The Dolphins continue to absorb blows along their offensive line. They will lose a second starter to a significant malady. Connor Williams is set to miss the rest of the season due to a torn ACL, Mike McDaniel said Tuesday.
Williams will join left guard Isaiah Wynn as Miami blockers set to rehab long-term injuries. It is not known if Wynn is done for the season, but early indications have signaled that is the case. Williams, who is in a contract year, left Monday night’s game early.
This is a brutal setback for Williams, who was playing out a two-year, $14MM contract. The former Cowboys draftee had angled for a raise this offseason, but the Dolphins did not buckle. Williams missed offseason time but ultimately returned on the deal he signed in 2022. Going down with a severe knee injury this late in the season will undoubtedly affect the former second-round pick’s 2024 market, as the Texas alum’s rehab effort will run up to, and potentially beyond, Week 1 of next season.
McDaniel said (via the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson) the Dolphins will consider signing a center. Liam Eichenberg, who has bounced across the Dolphins’ offensive front during his three-year career, is set to move into the role on a fill-in basis. Eichenberg, whom Wynn beat out for the left guard job in training camp, has worked as a utility player this season — for a Miami O-line unable to keep its starting five healthy — before becoming a full-time starter once again.
Williams, 26, had missed four games earlier this season but had started the past five. Converted from Texas tackle to Cowboys guard to Dolphins center, Williams had become an important part of Miami’s top-flight offense. The Dolphins finished their Week 14 game without four of their original O-line starters, with Robert Hunt out after aggravating a hamstring injury and Terron Armstead nursing his latest ailment. Armstead, who suffered a quad injury during the Dolphins’ Black Friday game, returned for the team’s Week 13 matchup against the Commanders; the Dolphins held him out Monday due to knee and ankle injuries. Armstead, whom the team already activated from IR, has missed eight games this season. Miami’s second-stringer-laden front allowed five sacks in a 28-27 loss.
The recently extended Austin Jackson, who has settled in at right tackle, has been the only Dolphin O-lineman to start every game this season. Jackson entered the season after missing 15 games last year. Kendall Lamm started in place of Armstead, while Lester Cotton was in for Hunt. Cotton has a direct path to the starting lineup at guard, while McDaniel said he is the team’s backup center presently. Eichenberg has made one career start at center — in Week 4 of this season — but has played every position up front for the Dolphins since being drafted in the 2021 second round.
Centers who either just retired (Chase Roullier, Justin Britt) or have been connected to doing so (Rodney Hudson, Ben Jones) represent the biggest names available in free agency. The Cardinals and Titans, respectively, released Hudson and Jones this offseason. Jones, 34, had signed four contracts with the Titans and had missed just one game in his 11-year career before a two-concussion 2022 stalled his career. Hudson, 34, made three Pro Bowls as a Raider but was linked to retiring before the 2022 season; he missed 13 games last year. The injury-prone Roullier, 30, retired this summer but had worked out for the Cardinals shortly before making that decision. The Texans released Britt, 32, after he spent almost all of last season on the reserve/NFI list.