Armando Salguero

Miami Dolphins need more talent at two important offensive positions

Center Nick Mangold (left) spent 11 seasons opening holes and playing well for the New York Jets.
Center Nick Mangold (left) spent 11 seasons opening holes and playing well for the New York Jets. AP

The Miami Dolphins have 74 players on their roster and will soon announce the addition of 14 undrafted rookies. And calling upon my Miami-Dade County public school system math education, that tells me the team will have 88 roster spots filled by Friday afternoon when the rookie un-minicamp begins (more on that later).

And that means the Dolphins will have two open roster spots to fill with either a tryout player or perhaps an unrestricted free agent between now and training camp.

So the Dolphins, past free agency and days after the NFL draft, should still be looking for talent.

And as I am the unofficial fake GM with a resume that includes many years of suggestions nobody ever listens to, I’d like to make two suggestions:

Sign a veteran center.

Add a potential load carrying running back.

The Dolphins do not need to do either of these. I suppose it can be argued the Dolphins shouldn’t do either of these. But as this space belongs to me and I said they should, allow me to state my case:

The case for adding a center:

The Dolphins have a fine starter in Mike Pouncey. And that’s not in question. Pouncey is a Top 5 NFL center when he’s healthy. The Dolphins also have viable replacements on the roster should Pouncey, who has had multiple hip surgeries the past few years and recently underwent stem cell treatment for his left hip, again be sidelined by the hip issue.

The Dolphins have Kraig Urbik and Anthony Steen and Jake Brendel on the roster and all have varying abilities and experience playing center. They’re all plausible backups.

But, with respect, none are NFL starting caliber players. Urbik, the best of the backups, is suited for two or three-game spurts at either center or guard before defenses begin to see him as a chink in the armor. If he’s the starting center for 10 games, you’re going to be exposed. Steen, promising and all, lost his starting job to Urbik last season when Pouncey went down. And Brendel was inactive most of the season.

So, um, might I suggest a phone call to an experienced NFL starter type?

Might I suggest a phone call to Nick Mangold?

Dolphins GM Chris Grier talks about the 2017 second round draft pick Raekwon McMillan.

Executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum should be the one on this call because he knows Mangold. He drafted Mangold in the first round for the New York Jets 11 years ago. (Outstanding pick, by the way).

Mangold, 33, was cut by the Jets in the offseason after a year in which he was limited by injuries to only eight games. He has gotten some interest from the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants but he obviously still isn’t signed.

So why not the Dolphins on a one-year deal with the idea that he can start if Pouncey cannot.

In that regard, the Dolphins would have two starting centers on the roster -- one still in his prime and one as a backup just in case.

That just in case part is a thing. Remember Pouncey’s hip problems are borderline chronic. The Dolphins are going to be extremely careful with him during training camp and preseason. They’re even going to limit his participation in practices during the season.

The Dolphins don’t want to waste Pouncey. They want to maximize his availability to the extent that coach Adam Gase joked in March he might wrap Pouncey in “bubble wrap” during the offseason, training camp and during the week before games to keep him healthy.

Well, what if those three hours on game day still take a toll?

What then?

Fake GM Mando says Mangold.

(This idea will be dismissed out of hand by the Dolphins because of salary cap issues, as a minimum salary for Mangold will eat about $1 million in cap space.)

But I would counter that having Nick Mangold ready to go if Pouncey’s health fails is a better bet than betting on Chris Culver to come off a major knee injury last year and being ready by November -- which didn’t exactly work out as planned.

Moving on ...

Dolphins GM Chris Grier talks about the 2017 third round draft pick Cordrea Tankersley

The case for adding a running back:

The Dolphins are set with Jay Ajayi as their starter. They hope Kenyan Drake steps up to a bigger role this year. They like Damien Williams and expect to have him once he signs his restricted free agent tender.

The team also has Storm Johnson and Senorise Perry on the roster.

But let’s not do the typical NFL team group think here.

Let’s not think everything is always going to be fine. Let’s not bet on Ajayi carrying the football another 260 times this year without incident. (That is how teams think. They never consider the potential disaster, they always believe good things will happen).

Me? I consider the potential disaster.

I consider what ifs that include the Sun crashing into Hard Rock Stadium and nowhere else.

So what happens if Ajayi is injured?

Drake is going to be the guy?

Williams?

“We’ll have guys step up,” a Dolphins source told me recently when I raised the possibility.

OK. That solves the problem on planet Everything Will be Alright.

On Earth, however, the Dolphins should want real world contingencies.

​Dolphins GM Chris Grier talks about the 2017 third round draft pick Cordrea Tankersley and also talks about the first two Dolphins draft picks.

So what’s wrong with considering a running back now? Or later -- probably when teams make roster cuts and the available talent won’t be limited to 29-to-30-somethings trying to milk one more year out of their legs.

I remind you last year the Dolphins went into training camp with Ajayi and Williams and Drake and two veteran backs who had carried the football in anger during an NFL game -- Arian Foster and Isaiah Pead. Now, neither Foster nor Pead lasted. They turned out to be redundant.

But that’s the point. The Dolphins had redundancies then. They currently have no redundancies at running back that they can sort out during training camp.

So running back, please. No, there won’t be a star out there. There won’t be a starter out there.

But at some point, a runner who can carry the load if Jay Ajayi cannot might be a good idea.

One last thing, and thanks for making it to this point: When I wrote about the un-minicamp for rookies, I was trying (and failing) to be cute. The straight information is that, like last season, the Dolphins will not be putting their rookies through a conventional minicamp this weekend but rather will be mostly putting them in classroom settings to get caught up on the playbook and other knowledge veterans already have gotten or are familiar with.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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