So, a few weeks ago, I noticed that Ken Staninger, the agent of unrestricted free agent guard (and "man-crush" of a lot of Phinsider commenters) Jake Scott, gave an interview with the Miami Herald. He said, "Jake was in for two visits with the Dolphins earlier this summer. For whatever reason, they decided to go their separate ways. Maybe it was a salary issue, I don’t know."
At that point, we had Artis Hicks (veteran backup) atop the depth chart, with John Jerry (career disappointment with potential) and Eric Steinbach (solid offensive lineman recovering from a serious back injury) as our group of guards. I figured, "At least one of those 3 guys will end up working out for us, so why bother with Jake Scott?" I didn't even post a FanShot, assuming it was a longshot for the free agent to be signed.
Even back then, I wasn't too optimistic about Artis Hicks, a career backup for multiple teams. He didn't play well in pre-season even before his neck injury. However, he was placed on permanent IR (can't be reactivated), so he's no longer an option.
I freely admit I was in the "forget Jake Scott, we got Eric Steinbach at a bargain price!" bandwagon when the former Pro Bowl alternate from Cleveland signed with the Miami Dolphins. However, he never earned reps with the first-team offense, and Steinbach decided to retire rather than continue "putting crap on film" by playing poorly, as he said on Hard Knocks.
Ah, but there's John Jerry! He was labeled a draft-bust, and it was questionable whether he'd make the 53-man roster as recently as 4 weeks ago. Like most people, I've been very critical of Jerry's professionalism, but I have to admit, he's played pretty well in preseason. Offensive Line coach Jim Turner exclaiming "John Jerry is playing his balls off right now!" wasn't just Hard Knocks-hype. He's looked solid in pass protection and decent in run-blocking. His story is eerily similar to Paul Soliai, who was another huge disappointment and was written off as a draft bust...until he was unexpectedly handed the starting job and played very well at nose tackle. However, Jerry is currently injured (looks like an ankle sprain), and his lack of professionalism is a huge concern. He knew a new coaching staff was in charge, yet he still reported to training camp 30 pounds overweight. He is currently the only player on the 53 man roster above his playing weight, and that has to be a red-flag for how he might behave if the Dolphins ever give him a contract and commit to him as a starter.
So with those 3 prospects at right guard either unavailable or unappealing, cue Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reporting that:
"After placing Artis Hicks on injured reserve Tuesday, the Dolphins reached out to Titans free agent guard Jake Scott's representation to ask his weight. (He's at his usual playing weight of 295 to 300). No offer was made, but he's on a list under consideration. The Dolphins have brought Scott to team headquarters twice in the past six months but have never made an offer."
This means Jake Scott is still standing every day by his phone, waiting from dawn to dusk, hoping Jeff Ireland will give him a call...
Kidding aside - Jake Scott has no injury concerns. Unlike Steinbach, he played last year, and unlike Hicks, he played very well - ProFootball Focus rated him #9 overall last year among guards. He has started 16 out of 16 games every season for the past 7 seasons. He's listed at 6'5" and 292 lbs, which makes him supermodel-skinny compared to John Jerry, and unlike Jerry, he's at his playing weight.
I have to believe the only reason he's not on the team is the "salary issue" his agent mentioned. That's why we signed Artis Hicks (a cheap career backup) and Eric Steinbach (who had known injury issues) instead. Jake Scott is 31 years old and probably wants a sizable 4-5 year deal that would take him to retirement. He played well last year, so he can be patient. If nobody offers him a contract now, he knows a team with plenty of long-term cap room will call after suffering injuries and be desperate enough to give him a deal - a team like the Dolphins, perhaps.
However, a big deal for Scott would make it very hard to afford to keep Jake Long. As I talked about in my FanPost on our salary cap, the offensive line already occupies 21% of our salary cap - that would become even higher if we sign Jake Scott (perhaps too high).
An argument can be made that guards generally are much easier to find later in the draft than left tackles, so it makes no sense to sign Jake Scott and risk losing Jake Long when a left tackle is harder to replace.
The counterargument is we might have a potential left tackle of the future on the roster already (rookie 2nd round pick Jonathan Martin).
The counter to that counterargument is that Martin hasn't exactly looked like an All-Pro right tackle, so it's not safe to assume he'd thrive at left tackle. Likewise, even committing a early-round pick in 2013 to a left tackle of the future doesn't guarantee success, while solid guards can usually be found in the middle rounds - that's why even elite guards earn smaller salaries than elite tackles.
Speaking of salaries, just to get an idea of what recent deals to a couple of top-8 guards looks like:
Jahri Evans: 5/5/2010: Signed a seven-year, $56.7 million contract (~$8 million a year)
Carl Nicks: 3/14/2012: Signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract (~$9 million a year).
Now obviously Jake Scott hasn't been as dominant as those guys, but consider this: When we signed Ritchie Incognito in free agency, he was an above average guard with character concerns (on-field fights and penalties), yet Incognito is getting paid around $4 million this year, so expect Jake Scott's asking price to be higher than that.
After cutting Garrard, we have around $6 million in cap space this year plus $40+ million next year, so we can sign Jake Scott tomorrow. The question is, do we want to give him a 4-5 year deal, and either let Long leave next year or have an O-line take up 1/4 of our cap?
The alternative is to give John Jerry a chance this year and draft a guard in 2013 if Jerry disappoints.
One last thing to consider is that Jonathan Martin's struggles at right tackle will be worsened this season if he has a sub-par right guard next to him. So having a bad player at right guard hurts two rookies - Tannehill and Martin.
Based on what I've seen in preseason, I'm optimistic Jerry "gets it" this year, but Jake Scott is worth considering. So what do you guys think?