The 2014 NFL offseason is one focused primarily on the offensive line for the Miami Dolphins, a team in need of four new starters on the five man unit when the season opens up in September. Through the first week of free agency, the team locked down the left tackle position, signing free agent Branden Albert who, with incumbent center Mike Pouncey, gives the team two starters in front of quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
The club then signed guard Shelley Smith, who should compete for one of the starting guard spots, despite only having eight starts and 24 appearances since being a sixth round draft choice of the Houston Texans in 2010. Assuming Smith wins a starting position, that gives Miami 60-percent of the players they need to open the season and protect Tannehill. When, and with whome, will Miami fill the other 40-percent?
The obvious "when" choice is the NFL Draft, which will be held in May this year. Betting on adding two starting offensive lineman from one Draft, however, is risky at best. Miami might be best served to find at least one of the two through free agency. Which brings us to the "with whom" question.
The free agency field is slimming, after a week of teams attacking the market. There are options available still, with players like last year's right tackle Tyson Clabo and fomer Arizona Cardinals tackle Eric Winston, but there are not any really dominant players hanging around waiting for Miami to call.
There is one option that could be available to Miami that should at least merit consideration. Bryant McKinnie, this week told 560-WQAM in Miami that he would be willing to play right tackle for a team that needs him, despite having served on the left side his entire career. "It shouldn't be too hard," McKinnie said. "I have done it in practice a few times; it shouldn't be too much of a transition."
McKinnie did not re-sign with the Baltimore Ravens until May last season, so he may not be in a rush to find a new time right now, either. After the trade to Miami mid-year, McKinnie and the Dolphins agreed to void ths second year of his contract, allowing him to test free agency again this offseason.
The Dolphins and McKinnie's agents spoke briefly about a return to South Florida for the 34-year old prior to the start of free agency, but there has been no contact since.
Adding McKinnie as the right tackle may not be the ideal situation for the Dolphins, but it could be the right move. Allowing McKinnie to take the starting position, while continuing to develop players like Dallas Thomas, who the team seems to want to use at tackle, or adding a player later in the draft that can spend a year behind McKinnie, could be exactly what Miami needs.
Sometime, band aid answers are the best answers, and McKinnie could be exactly that.