Their is plenty of talk about the NFL Combine, Free Agency, the NFL Draft and what they will all bring for the Miami Dolphins. These three events are the building blocks of the NFL Offseason, and all have direct correlation with one another. They all piggyback off one another and influence offseason decisions for all the NFL teams. We’re going to go through this article breaking down possibilities for Miami in all three events and how those decisions made show correlation between all these events.
We will begin by taking a look at the Dolphins own free agents who will need to be resigned or let go. So far none of the Dolphins have become cap causalities, but there is still time. Miami is currently third in the league for the most cap this off season, so they don’t need to cut unless they feel they do not need the player for their ability or how much they are being paid. Here are a few Dolphins that could become cap causalities.
Dan Carpenter, Kicker
2013 Cap Hit: $3,012,500
Dead Money If Cut: $327,500
Cap Savings: $2,675,000
Their isn’t really a reason to cut Carpenter, but he did only make 81.5% of his attempts this year. Usually +80% is a good number in sports, but kickers that are paid millions of dollars to kick a football a few times a game should be better than 81.5%. After success of rookie kickers Blair Walsh and Justin Tucker Miami may look to free up some space while adding a younger kicker to their team.
Dimitri Patterson, Corner
2013 Cap Hit: $4,600,000
Dead Money If Cut: $0
Cap Savings: $4,600,000
This is probably the most likely cap causality for Miami. Patterson played only a few games at the end of the season last year, and he played fairly well. He did not play $4,600,000 well though. Patterson is currently set to make over a million dollars more than Davone Bess, who is a quality starter. That is probably not going to happen. Patterson maybe cut and reconsidered at a cheaper price in free agency.
Richie Incognito, Guard
2013 Cap Hit: $5,380,000
Dead Money If Cut: $1,080,000
Cap Savings: $4,300,000
This isn’t likely, but Miami is moving away from the big mauler type of offensive linemen and that’s what Incognito is. It wouldn’t be beneficial for Miami to lose another veteran on their offensive line, but for over 4 million in cap space Miami may consider it if they choose to pursue a replacement with that money.
Paul Soliai, Defensive Tackle
2013 Cap Hit: $7,875,000
Dead Money If Cut: $1,575,000
Cap Savings: $6,300,000
This is another unlikely cut especially with Randy Starks may leave through free agency, but if Miami resigns Starks, Soliai may be considered unnecessary. If that did happen Soliai would probably shopped to be traded rather than released. Soliai could be valuable to a team that runs a 3-4 and is in need of a nose tackle.
Next step, the Combine. The combine is not only where the top prospects from this years draft class are tested, but where NFL general managers meet with their players agents to talk new contracts. General Managers and coaches even get a chat in with other team’s free agent players and their agents. Miami will be talking heavily with their player’s agents, and the top two priorities for Miami (as told by the media) right now are Brian Hartline and Chris Clemons. Other free agents that Jeff Ireland will be talking with will be Sean Smith, Jake Long, Randy Starks, Reggie Bush, and Anthony Fasano to name a few. Lets take a look at these players and what their return or departure could mean for the Dolphins.
Brian Hartline, Receiver
Hartline had a big season this past year. He caught 74 passes for 1,083 yards, but he only had one receiving touchdown. Hartline is reportedly looking for 5 to 6 million per year, and after the year he had along with Miami’s lack of receivers he may get that. If Hartline resigns look for him to be Miami’s #2 receiver.
If he signs: He will probably be Miami’s #2 receiver and Ireland will hope to land one of the bigger name free agent receivers (Jennings, Wallace, or Bowe if he is not resigned). Even if Miami resigns Hartline and signs one of the big name receivers, look for Ireland to take a receiver early in rounds 2-4. Some names that would fit would be Terrance Williams, Justin Hunter, Quinton Patton, DeAndre Hopkins, Robert Woods, Steadman Bailey, Markus Wheaton, or Aaron Dobson.
If he does not sign: Look for Miami to still try to sign one of the of the big name receivers. Signing one of the big name receivers will become more crucial to Ryan Tannehill’s development. Then in the draft Miami will probably look to pick up 2 receivers in rounds 1-4. The same names apply as above, but also add Keenan Allan and Cordarrelle Patterson.
Chris Clemons, Safety
Clemons is also a player who had a good year for the Dolphins and may have gotten himself a nice payday. In 2012 Clemons racked up 99 total tackles with 2 interceptions. That is a pretty good season for this being Clemons first season starting.
If he signs: The Dolphins will appear to have two good starting safeties who know the system, but they may want to pick up a safety later in the draft like Ray Ray Armstrong from The U.
If he does not sign: The only potential instant fix for Miami if Clemons leaves would be Jairus Byrd from Buffalo, but it looks unlikely the Bills will let their ballhawk go. The draft will have to be where Ireland picks up a new safety in rounds 1-4. Players like Kenny Vaccaro, Eric Reid, Phillip Thomas, Jonathan Cyprien, and Baccari Rambo would make sense for Miami.
