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Draft week: Will Ireland panic on Branden Albert?

Jeff Ireland has generally not been one to panic throughout his tenure as the Dolphins general manager.

Once he realized that Chad Henne was not the answer as Miami's franchise quarterback, he didn't panic and pick Ryan Mallett in the 2011 draft. He didn't panic and make the deal for Kyle Orton later that summer. He didn't panic earlier this offseason and give cornerback Brent Grimes or tight end Dustin Keller multi-year deals. He didn't panic and fill an offensive line need by immediately committing to Eric Winston -- either last year or this year.

Indeed, the only Ireland move I can really think would even come close to being a panic move was the trade up for running back Daniel Thomas in the second round of the 2011 draft. The Dolphins desperately needed running back help after moving on from Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams and apparently feared losing out on Thomas so the move was made.

Despite that one apparent indiscretion, Ireland has been a fairly cool customer when it comes to acquiring players. (No, he doesn't always get the right one. No one does. But he doesn't get flustered about going after anyone, either). He certainly played it cool with left tackle Jake Long and that is one reason I've confirmed Long went to the St. Louis Rams.

Seems Long didn't think the Dolphins showed him enough love or respect, probably by the structure of their offers to him, to return to Miami.

And that brings us to the Branden Albert situation.

Albert is the Kansas City Chiefs left tackle who is on the trade block. And the Dolphins have shown considerable interest. But the interest has not been to the point where the Dolphins had offered the Chiefs a trade proposal as of this writing. The interest had not been to the point where the Dolphins had worked out a contract with Albert's agent as of this writing.

Ireland had so far played it cool. 

As of Sunday afternoon, this was still in the pending file.

But as this is officially the dawn of draft week, and all three parties -- the Chiefs, the Dolphins and the Albert camp -- would like a resolution to the issue that involves them all, the pressure on Ireland is about to mount exponentially. And pressure often causes folks to panic.

Because the draft is less than four days away, the Albert camp wants the Dolphins to get a deal done. The Chiefs want to bring this to some sort of conclusion because they'd like to know if Albert is going to be on their roster or if they're going to have an extra draft choice -- a fairly high one apparently -- for Albert.

And there is a certain amount of pressure on the Dolphins to figure out both draft compensation and a contract for Albert if that's the direction they're going to go. And if that's not the direction they're going to go, the Dolphins need to figure out how else they'll solve their left tackle vacancy that apparently they're not thrilled with Jonathan Martin filling.

So, yes, there is pressure. And this is about the time someone might panic.

Will it be Ireland?

He's the most likely choice of the three parties involved.

Albert's camp doesn't have to panic. They've got a signed franchise tag they're holding which guarantees the player $9.8 million in 2013. Yes, they want a multi-year deal. But are they going to cave to get that done?

Absolutely not. Indeed, the Albert camp believes it is working from a position of strength. They have a guaranteed one-year deal. They have a player that can hit the free agent market next year and get major bucks because it's unlikely the Chiefs would franchise him again at 120 percent of this year's cap value. They also have a suitor on the line for a multi-year deal. So there is not real timing pressure on them.

And that's why I'm told Albert wants to get paid. He wants a contract that is better than the four-year, $34 million deal with $16 million guaranteed the Rams gave Jake Long.

Yes, Branden Albert expects to get a better deal from the Dolphins than Jake Long ultimately believed the Dolphins were offering him. Now, one can play with the numbers. It's possible the Dolphins' offer to Long might have been higher than the Rams' but was structured in such a way as to make it easy to get rid of him after one year if he was injured again.

But on the face, Albert wants to do better than the deal Long thought was the best one on the table.

And they're not under undo pressure.

The Chiefs are playing it coy, too. They've not giving Miami permission to speak with Albert personally or give him a physical until they have a signficant trade offer on the table. And as of this writing, that was not yet the case.

They can argue they'll draft as planned and simply keep Albert and there will be opportunities to trade him later. Of course, we know this is posturing. The Chiefs want the draft pick compensation for Albert by Friday the latest. And if they don't get it by then, they're losing the maximum benefit of trading him. But I'm simply telling you what they might be pitching as a stance.

Ireland and the Dolphins?

They seem more desperate. They don't have a left tackle. The veil of using Martin as the answer has been removed. That's not what the team wants. That would only be the last resort move.

They aren't going to ransom their entire draft to trade up for Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher as those two left tackles might go No. 1 and No. 2 when the draft begins Thursday. They're not in love with Lane Johnson enough to mortgage a signficant part of their draft to trade up for him. (Maybe if he drops to them, they go with him. But trade up for him? Not in the plans as of today).

So what's left? Pick the fourth-best left tackle and hope?

It's a time for lesser men to panic because there are not wonderful options.

But this is my advice to Jeff Ireland:

Do you. Be yourself. Do not panic.

Paying Branden Albert -- a good but not great left tackle -- like he's an elite left tackle is not a palatable move to begin with. And paying a 2013 second- or third-round pick to Kansas City for the privilege makes it less appealing.

