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Investment in Tannehill probably won't include spending on a guard

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- The Miami Dolphins eventually are going to make quarterback Ryan Tannehill a very, very, very, very rich guy.

"I think you forgot one 'very,'" Miami Dolphins executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum said to me at the NFL owners' meetings

Nothing on a new deal is imminent. The Dolphins have told Tannehill what they can do on a longterm deal so, yes, offers have been exchanged.

"He knows what we can do," Tannenbaum said.

But as nothing is imminent today the option of placing a one-year option on Tannehill for 2016 remains viable. The Dolphins have no current plans to let Tannehill walk after his deal ends after the 2015 season. They plan to make a big investment on their quarterback.

But an investment on protecting their quarterback might be another story.

Speaking with Tannenbaum, it is clear the Dolphins are satisfied with their two tackles -- Branden Albert and Ja'Wuan James. The team believes center Mike Pouncey is also a fine player who will remain an anchor on the line.

But the guard spots are a question mark.

And the team's answer to the questions may not necessarily include adding quality free agent help or drafting a guard in the first or second round.

The answer the team proposes is addressing the issue from within ... with players already on the roster.

Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas.

Now, Turner I can abide. He was a third-round pick last May and was hurt much of the season so he was basically redshirted as a rookie. He gets the opportunity to make a jump to starter in 2015.

But Thomas?

Really?

"To me one of the best parts about our sport is the untold player development," Tannenbaum said. "So maybe we're sitting here in a year or two and you're saying, 'How can you not have Dallas Thomas or Billy Turner?' They could be the next Mike Iupati in free agency.

"They are two young guys that have great potential. How do we know they won't be the two young guys you have to keep. Maybe they're not household names today but we have two great tackles we feel good about, we have a great center and we have questions about the guard play. You have to develop from within."

The Dolphins are obviously the experts on this. The coaches and personnel people are paid to know who can step in or step up and perform.

But, to me, suggesting Dallas Thomas is an answer as a starting guard is simply repeating the mistake of last season. Last season, you may recall, Thomas was given a chance to win a starting guard spot in training camp. He failed to do so. Then when Branden Albert was injured, James moved from right to left tackle and Thomas became the starting right tackle starting in November.

And he failed miserably.

Week after week after week after week. (At least he was consistent).

And while inexpert folks such as the media repeatedly asked why not move Jason Fox to the starting spot ahead of Thomas, the coaching staff stuck with Thomas, saying things like, "He may have given up two sacks but there are a lot of pictures of him doing good things on other plays."

Yes. But those two sacks!

Eventually, Thomas got hurt and Fox was forced into the lineup the final two games. And Fox played better than Thomas.

The stubborn approach to playing Dallas Thomas was a curiosity. And that stubborn approach is seemingly about to repeat.

The Dolphins are obviously planning to give Thomas the opportunity to win one guard spot while Turner gets the nod at the other.

The book is still open on Turner. We haven't seen what he can do. But the book on Thomas has multiple chapters already written. He's not shown himself able to win the spot in training camp. He's not shown himself proficient in games. He's struggled physically and "from the neck up," as one source told me.

He's not been good enough.

But at this moment that is exactly the direction the Dolphins are headed.

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