Oh, I can’t wait. I love free agency. In fact, if I’m being quite honest I love the NFL off-season almost as much as the NFL season itself. It’s a never ending 12 month exploration that can have you riveted to your computer at almost any time. Such is the start of FA this Thursday as it crosses over to into Friday. With that said, what will the Miami Dolphins do? What are their needs heading into the weekend and then into the pro-day workouts that give way to the draft?
Here is my opinion on what the Phins need and what they may do come new year. We will revisit this again before the NFL draft in late April.
2010 NFL Free Agency Primer
QB’s: And you thought that free agency would have no QB issue. Wrong. The topic specifically surrounds current Dolphins Chad Pennington and Tyler Thigpen. In a nutshell it will work like this. If Pennington is re-signed, Thigpen will get traded. If CP goes elsewhere, Thigpen will stay in Miami for another year.
Now, it is possible that the Phins lose Pennington and trade Thigpen if they can get a draft pick. If they do that, they will either sign off the FA list or draft another rookie.
RB: Much of the conversation seems to surround the future of Ronnie Brown. I’m on record to say he stays, however, the Dolphins may show some interest in trading the back and then replacing him with a rookie or making a trade for someone like Tashard Choice in Dallas.
The RB spot bears watching because while there are some top names on the FA list, Westbrook and Tomlinson, they both have injury issues as well as age. Brown has had freak issues and is young. Possible? Sure. Likely? Not very. Either way, the Phins are likely to draft a RB come April as Brown has only 1 year left on his deal.
WR: Watch all you want but there is very little on the FA market and trading for a number 1 will cost picks. Something that the Phins are reluctant to do. Unless the team can work out a deal for someone that doesn’t involve draft picks they are not likely to find that number 1. No, Antonio Bryant is not a number 1 WR but may see some action because of his “history” with Bill Parcells.
Look to the draft for that number 1. While the position is a huge need, there just isn’t anything on the market. The top guys who are young enough to stick around have either baggage or are restricted free agents…or both.
The bigger question is which one of the Dolphins WR’s will be gone? Davone Bess and Brian Hartline are sure bets to remain on the squad but the future of Greg Camarillo and even Ted Ginn have some questions as to whether they will be part of any off-season trades.
OLine: The Dolphins are not going to head into the free agent market looking for a brand new starter. They have those in place and will likely address the spots in the draft instead. While they will make a play for at least one guard to push Donald Thomas and the other guards, they won’t throw money at them like they were rumored last season.
This year there just isn’t any big time oline free agents that are unrestricted.
TE: Anthony Fasano is a restricted free agent and no one is going to sign him to a deal that will cost them draft picks so Miami won’t lose him. They will likely look to the draft once again to find someone but if they choose to go the FA route, don’t be surprised if they take a look at someone like Ben Watson or take another look at David Martin.
I think the Phins will stay with what they have for now and wait until the draft…or maybe even after it.
Offensive Priorities: WR is the biggest priority and the hardest to fill.
D’Line: The Dolphins need Dline help in a big way. Jason Ferguson is on his last leg…almost literally and there is a good chance that his career is over. Behind him the Phins turn to Paul Soliai. At DE the Dolphins are more settled but without a big interior lineman they still can’t run the 3-4 the way they want to.
The problem with finding a NT is there are none to be had. The tops at the position around the league were franchised and the rest is nothing to get excited about. Keep an eye and an ear on the name of Tank Johnson out of Cincy. Baggage and all he performed well at time last year on a Bengals unit that was very solid.
At DE keep an ear to the floor about Elvis Dumervill of Denver. Restricted there will be a natural desire to float the name given his connection to new Dolphins DC Mike Nolan.
LB: This is a major need for the Dolphins with Joey Porter leaving and Jason Taylor’s future up in the air. The Phins are likely to address the position in the draft and likely in round 1. Already the talk centers on the top name in free agency, Arizona LB Karlos Dansby but his price-tag will likely be way more than the Phins are willing to pay.
Two names to keep an eye on are Scott Fujita of New Orleans and Cliff Avril of Detroit. Miami has been linked to rumors of a trade with Detroit for Avril. Neither would be major improvements for the team but Avril would compete to start opposite Cameron Wake who will get his chance in 2010.
CB’s: Miami isn’t in need of any true corners and in fact it’s their depth that has the team allowing special teams player Nate Jones to hit the market. The Dolphins actually have been pleased with the performance of former first round pick Jason Allen and it looks like he will get another year.
With the drafting of Vontae’ Davis and Sean Smith last season, the Phins will not only pass on a free agent corner but also drafting one. Will Allen will be back from his injury as well.
S: Make no mistake, fans are none to pleased with the play of Gibril Wilson and want to see Antrelle Rolle in Miami. Won’t happen. Rolle is going to get paid somewhere and the lack of free agents at the position will inflate Rolle’s value. The Dolphins will likely turn to 2nd year safety Chris Clemons or draft another one.
If the Phins do look at a safety maybe Rolle’s name gets some air time but don’t get hyped up when the fans start wanting Darren Sharper after Rolle is gone. They will look a little further down on the price list.
Defensive Priorities: The Phins have many and through free agency and the draft they will address this side of the ball more than the other. OLB and ILB are the most obvious pressing needs followed by NT and then safety.
I don’t see Miami being as active as we all would want but that doesn’t mean they won’t play some. Just don’t expect them to break the bank on one or two guys but instead follow the same system they have used the last two off-seasons. Multiple 2nd and 3rd tier players that will add depth and competition to the team while drafting their future stars in April. I think most of the players that may be added may be salary releases due to the non-cap year.