Dolphins sign new man in the middle to anchor defense
The Miami Dolphins have addressed two of the their most pressing needs heading into the offseason, landing veteran inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons and offensive lineman Ted Larsen.
Timmons, who visited the team on Friday, signed a two-year, $12 million deal, with $11 million guaranteed, according to a source.
Larsen, a versatile interior player who has started 65 games in his NFL career, also visited on Friday. He signed a three-year contract, but terms of his deal weren’t disclosed.
Timmons, a former Florida State standout who turns 31 in May, had 114 tackles, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions and one forced fumble in 16 games as Pittsburgh’s inside linebacker last season.
The Steelers have veteran linebackers ready to be elevated, and they often let their 30-year-old veterans finish their careers elsewhere. That’s how the Dolphins ended up with Joey Porter from 2007-09.
Despite his age, Timmons has a reputation for being physical and durable, which are two things the Dolphins lacked in their linebacker unit the past few seasons.
Timmons has played in every regular season game for the Steelers over the past seven seasons. Last year, Pittsburgh ranked 13th against the run, allowing 100 rushing yards per game and 4.3 yards per attempt.
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Timmons has averaged 98 tackles per season for his career, and that includes his rookie season in 2007 when he recorded just 13 tackles as a reserve.
Signing Timmons hints that Miami will move Kiko Alonso to the weakside linebacker spot, which would allow their leading tackler from 2016 to serve as that unit’s pass coverage specialist.
The Dolphins, who ranked 30th against the run last season, gave Alonso a first-round tender, committing to pay him $3.8 million in 2017. That tender would require any team interested in signing Alonso to an offer sheet to send the Dolphins a first-round pick if Miami doesn’t match the offer to retain him.
Larsen, a product of North Carolina State, has experience playing center, but he started eight games at right guard for the Bears last season.
The Dolphins are searching for two capable starting guards because of this offseason’s trade, which sent left tackle Branden Albert to the Jaguars for a 2018 seventh-round pick on Thursday.
That move means Laremy Tunsil, Miami’s 2016 first-round pick, will be moved from left guard to left tackle, returning to the position he played at Ole Miss.
Jermon Bushrod, last year’s starting right guard, is a 32-year-old free agent. Miami’s intention is to get younger on the offensive line, building a unit that can grow together for the next few seasons. However, the Dolphins haven’t closed the door on re-signing Bushrod.
Larsen, who turns 30 in June, has the flexibility to play all three interior spots, which is beneficial to Miami because of Mike Pouncey’s troublesome hip issues, which limited him to five games last season.