The Miami Dolphins had an offseason that will determine the direction of the franchise over the next few years. A new head coach and coaching staff, several young and talented free agent departures, some big name free agent additions, and a surprise draft all set up the Dolphins for the future. Of course, what that future will be still has to be determined, but it was a busy offseason for Miami.
Looking back on the offseason, it seems like Miami did basically exactly what they wanted to do. They targeted specific players and went and got them. They molded their team into the vision of head coach Adam Gase, who also will mold his systems to the players on the team. Would they have liked to keep players like Lamar Miller, Olivier Vernon, and Rishard Matthews? Of course, but there were other reasons, to include money and playing time, that led the players to signing with the Houston Texans, New York Giants, and Tennessee Titans, respectively.
According to Pro Football Focus, the loss of those three, as well as players like Derrick Shelby, Greg Jennings, and Brent Grimes, did hurt the offseason grade for the Dolphins. PFF's offseason grade for Miami was a B-.
They explain the grade, writing:
After bleeding that much talent, it’s difficult to be too excited about what the Dolphins did this offseason, even if many of the moves were necessary. They had one of our favorite draft classes, but Miami still only ekes out a B- for an overall grade.
The Dolphins did have an exceptional Draft, with many analysts grading it highly and listing it among their top performances over the three-day selection process. Miami added offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil with the 13th overall pick, a player who had been mocked as a possible first-overall selection leading up to the Draft. Following that, they added cornerback Xavien Howard in the second round, running back Kenyan Drake in the third round, wide receiver Leonte Carroo in the third round, wide receiver Jakeem Grant in the sixth round, cornerback Jordan Lucas in the sixth round, quarterback Brandon Doughty in the seventh round, and tight end Thomas Duarte in the seventh round.
PFF writes about the Draft itself:
Even after the trade with Philadelphia that bumped Miami back to the 13th pick, the Dolphins still selected an offensive lineman — Laremy Tunsil — with legitimate top-five talent. In later rounds, they also nabbed a couple PFF favorites for Ryan Tannehill to throw to in Leonte Carroo (second-round grade) and Thomas Duarte (third-round grade). The heavy investment on the offensive side of the ball will be extremely important in helping Chris Grier to fully evaluate their quarterback.
During free agency, Miami added some key players like defensive end Mario Williams, safety Isa Abdul-Quddus, defensive end Andre Branch, offensive tackle Sam Young, and defensive end Jason Jones. They also claimed off waivers cornerback Ifo Ekrpe-Olomu, giving them a low-risk, high-reward player who appears to be healthy after missing his entire rookie season recovering from an ACL tear suffered at the end of his last year at Oregon in 2014, and they traded for linebacker Kiko Alonso and cornerback Byron Maxwell from the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for moving back from the eighth overall pick in the Draft back to the 13th selection.
PFF's take on the free agency period for Miami includes:
After the Dolphins “won” free agency in 2015 and signed Ndamukong Suh to a record deal, some concessions had to be made this offseason. Olivier Vernon and Lamar Miller were easily the largest casualties, but losing Rishard Matthews, Brent Grimes, and Derrick Shelby will prove costly as well. Signing Mario Williams, PFF’s lowest-graded edge rusher last season, to a two-year, $17 million deal doesn’t fit in with Miami’s larger offseason restocking theme. The big offseason news, though, was the trade with Philadelphia that netted them Kiko Alonso and Bryon Maxwell. Maxwell might be an upgrade from their current situation at cornerback, but he’s still an average cornerback who they’ll have to pay $17 million over the next two seasons. Alonso, on the other hand, didn’t look close to the player he was as a rookie in Philadelphia and with all his injury issues it’s unclear if he’ll ever get back there. The risk, however, was minimal and it could pay off dividends.
They go on to write in their conclusion:
Outside of the unnecessary extension for the 34-year-old Cameron Wake and head-scratching signing of Williams, Miami had a decidedly impressive offseason...If their season ends in a playoff appearance, it will be because Tannehill finally took the next step with a talented line and group of receivers.
The Dolphins signed Wake to an extension this month, adding a year to his contract and lowering his salary cap number for this year. The Dolphins do no necessarily need the salary cap space right now, with just under $17 million in space according to the NFL Players Association, but it did also ensure Miami keeps their All Pro defensive end through 2017. Wake will have a $8.5 million salary cap number this year and a $7 million number next season.
Williams, though he graded poorly for PFF last year, was also playing out of position as a 3-4 outside linebacker rather than as a 4-3 defensive end. Could he, at age 31, have lost a step? It is possible, but he could also return to the form that had him recording double-digit sacks in 2012, 2013, and 2014, as well as Pro Bowls in 2013 and 2014 and a First-Team All-Pro selection in 2014. The "head-scratching signing" of Williams gives the team a player who should be able to compliment Wake from the opposite side of the field. He may not be the long-term solution for the defensive end position for the Dolphins, but he should be able to provide production at the spot in the short-term.
You can check out the full article, with some more of their thoughts on Miami's offseason, by clicking the link above.