The discussion of Miami Dolphins draft needs is headlined by the search for a “franchise” quarterback, but that may not be the biggest need for the team. The team expects 2019 starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick back for 2020, and while a quarterback will likely be selected in the first round of the Draft, Miami has to fix their offensive line - both for Fitzpatrick and for a potential rookie.
Miami’s offensive line has younger players with potential, led by guard/tackle Jesse Davis and including guards Shaq Calhoun and Michael Deiter, but they also have a veteran who could continue to be a part of the team’s plans. Center Daniel Kilgore has been with the team two years, was named an offensive captain both years, and has served as a leader to the young offensive line.
“Daniel is a tremendous locker room presence (and brings) leadership,” general manager Chris Grier said of Kilgore on Wednesday. “A veteran presence is what our team needed last year. I think he did a tremendous job along with ‘Fitz’ (Ryan Fitzpatrick) of steadying the ship early on when things were rocky. Like I said, we have tremendous respect for him. I love the guy and his energy in the building.”
Grier then added, “For us, we expect him to be here, but we’ll see. We love him and he was great for our team.”
The “we’ll see” part of Grier’s statement is interesting. The Dolphins could be looking to add another veteran in free agency this year, with the team expected to lead the league in salary cap space when free agency begins, or they could use one of their anticipated 14 draft picks to add a rookie. Kilgore is signed through the 2020 season, but he could be released with no dead money and a savings of his entire $3.625 million salary cap number.
Kilgore, who turned 32 in December, has played in 17 games over his two seasons with the Dolphins. He missed 12 games in 2018 after tearing a triceps muscle in Week 4. He missed three games this season with a knee injury.
Miami could look to find a younger player to anchor the center of their offensive line next season.
But adding youth could be a concern for the Dolphins as well. The team was the league’s youngest last year, and turning over players like Kilgore for a rookie could lead to a void of leadership at the top of the roster. “I think that’s a very important piece,” Grier told the media on Wednesday. “(Head coach) Brian (Flores) and ourselves and the scouts and coaches have talked about that. It’s even with the young guys we bring in, we’ve got to make sure that a lot of those guys are leaders and understand – not necessarily captains at their schools, because we all know sometimes captains are appointed; but at the end of the day, (we) value leadership – leadership through all avenues whether it’s guys on the street, free agency or the draft – and just bringing in the right types of guys to help. Because you’re right, it’s going to be a young team. The good thing is that Brian and the coaching staff are tremendous teachers. I know when you were talking about a lot of the coaches and the guys we’ve had, and that’s the big thing. They’re teachers and motivators. You guys saw how the team played; but it is very important to have guys that have good leadership traits.”
Kilgore seems like a player the front office and coaching staff like and want to have back in 2020, but he also seems to be playing a position where the front office and coaching staff could want to find a younger player to potentially upgrade the roster. As Grier said, when it comes to Kilgore’s role and roster spot in 2020, we’ll see.