After allowing the frenzy of free agency to settle in for a week, I'm starting to like the new roster more and more. I'm consistently hearing about how badly Miami performed during the outset of free agency, but looking at these moves individually, and breaking down how the new pieces fit, has made me very optimistic for 2013. I'll look strictly at the defence here, but I'd also like the say thumbs up on the Mike Wallace signing.
I was a Karlos Dansby fan from the day he signed with Miami up to the day they released him. Swapping in Ellerbe as the centrepiece is sure to provide a new look to the defence, and hopefully just as much of an impact. While I'm not one to get too hung up on age versus production, theres no doubt that at 31, Dansby isn't the face of a youth movement. While he anchored the run defence in the 2nd level, and brought valuable coverage skills, he never really blossomed into the playmaking potential he showed early on in his career. His leadership won't be too sorely missed I imagine, with a super bowl winner and long time Raven coming in as a replacement, assuming Ellerbe steps into the void leadership role. Overall though, the move is fairly cost efficient, as dumping Dansby will only hit us for 2mil next year, and the cap space more than covers our new MLB. Dannell has some DB experience, and has shown the kind of versatility early in his career that leads me to believe he will fluently transition to Miami's 4-3 system. If I were grading this signing/release, I think the talent trade is relatively even, with a playoff performer and younger player joining the roster. Building a winning atmosphere is crucial, so I'll give it a B+.
Philip Wheeler is just more of the same in terms of replacing Kevin Burnett on the roster. They were both tackling machines in 2012, but with Burnett coming up on 31, Wheeler was signed to bring a bit more explosive and permanent look to the Linebacking unit. Although not a feared pass rusher, Wheeler is a true athletic upgrade to Burnett in every dimension of the game. Watch the film on their careers and theres not much of an argument about it. He's shown progressive development in his career, and took a big step in 2012, highlighted by his new contract with the Dolphins. The way I look at it, Starks and Soliai are both back down low in the middle, with Wake demanding constant attention from defensive end. Assuming the team moves forward with Odrick at DE in 2013, he'll be able to hold the point as a rather big 4-3 DE. The prowess of Miami's DL will be able to lock up interior running lanes and hold Offensive lines at the point overall, allowing our LB's to flow and make plays. That's where I think the athleticism upgrades of Wheeler and Ellerbe will truly show their value. They'll have the opportunity to make the plays, and clearly I have faith that they'll capitalize on them.
Chris Clemons was definitely a positive signing. While I originally would have like to see Sean Smith stay in South Florida, it was imperative the team didn't lose both to free agency. Vontae Davis, Yeremiah Bell, and now Smith are all starters in 2012 that one season later, are all on different rosters. That's kind of scary considering the only additions in that span have been an injury plagued Richard Marshall, and a late round compensation pick on Jimmy Wilson. Having said that, I'm not too concerned with Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons on the back end. With their 2nd year and full offseason in their new system, the continuity should play a big role in the effectiveness of our secondary, or could at least explain the confidence that the coaching staff is displaying in the roster depth of CB and Safety. At worst, I can't see Clemons regressing, while theoretically in the prime of his career, while I see Reshad Jones taking another step in his development.
As far as the remaining free agents go, I would like to see Eric Winston on a 2 year deal, and if the price is right, Elvis Dumervil. Pairing Wake with Dumervil would give Miami a Freeney/Mathis combination on the line that would challenge any offensive line in the league, while having a proven rotational and depth player in Jared Odrick. Covering the end position with Dumervil would allow Miami to seriously draft the best player available through the first 2 days of the draft, where they hold 5 draft selections through the first 3 rounds. In anticipation of the draft, which is just one month away, I've done my best to consider who might be available as the best player to draft when we're on the clock in April.
1(12) - Chance Warmack, Alabama: A lot of hype about this guy, but depending on how the pieces fall, he could easily be available when we pick at 12. While I too shudder at the though of drafting another offensive lineman in the first round, he can step in an instantly replace the talent loss of Jake Long and provide a our offensive line with a serious interior. Incognito, Pouncey, Warmack. I think whoever is taking the handoffs in Miami's backfield should be able to run behind that trio effectively to say the least. Considering past draft history, If 1-2 QB's go early, and some of these highly rated Tackles go to the teams in serious need of O line help, Warmack could fall to Ireland, and should demand a serious amount of consideration. Considering where David Decastro was anticipated to go last year, and was drafted at 24, we'll just have to wait and see if a similar situation presents itself.
2(42) - Arthur Brown, Kansas State: Brown is a player who could be lost in the shuffle within the first 50 picks, and Jeff Ireland would be wise to scoop him up with his 2nd pick in April if it happens. Brown is slightly undersized, but don't get too caught up on his physical dimensions. He was named the top High School prospect coming into college during his recruiting year, and despite a transfer during it, displayed some serious flashes of playmaking ability when on the field. He could be a nice depth/rotation player who we can groom for an eventual role as Koa Misi's replacement, or insurance against a free agent bust/injury.
2(54) - Johnthan Banks, Mississipi State: His draft stock took a hit with a lackluster combine performance, and with the emergence of Tyrann Mathieu, Desmond Trufant, and Jordan Poyer all stealing the spotlight, Johnthan Banks could be the 4th or 5th guy taken at CB. He would provide a nice physical presence to help in the red zone, and is a nasty athlete who presents a threat on the edge in the deep game.
3(77) - Gavin Escobar, San Diego State
3(82) - Devin Taylor, South Carolina