Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Free Agency Preview: Offensive Line

This is Part V of an ongoing look at Miami's options in free agency. For the previous installments, see:

Part I: Quarterbacks

Part II: Running backs

Part III: Wide Receivers

Part IV: Tight Ends

The Current Situation

Miami's offensive line started off the 2007 season surprisingly strong, but it faded a bit down the stretch, ultimately ending the campaign as just an average unit. That has as much to do with the revolving door going on at the quarterback and running back positions late in the year as it does with the actual play of the line, but there still remains ample room for improvement. There are really only two players currently on the team guaranteed to start next season - T Vernon Carey and C Samson Satele. Every one else is a question mark. That means that the Dolphins are going to look long and hard at their options along the the line in free agency and see if they can't bring in a new starter or two.

Free Agents

1. G Rex Hadnot

Why Miami hasn't made any efforts to resign this guy is beyond me. Hadnot has started all 32 games over the past three seasons in Miami, and has proven to be the team's best pulling guard. His versatility to play both center and guard is an added bonus. He is still very young (25) and seems to have the size that Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland covet. I think it's of the utmost importance for teams to retain the top talent that has been cultivated in their system, and it will be disappointing to see Hadnot simply leave without even making an attempt to hold on to him.

2. T Flozell Adams

Miami will very likely make a run at Adams given that Tony Sparano (and all the other former Dallas coaches now in Miami) have a great deal of experience and familiarity with him. Is he really what Miami needs though? Sure, Vernon Carey might be better suited as a RT, but should he be moved in order to make way for a 33 year old player who is clearly in the twilight of his career and who committed a whopping a 14 penalties last season (14!). What level will Adams be playing at 2-3 years down the line when Miami is actually ready to contend? I don't suspect he'll still be playing at a Pro Bowl level when he's that old, and bringing him in as a very expensive stop-gap player will only take away the development opportunities of other, younger players on the roster.

3. G Alan Faneca

Faneca is an interesting option for Miami. He's probably going to get the biggest contract of any offensive lineman in this free agent class, and it scares me a bit to hand out a massive contract to a 31 year old. I didn't want Miami to bring in any free agent over 30 years old, but I think Faneca could be an exception. I could see him still being able to contribute at a high level three years from now. I'm not completely sold that he will remain a top-tier player for that long, but it's possible. Also, while Faneca is as durable as they come, having missed only one game over the past eight seasons, there are some red flags in the amount of sacks he gives up. He allowed more than 6 sacks last season, and that number has been steadily increasing since 2005. This is a tough call for Miami to make, as he is one of the best lineman in the NFL. Ultimately, I'm just too leary about handing out such a large contract to an older player with a penchant for giving up sacks.

4. G Jake Scott

Scott is a very good young guard who has played on one of the league's best unit for the past several seasons. He doesn't commit an overabundance of penalties and is generally good in pass protection. I'd love to see Miami go out and get Scott to fill one of the open guard positions, but I have a feeling that his smaller size (295 lbs.) does not suit the tastes of Parcells and Ireland.

5. T Max Starks

Starks, on the other hand, has the gargantuan size (6'8", 337 lbs.) that will have the Dolphins' brass drooling. Starks has been hit with the transition tag, but that really won't stop interested teams from pursuing him, since it does not involve giving up a draft pick. Starks is only 26 years old and he commits very few penalties. However, he seems to be somewhat of a liability in pass protection. In the running game, he is quite good. Due to his youth, I believe that his pass protection abilities can be still be significantly improved. Bringing in Starks would give the Dolphins the option of moving Carey to right tackle if they so choose. Starks makes the most sense for the Dolphins out of all the OL free agents available.

With three vacant starting positions along the offensive line, Miami is sure to sign a couple of free agents to fill the gaps. Max Starks makes the most sense at the tackle position, and I think Rex Hadnot should be resigned, but that's not likely to happen. Hopefully, the ex-Cowboys now running the show in South Florida will stay away from Flozell Adams as its unlikely he'll be of use to this team several years from now.

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