The deadline to place the franchise tag on impending free agents is quickly approaching, and the Miami Dolphins still have two important decisions to make on defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah and tight end Mike Gesicki.
Miami officially has 24 players labeled as free agents. Some are exclusive rights, others are restricted free agents, so other teams may dictate their market. Nevertheless, important decisions loom on several of the Dolphins’ key contributors in 2021.
Here’s the list of players I would re-sign if I were general manager Chris Grier (I’m not), and I was able to keep six or seven players from Miami’s current list of free agents. These are players who I believe can help the team in 2022 and continue to be an asset later in life.
NIK NEEDHAM, CORNERBACK (RESTRICTED FREE AGENT)
In short, the Dolphins should match whatever a team offers for restricted free agent Nik Needham—unless it’s like a rocket ship to play for the Mars international space team or something unprecedented.
Needham has been an asset since joining the team as an undrafted free agent in 2019, but most importantly, he’s improved year after year. He’s also a proven commodity in the slot, arguably one of the most challenging positions to play in today’s game.
Last season, Needham combined for 53 total tackles (42 solo), one sack, five pass breakups, and two interceptions. He also had his first career pick-six. He is a restricted free agent, which gives the Dolphins a few options.
For more information on restricted free agents, click HERE.
At the very least, Miami should place a right-of-first-refusal tag on Needham, but again, I think his value is worth even more than that. Here’s to hoping the former UTEP standout is back with the team—learning from guys like Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain.
MACK HOLLINS, WIDE RECEIVER
tua to mack hollins for a 65-yard touchdown pic.twitter.com/Ex0gUGQSw8— josh houtz (@houtz) November 21, 2021
Since joining the Dolphins as a free agent in 2019, Hollins has quickly inserted himself as one of the team’s leaders both on the field and off. And while a majority of his value is on special teams as one of the league’s top gunners, Hollins has developed natural chemistry with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Hollins was deemed a bust in Philadephia but quickly turned his career around with Miami. Now, I can’t help but imagine an offseason where he gets to learn from some of the league’s top tight-end coaches (eye emoji) AND a former All-Pro wide receiver in Wes Welker.
Hollins shouldn’t cost a fortune, which is why I believe his value as a special teamer, coupled with his ever-evolving presence as a receiver, makes this a no-brainer.
ELANDON ROBERTS, LINEBACKER
elandon roberts already knows malcolm brown pic.twitter.com/rHgclAgyja— josh houtz (@houtz) March 24, 2021
Sam Eguavoen is a restricted free agent, and Miami could decide to keep the former CFL star around another season instead. But for me, the linebacker I’d be most inclined to bring back another season is Elandon Roberts.
Roberts has been lightning in a bottle since joining the Dolphins, and with an immediate need to upgrade Miami’s linebackers this offseason, Roberts is not only valuable depth but a proven thumper in the run game.
In 2021, Roberts had his best season, recording 83 tackles (42 solo), six tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, an interception, and a touchdown.
I also can’t help but remember his conversation with Tua on the sideline, which in hindsight, may have been every bit as scandalous as fans were making it out to believe. So bring back Roberts, but only if the price is right.
DURHAM SMYTHE, TIGHT END
The tight end room was one of Miami’s strong points a season ago, so bringing back the usual suspects isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, Smythe continued to get better since being drafted in the 4th-round of the 2018 NFL Draft and showed his value as a do-it-all tight end that can be an asset as a pass-catcher and hold his own in pass protection and the run game.
Smythe played 62% of the team’s offensive snaps catching 34/41 targets for 357 yards.
Mike Gesicki (more on him later) was banging the table earlier this offseason for the team to re-sign Smythe. So will the two be under contract when the league year begins on March 16th? Time will undoubtedly tell.
PHILLIP LINDSAY, RUNNING BACK
The Dolphins could decide to keep RFA Salvon Ahmed or even hometown hero Duke Johnson, but the internal free agent running back that I hope Miami re-signs this offseason is Phillip Lindsay.
Lindsay runs hard A.F. and can be of value in the passing game. But what impressed me most about the former Pro Bowl running back is that he isn’t scared to get low and take on an untouched pass-rusher to keep his quarterback upright. (As you can see in the video above)
Lindsay carried the ball 38 times for 119 yards in four games with the Dolphins in 2021.
With or without the veteran running back, Miami’s backfield should look much different in 2022.
EMMANUEL OGBAH, DEFENSIVE END
I said it on a recent episode of Phinsider Radio; Emmanuel Ogbah feels like one of those players fans won’t truly understand how valuable he is until he’s playing for another team. Now that’s not to say the team won’t survive without him, but this team is much better off when Ogbah is creating havoc.
Last season, Ogbah recorded 41 tackles (26 solo), 24 quarterback hits, one forced fumble, and nine sacks. He also blocked 11 passes like a modern-day Dikembe Mutombo. Most impressive, however, is where Ogbah ranked among EDGE rushers over the last two seasons.
Most pressures among Edge Rushers over the last two seasons— PFF MIA Dolphins (@PFF_Dolphins) January 27, 2022
1. Shaquil Barrett: 151
2. Maxx Crosby: 148
3. T.J. Watt: 135
4. Myles Garrett: 134
5. Joey Bosa: 129
6. Emmanuel Ogbah: 126 pic.twitter.com/9WO8G0LzKO
I’m not sure trying to place the transition tag on Ogbah would really do anything, but the cost of the franchise tag for a defensive end is northward of $19-million, making it almost a certainty that if a long-term deal isn’t reached by March 16th, Ogbah will hit free agency.
I know it’s a long shot, but here’s to hoping Miami can find a way to lock up Ogbah long-term. Otherwise, Miami’s pass rush will look much different in 2022 than they did a season ago.
MIKE GESICKI, TIGHT END (FRANCHISE TAG)
The Dolphins would already have Gesicki locked up long-term in the perfect world, and yet here we are. Another promising young player approaching a free agency that—for one reason or another—Chris Grier and Brian Flores decided not to negotiate a new deal with.
In my opinion, The one thing I continue to hear about Miami’s menacing tight end is that he can’t block, which deems him useless in Mike McDaniel’s system.
If McDaniel is half the offensive mastermind many of us deem him to be, he should certainly be able to find a way to utilize a 6’6 unicorn of a
slot wide receiver tight end. However, the real game-changer for me is that he will only cost $11 million in 2022, which, when compared to the rest of the league’s tight ends—is a bargain.
This has raised speculation that Gesicki and his agent could then go after the wide receiver franchise tag, resulting in an additional $7.5M. If I’m Miami, I tag Gesicki and work on a long-term deal, making both sides happy for a very long time.
Get it done, Chris Grier!
The deadline for teams to use the franchise tag is tomorrow at 4 PM EST.
P.S. I’d also like to see Trill Williams back in Miami.
What are your thoughts on using the franchise tag on Mike Gesicki? Emmanuel Ogbah? Which of these impending free agents are most valuable to the Dolphins? Who would you re-sign? Who would you let walk? Let us know in the comments section below!t