ESPN names Branden Albert top free agent acquisition of 2014

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN recently identified the top five free agent acquisitions of 2014 from around the NFL. New Miami Dolphins left tackle Branden Albert landed in the top spot.

Do you remember the time, way back in 2013, when you watched Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill pick himself up off the ground multiple times in a game?  You know, that rare time when the Dolphins tallied negative yardage on a passing play because Tannehill was being hit and dragged to the ground? 

Maybe the bette question is, do you remember the two games when Tannehill was not sacked multiple times?  In the two contests against the New York Jets, Tannehill was only sacked once; he was brought down in the first meeting, in Week 13, at MetLife Stadium. 

Every other game last year saw Tannehill get tackled at least twice before he could get off a pass.  Against the Buffalo Bills, that number got as high as seven sacks, with two games at six sacks, and two more reaching five sacks a contest.  By the end of the year, Tannehill had been sacked a franchise record 58 times, eight more than the next closest team allowed.

The Dolphins blew up the offensive line after the season, keeping only Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey employed and re-building the line.  The team signed and drafted players for four of the five starting positions, then saw Pouncey go down with a hip injury, leading to a team that will start five new offensive linemen on opening day this year, as compared to last season.

The highlight of the offseason rebuild for Miami's offensive line was the addition of former Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Branden Albert.  Coming off a Pro Bowl season, Albert, for whom Miami nearly traded in 2013, joined the Dolphins and immediately upgraded the left tackle position. 

The move was a critical one Miami had to make.  And it is the one move, after 279 players have changed teams this year, that ESPN's Nathan Jahnke singled out as the NFL's top acquisition of the offseason.

Between Jonathan Martin and Bryant McKinnie, Miami's left tackles were a mess in 2013. Martin allowed, on average, one sack, one hit and two hurries per game. And McKinnie gave up four or more pressures in seven of his 10 starts for the Fins. Enter Albert, a 29-year-old former Chief who was the No. 15 pick in 2008. He's been one of the best pass-blocking left tackles since 2011

Jahnke illustrated his point with two graphs, once showing the Miami left tackles allowed one or more sacks in nine games last year, while playing just seven games in which they allowed no sacks.  He further added a graphic illustrating the number of pressures allowed per 100 pass blocks of left tackles from 2011-2013; Albert is third in the league with just 4.6 pressures allowed, behind just Andrew Whitworth and Joe Thomas.

The Dolphins landed a key piece when they signed Albert this offseason, and most fans of the team realized it the moment it was announced.   It is nice to see ESPN recognize the same thing.

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