Samson Satele was a 2nd round pick for the Dolphins in ’07. As a rookie he started all 16 games for the Dolphins. Even though that year was awful, I thought that the rookie center play very well. He showed that he could pass protect and in the run game, though not strong enough to be a straight up road grader, he was athletic enough to pull and lead block on sweeps.
During his 2nd year Satele again started all 16 games. He played most of the season with an injured shoulder. Toward the end of the season it became obvious to most people that the shoulder severely limited his run blocking ability. He looked like he was playing with one arm.
In the offseason prior to his 3rd season, the Dolphins FO decided that it needed a more physical center to help in the run game. The signed Jake Grove, a former Oakland center with a history of injuries, to a large multiyear contract worth $14+ million guaranteed. Since Satele wasn’t needed, the Dolphins traded him and his roughly $1 million salary to the Raiders for a 6th round pick.
What has happened since the Dolphins FO decided to get rid of Satele? Let’s take a look:
- With the 6th round pick the Dolphins got from the Raiders they selected Andrew Gardner, OT from Georgia Tech. Gardner appeared in 1 game for the Dolphins in ’09. Gardner was released cut by the Phins and I don’t think he is in the NFL right now.
- Jake Grove started 10 games for the Dolphins in ’09 until he got injured, yet again. While he was in the line-up Grove played well and was the anchor for the 4th ranked rushing offense in the NFL. But like his history suggested, he couldn’t stay healthy.
- As an insurance policy to Grove’s injury history, the Phins signed an unrestricted FA in Joe Berger. In Berger 6+ years in the NFL he has played in 32 games and started in 15 for 3 different teams (Dolphins twice). Berger started the remaining 6 games of the ’09 season.
- This past offseason, the journeyman Berger beat out Grove for the starting center position because Grove was injured (again) during training camp. Grove was then cut.
- Berger by most accounts wasn’t the player at the center position that Grove was (22nd ranked rush offense in ’10), but at least you could count on him to stay healthy, right? For 9 games in ’10 that is. For game 10, Berger’s replacement, Cory Proctor, lasted less than a quarter before he was injured. His replacement was starting LG Richie Incognito.
- No one knows right now who is going to start for the Dolphins at center next week.
Satele on the other hand has appeared in 56 of a possible 57 games in his career. He has started in 52 of those 56 games. For Oakland, he is the anchor of the 2nd ranked rushing attack in the NFL for ’10. He is effectively blocking a 3-4 NT (Denver, Kansas City, and San Diego all play a 3-4). And too top it all off, Satele is making less than $500,000 this year, half of what Berger is making.
Imagine what the Dolphins could have done if they had kept Satele. They would have had roughly $15 million to play with ($14+ million from Grove and $0.5 million cost difference between Satele and Berger). Could they have gotten another playmaker on offense, a change of pace RB or a speedy #2 WR? Could they have signed a significant pass rusher opposite Wake or a ball hawking FS? Who knows, but I think it is pretty obvious in hindsight that the Dolphins would be a better team right now if they would have kept Samson Satele.