The time allowed for teams to negotiate exclusively with their in-house free-agents has passed and the word is that the Miami Dolphins are sure to part ways with Jake Long as the two sides seem to be eons apart in terms of cash money. I suppose there is a scenario where Long may find the market to be underwhelming thus making a return to Miami at a lower price possible, but we are already seeing several rumors that there are teams looking to land the big fella so his days in aqua and orange do appear to be over.
The ‘Phins are linked to just about every available wide receiver out there, but I am intrigued to see what the team does to address the loss of Long, and address the offensive line in general. The team believes they have an in-house replacement at left tackle in Jonathan Martin, but the jury is still out on the former blindside protector for Andrew Luck at Stanford University as A) he struggled mightily at right tackle and B) he only played a handful of games at his natural left tackle position to close the 2012 season (with mixed results).
The draft has several lineman available that are going to help out NFL teams and I anticipate Miami drafting at least two linemen, depending how the draft shakes out perhaps even more. Jeff Ireland does not just have Long to replace (with or without Martin) but consider the fact that depth guys Nate Garner is a free-agent currently, and following the 2013 season John Jerry and Will Yeatman are free agents (Yeatman is Restricted) plus after the 2014 campaign Josh Samuda is up for grabs. None of these players are anything more than depth guys (currently anyway), but I worry that an already questionable o-line has potential to get even thinner going forward. For that reason I think Ireland will add an absolute minimum of two linemen, and likely even more (talking about adding through free-agency and draft…I do not think this team has assets to make a trade for a good lineman).
As underwhelming as the Dolphins depth is on the o-line it is worth mentioning that Joe Philbin has a huge history working with (and developing) offensive lineman so those underwhelming names could become legit NFL contributors under him. Still, I think the team will be looking to use some draft picks and cap space to address the position.
Many Dolfans will be furious if the team drafts a lineman with the no.12 overall pick, but when you look at the current line and then add in how soon these players could be available in the open market, I think Ireland will consider the o-line a position that requires upgrades and depth immediately. Consider the fact that the organization has given the keys to the franchise to Ryan Tannehill and we see even more reason for Ireland to look to draft and upgrade the position.
Long is likely gone, but *fingers crossed* I think Ireland can add talent and depth to the trenches this offseason.