Eugene Monroe is the Miami Dolphins‘ top target in free agency! Oh wait, turns out that was just a smokescreen. Last week’s headline now becomes this week’s punch line as Branden Albert is reportedly ready to sign on the dotted line as early as 4:01 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald wrote:
The #Dolphins deal with LT Branden Albert is not 100% done. But “almost” done (unofficially, of course). He’ll be a Dolphin.
— Armando Salguero (@ArmandoSalguero) March 10, 2014
What does this mean? Well, the Dolphins will probably cut the sack total (58) from last season in half. That’s the good news. It also means that the Dolphins are passing up on arguably the best LT on the market, Monroe, for a man who is three years older, missed four games in 2013 and has only played all 16 games in a season one time in his six-year career.
And I’m completely fine with it.
Albert is a versatile talent who played guard at the University of Virginia, but this is mostly due to back-to-back elite LTs playing for the Cavaliers during Albert’s time there, one being Eugene Monroe. Albert is the top LT on many teams’ board of free agents but likely still won’t make as much as Monroe due to his age (29) and injury history.
The Dolphins like Albert because he is experienced in the zone blocking scheme and is supposedly a nastier, more physical player than Monroe. While some will argue that Albert’s run blocking grades on the website ProFootballFocus.com are not as good as Monroe — and this is true — Monroe struggled when playing in a zone blocking scheme for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first four games of the 2013 season.
Some may argue that it’s risky to trust Albert as Ryan Tannehill’s blindside protector with his history of lingering injuries. This, again, is true. But trusting any of the top three LTs in this free agency class is a risk.
Monroe, like Albert, has only started a full 16-game season once in his career. Monroe will be able to pass block regardless of the offensive line scheme his team plays, but Monroe is more of a risk than people realize as he has shown that he is a much more effective run blocker in a man-blocking scheme than a zone-blocking scheme.
Trusting Monroe to successfully learn and execute the zone-blocking scheme is not a risk the Dolphins are willing to take in an attempt to improve upon the league’s 26th ranked rushing offense.
Jared Veldheer, the other top tier free agent LT, played in only five games last season after partially tearing his left triceps in August. Veldheer’s injury is a troublesome one for LTs as his left triceps provides the power on his initial punch against a defensive end speed rushing off the edge.
Signing Albert fills the Dolphins’ biggest need. The few millions the Dolphins save choosing Albert over Monroe could help justify signing safety Jairus Byrd, which would instantly morph the Dolphins’ secondary into one of the best in the NFL.
Signing Albert would also bring to the Dolphins the physicality and toughness that the team wasn’t sure Monroe would provide. Albert’s brand of tough football was lacking a great deal along the offensive line last season, specifically at LT as Jonathan Martin was constantly pushed around while playing with the team. Not only on the field — but let’s not get into that.
The signing isn’t official and it is still possible that people such as Armando Salguero are being used by teams and agents to drive up prices and deliver smokescreens. With that being said, all signs point to Albert, who nearly was traded to the Miami last offseason, being a Dolphin next season.