The franchise tag deadline has come and gone and two offensive left tackles were designated as practically untouchable by their teams.
Ryan Clady in Denver and Branden Albert in Kansas City are two of the eight players carrying the franchise player tag now.
So both are effectively off the free agent market for teams searching for OT help of any kind and LT help in particular.
That helps Dolphins LT Jake Long.
A market that two weeks ago seemed loaded with potential LTs is thinner now thanks to the franchise designations and the New York Giants wisely locking up LT Will Beatty to a five-year, $38.75 million deal last week.
(Stop for a second and recognize that Beatty, a better player than Long lately, got a deal averaging $7.75 million per year. And Long wants a deal around the $10-11 million per year mark. Hmmm.)
Anyway, that leaves Long, Atlanta's Sam Baker and New Orleans's Jermon Bushrod as the most viable free agent LT prospects -- assuming none re-sign with their current teams before the March 12 start of free agency.
Considering multiple teams, including Arizona, St. Louis and Chicago, might be searching for experienced LTs in free agency, that should help the players that hit the market.
But we are still a long way from believing that free agency will be a boon for Long.
First of all, both Baker and Bushrod had better seasons than Long last year, although it was by a wide margin for Baker and only marginally so for Bushrod. Secondly, the draft is full of solid left tackle prospects.
And then there is this little-recognized fact:
The right tackle market in free agency is loaded with talent. Seriously.
Cincinnati's Andre Smith, New England's Sebastian Vollmer, and Minnesota's Phil Loadholt all enjoyed excellent seasons last year. All will hit free agency barring new deals with their current teams. Smith, I will grant you, comes with a buyer beware tag. Just saying.
The draft also has mutliple viable right tackles that probably aren't suited for LT.
What does that mean?
It means if the Dolphins continue to balk at paying a premium for Long -- a wise move -- they can solve their tackle issues a different way.
They can keep second-year player Jonathan Martin at left tackle and sign one of the above mentioned right tackles as an offensive line upgrade that will come much cheaper than Long. They can draft a left tackle, probably in the first round, and find themselves paying much less for a younger player than what Long is demanding. Or they can move Martin to left tackle and draft a right tackle -- probably in the second or third round -- and let that stand as the cheapest way to address the need.
There is more than one way to skin a gato. (Yeah, I speak Spanish).
And unless I miss my guess, the Dolphins are considering all of those along with the idea of getting Long back.