Sean Smith, Corner
Sean Smith needed to have a big year not only for himself, but for the Dolphins as well. After trading away Vontae Davis, Sean Smith was set to be Miami’s #1 corner. He had a strong beginning to his 2012 season where he handled top receivers like Larry Fitzgerald and A.J. Green. The second half of the season Smith fell apart. End of story Smith is a good #2 and thats what his pay should reflect.
If he signs: Look for Miami to bring in some competition for Smith even if they sign him. Some free agent names to keep an eye on are Brent Grimes, Derek Cox, Cary Williams, Dominique Rodgers- Cromartie, and maybe even Nnamdi Asomugha if he is released by the Eagles. In the Draft Miami could go anywhere and pick a corner. They could go as high as Dee Milliner who would be the most logical pick at 12 if he is still available. Other names that may be seen in the Miami aqua this summer are Jonathan Banks, Xavier Rhoads, Desmond Trufant, David Amerson, and Jordan Poyer.
If he does not sign: If Smith isn’t resigned nothing really changes from the above besides the fact that Miami then presses for a corner even harder. Miami will probably try to sign a guy in free agency and take a corner or two in the draft. Some say receiver is Miami’s biggest need, but corner maybe the route Miami looks to go early in this years draft.
Lake Long, Offensive Tackle
This is the big one for Miami. Jake Long was Miami’s #1 overall selection in 2008 and he looked as if he would be a cornerstone of the franchise. After the last two years of ending up on injured reserve Jeff Ireland isn’t looking to pay Long the payday he is looking for. That payday is always subject to change. Even though Long says he feels the strongest he has in years it is still in question of how he will preform in the future.
If he signs: This is looking like a long shot at this point. He is asking for top NFL tackle money and Ireland isn’t looking to dish it out. Lets say Long takes a pay cut and he comes back to Miami. Best case he gets over his being injury prone and gets back on track of being Miami’s cornerstone tackle. Worst case He keeps getting injured and was a waste of money. If Long is signed look for Miami to pick up someone late or a undrafted free agent to add some depth.
If he does not sign: Miami will bump Jonathan Martin to left tackle and look to draft someone to play right tackle in the draft. Some guys that would fit in Miami are Lane Johnson, Kyle Long, Oday Aboushi, Justin Pugh, or Brian Winters. All of these guys fit the bill for more athletic offensive tackles.
Randy Starks, Defensive Tackle
Randy Starks has been great since he arrived in Miami. He has been a Pro Bowler and has created a force in the middle of the Dolphins defense. Starks is the one free agent on this list that should get paid and deserves it. Not only a is he a force on the field, but also a leader in the locker room.
If he signs: Miami's dominant front seven returns and the Dolphins wont have to worry about picking up depth at the defensive tackle position until late in the draft or in the undrafted free agents.
If he is not signed: First of all look for Odrick to bump inside and go back to his college position of 4-3 defensive tackle. This class is deep at defensive tackle so Miami just needs to decide how they feel about what they currently have on the roster. If they choose to pick up a tackle early look for them to go with names like Sheldon Richardson, Kawann Short, Sharrif Floyd, and Bennie Logan in rounds 1-3. If the Dolphins decide to pick up a project to replace Soliai next year if he departs Josh Boyd, Baker Steinkuhler, or Everett Dawkins to add depth.
Reggie Bush, Running Back
Reggie Bush has begun to live up to his Draft hype, and it’s because Miami finally gave him the chance to be a feature back. Bush still has his struggles running between the tackles, but has steadily improved each year. His first year with the Dolphins he had his first 1,000 yard rushing year. Bush also was a leader on the team who players around the locker room respected.
If he signs: The likelihood of Bush bring resigned at this point is even more bleak than Miami resigning Long. Lamar Miller was drafted in the 4th round last April when he was looking to be a potential first round prospect. After Miller had a very good rookie campaign, Miller will probably be the feature back in 2013 and Daniel Thomas will be the teams change of pace. If somehow Bush is resigned the team will be set on running backs just like they were in 2012.
If he does not sign: Lamar Miller will be the feature back in Miami if Bush isn’t resigned, and Thomas will be the bigger back. Miami will look to add some depth unless they feel confident in Marcus Thigpen can pick up the slack as the number three back. If not the Dolphins could look at these players in rounds 4-7, Le’Veon Bell, Jonathan Franklin, Christine Michael, Knile Davis, or Onterio McCalebb.
Anthony Fasano, Tight End
Fasano is the most unappreciated players on the Dolphins roster. He blocks well, he catches well, and he leads well. Fasano will never be a top tier tight end in the NFL, but he is a consistant player who the Miami Dolphins should really try to keep in their ball club.
