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Big Extension for Mike Pouncey Necessary Evil for Dolphins' Offensive Continuity

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystApril 11, 2015

FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2013, file photo, Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey wipes his head with a towel during NFL football practice in Davie, Fla. Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin was subjected to
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Like every other team in the AFC East not named the New England Patriots, the Miami Dolphins have been aggressive this offseason. Any number of new faces will be plying their trade in South Beach in 2015, from defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to wide receiver Kenny Stills.

On Friday, the Dolphins turned their attention to keeping a home-grown player in the fold. And while the team overpaid center Mike Pouncey, re-upping the four-year veteran was a necessary step in continuing the growth of quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the Miami offense.

As Omar Kelly of The South-Florida Sun Sentinel reported, the only thing standing between the 6'5", 305-pound Pouncey and a fat payday was his signature:

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but all that's pending is Pouncey's signature, it is believed to be in the neighborhood of the five-year, $44 million deal his twin brother Maurkice Pouncey got from the Pittsburgh Steelers last year.

That deal featured a $13 million signing bonus and will pay Maurkice Pouncey $23 million over the first three years of the contract.

However, according to ESPN's James Walker, the terms of Pouncey's contract will make him the highest-paid center in the National Football League:

James Walker @JamesWalkerNFL

According to @AdamSchefter, #Dolphins C Mike Pouncey's five-year extension is worth $52.15 million with $22 million guaranteed.

Before we go any farther, let's get the bad news out of the way.

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The Dolphins overpaid.

Kelly wrote that Pouncey is "viewed as one of the NFL's top five centers." That may well be true of the two-time Pro Bowler, but the numbers don't back it up—at least if you use the rankings at Pro Football Focus as a guide.

Mike Pouncey Career PFF Rankings
YearSacksHitsHurriesRank
2011331519
20122238
201323914
2014332569*
*Played Right Guard in 2014

Only once in four seasons has Pouncey ranked inside the NFL's top 10 centers (eighth in 2012). Playing out of position at guard last year after his return from hip surgery, Pouncey struggled mightily, allowing the sixth-most quarterback hurries in the league among guards.

Mind you, this isn't to say that Pouncey isn't a good player. However, the perception that he's a great player doesn't really jibe with the reality that he's (by PFF's rankings, at any rate) a good one.

Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

With that said, though, before the mob starts to gather, let's clear something up—this isn't bad signing. Maybe not ideal, but certainly not bad.

Simply put, this deal has as much to do with the financial realities of today's NFL as it does with Pouncey's talent.

That's reflected in a couple of tweets from Bleacher Report's own Alessandro Miglio, a Dolphins supporter whom I asked for his opinion on the signing:

Alessandro Miglio @AlexMiglio

@IDPManor that's a lot of coin for a center coming off a down year with some off-field concerns, but Miami hasn't had luck with OL talent.

Alessandro Miglio @AlexMiglio

@IDPManor better to pay market value today than next year, though. Miami has two solid OL starters locked down for years now.

And that's the rub. Yes, it's a lot of money for Pouncey, especially in light of his struggles last year. But some of those struggles can likely be attributed to his injury (and the recovery from it). More still could be attributed to his playing out of position.

If he's healthy and back in his natural position in the middle of the Dolphins O-line, then even if he isn't an "elite" NFL center (top-five) you can still make a strong argument that he's inside the top 10.

And if the Dolphins weren't willing to pay Pouncey, then you can bet the rent that a year from now teams would be lining up to do so.

And that's the thing. Yes, the Dolphins could have let Pouncey play out his option year and address this problem next year. However, unless the 2015 season is an unmitigated disaster for the 25-year-old, Pouncey wouldn't have come a bit cheaper in 2016 than he did on Friday.

The deal also allows the Dolphins some cap flexibility. Rather than having Pouncey's entire $7-plus million salary (what he would have made in his option year) on the books for 2015 or his franchise tag number completely on the books in 2016 (were we to reach that point), the Dolphins can spread this deal out as they see fit.

That flexibility will come in handy, especially given the cap-killer that is Suh's megadeal.

The biggest reason for getting this deal done, though, is the player who will be lining up behind him in 2015.

It's happened without much fanfare, but Tannehill is quietly developing into a solid, young quarterback. Soon enough it will be his turn at the extension buffet, and Tannehill's plate will be so big it will take a cart to carry it.

If the Dolphins are going to invest $100 million in Tannehill, then it's certainly in the team's best interest to keep him in one piece.

Remember, it wasn't that long ago that the Dolphins offensive line was an absolute turnstile. In 2013, the Dolphins allowed a league-leading 59 sacks. The 46 sacks that the team allowed last year doesn't inspire cartwheels, but it's progress.

Miami Dolphins Offensive Line Improvement
YearSacks AllowedFO Rating (Run)FO Rating (Pass)
2013592830
201446919
Per Football Outsiders

Work remains to be done in that regard. But in Pouncey and left tackle Branden Albert, the Dolphins have a foundation on which they can build a line that will allow Tannehill the time he needs (both literally and figuratively) to grow as a quarterback.

At the end of the day, that's the important thing—that Miami continues to build on the offensive improvement the team showed in 2014.

Even if they had to overpay to do it.

Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter at @IDPManor. 

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