The Miami Dolphins have some “big boy” decisions to make this offseason regarding their unrestricted free agents (UFAs). I do realize we are way early in the process of assessing these particular players considering we are still four months away from the draft. But, it is something we need to keep on our radar since they are essential pieces to the 2012 Dolphins’ personnel puzzle.
By definition, an Unrestricted Free Agent is a player who has at least four years of NFL experience and is not under contract with any team because they either got released, or their contract expired. UFAs are free to negotiate and sign with other teams at their discretion. Also, teams are allowed to use the Transition Tag or Franchise Tag on those players who are scheduled to become UFAs.
In February of last year, the Dolphins placed their Franchise Tag on NT Paul Soliai. This type of tag is a guaranteed contract for one year with an average salary of the five highest paid players at his position. For Soliai, that amount averaged to be about $12.4 million on the year. In 2010, his base salary was only $550,000. Moral of the story, use your Franchise Tag wisely!
Below is a list of the scheduled 2012 UFAs currently on the Dolphins Roster:
DE Kendall Langford
ILB Marvin Mitchell
NT Paul Soliai
DE Phillip Merling
OLB Ikaika Alama-Francis
CB Will Allen
S Tyrone Culver
OG Vernon Carey
OT Marc Colombo
QB Chad Henne
QB J.P. Losman
RB Steve Slaton
I know this discussion of “who should we resign?” and “who should we let go?” is a hot topic for debate among Dolfans. We all have strong opinions on each of these players. But in my opinion, the only two guys that I believe the Dolphins need to resign are Paul Soliai and Kendall Langford. I can see the argument for a few of these other UFAs as Merling, Mitchell, Allen, and possibly Culver, but I just don’t feel they are worth “writing home about.” All of the others on this list are mediocre to below average players that the Dolphins can afford to let go.
If the next Dolphins’ head coach stays with the 3-4 defense which has been very effective for Miami, in which I believe they will, then they will need an elite nose tackle. I’m not claiming that Soliai is the absolute best in the NFL, but he does belong in that elite class. It is extremely difficult to find a solid player at this position and they don’t exactly grow on trees. It’s too much of a risk to draft a NT and it will be just as costly to pick up one in free agency. In this 3-4 scheme, the Dolphins are fortunate to have an excellent run stopper like Soliai and they need to do whatever it takes to resign him. If not, the Dolphins may be forced to switch over to the 4-3.
As for DE Kendall Langford, I believe he is the most underrated player on this team. He plays a very underappreciated, unglamorous, yet vital position in the 3-4 that requires a two-headed monster: One that can put pressure on the quarterback AND most importantly, stop the run! Langford has performed at a high level without missing a single game in four years, since he was drafted in the third round out of Hampton in 2008. Both Langford and Soliai were major contributors to Miami’s third ranked rushing defense in the NFL giving up only 95.6 yards per game. Only San Francisco and Baltimore were statistically better. It’s imperative that both of these guys are resigned and brought back in 2012.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the next head coach will most likely “clean house.” That’s typical standard operating procedures for any new coaching regime when they take over a “bad” team. I don’t want to speculate here, but our precious Jake Long could possibly be used as “trade bait” in this year’s draft to move up and select Andrew Luck. Brandon Marshall could possibly be traded away to the Bears to unite with his old partner- in-crime, Jay Cutler. Apparently they have been “tweeting” with each other wishing they were still playing together.
Obviously these are extreme hypothetical scenarios. But the point is, no one player is safe right now. There are more question marks than answers that currently surround this team. Therefore, don’t get too attached to any of these guys because there will be a lot of new faces on this roster in 2012. I just hope Soliai and Langford are still wearing the Teal and Orange.