The deal looked like it might be off or tweaked at one point on Monday afternoon, but it now appears that the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars will engage in the rumored Branden Albert for Julius Thomas swap, albeit as two separate deals.
The Miami Herald reported Monday afternoon that the Albert portion of the trade had been set, with Albert headed to Jacksonville in exchange for a 2018 late-round draft pick. NFL.com reported later in the day that Thomas was being sent to Miami in exchange for a late-round pick in 2017. Thomas reportedly agreed to a restructuring of his contract to make the deal work, per ESPN.
Albert signed a five-year, $47 million contract with the Dolphins prior to the 2014 season and has been the team’s starting left tackle since that point. He has struggled with injuries during his three seasons with the team, missing 13 of a possible 48 games. His play slipped badly in 2016 after a Pro Bowl season during the 2015 campaign. The Dolphins were reportedly preparing to release him (and several other players) in order to create $7.2 million in cap space last week but instead moved to make a trade.
Thomas, meanwhile, signed a five-year, $46 million contract with the Jaguars prior to the 2015 season. He played 21 of a possible 32 games, hauling in 76 passes for 736 yards and nine touchdowns. During his six-season NFL career, he has played more than 12 games in a season just twice -- his final two years with the Broncos. He made the Pro Bowl both times. The Jags would have saved only $1.7 million against the cap by cutting Thomas, so a trade does make slightly more sense for them. It’s notable that Dolphins coach Adam Gase was the offensive coordinator for the Broncos during the two seasons where Thomas made the Pro Bowl.
The Jaguars have been looking for offensive line help in front of quarterback Blake Bortles, so a flier on Albert makes some degree or sense for them, but a 32-year old coming off injury-plagued seasons and carrying a significant cap hit is a risky bet. The same is true of the Dolphins, who could use a field-stretching tight end that works well in the red zone but may not want to pay out so much to a player that doesn’t stay on the field consistently.
The financial implications of swapping players with large base salaries still remaining on their contracts are complex, which is likely why the teams reportedly wanted to get the players to restructure their deals.