2013 NFL Free Agency: Offensive Tackle Biggest Remaining Need for Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins have had an eventful first few days of free agency, bringing in a few of the top available players at their respective positions.
Mike Wallace was considered the top receiver, and Dannell Ellerbe and Dustin Keller were among the best players at linebacker and tight end on the market. They also pried Philip Wheeler from Oakland after Wheeler became the leader of the Raiders defense in just one season there.
They also supplemented the Wallace signing by adding Brandon Gibson, a solid possession receiver who gives Miami four solid wideouts heading into the 2013 season.
The Dolphins still have a few gaping holes in their roster that need addressing on both sides of the ball. On defense, a quick pass-rusher would greatly bolster the front seven. They also desperately need to add two good cornerbacks.
But as far as free agency is concerned, the Dolphins need to be primarily focused on bringing in a new starting offensive tackle. The other two needs can be addressed solidly through the draft, as Miami has five picks in the first three rounds.
Offensive tackle has become an increasingly important position as offenses get more and more pass-heavy. For the Dolphins in particular, it is especially imperative that they protect their big investment in Ryan Tannehill.
The draft is always an option, but only Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher are franchise left tackles who can start from day one. Neither will be available at the 12 spot, and it would be risky for Miami to head into the season with a rookie and second-year player starting at the tackle positions.
Because of Jonathan Martin's youth, Miami would be better off signing a veteran to start opposite Martin. Numerous options are out there, but it's unclear where Miami stands with each individual player.
The most obvious connection is with Jake Long, who was drafted first overall by Miami in 2008 but has been exploring options with other teams.
Long visited with the Rams but left without a contract. Apparently, it was not a medical issue but a money one (per Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch), meaning that it is still possible for Long to end up in St. Louis. The Dolphins have apparently increasing interest in Long, with the market for tackles still remaining to be set.
Which OT Should Miami Pursue?
The 27-year-old would be a decent option for Miami, except he struggled before getting injured last season, which has become a recurring problem with Long. At a hometown discount, however, it would be worth bringing Long back.
Sebastian Vollmer is another intriguing player who would be a huge catch for the Dolphins, not only because he'd add a lot to their line, but also because they would be taking him away from the rival New England Patriots.
Vollmer has had a little bit of injury problems in the past, but he's also a very talented blocker in his prime who can play both the right and left sides.
Andre Smith is another option at right tackle, although it seems like he's destined to rejoin the Bengals and has not been explicitly connected to Miami in any way. Smith has had a few personal problems, but he is one of, if not the best, right tackles in the game.
Lastly, we get to perhaps the most reasonable option for Miami in Eric Winston. The right tackle was released by the Chiefs last week and has been contacted by the Dolphins. He attended the University of Miami and negotiated with the Dolphins last offseason as well.
The 29-year-old wouldn't pack the punch that Smith and Vollmer do, but he would be an affordable, reliable option who could leave cap space for another signing while shoring up the line.
The Dolphins would do well to pursue all options, but I ultimately think that Winston should be the top target, unless they could convince Long to sign at a really good price.
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