Armando Salguero

Miami Dolphins to you: Stop worrying about the guards

Miami Dolphins tackle Jermon Bushrod makes his entrance into the game versus the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium last season.
Miami Dolphins tackle Jermon Bushrod makes his entrance into the game versus the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium last season. Special to the Miami Herald

You? Of course you’re worried. You’re thinking Ryan Tannehill, who partially tore an ACL last year and didn’t freakin’ have surgery, is a target this coming NFL season.

So the apparent lack of attention the Miami Dolphins paid to the Tannehill-protecting guard position this offseason is bothersome.

You’re shaking your head because you never heard of Ted Larsen before he signed with Miami for less money than what some rookies will make and he’s the projected starting left guard. You’re not happy because Pro hated the play of Jermon Bushrod last year and after he considered retirement and the Dolphins considered other options, Bushrod is back and he’s the projected starting right guard again.

You are borderline apoplectic because you think NFL teams are built from the inside out and the Dolphins didn’t do a lot to improve the middle of their offensive line this offseason, particularly at the guard spot.

Well, sorry, but the Miami Dolphins don’t agree with you.

They may love you and want you to buy season tickets and their team gear but, with all respect, shut up because you’re wrong.

Seriously. Shut up ...

... And listen.

“I feel good,” offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said recently while discussing his interior linemen. “I think we’ve got some good, solid players in there. I think the competition will be high, which always makes people better, and we’ll come out of the thing with, I think, a good, deep inside bunch, which will be great.

“I can’t stress enough that (with) the good teams, you have competition. That’s the deal. The more competition, the hungrier ... All those things add some intensity to practice being better. I think we’ll have a ton of competition in there for that backup center, the starting guard, playing time ... all the above in there.”

You: But drafting Isaac Asiata in the fifth round doesn’t guarantee anything right away. What if he needs a year to get comfortable with the NFL game? What if he’s a bust?

“One of the things we tried to do proactively is we re-signed Jermon Bushrod and signed Ted Larsen,” said executive vice president for football operations Mike Tannenbaum. “So we wanted to add depth to that position ... adding those two guys before the draft was important for us.”

Here’s the point: The Dolphins are perfectly comfortable with their interior offensive linemen right now.

One supposes if an upgrade becomes available between now and the start of the season, the Dolphins will consider it. But if no such luck presents, this team is apparently willing to go into the regular season with its current talent at guard:

Ted Larsen.

Jermon Bushrod.

Kraig Urbik.and Anthony Steen, who can both of them play guard or center, will get a chance to compete as will Asiata.

Argue with that if you will, but the Dolphins aren’t listening. And here are the reasons:

They have joined the school of thought -- the same one the New England Patriots espouse -- that interior linemen don’t have to be paid $8 million per season to be productive. The Patriots, remember, invested all of $1.54 million in salary cap space on their two starting guards and center combined last season.

The Patriots also won the Super Bowl last season.

The Patriots also won the Super Bowl last season and used 13 different starting lineups on their offensive line, the most of any team over the past 22 seasons, according to STATS research. And STATS research goes back only 22 season on this matter.

Early last season the Patriots rotated guards and sometimes tackles between drives and sometimes at the very climax of some drives. reported that in one game the Patriots employed 23 different offensive line rotations.

So to that team, one guard was equally as capable as another. One guard was equally as important as another. Or equally not quite as important. Whatever.


The Patriots made it work.

Coach Adam Gase hasn’t said as much publicly but it’s clear the Dolphins believe they can similarly plug in bodies on the interior for his team. His 2013 Denver Broncos offense broke too many NFL records to list in this space. And that offensive line was in an almost constant state of flux.

People in the know say the Dolphins considered making an aggressive leap for a guard in free agency. And then the price for good guards soared to levels never seen in NFL history.

Kevin Zeitler went from Cincinnati to Cleveland when he signed a $12 million-a-year deal with $31.5 million guaranteed.

Dallas backup Ron Leary went to Denver for $9 million per year with $24 million guaranteed.

Green Bay’s T.J. Lang went to Detroit for $9.5 million per year with $19 million guaranteed.

Luke Joekel was a washout as a tackle in Jacksonville but the Seattle Seahawks will pay him $8 million in 2017 to play guard.


Larsen is getting $5.65 million from the Dolphins for three years. If Larsen doesn’t play up to expectations, the Dolphins can be done with him after one year for a total of approximately $2.25 million.

The Dolphins declined to join the spending spree.

Bushrod? He signed a one-year $3 million contract with $2.25 million of that guaranteed.

So the Dolphins will be investing $4,416,666 in cap space on their starting guards combined if Bushrod starts on the right side and Larsen starts on the left side as was the team’s vision when the transactions were made.

Of course, none of this adherence to the Patriots’ school of thought or the idea of keeping costs down at guard will matter if Larsen and Bushrod play poorly in 2017. At that point, you -- the fan yelling for upgrade at the position -- would be right and the experts working for the Dolphins would be wrong.

But, you see, the Dolphins don’t think they’re wrong based on what they’ve seen on tape. They think Bushrod, for example, was solid last season. They think Larsen showed a streak in his 10 games with Arizona that merited thinking of him as a potential starter., the metrics site that grades NFL players, doesn’t agree.

PFF ranked Larsen the 44th best guard in the NFL out of 72 players graded. And PFF hated Bushrod. He was graded 69th among 72 guards.

The Dolphins don’t agree with PFF on this issue at all. The Dolphins think PFF, and you, and me, and anyone who doesn’t know the play-calls and the assignments for Bushrod, and right tackle Ja’Wuan James, and whomever is playing center, cannot possibly grade the right guard fairly.

And since the team does know all these factors, the team is comfortable with how Bushrod performed given the circumstances.

One more thing: There will be games this coming season in which one of Miami’s guards, by design, will be assigned to block nobody on certain plays.


I reported this months ago but it deserves repeating.

Pick someone to block because you’re not really responsible for blocking anyone.

So by Miami’s logic, the team could have invested between $8-$12 million per year for a player who will be blocking air on some plays this year. Or it could invest in, say, keeping receiver Kenny Stills or maybe extending receiver Jarvis Landry.

Some loud voices out there would argue the guard protecting the path to the QB is more valuable.

That’s obviously not how the Dolphins see it.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Related stories from Miami Herald