Should Another NFL Team Take a Chance on Jonathan Martin?

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IFebruary 12, 2014

Nov 16, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Miami Dolphins offensive lineman and Stanford Cardinal alumnus Jonathan Martin attends the game against the Southern California Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Not only is Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jonathan Martin facing unanswered questions about his personality off the field, but couple that with the fact he was playing some of the worst football for any starting tackle prior to leaving the team, and teams have every right to be apprehensive about bringing him in period, much less trading for him.

Martin and Richie Incognito both have to find a way to move on to the next chapter after the bullying scandal—arguably the strangest scandal the sport has ever seen. For both people involved, that next chapter is likely to take place somewhere other than Miami, according to owner Stephen Ross.

"I don't believe so," Ross said when asked whether either would be back with the team in 2014, before backtracking to add, "Well, I can't say that. Therefore, I retract that. One is a free agent, by the way; the other is on our roster."

Incognito is the free agent, but Martin is under contract through the 2015 season. He is set to count for $1,304,800 against the cap in 2014, according to Spotrac, but the Dolphins would get back just $345,066 of that money while losing $959,734 in dead money. That's not unreasonable, but it's clearly in their best interest to find a trade partner.

Good luck with that. As it is, we are still waiting for the results of investigator Ted Wells' report on the bullying allegations made by Martin.

Once we get the results of that investigation, the future could become a little clearer. Even then, it will be up to the individual teams to choose whether they should trade for him, wait for him to be cut or even to take a chance on him at all.

When they look at the tape, they'll find it hard to justify labeling him any more than a developmental prospect.

Jonathan Martin vs. the world
StatsOverall gradePass-block gradeRun-block gradePass-blocking efficiency
NFL rank (76 qualifying tackles)605849T-69

According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Martin was seventh-worst in pass protection out of 76 qualifying offensive tackles. He was responsible for 29 total pressures on quarterback Ryan Tannehill (15 hurries, seven hits, seven sacks) and was moved from left tackle to right tackle the week before he departed.

Martin got off to an awful start against the Browns, giving up six total pressures (four hurries, one hit, one sack) in Week 1. 

Source: NFL Game Rewind

Despite Martin getting a good, wide base beneath him to help gain leverage, Browns linebacker Jabaal Sheard got inside Martin's pads and pushed him backward. That action bought Sheard enough space to get past Martin and get pressure on Tannehill as he threw the ball, affecting the throw.

As the season wore on, though, we learned that Martin struggles with both strength and speed on the outside.

Source: NFL Game Rewind

Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs beat Martin both ways, but on this play, he just rushed as fast as he could off the snap. By swiping Martin's hands away and keeping himself away from the blocker, Suggs was able to maintain his speed all the way to the quarterback.

The right defensive end is usually the better pass-rusher of the two, but these days, with defenses sending more exotic blitzes and doing all they can to feature two top-notch pass-rushers on the edges, both the right tackle and the left tackle have to be able to hold their own in pass protection.

There have been times when Martin has played well. He gave up a sack against the Atlanta Falcons, but no other defenders got near Tannehill on Martin's watch besides that one play. He also spent much of the day blocking All-Pro linebacker Robert Mathis when the Dolphins played the Indianapolis Colts, and he finished the day yielding just two pressures.

It would be one thing if it were just the the scandal, but even if we remove his off-field issues from the picture, his performance on the football field was not at a level worthy of consideration as a starting offensive tackle. 

That doesn't mean he cannot reach that level at some point in his career. Reclamation projects are attempted regularly in the NFL, and Martin flashed the ability to be a competent tackle at times last year, so a trade is not completely out of the question; however, it is a long shot.

ESPN's James Walker thinks he's identified at least one team that could be a candidate for a Martin trade.

Martin is an offensive tackle who has starting experience on both sides. There aren’t many of those in the NFL. Perhaps the Dolphins could get lucky and get a late-round pick for Martin. One option that makes sense is the Indianapolis Colts, where Martin was college teammates with Pro Bowl quarterback Andrew Luck.

In addition to the Colts, the Jaguars, the Raiders, the Falcons, the Buccaneers, the Rams and the Ravens could all be considered teams in need of an offensive tackle. 

Walker, however, correctly identifies the Colts as a great landing spot for Martin.

Their locker room is strong with the presence of Luck and head coach Chuck Pagano, so Martin probably wouldn't run into the same problems he had in Miami. Luck also isn't the only familiar face Martin would see in Indy; his offensive coordinator at Stanford, Pep Hamilton, is also with the Colts. That would mean a return to the very same offensive system that made Martin a second-round pick.

There are plenty of starting-caliber offensive tackles available via free agency this year, with the Ravens' Eugene Monroe, the Chiefs' Branden Albert and the Raiders' Jared Veldheer leading the way. In the draft, Texas A&M's Jake Matthews is expected to be one of the first picks off the board with five more offensive tackles earning a first-round grade, according to CBS Sports.

With so many other seemingly viable options out there, the Dolphins shouldn't expect to get more than a conditional late-round pick for Martin in a trade, and that's if they even get to trade him. Teams may be opposed to the idea of giving up anything for Martin, preferring to wait for him to hit the waiver wire if and when the Dolphins cut him.

That team could be out there, but they'd better think about bringing in someone whose off-field personality is as up for scrutiny as his on-field performance.


Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.