Before the start of free agency, I introduced you to the idea of the Turtle Approach, a bold new outlook on how I think Miami should approach this offseason. We already looked at what I'd like to see happen with our current free agents, roster management, free agency, and the NFL Draft. Today we will recap the entire series as well plan out the best course of action for Miami as they look to build their dynasty over the next few years.
The Turtle Approach
- Re-signing Dolphins Free Agents (click link to read)
- Roster Management of Current Depth Chart (click link to read)
- Addressing Free Agency (click link to read)
- Tackling the NFL Draft (click link to read)
- Looking ahead to 2017 and Beyond
Recap of Miami's Offseason
Despite what some so-called "analysts" have blasted our team for, Miami didn't 'blow' their offseason. In fact, they have been pretty much in line with what we expected them to do so. The front office agreed with my advice with releasing Brent Grimes, Greg Jennings, and Brice McCain, as well as not retaining Olivier Vernon. They also set their price on Lamar Miller and Rishard Mathews, two guys I was high on but wasn't really too concerned with losing either. They also held on to Cameron Wake (for now, at least) which I agreed was the one veteran I did want to see Miami find a way to hold to.
Miami did restructure Ndamukong Suh's contract, which I was against, however, I don't think it matters much either way because I don't see him leaving Miami anytime soon. So Miami got more flexibility for this season and at the end of the day, I trust Dawn Aponte as much as anyone in the entire Miami Dolphins organization, so salary cap issues seem to be the least of my worries with this team. Free agency came and went, and although Miami didn't break the bank like it looked like we were going to do (thankfully!), Miami still made some low-risk moves. The Dolphins took a few fliers on some veterans who have high upside, signing Mario Williams after an off year, and also buying low by acquiring both Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonzo from Philly. I did expect Miami to end up signing Adam Jones, but based on his age and character issues, I wasn't too upset with the fact he may not have been the best long-term option.
My only regrets with free agency are that Miami didn't address the guard position enough (Bushrod and Urbik could work out, however, NEITHER is a slam dunk solution in my opinion), yet the draft hasn't started either. Also, losing out on C.J. Anderson was disappointing, considering he is a capable back at a decent price, but I don't think that Miami is 'panicking" in ANY way at the running back position... despite what the media seems to want us to believe.
I already took a look at Miami's multiple options at the upcoming NFL Draft, and they definitely seem to have a handful of them. No matter what happens, look for Miami to boost their biggest areas of concerns and grab as many capable starters from the offensive line, cornerback, linebacker, running back, defensive end and safety positions. This will be Head Coach Adam Gase's first NFL Draft so it will be an important one, and maximizing value while addressing needs should be the number one priority. But Miami's main goal- to win games, get to the playoffs and ultimately get to the Super Bowl will take a lot more than just the 2016 NFL Draft. Let's take a look into the crystal ball at a few key points that Miami needs to address, starting today.
2016 Should be Tannehill's Time
Whether you think Ryan Tannehill is the second coming of Dan Marino (but even dreamier) or whether you think he is hot garbage, we can all agree that Joe Philbin & Co failed him completely and made it difficult for us to evaluate him as the future of this franchise. Ultimately, I think we can all agree that we need to be able to stop making excuses for him however Miami needs to also give him every opportunity to be Miami's franchise quarterback. That includes giving him a stable coaching staff, a capable offensive line that performs better than a JV high school team, and a coordinator that trusts him enough to be able to audible and have control of the playbook and not just be a puppet/tackling dummy.
I have one main goal for the 2015-2016 season: Miami needs to do everything possible to get progression from the quarterback position. Ryan Tannehill NEEDS to have a bounce back year in 2016. Last year there were hundreds of problems, and Tannehill regressing during parts of the year was one of them. It was one of the many reasons why last year blew up on us and we ended up so far from where we all believed we should be. Whether it was all on him or not (spoiler alert: it wasn't), this year we can't undergo the same dilemma, or we will have to take a good, hard look at the QB position in 2017.
I'd likely rather go 5-11 and have a clear indication that we have the QB of our future than go 11-5 and still have no idea what the quarterback position will be like moving forward (cue the 2008 season; spoiler alert: we got waxed in the first round of the playoffs and haven't been back since).
I have one main goal for the 2015-2016 season: Miami needs to do everything possible to get progression from the quarterback position. Ryan Tannehill NEEDS to have a bounce back year in 2016.
Focus on the Lines and the QB Position
The best way to achieve the aforementioned main goal of the 2016 season is to keep Ryan Tannehill upright and in one piece. We need him alive, believe it or not. The best way to do that is to build the offensive line into a single cohesive unit. You know.... the offensive line??? The five guys that play in front of the quarterback? Surely you've seen them once or twice over the past five years, no? Mike Tannenbaum has always preferred to build around his offensive and defensive lines, and I think that's a smart strategy, especially in a deep draft this year for both offensive and defensive linemen.
