The 2019 NFL season is officially over, with the Kansas City Chiefs beating the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl this past Sunday. That means it is really time to start looking toward 2020 and figuring out what the Miami Dolphins need to do for next year. This afternoon, we break down the Dolphins 2020 roster - and plenty will change between now and the season, with cuts, free agency, and the Draft still to come - but this gives us a chance to look at how the roster is currently constructed and identify some of the major holes in the roster.
This list does not project cuts - though there is mention of some potential options - or signings. This is straight up how Miami’s roster is today, with a presumed depth chart built out of it. Then each position group is analyzed, with a rating of None, Low, Medium, High, or Top priority given to the group in terms of work Miami needs to do this offseason.
Do you agree with my assessments? How would you rank the positions in priority of work needed to be done?
Analysis: Rudock signed with Miami on a futures contract after spending the 2019 season on the team’s practice squad. He is probably a camp arm at this point, especially with the likelihood Miami is selecting a quarterback early in the 2029 NFL Draft. The real question becomes Rosen’s role with the team. Is he a third-string quarterback behind Fitzpatrick and the rookie? Is he positioned to be the backup after the rookie assumes the starting role?
Offseason needs priority: High priority; First-round rookie selection most likely.
Analysis: The running back group became a mess last year after the trade of Kenyan Drake. First Ballage was supposed to take the lead, but that did not work. Mark Walton was an option, but he was released after another arrest in 2019. Laird and Gaskin both showed flashes, but Miami could be in the hunt for a free agent runner or a rookie.
Offseason needs priority: High priority; Free agent or second-day rookie selection
Analysis: The biggest thing that could be said for the fullback is just Miami should use him more. He has shown he can be effective as a lead blocker, so get him on the field to do it.
Offseason needs priority: None.
Tight ends (3)
Analysis: Gesicki showed late in the season that he is ready to assume his role as the top tight end on the roster and a real threat in the passing game. Smythe has been a solid blocker and can catch passes when needed.
Offseason needs priority: Low priority; Depth would be the main option here.
Wide receivers (11)
Gary Jennings Jr.
Analysis: The Dolphins’ top unit may be their wide receiver corps. The Dolphins feel good about the receivers, and fans should as well. Parker showed he is a top receiver in this offense, while Williams could reach that same status if he is able to fully recover from his ACL tear. Wilson, Grant, and Hurns could be perfect complementary options, providing slot and deep threat options. After those five, Louis, Rahming, and the rest of the group are likely fighting to prove they are worthy of a roster spot.
Offseason needs priority: Low priority; If there is a FA or a draft prospect who falls to the Dolphins, they could make a move, but it is not something they need to chase.
Offensive linemen (10)
LT: Julién Davenport
LG: Michael Deiter
C: Daniel Kilgore
RG: Shaq Calhoun
RT: Jesse Davis
Analysis: The offensive line has been a mess in Miami for way too long. Part of it is injuries - dating back to Jake Long and Mike Pouncey - and part of it is just players struggling. There is a potential that several of the young players Miami used last year could grow from the experience and turn into a solid line as they continue to work together, but it is not a easy fix. Davenport and Davis should both be upgraded at tackle, which would free Davis to slide back to what feels like his more natural position at guard. Calhoun and Deiter need to develop. Kilgore could hang around as the veteran in the group,
Offseason needs priority: Top priority; Miami has to find their franchise quarterback, there is no debating that, but if they do not find a way to solve the offensive line, the quarterback cannot succeed. The needs at nearly every position on the line means the Dolphins have to invest in several players this offseason, with free agency and draft picks likely both needed to find the solution.
Defensive ends (3)
Analysis: The Dolphins’ depth chart online is showing the team as a 3-4, so we will try to mirror that here. Wilkins is clearly the leader, and Charlton should be back as well. Ledbetter spent most of last season on injured reserve, but he did record four tackles and a half-sack in his Week 1 appearance, so there is potential he could develop into a player for the team.
