The Miami Dolphins entered their second straight offseason with a plethora of both cap space and holes to fill.
This time, the spending spree was conducted by newly hired GM Dennis Hickey after the previous GM, whose name will not be spoken, spent nearly $250 million in new contracts last offseason, and the result was merely a disappointing 8-8 season.
Hickey faced holes at LT, LG, RG, RT, DT, CB, LB and FS heading into the free agency period, and successfully plugged five of these holes with the signings of CBs Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan, FS Louis Delmas, RG Shelley Smith, DT Earl Mitchell and LT Branden Albert.
One big question still remains in the minds of Dolphin fans — how do the Dolphins plan on filling the RT position?
Well, the answer is simple. This may in fact be the easiest position for the Dolphins to fortify out of the holes that still exist.
Let’s look at the three sources from which the Dolphins could acquire an RT and what each source could yield.
If the season started today, either Dallas Thomas or Nate Garner would be manning the RT position for the Dolphins.
Thomas was a third round pick last season, but never saw the field. Lingering injuries held Thomas back, but his inability to even earn playing time on a struggling offensive line, which lost two starters due to the aforementioned “bullying” scandal, is troubling.
Garner is the Dolphins designated “utility” man, possessing the skills needed to play all offensive line positions besides LT. Garner saw the bulk of his action last season at LG as the Dolphins struggled to solidify the position after Richie Incognito’s suspension.
Garner has been close to earning a starting position on the Dolphins offensive line in the past, but an untimely injury always seems to strike and costs Garner his opportunity.
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This area is quickly thinning, and possesses only a few quality starters. The Dolphins are unlikely to sign one of these men unless the draft doesn’t yield the team a capable starter. Tyson Clabo, the Dolphin’s 2013 starter at RT who picked up his play towards the end of the year, could come back to the team and be a decent stop-gap option.
There’s also Bryant McKinnie, who the Dolphins traded a 7th round pick to the Baltimore Ravens to acquire last season amidst the infamous “bullying” scandal. Although McKinnie has never played on the right side of an offensive line, he has made it known that he is willing to play RT for the Dolphins, or any other team that would give him an opportunity to keep his career going.
Eric Winston is also out there. Winston played the best years of his career with new Dolphins offensive line coach John Benton when the two were both with the Houston Texans. Winston is also familiar with the zone-blocking scheme that Miami runs. Signing Winston would provide the Dolphins with cheap, veteran leadership and a capable starter, or a decent backup at worst.
If one of these men is signed, aside from depth purposes, it likely won’t be until after May and will mean that the Dolphins weren’t able to nab a proficient RT starter in the…
This is the route the Dolphins are expected to take. The Dolphins are mocked by plenty of “experts” to take Zack Martin with their first round pick. Martin could come in and provide the Dolphins with a strong starter at either LG or RT. However, if he is drafted to play LG or isn’t taken at all, the Dolphins will still need to find a new RT. Hickey should be able to find a day-one RT starter in either the second or third round.
Cyrus Kouandjio, Morgan Moses, Jack Mewhart, Antonio Richardson, Billy Turner and Joel Bitonio are all second or third round options who could provide the Dolphins with an instant starter at RT. The question with this group is, do the Dolphins use a second round pick on the man they want, or gamble and wait until the third round to see who’s left from this second-tier group to grab the team’s new starting RT?