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NFL Free Agency 2017: Insider look at Miami’s William Hayes

We ask those who watched Hayes last year what they think of Miami’s new defensive end.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins started the NFL’s free agency period this offseason looking for a defensive end. After meeting with Jabaal Sheard but not signing the former New England Patriots player, the Dolphins completed a trade with the Los Angeles Rams for William Hayes.

Who is Hayes and what does he bring to Miami’s depth chart? I asked Turf Show Times’ Joe McAtee for an inside look at the Dolphins’ newest defensive end:

Strengths: Balanced all-around game. Enough strength to power rush, enough speed to work the edge. Not a top athlete, but has so few flaws all-around that he's a quality option. VERY light injury history for 9-year veteran.

Weaknesses: Not elite in area. Lacks a go-to move. Not a top of the depth chart pass rusher.

Analysis: Hayes is a fine defensive end who put in some quality years with the Rams. He came over initially as a backup and spent four years in the defensive end rotation to much success with 21.5 sacks. Hayes frequently stepped in to the starting rotation when injuries befell (Yeah, I said befell. Never trust a player write-up that doesn't have "befell" in it) DE Robert Quinn or former linemate Chris Long. When the Rams released Long in 2016, Hayes stepped up into the starting rotation admirably. Is he a superstar who you can depend on to anchor a pass rush? No, but there's only so many of those to go around. And on a line with Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake...that's exactly the situation where Hayes can thrive. As for why the Rams released him if I've got nothing but praise? The Rams are in the middle of the turnover from the five-year Jeff Fisher era into Sean McVay's tenure. So for one, McVay is leaning on new Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips and his 3-4 defense which they might not feel Hayes would fit well. Secondly, the Rams need as much draft capital as possible to stock the well to replace Fisher's guys with new talents for McVay and Phillips to groom. The Rams cut other long-time Rams TE Lance Kendricks, C Tim Barnes and DE Eugene Sims outright. The reason they traded Hayes was that he's the most valuable of the group and the only talent strong enough to command positive draft capital in return. I expect Hayes to be a solid contributor for you guys barring any surprise injuries. He was reliable to the point of being one of the best backup defensive ends. He was productive even when promoted. I don't see why that would change with Miami until age starts to get the better of him, and I think he can squeeze out a couple years before we get to that point.

If Hayes plays out like McAtee describes, Miami made a smart pickup for a sixth-round draft choice (Miami also received a seventh-round selection in return). He will likely be asked to rotate into games behind Cameron Wake and Andre Branch, with Terrence Fede, and possibly Dion Jordan, in that rotation as well.

The Dolphins and Hayes just agreed to a new contract that removes the 2018 season from the veteran’s contract while lowering his salary cap number slightly, giving him a $2 million signing bonus and a little more guaranteed money in exchange. The Dolphins clearly are looking at Hayes as a stopgap option on a “prove-it” deal, but he could be exactly what the Dolphins need for this year. He will provide the value and he will fill the role the team envisioned of Branch last year, before Branch was promoted to starter over Mario Williams.

Without practices or games being played, this seems like a smart move for the Dolphins and one that could work well for them.