Report: Lineman Branden Albert plans to sign deal with Miami Dolphins

 <span class="cutline_leadin">Big catch:</span> The Dolphins are hoping to sign Chiefs free agent tackle Branden Albert to help rebuild their shaky offensive line.
Big catch: The Dolphins are hoping to sign Chiefs free agent tackle Branden Albert to help rebuild their shaky offensive line.

Branden Albert continues to be the Dolphins’ top free agent priority, and there are growing indications that he will sign with the team on the first day allowed.

Pro Football Talk reported Sunday that “all signs currently point to Albert signing with the Dolphins not long after the market officially opens on Tuesday.” The Miami Herald has heard the same from league sources.

Furthermore, Albert has been the Dolphins’ top target since a failed draft-weekend trade for the Chiefs lineman last spring, per a source with direct knowledge of the situation. The two teams couldn’t agree on terms.

There can be no question that the Dolphins are determined to rebuild an offensive line that allowed a franchise-record 58 sacks a year ago.

Not surprisingly, pending free agent Tyson Clabo, the Dolphins’ starting right tackle in 2013, will hit the open market Tuesday. Word is there is real interest in his services elsewhere.

The question isn’t whether the Dolphins will make a full-court press for Albert, but how much they’re willing to pay. It is believed that top-end offensive tackles will garner between $8 million and $10 million annually this offseason.

The strong market is another indication that teams are far more willing to splurge on top-priced talent this year than they were in 2013.

Player agents have already rejoiced in how much better the market has been for their clients — and deals can’t be completed until Tuesday.

For example: the top free-agent cornerbacks in 2013 signed contracts than paid between $5 million and $6 million per year. Already this spring, there have been two deals that dwarfed those.

Sam Shields recently re-signed with the Packers for four years, $39 million. And the Dolphins agreed to pay Brent Grimes $8 million per year to remain in Miami.

Part of this, of course, is simple economics. The NFL’s salary cap is $133 million, which is an increase of $10 million over 2013. Still, that’s only a bump of 8 percent. It doesn’t explain the entire 33 percent jump in compensation for Shields and Grimes.

Not everyone is guaranteed a pay raise, however. Defensive tackle Randy Starks probably won’t get one. He earned $8.5 million as the Dolphins’ franchise player in 2013.

However, league insiders doubt he’ll draw a contract that will even average $6 million this time around. As of Saturday, the Dolphins had not made an offer to keep Starks.

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