The Miami Dolphins have a history of huge spending sprees in free agency. In recent years, they have been crowned the Champions of March after signing the likes of Mike Wallace, Branden Albert, Dannell Ellerbe, and Ndamukong Suh to massive contracts. These deals, coupled with big extensions for Ryan Tannehill and Mike Pouncey, have put the Miami Dolphins in a bit of a salary cap hole.
The team is not in an awful place regarding the cap. Many have a perception that they are in dire territory, while in reality the deals have been structured in a way that gives the Dolphins a bit of breathing room. After some easy cuts that would clear cap space, the team will have some leftover money to work with in free agency.
This will not allow them to take their usual approach of throwing huge money at a player they do not really need. However, this year’s free agent class features some options that could provide the Dolphins with a very good bang for their buck. There are also several players that could cost the Dolphins plenty of their salary cap space, but would fit their needs remarkably well.
Here is a free agency preview, with six players the Miami Dolphins could target next month.
Matt Forte (CHI):
Lamar Miller walking away from the Dolphins in free agency would be bad. It would border on tragic for the team. Given the tendencies of Adam Gase’s offense, a versatile back like Miller who can make plays out of the backfield on a regular basis would be ideal.
If he walks, however, the team will need to sign a running back. In all likelihood, this could lead the team towards one of Adam Gase’s former players: Matt Forte.
Matt Forte would be an expensive option, but he is 30 years old. While his age could scare away many teams, Adam Gase knows just how effective Forte can be when healthy. He is one of the NFL’s best running backs in terms of making plays out of the backfield catching the ball. It is hard to deny the importance he held in Chicago.
When the team lacked receivers, Forte was able to shoulder a huge load and carry the offense on his back.
The biggest question with Matt Forte is his price. While his advanced age (especially at his position) could make him a slightly cheaper signing, the next running back on the list could be a younger option with an even lower price tag.
Alfred Morris (WAS):
The Miami Dolphins have needed a punch in the ground game for years, and have lacked a consistent presence in terms of a power back.. In Washington, there is a running back whose skill set allows for a very stout power rushing attack.
Alfred Morris exploded onto the scene as a rookie in 2012, rushing for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns. As a first year player out of FAU, right in the Dolphins’ backyard, his performance came as a complete shock across the league. What has been even more shocking is the decline we have seen in his production.
Morris has been unable to match his rookie year numbers, dropping below 1,000 yards in 2015 for the first time in his career. He did play all 16 games, but lost carries to Matt Jones. It has been heavily speculated that Morris will leave the Redskins, and test free agency.
With his decline in production, it is hard to place a value on Alfred Morris. While the Dolphins would be better off keeping Lamar Miller, there is the possibility that a change of scenery could re-spark Morris’ career. He would be returning to his home state, as a Pensacola native who attended college in South Florida.
If the Dolphins feel that they could benefit from having a true power running back, Alfred Morris would be a solid option given the potential discount they could reap following his decline since 2012.
Jermaine Gresham (ARI/CIN):
Many are wondering about the state of Jordan Cameron’s tenure in Miami. His contract will balloon in 2016, as he is due a salary that would result in a cap hit of almost $10 million. Cameron was able to stay healthy (relatively) in 2015, and made some plays for the Miami Dolphins. However, he did not become the dominant tight end that Dolphins’ fans hoped he could.
If the team cuts Cameron, they will need an athletic replacement at the position. Dion Sims is a valued asset as a run blocker, but he is far from a strong option in the passing game. We saw him drop passes and fumble the ball repeatedly during the Dolphins’ Monday Night Football game versus the New York Giants.
The tight end class is very thin in free agency and the draft. While this could prompt Miami to keep Cameron, there is one option that they could look towards as a pass catching weapon.
For years, the Cincinnati Bengals waited for Jermaine Gresham to become the go-to tight end that they drafted him to be out of Oklahoma. The team eventually selected Tyler Eifert, and Jermaine Gresham moved on to Arizona. He had a lackluster season with the Cardinals, catching 18 passes for just over 200 yards. However, he had at least 50 receptions in 3 of his 5 seasons with the Bengals.
