Weighing the Pros and Cons of Miami Dolphins' Top Free-Agent Targets

Andrew Tornetta@AndrewTornettaCorrespondent IIMarch 5, 2014

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Miami Dolphins' Top Free-Agent Targets

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    As the Miami Dolphins prepare for the start of the NFL free-agency period, they are making an expansive list of which players they want to target when talks can begin on March 8.

    But even the top free agents come with some risk attached.

    There is no such thing as a perfect player, so it will be up to the Dolphins to weigh the pros and cons before deciding whether or not to make a contract offer.

    Branden Albert will surely be one of their top free-agent targets. As one of the best players on the market at the team's biggest position of need, he seems like a no-brainer acquisition.

    However, he has also been bitten by the injury bug on more than one occasion and is relatively injury-prone.

    New general manager Dennis Hickey will have to make the decision on whether Albert's positives outweigh the negatives.

    He is just one example; there are pros and cons to signing each and every player on the market.

    Let's take a look at some of the players the Dolphins are going to target once free agency gets under way, and we'll decide whether they are the right fit for Miami.

Eugene Monroe, OT

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun reported on Monday that Eugene Monroe and the Baltimore Ravens are still far apart on contract talks.

    Now that the deadline for the franchise tag has come and gone without Monroe getting tagged, one of the best left tackles in the league is about to hit the open market.

    Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald reported that the Dolphins "very much like Monroe" and that the team is going to pursue him hard.


    Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke rated Monroe as the best offensive lineman on the free-agent market, and at just 26 years old, he is entering the prime of his career.

    He has also been very healthy over his five-year career, missing just three total games.

    He is a top-tier player in both pass and run blocking and would bring immediate and much-needed security to Ryan Tannehill's blind side. 


    The only true negative to bringing in Monroe is the huge contract he is going to demand.

    Although the Dolphins have more than enough salary-cap space to sign him, getting into a bidding war with other teams may limit their ability to add other big-name free agents. 

Branden Albert, OT

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    Branden Albert has been on Miami's radar since last offseason, when the team was in on-again, off-again trade discussions with the Chiefs to bring him to Miami, per Adam Beasley of The Miami Herald.

    Now that he is about to enter free agency and the Dolphins don't need to give up any draft picks to acquire him, he is even more of a hot commodity.


    Much like Monroe, Albert would bring instant stability to an offensive line that was desperate for it last season.

    Still just 29 years old, he is one of the best left tackles on the market and has a handful of years left at this level of play.

    He excels in pass blocking and is very solid as a run blocker as well, showing very few weaknesses in his game when he is healthy.


    Unlike Monroe, Albert hasn't been as fortunate in the injury department.

    Over his six-year career, he has played a full season just one time and has missed a total of seven games over the last two seasons.

    His injury history makes him more of a question mark, but it doesn't mean he will settle for anything less than top money either.

D'Qwell Jackson, LB

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    The Dolphins' issues at linebacker last season are well-known, and they are already looking to get a jump on addressing it with D'Qwell Jackson.

    NFL.com writer Chris Wesseling cited an Ian Rapoport report, saying that Jackson visited with the Dolphins on Tuesday.

    Because he was cut by the Browns, Jackson is free to sign with anyone prior to the start of free agency. According to Wesseling, he has narrowed his choices to the Dolphins, Colts, Titans and Broncos.


    Jackson is an eight-year veteran who will step right into a starting role as the inside linebacker. His addition would bounce Dannell Ellerbe to the outside and likely spell trouble for Philip Wheeler.

    He's a very consistent player who has not missed a single game over the last three seasons and is a great leader as well.

    Jackson is also a strong tackler in the open field, amassing more than 100 total tackles in five of the last six seasons.


    While Jackson is an upgrade over Wheeler, he isn't a major one.

    He had his best season in 2011 but has fallen off since, ranking 42nd among 55 inside linebackers this season and 41st last season, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

    He also has three other teams bidding on him, meaning the Dolphins will likely have to overspend to sign him.

