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Are Satele's days as a starter numbered?

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Over the past week, there's been increasing talk that the Dolphins are looking to replace center Samson Satele as the team's starting center.  But we didn't need to read these stories to know his role on the team was in question.

With our own two eyes, we saw Satele get dominated at times during the season - especially against bigger nose tackles.  And considering 2 of the Dolphins' divisional rivals run a 3-4 base defense featuring large nose tackles, Satele's struggles were as evident as ever in '08.  However, we then learned that Samson played much of the year with a torn labrum, making some sense out of his disappointing season.

That still might not save his job as starting center.  ESPN's Tim Graham, who worked at the Palm Beach Post before taking over as ESPN's AFC East blogger, wrote on Tuesday that he's hearing more rumblings that the Dolphins want a bigger, more physical center.  Writes Graham:

It's becoming common knowledge in the NFL community the Dolphins already have decided Satele won't snap the ball next year because the 6-foot-3, 300-pound Hawaiian isn't physical enough.

An NFL source informed me Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano have made finding a new O-line anchor their priority -- and they don't care if they land one through free agency or the draft. Satele could be rendered a depth player if he doesn't evolve into an effective guard.

This isn't too surprising when you also consider Bill Parcells' fondness for big, nasty centers.  Samson, unfortunately, isn't exactly what this regime likes in a center.

Luckily, there are options for the Dolphins at center.  Some free agent centers on the market include Jason Brown, Matt Birk, Jeff Saturday, Brad Meester, and Duke Preston.  At 6'3, 320, the Ravens' Brown would be the ideal fit for the Dolphins.  He's big, physical, and blocked for one of the top rushing teams in the NFL last year.  He's also only 25 years old and is likely a top priority of the Ravens this offseason.  You don't let young stud centers just walk away.

Matt Birk would also be a fit for the Dolphins - at least in terms of size.  At 6'4, 308, he's bigger and more physical than Satele.  But Birk will be 33 when the season rolls around.  However, he would make a solid placeholder at center for a few years while the Fins groom a young center - perhaps a late round rookie - to be his eventual successor.

Jeff Saturday and Brad Meester are both roughly the same size as Satele and probably won't intrigue this front office all that much.  After all, it makes no sense to bring in a center who is rougly the same size as Satele but much older.  And while Duke Preston fits the size mold (6'5, 326) and is young (26), he's just not very good and many Bills' fans would tell you the same thing.

The draft also provides the Dolphins with some options.  Alex Mack and Max Unger represent the top of the draft class at the center position.  If Mack is around at pick 25, he could be an option.  He's 6'4, 316 pounds, and possesses that killer instinct that coaches staffs love.  Unger, on the other hand, only (only?) checks in at 300 pounds - similar to Satele.  But he might have room to add some bulk to his frame and his upside is far superior to that of Samson.

Louisville's Eric Wood is a 2nd round prospect who could entice the Dolphins.  He weighs 310 pounds and the scouting report on Wood is that he's smart and a very hard worker.  But he isn't a great run blocker and would need to be more physical at the point of attack.  Arkansas's Jonathan Luigs is a guy who could fall to round 3 and has a lot of upside.  He checks in at 6'4, 314 pounds and plays with that nasty streak that Bill Parcells and Tony Sparano would love.  I'd keep my eye on him if he's still on the board when the Dolphins pick in round 3 - assuming they haven't filled their need at center earlier in the draft or via free agency.

One sleeper to keep an eye on is Maryland's Edwin Williams.  He checks in at 315 pounds and, from what I've read (I don't catch too many Maryland football games - who does?) he's a high upside player who will need some coaching up.  But he's supposedly strong and physical.  In the mid to late rounds, he's a guy to keep an eye on.

Your thoughts on how you would address the center situation?