ESPN is back on the trash the Miami Dolphins theme this week as they released their offseason grades” for the NFL. The AFC East received grades from Bill Barnwell of a B for the Buffalo Bills, a B for the New England Patriots, and a C+ for the New York Jets. The Dolphins? A D+.
Yeah, Barnwell really does not like the Dolphins.
In his “what went right” section for Miami, he takes a look at the team drafting defense primarily, avoiding the pitfall of an offensive minded head coach selecting just offensive weapons; the trades for Julius Thomas and William Hayes; and the addition of T.J. McDonald, despite his eight-game suspension. on a low-salary contract.
The “what went wrong” portion crushed the Dolphins. saying “they repeatedly outspent the market to bring back their own players,” as well as the team ignored the offensive line. Of course, the market had been indicating that Kenny Stills, one of those players Miami brought back, could be looking at a possible $10- to $12-million a season contract on the open market, where Miami re-signed him at $32 million, with $19.5 million guaranteed. Overspent by spending less?
He also takes exception to the Dolphins re-signing of safety Reshad Jones, defensive end Andre Branch, and linebacker Kiko Alonso. Somehow, the free agent addition of Lawrence Timmons is also included in Miami outspending the market to keep their own players.
As for the offensive line, Barnwell projects Jermon Bushrod and Anthony Steen as the starting guards, with passing mentions of “Bears castoff” Ted Larson and fifth-round draft choice Isaac Asiata. He also says the team has little behind starting, Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey, who admittedly has had injury issues, despite Steen and Kraig Urbik both giving the team depth at the position.
Barnwell ends his Dolphins section with a look at “what’s next” for the club, and he focuses on re-signing wide receiver Jarvis Landry. He writes, “Landry has the leverage to get a massive deal, and the Dolphins might have no choice but to give him one.” Apparently the potential of having to give Landry a new contract - not that they gave him one, but that somewhere down the road they may have to pay him big money or use the franchise tag in 2018 on their Pro Bowl receiver - plays into Miami’s grade for the 2017 offseason.
Apparently, the Jets, who blew up their team this year, have no real quarterback options, and are staring a possible coaching change after the season in the face, are C+ students because they “(mostly) went all-in with their rebuild” and they “attempted to supplement their offensive line.” Apparently re-starting your franchise, while signing Josh McCown to be your starting quarterback, and only “attempting” to supplement the offensive line is good enough to be a C+.
The Bills did even better by trading down in the Draft to pick up an extra 2018 first-round pick, they blew up the entire franchise with coaches fired after the season and the front office fired after the season, and they retained quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Yes, all of those are listed as things tat went well for the Bills. On the wrong side of the line for Buffalo, Barnwell looks only at the team losing more talent to the Patriots, who added cornerback Stephon Gilmore and running back Mike Gillislee from Buffalo. He never mentions the Washington Redskins signing linebacker Zach Brown, a Pro Bowler Buffalo no longer has. Somehow, they all equates to a B.
And somehow that equals the grade of the Patriots’ offseason, an offseason that may have been one of the best in the league this year. The Patriots added talent to a team that won the Super Bowl last year. The only downsides to what New England did this offseason, according to Barnwell, was not trading Jimmy Garoppolo and not adding a “cheap pass-rusher looking for a ring.” So, they kept a quarterback they may feel is the heir apparent to Hall of Famer Tom Bray and they did not sign someone like Julius Pepper or DeMarcus Ware (the two examples Barnwell provides) to play defensive end.
Of course, they did trade for Kony Ealy, but that does not fit the “cheap veteran looking for a ring” definition.
Somehow, the Patriots have what is widely considered a great offseason, and they get a B, the same grade as the Bills who blew up the franchise but kept Taylor. The Jets seem to be heading into rebuild modes and they get a C+. And the Dolphins get a D+?
Barnwell clearly does not know or understand what the Dolphins did this offseason. They kept the core of a team that went 10-6 and made the playoffs - even if you think that was overachieving for the club and they will regress back toward the mean some in 2017 - in the first year of a new head coach, a head coach widely considered one of the top young coaches in the league. They kept together the offensive weapons that have learned the new head coach’s offensive system and continued to build around their quarterback as they head into a year where everyone enters the offseason training program and training camp on the same page. They addressed the weaknesses of the defense, particularly against the run, with run-stopping linebackers, a run-stopping defensive end, and depth at defensive tackle. They locked up a run-stuffing, hard hitting, elite safety. And, this may be the most important part of it all, they established a culture where the team will take care of the players, re-signing and rewarding players for their work.
Luckily, these ridiculous grades mean nothing, but it would be nice to see Barnwell realize a playoff team that seems to be plugging in players to make them better is probably having a better offseason than two teams in the division that are heading into rebuilds.