The look at the Miami Dolphins' soon-to-be free agents continues this morning with a look at the second-leading tackler on the team in 2015. We are working our way through the 18 potential free agents the Dolphins have when the new league year starts in March, trying to decide whether the team should re-sign the player, franchise tag him, or allow him to leave in free agency.
Re-sign, tag, or leave: Shelley Smith
The Miami Dolphins have decisions to make on their soon-to-be free agents. We take a look at each player and decide if the team should re-sign, franchise tag, or allow the player to leave.
Kelvin Sheppard, linebacker
2015 Salary Cap Number: $2 million
Expiring Contract: 1 year, $2 million
Sheppard joined the Dolphins during the 2014 season on a one-year, $645,000 contract, appearing in 14 games with one start. He then re-signed with the team for 2015, agreeing to terms on a one-year, $2 million deal. He moved into the starting lineup, playing middle linebacker for the team, and started 14 games, appearing in all 16. He tallied 102 tackles this year, second most on the team behind safety Reshad Jones.
The Case for Re-Signing
The Dolphins need to upgrade their linebackers this year, but it could make sense to try to bring back Sheppard for another season to either continue to start if Miami cannot completely overhaul the position, or to provide an experienced veteran option off the bench. He is not going to be overly expensive, and while he is not flashy, he could at least provide a solid depth option.
The Case for Tagging
There is none.
The Case for Allowing Sheppard to Leave
The Dolphins do need to overhaul the linebackers, and that probably makes Sheppard expendable. Miami needs to add a true, field-general type of middle linebacker, someone who can take charge of the defense and make sure the defensive line and linebackers are all in the right position and on the same page.
Allow to walk. Sheppard is a solid player, but he is not the middle linebacker Miami needs to find this year. If he is willing to re-sign with the Dolphins for a cap-friendly salary, he would be a good depth option, but the Dolphins need to get the linebackers fixed this year, which should mean Sheppard is out of the starting lineup in 2016.