It's no secret that the Miami Dolphins' 2011 offensive line needs upgrading heading into 2012. Pro Bowler Jake Long needs the offseason to recover from lingering knee and back issues, not to mention the torn bicep he suffered in Week 16. Center Mike Pouncey played extremely well in his rookie season, earning a slot as an alternate for the Pro Bowl. Left guard Richie Incognito was solid, benefiting from the presence of Long to his outside.
But, the right side of the line was a mess. Right tackle Marc Colombo may as well not have even been on the field for most plays. Right guard Vernon Carey was busy dealing with a position change, having moved inside from right tackle to guard, and trying to assist Colombo. And, Carey is not getting any younger.
The Dolphins have some developing players who can assist in revamping the line, with Lydon Murtha coming back this offseason after being placed on injured reserve in the preseason, John Jerry showing an ability to fill in at left tackle when Long missed time, and utility lineman Nate Garner filling in all across the line. But, the Dolphins are sure to be looking elsewhere to upgrade the line this offseason.
In to the picture steps New Orleans Saints' guard Carl Nicks. Nicks is scheduled to be a free agent come March, and with the Saints having to worry about quarterback Drew Brees, Nicks should hit the open market. The Saints gave Jahri Evans, their Pro Bowl right guard, a seven-year, $56.7 million extension last year, which would make it very unlikely that the team could afford the price tag Nicks should be seeking.
Nicks is seen as one of the top guards in the NFL and, according to Adam Schefter, is "expected to leave" New Orleans.
If the Dolphins are going to actively look to upgrade the offensive line, one of the first targets should be Nicks. With the Dolphins eighth or ninth pick in the upcoming draft lining up more and more to look like the team may address their right tackle position with either Riley Reiff or Jonathan Martin, the addition of Nicks could lead to one of the top offensive lines in the game.
But, if the Dolphins want Nicks, they are going to have to be aggressive as soon as free agency opens. Nicks is going to be in demand - and Miami cannot afford to wait.