UDPATE: I have updated the WR section regarding free agents.
O.k. maybe it does, but it got your attention didn’t it. The NFL Draft at the end of April will be the focal point for the Miami fan base moving forward following the final game on Sunday. After of course Stephen Ross makes his decision at HC, Tony Sparano makes his decision with Dan Henning, and Jeff Ireland takes on free agency, and the NFL gets their act together on a new labor agreement. But the draft…well you get the idea.
The problem for Miami right now is this, they don’t have a 2nd round selection. Not necessarily a bad thing considering this years 2nd rounder is lost under the name Brandon Marshall. That doesn’t mean that by the time the draft rolls around Miami won’t have a number 2 or more. The best way to get another 2nd is to trade down and that may be the only option Miami has.
The Dolphins have some needs to fill, some will come out of the free agent market where it will be interesting to observe the spending budget that the staff is given. I have to imagine, and rightfully so, that Stephen Ross will give a higher budget to a new staff over the current one. Just and assumption. Still, the Dolphins will have choices to make regardless of who is calling the personnel shots come March.
QB: This is the logical place to start considering the struggles of Chad Henne. Sorry folks, regardless of who calls the shots, Henne will be back next year. He has one year left on his rookie deal and at worst presents a viable back up option. Tyler Thigpen will be gone VIA free agency and Chad Pennington better not be wearing pads for this team. That all points to two new roster additions at QB…another reason why the team won’t get rid of Henne. A young draft pick and a veteran will be tapped to compete with Henne next off-season.
There are veterans that could be on the market this March and the Dolphins will likely toss money in their direction. The draft however is where it gets cloudy. The Phins will draft in the mid-teens and the likelihood of a top QB falling is slim. Sure there may be a Cam Newton there or even a Jake Locker but both have serious questions regarding their fit in Miami. So, the Dolphins will likely have to look to the later rounds of day 2 and 3 for a QB to compete.
This is where teams get into trouble. Rarely will a 2nd round QB or a third rounder work out, the Dolphins may find better options in the 5th round if no one falls into their lap in round 1. Drafting a QB in round one would suddenly become impossible and the Dolphins simply don’t have the firepower to move up high enough to get into the top 10, not without mortgaging their future.
RB: This is where the Dolphins will be a player in the off-season. Both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown are set to become free agents and one if not both have a good chance of being allowed to leave. Of the two, Ricky would probably give the team more value but Ronnie could likely be a key to gaining more picks. The Dolphins would be smart to add a franchise designation to Ronnie Brown…provided there is one. They could then shop him and trade him and in the process have a say of where he plays next. Outside of those two, Patrick Cobbs will also be a free agent but likely will be re-signed before either of the other two head to the table. Cobbs provides special teams play as well as serviceable 3rd down runner. He won’t come expensive and frankly the team can’t afford to rely solely on Lex Hilliard who thus far has done nothing.
Free agency will provide some options for the position including the Tony Sparano familiar Marion Barber and possibly Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams. Of the two, Williams could provide the team with a solid upfield runner who know how to hit holes. Williams has been banged up most of the season but nothing too critical for a return to action. He won’t be the cheapest option but he won’t be the most expensive either.
The Dolphins will likely turn to the draft though to find their next franchise back. Some believe that Mark Ingram of Alabama could be available through the mid-teens where the Dolphins will pick, but the question is whether or not Ingram is worthy of that selection compared to moving down and gaining another second rounder where another back could be picked up. This regime has had prior success with mid-draft runners. Marion Barber was a 5th round pick. So it’s likely that the Dolphins will wait until rounds 3-5 to address that position. Especially if they land a veteran off the free agent list.
TE: This years draft class is nowhere near as touted as last years crop but the Dolphins may not need to look for another TE VIA the draft anyways. Anthony Fasano has been re-signed to a two year extension and Mickey Shuler thus far has shown enough promise to believe that he will make a statement in regards to being the 2nd TE on the roster next season. With a full year of off-season work, the Dolphins may find that their TE’s are already on their roster. I don’t look for Miami to draft a TE unless it’s late in the draft and I doubt they throw money on anything at the position in free agency. In fact, I would be surprised.
WR: The Dolphins need a speed guy, it’s the one thing that Dan Henning has said in three weeks that makes sense. Davone Bess has the slot position on lock-down and there is no question who the number 1 wide-out is. Still, Brian Hartline, as fast as he is, still isn’t fast enough to draw coverage away from Brandon Marshall. The Dolphins won’t find that speed guy in free agency unless he is a 3rd string guy that hits the market and comes cheap. They won’t take any chances in round 1 either as there are more pressing needs. So the Phins will likely look at rounds 3 and 4 for the value of the position. I would count on pure speed as a requisite for the position.
UPDATE: Word today out of Arizona is that the Cardinals will allow impending Free Agent WR Steve Breaston to enter free agency. Breaston has been led the Cardinals in yards per catch the last three seasons and is a legit down field threat. Breaston won’t draw top flight money in the market and the Dolphins may rely on former Cardinal Karlos Dansby’s input about the young receiver. Breaston posted over 1700 yards receiving in a two years span with little reduction in 2010. He has some injury issues but nothing that will be long term. Breaston may be an option to play opposite Brandon Marshall and would immediately upgrade the offenses lateral passing game. The question is will the Dolphins throw more money at the position after the investment made last year in Marshall.
OT: The Dolphins have a solid LT in Jake Long…as we all know. Moving across the line to RT…not so much. Vernon Carey has been a huge disappointment and his pass protection is as bad as his run blocking. Injured or not, Carey is better suited to playing guard and he may find himself looking for work by training camp as well. I’m just saying. The options for a RT replacement are Lydon Murtha and Nate Garner if he gets healthy and neither of those are realistic options at this point.
Free agency would be too costly for a tackle so I look for the Dolphins to turn to the draft to find their next guy. The problem with that is they have severe needs at Center and both guard positions as well and only so many draft picks to go around. But tackle is a position that they should be able to find.
OG: The Dolphins simply don’t have guards that can maintain their blocks or the depth to make the unit productive. Free agency will provide the best opportunity to find starters for both spots, if not one. That would allow the team to draft a guard on day three in the later rounds to compete. Because of the CBA situation, it’s difficult to project, at any position, who will come available but there are always options at the guard position and the Dolphins would be foolish not to get at least one who can come in and start from day one.
C: This is by far the biggest pressing issue on the offensive line. Joe Berger did enough to get by but it’s Richie Incognito who has raised some eyebrows. Richie has been able to use his mean side to move the line and has made huge strides in a few short weeks at the position. His QB exchange and his shotgun snaps need a ton of work but that is what the off-season if for. If the Dolphins can convince him to take on that role, they will re-sign him early and get him working on that exchange issue. He has been more productive blocking from the center position than any other.
That however does not mean that the Dolphins wont look to the draft for answers. This years draft has a good three of four legit NFL type centers and the Dolphins may find that moving down in round 1 and picking up a 2nd will still allow them to nab a guy like Stefan Wiesniewski or another top of the line Center who can anchor the core of the line for the next decade.
Of the offensive positions, QB is the one that fans will watch but it won’t be the biggest priority because the Dolphins will sign a veteran in the off-season and the names likely available in the mid-teens of round one will be reaches. Running Back is a priority but starters can be found later in the draft so spending a number one overall on a runner who is not a a lights out game breaker is almost a wasted pick. WR is not a priority but again speed is, but not in the first round. That leaves the offensive line and if the Dolphins do in fact go that route, trading down in round 1 is the best option to not only grab one of the top Olineman but add a second round pick that will fill another need.
Check back later for the defensive side of things.