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Dolphins intended to rebuild offensive line before scandal

The plans to bulldoze the Miami Dolphins' offensive line were already drawn up. The unit's struggles in 2013, which included a franchise-record 58 sacks allowed, warranted the unit got a makeover this offseason.

But the Ted Wells report on the Dolphins' locker room culture, and its details of the troublesome behavior by key starters on Miami's offensive line, merely reinforced the organization's need to start fresh.

The Dolphins will have roughly $30 million in cap space this offseason, and that's before possibly restructuring some contracts, or possibly releasing players to create more cap space.

Sources say Dolphins owner Steve Ross has given new general manager Dennis Hickey the green light to use whatever resources he needs to improve the team, with the understanding that finding a new offensive line is the team's top priority.

Jonathan Martin, who was at the center of the bullying saga that sideswiped Miami's 8-8 season, wants to continue playing. But there's concern about whether Martin, who started and struggled in his 23 games at left and right tackle, would feel welcomed inside the team's locker room considering the harassment he endured from three of his linemates before leaving the team in mid-October.

Two of those three -- starting offensive guards Richie Incognito and John Jerry -- are among the four starting linemen set to become free agents. Because of scheme fit issues, the Dolphins had little interest in re-signing the pair of guards this offseason. And that was before the team learned of their antics directed at Martin and others.

The third is Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey, whose role in the bullying saga could impact his future in South Florida. There are overall concerns about Pouncey's maturity despite his status as a team leader.

"Mike's distraught over the whole thing," a source close to Pouncey said. "He views it as a learning opportunity."

But it's one that could cost him millions. Pouncey hoped to have his rookie deal re-worked this offseason. But the odds of Hickey locking the three-year starter up to a multi-year deal following an embarrassing year off-the-field aren't good.

Pouncey is entering the final year of the $9.26 million contract he signed as the team's 2011 first-round pick. The Dolphins do, however, have an option for a fifth year they must exercise in May. If Miami opts not to exercise the option -- which all first-round picks from 2011 have due to the new collective bargaining agreement -- he'll become a free agent next offseason.

Pouncey and Martin are the only two season-opening starters presently under contract.

Martin is expected to be traded or released in the coming weeks. The first day a trade can become official is the first day of the league year, which is March 11.

Kenny Zuckerman, Martin's agent, plans to sit down and talk to the Dolphins at the Scouting Combine this week. This is typical for the Dolphins and many agents, but atop their list of things to discuss with Zuckerman is how to handle Martin's contract, which has two years left on it.

Trading or releasing Martin would create $345,066 in additional cap space because Martin has a cap number of $1,304,800, which features $959,734 in dead money. However, the cap relief that comes from moving Martin won't even be enough to cover a rookie's minimum salary in 2014, which is $420,000.

Whether the Dolphins re-sign Bryant McKinnie and Tyson Clabo, the two tackles that finished last season as starters, isn't certain. Their age -- McKinnie is 34 and Clabo is 33 -- make it highly unlikely.

Incognito, McKinnie, Clabo and Jerry accounted for nearly $11 million in salary that is coming off of Miami's books. And that doesn't even account for reserve offensive linemen like Danny Watkins and Will Yeatman, who are also impending free agents.

(c)2014 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services


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