As previously reported here at the Phinsider, the Miami Dolphins worked out four different veteran, free agent offensive linemen today, hoping to find a player to boost their depth after Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey's hip injury. The identities of two of the four players was revealed during the weekend - Daryn Colledge (background here) and Samson Satele (background here).
The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson reports that the other two veterans who worked out today were veteran backup center Steve Vallos of the Seahawks, Browns, Eagles, Jaguars, and Broncos, as well as veteran backup offensive tackle Ryan Harris of the Broncos and Texans, but the Dolphins are already close to awarding a contract to the man who was most familiar to Joe Philbin, Daryn Colledge.
UPDATE: As of 8:30 p.m. Monday, the signing of Colledge was officially announced.
Colledge was one of the 3 best offensive guards left on the free agency market, and he has starting experience at both guard spots as well as both tackle spots (though he's been better at guard than tackle). However, one thing he lacks is starting experience at center - he's only filled in there in emergency situations after the starting center for his team has been injured during a game. Also per Barry Jackson, the Dolphins see Colledge as a guard who can fill in at center in a pinch, but that raises the question - who should start at center? The workout of veteran center Satele went well, per Jackson, and signing him later hasn't been ruled out, but for now, the Dolphins' brain trust prefers the options already on the roster. There are 3 realistic options:
1. Nate Garner - The advantage of Garner is that he's the center option on the roster has the most NFL center starting experience, having started 2 games at center last season, and he played reasonably well. He was perfect in pass protection, allowing 0 QB sacks, hits, or pressures per Pro Football Focus (PFF), but he did merely an ok job of run blocking against the Chargers and did a very poor job of run blocking against the Carolina's Panthers' talented defensive tackles. This would seem like a no-brainer, except that Garner is also the Dolphins' top backup offensive guard and probably top-backup right tackle (Jason Fox has failed to impress so far), so starting Garner at center means that any additional offensive line injuries during a game would either force "in-game musical chairs" (Garner changing positions as Brenner comes in to take over at center) or a less experienced backup OT taking over as Garner stays at center.
2. Shelley Smith - Smith has never started a game at center, but during OTAs, he was seen by beat reporters getting reps snapping the ball, suggesting that the team planned on him being the emergency center on gameday who would take over in case of multiple injuries at the center position (ex. if Pouncey and Brenner were both injured during a game). Advantage of starting Smith at center is that Billy Turner (currently behind Smith and sophomore Dallas Thomas on the guard depth chart) could begin regularly taking 1st team snaps at right guard (competing against Colledge) early in training camp while Nate Garner could remain a backup capable of filling in during a game at any spot. In addition, Smith has historically done well as a run-blocker while struggling as a pass-blocker - as a center, he'd rarely be asked to single-block a defensive tackle (unless the other team is rushing more than 4 defenders). The downside is Smith's lack of experience at center - that would place more of a burden on Tannehill to help with protection calls.
3. Sam Brenner - the advantage of Brenner is that he's been transitioned into the "Josh Samuda" role of backup OG/C and has been consistently getting second team reps at center so far this offseason. While he hasn't started a game at center before, he's gotten the most practice of any of the Dolphins players at snapping the ball to a QB. As with Smith, starting Brenner at center would allow Garner to stay in his ultra-versatile backup role, but with the added benefit of allowing the veteran Smith to remain at right guard next to Ja'Wuan James. The disadvantage is that he has no starting experience at center and only 2 games of starting experience at guard, and he's just a sophomore while all of the other options have at least 4 years of NFL experience.