It should be pretty clear to most at this point that I love to speculate and fantasize about different kinds of scenarios the Dolphins could do to improve the team. Whenever I play Franchise Mode in any game whether it be football, baseball, basketball, whatever. My favorite part is always making trades, signing free agents and working around the salary cap. I actually find that to be more fun than actually playing the game. I don't really know why, but that's besides the point.
With training camp getting closer and closer, teams are beginning to put together the final pieces of their preseason squad. That means giving some veteran free agents a small deal to see if he can prove his worth and make the team, and maybe even prove to other teams that he can still contribute. There are several good players still out there waiting for a phone call, here are ten that Miami should consider.
1: DE - John Abraham
I've been saying for a while now that the Dolphins needed a pass-rusher opposite Cameron Wake, and supposedly we took care of that by moving up and drafting my personal favorite, Dion Jordan. However, it's been noted on several occasions already that Jordan will not contribute on every play right off the bat, which leaves either Jared Odrick or Olivier Vernon opposite Wake on non-passing downs.
That doesn't sound too bad, the only thing I would say is that if we're gonna go all out, we really should go ALL OUT. Despite Abraham's advanced age of 35, he recorded 10 sacks last year for the Falcons and was considered the 5th best 4-3 defensive end according to Pro Football Focus. Why not have two stars on the field no matter what type of down it is? I see it like this: On obvious passing downs, we send Dion Jordan to flank Cameron Wake as was planned, and on running downs, we could have John Abraham out there just in case the offense shows run and decides to try and pass it. That way no matter what the situation, we have either Wake and Jordan, or Wake and Abraham. QBs across the NFL would quake in their boots.
The issue would be how much money would be involved. Even at this point in the offseason, Abraham doesn't figure to come cheap, and we need the extra payroll for next year in order to try and resign some of our free agents for next year. If this year truly is do or die, I say bring in John Abraham on a one year deal. If not, we'll live.
2: FB - Vonta Leach
I know what you're thinking. "Seriously? You felt the need to tell us something that everybody already knew?" True, it's no secret that the Dolphins are interested in bringing in the veteran fullback, and at this point in time are the favorites to land him. But so far no actual contract has been offered yet. There's a lot of speculation as to why, but that's not the point here.
There've been arguments that Leach's signing would be useless as it would take up salary cap space and a roster spot from another player for the sake of a dying position in fullback. I can see that point, the fullback position has been victim to a pass happy league for a long time now, but somehow the Super Bowl Champion Vonta Leach still manages to stand out.
In order to see the true value that Vonta Leach gives to teams, we have to view some numbers. In 2008 Leach was leading the way for then Houston Texans starting RB, Steve Slaton (anyone recognize that name?) to have a breakout season, rushing for 1,282 yards with 4.8 yards per carry. Lemme say his name again...STEVE SLATON people.
Then in 2009, Arian Foster came to town, and Steve Slaton was benched due to fumbling problems, and eventually placed on IR with a neck injury. Foster showed promise in his limited playing time and ran for 4.8 yards per carry. Then he unleashed. In 2010, Leach's last year with the Texans, Foster proved his worth as a superstar RB, running for a total of 1,616 yards with 4.9 yards per carry and 16 rushing touchdowns. Today Foster is still clearly a top 5 runningback, but his rushing production has yet to reach the numbers he put up in 2010 (his only season with more than 1,500 yards) with Vonta Leach leading the way.
When Leach got to Baltimore in 2011, Ray Rice was already a top-caliber RB, but Leach's presence did a lot for his touchdown total, as his TD numbers spiked from a measly 5 in 2010, all the way up to 12 in 2011. He also reached what still stands as career highs in total yards rushing with 1,364 and yards per game with 85.2. And in 2012, the Ravens won the Super Bowl. Nuff said.
Dying position yes. Still valuable? ABSOLUTELY! No matter where Leach went, the stating runningback benefited from his skills in blocking and was able to have an incredible season. In order to make a playoff run, we're gonna need Lamar Miller to have a season like that. He's drawn comparisons to Clinton Portis and has Frank Gore of the 49ers singing his praises...all he needs is a beefy FB to give him a hand.
