The Miami Dolphins so far have anywhere between 31 million and possibly 40 million in cap space with only 16 days left until the start of free agency. It is the first time in almost 8 years that the Dolphins have not had to cut or restructure contracts to spend money. We can thank Cam Cameron and Randy Mueller for all this. The contracts they terminated last season have put the Dolphins on a course for a 40 million dollar shopping spree.
The Dolphins have a lot of holes so naturally there is very few free agents that the Dolphins will not likely consider. Assante Samuel and LB Lance Briggs are two guys the Dolphins will likely take a pass on. They are just too expensive. Instead, look for the Dolphins to play the second tier of free agents where not only the value is better, but for this team the foundation for a solid team is available.
Bryan Johnson and Bernard Berrian are two guys that I expect the Dolphins to make a serious run for…well, one of them. My guess is up front Johnson. He is the type of WR that the Dolphins need and will not be too expensive. Johnson has been riding the pine for the most part in AZ because he plays behind two outstanding pro-bowlers. Johnson would give the Dolphins a valuable possession receiver with good speed and better hands.
At QB there is very little out there, and I really do think that at some point the Dolphins will try and make a trade for a veteran or wait until one gets cut. The Phins needs someone that can come in and compete with John Beck until Tony Sparano can figure out if Beck is the QB of the future or just another in a long line of 2nd round wasted draft picks. For all the rumor of a Derek Anderson trade with Cleveland, I wouldn’t hold your breath. Anderson is going to cost draft picks and the Dolphins have only 8. Should they manage to get a few more, they still are not likely to part with multiples for a guy who has had one above average season.
If the Dolphins are going to score big in free agency, it will be along the offensive line. Miami will spend some money here. Last year the going rate was in the 42 million range and that will likely go up this year. Alan Faneca and Max Starks of Pittsburgh are options and it will not be a surprise to see Miami land at least one of them. Flozell Adams is a 31 year old 4 time pro-bowler from Dallas and if not resigned by Dallas prior to the free agency period…he will likely end up in Miami and reunite with former Cowboys line coach Tony Sparano. Two big solid offensive lineman in free agency is not unlikely, in fact, it is more than possible to see 2 of the above 3 and at least one or two more 3rd tier guys.
Don’t look for Miami to make a run at any free agent TE’s. Instead look toward the draft and maybe a trade to fill that need. I still believe that at the start of the season, Anthony Fassano will be in a Dolphins uniform to go along with a 3rd or 4th rounder as well.
On the defensive side of the ball it gets a lot more delicate. There is really no major names at cornerback that the Dolphins will likely target with any degree of urgency. Samuel is going to be way too expensive. The Phins will however not only take a look but likely sign safety Ken Hamlin from Dallas. Reports are that the ‘Boyz are trying to sign Hamlin long term, but so far there has been nothing accomplished. If, and it is a big IF, Hamlin hits FA, the Dolphins will be over him quickly. Both defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni and Secondary/ADC Todd Bowles are more than familiar with Hamlin.
Should Hamlin be resigned, the Dolphins could go after Gibril Wilson.
The free agent list this year is relatively weak when compared to some of the previous years, but it is the defensive line that suffers the most. The talent pool is not very deep at DT or DE and that it compounded by the fact that what little there is, will be sought after by so many. This is a good year to be on the free agent market as a Dlineman.
Consider that the top Dlineman are all expected to receive the franchise tag. Albert Haynesworth in Tennessee, Terrell Suggs in Baltimore, and Jared Allen in KC. If the Dolphins are looking at adding a few Dlineman to their off-season shopping cart, Justin Smith or Cincy and Corey Williams of Green Bay could be guys the Phins may target…but they too will be targeted by just about everyone else as well.
The CB spot is a mess and a disgrace. In reality the only guy expected to be starting next season is Will Allen. The problem is there are not that many guys on the market that fit the value the Dolphins will want. Marcus Trufant of Seattle is a possibility but it will really depend on where Miami throws its money as to whether or not Trufant is realistic. I look for the Dolphins to bring in someone like SD CB Drayton Florence for a look while concentrating on the draft to fill both CB spots for the future.
Like the Secondary, the LB’s are not a stellar group of affordable players. Topping the list of course is Lance Briggs and although it would be awesome to see that kind of talent in Miami, he comes with a very high guaranteed price tag. With questions surrounding the future of Zach Thomas and a switch to a 34, the LB spot could be the position that needs filled more, but will likely be addressed more seriously next year or through the draft. Karlos Dansby of Arizona would likely be the next in line, but again, he may command a contract the Phins are not ready to pay. Kawika Mitchell is a guy to keep an eye on though from the NY Giants. Mitchell will likely command a low to mid 2nd tier contract and could fit in with the Miami coaching staff nicely. He is productive and still young. Danny Clark of Houston should be a cheap option to add some depth as well. He was playing well before an injury late in the season. Clark would is not a starter, but the Dolphins need to work on both special teams players and quality depth. Clark would fill that need.
All in all, it is going to be a hectic 16 days until the start of free agency. Teams have until the 21st to use the franchise tags and will be trying to resign their own players prior to the start of the league new year. Who will be on the market is as much of a mystery as who the Dolphins will target and who they will sign.
I think that at least a couple of the players mentioned above will be in aqua and orange uniforms next year. If I had to make an early prediction, Bryant Johnson at WR, Ken Hamlin or Gibril Wilson at safety, Alan Faneca and Flozell Adams on the line. I think those are the major signings that the Dolphins make. QB however will be the one that will draw the most talk.