The Miami Dolphins should be quite an interesting club to keep an eye on once the Free Agency period kicks off during the first portion of March, especially after their spending spree last season under newly-departed GM Jeff Ireland.
The Miami Dolphins are currently still searching for their new GM, and whomever owner Stephen Ross decides to hire as his next GM, well they will have roughly 38 million dollars worth of cap space to work with to fill needs that Ireland certainly over-looked last season.
If Miami’s new GM is smart enough to re-structure WR Mike Wallace’s $17.25 mill cap hit for 2014, Miami would have even more cap space to work with.
Here are the top 10 free agents the Miami Dolphins should be interested in this off-season:
10. Jordan Gross, LT, Carolina Panthers
Gross has been known as one of the better left tackles in this league for the past 7-plus seasons. He’s a 12th year pro and likely won’t command a top dollar deal due to his age.
Is he the answer at left tackle for the Miami Dolphins? No, not at all. But is he a better fit for this team than the oft-over-weight Bryant McKinnie? You bet your buttocks.
Gross would serve as a potential two-year gap starter which will allow Miami’s staff to see what they have in young quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, and this youthful offense.
9. Henry Melton, DT, Chicago Bears
If I am Miami’s new GM, and I don’t feel comfortable retaining either Starks or Soliai, I’m targeting one of the class’ top defensive tackles to bolster my defensive line and to cross that off my “needs list”.
Enter Henry Melton.
Melton was seen as one of the up-and-coming defensive tackles in this league before going down with a season ending knee injury this past season. Melton was coming off a season in which he collected 44 total tackles, 6 sacks, and forced 2 fumbles.
He is still young at 27 years of age, but will likely command a respectable deal.
8. Jared Veldheer, LT, Oakland Raiders
This guy is just 26 years of age, and is a monster at 6’8” 321 pounds. His 5.06 second 40-yard dash indicates that he is athletic enough to entice Miami’s current regime, and is definitely worth a look if they strike out with their other top options.
Veldheer has 53 games worth of experience, but may not even hit the open market due to Oakland’s astonishing cap space. If he hits the market, he definitely should be worth a look due to his age and potential to be the answer for Miami at the left tackle position.
7. Alterraun Verner, CB, Tennessee Titans
Man, oh man, do I love this kid. Verner had quite a break-out season and will likely command top dollar this offseason. That being said, the Miami Dolphins are in position to pay at least one free agent top dollar.
The only way Verner becomes a Dolphin is if Brent Grimes decides to test the waters and receives a huge contract from another team (Oakland?). Losing Grimes will force Miami to find a top-flight corner to stick in their young and inexperienced secondary. Not to mention….if I’m paying top dollar for a corner, he better be young…
Verner is coming off, as I stated above, a break-out season in which he intercepted 5 passes, defensed 23, scored one touchdown, and collected 57 total tackles. He is 25 years of age and has 64 games worth of experience.
6. Chris Clemons, S, Miami Dolphins
Chris Clemons may even be higher on Miami’s offseason “to do” list. Why? Well he was the most consistent safety the team had this season collecting 92 total tackles, defensing 8 passes, and intercepting one pass.
Sure the stats may not jump off the page at you, but Clemons was the heart of the defense the Miami Dolphins put on the field last season. Clemons was the vocal leader and realistically put everyone where they needed to be.
Miami may look to upgrade at the position – makes sense a tiny, tiny bit – but the team will be hurting if they allow Clemons to walk and evidently have to downgrade.
5. Branden Albert, LT/G, Kansas City Chiefs
Miami struck out last season attempting to find a serviceable left tackle to fill the void left by Jake Long. Branden Albert was seen as the answer, and Miami seemed to have the in on Albert for months upon months upon months…Well, that deal never happened.
Albert is a free agent this season and won’t command top dollar due to his inability to stay fully healthy for the past two seasons (13 games in 2012, 12 games in 2013). He is still a young offensive lineman (29) and possesses the athletic build this regime wants.
Another key attribute that makes Albert a desired commodity….he has the ability to shift inside to play guard if Miami were to be in position to land one of the draft’s top tackle prospects.
4. David Diehl, G, New York Giants
Diehl hasn’t been able to stay fully healthy for the past four seasons. Combine that with his age and you can bet that he will be a cheap option for the Miami Dolphins.
Diehl is similar to Incognito in that he’s a brute strength style blocker, but he has more athletic ability than the stiff Incognito – who won’t be back with the team…
Diehl is 33 years of age, entering his 12th season as a pro, and will likely be another stop-gap starter for the Miami Dolphins to see what they have in T/G Dallas Thomas.
Don’t expect Miami to chase guards via free agency as they will be in position to land a top guy via the draft in the second and third rounds.
3. Paul Soliai, DT, Miami Dolphins
Of course Paul Soliai is on my list, silly. Soliai has been the man up front who makes this defense work. I doubt Kevin Coyle will allow his big behemoth up front walk away.
Soliai is coming off an injury-plagued 2013 season in which he missed 1 full game, but numerous snaps due to injuries.
Miami’s run defense surely took a step back this season, but it will take leaps and bounds back next season if Soliai is lost and not replaced.
2. Eugene Monroe, LT, Baltimore Ravens
Eugene Monroe is my top option via free agency for the Miami Dolphins to fill their need at left tackle. He’s still young (26) and possesses that athletic build Miami’s staff desires (6’5” 306 lbs).
Monroe has to top Miami’s list of tackle options simply because they will not be in position to add a Greg Robinson or a Jake Matthews this season via the draft (pick 19). Sure, the team could opt to add a guy like Taylor Lewan or Cyrus Kouandjio, but they are both better fits at right tackle than left tackle.
Monroe is still a youthful option that Miami could go out and sign to come in and potentially be their guy at left tackle protecting their young QB.
1. Brent Grimes, CB, Miami Dolphins
Grimes needs to be Miami’s top priority this offseason. It has been quite sometime since the Miami Dolphins have possessed a corner of Grimes’ ability.
He was able to stay fully healthy this season, en route to a 60 tackle, 4 interception season, in which he also defensed 16 passes and scored a touchdown on an 90+-yard interception return.
Grimes is 30 years of age, but did not show signs of slowing down last season for the Miami Dolphins. What could end up hurting Miami is the fact that Grimes is indeed 30 years of age and will likely look to cash in one more time.
Now there are a few more names out there that would be interesting options for the Miami Dolphins to take a look at. If Grimes slips away, maybe they see if Colts CB Vontae Davis would like to return to Miami. Maybe Chargers RB Ronnie Brown would like to come back home and contribute, but I think that’s unlikely given Brown’s age, unless the team fails to find a capable blocking back this offseason.
Hell maybe the team decides to retain the majority of their free agents this season and build primarily through the draft IE RT Tyson Clabo (god no, please), LT Bryant McKinnie, G John Jerry (why?), TE Dustin Keller (I don’t know…it sounded good at first..), S Chris Clemons, CB Brent Grimes, CB Nolan Carroll, DT Randy Starks, and DT Paul Soliai.
Bottom line is that the Miami Dolphins will certainly be a team to watch this offseason.