Are Miami Dolphins Making Mistake By Signing Branden Albert?

By Cody Strahm
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins will likely sign left tackle Branden Albert shortly after free agency opens on Tuesday — that’s the NFL‘s worst kept secret at the moment.

Multiple reports have suggested that a deal between Albert and the Dolphins is likely and could be finalized as soon as Tuesday. Of course, it’s possible that the Albert-to-Miami commotion is a smokescreen, but that is becoming a far-fetched theory. When there is this much smoke, there is typically fire. At this point, Albert becoming the Dolphins’ next left tackle appears imminent barring something unforeseen.

The debate has shifted from “which left tackle should the Dolphins sign” to “is GM Dennis Hickey making a big mistake choosing Albert?”

There is no respectable argument to deny that Albert would be a substantial upgrade in Miami. After conceding 58 sacks in 2013 — the most in the NFL and in club history — the Dolphins must replace four of their five offensive linemen this offseason. With left tackle being the most pivotal position along the line, nabbing a reliable blindside protector has been the Dolphins’ No. 1 priority since the final whistle in Week 17.

Albert ranked as the league’s 28th-most efficient offensive tackle in 2013. Jonathan Martin and Bryant McKinnie, the two left tackles who started for the Dolphins, ranked 60th and 65th respectively. Albert conceded four sacks, six quarterback hits and 16 pressures. Martin and McKinnie combined to allow 14 sacks, 16 quarterback hits quarterback hits and 38 pressures.

Those opposed to Miami signing Albert won’t argue against the Pro Bowl tackle being an upgrade, but will advocate that there is a better option on the market. That better option is perceived to be the aforementioned Monroe.

Monroe is two years younger than Albert, graded 16 spots higher in 2013 according to Pro Football Focus and doesn’t come with the same durability concerns — Albert missed seven games over the past two years while Monroe has only missed four games during his five-year career.

The two graded as similarly effective in pass protection — Monroe ranked 10th while Albert ranked 11th — but Monroe graded as a considerably better run blocker. According to Pro Football Focus, Monroe finished as the league’s 14th-best run blocker at the position. Meanwhile, Albert finished 40th.

However, Monroe’s accumulative run blocking grade was propelled by his time with the Baltimore Ravens, who ran a man blocking scheme. During the four games he spent with the Jacksonville Jaguars before he was traded, Monroe struggled to adapt to the team’s new zone blocking system, producing run block grades of -3.4, -0.9, 0.6 and -0.9. The Dolphins employed a zone blocking scheme this past season and are expected to continue to do so in 2014 under new line coach John Benton.

Albert has played in a similar scheme for the majority of his career, therefore he’s a more proven commodity in the system. However, he hasn’t excelled in it recently. In 2013, Albert produced a negative or essentially neutral run blocking grade in eight of the 13 games he played.

Thus, even if Albert has more experience in a zone blocking scheme, he doesn’t project to be such a better fit from a running standpoint that his age and durability concerns are compensated for. Monroe possesses more than enough athleticism to develop into a fine zone blocking tackle despite his early struggles in Jacksonville.

There is one component that favors Albert: price tag. Given some of the previously mentioned deterrents, Albert should come cheaper than Monroe. According to reports, Albert will likely land a contract in Miami that pays him around $10 million per season — a steep price but less than the $11-12 million Monroe will likely demand.

The guaranteed money Monroe should garner will probably exceed Albert’s deal even more significantly. The Dolphins can use those savings to help pay for another free agent lineman, a ball hawk like Jairus Byrd or a stout defensive tackle.

Monroe may trump Albert in some aspects, but signing Albert is hardly a mistake. He will make the Dolphins a better football team in 2014. He will also make Ryan Tannehill a better quarterback. It might not be the perfect signing, but it’s a huge step in the right direction.

Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStarhm.

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