If he signs: Miami will still be looking for a #1 tight end. In free agency some options could be Jared Cook Jr. (if he is not franchise tagged) and Jermichael Finley (if he is released by Green Bay). If they don’t get one in free agency look for one of these rookies to be wearing a Miami Dolphins hat on Draft day, Zach Ertz, Tyler Eifert, Gavin Escobar, Travis Kelce, Levine Toilolo, or Joseph Fauria.
Let me begin this by saying I am not going to throw out any signing lengths because I am not a GM and do not know the current situations in and out. I will keep the signings reasonable.
Randy Starks (Tag)
Jared Cook (Assuming he isn’t franchised)
Round 1: Xavier Rhoads, CB, Florida State - Rhoads is no Leon Sandcastle, but he fits the build of the long and lank corner that Richard Sherman has every team in the league wanting. Rhoads ran a faster 40, a higher vertical, and has longer arms than Sherman. Rhoads will look good across from Derek Cox.
Round 2: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee - Some people will dislike this pick because of his lack of focus and coming off an knee injury the year prior. If Hunter gets over the lack of focus with some coaching he could be the next Randy Moss. He is tall and can go up for the ball along with taking the top off of a defense.
Round 2: Kyle Long, OT/OG, Oregon - Long could play tackle or guard due to his athleticism and that is exactly what Miami wants for their zone blocking scheme. He could fill the Dolphins right tackle or left guard (putting Incognito back to right) need.
Round 3: Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M - Swope ran a mind blowing 4.34 40 at the Combine, which is the same as West Virginia’s Tavon Austin. After Sherman gave the nod on Tannehill and brought in Javorski Lane and Jeff Fuller, Philbin will probably take a good listen to Sherman on Swope. Bess’ contract is also up after 2013 and Swope could be a great replacement.
Round 3: Quanterus Smith, DE, Western Kentucky - In 2012 Smith was leading the nation with 12.5 sacks before he tore his ACL. He had 3 sacks against Alabama and made D.J. Fluker look like a human turnstile. at 6’5” 250 lbs, Smith could add another 10-15 lbs and become a great defensive end.
Round 4: Earl Watford, OT/OG, James Madison - Athletic offensive lineman who will work well in Miami’s zone blocking scheme. He will need some coaching and to add some more strength, but could give John Jerry a run for the starting spot.
Round 5: Levine Toilolo, TE, Stanford - Toilolo should have stayed at Stanford for another year and has his own time as the #1 guy. Toilolo could still be a very good tight end but has been over shadowed by Zach Ertz this offseason. At 6’8” Toilolo is a big body intermediate and red zone target.
Round 7: Ray Ray Armstrong, S, Miami - Armstrong was at one point a potential first round pick, but after problems with a school booster Armstrong was dismissed from Miami. He is a monster in the secondary at 6’3” 227 lbs. Don’t be fooled by Armstrong’s size. He is quicker than advertised and will make plays in the secondary. He will also lay the lumber. If Clemons is resigned, but doesn’t live up to his pay Armstrong may become his replacement.
Round 7: Mike James, RB, Miami - Another Miami man staying in Miami here. The Dolphins did well with their running back pick from Miami last year, and they will take another who is more of a thumper. He also has surprisingly good hands out of the backfield. Daniel Thomas has been injury prone, and if James pans out the Dolphins may find themselves with an all Miami backfield.
Between the Draft and Free Agency Miami fills their needs and add depth.
QB: 1. Tannehill 2. Devlin 3. FA
RB: 1. Miller 2. Thomas 3. James 4. Thigpen
FB: 1. Lane
WR: 1. Jennings 2. Hartline 3. Bess 4. Hunter
5. Swope 6. Matthews 7. Fuller
TE: 1. Cook 2. Fasano 3. Clay 4. Toilolo
LT: 1. Martin 2. Yeatman
LG: 1. Incognito 2. Watford
C: 1. Pouncey 2. Samuda
RG: 1. Jerry 2. Watford
RT: 1. Long 2. Garner 3. Brown
LE: 1. Vernon 2. Smith 3. Shelby
DT: 1. Starks 2. Soliai 3. Odrick 4. Randall
RE: 1. Wake 2. Smith
LOLB: 1. Burnett 2. Freeny
MLB: 1. Dansby 2. Spitler 3. Kaddu
ROLB:1. Misi 2. Trusnik
CB: 1. Cox 2. Rhoads 3. Carroll 4. McCann
FS: 1. Clemons 2. Armstrong 3. Wilson
SS: 1. Jones
Dolphins fans should get excited about this offseason and regular season. With the right moves in the off season and more consistency from the players and coaches themselves this could be a playoff year for Miami. This could also be a train wreck for Miami of this season is a whiff. Lets see what Ireland and Philbin have up their sleeves.