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Discussing the Needs: Defensive Tackle

Time to continue on with this series and look at one of the more pressing needs: defensive tackle.

Currently on Roster
Keith Traylor
Vonnie Holliday
Steve Fifita
Anthony Bryant
Paul Soliai
Rodrique Wright

Dolphin Free Agents
Chase Page (exclusive rights free agent)

Current Situation
The current situation here clearly isn't good.  Keith Traylor, the prototypical nose tackle for a 3-4 defense, is getting much older.  He's signed through 2008, but I don't think anyone would be shocked if he calls it quits prior to the '08 season.  Vonnie Holliday is a good player, but is getting older.  And he isn't one of those guys who can fill NT position.  And neither is Rod Wright, though I still hold Wright in high regards in terms of potential as a Vonnie Holliday type player.  And what I mean by that is a guy who can play DE in a 3-4 defense and move to DT when the team goes with 4 down lineman.  Steve Fifita showed flashes during the season, but he's really not anything more than a decent backup.  Paul Soliai, a 2007 draft pick, has the prototypical size for a NT at 6'4 and 344 lbs, but never really looked comfortable at this next level.  Hopefully he can work with new DL coach Kacy Rodgers and grow as a player.

The only other guy on the roster right now who could potentially be an impact NT is a relative unknown.  Anthony Bryant was signed off of the Ravens' practice squad back in October and never saw the field, to my recollection, as a Dolphin.  But at 6'3, 335, he's got the size needed to be what the Dolphins need.  And while in Baltimore, he surely had some guys to learn from.  At only 26 years of age, he is still young enough to develop.  I recommend keeping an eye on Bryant once camp rolls around.  

Regardless, though, help in this area is clearly needed, as exemplified by Miami's inability to stop the run at all this season.  And Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland, and the rest of "the family" will surely focus on this position, whether it's through the draft or via free agency.

Potential Targets
Let's look at some of the options the Dolphins might have:

Shaun Rogers - We talked about a week ago that Rogers is being made available in a trade.  Recently, Rod Marinelli came out and said Rogers will not be cut.  So the question is what Rogers' price tag will be in Detroit's eyes and whether or not the Dolphins feel he'd be worth it.  He's immensely talented, but has had his work ethic questioned.

Albert Haynesworth - Haynesworth is coming off of a dominating, breakout season.  He'd be a perfect fit in Miami and is the ideal guy to fill this glaring need.  But I'd be shocked if Tennessee doesn't re-sign him or slap him with the franchise tag.

Corey Williams - With Haynesworth likely to return to Tennessee, Williams becomes the top DT on the free agent market.  At 6'4, 313, he isn't a HUGE guy.  But he's extremely effective and would fit in nicely down here in Miami.  He's coming off a great season in which he was constantly disrupting the opposing team, tallying 7 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and even an interception.  He'll be just 28 by the start of the season, meaning I would be shocked if Williams got anything less than 5 year deal.  He might be pricey, but he'd be a great addition to the Dolphins if they could get him.

Isaac Sopoaga - This guy is an intriguing player.  At 6'2, 332, he's got the size that Parcells covets.  He only started a few games in SF, but showed some flashes of potential.  He'll be only 27 on opening day and has a ton of upside.  He also wouldn't be too costly.  He's a player who is going to be on Miami's radar for sure once free agency starts on February 29.

Damione Lewis - Lewis was primarily a backup DT in Carolina this past year, but still picked up 3.5 sacks.  He's got a good motor and is relatively experienced.  But at 6'2, 301, he doesn't really have the size needed to be effective at NT.

Glenn Dorsey - We all know by now what Dorsey's deal is.  He was slowed by an injury this past year at LSU, but still dominated.  But he really isn't a good fit for a DT in a 3-4 defense.  But we'll discuss him a lot over the next 2-3 months.  So no need to get too in-depth about him right now.

Sedrick Ellis - Ellis is interesting because he might be a better fit for Miami's defense because of his size (6'0, 308).  He also even has some room to grow and put on a few more pounds without losing his explosiveness.  But he really isn't a #1 pick least right now.  So a trade down a few spots would be needed at this point for Ellis to land in Miami.

Later round draft pick - There are quite a few guys who could go in rounds 2-4 who would be good fits, physically speaking, for the Dolphins.  Some of them are Marcus Harrison (6'3, 310), Pat Sims (6'4, 314), Frank Okam (6'5, 320), and Red Bryant (6'5, 324).  We'll have more on these guys as April approaches and we see what happens in free agency.

My Best Guess
It's hard to say right now.  But if I was forced to make a prediction right now, here's what I'd say.  Keith Traylor retires.  Steve Fifita and Anthony Bryant battle it out for one spot.  And the Dolphins sign Sopoago to start and draft a late round, project-type of player in rounds 5-7.  So this is how it would look:

Isaac Sopoago (NT)
Vonnie Holliday
Rod Wright
Paul Soliai
Anthony Bryant/Steve Fifita
Late round rookie (on practice squad)

As always, thoughts below...