One of the biggest priorities for Miami's front office during the offseason was to find players along the offensive line that can keep third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill upright. Unfortunately, Miami's plans for next season have been blown out of the water with the news that Pro Bowl Center Mike Pouncey will now miss at least three months after surgery to repair a torn labrum.
Best case scenario? Pouncey returns for the Kansas City game on September 21st or against Oakland on September 28th in London.
Worst case scenario? Pouncey might be forced to place him on the physically-unable-to-perform list, which would see him sidelined for the first six games of the season.
In-house options at center include Sam Brenner, Nate Garner, Shelley Smith and Tyler Larson. Nate Garner appears to be the early favorite, after starting two games at center last season when Pouncey was sidelined. However, while Garner may be a jack of all trades, he appears to be a master of none. His immediate competition will be Sam Brenner, who started four games at guard last season. But will Miami really turn to a player who has not started a single game at center in the NFL? Shelley Smith has also taken practice snaps at center, while undrafted rookie Tyler Larsen is a prototypical center, but it remains to be seen whether he makes the team.
As for free agents, there are about a dozen different options, with Sam Satele, Andre Gurode, Brad Meester, Kyle Cook, Fernando Velasco, Dan Koppen and Mike Gibson all available.
General Manager Dennis Hickey and Head Coach Joe Philbin have a huge decision to make. Do they stick with an in-house option, in the hope that Pouncey returns sooner rather than later, or do they turn to the free agent market to give Ryan Tannehill the best possible chance of staying on his feet.
While a free agent signing may be seen as a progress stopper for Sam Brenner and Tyler Larsen, keeping Tannehill upright has to be the biggest priority. The first defensive tackle the team will face will be the Patriot's Vince Wilfork. Lets hope the center that starts is ready for the challenge. Miami's season depends upon it.
Alex Parish is an Associate Editor at The Phinsider. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @AlexParish89.