Should Dolphins Switch to a 4-3 Defense?

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The Dolphins roster is stock full of defensive linemen that weigh in excess of 295 pounds and line backers that weigh less than 251 pounds.  But, there is a void of defensive linemen that weigh in the range of 260 to 290 pounds with one exception.

– Ryan Baker (DT) — 6’5″, 295 lbs
Kendall Langford (DT) — 6’6″, 295 lbs
– Tony McDaniel (DT) — 6’7″, 305 lbs
Phillip Merling (DT) — 6’4″, 295 lbs
– Jared Odrick (DT) — 6’5″, 305 lbs
Paul Soliai (NT) — 6’4, 355 lbs
– Randy Starks (DT) — 6’3″, 305 lbs

Ikaika Alama-Francis (OLB) — 6’5″, 290 lbs
– Koa Misi (OLB) — 6’3″, 251 lbs
– Jason Trunsik (OLB) — 6’4″, 250 lbs
– Cameron Wake (OLB) — 6’3″, 250 lbs

Alama-Francis is the only prototypical 4-3 DE on the Miami Dolphins weighing 290 pounds and having decent speed.  In fact, he played the position for the Lions in 2008.  Many have suggested Wake could also play DE in a 4-3, but he would be at a distinct disadvantage in terms of bulk in defending the run.

So, it seems that a transition to the 4-3 may be a bigger deal than Jeff Ireland is letting on to.  Or, is it?

It is important to point out who in this group may no longer be with the club in 2012.  Alama-Francis, Merling, and Langford will all be free agents.  More importantly, Soliai will also be a free agent in 2012 and Jason Taylor has retired.  These two players (Soliai and Taylor) will have to be replaced, if Miami were to continue to deploy the 3-4 defense.  Soliai could be resigned, but he will be asking for a mountain of money for the specialized position of NT which requires a mountain of a man.  And, Merling and/or Langford would also have to be resigned in order to maintain a six man rotation on the defensive line.  So, the Dolphins have to make roughly four player moves in order to stay with the 3-4 Defense having to definitely get a rush OLB to replace Taylor and maybe a NT to replace Soliai.

Alternatively, if the Dolphins moved to a 4-3 Defense, they would likely need four DTs and four DEs on the roster for a full rotation.  They already have the four DTs and one DE (Wake) on the roster.  Thus, they would need to add three players — either by resigning current players, signing free agents, and/or drafting players.  (Note: Some have suggested that Odrick could play DE due to his quickness, but that would still mean three players must be added.)  They would also need to add a MLB which currently doesn’t exist on the roster — although, some have suggested that Koa Misi could play this position.  So, the Dolphins would also have to make roughly four player moves in order to shift to a 4-3 Defense having to definitely get a DE and a MLB.

So, it does seems like a relative wash, whether to stay with the 3-4 or shift to the 4-3.  What is the main issue?  It seems to me that it all gets down to Paul Soliai.  He is the only true NT on the roster.  He wants a lot of money because NT is a specialized position.  If the Dolphins do not resign him or do not want to resign him, then it may be better to switch to a 4-3.  Then, the specialized and expensive position would be MLB.  And, I do not think Misi is the answer — nor is Karlos Dansby or Kevin Burnett.

So, the bottomline seems to be … do the Dolphins want to pay for a NT or a MLB?  Here is an interesting fact.  Brian Urlacher, one of the best 4-3 MLBs, only makes $8 million per year.  How much does Soliai want when he made $12 million in 2011 as a franchise player?  Some say that it may be $50 million over 5 years — pretty expensive for a specialty player who does not play every down on Defense.

It should be also considered that a good NT replacement for Soliai could be had in the second or third round of the draft (Poe, Chapman, or Ta’amu).  Whereas, a good MLB may require a first round pick (Kuechly or Hightower).


Want do you think?


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