Let's take a look at the Miami Dolphins offensive line.
We all know that there is a major decision looming in Miami on what to do with Jake Long, and if he leaves it also creates another decision for the front office to make. What do we do opposite of Jonathon Martin if we let Jake Long leave, be it at right or left tackle? Do we look at free agents? Do we look at the draft? Do we try to make a trade? These are all very good questions, so I did a little homework to see who is going to be available in free agency and the draft. It would be a little premature to try and figure out who could be traded for, so we won't get into that yet.
Including Long there are eight so-called "top shelf" offensive linemen available in free agency: four left tackles, two right tackles, and two guards.
Here are the players with their current teams and their current salaries, along with a brief statement about each. You will notice there is a repeating theme:
Jake Long, LT, Miami Dolphins:
$12.8 million in 2012 salary
Has been injury prone the last couple of years, but when healthy is one of the best in the game. Supposedly his agent wants him to be the highest paid lineman in the game, so good luck with that Jake. This was the last year of his rookie contract.
Ryan Clady, LT, Denver Broncos:
$5.8 million in 2012 salary
Considered by most the best LT available this year. Recently turned down a 5 year, $50 million extension, and it has been said that he wants a contract similar to Joe Thomas'. Also the last year of his rookie contract.
Branden Albert, LT, K.C. Chiefs:
$4.2 million in 2012 salary
Widely considered to be one of the best run blocking left tackles in the NFL. This was the last year of his rookie contract.
Andre Smith, RT, Cincinnati Bengals:
$7.5 million in 2012 salary
Taken 6th overall in the 2009 draft. He has never lived up to the expectations and has always had major weight concerns. The last two years he has started to play much better, but he does realize his rookie contract was his big payday. This was also the last year of his rookie contract.
Sam Baker, LT, Atlanta Falcons:
$3.7 million in 2012 salary
Fighting chronic back issues, has had 3 back surgeries since signing his rookie contract, the last one removing a herniated disc just last year. The news out of Atlanta right now is that he's healthy and playing well. This is the last year of his rookie contract.
Sebastian Vollmer, RT, New England Patriots:
$1 million in 2012 salary
A back injury cost him almost all of the 2011 season, but he was back and healthy for 2012. If teams think he is healthy he is due a big pay raise. This was the last year of his rookie contract, although he is 29 years old.
Andy Levitre, OG, Buffalo Bills:
$1 million in 2012 salary
Has started every game since being drafted in the 2nd round in 2009. He has said he will listen to all offers, but he does expect a big pay increase. This was the last year of his rookie contract.
Brandon Moore, OG, New York Jets:
$4.5 million in 2012 salary
At 33 years old, he is the only player on this list of free agents that isn't coming off of his rookie deal. A very good guard who is good at both run and pass blocking.
As far as the draft goes, there is really only one offensive lineman with a first round grade, and he just happens to be a junior. Luke Joeckel is a bookend tackle from Texas A&M. Anyone out there remember that school?
Joeckel is 6'6" and 310 pounds, runs a 5.15 40 yard dash, and he protected our own Ryan Tannehill's blind side last year. He is projected to be a top 10 pick, so he will probably be gone when we pick at 12.
There are two other names being thrown around in the first round, depending on who you want to listen to. They are being viewed as projects because of strength or health issues. They are:
Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
He is 6'8", 305 pounds, and plays left tackle. He is viewed as a project for strength concerns. Fisher has been linked to the Dolphins at 12 by some draft pundits. Others have him going early to mid-2nd round. I personally don't want another offensive lineman drafted in the 1st round.
Chase Warmack, Alabama
He is 6'3", 320 pounds, and plays guard. He is a road grader as a run blocker, but has had some health concerns.
This is supposedly a very deep draft for offensive linemen, so there could be a lot of movement up and down by the names that I mentioned, and also some that I didn't. The all-star games and the combine will make someone's stock skyrocket, and someone's fall like a rock. It happens every year.
Well, there you have it. Those are the offensive linemen that can and will be available for the Miami Dolphins to choose from, if they want to use a free agent or an early round draft pick to fill one of our holes on the line. Now, keep in mind. There are several other free agents out there. I just hit on the ones that would make a splash in the free agent market or would be early round draft choices. If anyone has a different name to discuss please bring them to the table.
One more thing to keep in mind is that there will probably be several good linemen released or cut for salary cap reasons by teams over or at the salary cap maximum. This will take a little while to take place, so our answer may not be included in this list of names.
Thanks for reading along. I look forward to everyone's input.