Everyone knows what Jeff Ireland’s next move is: sign or possibly still even trade for a veteran offensive tackle. We just don’t know who that new tackle will be.
Of course, Ireland can still strike a deal with the Chiefs for Branden Albert. But from all accounts, that potential deal appears to be dead and the Dolphins are apparently shifting their focus to the remaining available free agents to fill their void at the position.
They have met with and reportedly worked out Bryant McKinnie and Tyson Clabo this week and will do the same with Eric Winston and Winston Justice today. But who is the best fit among these free agent options? Let’s look at the pros and cons of each potential signing:
Bryant McKinnie, Left Tackle, 33
Pros: Unlike Tyson Clabo, Eric Winston, and Winston Justice, McKinnie can play left tackle. Left tackle is the most important position on the offensive line as the Dolphins must find some reliable protection for Ryan Tannehill’s blindside.
If Miami has serious doubts about second-year tackle Jonathan Martin’s ability, finding a left tackle should be the priority here. Signing McKinnie wouldn’t require trading away a draft pick either, unlike acquiring Branden Albert. And the Dolphins wouldn’t have to commit long-term to McKinnie.
Cons: For starters, McKinnie will be 34 years old in September. If his play hasn’t deteriorated yet, it could at any time. And let’s not forget how much of a disaster signing an over-the-hill offensive tackle can be.
Marc Colombo anyone? Colombo proved to be a revolving door at right tackle for the Dolphins in 2011 and was consequently forced into retirement after the season. And McKinnie would potentially start at left tackle, giving him far more responsibility than a right tackle in regards to protecting Tannehill.
McKinnie is also rumored to be somewhat of a party animal, which could spell trouble with all the temptations South Beach has to offer.
Tyson Clabo, Right Tackle, 31
Pros: At 31 years old, Clabo should have at least a couple years left in the tank. Clabo hasn’t missed a game since 2007. He’s a very durable player and was a model of consistency in Atlanta for seven seasons.
Clabo likely carries a cheaper price tag than Eric Winston as well. He is a couple years older than Winston and isn’t said to be as demanding in his contract demands.
Cons: At nearly 330 pounds, Clabo is far from the prototype in a zone-blocking scheme. The Dolphins value lighter, more athletic lineman now under Joe Philbin and Clabo is far from that.
He is exclusively a right tackle, as well, meaning Jonathan Martin would have to be plugged in at left tackle. And while he could have plenty left in the tank, there is no guarantee of that at 31 years old. His play could begin to decline at any time.
Winston Justice, Right Tackle, 28
Pros: He’s the youngest option of the free agents. And I don’t see Justice coming with a steep price tag either. Justice actually played well for the Colts early on in the 2012 season before being hampered by injury.
Cons: He was let go by two teams in two consecutive offseasons for a reason. Justice has durability concerns that are alarming. He’s only started 16 games in a season once in his seven-year career.
His play has been inconsistent as well. While Justice did a fine job initially for the Colts last year, he was exposed as the season went on due to poor pass protection and run blocking.
Eric Winston, Right Tackle, 29
Pros: Winston actually has the potential to be more than just a short-term fix for the Dolphins. He’s only 29 years old and could potentially hold down the right tackle spot for multiple seasons.
While Winston has never been an elite player, he’s always been solid. And like Clabo, Winston has been extremely durable over the years. Winston hasn’t missed a game since 2006. Scheme-wise, he’s also a great fit. At only 302 pounds, Winston possesses the body type the Dolphins covet.
Cons: Winston is said to be demanding a multi-year contract. The Dolphins have not been willing to compensate him with such as of yet, meaning one side will have to budge in order for Winston to return to the city where he played in college. While Winston graded out well with the Chiefs in 2012, his pass protection was not always up to par according to many who follow that franchise closely.
So what do you guys think? Which of these free agent tackles would you choose if you were Jeff Ireland?