With options dwindling in free agency and not many guards to consider high in the draft, Bushrod might be the final significant piece to Miami’s offensive line puzzle this offseason.
With that in mind, let’s take a current look at Miami’s projected offensive line for 2017.
Left tackle: Laremy Tunsil
Analysis: The Dolphins are putting a lot of stock in Year 2 for Tunsil -- and for good reason. The former No. 13 overall pick had a strong rookie season playing mostly left guard for 12 games, but he also started two games at left tackle. Tunsil proved in those two games that he could hold his own at the most difficult spot on the offensive line. Plus, that was his natural position in college at Ole Miss. That was enough to convince Miami to trade veteran left tackle Branden Albert to the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this month in order to make Tunsil the new left tackle for the foreseeable future. It’s a calculated risk, but one that should pay off.
Analysis: This is a position that scares me. The domino effect of Tunsil shifting to left tackle in 2017 is that he created a big hole at left guard. The Dolphins didn’t do much to plug the hole in free agency. They signed Larsen, who started eight games at guard for the Chicago Bears last season. Right now it appears that Larsen and Urbik, who was a part-time starter for Miami in 2016, are the best options to compete for this spot. Look for the Dolphins to add more competition here via the draft. But unless that player comes in the first or second round, the rookie would have a long way to go toward earning an immediate starting role.
Center: Mike Pouncey
Analysis: The good news is the Dolphins have one of the top centers in the NFL. The bad news is Pouncey has missed 13 games in the past two seasons. Pouncey, 27, is a leader in Miami’s locker room and is entering the prime of his career. However, it’s an important year for Pouncey to stay healthy and keep the middle of Miami’s offensive line strong.
Right guard: Bushrod
Analysis: After examining the guard market in free agency, the Dolphins eventually turned back to Bushrod. He is a favorite of head coach Adam Gase and a favorite in the locker room. Bushrod did a solid job of playing right guard for the first time in his career, starting all 16 games. The Dolphins are hoping to get another steady year out of the 32-year-old. If not, this guard position also could be a trouble spot.
Right tackle: Ja'Wuan James
Analysis: “Solid” is the best way to describe James. The 2014 first-round pick hasn’t been a dominant right tackle, but he’s been dependable for most of his three seasons. James started all 16 games for the second time in his career. He’s been a plug-and-play NFL right tackle since his rookie season and continues to be a solid asset entering Year 4.
Overall, it remains to be seen if Miami’s offensive line will be as good as the 2016 group that made the playoffs. A lot of it comes down to Pouncey’s health at center, Tunsil’s ability to take over at left tackle and the guards not being an issue.