March Madness! No, were not talking college basketball. We’re talking NFL free agency — a period where bad teams look to add as many upgrades as possible, good teams fill one or two key holes, and everyone over-pays for their groceries.
The Miami Dolphins had a few pivotal areas to fortify going into free agency, the most glaring being left tackle. The Dolphins signed former Kansas City Chiefs LT Branden Albert in the opening minutes of free agency after a deal had been all but signed during last weekend’s “legal tampering” period.
Albert’s deal is a five-year, $47 million dollar deal with $26 million guaranteed. Some say the Dolphins over-paid for Albert when seeing the deals that the other two top LTs, Eugene Monroe (five years, $37.5 million with $17.5 million guaranteed) and Jared Veldheer (five years, $35 million with $17 million guaranteed) received. I am one of those people.
With that being said, the Dolphins did exactly what they had to do. Not only because of the free agent market, which guarantees over-payment to top talent, but because if a top free agent LT wasn’t on the Dolphins’ squad when 2014 started, the season would be doomed before it began and jobs would eventually be lost. Not to mention the seats at Sun-Life Stadium would be empty.
New GM Dennis Hickey, HC Joe Philbin and contract-wizard Dawn Aponte identified the target, Albert, and then made sure the man didn’t leave Miami once negotiations began.
Bottom line — the Dolphins needed a quality LT, and Albert is that and more.
I give the signing a B+.
It’s not quite an A because of injury history (missed four games in 2013 and has only played one full 16-game season), and the nearly $10 million more that Albert received than the other two top LTs, but a high grade nonetheless, as the Dolphins brass took an aggressive approach and successfully courted who they viewed as the best offensive lineman on the market.
Not only that, but Albert’s signing alone should cut at least 15 sacks off of the sack total from last season, a franchise-worst 58.
Also, the Dolphins structured Albert’s contract so that they could let go of him after three years and only lose $3.4 million in dead money. This means that if Albert doesn’t work out, the Dolphins can off-load his huge salary with minimum consequences, an underrated aspect of Aponte’s skill-set, and why I call her the contract-wizard.
While Albert has said since the signing that he had always intended to play in Miami, it’s easy to say that after the numbers have been worked out. Hickey passed his first test as GM by landing Albert to be the blind-side protector for Ryan Tannehill, the man who carries the hopes and dreams of a franchise and an apathetic fanbase.