DAVIE The Dolphins offensive line in 2013 was in shambles on and off the field.
The franchise took steps to fortify the line by landing former Kansas City left tackle Branden Albert, a Pro Bowl selection regarded by many as the top player on the market, to a five-year, $45 million contract with $25 million guaranteed on Tuesday's opening day of free agency period.
New Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey continued to set the tone of getting stronger in the trenches when the team agreed to terms with former Houston nose tackle Earl Mitchell on a four-year, $16-million deal.
With Mitchell's arrival, Dolphins free agent defensive tackle Paul Soliai, one of the team's longest tenured players at seven seasons agreed to five-year, $33 million deal with the Atlanta Falcons. Dolphins free agent defensive tackle Randy Starks is expected to leave South Florida as well.
However, the Dolphins over the past week retained the services of Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes (four years, $32 million, $16 million guaranteed) and signed former Detroit free safety Louis Delmas, so far making it a good shopping spree for the team.
The Dolphins began Tuesday with around $35 million after securing Grimes and Delmas and releasing cornerback Dimitri Patterson and his $5.4 million salary on Monday.
The Dolphins still have pressing needs on the offensive line to join Albert and Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey. The still needs to plug to the two guard and right tackle positions.
The team also could be searching for a cornerback to start opposite Grimes after the team released Patterson. The two players who could battle for the starting position are second-year players in Jamar Taylor and Will Davis. The team could pursue veteran options
Outside of Grimes, the Dolphins will likely let its own free agents to leave the team. Cornerback Nolan Carroll has received interest from the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers. Also left packing their bags are troubled left guard Richie Incognito, right guard John Jerry, right tackle Tyson Clabo and free safety Chris Clemons.
Last season, the Dolphins addressed its biggest need on the first day of free agency when they signed wide receiver Mike Wallace to a five-year, $60 million deal.
The biggest need of this offseason was the offensive line who endured perhaps one of the worst seasons in Dolphins history. Not only did the team gave up a franchise-record 58 sacks, the line had spotty run blocking and was the focus of a bullying scandal during the middle of the season.
The Dolphins attempted to acquire Albert in a trade last season with the talks heating up on draft night. But eventually both the Dolphins and Chiefs could not come to terms.
Albert, rated the 28th best tackle in the NFL last year by ProFootball Focus, is expected to anchor a rebuilt unit. The Dolphins believe Albert can solidify the position at a Pro Bowl level while protecting quarterback Ryan Tannehill's blind side.
Mitchell, who is considered a strong run stuffer is, a third-round pick out of Arizona in 2010. Mitchell, who played in a 3-4 scheme in Houston but shifts to a 4-3 scheme with the Dolphins, started 14 games last season. He had 48 tackles and 1.5 sacks for the disappointing Texans, who finished 23rd in rushing defense, one spot ahead of the Dolphins.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun