Changes are obviously on the horizon for the Miami Dolphins this offseason - particularly on the offensive side of the ball. That's why part one of this two-part piece will focus on the decisions Miami's front office will have to make on offense at the skill positions.
Let's get to the brief rundown (obviously with more in-depth posts to follow as the offseason unfolds).
Like him or not, Chad Henne will be back in 2011. He's the only quarterback signed for the'11 season and is only owed just over half a million dollars. The question regarding Henne centers around what his role might be next season - and if he'll even have the opportunity to earn a contract extension beyond next season.
Tyler Thigpen is a free agent (assuming there is free agency this year - with the CBA expiring, you never know). While there's a small circle of Dolphin fans who simply love Thigpen - for some unknown reason, I might add - don't expect the quarterback to return. He wants to go to a place where he has a legitimate chance to start, and Miami is not that place. Unless something radically changes, Thigpen is probably as good as gone.
Then there's Chad Pennington. We don't even know if he'll be able to or will want to play next season. But what I do know is that the Dolphins should do whatever it takes to ensure Pennington comes back to this organization next season - whether it's as a quarterback, a coach, or a consultant. He's too valuable to this organization to not return.
Lots of questions here for the Dolphins to answer. The two most obvious questions involve Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, of course. Both seemed to have lost a step - though the struggles of the offensive line obviously played s big part. Ronnie loves Miami and really does seem like he wants to come back. Ricky, meanwhile, likely punched his ticket out of Miami when he ripped his head coach publicly days after the season came to a close.
Patrick Cobbs is a restricted free agent. But since he's a core special teams player and a favorite of Tony Sparano's, I'd expect Cobbs to return. Lex Hilliard is also a restricted free agent. And with his minimal playing time, we don't really know what he has to offer. But backs like Hilliard are a dime a dozen - so I wouldn't be quick to assume Hilliard automatically returns.
I also would be quick to assume Lousaka Polite returns. Polite is entering the final year of a three year deal and is due $1.25 million in '11. Despite his short yardage prowess, Polite struggled in 2010. He was one of the lowest graded fullbacks in terms of lead blocking, which contributed mightily to Miami's rushing woes. If there is an upgrade out there, the Dolphins should consider it.
Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess, and Brian Hartline will be back. And you have to assume that a speed receiver who can stretch the field - the units only missing piece - will be added somehow this offseason. Two players squarely on the bubble, though, are Roberto Wallace and Marlon Moore.
Both Moore and Wallace got some extensive playing time late in the season after Hartline was injured for the season. But both dropped a few passes and had some route running issues.
Wallace, the big 6'4 first year receiver, has the measurables you want in a receiver. But he didn't quite make the impact we thought he would. Moore, 6'2, is the faster of the two, and produced more than Wallace did - highlighted by his 57 yard touchdown catch and run against Oakland. But Wallace might have more "upside" because of his size.
Both are scheduled to make $405,000 in 2011 and I expect both to make it to training camp. But at most, there's only room for one on the roster. My gut feeling, though, is that neither return next season.