Miami Dolphins: Offensive Line Options in 2017 NFL Free Agency
With Branden Albert heading out the door and Laremy Tunsil’s move to tackle, how will the Miami Dolphins fix the guard position in free agency?
The buzz surrounding the Miami Dolphins this past week has centered on left tackle Branden Albert. Late last week, it was reported that Albert had been released by the team. Just a few short hours later, reports emerged that Albert had not been released, and the team was actively shopping the veteran tackle. Albert’s departure will leave a huge hole for the Miami Dolphins free agency period to address.
That will leave 2016 first-round pick Laremy Tunsil as the team’s left tackle of the future. With Ja’Wuan James solidly positioned as the team’s right tackle, the team is set at the ends. But gaping holes remain at the guard position.
How does the team go about addressing this glaring weakness? The draft is coming up, and that would be the economical choice. However, the team does not have a great history when it comes to drafting offensive linemen. They hit a home run last season when Tunsil fell into their laps. That shouldn’t overshadow the team’s failures in past drafts like Billy Turner or Dallas Thomas.
With no solid options in-house to plug in and address the need, the Dolphins will likely be forced to turn to NFL free agency period to find their answers. This won’t come cheap for the team. But there is a lot of really good talent available if they’re willing to pay for it. The Dolphins haven’t been shy about spending money in free agency before, and I suspect they won’t be this year either. Especially considering the team’s potential.
Who, then, would the Miami Dolphins target in free agency?
1. Kevin Zeitler
The Miami Dolphins really can’t go wrong with either of the first two guys on this list. Kevin Zeitler and T.J. Lang are the cream of the crop when it comes to this year’s class of free agent linemen. One (Zeitler) is a slightly better run blocker than the other. The other (Lang), a marginally better pass blocker. It’s splitting hairs and really comes down to which one you value more.
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If I can only choose one of them, give me the better run blocker. It might sound crazy for a team who has had extreme difficulty protecting Ryan Tannehill in the past, but I think it’s the (slightly) better move for the future of the franchise. Tannehill played well behind an offensive line with a good, but not great, left guard in Laremy Tunsil. His counterpart on the right side, Jermon Bushrod, was one of the worst guards in the league last year.
With Tunsil moving over from guard, and Bushrod likely leaving in free agency, no matter who they get to replace Bushrod is going to be an upgrade. With that being the case, give me the guard who is going to be the better option for blossoming running back Jay Ajayi. Ajayi ran for more than 1,200 yards last season, but roughly half of that came in three games. The numbers he could put up if he had consistent run blocking in front of him should make every Dolphins fan salivate.
2. T.J. Lang
The best things for an up-and-coming Dolphins team would be stability on the offensive line, playoff experience, and leadership. Signing former Packers offensive lineman T.J. Lang would allow the Dolphins to kill three birds with one stone.
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Lang is slightly older than Kevin Zeitler (29 vs. 27), but with age comes experience. Lang has blocked, and blocked well, for one of the best quarterbacks in the game right now, Aaron Rodgers. He was with the team during their Super Bowl run in 2010. That kind of experience would be a tremendous value to the team.
And that’s not even speaking much of the on-field value that Lang would bring. As I mentioned, choosing between Lang and Zeitler is splitting hairs. Lang has been slightly better in pass protection than Zeitler over the years, and Tannehill has been one of the most-sacked quarterbacks in the league in recent years. Lang would be almost an instant fix for that problem.
The only reason that I have Lang at two in this list is my faith in Ryan Tannehill, and my belief that the Dolphins offense is better when it can establish the run. If Tannehill can play at a high level behind Jermon Bushrod, he can do it behind just about anyone. Though I’m sure if you asked him, he’d say, “Lang, please.”
1. Chance Warmack
I know what you’re thinking here. “Chance Warmack? Are you kidding me? The guy has been terrible!” And you’re not wrong, but just hear me out on this one. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Warmack is the third-best guard option in free agency. That’s simply not true. There are a handful of better guards available.
So why go with Warmack? Because I’m not convinced that Warmack is as bad as he’s played so far in his career. I think there’s a lot of untapped potential in Warmack and a change of scenery, along with a team with better prospects, might do him a world of good.
The other reason that I would value Warmack is because he’s likely going to come at a much more team-friendly price tag. It’s not going to be easy to sign either Zeitler or Lang and address all of the other issues on this team. Sure, the NFL draft is going to help us address some of those issues, but you can’t simply rely on rookies to get the job done.
Bringing in Warmack on a cap-friendly deal could potentially give the Dolphins the wiggle room they need to go out and land either Zeitler or Lang and pick up another free agent at a position of need—likely on the defensive side of the ball, like linebacker D’Qwell Jackson.
For the first time in a long time, I have faith in the front office to navigate the Miami Dolphins free agency period. The team has plenty of cap room, and there are some great options available. And will all start up front with the offensive line.