In a somewhat surprising development, numerous media outlets are reporting that Miami Dolphins guard Justin Smiley has been told by the team not to report to offseason workouts as they are attempting to trade him.
Signed to a five-year, $25 million contract in 2008, Smiley has appeared in 27 games for the Dolphins over the past two seasons, starting 24.
Durability has become a concern, however, as Smiley ended the 2008 season on injured reserve with a broken leg, and battled through a shoulder injury for most of 2009.
Although many—myself included—assumed the recent signing of free-agent guard Richie Incognito meant bad news for right guards Nate Garner and Donald Thomas, it appears Smiley is the one that will get pushed out of the starting lineup and off the roster entirely.
While this news is a bit unexpected, it's not at all surprising. Smiley has a lot of money left on his contract, his durability is problematic, and his run-blocking dipped a bit in 2009.
From the Dolphins' perspective, it makes sense to go with a much cheaper and higher-upside option at left guard in Incognito, while letting Joe Berger, Nate Garner, Donald Thomas, Dimitri Tsoumpas, and maybe others compete at right guard.
In doing so, the Dolphins save quite a bit of money that can be devoted elsewhere, acquired what I assume would be a mid-to-late round draft pick, and still not lose much on one of the NFL's best offensive lines.
If I had to guess, I would say Incognito is a near-lock to start at left guard barring a mental meltdown, while Garner will win the right guard job for the time being as the Dolphins' best available option.
Long-term, I suspect the Dolphins would prefer to have Garner return to a versatile backup role, while looking in the middle rounds of the draft for a young, high-upside prospect (John Jerry?) to develop.
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