The Dolphins’ front office made it a priority to uphold as much roster consistency as possible this offseason, ensuring that the franchise’s cornerstone players were in place in order to build upon last season’s success. That mindset meant locking up some of the team’s most important pieces including Kiko Alonso, Kenny Stills, and Andre Branch for the foreseeable future.
That being said, the ever active VP of Football Operations Mike Tannebaum and his right hand man, General Manager Chris Grier, didn’t slack off when it came time to add to an already talented roster. Now that we’ve had a full offseason to get a look at some of Miami’s newest additions, I thought it would be a good time to evaluate which moves are most likely to pay significant dividends for the team going forward.
In no particular order, here are the Dolphins’ top 5 offseason additions going into the 2017 season.
DE William Hayes
Trading with the Los Angeles Rams to acquire Hayes is shaping up to be one of the front office’s savviest moves of the offseason. The Dolphins moved back from the 6th round of the 2017 NFL Draft to the 7th in exchange for what appears to be the third defensive end in their rotation, an absolute bargain that adds to an already stacked defensive line.
Hayes was already touted for his run-stopping ability before showing up in South Florida, and he’s only confirmed for fans and coaches that he can live up to expectations so far. He’s been a consistent force off the edge this preseason against both the run and the pass, and he will no doubt be looked at to continue to make contributions once the regular season rolls around next week.
LB Lawrence Timmons
Timmons has been one of the most quietly consistent defenders in the NFL over the past decade. While he hasn’t quite had the athletic playmaking ability of players like Luke Kuechly or the household name notoriety of players like Bobby Wagner, Timmons has accumulated multiple supremely productive seasons over the course of his ten year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The veteran has racked up over 100 tackles in six of his past seven seasons (he had 93 in 2011) on top of 11 interceptions. He’s also only missed two games in his entire career, and he hasn’t missed a start since 2010.
The durable hard-nosed tackler will bring some much needed attitude to the front seven, while also providing the type of leadership that some of the younger players will definitely feed off of. In last week’s preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Timmons demonstrated exactly why the Dolphins signed him to a two-year $12 million contract this offseason with a stellar interception and multiple tackles. While slotting him alongside Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan was the optimal scenario for Miami, McMillan’s injury will put even more emphasis on Timmons’ importance to this defense, especially if another young linebacker, such as Mike Hull, takes McMillan’s place in the starting line up come week 1.
QB Jay Cutler
Whether or not Jay Cutler is a better quarterback option for the Dolphins than Ryan Tannehill is a question for another day, and one that may not be answered until the 2017 NFL season comes to a close. However, one thing is certain, the team was lucky to be able to call on such a talented and experienced quarterback so late into the offseason following Tannehill’s devastating knee injury.
Despite his lackluster career winning percentage and, at times, questionable decision making, Cutler is one of the most physically gifted and talented quarterbacks in the league. His arm strength rivals that of Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers, and his ability to fit the football into tight windows is something most NFL coaches dream of finding in a quarterback. Cutler has already developed a rapport with wide receiver and 2017 breakout candidate DeVante Parker, and the enigmatic quarterback’s propensity for throwing up 50-50 balls and letting his receivers make plays should go a long way towards Parker realizing his potential as a force on the perimeter.
Cutler’s relationship with Head Coach Adam Gase (Gase was Cutler’s offensive coordinator with the Chicago Bears in 2015) is the reason Cutler was drawn to Miami’s job opening under center in the first place, and it may also be the reason Cutler achieves the kind of success with the Dolphins that leave NFL fans wondering why he was still unemployed in August.
TE Julius Thomas
The Julius Thomas-Adam Gase reunion has been discussed at length by just about every NFL media outlet in existence since the Dolphins acquired the veteran tight end in a trade with Jacksonville earlier this offseason, and for good reason. When Thomas played in Denver with Gase as his offensive coordinator, the athletic playmaker scored 24 touchdowns over two seasons while catching passes from Peyton Manning, leading to Thomas earning two Pro Bowl appearances and a hefty contract with the Jaguars.
Now, we all know that Cutler is no Peyton Manning, but the former Chicago Bear has targeted his tight ends often in the past, and Thomas should be no different. In fact, he could be the red-zone weapon that the Dolphins have lacked at the tight end position ever since Charles Clay departed to Buffalo.
Despite Thomas’ lack of production thus far this offseason, it would be unfair to simply assume that will continue into the regular season given Gase’s past desire to involve tight ends in his offense. Thomas’ sub par state line this preseason is likely more attributed to Gase being safe with a player who has had injury issues in the past than a fall off of talent on Thomas’ part. Provided he stays healthy, don’t be surprised to see Thomas approach double digit touchdown numbers this season.
CB Alterraun Verner
Verner’s signing could prove to be far more important than we originally anticipated back in late July. While he was initially brought on as potential competition for fellow cornerback Bobby McCain in the slot, Verner quickly impressed the coaching staff with his ability to play all over the defensive backfield, including on the perimeter.
An unfortunate Achilles injury to Tony Lippett only expedited Verner’s rise up the depth chart, as he became the most obvious option to replace Lippett as the team’s third cornerback. However, Verner may prove to be more than just a backup, as the team has been less than impressed with incumbent starter Byron Maxwell so far this offseason. Maxwell’s poor play was highlighted by multiple gaffes in Miami’s game against the Eagles, and coach Gase has repeatedly preached that he will always start the most deserving players each week. With that in mind, Verner could begin to push Maxwell for the starting cornerback spot alongside second year defender Xavien Howard. That kind of contribution would be a steal for a player signed in the middle of training camp for $980,000.
Who was Miami’s best addition this offseason?
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