The Dolphins exercised Tunsil’s fifth-year option on Thursday, ensuring their starting left tackle and staple of their offensive line will remain under contract for at least two more seasons through 2020.
“I just want to help the team in any kind of way,” Tunsil said on Tuesday while participating in Miami’s voluntary offseason workouts.
The Dolphins, under new coach Brian Flores and general manager Chris Grier, have locked up a player who could play a major role in their plans for the franchise.
Tunsil, 24, has played in 44 of 48 games in his three seasons since joining Miami, and turned in his best season in 2018. He started 15 games last season, allowing just one sack.
Based on the current state of Miami’s offensive line, securing Tunsil’s future was a major concern for the Dolphins, who chose not to wait until May to execute the fifth-year option.
Tunsil, Miami’s first-round pick in 2016, is guaranteed to make $2.1 million in 2019.
The fifth-year option will pay Tunsil roughly $9.7 million in 2020, but it would only be guaranteed if he was unable to pass a physical at the start of the new league year in March 2020.
Tunsil’s deal in 2020 could come off the books if the Dolphins cut him, or he could return on a relatively cheaper contract.
But it is clear the Dolphins believe Tunsil will play a significant role in the future.
“I just have to come in every day, contribute to the team and put in hard work and keep building,” Tunsil said.
The Dolphins are in need of offensive linemen after the departure of right tackle Ja’Wuan James in free agency, and the release of left guards Ted Larsen and Josh Sitton.
Tunsil, Jesse Davis, who played every snap at right guard last season, and center Daniel Kilgore, who started only one game last season, are the only remaining starting offensive linemen from last season.
The Dolphins could draft a potential starting offensive tackle to compete with third-year lineman Zach Sterup for the starting right tackle position voided by James, who signed a four-year, $52 million deal — $32 million guaranteed — with the Denver Broncos last month.
Davis, Sterup and backup guard Isaac Asiata were marked as exclusive rights free agents to remain with the team, while the Dolphins signed guard/center Chris Reed, tackle Joey Jones-Smith and guard Michael Dunn to bolster their unit. Backup center Connor Hilland also remains on the roster.
The team’s top three wide receivers have a nice blend of speed and playmaking ability, and DeVante Parker provides needed size on the outside. Unfortunately, Dolphins fans have waited four seasons for Parker to make an impact worthy of his first-round pedigree, and very little has materialized in that regard. It remains to be seen whether former New England Patriots wide receivers coach and new Dolphins offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea (who was known to get the most out of his receivers in New England), can turn things around for the enigmatic pass catcher.
At quarterback, the obvious change from Ryan Tannehill to journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick signals that the Dolphins are in search of a young gun to take over in the near future. Fitzpatrick is intelligent, a commensurate leader, and can win games. He’ll add some spice to what will likely be a trying season in Miami.
On the offensive line, franchise left tackle Laremy Tunsil is back for what should be another very solid season. Miami would be wise to keep him around for a long time as he’s developed into a top-tier player at one of football’s most valuable positions. 31-year old center Daniel Kilgore is also returning after only playing four games last season. He’s likely a stopgap option at the position given that the Dolphins are in search of younger help on the interior. Jesse Davis is the final returning starter, and he’ll get a shot at keeping his job at right guard. His performance last season was middling and there’s a chance the coaching staff tries him at right tackle as well, a position he’s played in the past.
Isaac Asiata and Zach Sterup have done very little on the field for the Dolphins during their tenure with the team, and they’re just as likely to spend all season on the bench as they are to start. General manager Chris Grier will absolutely bring competition in through the draft along the o-line.
At tight end, the Dolphins brought on Dwayne Allen and Clive Walford through free agency, and though I see the team running two tight end sets, Gesicki should get a chance to start given his draft pedigree and talent level. With that said, Allen should see plenty of snaps, especially in the run game.