I've tried to steer clear of writing about mock drafts and free agency during the last couple of fanposts that I have written. But, with the advent of the Senior Bowl, and practices in full swing, I couldn't help myself!
We're slated to have somewhere between $44-46 million in free cap space next year. This number is without Dimitri Patterson's cap number, who will surely be cut. Whether he re-signs or not is another question. With this number we can do some real damage. But before we get into the fantasy talk, we have to remember that we have key starters set to become UFA's in 2014. We need to make sure we don't get ourselves into a situation similar to the New York Jets. We need to specifically target guys that fit into Jeff Ireland and Joe Philbin's philosophy. First let's consider the players I want the Dolphins to re-sign.
Randy Starks - $7 million - 3 yr $21 million
Anthony Fasano - $3 million - 2 year $6 million
Chris Clemons - $2 million - 3 year $6 million
Sean Smith - $6.5 million - 4 year $26 million
Brian Hartline - $4.5 million - 4 year $18 million
Reggie Bush - $4 million - 3 year $12 million.
I really want to stress this before I explain this. I fully expect Ireland to put best and final offers forward to the following players. If they don't accept, let them hit the free market. I think all of these players want to come back to Miami. They've all stated that. Randy Starks is such a big part of this defensive line. You don't want a Pro Bowler to leave, especially when Paul Solai's contract is coming to an end next season. On Anthony Fasano, I've done a complete u-turn on him. Yes, he doesn't fit the West Coast Offense. But his blocking is a valuable trait for us right now. It looks very likely that Jake Long is going to leave. So, it seems Jonathan Martin may very well start at the left tackle position. Also, I don't like the right tackles in free agency, so I think it's highly likely we draft one if we can. Bearing in mind we could have two young tackles next year, I think it's critical to leave Fasano in there to help out. He's a good complimentary tight end to one that can stretch the field vertically.
Moving forward, Chris Clemons was solid this year. He'll be cheap to re-sign and we should bring him back. Sean Smith is reportedly asking for $7 million this year; we want to give him $6 million. Let's compromise and offer him $6.5 million. He still is an important part of this defense and we can't afford to let him go. Brian Hartline will also be welcomed back with a nice paycheck. He doesn't get you those yards after the catch, but he provides a safe pair of hands as a number 2 wide receiver. And then there's Reggie Bush. 8 touchdowns this year in rushing and receiving. We need playmakers, and he's one of the few ones on our roster. I think it's paramount we keep him. Without him, we've lost around 8 touchdowns next year.
With these re-signings, that brings our grand total to $27 million. That leaves around $17 million for free agents.
Greg Jennings - $8 million - 3 year $24 million
Greg Jennings isn't going to get more than 3 years. He's only got 3 years of elite play left. So I think this is a fair deal for him and similar to the last contract he signed with Green Bay. He's not the flashy receiver most want on here. But consider this when Ireland was asked what himself and Philbin are looking for in wide receivers:
"Well number one, you are looking for guys that catch it. You laugh, but that's the number one critical factor of the wide receiver position in my opinion; guys that can catch the ball consistently and have a big range of catching radius. Speed is obviously a big aspect of that and in this business they pay the other guy covering them, so there is going to be some contact opportunities and you want guys that can catch in traffic and catch with contact. I think the fourth aspect, not in any order, would be run after the catch. We're looking for guys that can make plays."
So he's basically looking for a guy that can catch, has good speed, can catch in traffic and makes yards after the catch. I think Jennings fits this offense better than any free agent wide receiver. I believe Wallace to be a one-trick pony. Yes, he's very good at that trick, but he doesn't really offer much else. Jennings offers us much more versatility at the position. Philbin likes guys that he can move around to create mismatches. Moreover, Jennings is a great locker room presence and leader. I can imagine him now taking the time out to show our young wide receivers the ropes of the offense. He'll also give Tannehill a great weapon. I know I'm not going to get people agreeing with me on this, but I think he's a lock to sign with Miami. Actually, I make it 95% certain.
CB Chris Houston - $7 million - 3 year $21 million
The second player we should consider signing is Chris Houston. Since moving from the Atlanta Falcons, he's developed into a much better player. He's much more confident, his ball skills have improved exponentially and his understanding of what opposition offenses are going to do has been enhanced. Chris Houston will immediately slot in as the number 1 cornerback on our roster. Last year he had 11 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions. He's a guy that will help to create more turnovers and help stop our leaky secondary.
2013 NFL Draft
Now here's to the exciting part. We are absolutely loaded with picks this year. I'm really optimistic we can make huge strides in our draft. It seems this draft isn't loaded with elite talent, apart from perhaps defensive end and tackle, but it is really deep. So let's take a look at how this may pan out.
Round 1: I see a trade here. I really do. And I'm going to get criticized for this. You'll say, "how can you not draft a guy like Dion Jordan?" I say, he doesn't fit our scheme. He's not what we are looking for. He can't defend the run very well and hasn't developed a good repertoire of pass rushing moves yet. And I'm all for drafting Dee Milliner, but I doubt very much he falls to us. When you look at our defensive ends, they are in the 260 pound range, are good at stopping the run and can get after the passer. That's what Olivier Vernon and Cameron Wake can do. I want to move Jared Odrick into a rotational defensive tackle package with Solai and Starks, keeping them fresh and more effective. Luckily for us defensive end is stacked in the first round. We should trade back to the 19-23 range and pick up an extra second if we can. Guys that should be here will be Alex Okafor, Sam Montgomery and Datone Jones. The pick of the bunch is Alex Okafor. He's a guy I've really been studying for the past few weeks. He fits everything Ireland will look for. He's got good length, long arms, a good frame, the lower body strength to anchor and really good explosion coming off the line. Moreover, the guy is a born leader giving 100% effort on the field. He's someone you can plug in straight away into our scheme. Outstanding prospect and one of my favourites.
