Free Agency will officially move into week three tomorrow at 4:00 pm. The Dolphins were the busiest team out of the gate and spent the most free agent money in the early hours. Since that time, the Dolphins have remained rather quiet. Where the first wave was fact this second wave has been rumor.
While the “experts” continue to grade out the Dolphins and their “over-spending” on questionable players, the fans are more concerned with whether or not Jeff Ireland has done enough to make this team better than it was last year and the many years before that. While the offensive speed will be much different, the questions being asked are about the holes that remain.
Offensively, the Dolphins kept Ryan Tannehill’s top target in Brian Hartline and added a young speed WR to stretch the field in Mike Wallace. They gave Tannehill a big seam threat TE and an additional route runner with Brandon Gibson. By all accounts the Dolphins have given Tannehill a bevy of weapons but the lingering question remains did they give him any protection?
Only Nate Garner has re-signed and while he played well last season, he plays much better in a support role than as a 16 game starter. After a week and a half, Jake Long finally decided that his best chance at financial security was to protect Sam Bradford instead of Tannehill. With Long in St. Louis, many believed that Jeff Ireland would immediately attack the offensive tackle market.
With Long, gone, all eyes turned towards Sebastian Vollmer and Eric Winston. Vollmer re-signed with New England and while Winston has visited and made it clear that he wants to be a Dolphin, the Dolphins seem more reluctant to bring on the 9th ranked offensive lineman by pro-football-focus.
With Winston in town and waiting, rumors began to circulate that the Dolphins were in fact working out a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs for their franchise tagged LT Branden Albert. Albert is looking for a Jake Long type contract and the Dolphins are not encouraged to meet the likely 2nd round pick requirement of the Chiefs.
It has left everything in a holding pattern. Winston is on the line, K.C. is on the line, and Jeff Ireland is calling their bluffs. With 11 picks in next months draft, the Dolphins could opt to replace Long or the side switching Jonathan Martin with a LT in the draft. However a player expected to start on the left side would likely require the Dolphins to use the 12th spot.
It could be entirely possible that the Dolphins are holding out for the Chiefs to lower their asking price and while that may be a smart play for Ireland, any intention on landing Winston as a fallback option may come up short should he sign elsewhere.
While the offense looks good on paper the question of protection is a huge one heading into the weeks leading up to the draft.
Switching sides of the ball has done little to make Dolphins fans think this team is better than last season. While they got younger with the additions of Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler there has been no change at DE where the Dolphins sorely lack a complimenting pass rusher opposite Cameron Wake. The two LB’s are solid additions but additions to areas that were not 100% necessary to improve upon this year.
In a show of “all things are not always what they seem”, former Tampa Bay standout end or Michael Bennett visited and then just as quickly signed a one year low end deal with Seattle that put fans back into a firestorm of Dolphins negligence. Either by knowledge or luck, it has now been reported that Bennett will have rotator cuff surgerty and could miss the start of the season.
While missing out on Bennett was a blessing in disguise for either reason, the Dolphins still have not addressed a clear area of need. Elvis Dumerville has headed to the Ravens and Osi Umenyiora is headed to Atlanta. Dwight Freeney is likely a lock to land in Denver to replace Dumerville and that would leave only an aging John Abraham as the best option left on the open market. Once Abraham decides his fate, the Dolphins will need to turn their attention at the position to the draft.
If the Dolphins only lacked a DE they would be in great position, unfortunately they need corners as well.
Richard Marshall will be back healthy and Dimitri Patterson is capable of filling in yet his 4.6 million dollar cap number makes him a likely release or restructure candidate. The Dolphins are reportedly still in the Brent Grimes discussions but Grimes is coming off an Achilles injury that could put his camp participation in jeopardy. The free agent market is weak with corner-backs. Charles Woodson has yet to sign and Adam Jones who has actually turned his career around somewhat is available.
Ireland will have to turn to the draft to fill the void at corner but DC Kevin Coyle is a former secondary coach and a very good one. He will have to be as he will likely be dealing with rookies at the 1 and 2.
When weighted against the 2012 squad, this years team on paper looks to be head and shoulders above the rest. Again…on Paper. No one wins a Super Bowl let alone a division in March and free agency is far from over but finding starters is still a must and with around 19 million to spend, the Dolphins can still add one or two starters before it’s all over.