FanPost

Time for Jeff Ireland to get Bold.

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

During the NFL offseason we, as fans, salivate over free agency and the draft. We produce mock drafts and free agency plans suggesting which players our organisation should pursue. I, for one, am one of those fans that can't help themselves. We compile endless long lists of players that, in truth, probably won't even be in a Miami Dolphins uniform next year. If you get one right, you're lucky; two right, and you should be a GM.

So this fanpost isn't about that. This fanpost won't detail which players we should sign. Instead this fanpost is an argument about how bold Jeff Ireland is willing to become in his pursuit of success. We have a decent team, but much of our cap is enshrined into the wrong positions. Most of our cap goes towards players who are solid, but won't win you football games. They won't throw you touchdowns and they won't catch many touchdowns either. One guy can produce sacks on a consistent basis, but the others likely won't. Some may get an interception or two, but most will become liabilities. We even have the ninth highest paid kicker in the NFL on our team, yet his statistics don't warrant his pay.

But before we get into which positions Ireland attack this offseason, I have produced a table of ‘impact plays' by each team in the NFL. Miami has been listed first for ease of reference, with the rest of the teams following in alphabetical order. The table is rather simplistic, focusing on those elements of an offense and defense that will win you games. I've focused on touchdowns, rushing touchdowns, interceptions, sacks and forced fumbles. And, in all honesty, the stats don't make for comforting reading.

NFL Impact Play Table

Team

PASSING TD

Rushing TD

INT

Sacks

FF

MIAMI

13

15

10

42

19

ARIZONA

11

10

22

38

14

ATLANTA

32

12

20

29

15

BALTIMORE

22

17

13

37

14

BUFFALO

24

12

12

36

24

CAROLINA

19

21

11

39

18

CHICAGO

21

11

24

41

29

CINCINNATI

28

11

14

51

16

CLEVELAND

16

12

17

38

16

DALLAS

29

8

7

34

15

DENVER

37

12

16

52

20

DETROIT

22

17

11

34

13

GREEN BAY

40

9

18

47

8

HOUSTON

22

19

15

44

18

INDIANAPOLIS

23

11

12

32

6

JACKSONVILLE

20

5

12

20

12

KANSAS CITY

8

9

7

27

17

MINNESOTA

18

16

10

44

19

NEW ENGLAND

34

25

20

37

32

NEW ORLEANS

43

10

15

30

12

NEW YORK G

26

18

21

33

21

NEW YORK J

14

12

11

30

15

OAKLAND

24

4

11

25

10

PHILADELPHIA

18

10

8

30

17

PITTSBURGH

27

8

10

37

15

SAN DIEGO

26

4

14

38

20

SAN FRAN

23

17

14

38

18

SEATTLE

27

16

18

36

20

ST LOUS

22

5

17

52

14

TAMPA BAY

27

13

18

27

13

TENNESSEE

17

10

19

39

13

WASHINGTON

24

22

21

32

12

In terms of touchdown passes, Miami is 30th in the NFL. For us to make the playoffs we have to throw more touchdowns. Seven of the top ten teams in passing touchdowns made the playoffs.

The Dolphins did however fare much better in the ground game, standing 11th in the NFL. Six of the top ten teams in rushing touchdowns went to the playoffs. For me, that's a surprising number as it has been suggested numerously on this site that you don't need an effective ground game to make the playoffs. New England, for example, had 25 rushing touchdowns. Moreover none of the bottom ten teams in rushing touchdowns had rookie quarterbacks, which goes to show you that it really helps a rookie quarterback by having a decent ground game. The only team that made the playoffs and were in the bottom ten was Green Bay, who more than made up for it with forty passing touchdowns; 2nd in the NFL.

Interceptions meanwhile proved to be less important. Only five of the top ten teams in interceptions made the playoffs. Here, Miami came joint 27th, 28th and 29th in interceptions. Nevertheless, while the team have a developing quarterback who likely won't crack the top ten in touchdowns anytime soon, it would be wise to improve their ability to make interceptions in 2013.

The 7th best team in sacks were the Miami Dolphins! Surprisingly, only five of the top ten teams in sacks also made the playoffs. However, this statistic can be misleading. The top team in sacks was Denver with fifty two while the tenth team in sacks had thirty nine. But then the difference between the tenth team in sacks and the twentieth team in sacks is very minimal with three. This just goes to show that NFL teams value sacks. You can never have enough pass rushers.

