Robert Hunt

Dolphins To Move Robert Hunt To RG

Earlier this month, we heard that the Dolphins had contact with free agent right tackles like Alejandro Villanueva and Ricky Wagner prior to the draft, with the idea that 2020 RT Robert Hunt could shift inside to right guard. Though Miami did not sign one of those players, the club did draft Notre Dame OT Liam Eichenberg, who is believed to be a better fit on the right side of the line despite serving primarily as a left tackle for the Fighting Irish. So as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes, the Dolphins are officially moving Hunt to right guard.

Miami believes Hunt, a 2020 second-round draft choice, can be a Pro Bowl-caliber guard. He did not perform particularly well at right tackle in his rookie campaign, grading out as a below-average player per Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics. Though he showed noticeable improvement down the stretch, the Fins believe that a permanent move to the interior will be in their best interests. Jackson says Hunt has no issue with the position switch.

The Louisiana product did play guard as an underclassmen, but he spent his junior and senior seasons at right tackle. Given the team’s views of his ceiling as a guard, he would appear to be the odds-on favorite to open the season as the starting RG, though there are several other players on the roster — like Jesse Davis and 2020 fourth-rounder Solomon Kindley — who could be considered for the role.

With Eichenberg, Hunt, Kindley, 2020 first-rounder Austin Jackson, and 2019 third-rounder Michael Deiter, the Dolphins have a high-upside but generally unproven group blocking for sophomore passer Tua Tagovailoa. The team did add veteran center Matt Skura and tackle D.J. Fluker this offseason, but for the Dolphins to take the next step, they will need their significant draft investments into the O-line to start paying dividends.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins Considered Alejandro Villanueva, Rick Wagner, Dennis Kelly For RT Job

The Dolphins have a few young offensive linemen in place to start, but they have multiple veterans vying for jobs as well. Miami recently considered adding at least one other veteran blocker.

Prior to the draft, the Dolphins spoke with longtime Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva about a potential right tackle role, ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler notes. The team also held discussions with veteran right tackle Ricky Wagner, whom the Packers released ahead of free agency, and 2020 Titans right tackle starter Dennis Kelly.

These discussions centered on moving Robert Hunt to guard, where the Dolphins believe the 2020 second-round pick can be a Pro Bowler, Fowler adds. However, the draft may have changed the organization’s plans here. Miami drafted Liam Eichenberg out of Notre Dame in Round 2. Eichenberg played left tackle primarily for the Fighting Irish, starting three seasons there, but is viewed as a better fight on the right side. With Tua Tagovailoa being a lefty, Eichenberg would retain a blindside role as a pro.

Hunt started 11 games as a rookie, primarily playing right tackle. He started at guard as an underclassman at Louisiana but played right tackle as a junior and senior. Pro Football Focus viewed Hunt as a below-average tackle last season, grading him just outside the top 50 at the position. Miami rosters multiple veterans with versatile NFL pasts as well, in Jesse Davis and D.J. Fluker.

Villanueva opted to sign with the Ravens shortly after the draft; the six-year Pittsburgh left tackle starter is set to take over Baltimore’s right tackle job. Kelly participated in the Broncos’ brigade of right tackle workouts this week, but Denver chose Bobby Massie and Cameron Fleming from those. The Titans released Kelly during the legal tampering period; he spent the past five seasons in Tennessee.

Wagner, the Packers’ starting right tackle last season, is expected to retire, Fowler adds. While the former Ravens and Lions right tackle has not announced any retirement plans, this was believed to be a consideration when the Packers cut him three months ago. Wagner, 31, has made 96 pro starts.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins Pay $6MM Of Ereck Flowers’ 2021 Salary

Following Tuesday’s trade, the Washington Football Team has Ereck Flowers back in the fold. Meanwhile, $6MM of his $9MM salary has already been paid for by the Dolphins, according to agent Drew Rosenhaus (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter).

Flowers and the ‘Fins agreed to restructure the contract just prior to the trade. Previously, the Dolphins were on the hook for about $20MM over the next two seasons, per the terms of his three-year, $30MM contract. Now, they’ll take about half of that total commitment off of their books, while moving up in the seventh round with a swap of draft picks. The trade will see WFT get Flowers and pick No. 258 while Miami receives No. 244 (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport).

Meanwhile, the Dolphins are moving Robert Hunt to right guard, according to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald (on Twitter). The decision is yet another signal that Penei Sewell could be a possibility for them at No. 6 overall as they look for a new starting right tackle. For his part, Sewell says he’s comfortable at playing on either side.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Rumors: Williams, Jets, Dolphins

The Patriots appear to be putting their cornerback depth to good use. One of the Pats’ corners, Joejuan Williams, is now attending meetings exclusively as a safety, Michael Giardi of NFL.com tweets. New England’s 2019 second-round pick, Williams only played 80 defensive snaps as a rookie. But the Vanderbilt product was stuck behind the likes of Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones. Those three are back in 2020, but the Pats’ safety group looks considerably different.

The team’s longtime Devin McCourtyPatrick ChungDuron Harmon trio is down to just McCourty, though the Pats did sign former Charger Adrian Phillips and drafted Kyle Dugger in Round 2. Dugger, however, played at a Division II school and has not had much time this offseason for on-field work. At 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, Williams has the size to transition to safety. The Pats frequently used three safeties in coverage over the past several years.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • Le’Veon Bell has not enjoyed a quality training camp, with Brian Costello of the New York Post rating the Jets‘ starting running back as the team’s third-most impressive back in camp — behind Frank Gore and rookie fourth-rounder La’Mical Perine. Bell enjoyed his worst season in 2019, but the Jets featured a bottom-tier offensive line. They have since made several upgrade attempts. The Jets have Bell under contract for three more seasons, but just one of them features guaranteed money. Bell, 28, is set to count $15.5MM against the Jets’ cap this season.
  • More than a week after bringing Donte Moncrief in for a workout, the Jets again summoned the wideout to their facility. Moncrief visited the Jets on Friday. This comes after the former third-round pick and veteran auxiliary wide receiver met with the 49ers. San Francisco went in a different direction, however. The 6-4 target amassed 668 receiving yards with the 2018 Jaguars but did not make an impact with the Steelers or Panthers last season.
  • The Jets’ wideout interest stems partially from being without Denzel Mims. The second-round rookie has missed all of the team’s work in pads, with The Athletic’s Connor Hughes noting Mims is not yet doing individual drills (subscription required). Mims suffered the injury during the team’s ramp-up period earlier this month. With 2020 already presenting unfavorable circumstances for rookies, Mims may well face an uphill battle to be an early-season contributor.
  • Dolphins first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene is competing with Jakeem Grant and recent addition Chester Rogers for return jobs, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes. A cornerback out of Auburn, Igbinoghene notched two kick-return touchdowns in college. He did not return any punts at Auburn, however, so this would seemingly leave the punt-return competition to the two veterans. The elusive Grant has four NFL return TDs, including two on punt returns.
  • Fellow Dolphins rookie Solomon Kindley still has a chance to be one of the team’s starting guards, with Jackson noting that the fourth-round rookie may be a bit ahead of second-round O-lineman Robert Hunt. The Dolphins still view Hunt as a player who could contribute at both guard and tackle, while Kindley — the No. 111 overall pick out of Georgia — is showing well at right guard. The Dolphins signed Ereck Flowers to play left guard this offseason, and guard-tackle hybrid Jesse Davis may be set to again open as the team’s right tackle.

Dolphins Sign Robert Hunt, Wrap Draft Class

On Wednesday morning, the Dolphins struck a deal with second-round guard Robert Hunt, sealing the deal on their full 11-man draft class (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Field Yates). Here’s the full rundown, via PFR’s tracker:

1-5: Tua Tagovailoa, QB (Alabama): Signed
1-18: Austin Jackson, T (Miami): Signed
1-30: Noah Igbinoghene, CB (Auburn): Signed
2-39: Robert Hunt, OL (Louisiana): Signed
2-56: Raekwon Davis, DL (Alabama): Signed
3-70: Brandon Jones, S (Texas): Signed
4-111: Solomon Kindley, OL (Georgia): Signed
5-154: Jason Strowbridge, DT (UNC): Signed
5-164: Curtis Weaver, DE (Boise State): Signed
6-185: Blake Ferguson, LS (LSU): Signed
7-246: Malcolm Perry, WR/RB (Navy): Signed

Per the terms of his slot at No. 39 overall, Hunt is set to earn $8.065MM on his four-year deal. Hunt was first-string for his full run at Louisiana-Lafayette, including stints at left guard, left tackle, and, most recently, right tackle. In his final year, he missed significant time with a groin injury – if it wasn’t for that, the versatile blocker could have been in the first round mix.

At 6’5″ and 323 pounds, Hunt already has the bulk to hang with the pros. The Dolphins have suggested that Hunt could begin his pro career on the inside or the outside, though he’s a logical fit to backstop Michael Dieter at right guard.

AFC East Notes: Newton, Tua, Fins, Bills

The Patriots made a big splash last night when they signed former league MVP Cam Newton to a one-year contract. The assumption is that Newton will be the team’s starting signal-caller, but Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network says the Pats made no promises in that regard. Still, while there is technically an open competition between Newton and second-year pro Jarrett Stidham, it would be stunning if Newton did not win the job (video link). Garafolo also points out that Newton still has to pass a physical, but the Patriots are confident he will do so.

Garafolo also passes along a fun fact (via Twitter): New England is the third team in NFL history to lose one MVP and sign another in the same offseason. The 2000 Dolphins parted ways with Dan Marino and brought in Thurman Thomas, and the 2005 Cardinals bid farewell to Emmitt Smith and signed Kurt Warner.

Now for more from the AFC East:

  • The Dolphins drafted Tua Tagovailoa with the belief that he will be the franchise signal-caller the team has been seeking for the past 20 years. He may not start right away, but Albert Breer of SI.com believes the southpaw will be put into the starting lineup at some point this season. While the 2020 Dolphins should be an improved squad over last year’s iteration, Miami is still probably at least a year away from playoff contention, so the team will have no reason to keep Tagovailoa on the sidelines for the entire campaign.
  • Miami is set at the LG and C spots with Ereck Flowers and Ted Karras, respectively. Beyond that, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald says the Dolphins are still undecided as to whether second-round rookie Robert Hunt would be a better fit at RG or RT in 2020. If Hunt gets a shot at RT and performs well, that could bump 2019 starter Jesse Davis back to the interior or to the bench. Meanwhile, Michael Deiter will compete for the starting RG and backup C slots.
  • In the same piece linked above, Jackson notes that the Dolphins are working out WR Gary Jennings in the slot — where he thrived in college — and on the outside. Jennings was a fourth-round pick of the Seahawks in 2019, but Seattle waived him in November and Miami scooped him up. He played in just one game for the ‘Fins before getting hurt, but his draft pedigree and upside will give him a good chance to make the club as the fifth or sixth WR.
  • In a minor trade last summer, the Bills acquired OL Ryan Bates from the Eagles in exchange for DE Eli Harold. Philadelphia subsequently cut Harold, but Buffalo hung on to Bates, who was active for nine games. Per Adam Caplan of InsideTheBirds.com, the Bills view Bates, a 2019 UDFA, as a viable right tackle, guard, and center, so they expect him to be a key backup in 2020 who may take on a bigger role down the road.
  • Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic, meanwhile, views Bates as a potential trade candidate. Buscaglia also looks at a few other players that the Bills could put on the trade market, a list headed by WR Robert Foster and TE Jason Croom.

AFC East Rumors: Bell, Dolphins, Patriots

Le’Veon Bell‘s first season with the Jets could not have gone much worse. The two-time All-Pro averaged just 3.2 yards per carry and, despite playing in 15 games, failed to clear 800 rushing yards. Bell’s contract points him toward a second Jets season, but Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News notes this will almost certainly be his last with the team. A report surfaced last offseason that Adam Gase did not want Bell in the first place, and Mehta adds that Gang Green’s HC repeatedly voiced frustrations about the running back behind the scenes last season. While Gase would also assign blame to the offensive line — one that ranked 31st in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards metric — he shifted between blaming that injury-plagued group and Bell throughout the year. The Jets also believed Bell put on weight as the season progressed.

Other than all of this, the Bell-Jets pact has gone great. The 28-year-old back’s four-year, $52.5MM deal runs through 2022, but the Jets can save $9.5MM in cap space by cutting Bell in 2021. Let’s move on to some other situations in the AFC East:

  • Some slotted Louisiana offensive line prospect Robert Hunt as a better guard fit than tackle in the NFL, but the Dolphins will station their second-round pick at right tackle to start his career, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald notes. Hunt would then compete with incumbent Jesse Davis — who graded outside Pro Football Focus’ top 60 tackles last season — at right tackle and then slide inside to guard if the Dolphins decide he’s not a good tackle fit. Davis will be the Dolphins’ first-stringer when camp opens, per Salguero. Should Hunt prove to be a better fit at guard, he could compete for the spot opposite recently signed Ereck Flowers.
  • As could be expected based on Austin Jackson‘s age (20), Julie’n Davenport is expected to begin as Miami’s left tackle, Salguero adds. Included in the Laremy Tunsil trade, Davenport suffered an injury that landed him on IR early last season. He returned at the midway point and started the Dolphins’ final seven games. With Jackson being drafted 18th, it should be expected he will be in the lineup at some point in 2020.
  • This could be anticipated based on the Patriots‘ offseason decisions — not drafting a quarterback and not signing either Jameis Winston or Andy Dalton to low-level contracts — but they are not believed to be inclined to add another veteran passer, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com writes. Their (virtual) quarterback room consists of 2019 fourth-rounder Jarrett Stidham, on-again/off-again Patriot Brian Hoyer set for his age-34 season and two UDFAs (Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke and Louisiana Tech’s J’Mar Smith).