Determining Miami's need positions
What positions does Miami need to make it a better offense and defense? What priority order are they in? My logic for determining the needs are below, as well as what positions make sense to fill in free agency vs. the draft. First though, to determine the positions of need, we need to determine which Free Agents the Dolphins keep, and which are lost.
- Sean Smith - Miami's primary question this year is: Is he a playmaker? Sean Smith...is not a playmaker. He may be able to shut down an opposing WR in press coverage, but his interceptions are never impressive because he lacks a nose for the ball, especially in zone coverage. If he is not a playmaker then he is gone, so he is out. If he comes down on his demands to 5-6 million per year, he may be worth it, but at this point he will be just as much of a playmaker or average corner as Dmitri Patterson, who is set to make less than 5 million next year (And even that will probably be negotiated lower by Miami). He will not be able to get as much in free agency as he thinks.
- Jake Long - Miami's run offense was actually better without him than with him. He is worth 6 million a year as an average LT, but he won't accept that low of an offer. I expect a team like Arizona or Philadelphia to sign him for 8+ million per year (With injury protections in the contract). Is he a playmaker? Nope. He is almost certainly gone for a money grab somewhere else.
- Reggie Bush - Is he a playmaker: Yes! However, there is a perfect storm here. Reggie Bush is 28, has little wear on his tires, has proven he is a primary RB, as well as a flex WR, and there are NO RBs even close to his quality in Free Agency. Peyton Hillis and Rashard Mendenhall, sure, but their talents are not comparable, and Bush has been much more consistent and less injury prone recently. I expect a team like Green Bay, Detroit, or Indianapolis to sign him for at least 6.5 million per year, simply because there is no free agency competition out there at the RB position. Ireland won't pay that much. Bush is gone too.
- Brian Hartline - This is a tricky one. Is he a playmaker? Yes and no. He is a quality WCO receiver and seems to find ways to get open. Good at yards, but bad at touchdowns. What does this mean? He is an adequate #2 receiver. The #1 receiver and the TE need to be red zone threats, not necessarily the #2, but every team needs a player like Hartline to help move the chains and take advantage of CB matchups. My guess is this is all about the numbers. Miami will sign a #1 WR in free agency, draft another in the first three rounds, and still has Davone Bess. Where is there room for Hartline in that case? Not much room at all unless he is willing to sign for Ireland's value. If he signs for less than 6 million per year, keep him, but if not, then he is gone too. My guess is that other teams shy away from him because of his lack of TDs, the WR talent in the draft, and his one outstanding game this year that provided 25% of his production. My guess is that he ends up back with the Dolphins on a deal for 4 year, 5 to 5.8 million per year deal after testing free agency or signs as a solid #2 / #3 WR on a team such as Houston or NE for near the same amount.
- Anthony Fasano - Is he a playmaker? No. However, the value of TEs being what it is in FA (Cheap), he is an adequate TE who won't break the bank at 5+ million per year, even if they need to franchise him. My logic is this: Miami will try and upgrade the position via FA. TE is one of the best positions to upgrade via Free Agency because a good TE is half the price of a good WR, so it makes much more sense to sign a TE but draft a WR to manage the cap. Miami will see what TEs are available as Free Agency gets close, and if it looks like Keller, Cook, or Finley is available, they will move on from Fasano. If those players get moved or franchised to be taken off the market, Miami will likely sign or franchise Fasano just prior to free agency. I think they will sign him or franchise him AND sign another Free Agent TE.
- Randy Starks - Is he a playmaker? Yes, he penetrates very well, gets a lot of sacks for a DT, and is a leader. Miami wants to resign him, and I think they will, to maintain their great run defense and above average pass rush. My guess is he will sign for 6-7 million per year for 4 years.
- Chris Clemons - Is he a playmaker? Not really. He did have two interceptions this year, and is solid at his position, so this comes down to whether he is a value. Do they have an adequate replacement if he moves on? Not really. If he will resign with Miami for 3 million per year (Say a 4 year, 12 million contract), they keep him for depth at a need position, but otherwise move on. He is a cheaper option than moving Richard Marshall back there, still improving, and is less of an injury risk too.
So who does Miami end up keeping? Answer: whoever signs at the values Miami believes they are worth. I don't think Ireland has a preconceived notion of letting any of these players go, as long as they sign for his estimation of their value. So, the question becomes more, who will sign for Ireland's value? The only ones you will likely see stay are Fasano, Starks, and Clemons. Arguably, except for Bush, they are the most impactful playmakers and the greatest values.
So, who does Miami sign in FA? Playmakers. What positions offer the greatest impact as playmakers? QB, Passrushers (DE/OLB), CB/S, WR, TE, and RB. Take QB off the list because they have Tannehill. Take OLB off the list because they are already set with Misi and Burnett, and take RB off the list because there are no real playmakers at RB in free agency this year. What positions are left? DE, CB, WR, TE, and S. I don't think Miami signs an Offensive lineman unless it is a veteran to compete at RT with Yeatman. Miami did fine the last couple weeks with yeatman and Garner at RT, and I think they will focus their resources on playmakers. Miami will have the money to sign 3 high impact free agents. Who do they target and why?
