The Miami Dolphins have spent the free agency period of the 2017 NFL offseason with a deliberate attack on their needs, looking to find players that they feel will fit their system while making sure they did not overspend on their own price marks. It has been an effective use of the signing period, and it sets up the team for the NFL Draft next month. The team has added safety, linebacker, tight end, and defensive end help this year, but it is another need that may or may not yet have been solved.
Has the team done enough for the offensive line?
It seems like the same question is asked every year for the Dolphins, but once again, the offensive line is becoming a major focal point of the offseason. Miami is re-tooling the line this year after trading left tackle Branden Albert to the Jacksonville Jaguars. That trade moves last year’s first-round draft choice Laremy Tunsil to the vacated left tackle position, but moves the hole to the left guard spot. The Dolphins also entered the offseason with right guard Jermon Bushrod being allowed to hit the free agency market, or potentially retire, but the team worked out a new contract with him last week, presumably to resume his role as the starting right guard.
What does the Miami offensive line look like late in March?
- Left Tackle: Laremy Tunsil
- Left Guard: Anthony Steen / Ted Larsen / Kraig Urbik
- Center: Mike Pouncey
- Right Guard: Jermon Bushrod
- Right Tackle: Ja’Wuan James
Which brings back the question, have the Dolphins done enough? Can the Steen, Larsen, Urbik battle solidify the line, protecting quarterback Ryan Tannehill in 2017 while also opening running lanes for running back Jay Ajayi? Does the team still need to address the line, either with another free agent or in the Draft? Would that pick have to be an early pick - potentially even a first-round selection - for the Dolphins to ensure the offensive line is not a liability next year?
Making Tunsil the team’s left tackle should be a strong move, given how well he played last year as he learned left guard for the first time. Pouncey, when healthy, is one of the best centers in the league and the team seems to believe they will be able to solve whatever the issue with his hips is. Bushrod was solid all year last season and, as long as he does not have any injury issues in 2017, he should continue that level of play in his second year of being a guard. James is likewise a solid offensive lineman, which should make the right side of the line a non-issue for the team.
The left guard battle will be the major focus, with Steen, who started seven games last year in place of Pouncey at center; Larsen, who started eight games at right guard for the Chicago Bears in 2016; and Urbik, who started six games last season for Miami, playing both left guard and center for the team. Adding a player in the Draft to either headline the group, or at least add into the battle, could be the right move for Miami, but the team seems to believe in the three guys they already have and may be content with the position battle.
And the question comes up one more time: have the Dolphins done enough on the offensive line?