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Dolphins free agency shopping list: Targets and needs for Miami in 2016 offseason

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The Miami Dolphins are starting their 2016 offseason plans. What is on the shopping list and how can they fill those needs?

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins are in the final countdown before the start of the 2016 NFL free agency period. Monday marks the start of the league's "legal tampering" period, a two-day pre-free agency timeframe in which teams can talk to the agents of players scheduled to become free agents, but they cannot visit with the player, talk directly to the player, or officially sign the player. At least, not until the official start of free agency on Wednesday at 4pm Eastern time.

The Dolphins head into free agency with somewhere between $15- and $20-million in salary cap space, depending on exactly how the various contract restructurings they have done over the past week were completed. The team is still looking to create more space, with a reported restructuring of tight end Jordan Cameron's in the works, a desired restructuring of defensive end Cameron Wake's contract stalled but still potentially on the table, and various other restructurings or release of the player. The team also has $12 million tied to the transition tag they used on defensive end Olivier Vernon, which could come off the books if the team chooses not to match any offer sheet Vernon signs with another team, or if they agree to a long-term deal with their 2012 third-round pick.

Miami is getting ready to start their official offseason plan. Technically, they already started by visiting with free agent defensive end Mario Williams, who, by virtue of being released by the Buffalo Bills rather than being a player with an expiring contract, can visit with, and ultimately sign with, a team even before the start of free agency. As fans, free agency is one of the most exciting times of the year, especially during the offseason. To prepare for it, here is a shopping list of needs for the Dolphins, as well as some players they may target.

Shopping List

There are several needs for the Dolphins to address this offseason, whether it be in free agency or in the Draft. That means, some of these areas listed below may not be addressed by the signing of a player over the next few weeks. Ultimately, the new coaching staff could even decide they are going to use an in-house option to fill a need, rather than sign or draft someone. Whatever the ultimate case, here is Miami's offseason shopping list for 2016:

  • 1 Middle Linebacker (Starter, potentially strongside as well)
  • 2 Cornerbacks (1 starter, 1 nickel)
  • 2 Guards (Starters)
  • 1 Running back (Starter if Lamar Miller leaves - depending on evaluation of Jay Ajayi)
  • 2 Defensive ends (1 Starter if Vernon leaves, 1 backup)
  • 1 Free Safety
  • 1 Quarterback (Backup)
  • 1 Offensive tackle (Backup/Developmental)
  • 1 Defensive tackle (Potential signing, depending on money and evaluation of Jordan Phillips)
  • 1 Wide receiver (depth signing, especially if Rishard Matthews leaves the team)

Potential Targets:

I've listed some of the top targets I would consider for the Dolphins. Some of these positions skip top free agents because I do not see the Dolphins spending that king of money. Some of them look more toward developmental players than top players because Miami is fairly well set at the starting position, but need depth. Here are some of the targets Miami could consider to fill their shopping list:

Linebacker

  1. Danny Trevathan
  2. Jerrell Freeman
  3. Mark Barron
  4. James Laurinaitis
  5. Tahir Whitehead
  6. Nigel Bradham
  7. Zach Brown
  8. Stephen Tulloch
  9. Rolando McClain

I really like the idea of Miami chasing Treathan this offseason, and I think he could be the three-down linebacker who finally gives Miami a chance at covering tight ends. Freeman is another guy who could cover for the Dolphins, followed by a pair of former Rams players on the list, where Barron could play either safety or linebacker, and seems to have done well playing up closer to the line of scrimmage, while Laurinaitis would likely be a year-or-two rental to allow the coaches time to develop a younger player behind him to take over. I don't think Tahir gets the recognition he deserves and he could be a good linebacker addition.

Cornerback

  1. Janoris Jenkins
  2. Adam Jones
  3. Sean Smith
  4. Prince Amukamara
  5. William Gay
  6. Casey Hayward
  7. Nolan Carroll

If Miami is going to spend money this offseason, this may be the right place to do it. Jenkins is probably a pipe dream just based on how much he will cost. Jones has the link to Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who was the Cincinnati Bengals' defensive coordinator last year with Jones, and there seems to be some assumption that Jones and Joseph could re-unite in Miami. Smith would be a great target for Miami, who originally drafted the Utah Ute. Amukamara would be another great target, as would Gay. Hayward could be a nickel corner option, as could Carroll, who left the Dolphins in free agency in 2014.

Guard

  1. Kelechi Osmele
  2. Alex Mack (center)
  3. Alex Boone
  4. Evan Mathis
  5. Ramon Foster
  6. Brandon Brooks
  7. Richie Incognito
  8. Jahri Evans

There are a bunch of ways Miami could go with this position, especially since the team seems to need two guards - though they could look to the trop of Dallas Thomas, Billy Turner, and Jamil Douglas to finally have someone step up and claim the starting position. Osmele could be the top option at the position for Miami. Mack is intriguing, because the team could move Mike Pouncey to guard - though Pouncey has repeatedly stated he is a center naturally. Boone could be another option, while Mathis and Evans are probably rentals just to give the team more time to develop someone else as the starter in 2017 or 2018. Incognito will not be back in Miami after the Bullygate fiasco, but he would be a good fit.

Running back

  1. Doug Martin
  2. Matt Forte
  3. Arian Foster
  4. Chris Ivory
  5. Bilal Powell
  6. Alfred Morris
  7. Reggie Bush

The running back position is a big question mark for the Dolphins. Do they re-sign Miller after he sees what his market value is? Do they consider Ajayi a starting running back option, and are looking for a complimentary back for him, or is the complimentary back to someone else? Forte will get the most linkage to Miami, because head coach Adam Gase was the Chicago Bears' offensive coordinator last year with Forte, but Miami could look at any of these players as potential starters for a year or two. Except maybe Bush, who could come back to Miami as the complement to Ajayi.

Defensive end

  1. Jason Pierre-Paul
  2. Mario Williams
  3. Tamba Hali
  4. Chris Long
  5. Charles Johnson
  6. Robert Ayers
  7. William Hayes

Again, this all depends on what happens with Vernon. If Miami is looking to fill the position, they could look for a big name, high money starter, or they could try to sign back Derrick Shelby, who will also be a free agent this offseason, or maybe look to select someone in the Draft. JPP will have to prove his hand will be ready for a full 16-game season. Williams could be too expensive, while Hali probably will be too expensive. Long has struggled the last two seasons, but could be looking for a one-year prove it contract.

Safety

  1. Eric Weddle
  2. Reggie Nelson
  3. George Iloka
  4. Walter Thurmond
  5. Rodney McLeod
  6. Rashad Johnson

My personal guess here is, Miami looks to the Draft to try to find a safety, probably at some point in the first two days, but there are a few options out there if the team wants to go get one. Weddle is probably the top safety on the market, but he is nearing the end of his career. Like Adam Jones earlier, Nelson has the Bengals-Vance Joseph link, and he is a good free safety, which could allow Reshad Jones to be even better in 2016. Iloka is also a Bengals safety looking for a new job, while Thurmond was great last year, but comes with injury concerns. Rashad Johnson is a really good safety who gets overlooked, plus is would be fun to have Reshad Jones and Rashad Johnson in the secondary.

Quarterback

  1. Chase Daniel
  2. Matt Flynn
  3. Josh Freeman
  4. Thad Lewis
  5. Colt McCoy
  6. Matt Schaub

No idea what the Dolphins do here. Daniel would be a solid option as a backup quarterback and he is continuing to develop, which might be exactly what Miami wants. Everyone on the list is a flyer that you would be hoping you never have to use, but might be able to come in and hold it down for the remainder of a game if Ryan Tannehill were to get hurt. Will the Dolphins sign someone, or will they consider Logan Thomas the second-string quarterback and go get a third passer later in the Draft?

Offensive tackle

  1. Kelvin Beachum
  2. Mitchell Schwartz
  3. Donald Penn
  4. Jake Long

This might be a luxury signing at this point, but the Dolphins have to find a better backup tackle than Jason Fox was last year. Beachum could have been looking at big-time money this offseason, but he tore his ACL about mid-way through the season. Schwartz and Penn could be solid reserve options, but might be looking for a starting position. Long could come back to Miami, where he was the 2008 first overall pick, where he would give the team a veteran presence and a solid depth option - which will hopefully avoid any injury issues he has had in the past.

Defensive tackle

  1. Jaye Howard
  2. Paul Soliai
  3. Nick Fairley
  4. Ian Williams
  5. Haloti Ngata
  6. B.J. Raji
  7. Terrance Knighton
  8. Akiem Hicks

The Dolphins may not need to address the defensive tackle position, and could rely on Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillips as the starting defensive tackles, and it might work perfectly fine. The addition of a veteran or depth behind those two has to be considered at the least. There are a lot of options, some of them older players nearing the end of their career, while others are younger guys. Howard has to be among the top, if not the top, option here. Soliai might be the perfect compliment to Suh and would help shore up the run defense in a return to the Dolphins.

Wide receiver

  1. Anquan Boldin
  2. Jermaine Kearse
  3. Brian Quick
  4. Marc Mariani
  5. Marvin Jones

Like defensive tackle, the wide receiver position is not a must fill position. Miami is looking to head into the season with Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Kenny Stills as the top three, with Matt Hazel likely the fourth receiver. If the team can keep Rishard Matthews, the position group is probably exactly how the team would like it. If Matthews leaves, adding someone like Boldin would be a great move, while Kearse and Quick also could fill that depth receiver role if the team is not sure about Hazel or even Stills. Mariani is someone people will overlook, but he brings talent and Jones would be a great pickup, but he may be expensive because he is likely seen as the top target on the market after Alshon Jeffery was franchise tagged.

Tight end

  1. Dwayne Allen
  2. Coby Fleener
  3. Ladarius Green

Let's consider tight end the impulse buy sitting next to the register; they are not on the list, but they are tempting. If I were in charge of the Dolphins, Allen would absolutely be on the radar and I would be calling his agent to at least gauge the interest. Fleener and Green are both solid options as well, and could be good signings. Again, this is pure impulse, and it could keep the Dolphins from affording something else somewhere else, but it would be a nice addition to the offense.