NFL Draft vs. Free Agency: Filling the Dolphins Offensive Tackle Need

February 14th, 2013

The Miami Dolphins have one major question at offensive tackle: do they keep Jake Long or let him walk? Right now, I think they are (and should be) leaning towards letting him go. Unless he has made tremendous strides with his health and would be willing to take a big hometown discount, I think the risk completely outweighs the reward of keeping Long.

So if Long is out, what move should the Dolphins make to fill this huge void?

There are two options; they can look to sign a free agent or go and find a tackle in the draft. One piece of this puzzle has to do with the team’s other tackle, Johnathan Martin. Martin has shown that he can play on either side of the line, so the Dolphins will have to take that into account while finding his counterpart.

MDD Staff Writer: Garrett Baker

There are only a couple free agency pickups that I think are worth looking at. The first is Sebastian Vollmer of the New England Patriots. Now it’s no guarantee that Vollmer won’t resign, but if he is available, he could be an intriguing option. Vollmer is one of, if not the best right tackle in the game when he’s healthy. If the Dolphins think Martin can man the left side, Vollmer would be worth pursuing.

Ryan Clady is one of the league’s best left tackles, although I don’t think it’s very likely that he leaves Denver. If he is on the market, however, the Dolphins could make a serious push for him.

The other two names I think worth mentioning are Andre Smith and Brandon Albert. Smith is a solid right tackle who can run block as well as any tackle in the league and would be a solid addition at a cheaper price than Long, although some questions would arise about his size. Albert has dealt with some injuries in the past, but is a talented left tackle who could fit right into the zone-blocking scheme in Miami.

If Miami tries to pick up a player in the draft, it will almost assuredly have to be in the first or second round. The fact that Taylor Lewan and Jake Matthews both opted to return to school really hurts teams looking for a tackle.

Luke Joeckel will definitely be a top-four pick. Eric Fisher will probably go top-10. Lane Johnson might be available at the 12 spot, but I’m not sure if he’s worth taking that high, especially if someone who can fill another need like cornerback or defensive end is there.

So that leaves Miami probably looking to see who slides to them in the second round. There are six players who I think could be available and would be worth looking at.

The first is D.J. Fluker from Alabama. Fluker has a ton of experience and played for the best line in the country this past year. He probably will be the fourth tackle taken.

Justin Pugh has been falling a little bit on draft boards after the Senior Bowl, but I think he could be a steal if the Dolphins took him with their second pick of the second round. He played for a relatively weak Syracuse offense but did an outstanding job protecting Ryan Nassib.

Menelik Watson, Kyle Long, and Brennan Williams are three taller guys (at least 6-6) who all have talent and upside, but I’d be hesitant about them playing in the Dolphins zone-blocking scheme. They aren’t as polished, and may not move well enough to be successful.

The last guy who I think would be a really good option is Oday Aboushi from Virginia. Aboushi has a solid build, lots of experience, and I could see him playing either side, which would be valuable alongside Martin. He’s another one whose stock fell a little because of the Senior Bowl and could end up being a bargain.

The Dolphins have a number of players they could look at to fill Jake Long’s shoes, but they need to really hone in on their guy and make sure he’s the right fit. Once they do that, going out and getting him will be a huge part of Miami’s future success.

 

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