Dolphins Swimming in the Right Direction with Armstead Signing (Daily Sports Thought 3/22)

There has been so much that has happened since the start of the NFL offseason. I have written about a decent amount of it but it has all been about quarterbacks. It’s fair since the sport is dominated by the players that play that position, especially off the field, but I wanted to change it up a bit. There were plenty of options to choose from for big non-quarterback moves in the past week and a half. There’s Davante Adams to the Raiders, Khalil Mack to the Chargers, J.C. Jackson to the Chargers (holy shit the AFC West is going to be good), and Von Miller to the Bills. But I am not going to write about any of those players, I am going to go with a much more underappreciated player. Someone that a ton of NFL fans might not even recognize, despite being ranked as the best free agent this year by multiple different outlets.

I want to talk about Terron Armstead going to the Miami Dolphins. My favorite thing in free agency is teams addressing their biggest weakness with reasonable acquisitions. I know, I probably sound crazy (and trust me, as a Seahawk fan I wasn’t actually sure it could happen in real life) for mentioning something so outlandish but I promise you it happens. Every once in a while a team will actually look at the biggest hole on its roster and decide to sign a free agent to fill that hole. It’s what the Cincinnati Bengals have done this year, just with smaller names and shrewder signings. But the Dolphins absolutely accomplished that too when they signed Armstead.

Miami had one of the worst (and maybe even the worst) offensive line in football last season. Of the four linemen that started a majority of the team’s games last year, the highest grade awarded by Pro Football Focus was 1 67.4. Miami gave up 40 sacks in 2021 and the two tackles, Jesse Davis and Liam Eichenberg, allowed eight and nine of them, respectively. Both of those numbers put them in the six for sacks allowed by an individual.

It was clear that something needed to change on the line for the Dolphins going forward. They have the potential to be a competitive team and have a young quarterback that has shown some promise in Tua Tagovailoa. But a poor offensive line can hold a team back no matter what else is happening on the roster. That is where Armstead comes in. He can be a steadying force on the line that will provide exceptional play at the most important of the five spots. His presence can also enable other linemen to improve, whether it is from learning from him on the practice field or in the film room or simply just lining up next to him every down.

As I mentioned before, Armstead has quietly been one of the better left tackles in the sport for a while. He hasn’t received a PFF grade below 80 since 2018 when he earned the best grade of his career (90.4). He has also made three Pro-Bowls (not like that actually means much) and was named to the All-Pro second-team in 2018 (that actually means something). Armstead was a mainstay in New Orleans protecting Drew Brees for years, so he brings very valuable veteran experience to a fairly young team.

Even better, the Dolphins got him for an extremely reasonable price. Usually, players at important positions such as left tackle get grossly overpaid in free agency. Some writers were projecting a deal over $20 million a year for Armstead because of how valuable it is to have serviceable blockers at the tackle positions. Instead, Miami got him for just $15 million per year. That makes him the 12th-highest paid left tackle in the sport, the 17th-highest paid tackle, and the 20th-highest paid offensive linemen (all based on average salary per year). That is still pretty steep considering there are a lot of good linemen out there, but when you realize that Armstead is making less than Kolton Miller, Garrett Bolles, Jordan Mailata, and Taylor Moton, the deal looks a whole lot better Miami.

Obviously, one offensive lineman is not going to change everything for the Dolphins. This team is not suddenly a Super Bowl favorite because they added a premier left tackle. But it is a step in the right direction, which is something a lot of other franchises could use right now. In an age of overspending and overvaluing players in free agency (I’m looking at you Seattle paying Will Dissly $8 million a year), the Dolphins went out and got a great player on a great deal. To me, that is a win and hopefully for the Dolphins, that ends up earning them some wins on the field.