DAVIE (CBSMiami) – With Monday’s franchise tag deadline now passed, the Miami Dolphins can get a much better look at the players it can target in unrestricted free agency, which opens up next week.
At the top of the list for the Dolphins in free agency will be shoring up the offensive line. The Dolphins’ offensive line was a mess last season and it looks like only one player from that line will remain in the starting lineup heading into 2014, center Mike Pouncey.
The left tackle position, arguably the most important position on the line for teams with a right-handed quarterback, has three solid players in the prime of their career hitting free agency.
Left tackle Branden Albert, formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs, may be the Dolphins’ top choice. The Fins tried to acquire Albert last year in a trade, but general manager Jeff Ireland wouldn’t pull the trigger on the trade.
Albert has the tools to be a franchise left tackle and performed well on the field when he was in Kansas City. The fact Miami tried to acquire him last season could mean he’s at the top of the list for Miami when free agency opens.
But, Albert has battled injury issues through part of his career and will be 30 years old soon, which may be a red flag for the Dolphins in the long-term.
If Albert isn’t the choice, Eugene Monroe may be a top target. The Baltimore Ravens traded for Monroe last season and he played well for the team through the end of the season. As recently as Monday, Baltimore and Monroe were reportedly far apart in contract negotiations.
Monroe has started 73 games during his NFL career and is only 27-years-old. He’s likely to command a larger contract than even Albert, depending on which team is able to secure his services for the next few seasons.
The final premier left tackle available on the free agent market is former Oakland Raiders left tackle Jared Veldheer. The massive tackle (6’8”, 321 pounds) turns 27 just before the start of the 2014 season and played in every game in 2011 and 2012 and 5 games in 2013 before a torn muscle took most of his season away.
Veldheer is highly regarded around the league, but may be just a shade less expensive than Monroe or Albert, depending on the market for each player.
The market is expected to be quite large with teams like the Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams, and others are in the market for quality offensive linemen and will all make a charge at the three aforementioned tackles.
Miami has plenty of cap space to sign a top left tackle, another offensive lineman, and possibly one other star in free agency before turning towards the 2014 NFL Draft to help fill out the roster.