2013 NFL Free Agency: Assessing The Dolphins Free Agent Losses

Marc Serota

We've spent the past week and a half looking at the potential impact of the new members of the Miami Dolphins as they are signed in free agent. However, we have not spent much time looking at the loss of players from the Dolphins this year. We change that now.

The Miami Dolphins have been busy in free agency this year, working to revamp their roster and get younger over one offseason. As the team brings in new players, there are also multiple players that are leaving the organization this year. We have not spent much time looking at the impact of those players leaving.

We fix that now:

Kevin Burnett, Linebacker

Signed a two year, $5.25 million contract with the Oakland Raiders

Burnett became expendable for the Dolphins when the team signed Raiders linebacker Philip Wheeler. Once the Dolphins cut him, he signed to be Wheeler's replacement. The last time the Raiders and Dolphins did this type of swap, Miami signed center Jake Grove to a big contract, then the Raiders snapped up Samson Satele who the Dolphins released. The advantage there clearly went to the Raiders. Hopefully this time it is at least closer to even, if not in Miami's advantage.

Burnett was brought into Miami to be a tight end coverage linebacker. He was not bad in that role, but he was never good in it either. The fact that the Dolphins were looking for an upgrade is not a surprise. The fact that they did it in 2013 instead of in 2014 kind of was. How the swap of Burnett for Wheeler will really be felt simply depends on how Wheeler does in tight end coverage this year, as well as the assumed blitzing role the Dolphins will give him.

Loss Impact: Minimal - Noteworthy

Reggie Bush, Running Back

Signed a four year, $16 million contract with the Detroit Lions

The Dolphins made no real move to bring back Bush, clearly looking to move on from their 2011 acquisition. Miami will turn over the primary running back duties to second year runner Lamar Miller, who they feel will be able to do at least what Bush did in his two seasons in Miami, for a lot less money.

Bush reached the 1,000 yard rushing mark in 2011, then came up 14-yards short of the mark in 2012. Miami will be looking to Miller to fill that void. In Detroit, meanwhile, the Lions will be looking to use Bush more like his New Orleans role than as a feature running back.

If Miller does not turn out to be what everyone in Miami thinks he will be, this could hurt more, but for now, I don't see much loss.

Loss Impact: Minimal.

Karlos Dansby, Linebacker

Unsigned.

Dansby's write up starts off almost exactly the same as Burnett's. The Dolphins released Dansby after they added former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. Dansby's cap number this year was high, but not exorbitantly, like it would have been in 2014, which is when everyone, including Dansby, thought Miami would move on from him. However, it came a year earlier.

Just like the situation with Burnett, the real assessment of how much the loss of Dansby will be felt depends on how a newcomer to Miami works out - in this case Ellerbe. Dansby has clearly lost a step from the player he was in Arizona or in his early Dolphins tenure, but he's still a solid tackler and plays the run well. He was the signal caller for the Miami defense, so someone else will have to fill that roll now.

Loss Impact: Minimal-Noteworthy

Anthony Fasano, Tight End

Signed a four year, $16 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs.

This loss was a surprise to many, as it was assumed that the Dolphins would be able to bring back Fasano once free agency started. Instead he was one of the first signings announced at 4pm ET on March 12. Suddenly, the need for Miami to find a pass catching tight end became even bigger with Fasano gone.

The seven year veteran will not be a seam threat in Kansas City, burning up the AFC West, but he will continue to be a solid possession receiver, getting the Chiefs the big catch when it's needed. He's also an exceptional blocker, something no tight end, including the newly signed Dustin Keller, on Miami's roster is.

Loss Impact: Noteworthy

David Garrard, Quarterback

Signed a one year, $1.1 million contract with the New York Jets.

Let's face it, Garrard was really only with the Dolphins through mini-camp and the start of training camp. He was injured prior to the first preseason game, and Miami did fine with Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore, and Pat Devlin as the signal callers, all of whom will be back next year.

So, why is there any loss impact associated with Garrard? Because he went to the Jets. First, there's the ability of Garrard to tip off New York on aspects of Miami's offense. Again, what he knows is a year old already, and Miami will have changed things - but Garrard's knowledge is still in play to some degree. The other issue is, Garrard could end up solidifying the quarterback position for the Jets, a position led by the embattled Mark Sanchez. So, the loss of Garrard may not have much impact to the Dolphins, but the gain to the Jets could be felt in Miami.

Loss Impact: None.

Jake Long, Offensive Tackle

Signed a four year, $34 million contract with the St. Louis Rams.

This is probably one of the biggest hits the Dolphins took this year. Even at the non-Jake Long level of play we have seen from him over the past few years, Long's presence on the field was a major factor in the offensive line's level of play. Even when his play was degraded by injuries, Long still played to a level worthy of a starting tackle in the NFL. The issue came down to money.

Long felt he was still worthy of an $11 million per year contract. Clearly, Miami was not willing to give that to him. The team was thought to be offering him a salary in the $6-7 million range, possibly going as high as $8 million per season. In the end, he got $8.5 million from the Rams, who now have the number one and number two overall picks from the 2008 draft on their roster (Chris Long, defensive end, 2nd pick).

The Dolphins wanted Long back, and were trying to make it happen. But, in the end, they will now look to replace his production by sliding last year's second round pick Jonathan Martin from the right tackle position back to his natural left tackle slot, and finding a right tackle.

Loss Impact: Significant.

Sean Smith, Cornerback

Signed a three year, $16.5 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Smith hurt the Dolphins as well, despite the frustration so many of us as fans had watching him every week. His inconsistency was infuriating, but, when he was on, he was a good cornerback and could have been used by the Dolphins in 2013. Instead, a position of need with Smith became even weaker when he left for Kansas City.

The loss was not unanticipated. Like Long, Smith was asking for more money than the Dolphins were willing to give to him. In the end, he landed a $5.5 million per year deal, which was probably around $500,000 to $1 million more than Miami was comfortable giving him.

Loss Impact: Noteworthy - Significant.

Others:

Of the "other" list, Miami could still look to re-sign Amaya, McCann, and Mastrud. Amaya fills a role on special teams, but it's not something someone else can't fill. McCann is a solid player who needs more time to develop, but Miami needs depth at cornerback, so bringing him back could make sense. Mastrud being brought back could be an answer to the team's lack of a blocking tight end. They will likely look for an all around type like Fasano was, but if they cannot, Mastrud could fill a need.

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