If last year's soft opening to the NFL free agency period taught us anything, it should have been that rumors do not tend to fly as much as thought they would. The same thing seems to be happening this year, as the league has entered into the three day "legal tampering" period, when teams may speak to player representatives and begin negotiations, though no "official" offer can be made and no contracts can be signed until Tuesday at 4pm ET.
But, like last year, it also could mean teams and players have everything in place to ensure a deal is struck at 4:01om ET on Tuesday afternoon. In the case of the Miami Dolphins, last year's legal tampering period set up the team to rapidly sign wide receiver Mike Wallace and linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler. This year, it appears the team is again poised to strike quickly.
According to a Pro Football Talk league source, "all signs point to" offensive tackle Branden Albert "signing with the Dolphins not long after the market officially opens on Tuesday.
The Dolphins have not made it a secret that they would like to land Albert. The team nearly traded for him last year, with head coach Joe Philbin reportedly heading the charge to get him. Then general manager Jeff Ireland, however, overruled Philbin, preferring to not trade draft picks for a player he felt the team could sign in free agency this year. After a deplorable performance by the offensive line in 2013, including allowing a franchise record 58 sacks, Ireland left the team, but it does appear his vision of signing Albert could become a reality.
Miami needs an upgrade at left tackle after the Jonathan Martin experiment at the position failed miserably. Martin was installed as the starting left tackle after the team and 2008 first overall pick Jake Long did not reach an agreement to keep the four-time Pro Bowl tackle in South Florida. Martin moved to the left side, only to be moved back to the right when the Dolphins traded in season for Baltimore Ravens tackle Bryant McKinnie. As part of the trade, Miami and McKinnie agreed to void the last year on McKinnie's deal with the Raven, effectively making him an eight-game rental for Miami.
Albert was named to the Pro Bowl at the end of last season, the first time he has received that honor. He was the 15th pick in the 2008 Draft, coming off the board 14 picks after Long, who he could now replace - a year removed - in Miami.
Of course, this is smokescreen time around the NFL, and last year "all signs pointed to" Miami trading for Albert prior to the Draft. A lot can change between now and Tuesday, but at this moment, it appears the Dolphins are set to add the first piece to their completely re-designed offensive line in 2014.