The Miami Dolphins are months away from needing to cut their roster down to the NFL’s regular season limit of 53 players. The team has the remainder of the offseason training program, training camp, and the preseason to work their way from the 88 players they currently have on the roster - with two additional spots available if they choose to fill them - down to the 53 players they can take into the regular season.
Of course, months away from the actual 53-man roster limit does not mean we are months away from speculating about how that 53-man roster can come together. This morning, we take a way too early crack at building the Dolphins’ regular season roster. While this is not necessarily a “depth chart” it does set up in that way as we look at who makes the roster and who misses out. We also project the 10-man practice squad.
I originally had Brandon Doughty on the 53-man roster, but the numbers just did not work out in his favor. Miami promoted him to the roster last year in an effort to make sure he was not poached, so they could look to find a way to keep him on the 53-man roster this year as well.
Running backs (4)
Miami will rely primarily on Williams and Drake to back up Ajayi. The fourth position is up for grabs, with Johnson getting the nod in this projection. Senorise Perry and De’Veon Smith are also in play to add depth to the position.
Wide receivers (6)
Wide receiver has become an incredibly deep position for the Dolphins. The top three positions are locked, with Carroo most likely able to be included in that group. Grant has to come into the Organized Team Activities showing he is ready for a larger role on both offense and special teams. Ford is an interesting prospect coming in as a seventh-round pick, but having a skill set that could land him on the roster.
Tight ends (4)
This could be a position where the Dolphins could look to gain another roster spot for another position group, but the fact that Adam Gase’s history has been with two tight end sets, keeping four on the roster seems to make sense. Thomas and Fasano come in as the guaranteed top two. Gray and Duarte seem like the next two in line.
Offensive linemen (9)
The Dolphins’s offensive line will, once again, be the position group to watch in training camp and the preseason. This year, however, it really will be one position of the five starters that gets the majority of the attention. Tunsil will move to left tackle, Pouncey will be the starting center, Bushrod should hold on to the right guard spot, and James has the right tackle position. That leaves the left guard slot, with Asiata, Larsen, Steen, and Urbik all battling for it. Steen and Urbik also provide the depth at center that the line could need with Pouncey’s hip issues, and Young comes in as the swing tackle.
Defensive ends (5)
Wake, Branch, Harris, and Hayes should all be locked into the roster. That leaves Fede on the bubble of making the 53-man roster or not. He is going to have to battle with undrafted free agents like Cameron Malveaux, Praise Martin-Oguike, and Joby Saint Fleur, as well as Arthur Miley and Julius Warmsley. Of that group, Warmsley could make the most sense as a threat for the final defensive end position - but the Dolphins could also look to keep just four defensive ends if they do not feel any of the group, including Fede, are worthy of a spot.
Defensive tackles (5)
Keeping ten defensive linemen is a lot, but the Dolphins may need to do it to try to better the rush defense compared to last year’s performance. Suh and Phillips seem set as the starters. Godchaux and Taylor, both drafted this year, should provide rotational depth. Williams makes the roster to give the Dolphins a veteran presence in the reserve groups, but he could be an option if the team wants to lose a defensive tackle in order to add another player elsewhere on the roster.
Miami will decide on their starting three linebackers, likely seeing Alonso and Timmons take two of those positions and McMillan and Misi battling for the other spot. Hull provides middle linebacker depth. There are other depth options the team could consider, including undrafted free agents. Right now, I have given the last linebacker position in this projection to Lacey, the Canadian Football League transfer who intrigued the Dolphins enough to add him to the roster with a futures contract after the 2016 season ended
The Dolphins want to have an extremely deep cornerback group, but for this projection, I ended up with just five players on the roster. I would like to add another, but just did not have the space. Maxwell, Howard, Tankersley, McCain, and Lippett all seem sure locks for the roster. Lafayette Pitts is most likely the sixth player in the group, if six are kept, though Jordan Lucas, Torry McTyer, and Larry Hope will all be looking to make an impression in training camp and the preseason.
Jones is coming back from a shoulder injury that shortened his 2016 season, but he clearly will start as the team’s strong safety. Allen will likely start at free safety this year, with Thomas as the primary reserve for the position and returning as the special teams captain. Smith makes a surprise claim to the roster, pushing past Walt Aikens and A.J. Hendy for the roster spot.
Special Teams (3)
Long Snapper (1)
He’s John Freakin’ Denney.
The Dolphins did not add any competition for Franks this year.
Darr does have some competition in the left-footed Matt Haack.
Practice Squad (10)
Lafayette Pitts, CB
Cameron Malveuax, DE
Praise Martin-Oguike, DE
Julius Warmsley, DT
Chase Allen, LB
Winston Chapman, LS
Matt Haack, P
Brandon Doughty, QB
Malcolm Lewis, WR
Damore’ea Stringfellow, WR
Miami keeps several of their undrafted free agents this year by stashing them on the practice squad. That includes the odd situation of keeping a long snapper and a punter on the practice squad. Chapman gives the team an heir apparent for Denney whenever the ageless one decides to retire. Haack keeps the team able to practice whenever they face a left footed punter - maybe not the greatest reason to keep a punter on the practice squad, but it is something different and the Dolphins coaches seem to like to do things slightly differently.
T.J. McDonald, S
McDonald is suspended for the first eight games of the season, but he should then be able to come in and find playing time in the Miami secondary.