The Dolphins have taken such a conservative approach to the beginning of the offseason, I've been getting my hopes up for some kind of master plan by Jeff Ireland and co.
Like most other fans out there, I'm inclined to believe that Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman will use their middle round picks to stock receiver and tight end depth. Aside from that, there are many other holes on the roster that could use upgrading, whether they are addressed through FA or the draft. Our front office has been shopping for high value, low salary players thus far, and I don't see that strategy changing now that most of the big name players have been spoken for. Having said that, there is still a lot of high end players who could come at a bargain right now.
Potential FA's I'd like Miami to take a look at:
1. Marcus McNeill - Chargers GM A.J Smith decided to part ways with the former 2nd round pick who has anchored San Diego's left tackle position since he entered the league. He was looking for legitimate starting tackle money, but his production had begun to decline. Still, at age 28, coupled with his experience, he is at least worth taking a look at. Signing McNeill to a 1 or 2 year deal and having him play at RT fills a void left by a struggling Marc Colombo. McNeill has garnered little interest this offseason, and his turbulent past couple seasons means he could be looking for a team to give him a shot on a short term, prove it contract. Retaining Murtha and signing McNeill would make for a fierce competition at RT and significantly upgrade the position from last year, not to mention providing a proven LT should Jake Long run into injury issues again this year.
2. Manny Lawson - I've been a huge fan of Lawson since SF drafted him in the 1st round. Don't get it twisted, I don't see Lawson as a legitimate edge rusher to compliment Wake. He has recorded only 16 sacks since entering the NFL, and has yet to show the ability to consistently pressure the QB. Cincinnati rarely used Lawson on 3rd downs last season, probably because they weren't overly confident in his coverage ability. Still, he is a physical specimen at 6'5 240lbs, with top end speed to go along with it (Clocked a 4.43 40 at his combine in '06). He's stout against the run and seals the edge better than most any OLB I've seen. I like him so much against the run, I'd love to see him added into Miami's arsenal of LB's. Although not a position of dire need, Lawson can be used as a rotational player and will only bolster our run defence that much more.
3. Amobi Okoye - A big man with loads of potential and the ability to pressure the QB. He can collapse the pocket with the best of them, and showed a lot of promise as a rotational player with Chicago last season, recording four sacks. He's only 24 years old, and has been in the league since 2007, when he was drafted with the 10th overall pick by Houston. He would help make up for the void left by Langford, and is just too intriguing of a prospect to not take a look at. Once again, DL isn't a huge need for our team, but if we're talking value and depth, Okoye and Soliai would be a monster duo in the middle. Soliai has shown the ability to eat up double teams at the point of attack, and would give Okoye a lot of opportunities on stunts and reverses to beat his man 1 on 1. He may be nothing more than a rotational threat, and is no Mario Williams, but with the athletes we already have on our DL, opposing OL's will have as much difficulty pass protecting as they will opening running lanes for their backfield.
Other than that, I don't see many Free Agent's worth pursuing too drastically at this point. Miami has been in discussions with Phillip Wheeler and Jake Scott, a couple players who are coming with a low price tag already. Scott played well with the Titans, and signing him would take pressure off the FO to use a upper end pick on the OL again. If we can bring in a competent offensive lineman via FA, we can address more pressing needs with our higher end picks, and give us more freedom to select talent over need when were on the clock. On that note, I'll finish off with a mock draft I've drawn up. There is lots of talent to be added to our roster come April, and with a solid draft, we could field a very impressive unit by the time the final roster is shaped up.
Rd 1 - Quinton Coples (DE): North Carolina
Rd 2 - Harrison Smith (SS): Notre Dame
Rd 3 - A.J Jenkins (WR): Illinois
Rd 3 - Marvin McNutt (WR): Iowa
Rd 4 - Brandon Moseley (OT): Auburn
Rd 5 - DeAngelo Peterson (TE): LSU
Rd 6 - Olivier Vernon (OLB/DE): Miami
Rd 7 - Rishaw Johnson (OG): Calif. of Pensylvania
I can't see the Dolphins reaching for a QB or shopping for a diamond in the rough during the draft this year, as the top available prospects have already been spoken for (Luck and Griffin III). Their hesitance to pay Smith and Flynn is a good sign for me. They aren't looking to settle for their franchise QB. That, along with my firm belief that Miami will double up on WR's in the 3rd, means that if the Phins take a shot on a QB, it'll be in the second round, or by trading down and eyeing Tannehill after the top 10. I think Smith is a bit of a reach in rd 2, but I see him as a player with the tools to become a starter in this league, and in a position that is very shaky for Miami as we prep for the 2012 season.
Thanks for reading, and GO PHINS!