Over the next few days, we will be working our way through the list of potential free agents for the NFL, breaking them down by position. We will consider the Miami Dolphins' needs for the position, look at who is available, and consider how or if Miami would make a run at some of the players. We start this morning with the defensive tackles.
Currently scheduled unrestricted free agent defensive tackles (this list is not all inclusive, but does include all of the major players).
Terrence Cody, Baltimore Ravens
Colin Cole, Carolina Panthers
Dwan Edwards, Carolina Panthers
Kenrick Ellis, New York Jets
Nick Fairley, Detroit Lions
Andre Fluellen, Detroit Lions
Letroy Guion, Green Bay Packers
Nick Hayden, Dallas Cowboys
Tommy Kelly, Arizona Cardinals
Karl Klug, Tennessee Titans
Terrance Knighton, Denver Broncos
C.J. Mosley, Detroit Lions
Jared Odrick, Miami Dolphins
Stephen Paea, Chicago Bears
Corey Peters, Atlanta Falcons
Ryan Pickett, Houston Texans
Ahtyba Rubin, Cleveland Browns
Pat Sims, Oakland Raiders
Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions
Cedric Thornton, Philadelphia Eagles
Kevin Vickerson, Kansas City Chiefs
Dan Williams, Arizona Cardinals
Kevin Williams, Seattle Seahawks
Corey Wootton, Minnesota Vikings
The top name is obviously Suh, but he is going to demand top dollar on the open market, and he already has the eye of the NFL after his repeated on-field stepping-on-people issues. Miami could try to get creative with the salary cap numbers, and could find the space needed to land Suh, but it is not likely to end in a match this offseason.
Where Miami could make a move is to target the next group of players, like Fairley and Knighton. Fairley comes with injury risks and has appeared to not always play at full speed, but he is a 27-year old with a ton of talent. Knighton, "Pot Roast," may not be a dominant pass rusher, but he is good enough to disrupt the middle of the pocket and allow edge rushers to get after an opposing quarterback. Knighton's strength is his run defense, where he clogs the middle of the line and may be one of the best run-stopping interior defensive linemen in the game.
Other names on the list that Miami could target are Thornton and Dan Williams. If the Eagles allow Thornton to test free agency, Miami should absolutely consider making a run at him. Playing as a 3-4 defensive end for Philly, Thornton was one of the top run-stopping defenders in the league last year, and, at only 27, could provide the interior defense Miami was missing last year.
A lot of talk has been made of Miami targeting Dan Williams, who has been a run-stuffer for the Cardinals the last few seasons. He could be an upgrade for Miami, but he also plays very similarly to the defensive tackles Miami had in 2014. He absolutely could be a target, but I might consider some of the guys listed above over him first.
The other guy Miami needs to sign is Jared Odrick. The Pee-Wee Herman dance did not come out as much this year as in 2013, Odrick's signature sack dance, but Odrick was also dealing with injuries that slowed him some - despite playing around three-quarters of Miami's defensive snaps this year. He is only 27-years old and has played in every game for the Dolphins over the last four year. He is going to be considered among the top defensive tackles available if the Dolphins allow him to reach free agency this offseason, something that general manager Dennis Hickey should be trying to prevent. Odrick is a tweener type of lineman, able to play both the defensive end and defensive tackle positions, and he can have an impact at either. He disrupts offensive lines and gets after opposing quarterbacks well, showing his defensive end background, but he can also stop the run. Upgrading the defensive tackle position is important this year, but losing Odrick would not be a case of addition by subtraction, instead it would likely just make another hole Miami needs to fill.
Miami also has to make a decision on Randy Starks, who will have a $6 million salary cap number in 2015, but would only be $1 million in dead money if the Dolphins were to release him.
The NFL Draft has a few solid looking defensive tackle prospects, headlined by players like USC's Leonard Williams, Washington's Danny Shelton, and FSU's Eddie Goldman. It is an option for Miami to look to the draft to solidfy the position, but this year appears to be a year in which, if you are willing to spend some money, the top defensive tackles available in free agency are hitting the open market in the prime of their careers.
What do you think of the defensive tackles who could be available in free agency? Would you rather look at the draft?