Lastly, we come to forced fumbles. The team came joint 8th and 9th in forced fumbles. This is an impressive stat, although only four of the top ten teams in forced fumbles made the playoffs. But, once again, this can be misleading. Of the nineteen forced fumbles the team made, only six were recovered. This is definitely another area that needs to be improved upon in order to create more turnovers.

So what is the point of this table? Well, it is pretty clear that Miami needs to improve in passing touchdowns and turnovers. We shouldn't take our high sack tally for granted either. Cameron Wake accounted for thirty six percent of the sack total. If he has a down year, or gets injured, we're in trouble. Improving this area should be at the forefront of Ireland's mind, too.

However we have too much money invested in positions that don't change games. Sure, we need a good offensive line, for example. But we shouldn't be investing over $10 million dollars in a tackle. Tackles don't win you games. And, in a zone blocking scheme, we don't need that big dominating mauler on the quarterback's blindside. Moreover, an excessive amount of money is invested in our defensive tackles. Our defensive tackles aren't built to rush the passer. They're built to stop the run. But will stopping the run win you games on a consistent basis? We were one of the best teams in stopping the run this year, but found ourselves to be the twelfth worst team in the NFL. That's not to say we shouldn't re-sign Randy Starks. He's a pro bowl player. But because he's a pro bowl player, what kind of contract is he going to demand? Paul Solai also comes to the end of his contract next year, too. He likely will become more expensive too. So it'll be really interesting to see what Jeff Ireland does here. But one thing is for sure; he can't spend excessively in this area.

Then you have our linebackers. In the NFL, it's always good to have linebackers that can help cover the opposition's tight ends. Yet none of the linebackers on this team had any interceptions this year. The flip side of that coin is that the position is one of the most highly paid on the team. Karlos Dansby is on a five year $43 million dollar deal, while Kevin Burnett is on a four year $21 million dollar deal. They're not built to handle the modern NFL offense; they're built to handle the run. While I'm not suggesting we let them walk now, this is also an area that needs improving. We need to be more balanced in stopping the run and making interceptions. We need to get more athletic at linebacker at some point in the future.

Therefore, we need to put more money into the skill positions. And we need to be smart about it. We need to identify the right players to fit into our philosophy. To put this in perspective, our receiving corps are among the most poorly paid in the league. For those wide receivers that remained on the team until the end of the season, their cap hit accounted for $5,676,966. That's less than half of what Jake Long earned last season. So, unless your General Manager is a complete genius (Jeff Ireland certainly is not at this juncture), chances are that you are not going to score many touchdowns and you are not going to be making many plays. And when you compare this to one of the league most potent passing attacks in the form of Green Bay, their wide receiver corps accounted for $17,666,914 in total cap hit. That's more than three times more than Miami's. For our game to be taken to the next level, we need that elite receiver in free agency, and we pay him well for the privilege. Ryan Tannehill will fare so much better with that veteran presence at wide receiver.

But it doesn't stop there. Miami should clearly look at improving the tight end position. Whether Fasano fits remains a mystery for many fans. Again, Miami really should consider going to free agency and get a proven tight end that can stretch the field vertically. Lets not mess around, let's get a guy that can make an immediate impact from day one.

Surprisingly, Miami is projected to have a lot of money set in the cornerback position. But are those cornerbacks the right fit? How good is Richard Marshall? Is he worth the 3 year $16 million deal he signed? Is Sean Smith worth the money he will likely demand too? Perhaps we should look again to free agency to upgrade this position. Sean Smith is clearly not a number one cornerback, and Richard Marshall proved last season he's not even a number two quarterback. Tough decisions may be on the horizon here.

So what I'm suggesting is that we need to go into free agency and be BOLD. We need to attack two to three positions, and fill them with quality starters; starters that can make an impact immediately. I'm predicting we get a free agent wide receiver, a cornerback and possibly even a tight end. That will leave us in a healthy position going into the draft. It will allow us to possibly grab that pass rusher. It will allow us to take receivers that won't be under pressure to start and make an impact immediately. It may even allow us to get a few guys to improve the o-line and make it one of the more cost-effective positions on the roster. And we shouldn't be concerned by that. Jeff Ireland needs to do whatever it takes to be bold in free agency in order to give us the right balance in the draft.

So what do you think? Do you agree? Should we use free agency to attack the skill positions? And which positions should we prioritize in free agency, set against the strength of the draft?

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Phinsider's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of The Phinsider writers or editors.

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