MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Coming into the offseason, the Miami Dolphins needed an almost complete overhaul of the offensive line. The Fins have done a decent job plugging holes, but still need to make some moves to feel like the line is ready to protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
The big free agent signing was left tackle Branden Albert. The Pro Bowl tackle cost the Dolphins a lot, but as long as he stays healthy should be an excellent pass protector for Tannehill's blind side. The only other free agent offensive lineman signing is guard Shelley Smith.
Smith is projected to be a starter on the Dolphins' offensive line and was described by his former coach, Jeff Fisher, as an outstanding run blocker and very physical, according to CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald.
The Dolphins hope to salvage something out of draft pick Dallas Thomas. The former Tennessee Volunteer struggled to pick up the game last year and spent the season on the bench, buried on the depth chart.
Beyond Thomas, the only other decent offensive lineman on the roster is Nate Garner. But, Garner has had multiple opportunities and has yet to establish himself as a starter for the Fins. He's likely to maintain his status as a top backup this year.
In free agency, one of the top guards available, Travelle Wharton, said he was interested in playing for the Dolphins. The bulldozing guard played well last season for the Carolina Panthers and still appears to have plenty of football left in him.
The Fins may not be interested in Wharton due to his age, 33, but he would be a significant upgrade over Thomas.
At the pivot, the Dolphins appear to be set on keeping Mike Pouncey in charge. Pouncey is a Pro Bowl center, but has shown bits of immaturity off the field and could face a suspension by the NFL for his role in the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito bullying scandal.
Looking at the 2014 NFL Draft, the Dolphins have plenty of options available among offensive linemen. While the top tackle, Greg Robinson, is likely out unless the Dolphins want to move up to the number two position in the draft, there are two other options that may not cost Miami as much to move up.
Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews is a likely Top 10 pick, as is Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan. Matthews may be the safest tackle pick and has lots of experience playing both left and right tackle. Plus, he already has a rapport with Fins quarterback Ryan Tannehill as they played together at TAMU.
Lewan wowed scouts at the combine with solid numbers, but he has character issues off the field that might make him too toxic for the Dolphins to consider given the Fins' recent history with the bullying scandal.
The consensus pick among mock drafts has been the Dolphins will target Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin if they stand pat with the 19th pick. The 6'4", 308 pound Martin projects more as an offensive guard in the NFL, but may get a shot at tackle to start.
Regardless of who the Dolphins pick in the first round, there are likely to be multiple picks assigned to the offensive line in the upcoming draft.
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