    Considering the amount of money already invested in the linebackers, overpaying to sign an average 30-year-old player probably isn't the best way the team can spend its money.

LeGarrette Blount, RB

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    The Dolphins will be searching for a physical running back to replace Daniel Thomas this offseason, and LeGarrette Blount could be at the top of their wish list.

    Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald suggests that Dennis Hickey’s previous relationship with Blount could lead the Dolphins to pursue him this offseason.

    Hickey was the head of the personnel department in Tampa Bay when the Buccaneers signed Blount, who was an undrafted free agent at the time.


    The Dolphins need to get more physical in the running game and are in need of a big bruising back who can fight for yards.

    Blount has proved to be just that type of player and is coming off a season where he averaged more than five yards per carry. He also punched in seven touchdowns in the regular season and added four more in the playoffs.

    He likely won't command a hefty contract, and bringing him to Miami would give the team a perfect complement to the speedy Lamar Miller. He's also just 27 years old and likely has many more productive seasons left in him.

    As an added bonus, the Dolphins would also be taking a valuable weapon away from the rival Patriots.


    The only true negative for bringing in Blount is that he may revert back to his 2012 form, where he rushed for just 151 total yards in 13 games for Tampa Bay, struggling to earn playing time over Doug Martin.

    However, that seems highly unlikely, as he would have little competition in the backfield in Miami and has succeeded when given the opportunity.

Jairus Byrd, S

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    With Chris Clemons a free agent, the Dolphins are now in need of a replacement, and there are very few better safeties in the league than Jairus Byrd.

    The Bills opted not to place the franchise tag on Byrd, and the two sides don't seem likely to agree on a deal before free agency begins, according to Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550. 

    Buscaglia wrote that the Bills made a "substantial offer" to Byrd to keep him on a long-term deal, which he did not accept.

    While the Dolphins have yet to be formally linked to Byrd, South Florida Sun Sentinel reporter Omar Kelly says that "he would be shocked" if the team wasn't involved in the bidding process for him.


    Byrd is a ball hawk who would bring a new level of playmaking ability to the defense. 

    At just 27 years old, he is in the prime of his career and would immediately give the Dolphins one of the best secondaries in the NFL.

    In five seasons, he has 22 career interceptions and is a three-time Pro Bowl selection.


    The only real negative to signing Byrd is the price it will cost.

    He is one of the best safeties in the league and will likely be one of the most sought-after free agents on the market.

    He has already turned down a big offer from the Bills, indicating he may be willing to play for the highest bidder.

    Considering the Dolphins have other pressing needs elsewhere, they may be better suited to go after a cheaper, albeit less talented safety.

    Louis Delmas is just one example, and he has already visited with the Dolphins, according to Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post.

Rodger Saffold, OL

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    Tom Gannam/Associated Press

    If the Dolphins are going to quickly rebuild their offensive line, they are going to need to sign more than just one lineman in free agency.

    While the Rams did not use the franchise tag on Rodger Saffold, they are still working hard to re-sign him before free agency begins.

    According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talktalks between the team and Saffold are expected to intensify this week as the team is making him a "top priority."

    If he does hit the open market, he will be right at the top of the Dolphins' wish list at offensive line.


    Over his first four seasons, Saffold has shown the versatility to play different positions on the O-line.

    He played left tackle for his first three seasons before flipping to right tackle to start last year and then ultimately finding a home at right guard.

    The 6'4", 312-pound Saffold was inconsistent throughout his early career but proved to be at his best at the guard position.

    He would be a major upgrade for the Dolphins and would be an instant boost to the running game, which was largely inept for much of last season.

    He's also just 25 years old, meaning he is just about to enter the prime of his career.


    As with any top-tier free agent lineman, Saffold is going to come with a high price tag, especially with the Rams so eager to keep him around.

    He has also had some trouble staying healthy, missing a total of 17 games over the last three seasons.

    The six games that he excelled at guard were impressive, but that's also a relatively small sample size, which makes it tough to project if he can keep up that level of play for a full season.