So hold fast.

Offer a 2014 second-rounder instead of 2013.

If it must be a 2013 pick, make absolutely sure that it's the second of Miami's two second-rounders (Nos. 42 and 54) and make sure that a trade down from No. 12 in the first round is available so you can regain that extra pick to mitigate the sting of trading for Albert.

(That likely means waiting until Thursday because very few teams will be willing to make a pre-draft trade for the No. 12 overall selection before then). 

If the Chiefs don't want to budge, call their bluff. Seriously. What are they going to do after picking Joeckel? They have to trade Albert. So wait them out.

If Thursday comes an goes and Friday comes and goes, Braden Albert will still be on the trade block. And then the pressure on K.C. will indeed mount. They're not going to waive the guy. Make the trade for a '14 pick. Give them that second-rounder, tell them they beat you up, shake their hand and call it a day -- all the while knowing they didn't win because they didn't take your current picks.

Remember Jimmy Johnson's old axiom: A second-rounder next year is like giving up a third-rounder this year because experience and maturity will likely cause the third-rounder to produce faster and more. So giving up a second next year for Albert is more of a bargain for Miami.

That strategy would give the team Albert this year, plus its full complement of draft picks this year. And that 2014 pick you trade away might be a lower selection anyway if your moves this year pay the kind of dividends you expect and you're in the playoffs.

Does waiting out K.C. come with risk?

Of course it does. Maybe another team jumps into the picture. Maybe the Chiefs rethink their strategy and keep Albert.

But those risks seem marginal. Albert's been on the market for a while and no one else has stepped up. And Albert has made it known to the Chiefs he's dead set against playing right tackle so he's causing them some pressure on that front.

Look, this deal could be done by Monday night or Tuesday if Jeff Ireland panics. Yes, he'd immediately have the solution to his left tackle issue. But the move would seem unthoughtful in the wake of losing Jake Long because the cost would be higher on multiple fronts (trade compensation as well as big contract compensation to the player).

Or ...

Ireland could strap his belt a notch tighter and hold his breath. He could wait out the Chiefs and the chances he'd get Albert could diminish. There's uncertainty there admittedly.

But sometimes testing that uncertainty is better than being the guy that panics.

Comments

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I saw where one expert had us taking Fluker over Cooper in the first round. WOW

I think OG is more of an isssue than OT. And besides that point, why would we take the fourth rated tackle over the highest rated guard?

Pitiful

There is still some pressure on Albert. He wants to be comfortable, feel wanted, and have a long-term home. What happens when KC drafts his replacement and he has to play on the right side? Next year's market might not be so kind after that.

Listen to me !
If Fischer is still on the board at #3 offer the Raiders the high pk (#42) & Devon Bess.
They are desperate for pks & desperate for talent especially WR !
They busted on J. Russell, Heyward Bey, Rolando McClain, Seymour is old, McFadden is hurt, Michael Busch left for Chi .... Duh ... it's the Raiders, they're dumber than dirt, I should know I live in Oak.

Devon Bess & pk # 42 lands you Fischer for less money than Brandon Albert at #3 if he is still there.

Albert only gave up 1 sack on a crappy KC team last year...he also lead the league in QB pressures and Pancakes. PFF ranked him ranked as the #9 LT in the league last year. He's not as good a run blocker as J.Long but he is a better pass blocking tackle for our West Coast Offense which requires more athletic agile linemen. He has the injury concern but all and all this trade would be a huge gift to Miami. Darrelle Revis for the #13 pick at 16 million per season wha? no thanks, Brandon Albert for #54 at around 9 mil per season...do it. Then we can trade up for Milliner possibly, Maybe Warmack falls to 12...or we take Eifert or the best D-Lineman available. Our early 2nd round pick should be a CB there will be great value there should be at least 3-4 guys with 1st round talent...Milliner would be nice to move up for but the conpensation might not be worth it. Trufant fits our defensive scheme the best and he's probably the safest CB in the draft...he's actually the brother of 2 current NFL CB's. We could use a DT because Starks and Solial contracts are up next year...Warmack, Lotulelei or Floyd will most likely be the pick if they fall to #12. I think Jordan, Ansah and Rhodes are long shots...Eifert? who knows, he'll probably be there...all i know is it won't be a WR/LB/S/QB/RB/FB/C/K/P/KR/PR/LS...........OT/G/DT/DE/CB/TE will be the pick at #12

j. cooper is the guy

I do not believe the Chiefs are the problem, the Chiefs would gladly take a 3rd for him. Albert's is worth 3 years 18 - 20 million, front end load it this year since we have the cap space, this off sets the 9.8 he gets under the franchise tag. Draft Eifert at #12, then DE and corner in the 2nd.

If we could trade a 3rd for an opening day starter that is a great deal. We get a big TE of the future, another starting corner and should merit a DE to bring in mid season.

Very well written analysis. We can only hope he heeds your advice.

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