Miami did bring in Jermon Bushrod and Craig Urbik, who could assist at the guard position, but I think they desperately need to find quality starters at the guard position as well as depth at the tackle position. Taking an offensive tackle with our first pick might anger some, but if that is the best value at the time, I am perfectly fine with that. BOTH tackles took time off last season and out guard play was atrocious. We need to employ 5 capable starters, and while they all don't have to be all-stars, they all need to play as one unit.
For as long as I can remember we have entered the offseason with the same questions at offensive line. I pray for a day where we finish an entire season and actually be impressed by our linemen. This is the best way to give our quarterback and our running backs the greatest chance to succeed. I know everyone wants exciting and flashy draft picks that sell jerseys but we need to build our OL before looking at a RB in this year's draft. I don't believe ANYONE in this draft class is going to be able to rush 1,000 yards behind our current line so beefing our OL up should be our top priority.
For as long as I can remember we have entered the offseason with the same questions at offensive line. I pray for a day where we finish an entire season and actually be impressed by our linemen.
Capitalize on that 2017 RB Draft Class
Just like last year, the media is stirring up the possibility of the top running back in college football ending up in Miami. And just like last year, I mentioned the fact why that's probably not the best idea. Despite the fact that I am opposed to drafting a running back in the first round for many reasons (many of which Darrel.Owen kindly listed in this post), that doesn't mean I don't think Miami should ever draft a running back with their top pick! Tannenbaum has never used his first pick on a running back, so I'm not too worried about it happening this April... however 2017 may be a different story.
There are three, possibly four running backs who will likely declare for the NFL Draft next season, and I think all have a very good chance to be the better pro back than ANY back in this year's class. Between FSU's Dalvin Cook, Georgia's Nick Chubb and LSU's Leonard Fournette, this 2017 NFL Draft class may go down in history as far as running backs are concerned. Personally, Leonard Fournette is the best back I have seen run in recent memory and if he stays healthy I'd spend a top 10 pick on him and not even blink.
Christian McAffery (Stanford), Semaje Perine (Oklahoma), Royce Freeman (Oregon) and Wayne Gallman (Clemson) could also be great backs that could end up sneaking up to the top 2 rounds of the draft. Miami should build their OL this year, stockpile as many picks as possible (possibly even future draft picks) and with a formidable line, they will have plenty of ammo to get great value and a fantastic back in 2017.
Personally, Leonard Fournette is the best back I have seen run in recent memory and if he stays healthy I'd spend a top 10 pick on him and not even blink.
Plan our Attack on the East
I'll tell you one thing, I have to admire Miami's gusto in the offseason the last few years. They may not have been too smart, but you can't really knock them for trying. They have addressed needs but they didn't really do it in the most intuitive way. Instead, they chose to have Stephen Ross 'make it rain' to get the top free agent, disregarding other small insignificant things like coaching, depth or any sort of a plan whatsoever (overrated!!!!). Miami's plan has been year after year to make a splash to finally 'overtake the Patriots'. If I had a dime for every time I've heard "This is the Year" over the past decade, I'd probably have enough to buy the Dolphins franchise straight up.
This, in a sense, is the overall message of the Turtle Approach, and one I've been preaching all offseason. And that is, that "this is NOT the Year"... And you know, there's nothing wrong with that! Now obviously, I'm not advocating to lose games, or have our guys go out and not to expect every game, but like I mentioned before, we need to rebuild the majority of this team from the ground up, and we can still have a very promising year without even winning the division, trust me on this. The truth is, though, soon enough we can have a legitimate shot to take over the AFC East and never give it back... and the smarter we do things as an organization, the sooner that has a chance to happen.
Slow And Steady Wins The Race
The Miami Dolphins will win SuperBowl 53.
This is the goal. It's lofty, but also not out of the possibility. This should be the vision and achievement of every member of the organization, from the owner, to the GM, to the coach and to all 53 players on the Miami Dolphins roster. The Dolphins could do this earlier, and they could end up being a contender this year; this is the NFL and we all know that anything that can happen! But we shouldn't expect this to happen. As we saw last year, we are a bit farther than we believed, however, things can change drastically in this league. Miami needs a plan, the patience to stick to it and the steadfastness to keep moving forward, even if the media and fans try to burn them at the stake.
Brady's reign in Foxboro won't last forever and despite being the most disappointing team in the AFC East last year, I also think that Miami has the brightest future for the next 10 years of any of the four. This division could very well end up being Ryan Tannehill's sooner than a lot of people think. But none of this happens overnight. It's a slow and steady process. That is the name of the game.
That is the Turtle Approach.