Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert has agreed on a five-year contract with the Miami Dolphins, giving the team a much needed boost on the offensive line.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reported the news Tuesday:
Former Chiefs OT Branden Albert reached agreement on a 5-yr, $46M deal including $25M GTD with the Miami Dolphins.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 11, 2014
Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald reported on Monday that a deal between Albert and the Dolphins was imminent, but couldn't be made official until the beginning of free agency:
The #Dolphins deal with LT Branden Albert is not 100% done. But "almost" done (unofficially, of course). He'll be a Dolphin.— Armando Salguero (@ArmandoSalguero) March 10, 2014
Albert took to Twitter for his initial thoughts on the news:
It was my pleasure blocking for my guy @jcharles25 my favorite running back off all time... We made it happen fam 💯💯💯— Branden Albert (@B_Albert76) March 12, 2014
The Dolphins confirmed the deal on Wednesday, via the team's Twitter account:
Dolphins sign Pro Bowl Tackle Branden Albert: http://t.co/pu5ScH6BrN— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) March 12, 2014
Albert was selected No. 15 overall in the 2008 NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs and played all six of his previous seasons with the team. Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post drew a clear connection that makes the fit for Albert in Miami all the more logical:
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Omar Kelly emphasized the importance of the Dolphins shoring up the position before Albert was signed:
Jack Bicknell, Miami's new assistant OL coach, was Branden Albert's OL coach in KC in 2012. Nice connection there.— Andrew Abramson (@AbramsonPBP) March 10, 2014
After being hit with the franchise-tag designation in 2013 and seeing Eric Fisher chosen with the top overall pick in that year's draft, the writing appeared to be on the wall that Albert's time in Kansas City was coming to a close. The Chiefs didn't appear interested in paying him, and Fisher's move to right tackle as a rookie didn't go smoothly enough to make it a permanent decision.
Folks....the Dolphins have to sign a starting left tackle in free agency. They absolutely don't have a choice. Just sign a GOOD deal.— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) March 10, 2014
Thus, this is the best move for both sides in Albert's situation, and he will be embraced with open arms in Miami. Due to the bullying saga that plagued the team this past season, the Dolphins are out three starters from last year's Week 1 lineup in guard Richie Incognito and offensive tackle Jonathan Martin. Guard John Jerry isn't likely to return after he hits the open market since he was named in attorney Ted Wells' investigative report.
Since Bryant McKinnie and Tyson Clabo are also free agents, new general manager Dennis Hickey had his work cut out from the beginning at offensive tackle, but landing Albert is a big step in the right direction.
Miami needs to see for sure what it has in quarterback Ryan Tannehill as he prepares for his third year under center. Part of his uneven performances thus far has been due to poor protection, so Albert adds definitive insurance on his blind side.
Albert also has familiarity with his former offensive line coach Jack Bicknell, who will help him acclimate to the offense run by coordinator Bill Lazor.
Establishing a more consistent running game also has to be a focus for Miami. While Albert has the athleticism to get to the second level on shorter pass plays, he can't block for guards on the inside, which is where Hickey still has work to do.
This move to sign Albert confirms what Bleacher Report's Chris Simms heard, in that the Dolphins preferred Albert over the likes of Eugene Monroe and other franchise-caliber left tackles available in free agency:
How do you feel about Branden Albert's contract?
In any event, Hickey has done an admirable job in his brief time in charge of personnel, landing Albert and re-signing cornerback Brent Grimes. Albert is a big, make-or-break type of investment who could give the Dolphins hope almost all by himself. If he winds up being a disappointment, detractors will wonder why Miami pulled the trigger on a deal for him so early and didn't wait for the potentially better Monroe or the draft to seek more of a surefire option.
Since the Dolphins had more than $34.3 million in salary cap room before striking a deal with Albert (h/t Spotrac.com), it is conceivable that they will spend even more in free agency to upgrade the roster. This is a big 2014 campaign for Coach Joe Philbin and co., and it may be the last straw for Tannehill.
Albert's position isn't the only one that needs fixing in Miami. The good news is that he emphatically addresses one major need and should give Tannehill confidence to hang in the pocket without wilting from pressure and deliver the ball downfield as he's capable of.