The Miami Dolphins entered the 2017 NFL league year looking to upgrade their guard play, having allowed Jermon Bushrod to hit free agency while trading left tackle Branden Albert to the Jacksonville Jaguars will move guard Laremy Tunsil out to tackle, opening the left guard spot. While re-signing Bushrod is not out of the question for the Dolphins, the team is being deliberate in their search for the two interior line positions on either side of (a hopefully healthy) Mike Pouncey. Through a week of free agency, the team has only signed Ted Larsen, the former Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard.
A sixth-round pick by the New England Patriots in 2010, Larsen now enters his eighth season with experience as a starting right guard, left guard, and center. Last year, in his only season with the Bears, Larsen played in 15 games with eight starts. To get a better idea of what Miami is getting in their new offensive lineman, I asked Robert Zeglinski of Windy City Gridiron for a closer look at Larsen.
Ted Larsen was signed as last year by the Bears as purely depth and at the time was mostly panned because of his role in a less-than-able Arizona offensive line falling apart. In fact, well after Chicago acquired him, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians suggested that his team was better off without Larsen and right tackle, Bobby Massie.
"We really upgraded our running game because of the right side," said Arians of his retooled offensive line in 2016. While the 29-year-old Larsen didn't necessarily light it up in Chicago last season as a backup guard stepping in when needed, it's now easy to say Arians' criticism was unfounded.
With Kyle Long being lost for the season in early November, Larsen stepped in well as needed depth through the rest of the year and the Bears didn't miss much of a beat. It translated to Chicago being tied for seventh least amount of sacks in the league with just 28. Larsen played a huge part in that surprising stability as a quality back-up.
Given his limitations, Larsen struggles with athletic pass rushers on the interior and can have slow feet on occasion. He does have a tendency to lunge and lose control of his hands and anchoring position as well. This is all to be expected, though, as the Dolphins will be the fifth team of his career for a reason. Far from a priority player to retain considering his limitations but useful in the right situations. Keep in mind, he can also play center, so there is versatility.
I'll say this for Dolphins fans: Larsen wasn't someone I went out of my way to praise but also wasn't a player I actively noticed on a game-to-game basis and that's a good thing. I don't think he's a long-term starter but given head coach Adam Gase's smart and efficient game planning, I do believe he can step in well and Miami's offense won't miss a beat in spots should there be injuries on the interior.
Overall, a low-risk but efficient insurance signing for Miami, in my mind.
Larsen is going to be asked to compete for a starting role with Miami, which may or may not be the correct choice, given Zeglinski’s breakdown of him. If Miami were to re-sign Bushrod, he would likely resume his role as the starting right guard, in which case Laresen, Anthony Steen, and Kraig Urbik would battle for the starting left guard spot. That could be the best case situation for the Dolphins, unless they have their eyes on another free agent still on the market or someone they plan on drafting in next month’s NFL selection meeting.