3: RB - Willis McGahee
"Wai-wai-wai-wait! Didn't you just finish saying that Lamar Miller was gonna be freaking awesome for us? Why do we need to bring in an aging RB when we have the likes of Daniel Thomas and our new rookie Mike Gillislee?"
I see your point, and believe me, this should in no way be taken as a lack of faith in Lamar Miller...it should be taken however as a lack of faith in Daniel Thomas. I've been saying for a while now that I have several doubts about Daniel Thomas's ability to contribute as even a #2 RB, and I'm still saying it. Lamar Miller is and should be the starting RB, but for the #2 job, I like the idea of a veteran.
Willis McGahee was cut from the Denver Broncos as a cap casualty and also because of concerns about his Week 11 knee injury last year. Of course, injuries are nothing new to McGahee as he's overcome them time and time again. He's got four seasons of 1,000+ yards rushing under his belt and he's only carried the ball 1,957 times in his nine years in the league, which makes him a relatively fresh runningback even at age 31.
McGahee would provide veteran leadership at the RB position, not to mention he's still young enough to actually be able to contribute either as a spot-starter or as a backup. Not to mention he can be the voice of experience for the young RBs Miller and Gillislee. He has the credentials, he has the skill, and he's probably looking to play for a contender. We've taken a flyer on the likes of Keller and Grimes and they seem to be panning out so far...let's give McGahee a shot.
4: Guard - Brandon Moore
Heh heh heh...did you know that on ESPN's weekly Not Top Ten countdown, America has voted the Butt Fumble as the Worst of the Worst for 32 weeks in a row? Since Thanksgiving! It always amuses me to see the Jets suffer...hmm? Oh right, Moore. Now while that play focuses on the epic fail on Mark Sanchez's part, we must not forget whose butt he ran into. Brandon Moore ironically enough has been one of the top guards in the NFL for several years now, and even at age 33 his production hasn't dropped off much since his prime years. According to Pro Football Focus, Moore was ranked as the 4th best guard in the entire NFL and is highly effective in both the run and pass game.
Now bear in mind, it's not Moore's fault he had Sanchez as his QB, the Jets year looked a lot worse than Moore's play showed. In 2012 he only allowed 2 of the 34 times Sanchez was sacked and only 14 hurries...remember this is Mark Sanchez he's protecting, those are phenomenal numbers based on who he's trying to block for.
Ironically enough, Brandon Moore visited with the Dolphins back in March not long after they signed Dustin Keller. If Moore were to be signed, it would be an instant and significant upgrade over John Jerry or even Lance Louis at the RG position. He'd probably be another expensive pickup, but it would further solidify an OL that many are questioning.
5: WR - Brandon Stokley
I am well aware of the sheer depth we have at wide receiver, with the likes of Armon Binns, Rishard Matthews, Chad Bumphis, etc etc. They're all fighting for a roster spot. But for an experienced veteran like the 37 year old Stokley, I think we could make a little room in training camp.
Stokley has been injury prone over the course of his career, but when he has been on the field he's made his presence known. His more notable moments include when he was one of the three wide receivers of the 2004 Indianapolis Colts to have at least 1,000 yards receiving and 10 TD receptions, the other two being future HoF's Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne who also benefited greatly from catching passes from Peyton Manning for several years.
The man is a very smart, very shrewd WR who would take some pressure off of Mike Wallace who is still relatively young to be a voice of experience. His football IQ is well known and he knows how to get open, something that all of our receivers could always use more practice in. Honestly, for the short term, I might even say I'd take Stokley over Brandon Gibson, in the slot position if nothing else.
6: TE - Randy McMichael
Once a star of our offense, McMichael's numbers have dropped off substantially over the past few years. However one shouldn't immediately take that as any fault of McMichael's, being the backup of Antonio Gates will do that to you. McMichael was at one point considered one of the top receiving TEs in the NFL, think of him as the Gronk of yesteryear. Now at age 34, McMichael is better known for his blocking capabilities.
However that does't mean he can't still contribute as a receiving tight end, even with the inconsistent play of QB Philip Rivers, he's managed to put together decent numbers with an average of 19.7 receptions over his stint in San Diego to go with an average of 181 yards per year. Those numbers would've been significantly higher in my opinion if it weren't for the peculiar and dramatic drop in production in 2012, where he played all 16 games and was only targeted 13 times as opposed to 2011 where he was targeted 43 times.