Offseason needs priority: Medium; Since this is a 3-4 front, these are still interior linemen for the most part, and Miami seems set at the 4-3 defensive tackle/3-4 defensive end and nose tackle options. If you are adding players for pass rush, this pushes higher on the priority. Free agency could make sense here.
Nose tackles (3)
Analysis: Godchaux is effective anywhere the Dolphins play him, so he should headline this. Willis spent most of the 2019 season on Miami’s practice squad, then ended up on injured reserve after being called up to the active roster. Neto is somewhere between defensive tackle - where Miami still has him listed - and guard.
Offseason needs priority: Medium; Similar to the defensive ends. If there is a true nose-tackle prospect or free agent Miami can land, sliding Godchaux outside, that could be a move Miami considers.
OLB: Andrew Van Ginkel
ILB: Raekwon McMillan
ILB: Jerome Baker
OLB: Sam Eguavoen
Analysis: The inside linebackers are set, with McMillan and Baker both showing they can be impact players. McMillan looked more like what the Dolphins wanted as a rookie, giving he was two-years removed from his ACL tear, especially against the run. Baker showed the ability to be both a pass rusher and some coverage abilities. The Dolphins do not need to worry about the top of the inside linebackers group. Depth could be a concern, especially given the injuries that decimated the Dolphins last year - including to McMillan. Hull could be a depth option in the interior, but he spent all of 2019 on the Physically Unable to Perform list. The pass-rushing outside linebackers are where Miami needs development and/or upgrades. Van Ginkel was injured for the first half of his rookie season and Eguavoen, as a CFL addition, needed time to adjust, but both showed potential as pass rushers. Then there is Harris, who continues to be disappear; he does not have enough cap savings to justify a release ($3.2 million in dead money, $292,000 in savings), but he is definitely in trouble with the team if he does not make improvement this spring/summer and in 2020.
Offseason needs priority: High; Miami has to find pass rushers, so expect them to look in free agency and the Draft; inside linebackers should be fine unless the team is looking for depth.
Analysis: What can be analyzed here? Injuries destroyed this unit last year, so it is hard to know exactly what to expect from the group. Howard is a Pro Bowl cornerback - but there are domestic violence issues hanging over his head right now as he rehabs from a knee injury. Tankersley has potential, but struggled to find playing time in 2018 then spent all of 2019 on the Physically Unable to Perform list rehabbing from a 2018 ACL tear. Needham showed flashes last year, developing as an undrafted free agent to become a starter, but he also made rookie mistakes that have to be corrected. The rest of the group are depth options, some of whom saw extended playing time in 2019 due to all the injuries.
Offseason needs priority: High; Miami has to address the cornerback position this offseason, especially with (a) Howard’s domestic violence issues and (b) not really knowing Tankersley’s status. The Draft seems to be the most likely route, though free agency could add an immediate option.
Analysis: Jones remains as the starting strong safety for now, though there is speculation he will be a salary cap cut ($8.1 million in dead money; $7.5 million in cap savings). Rowe was told in his exit interview that he will remain at safety this offseason. McCain will likely start next to Rowe if Jones is not on the team. McCain could move back to cornerback, giving Miami a strong nickel cornerback and someone to help shore up that group, should Jones remain. The rest of the group adds depth.
Offseason needs priority: Low assuming the team really is happy with whatever combination of Jones, Rowe, McCain they use (or keep); Re-signing Walt Aikens could be a key move for the team, adding more depth here while keeping a top special teams player.
Analysis: There does not seem to be any reason to suspect the Dolphins will move on from Sanders.
Offseason needs priority: None
Analysis: Matt Haack is a restricted free agent this offseason. I would expect him to be retained, filling what is technically a void right now.
Offseason needs priority: None if Haack is retained.
Long snapper (1)
Analysis: It is still wrong that this is not John Denney, but Pepper seemed to be fine last year.
Offseason needs priority: None
Top: Offensive line
High: Linebackers (Edge)
Medium: Defensive ends
Medium: Nose tackles
Low: Tight end
Low: Wide receiver
None: Long snapper
*Safety could change if the team (a) does move on from Jones or (b) decides McCain or Rowe need to move back to cornerback.