Greg Cote

Greg Cote: Dolphins should sign guard Evan Mathis to cap big offseason

Evan Mathis is shown at practice while playing for the Miami Dolphins in 2008.
Evan Mathis is shown at practice while playing for the Miami Dolphins in 2008. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

The Dolphins bask in their most well-received offseason in a long time, and there is a sense the season ahead could be special – and not just because it will mark the franchise’s 50th season. If anything, the upcoming reminder of the club’s storied past only accentuates the pressure on the current team (and coach Joe Philbin) to put winning in the present, because the past has been a franchise crutch too long.

Now the Dolphins have our attention for the right reasons. Signing dominating defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and extending quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s contract were major moves amounting to a near $200 million investment in present and future. Miami also bolstered its receiving corps led by the drafting of top pick DeVante Parker.

There are reasons for long-beleaguered Dolfans to feel optimistic about 2015 with training camp set to start next week. But there also are years of disappointment to temper that feeling with caution.

Miami has one last opportunity to shift that balance further toward optimism and away from caution. That opportunity has a name:

Evan Mathis.

Rarely does a team’s biggest need and the chance to address it well intersect this perfectly.

The Dolphins’ most obvious weakness is at offensive guard.

And Mathis, a still-available free agent, might be the best guard in the NFL. The analytics of respected website Pro Football Focus suggest so, anyway.

Guard is such a need, and Mathis is so good, that the Dolphins somehow not signing him will seem Miami whiffed on a home run pitch.

Some might recall Mathis actually played for the Dolphins part of the season in 2008 but was released. He’s a different player now. At 33 he’s a late bloomer who made the Pro Bowl each of the past two seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles.

It shouldn’t hurt that Mathis also happens to have impressive Dolphins bloodlines. His uncle is Bob Baumhower, a five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle in 1977-86.

Signing Mathis would help protect the franchise QB as well as make life easier for Lamar Miller and the running game. It would give Miami four very solid offensive line starters, along with tackles Branden Albert and Ja’Wuan James and center Mike Pouncey.

It might also increase the team’s fun quotient, considering Mathis’ Twitter description of himself reads: “Handegg extraordinaire. Mathlete. Wielder of Mjolnir. Best Rapper Alive. The People’s OG. Sit-Down Comedian.” (“Handegg” is slang for football. “Mathlete” is a math whiz. “Mjolnir,” I believe, is Thor’s hammer in Norse mythology).

Not least importantly, Mathis’ arrival would help solidify the notion that the Fins may be poised to make their move in an all-round improved AFC East.

The New England Patriots probably have had the rockiest offseason in the division, between the Deflategate penalties and losing Darrelle Revis, but they’re still the defending Super Bowl champions, after all. They still have Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. They’re still the division favorites until you hear otherwise.

The Buffalo Bills signed LeSean McCoy and now have Rex Ryan running the joint, assuring they’ll be noisier if not better. But the Bills are choosing between Matt Cassel and E.J. Manuel at the most important position, so how good can they be?

The New York Jets added Revis and Brandon Marshall, but, like Buffalo, New York is weakest where you most need strength: at quarterback. Um, unless anybody out there trusts that Geno Smith or Ryan Fitzpatrick is a good choice.

The general sense is that Miami has kept ahead of the Bills and Jets this offseason and maybe made up ground on the Patriots – a notion that would only be enhanced by now adding Mathis.

Strange times in South Florida as the Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes get set to strap on pads and start hitting.

UM usually boasts the most bravado, even only as the residue and echoes of past program swagger. Now, though, coming off a 6-7 season that ended badly and losing seven players to the NFL Draft, Canes football feels closer to staggered than swaggered.

It’s the Dolphins who are showing a little bit of sheen and preen for a change, some uncommon confidence and bounce.

The wielder of Thor’s hammer would fit right in.