Some of the Miami Dolphins moves during Free Agency have been surprising and have made sense, while others have been head scratchers. putting their choices in the context of the draft seems to give clarity on what they may be doing and why.
1. Why wait for Jake Long? The Miami Dolphins have held off on spending any more money since day 1 of Free Agency, and instead have been in a holding pattern over Jake Long's visit to St. Louis to see if the interest in him is weak enough to bring him back for their price. Why would they do this instead of moving on?
a. Miami doesn't plan on drafting a Left Tackle in the first round of the draft, which makes a lot of sense financially. No way would Miami resign Jake Long AND draft a tackle. It would make no sense. This leads me to believe they have a couple players at other positions the favor much more highly in the draft.
b. Miami doesn't consider Jonathan Martin a viable Left Tackle due to strength concerns. If Miami really believed Jonathan Martin was viable wouldn't it make much more financial sense to pay Eric Winston 4-4.5 million per year for 3-4 years as a Right Tackle and move over Jonathan Martin. The fact that they don't shows an inkling of doubt that Martin is, or could ever be, a top-15 Left Tackle.
2. Why would Miami pursue two pure receiving tight ends in Free Agency (Cook and Keller)? This is especialy intriguing when you consider they apparently showed little interest in Martellus Bennett, a good blocking tight end, and also already have two non-blocking tight ends on the roster in Egnew and Clay.
a. Miami planned on signing both Cook and Fasano, as complements. This seems unlikely unless they were REALLY underestimating Fasano's value.
b. If Ireland and Philbin are adopting Green Bay's and New England's love-fest philosophy for Tight Ends then it is possible they planned on drafting a blocking tight end in the draft, either Eifort, Escobar, Sims, or Kelce. What isn't still clear is how much of a priority they put on the position. I have a hard time seeing them invest 3+ million per year in a starting Tight End and then drafting Eifort in the first round, especially with the fascination reports seem to say they have with Gavin Escobar.
3. Why haven't they addressed the CB position at all, especially when they could have signed BOTH Chris Houston and Derek Cox for the same salary as Dmitri Patterson and Richard Marshall?
a. Reports from the Sun-Sentinel state that Miami has performed the greatest number of CB workouts this offseason AND during the free agency period. So they are looking, but they appear to be looking for a bargain, rather than a play-maker. This leads me to believe they don't se any real play-making CBs on the Free Agent market, but only #2 CBs and good depth.
b. Miami plans on drafting at least 1 CB very high in the draft and wants to save money.
4. Why re-sign Chris Clemons for only a single year?
a. They want to see growth and playmaking from him this year before taking on the risk of a long term contract.
b. They see some developmental Safeties later on the draft who could take a year to develop under Clemons and jones before taking over next year.
Both of these are likely true, which seems to hint that Miami will NOT take a Safety in the first round.
5. Why is Miami still showing interest in Brandon Gibson if they've already signed Mike Wallace and resigned Brian Hartline?
a. Miami plans to go with a lot of 4 WR sets this year with Wallace, Hartline, Gibson, and Bess.
b. They are seeking a replacement for Davone Bess as the slot receiver. This doesn't make sense to me because on the surface, Gibson does not appear to be a slot receiver.
c. It is worth it to have a quality #3 receiver for depth, regardless. But what about Bess? If Miami signs Gibson, I don't think Miami would want a #4 receiver who is making nearly 4 million dollars and gets nicked up all the time.
d. Miami plans to draft a slot WR in the draft to replace Bess. Tavon Austin the 1st, Quinton Patton in the 2nd, or Ryan Swope in the 3rd seem most likely. However, I think the Austin invite is a smoke-screen. He is 5' 8", regardless of his great skill set. Would Ireland really go against his metrics and player specs for a slot receiver? Let alone one who would be drafted 10 spots too early for his value.
6. Why all the rumors about how Koa Misi should switch back to the DE position now that Miami plays primarily a 4-3 defense?
a. Miami thinks Josh Kaddu can adequately replace him.
b. Miami has OLB options in the draft that they really like, and like them enough to consider moving Misi up to 4-3 DE.
With all of these facts and reasoning together my best guesses would be the following:
1. Miami doesn't plan on taking a Safety, Left Tackle, Wide Receiver, or Tight End in the first round. If they were their actions are definitely not showing it by what players they are interested in for Free Agency.
2. Miami will likely draft a developmental safety in the 3rd round or later to take over for Clemons next year. If not, no harm done, they can target an earlier round replacement next year if he disappoints.
3. Miami wants Jake Long back at LT, and if not him, don't look for them to draft one, but rather pursue a stopgap Free Agency solution such as Bryant McKinnie so that Jonathan Martin can remain at RT and draft a developmental LT in the 3rd round or so (Terron Armstead maybe?).
4. Miami is targeting a defensive playmaker in the 1st round, either at CB, OLB, or DE. I could see them targetting Dion Jordan, Barkevious Mingo, or Jarvis Jones and putting them at OLB to pair with Wheeler and Ellerbe. I could also see them targeting a player like Datone Jones or Ezekial Ansah as high ceiling DEs if none of the OLBss fell. For CBs, as much as I like Trufant, they would likely go for Rhodes, because of his physicality and height.
5. It is obvious Miami wants a seam threat TE because the 2 targets this offseason have been Cook and Keller, both seam threat TEs with poor blocking abilities. My guess is they don't see a real seam threat TE in the draft that offers value for their draft spots, but a couple good all around tight ends and red zone targets (Eifort, Escobar, Sims).
After this, my mock draft for the Dolphins is altered a little bit. Her is my best guess on their mock draft:
1. Jarvis Jones (OLB) - Pairs him with Ellerbe and Wheeler. Our OLB speed may be the fastest in the NFL now.
2a. Blidi Wreh Wilson (CB) - A low end #1 with great all around game, good leadership, height. Very few weaknesses and low floor player.
2b. Jamar Taylor (CB) - High ceiling player who can grow into a top CB but is more of a risk than other options.
3a. Gavin Escobar (TE) - Miami doesn't want to make the same mistake twice, passing on a player who has a lot of similarities to Jimmy Graham. Best hands among all the TEs. A great future red zone target.
3b. Ryan Swope (WR) - Swope's tape shows potential, but not game-breaking ability like Tavon Austin. His game speed does not appear to be the same as his combine 4.33 40 yard dash, but his hands are like velcro. Could be Bess's replacement.
4a. Dion Sims (TE) - Miami needs a blocking Tight End. With Sims, Miami completely remakes their TE group from a year ago (Except for maybe Egnew if he turns it on).
4b. Brian Winters or Dallas Thomas (OG) - Miami needs a Guard to compete with John Jerry, and also a replacement for Incognito next year.
5. Shawn Williams (S) - Miami needs safety depth and an option for replacing Clemons or Jones next year.
7a. Dustin Hopkins (K) - Miami has lost some faith in Dan Carpenter, and a rookie could save them nearly 2 million in cap space per year.
7b. Montori Hughes (DT) - Has the same physical dimensions of Paul Soliai and could get his body into NFL shape for a year before replacing him.