Smith these two fit best in the role of versatility players that are better suited for sporadic movement along the line.
Miami has not closed the door on Bryant McKinnie , an inconsistent acquisition from a season ago. McKinnie would take on the role of the right side of the line, something more suited for his skill set than his play at left a season ago. Traded from the Baltimore Ravens, McKinnie appeared in ten games for the Dolphins in 2013.
The alleged ring leader of the bullying circus in Miami , Richie Incognito, has expressed his interest in re-joining Miami, but re-signing the former pro-bowler could be damaging as he brings with him huge distractions to the line not to mention a potential public relations nightmare. Considering that Joe Philbin showed his desire to part ways with Incognito prior to last year, makes his return to the beaches of Mimi far less likely.
One player that actually has the potential to make an impact for the Miami Dolphins is Dallas Thomas, a third round selection by the Dolphins in the 2013 draft. At the University of Tennessee, Thomas was the starter in 37 straight games, but the Dolphins played him at tackle last pre-season. Thomas can earn a chance to compete for the guard role as it is his college position and has the potential to be the starter come this season.
The Dolphins have undoubtedly been busy this off season trying to shore up the offensive line but the line is still far from a finished product. Even though Miami has several lesser known players that can potentially make an impact in the coming season, the Dolphins will have to address the guard and tackle positions aggressively in the draft.
Even with the overachievement of the Dolphins in 2012 with their best season in five years, the terrible play upfront kept Miami at arms length from the playoffs, their first since 2008. The Dolphin’s roster has come to be more complete this off-season but the line is still far from viable, if they don’t address it in the draft and come out with some very good prospects, contenting will still remain difficult for the Dolphins.