Gresham would be a very cheap option and, while Cameron would be a better bet to succeed, the team could opt for the cheaper player and take a chance on Gresham to save some much needed salary cap space.
Kelechi Osemele (BAL):
If the Miami Dolphins splurge on one free agent in 2016, it should be Kelechi Osemele. The Ravens’ fourth-year guard out of Iowa State has become a valuable player on their offensive line, using pure strength to dominate inside. Playing in the AFC North, Osemele is faced with some of the most physical teams in the league, and has stood tall in the face of this task.
The Miami Dolphins desperately need help on the inside of their offensive line. No quarterback is subjected to more hits and sacks than Ryan Tannehill, as he has been beaten and battered throughout his career. Since the departure of Richie Incognito under very disharmonious circumstances, the team has been looking for answers on the inside of the offensive line. They need a player who can set the tone in the trenches and dominate defensive linemen.
Picking at the 8th overall spot in the 2016 Draft means the Dolphins are too high for a first round guard. They also cannot wait until the 2nd round, as it is an incredibly pressing area of need. If they make one big move in the 2016 offseason, they should sign Kelechi Osemele to be the player who sets the tone with his strength and physicality within the trenches. The Dolphins need to establish an attitude, and Osemele could help them become a more fearsome group on offense (especially in the ground game).
Adam Jones (CIN):
I am going to preface this section by saying that I have no idea what Adam Jones’ free agent value will be this offseason. He has had an incredibly turbulent career, but played well under Vance Joseph with the Bengals. The player, known as "Pacman", was drafted by the Titans in 2005 and spent a year out of the league in 2007. He signed with the Cowboys in 2008, then had to sit out another two seasons due to off field problems. These off field issues included an incident of which a bystander was shot in a nightclub, due to circumstances created by Jones. The victim was paralyzed.
In 2010, he returned to the league with the Cincinnati Bengals. While his personality has created some head-scratching moments, like accusing Antonio Brown of faking a concussion, he has still been able to perform on the field. Since 2010, Jones has had 9 interceptions and 53 passes defensed.
It will be hard to predict his free agency value, and hard to figure out if the Dolphins would be interested in the embattled player, but if he is affordable on the open market it could be worth the risk to pair him again with Vance Joseph. Joseph was able to get the best of Jones, who had his best seasons under the tutelage of the new Dolphins defensive coordinator.
Leon Hall (CIN):
The Miami Dolphins will in all likelihood look towards the ex-Bengals’ cornerbacks in free agency, and if the front office is not crazy about the off-field implications of bringing in Adam "Pacman" Jones, they could make a pass at Leon Hall.
Hall has been with the Cincinnati Bengals for each of his nine NFL seasons, and has worked with Vance Joseph since 2014. The 31-year old corner has 26 career interceptions.
The Dolphins would, in all likelihood, be able to get Hall for a price similar to the one they paid for Brent Grimes just a few seasons ago. However, do they want to bring in another corner who has suffered previous injuries? We are currently witnessing Grimes’ decline, and Hall suffered the same Achilles injury. Hall actually suffered two torn Achilles: once in 2011 and once in 2013. This makes him a very risky proposition, but the Dolphins could need to take chances given their salary cap situation in free agency this season.
This offseason will not be easy for the Miami Dolphins. They have too many needs, and not enough resources with which to fill them. They will need to make sacrifices and decide what is truly most important to the team, as they attempt to improve the team’s recent fate.
While free agency is never really the best option, it can be done correctly. In recent seasons, the Dolphins have not approached free agency correctly. In 2016, they will be in a good position to avoid overspending, mostly due to the restrictions of their salary cap situations. So yes, a bid situation is forcing the team into good decisions. It is just convoluted enough to work for the Miami Dolphins.
If the team wants to improve in free agency, it will have to be through players like the ones listed above. Those who are reaching an advanced age, or those who have faced recent declines, will be available for lower prices on the open market. The Miami Dolphins’ front office will be tasked with seeking out those affordable free agents, and bringing them in to help the team win without once again mortgaging their flexibility within the salary cap.