- DE - I don't think they find one in Free Agency. Cincinnati and Tampa Bay have some great DEs becoming free agents, but they also are two teams with the most cap money. Miami likely won't be interested in the high cost for Cliff Avril, so who do they sign? Nobody, especially if they have already resigned Starks.
- S - While I would like if they took a shot at Jairus Byrd, he will likely be franchised because, again, Buffalo has a lot of cap room this year (One of about 8 teams that do), and they won't let him go. Dashon Goldson will be looking for a big payday, but I don't see him as a fit in Miami. Could be though. My guess is they don't sign a S, opting instead ofr a starting CB.
- CB - Miami will sign a starting CB, and maybe take a shot at a risky 2nd. It may be they resign Smith, but I think they are looking for a better leadership and personality fit for the team. Could be Derek Cox, Brent Grimes, Michael Jenkins, Darius Butler, Tracy Porter, etc. But they will sign one. CB is one position where they don't have a veteran influence, and my personal preference is that they sign one with experience to provide leadership. At LB they have Dansby, at DE they have Wake, and at DT they have Starks, but they don't have a veteran CB, like all clubs seem to like.
- WR - Miami needs to sign a #1 WR. Most experts don't seem to consider Dwayne Bowe a #1 WR, so it is between Jennings and Wallace. Ireland has tended to like young, athletic players, but I think they are really leaning toward Jennings on this one. Jennings will be cheaper, provide leadership and experience, and be a savvy, humble support to Tannehill. I think he is much more in the mold of what Philbin is looking for. In my opinion they should let Hartline go, and sign a speed receiver who is good in both 2, 3, and 4 WR sets. I would love if they signed Julian Edelman of the Patriots. He is blazingly fast, and hasn't had the opportunity to really shine yet. He would be a steal, I think, and could provide what Jennings does not. I see in him a sort of younger version of Nate Washington.
- TE - Miami needs a seam threat TE. There will likely be a couple on the market. Sign one. Keller would be ideal as long as he doesn't have issues playing for Miami. Cook may or may not be available. My guess is that they get one of them.
Now for the draft. What positions are of the greatest impact as playmakers again, at least where Miami may have a need? DE, CB, WR, TE, and RB. The rest can wait until the 5th-7th rounds.
No need to draft players at these positions: DT, ILB, OLB, C, FB. They are stocked up there. I don't think Miami will draft a Guard or Tackle for the first few rounds either, as it is not a playmaker position. So, who do they go after?
- 1st: Top pass rusher available. Could be Mingo, Ansah, or whoever drops from the passrushers. Milliner will be long gone and no other CB worth it. Same for TE or WR at this position. They could target Kenny Vaccaro at S, if no passrushers drop. My guess on this pick is: Jarvis Jones, OLB. By draft day I expect his stock to drop due to medical concerns, and Ireland will see him as a bargain, especially with no other playmaker options available. He can replace Burnett or Misi next year. Wouldn't you rather have him than Mingo or Ansah? Maybe not, if you take the Spinal Stenosis into account. That's why he will drop.
- 2nd - A: Terrance Williams, WR: Miami has to take Jennings injury history with a grain of salt, and Williams could grow to be a #1 WR in a couple years.
- 2nd - B: Jordan Poyer, CB. Miami will be torn in this spot between a CB and a flex offensive lineman, such as Dallas Thomas, but will go with the playmaking position. I would much rather Miami trade up at the cost of their 4th and secure Logan Ryan or Blidi Wilson, as Poyer seems more like a Nickel corner to me.
- 3rd - A: Jonathan Franklin, RB: Miami is in this draft for the playmakers, and Franklin proved on tape and at the Senior bowl he is both a big play threat and a 3 down back. Will share touches with Lamar Miller. Bye bye Daniel Thomas.
- 3rd - B: Jonathan Cyprien, S: Miami, by this time, is set at CB, set at WR, set at RB, and just needs to decide between offensive line, DE, and secondary. I think they sign Cyprien to compete with Clemons at S, and now the secondary has more playmakers and quality depth.
- 4th - Hugh Thornton, G - Miami needs a replacement next year for one or both of Richie Incognito and John Jerry. Thornton can be a quality starting Guard.
- 4th - Compensatory for losing Kendall Langford: Kapron Lewis-Moore, DE: A Defensive End competitor for Derrick Shelby, and a good leader with ideal DE size.
- 5th - Robert Alford, CB - A quality return man and more quality secondary depth.
- 7th A & B: Does it matter? Possibly a QB or K.
So, how are Miami's plans going? They have upgraded every playmaking position:
- TE with a top end FA starter.
- WR with a #1 WR, a #2 draft WR, and a flex speed receiver.
- CB with a solid Free Agent and Jordan Poyer to compete with Dmitri Patterson, and a 3rd CB for special teams and depth.
- S with a draft pick.
- Passrush is addressed with Jarvis Jones and depth at DE, while keeping the Defensive line intact.
- RB is addressed through adding a top draft playmaker who can be a 3 down back and improve over Daniel Thomas.
WR2: Terrence Williams
TE1: Dustin Keller
RT: Yeatman/Veteran FA
RG: John Jerry
RB: Lamar Miller/Jonathan Franklin
WR3: Davone Bess/Julian Edelman
LDE: Cameron Wake
OLB: Jarvis Jones / Koa Misi
CB1: One of Jenkins/Butler/Cox/Porter/Grimes
SS: Reshad Jones