Super Bowl LI was decided less than two weeks ago, but NFL teams are already looking ahead to 2017. That’s also true of the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins made their first significant news of the offseason on Thursday. It was reported that Miami would part ways with three players on the current roster. The subtraction of defensive end Mario Williams has long been expected, but the writing on the wall for tackle Branden Albert and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell wasn’t done in such bold lettering.
Branden Albert, OT
Synopsis: It was originally reported that Miami would be releasing starting tackle Branden Albert, but the latest update is that the Dolphins will instead be shopping him, thanks to trade interest from other teams. One of the teams interested is the Jacksonville Jaguars.
A Pro Bowler with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013, Albert performed admirably for most of his tenure in Miami. Unfortunately for Albert, he suffered an ACL injury in 2014 and missed a total of 13 games over his three seasons in Miami. Albert was a Pro Bowl selection in 2015.
What it means: With Albert headed elsewhere, it’s Tunsil time in Miami, as in Laremy Tunsil. The 13th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Tunsil played out of position as a rookie at left guard but made 14 starts. A viral video of Tunsil smoking marijuana caused his draft stock to plummet, but he’s been a real steal so far for the Dolphins. With Albert gone, Tunsil will move to his natural position of left tackle. The Dolphins, however, will need to find a new starter at guard.
Earl Mitchell, DT
Synopsis: It was reported on Thursday that the Dolphins would release defensive tackle Earl Mitchell. He was solid for most of his tenure in Miami, but injuries forced him to miss 11 games over his final two seasons.
What it means: The subtraction of Mitchell means that the starting interior of the Dolphins’ defensive front will be Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillips. The Dolphins will need to add depth behind them at the position.
Mario Williams, DE
Synopsis: The former first overall pick and Pro Bowler, Mario Williams was ineffective in his only season in Miami. Williams was released on Thursday after recording just 1.5 sacks in 13 games with the Dolphins.
What it means: The biggest thing the loss of Williams does is free up $10 million in cap space for the Dolphins to address needs. That includes depth at defensive end. Cameron Wake had another Pro Bowl year for Miami, but is 35 years old. Andre Branch and Jason Jones, both free agents, were serviceable for the Dolphins last season. However, they need to start planning for the long term.
Mike Ferguson is a sports writer and reporter for several publications and the Pro Football Spot lead writer for the Miami Dolphins. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson