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Fins make deals to bring in tight end Thomas

Executing a multiple-player trade in the NFL is rare because of all the moving parts. But the Dolphins came to agreement on two separate deals Monday with the Jacksonville Jaguars that benefited both teams.

Instead of a player-for-player swap, which had been discussed, Miami agreed to send left tackle Branden Albert to Jacksonville in exchange for a late-round draft pick in 2018, and the Dolphins got tight end Julius Thomas from the Jaguars for a late-round pick in 2017, according to sources.

The trades can’t become official until the start of the new league year on March 9, and hurdles could surface before then. Thomas will be visiting the Dolphins on Tuesday to take a physical and meet with team officials. Albert was in Jacksonville on Monday.

An initial trade that would have swapped the two players fell apart earlier Monday. According to a source, the sticking point was the Dolphins’ desire for Thomas to restructure what remains on the five-year, $46 million contract he signed with the Jaguars in 2014.

Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Julius Thomas (80) is pushed out of bounds by San Diego Chargers free safety Eric Weddle (32) after a reception during the first half of an NFL football game in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Julius Thomas (80) is pushed out of bounds by San Diego Chargers free safety Eric Weddle (32) after a reception during the first half of an NFL football game in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/John Raoux) (The Associated Press)

Under that deal, Thomas is guaranteed $3 million of his $7.1 million salary for this upcoming season, which includes a $100,000 workout bonus. He’s slated to make $8.6 million in 2018 and $9 million in 2019, and the Dolphins wanted to rework those numbers.

Talks stalled, Thomas was taken out of the Albert trade, and reports of other teams making an offer for Thomas surfaced. By Monday afternoon a new deal was agreed upon.

The 6-foot-5 Thomas, who turns 29 in June, would provide Miami’s offense a seam threat it lacked last season. He thrived while playing for Dolphins coach Adam Gase in 2013 and 2014, when Gase was the Denver’s offensive coordinator.

He was considered one of the NFL’s top up-and-coming tight ends after catching 108 passes for 1,277 yards and scoring 24 touchdowns over those two seasons with the Broncos.

However, various injuries have limited Thomas to 21 games (16 starts) the past two seasons in Jacksonville. He was placed on injured reserve late last season because of a back injury and finished with 30 catches for 281 yards and and four touchdowns in nine games.

Thomas will need to pass his physical to finalize the trade.

The Dolphins will clear $7.2 million in salary cap space once Albert’s trade to Jacksonville is completed, but Thomas would cost $7.1 million if his deal isn’t reworked.

The bigger issue is Thomas’ salary in the later years of the deal, which would be hard to justify if his production doesn’t drastically increase.

Albert, 32, told the Sun Sentinel he’s a willing participant in the trade and that his new deal is going to “surprise people when it comes out.”

Laremy Tunsil is expected to shift over from left guard to left tackle to replace Albert, and the Dolphins will need to fill two starting offensive guard spots because right guard Jermon Bushrod is a free agent. Miami hopes to get younger on the offensive line.

Thomas’ expected addition means it won’t be a priority for the Dolphins to re-sign free-agent tight ends Jordan Cameron or Dion Sims, unless the price is favorable to the team.

The Dolphins are expected to aggressively pursue linebackers, defensive linemen and offensive linemen in free agency and the draft.

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