The Miami Dolphins will consider signing some big-name free agents when the 2020 NFL league year begins at 4 p.m. on March 18. Speculation will run rampant until then, but here are the Caplin News’s recommendations for three offensive linemen the team should consider signing during the free agency period.
Joe Thuney – New England Patriots
Guard – Age 27
1 sack given up with zero penalties in 2019
Joe Thuney is one of the best guards in the league and would be a huge steal for the Dolphins. The Patriots are known to let big-money free agents walk and won’t be afraid to with Thuney. The team lost its longtime offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia to retirement a few weeks ago. This could open up the opportunity for Thuney to test his value in the open market. Head coach Brian Flores spent a long time with the Patriots as an assistant coach, mainly on the defensive side of the ball. However, there is always a connection between former Patriots players and coaches.
Only 3 offensive linemen were on the field for 600+ snaps without committing a penalty in 2019
Marshal Yanda, Joe Thuney, Connor McGovern pic.twitter.com/i3088bcbUP
— PFF (@PFF) February 11, 2020
While I generally prefer to stay away from Pro Football Focus statistics, this one is vital to the health and reliability Thuney provides at guard. He was one of three offensive linemen to play 600+ snaps in 2020 without committing a single penalty. Baltimore Ravens guard Marshall Yanda and Denver Broncos guard Connor McGovern were the other two. To put this into a bigger perspective, Thuney played 1149 offensive snaps this season which was 99 percent of the offensive snaps played this season. He played and started all 16 games including a playoff loss against the Tennessee Titans in the wild card round.
Wouldn’t mind having Joe Thuney on my team pic.twitter.com/jfBkJBj3Qx
— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) February 9, 2020
On this play against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Patriots designed a screen-pass to running back James White (#28). Thuney (#63) initially blocked Bengals star defensive tackle Geno Atkins (#97). Thuney then pulled left and drove downfield with center Ted Karras (#75) and guard Shaq Mason (#69), who both pulled from the right side of the line. Thuney’s initial block was taken by the center and he then pulled left and brought down oncoming safety Jessie Bates III (#30). Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. did a great job, as always, of getting the ball out to White before Sam Hubbard (#94) hits him.
Brandon Scherff – Washington Redskins
Guard – Age 28
1 sack given up and 9 penalties in 2019
Brandon Scherff, unlike star offensive tackle Trent Williams, played for the Washington Redskins last season. Williams and the organization have been at odds for quite some time, though it was reported that Williams and new head coach Ron Rivera will speak soon. Scherff played in 11 games for the Redskins and was put on injured reserve in week 14 of the NFL season with elbow and shoulder injuries. That made it back-to-back years that Scherff has ended his season on IR after suffering a torn pectoral in 2018. Scherff hasn’t played a full season since 2016, when he started all 16 games and played 1047 snaps.
Would you rather your team signed Brandon Scherff or Joe Thuney this offseason?
— PFF (@PFF)February 8, 2020
Scherff is a year older than Thuney, which shouldn’t be an issue with guards. However, his injury history is something to worry about. He is a very talented guard on the field, but needs to stay healthy. According to Spotrac, he has a market value of $12.4 million a year, which they rounded up to 4-years and $49.8 million. This would rank him third highest in salary for guards.
If Scherff stays healthy, he’ll be a steal for the Dolphins in free agency. It is likely the Dolphins will face a bidding war for Thuney and the No. 3 offensive linemen on the free agency wish list. If the team can get Scherff for a team-friendly deal, the 28-year-old guard will serve a vital role for the next starting quarterback in 2020.
Jack Conklin – Tennessee Titans
Tackle – Age 25
4 sacks given up and 7 penalties in 2019
Jack Conklin essentially had to bet on himself in 2019 after the Tennessee Titans decided to decline his fifth-year option before the season started. After tearing his ACL in 2018 it looked like Conklin would be another top pick to fail as an offensive lineman due to injuries. During his rookie year, he was named All-Pro at right tackle. He played all 16 games in 2019 and was able to stay healthy. He played 957 offensive snaps, which was 94 percent of the offensive snaps.
Conklin is just 25 years old. If he can get back to his All-Pro form he would be a steal even at the projected $15 million he’s worth, according to Spotrac. Conklin would also be an immediate upgrade at the right tackle position for the Dolphins, and if the team misses out on one of the guards they can slot Jesse Davis back to guard.
The best one-two punch for the Dolphins this offseason would be Thuney and Conklin. The team will also be in prime position to draft an offensive lineman in the first round with its number 18 or number 26 overall draft choices (assuming they don’t trade up from number 5). This would net the Dolphins a top tier guard in Thuney and a now-healthy right tackle in Conklin who has shown he can be an All-Pro at his position.