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Albert, Moreno injuries crush Dolphins' 2014 free-agent class, and season

Running back Knowshon Moreno's knee injury was costly to the Dolphins. But left tackle Branden Albert's knee injury might have doomed the season.

Had Moreno and Albert stayed healthy, the outcome of the Dolphins' season, and the grade of their 2014 Veteran Free Agent Class, might have been much different.

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But because the top two signees combined for just 12 games, the Dolphins' veteran free-agent class gets a grade of C.

The veteran free agents ended the season with three starters – cornerback Cortland Finnegan, left guard Daryn Colledge, and center Samson Satele – and a key reserve, defensive tackle Earl Mitchell.

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Safety Louis Delmas ended the season on injured reserve but was a key starter most of the season. And guard Shelley Smith was a starter early in the season.

All were solid, but as a matter of perspective, none was close to making the Pro Bowl.

That wasn't the case for Albert, a Pro Bowl selection with Kansas City. He signed a five-year, $47 million deal to become the cornerstone of the offensive line and the team.

And it was looking good until the Detroit game, when Albert went down with his injury.

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It was devastating to the Dolphins' playoff hopes.

Consider this: The Dolphins were 5-3 when Albert played complete games, and 3-5 after he was injured. Even more telling, the Dolphins surrendered 28 of their 46 sacks after Albert's injury.

Obviously, Albert's absence had nothing to do with the poor run defense during the second half of the season.

But the offensive line, which, granted, played rugged defenses such as Buffalo, Denver, the New York Jets (twice) and Baltimore after Albert's injury, gave up four or more sacks in four of the final seven games.

They gave up five or more sacks three times in the final seven games.

As for Moreno, signed from Denver, he was beset with injuries since joining the team. He missed much of training camp with an elbow injury. But he dazzled in his only pre-season appearance, gaining 64 hard-gained yards on 10 carries against what turned out to be a solid Dallas defense.

In the Dolphins' 33-20 victory over New England in the opener, Moreno's 134 rushing yards kept the offense going and took pressure off quarterback Ryan Tannehill, enabling the Dolphins to outscore the Patriots, 23-0, in the second half.

But he was injured the following week, at Buffalo, on his second carry of the game. He played briefly against Green Bay, producing 10 yards on six carries, but that ended his season.

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The bulk of the Dolphins' veteran free agents – Delmas, Finnegan, Colledge, Satele and Mitchell – did good work.

Delmas (61 tackles, one interception, two fumble recoveries and one touchdown on an 81-yard fumble return at Jacksonville), signed from Detroit, was good until a knee injury against Baltimore ended his season.

Signed from St. Louis, Finnegan (44 tackles, one INT, forced fumble, recovered fumble, one touchdown on a 50-yard fumble return vs. Oakland) was solid. He missed four games with an ankle injury and had a rough showing in the finale against the Jets, but he was good overall.

Colledge, signed from Green Bay, had his streaks of 135 consecutive games and 104 straight starts ended. Both were active NFL records for guards. But overall he turned in a good season.

Satele, the Dolphins' 2007 second-round pick who was signed from Indianapolis, returned to the team and started all 16 games. He solved a major problem that popped up after Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey had offseason hip surgery and missed training camp and the first four games. Satele did so well the Dolphins moved Pouncey to right guard.

Mitchell (33 tackles, two sacks, blocked FG), signed from Houston, was dependable, but unspectacular.

Had this veteran free-agent class kept Albert and Moreno, its two key signees, healthy all season, there's a good chance the Dolphins would have made the playoffs.

But as it turned out for the rest of the free-agent class, and the Dolphins as a whole, they weren't good enough to get the job done.

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