The Dolphins will have a veteran, multi-Pro Bowl interior lineman anchoring the trenches for them in 2018.
And they will have a dependable veteran center who not long ago was given a contract extension.
Here’s the twist: Those are two different people, neither named Mike Pouncey.
In a stunning series of moves Thursday, the Dolphins moved on from their star offensive lineman, signed another in guard Josh Sitton and traded for Pouncey’s replacement in Niners center Daniel Kilgore.
Pouncey, a seven-year veteran, was due $8 million in base salary in 2018. Sitton and Kilgore combined will not make much more than that, and will inject the Dolphins’ offensive line with healthy, dependable and good blockers.
In short, the Dolphins believe they improved Thursday, even if yet another starter walks out the door.
Just last month, Daniel Kilgore signed a three-year, $11.8 million contract extension. Yet San Francisco all but gave him away, sending him to Miami for a swap of seventh-round draft picks. Kilgore is owed a base salary of $2.5 million and a roster bonus of $2.8 million.
“He is very much a leader of this team, and his hard work and commitment to our success provide a great example for our young team,” Niners general manager John Lynch said about him when the contract was signed. “When you come across players who love the game like Dan you do your best to keep them in the building.”
But when the Niners broke the bank for Weston Richburg to open free agency, Kilgore became expendable. The Dolphins sensed that, and pounced. But by doing so, they knew they would likely be parting ways with a cornerstone member of their organization for the better part of a decade.
Kilgore is also cheaper than Pouncey with potentially a longer career horizon, and certainly a cleaner medical history.
Back to Sitton: The former Packer and Bear, who spent the past two seasons in Chicago with new Dolphins offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, is one of the best in the NFL.
He is a former first-team All-Pro. Pro Football Focus rated him, at age 30, the league’s No. 5 guard a year ago.
Expect him to play on the left side, helping steady tackle Laremy Tunsil and providing veteran leadership that to a group that sorely lacks it with Pouncey’s departure.