- James Walker, ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter
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MIAMI -- NFL free agency is one week away, and the Miami Dolphins have well-defined needs and plenty of cap room to improve their roster.
Perhaps no need is bigger in Miami than left tackle. The Dolphins set a new franchise record in 2013 with 58 quarterbacks sacks. Miami must protect young quarterback Ryan Tannehill in his third year for the team to be successful.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the current left tackle market for Miami:
2013 team: Baltimore Ravens
Analysis: In my opinion, Monroe is the best combination of price and quality for the Dolphins. Monroe never made the Pro Bowl, like Branden Albert. But Monroe is a solid, above average left tackle who should be more affordable. The former first-round pick is only 26 and still has room to get better. Expect the Dolphins to be one of several teams in pursuit of Monroe if the Ravens allow him to hit the open market.
2. Branden Albert
2013 team: Kansas City Chiefs
Analysis: Albert, 29, is perhaps the biggest name among left tackles. Albert is coming off the best year of his career with the Kansas City Chiefs and his stock has never been higher. That’s great for Albert, who is ready to cash in, but what does this mean for Miami? There are some red flags that Albert didn’t play to his Pro Bowl potential until his sixth season, which was a contract year. Albert also will be 30 in November. Would the Dolphins get Albert’s best years by signing him to a lucrative, multi-year contract?
2013 team: Oakland Raiders
Analysis: It was a rough 2013 for Veldheer. He suffered a left triceps injury in training camp and only returned for Oakland’s final five games. But before the injury Veldheer had been solid at left tackle for the Raiders. The Dolphins or any team interested will be paying for Veldheer’s solid showing from 2011-2012 and also his potential. Veldheer is only 26.
2013 team: Cincinnati Bengals
Analysis: Collins in an interesting prospect to hit the free-agent market. Collins has good size, is versatile and can play both left and right tackle. Collins also is just 28 and still in the prime. However, Collins only has 25 career starts in seven years with the Bengals. He’s been a part-time starter for a long time in Cincinnati and is looking for his chance to be a full-time starter in free agency. Collins could be a good value for a team willing to take a chance on his small sample size.
2013 team: Dolphins
Analysis: McKinnie is a potential fallback option for Miami if all else doesn’t work. The Dolphins acquired him in a midseason trade last October and he played decent football. But McKinnie, 34, is past his prime. Look for the Dolphins to go after top-shelf left tackles such as Monroe, Albert or Veldheer first. If Miami whiffs, the team could turn back to McKinnie on a short-term contract.
MIAMI -- NFL free agency is one week away, and the Miami Dolphins have well-defined needs and plenty of cap room to improve their roster.Perhaps no need is bigger in Miami than left tackle.