Perhaps lost in the PR fallout and the organizational shakeup caused by the bullying scandal in Miami is the affect the fiasco will have on the Dolphins' on-field product next season. While the rest of the country debates the morality of Jonathan Martin's locker room treatment, recently-hired general manager Dennis Hickey is trying to replace his left tackle.
Hickey could provide not only a suitable replacement, but a major upgrade if he can land Baltimore's Eugene Monroe, who Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports is a major target for the Dolphins in free agency. Sources indicate Miami will pursue both Monroe and Branden Albert of the Kansas City Chiefs in attempt to land one of the top two left tackle free agents on the market.
Monroe began his 2013 season in Jacksonville — where the Jaguars made him the eighth overall pick in the 2009 draft — before being shipped off to Baltimore in a mid-season trade. Even with the unexpected change in scenery, the 26-year-old was ranked the 12th best tackle in the league by Pro Football Focus, allowing just five sacks in 656 pass blocking opportunities. He had a notably better season than Albert as a run blocker, which, coupled with a three-year age advantage, likely makes him the preferred candidate in Miami.
Before the Dolphins can begin their pursuit, however, they'll have to hope Monroe hits free agency to begin with. Even with the knowledge of his expiring contract, the Ravens forked up a fourth and fifth-round draft pick for Monroe, and they'll be intent on getting more than a partial season in return. It seems likely that Baltimore will let right tackle Michael Oher walk in free agency, both increasing their desire to return Monroe and their financial means of doing so.
According to Spotrac.com, the Ravens have roughly $22.2 million in free cap space, while Miami has about $38.2. A benchmark comparison for Monroe's potential deal is Jake Long, who bolted from the Dolphins last offseason to sign a four-year, $34 million deal with the St. Louis Rams. At the time of the signing, Long was just one year older than Monroe is now.
Miami may have more cap room, but they also have more holes to fill. Reports have indicated that Martin has no interest in returning to the team, but the scandal could cost them much more. Starting left and right guards Richie Incognito and John Jerry, both of whom were implicated in the Wells report, are free agents and are as good as gone. Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey was the third player named in the investigation, and although he's still under contract, his future with the franchise is cloudy. On top of that, starting right tackle Tyson Clabo and Bryant McKinnie, Martin's replacement at left tackle, are also set to enter free agency. If you've been keeping track, that's the entirety of the Dolphins 2013 starting offensive line, plus one, that could be gone this offseason.