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Branden Albert trade will help Jaguars if he stays healthy

It’s a transaction that carries inherent risk for Jacksonville because of Albert’s injury history.

Houston Texans v Miami Dolphins Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Former Miami Dolphins left tackle Branden Albert is a solid player when healthy. But his injury history means the Jaguars are taking a substantial risk with a trade that became official Thursday.

In Albert, the Jaguars get a quality left tackle and a positive veteran locker room presence, but also a troublesome injury history. Albert hasn’t played a full season since 2011 with the Kansas City Chiefs and has missed games due to injury in each of his three seasons in Miami.

On Feb. 15, the Jaguars declined the option on left tackle Kelvin Beachum’s contract, which would have kept Beachum in Jacksonville through the 2020 season. They now have an obvious hole at left tackle, with veteran journeyman Bryce Harris next on the depth chart.

Albert is an upgrade over Beachum when healthy. Last season, the Jaguars improved in pass protection, but struggled to run block effectively, which hindered the offense. Plugging Albert in at left tackle won’t fix all of Jacksonville’s offensive line woes, though, even if he stays healthy.

The Jaguars will still need to find a way to establish continuity on the line. Due to injuries and other factors, the Jaguars trotted out seven different offensive line combinations last season alone. That makes it difficult for the line to establish the necessary chemistry to function effectively as a unit, and Albert’s injury history suggests it may be an ongoing issue at the left tackle position.

The Dolphins will slide second-year lineman Laremy Tunsil into the starting left tackle role. Tunsil primarily played guard as a rookie, but did fill in at left tackle for Albert as he battled ankle and wrist injuries. Albert feels confident in Tunsil’s ability to excel in the role if he remains healthy.

“I haven’t seen a young talent like that, so equipped and so ready to play; it’s a full-spectrum,” Albert said, via the Sun-Sentinel. “It’s a responsibility as a left tackle to be that guy, to be a leader. And he has that quality because people respect him and how he plays. If he becomes full-fledged, around at left tackle, I believe he will be one of the best left tackles to play the game of football.”

The trade was initially reported to include a player-for-player swap for tight end Julius Thomas. However, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reported that, while the Dolphins would be interested in the tight end, Thomas was off the table.

Instead, the Dolphins are able to unload Albert’s contract, start 2017 with the left tackle of the future, Laremy Tunsil, and save $7.2 million against the cap this season in the process. The trade works well for the Dolphins. With Albert’s injury history, it remains to be seen if it will work quite as well for the Jaguars.