Did Philip Rivers just decide he didn't like McMichael anymore? Who knows what the sudden lack of targets was caused by, McMichael has proven that he can still play at a relatively high level given the chance, and would be an excellent #2 TE behind Dustin Keller with his ability to not only receive but be an excellent blocker, something that Dion Sims and Michael Egnew and if we wanna go here...especially Dustin Keller could use some tutoring in. And it would be a nice little homecoming for Randy McMichael, nice bonus right?
7: RB - Michael Turner
Yes, another RB. I'm sorry guys, but I cringe whenever I think about another year of dealing with Daniel Thomas. I want a proven veteran at #2 if we're having a young guy as a #1. Michael Turner has a few advantages over the previously mentioned Willis McGahee, He has even fewer total carries in his career with 1,639, which means he's even fresher than McGahee.
Also like McGahee, Turner has earned some very high credentials over the course of his career. He's rushed for over 1,000 yards three times in his career, with one of those years being over 1,500 yards. He does however have one thing going against him besides his age. The Falcons released their star RB because he failed a physical.
Turner was also arrested in September last year for DUI and speeding, but those charges have since been dropped. Now we know that with the signing of Evan Rodriguez that our head coach Joe Philbin seems to be loosening up a little and giving players second chances, but it'll always be something to think about with Philbin.
Should Turner be signed by anyone, he'll most likely be used as a big bruiser back for the goal line and short yardage situations, along with being a voice of experience to mentor the young RBs. I say we take him...long story short, can we please replace Daniel Thomas?
8: LB - Takeo Spikes
Despite the youth movement we've taken with our linebacking corps, I'd like to have at least one veteran in the group who can continue to mentor the younger members of the group. Dannell Ellerbe is probably more capable than Philip Wheeler, but I don't see either of them as the teaching type. At age 36, Spikes has been around the league, and has more often than not been an at least average if not above-average player on defense.
Brian Urlacher has already retired, just like Ray Lewis, so now there are two less linebackers out there who can teach younger players. But Spikes is still out there, and he's looking for a place to end his career. I don't have any fancy stats or great arguments for Spikes, I just think we need a mentor for our linebackers, and Spikes won't be around for much longer.
9: CB/S - Will Allen
I've always been a big fan of Will Allen, I would often wonder why Nolan Carroll was playing instead of him when Allen was waiting around. Well later I would come to find...it was usually because Allen was hurt. When he was healthy, Will Allen was one of the best players in our secondary, if not the best. But he's no good to us hurt.
Allen signed a one-year deal with the Patriots at the NFL minimum rate, and got hurt again. But hey, I admire the man's perseverance, he keeps on trying no matter what. He's 34 years old, and playing safety at this point, but at the league minimum? I say go for it, what do we have to lose? Bring Allen back to Miami, he's got brains, he can teach all our safeties not named Reshad Jones.
10: QB - Chad Pennington
Yeah yeah, I know. Technically, CP10 shouldn't be on this list, he isn't a free agent anymore, he isn't even in the NFL anymore! But the way I see it, Chad should be brought into training camp. He was brought into OTAs to oversee the quarterbacking of Tannehill, Moore, and Devlin, and I think the Miami Dolphins FO should do everything in their power to get CP10 back into training camp.
I shudder in horror at the thought of how bad Chad Henne would've been without Chad Pennington mentoring him for like three years. I really wish Pennington hadn't gotten re-injured, because we would've been saved a lot of pain and suffering as fans...and Chad would've been saved a lot of physical pain and suffering.
Chad Pennington has gone through so many injuries and still managed to be productive through it all. That speaks to his football IQ and his ability to read defenses. If Ryan Tannehill can get in a whole training camp under the watchful eye of CP10, in my humble opinion...the sky's the limit.
All of these free agents could possibly contribute in our do or die rush for a playoff berth, but I haven't ruled out the thought of not signing any of them and just saving the money for next year's salary cap. That's the frugal choice, but I would like to at least attempt to make some final upgrades before the preseason.