It’s a little before the half way mark of the season and The Miami Dolphins are looking a whole lot better then anyone expected them to be(including myself). The only lingering problem is that this team that has been coming together and winning games might not look the same next season. Yes, it’s a little early to be looking into next season already, especially when the chance of the Phins making the playoffs is on the rise, but I’m sure the front office has already started to keep their eyes on draft picks, free agents on the market and which of the 24 or more Dolphins that will be hitting the open market at years end. Miami has too many players and not enough money to resign all of them and some are not worth the money anyway, but some are worth every penny they might ask for. Miami also has the franchise tag that they can use on any player they like but, depending on the player, could do more harm then good against the cap.
Most of Miami’s free agents are also skill and impact players that are in positions that have finally been fixed or in the process of being fixed and allowing those players to leave could set the team back from the direction and pace that they are heading in. Miami does have a shot at the playoffs this year but not at the Super Bowl, well at least not yet. The team has continued to change and get better everyweek so you never know what miracle could be made in South Florida. Allowing their star players to get away in the off season could potentially destroy the chemistry the team has achieved and hurt next years chances. GM Jeff Ireland believes that he can always find a diamond in the rough and not have to pay players or deal with divas. He has also cut 4 out of 9 from this years draft and Tight End Michael Egnew has yet to be active. He also cut 2 from 2011 and Daniel Thomas is not working out so far. So out of Ireland’s last 15 draft picks, 3 have actually made a real difference, 5 are 2nd or 3rd string backups, 1 hasn’t played yet and 6 were cut. So far the draft is not the way to go, at least not while Ireland is making the calls.
Miami’s Free Agents this year are:
Anthony Armstrong Will Barker Reggie Bush
Chris Clemons Pat Devlin Anthony Fasano
Ray Feinga Jonathan Freeny Jabar Gaffney
Nate Garner Brian Hartline Jake Long
Jeron Mastrud Tony McDaniel Marlon Moore
Matt Moore Lydon Murtha Jonathon Amaya
Sean Smith Austin Spitler R.J. Stanford
Randy Starks Marcus Thigpen Jason Trusnik
That’s a total of 24 players Miami has scheduled to hit the open market after the season. There are quite a few names on this list that could seriously damage the Phins if they were allowed to get away. Even though many might say that its not a possibility for players like Jake Long or Reggie Bush to leave, Ireland has pulled off some serious head scratchers in the past. The majority of this list can easily be allowed to walk away like Garner, Spitler, Stanford and others unless they would like to return on minimum salaries since they don’t produce anyway. Tony Mcdaniel has been less then average in play and that’s when hes not hurt so losing him wouldn’t exactly be a surprise. The “must keeps” on this list are a serious problem when it comes to cap room.
On offense, Jake Long is considered to be one of the best Left Tackles in the league and will be demanding big numbers in a new contract. Bush with his 1000 yards last year and likely 1000 yard season again this year will warrant good money but nothing big because he is 27, injury prone and replaceable. Working in Bush’s favor is the fact that Daniel Thomas does not seem to be working out and Lamar Miller isn’t ready to carry the load yet. Hartline, Fasano and Thigpen are not HUGE factors but big enough to matter and demand medium to large contracts. Hartline being Tannehill’s favorite target, Fasano being the only real TE on the team and Thigpen being the best kick returner Miami has had in a decade are all players that must be retained. Moore knows the offense and had good showings but hasn’t exactly been lights out, he will be a coaching decision. Pat Devlin has apparently come a long way and is a viable back up to Tannehill, which makes Moore expendable and that’s if he doesn’t get traded before the deadline. Most the other players on offense are on one year contracts or rookie deals.
On defense the only must keeps are Sean Smith who has finally started to prove that he can really play at an elite level and Randy Starks who is having a great year and will only continue to grow playing along side Paul Soliai. Chris Clemons has not shown enough to be brought back with a big contract or even a medium one. If he wants to stay he will have to agree to a less then average contract or test the open waters. Spitler and Trusnik have been little more then Special Teams specialists and are easily replaceable as well as the remaining players.
So out of 24 there are 7 that must be a part of this team going into next season to keep some kind of cohesion, but will also eat up a large chunk of the $50 million the Phins are supposed to have next year(give or take a few million). Not to mention that there must be at least $5 million to sign draft picks and Owner Stephen Ross has publicly stated that a dominate #1 receiver will be this off season’s main priority. Star receivers demand star money. Even though Miami has a whole lot of cap room going into next season, it seems to quickly disappear when you read over the FA list and needs of the team.