A spending spree in 2013 will not preclude the Miami Dolphins from seeking out top-notch talent in 2014.
The Dolphins are in need of talented offensive linemen after fielding one of the worst front lines in football last season. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, they were swift in their action to fix what ailed them last season, and signed Chiefs offensive tackle Branden Albert to a mega-deal.
Rebuilding the offensive line has to be priority No. 1 for the Dolphins this offseason. Their offensive line was one of the league's worst last year. It struggled regardless of the situation, in both the running and passing game, paving the way for an average of 4.1 yards per carry (20th in the NFL), and allowing quarterback Ryan Tannehill to be sacked a league-high and team-record 58 times.
With roughly $34.3 million in cap space this season, according to Spotrac, the Dolphins are well-equipped to build their offensive line from the ground up. They got started with the most expensive of those positions.
At 6'5" and 316 pounds, Albert has the prototype build of an NFL left tackle. He has a blend of power and quickness to help him seal the edge as a run-blocker and keep up with agile pass-rushers off the edge.
The Dolphins were reported to be interested in trading for Albert last year after the Chiefs used the franchise tag on him to keep him in Kansas City. Albert made $9.828 million in 2013 on the franchise tag and will now average almost exactly that ($9.2 million per year) over the life of his five-year deal with the Dolphins.
Albert was considered one of the top free-agent left tackles on the market, but not the top tackle. The real prize pony of this year's group is Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe, but the Dolphins didn't even have him in their top two left tackles available in free agency according to Salguero.
|Branden Albert vs. Eugene Monroe, 2013|
|Player||Games||Snaps||Pass snaps||QB Hu||QB Ht||QB Sk||Pressure||Pressure %|
The 26-year-old Monroe is a spring chicken in comparison to the 29-year-old Albert. The mileage is already starting to show on Albert as well. He missed three games with what Chiefs head coach Andy Reid deemed a "serious" back injury in 2012 and four games with a knee injury in 2013.
In terms of their pass protection, Monroe and Albert were practically the same player last season. Monroe allowed just one more pressure than Albert on the season, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). It's understated how incredible Monroe played in 2013, considering he did it for two different teams.
Albert is no slouch but will probably end up being less expensive than Monroe. That being said, it will be worth noting Monroe's contract details compared to Albert's with Miami.
In the meantime, the hope is that Albert will bring a stop to the revolving door at left tackle. He will take the spot left vacant by Bryant McKinnie, who was acquired from the Ravens via trade in October. McKinnie took over the spot from the embattled Jonathan Martin, and Martin took over from 2013 free agent Jake Long when the former No. 1 pick signed with the Rams.
For years, the Dolphins have been trying to build toward a zone-blocking offensive line, and signing Albert gives the Dolphins a well-versed zone-blocker at the most prominent position on the offensive line. That's a good start, but they will still have holes to fill at both guard spots and at right tackle at some point this offseason.
That's also not to mention the potential departures of defensive tackles Paul Soliai and Randy Starks. The Dolphins have not made an offer to either one, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Add running back to the list of needs, if the Dolphins lose Daniel Thomas to free agency and/or if they don't think Lamar Miller is ready to be the feature back.
There is no shortage of needs the Dolphins can fill in free agency, and there's no shortage of money, either.
But should the Dolphins continue to spend money in their attempt to make their problems go away? Teams that take home the (fictitious) award for best free-agent signings do not usually take home the (real) award for best football team.
Signing Albert would be a good start to the Dolphins' offseason, but it would be far from finished.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or via team news releases.