Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Satele trade a win-win-win situation

When the Dolphins signed free agent center Jake Grove earlier this month, the writing was on the wall for incumbent Samson Satele. There was talk about Satele moving to right guard to compete for a job there, but it was obvious throughout last season that he was not a good fit for the Dolphins and didn't have much of a future in Miami.

That notion came to fruition Monday as the Dolphins traded Satele to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for a sixth-round pick and a swap of fourth-round picks in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Dolphins fans call it another wasted second-round pick, and perhaps that's true from one point of view, but we're not talking about Eddie Moore here. Make no mistake, Satele is a talented player and was a pleasant surprise as a rookie in an otherwise painful 2007 season.

But when new regimes take over in an organization, even talented players can be phased out because they weren't hand-picked by the new staff or just aren't good fits. This was certainly the case for Satele, a talented, experienced young player who just wasn't a good fit in the offense brought to Miami by Tony Sparano.

Here is why this trade was best for all parties involved.

Miami Dolphins

Signing Jake Grove was a questionable move, to be sure. $29.5 million is a lot of money to give a center, especially one that will soon be 30 years old and has a lengthy injury history.

Still, Grove is undoubtedly a better fit for the Dolphins than Satele. Though similar in size, Grove is stronger, more aggressive, and is better suited to handle big 3-4 nose tackles in Miami's power-blocking scheme. The Dolphins have two of the NFL's best nose tackles in their division in the Jets' Kris Jenkins and New England's Vince Wilfork, and we all know Marcus Stroud in Buffalo is no slouch either.

Quite simply, while both talented players, Grove is a better fit for the Dolphins' blocking scheme, and is thus the right choice for the team. In that event, it makes sense to get anything you can for the guy you don't want or need, and that's just what the Dolphins did.

But draft picks are highly valued in the NFL. New England traded a potential franchise quarterback (Matt Cassel) and Pro Bowl linebacker (Mike Vrabel) to Kansas City for just a second-round pick. Talented linebacker Jonathan Vilma was shipped to New Orleans for a third-round pick. Randy Moss—one of the best receivers to ever play the game—went to New England for a fourth-rounder.

While it would be nice to get a high-to-mid-round pick in return for the 2007 second-rounder, it simply wasn't realistic. A sixth-rounder and a swap of fourth-round picks for Satele may not seem like much, but anything is better than a player you have no desire to utilize in the future. Thus, the Dolphins were wise to get what they could for Satele.

Oakland Raiders

With the departure of Grove to Miami, the Raiders obviously had a vacancy at center. 34-year-old John Wade is on the back end of his career and isn't someone you ideally want starting. Meanwhile, 2006 seventh-rounder Chris Morris has limited experience with just one start in three seasons.

In Satele, the Raiders gain a talented 24-year-old who has already started 32 regular season games in his first two pro seasons. He provides the durability Grove failed to show in Oakland, as well as tremendous athleticism and footwork—important traits for Oakland's zone-blocking scheme.

In this scheme, size and strength take a backseat to speed, athleticism, footwork and technique–some of Satele's best attributes. A misfit in Miami, Satele is a perfect fit in Oakland, and thus a great acquisition for the team.

Samson Satele

I expect no one is happier about this move than Satele himself. According to those that have spoken to him, Satele is glad to be out of Miami and excited to be heading to the west coast, which is closer to his home state of Hawaii. Of course, you can't blame Satele for wanting out, as no one wants to be where they are not wanted.

All in all, this trade benefited everyone involved. The Dolphins stockpiled more picks for a player they didn't want. The Raiders got a talented young center ideally fit for their scheme. Satele moved closer to home and to a team that wanted him.

As a Dolphins fan, I'm disappointed Satele didn't work out in Miami, but I still think quite highly of him and expect him to very well in Oakland, just as I expect good things from Grove in Miami.