Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Free-agency review: Dolphins
By James Walker
Branden Albert should help stabilize Miami's porous offensive line.
Most significant signing: Left tackle Branden Albert is clearly the biggest free-agent addition to the Miami Dolphins' roster this offseason. Miami paid handsomely. Albert is making $47 million over the next five seasons. However, it was a signing the Dolphins needed to make after allowing a franchise-record 58 sacks in 2013. Miami needs to know if young quarterback Ryan Tannehill is the long-term solution, and the Dolphins can't determine that if Tannehill spends too much time getting hit and laying on his back. Albert, who made the Pro Bowl last year, should buy Tannehill more time next season protecting the blindside.
Most significant loss: The Dolphins' haven't suffered any debilitating losses in free agency. But if I had to pick the biggest loss to this point, it would be starting defensive tackle Paul Soliai. He was a homegrown talent as a former fourth-round pick. Soliai worked hard to become a one-time Pro Bowler, but the Dolphins didn't want to spend too much to keep him. He signed a $33 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons. The Dolphins lessened the loss by signing Earl Mitchell ($16 million) and bringing back Randy Starks ($12 million) at more affordable rates.
Biggest surprise: It was the worst-kept secret in sports that Jonathan Martin could not return to the Dolphins following last year's high-profile bullying scandal. But what was a surprise was how quickly the Dolphins were able to ship Martin to another team and at least get some value in return. Miami traded Martin to the San Francisco 49ers on the first night of free agency for a conditional late-round pick. San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh, who coached and recruited Martin at Stanford, felt he could make the most out of the former second-round pick. The list of suitors was not long, and the Dolphins were fortunate to get something instead of an outright release.
What's next: The Dolphins did most of their big spending on positions such as left tackle (Albert), defensive tackle (Mitchell, Starks) and cornerback (Cortland Finnegan). Now, look for Miami to bargain hunt to see if it can fill any remaining needs on its roster. The Dolphins still have two starting jobs available on the offensive line at right tackle and guard. They could also use another threat at running back to boost their 26th-ranked rushing attack from last season.