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In what was one of the most anticlimactic moves of the offseason on Monday, the Dolphins finally found a trade partner for guard Justin Smiley, shipping him off to Jacksonville in exchange for an undisclosed draft pick. The pick is probably a very late round pick that likely will depend on Smiley's performance this season. Also keep in mind that the trade won't be official until Smiley passes his physical tomorrow in Jacksonville. And therein lies the focus of this post.
Smiley is going to pass the physical - make no mistake about that. I'd be shocked if he didn't. His shoulder might be an injury concern, but he still can play - even if he's not 100 percent. The Jaguars, who need help along their interior line, will do whatever they need to for Smiley to pass his physical.
The Dolphins, however, don't like medical concerns. And they hate when players have to miss extended periods of time due to injuries.
That has been Justin's problem the past several seasons. He missed the final four games of 2008 - as well as the playoff game - with a broken leg and torn ankle ligaments. Then 2009 saw Smiley's lingering shoulder problems become an issue again. Though he missed only one game, he was relegated to backup duty in three others. And his history of shoulder problems stems back to his days in San Francisco when he missed half of the 2007 season with a dislocated shoulder that required surgery to repair a torn right labrum.
Injury concerns outweigh ability
At least, that's what it seems like based on the actions of this front office. In 2009, Justin Smiley was rated as the top "pulling guard" in the NFL by ESPN. ProFootballFocus, meanwhile, ranked Smiley as the 21st best guard in the league. That might not seem great. But he's still among the top quarter of all guards in the league who took at least 25% of their team's snaps last year.
The next highest rated guard on Miami's roster in 2009 was Nate Garner, ranked 41st.
Based on PFF's criteria, Smiley was far and away the best guard on the roster in 2009.
Still, the Dolphins had enough of worrying about Smiley's health week in and week out, resulting in Monday's long anticipated exit from Miami in exchange for what will likely amount to not very much.
Players need to take notice
As if the guys in that locker room needed any more proof that this regime is very serious about having players who are durable and can play week in and week out, Smiley's departure is a clear signal: stay healthy or else.
So which other Dolphin players are unofficially on notice now?
Channing Crowder comes to mind immediately. As if his disappointing 2009 season isn't reason enough for Channing to be on the hot seat. Crowder has quietly missed nine games over the past three seasons and is currently rehabbing from a late season foot injury that will likely keep him out until training camp.
Jake Grove was very good in his first season as a Dolphin last year - when he was on the field, that is. But Grove missed four games and was relegated to a reserve role in two other games due to injuries. He also missed 13 combined games between 2007 and 2008 in Oakland with injuries.
We can't forget about Ronnie Brown, either. Ronnie will be a Dolphin in 2010. But beyond that is anyone's guess. He'll be a free agent and has been as unlucky in injuries as you can get. Twisted ankle in 2005 causing him to miss a game during his rookie season. A broken hand in 2006 after getting it caught in the face mask of a Detroit defender on Thanksgiving. A torn ACL in 2007 while attempting to make a tackle after an interception. And now a fractured foot after having a defender fall on his foot while Ronnie was making a cut.
It's quite possible that even a healthy 16 games and a 1300 yard season in 2010 still might not be enough for this regime to bring him back.
That brings me to Brandon Marshall and his interesting contract - a deal that allows the Dolphins to cut their losses and opt out after the first year of the deal if they aren't happy.
Brandon - you need to get on the practice field as soon as possible and stay healthy all 16 games.
After all, though we all know it's much harder to find a stud receiver than it is to find a solid guard, you just never know what this front office might be thinking. Just ask Justin Smiley.
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