Round 2a: By now, most people know that Quinton Patton is one of my favourite players in this draft. I said this before the Senior Bowl, and he's really someone on the rise. I like Robert Woods here too, but I feel as though Quinton Patton offers more. He's got very good hands and isn't afraid to catch the ball in traffic. Remember what Jeff Ireland looks for? Tick, tick. He gains yards after the catch. Tick. And he's got pretty good speed. Looks like a guy who will run in the 4.40 range. That's four ticks. Plus, he runs a complete route tree. I'm blown away by this guy. When you have Greg Jennings, Davone Bess, Brian Hartline and Quinton Patton as your top 4 receivers, it's looking dangerous.
Round 2b: I feel here is a good spot to take a right tackle. In our tackles we want guys that are athletic. They need to fit into our zone blocking system. Justin Pugh will do that for us. Standing at 6 foot five inches and weighing 290 pounds, he moves effortlessly and has good body control to take on blocks and mirror those speedy pass rushers. He'll need to fill out a bit more and hit the weight room, but like with Jonathan Martin, the coaches love guys who have great technique. He'll be an important piece of our o-line.
Round 2c: Consider what Ireland wants in his offensive guards:
"I know our philosophy is we want to protect the pocket, we want to protect the blind side, and you just need to protect that guy however you can. So when you find a good guard, you should go after that guy, because it's an important piece."
And I believe there's a real good one in the draft. Many consider him a tackle, but I consider him a guard at NFL level. Dallas Thomas. He started two years at tackle, but moved to guard as a senior. He's perfect for the zone blocking system and fulfills the size criteria that Jeff Ireland likes in his o-linemen. His versatility in playing tackle is also a plus if injuries mount over the course of the season. Very athletic guy with excellent knee bend to handle bull rushers.
Round 3a: We need safety help, and there should be some pretty good ones left here. The draft is very deep at safety this year. There's guys like Bacarri Rambo, Robert Lester and Jonathan Cyprien. I don't think we'll go for Rambo with his past issues, Robert Lester has ballhawk skills but hasn't got the speed I want to compliment Reshad Jones and I don't know enough about Cyprien yet. I really like Phillip Thomas too, but he'll be long gone at this stage. My guy is T.J. McDonald. If he declared last year, he would have been a second round pick. But he's been hurt by USC's terrible season. This is a really good value pick. There's a lot of things going for T.J. First of all, he has NFL bloodlines; his father played safety in the NFL. We know GM's love that as it shows they exhibit football intelligence and know what it takes to make it in the NFL. He's effective in zone and man schemes, and has the frame and speed (should run in the 4.40 range) to handle tight ends. This is crucial when playing against New England. He's also a really big hitter; the type of guy that makes receivers remember him. Sometimes he does get a little over physical, but this is something that Coyle can work on with him.
Round 3b: I really want a vertical, seam-stretching TE, and this is a place that offers good value. We may need to trade up here come draft day, but at this moment Travis Kelce falls into this range. I like him because he has the speed I look for in a tight end, with excellent hands and a good frame. But he's also a good blocker, and can start for this team early. If he develops fully in 2-3 years time, I'm comfortable with him taking over from Fasano. But for now, it seems the way to go to keep Fasano as a dependable option while developing your young tight ends.
Round 4: If Reggie Bush does go, this could be a good place to take another running back. But I'm firmly in the belief Reggie will stay. Here, I want to add depth to the cornerback position. Dwayne Gratz is a guy I'm really high on and I believe we can develop him. He's got good speed and has the ability to play in the press scheme because he has nice physicality. He can start in the nickel early. If he performs well in preseason and Richard Marshall does not, Marshall is a potential cap casualty. Watch this space.
Round 5: It all becomes murky here, but I'm having a go at going the full wack in this mock. I really want to add a bit of speed in the slot. A guy that can backup Davone Bess. I also have this theory which I haven't elaborated on yet. Ireland often drafts for positions where some of his players are coming up to FA. He plans ahead. Look at Miller, coming in just in case Bush leaves. Look at Martin, coming in incase Long leaves. It goes on and on. It's why I took Dallas Thomas, because both our guards are coming up for their contract year. So here I add depth to our receiving corps and take a guy that offers something a bit different; someone the coaches can develop. I like Ace Sanders here, but I'm really being impressed by Marquise Goodwin, who is still listed as a 5th round possibility. While pretty short at 5 foot 9 inches, I really like the way the guy is built. He's solid. He's also a track guy, so he's not only incredibly fast, but he's got this natural explosion that can blow you away. He can also contribute early on kick returns. He adds something different in the slot, and can be a weapon in the way T.Y. Hilton was last year in Indy.
Round 7a: We don't have a 6th round pick. In this round I'm going for more depth on the o-line. We need to make the transition to the zone blocking scheme, and Philbin finds his players in this draft, as well as adding playmakers. Blaize Foltz is a guy I really like. Again, he has the size Jeff Ireland looks for. The guy is an absolute freak. He can bench press 580 pounds, does an 800 pound squat and an incline bench of 530 pounds. He's just a guy Philbin can grab hold of and train up.
Round 7b: I like taking a quarterback here, and trusting Pat Devlin as the number 2. I like Jordan Rodgers here. Obviously he is not as good as his brother, and never will be. He has good feet and can roll out of the pocket well. He only had a 50% completion rate, though, and that's why he falls to the seventh round. He offers a cheap option for us at quarterback.
That brings me to the end of my second mock draft. I hope you enjoyed it. I realize I may get criticized for not taking that ‘elite' talent. I've tried to explain the method to my madness here. So, do you agree with this mock? Who do you think we should take instead? I'd love to hear your thoughts.