On paper, the Dolphins are a talented team heading into the 2014 offseason. The team has some holes, and has the cap room to make some moves again this offseason with a projected $M available in cap room before any moves are made. There are a number of moves to be made this offseason through the draft, free agency and internal roster moves that could give the Dolphins the ability to be a contender in 2014 and improve upon the past season. Before determining what needs the Dolphins will have to fill in Free Agency, the NFL Draft or via trade, Miami will need to do a thorough analysis of their 2013 roster and make several decisions around what to do in regards to both impending free agents and players currently under contract with the team. All of us are guilty of playing armchair GM at some point. With a new GM in place in Miami (Hickey), who has never been a GM previously, this offseason is more likely than ever to be rife with second guessing, especially given the inexperience at the GM position and the… intriguing… manner in which it was handled.
Over the next several weeks, we’ll delve into what may constitute an “ideal offseason” for the Dolphins, with features on free agency, possible cap casualties and restructures, the draft and other aspects of the upcoming offseason. Each piece in this series will not only delve into what the Dolphins should do, but will also take into account the moves recommended in the previous articles in the series as well as the shape of the roster after each subsequent entry. The final entry in the series will contain the “finalized” ideal roster for the 2014 season that could prospectively come via this path. Some of the moves may or may not be popular, or they may not be the flashiest move – but they will keep the best interests of the team at heart, and this isn’t fantasy football.
Impending Free Agents:
Miami has a fairly long list of impending free agents at this point, and it will be up to the Hickey to determine which players to retain. While many of do not have a feel for Hickey in terms of his preferences, we’ve all watched the Dolphins list of impending free agents play during their time in Miami. Having watched them, it enables us to have perspective on what the “ideal” moves are for the upcoming offseason. The first item on that list is making a judgement call on the impending free agents that Miami has scheduled, and attempting to prevent several of them from hitting the free agent market. The following list of free agents includes a judgement call on each, as well as a bit of info around it. Some of these choices are a “no brainer,” some may surprise, but they are all via an honest, objective assessment of the team.
- CB Brent Grimes – This is the biggest no-brainer of the offseason. Sign him. Now. A three year contract in the neighborhood of $8M-$10M per year should get the job done, and despite his size he is one of (if not THE) best corners in the league. He allowed a whopping total of zero touchdowns for the year, and is an absolute freak athlete who can cover receivers that have 8 inches on him height-wise. Despite his quiet demeanor, he managed to get elected to the Pro Bowl and is rumored to be a finalist for NFL Comeback Player of the Year. He and his wife, Miko, also appear to love it in Miami, and do a lot for the fans. If a contract can’t be reached before free agency, Miami should place the tag on Grimes to prevent him from going elsewhere. Make no mistake, retaining Grimes should be priority #1 this offseason. Verdict: Re-sign to a 3-4 year deal, Franchise Tag if needed.
- DT Paul Soliai – Paul Soliai doesn’t always show up on the stat sheet, at least not directly. This is a player who was essentially playing on one leg for most of this season, and is the best run stuffer on the team with a skillset that is truly difficult to find. Soliai also has the ability to push the pocket on pass plays when he is on the field, and can form a very complimentary tandem with Jared Odrick, who has found new life at the DT position. Resigning Soliai should be priority #2 for Miami this offseason. Verdict: Re-sign, preferably to a 2-3 year deal.
- DT Randy Starks – I like Randy Starks, and he’s a damn good football player that appears to have a lot of respect from his teammates. Starks gets excellent push up the middle, though he hasn’t been the most consistent this season. Unless the team either can’t resign Soliai at a reasonable price, or manage to somehow squeeze both players in for under $10M a year combined, Starks should be allowed to test free agency this offseason. Verdict: So long as Soliai is re-signed, allow to walk
- S Chris Clemons – Chris Clemons is a player that I felt indifferent about retaining during the offseason last year. If there is any area of the defense that Coyle has show an aptitude for improving the play of, it’s in the secondary, and Clemons has shown a large stride this season. Surprisingly, if Clemons had a better set of hands he may have been a candidate for the Pro Bowl this year due to his solid play, he simply dropped a number of interceptions that he should have snagged. In spite of that, he is a player that can be retained cheaply, keeping the much improved Jimmy Wilson in contention for the the nickel position next year. Retaining Clemons should actually be Miami’s third order of business Verdict: Re-sign, 2 yr team friendly deal
- CB Nolan Carroll – Nolan Carroll is not a popular player in Miami amongst DolFans, but the reality is he made some great strides this season. He will not be in line to be a starter for this team, barring injuries, but as a #3-#4 CB you won’t find many better out there, especially at the price he’ll likely command as well as if he shows continued progression this upcoming season. Miami should re-sign him for depth and to contend with Jimmy Wilson, Will Davis and possibly Jamar Taylor for the Nickel – or potentially to contend for the starting role opposite Grimes. Failure to retain Grimes would elevate the priority level of this move, and it is a luxury move of convenience. Verdict: Re-sign for depth
- RG John Jerry – Jerry is a bit of an enigma. Every year since his rookie year, the team brings in players to replace him. Every year, he goes into training camp having been unseated at the RG position. He’s not the most athletic lineman by any stretch, let alone for the type of zone blocking scheme that Philbin wants for this team. Every year, Jerry emerges from camp as the starter and while he isn’t spectacular he isn’t spectacularly bad, either. The pool of free agent guards isn’t stellar, but if Jerry can be resigned to an extremely cap friendly deal with minimum guarantees, I would be ok with this aspect in the short term. Miami needs to continue to seek an upgrade or replacement, however. Verdict: Make the minimum offer with minimum guarantees in an incentive based contract.
- RT Tyson Clabo – Another enigma on the offensive line. Prior to the Jonathan Martin saga, Clabo was bad. REALLY bad. After losing his job, and then being re-inserted into the line-up when Jonathan Martin took his buddy Richie on a “stay-cation,” Clabo was decent. Given the first half of the year, he won’t have teams banging down his door, but Miami should let him test the free agent market before offering a veteran minimum contract with incentives similar to the offer to Jerry above. If Miami is able to land an upgrade via Free Agency or the Draft, Clabo can be kept as a backup, but failing to upgrade Clabo and Jerry this offseason would be a failure. Verdict: Make the minimum offer with minimum guarantees in an incentive based contract.
- LT Bryant McKinnie – Of Miami’s free agent offensive linemen, possibly re-signing McKinnie would be the idea that I like most. If he is allowed to walk or test free agency, I’m ok with that, but if he can be had inexpensively it is worth considering. My personal thought is that all four of Miami’s linemen that started in 2013 who are on this list will be allowed to walk. Verdict: Tests Free Agency
- LG Richie Incognito – I like Richie, and I want him back. He was playing more than decently before going on a Jonathan Martin infused “stay-cation,” and he has the respect and friendship of most of his team mates. They like him. By all reports, Joe Philbin does not want him on the team. With Jeff Ireland gone, Richie’s chances to stay in Miami, despite the fact that he’d be inexpensive after all of his off the field issues, should be drawing to a close this offseason. Verdict: Tests Free Agency
- TE Dustin Keller – I’m going to preface this by saying I like Dustin Keller. I like what he brings to the table when healthy, and I like the rapport that he was building with Tannehill early on. This isn’t a move that makes sense, however. This may be the deepest Tight End class I’ve ever seen in the draft, and there are a number of options that may become far cheaper for the Dolphins via that method. Charles Clay showed the ability to be a dynamic receiver as a hybrid TE, Dion Sims flashed promise and Michael Egnew also took strides. Keller has the potential to be a good piece for a team, but he’s a piece that doesn’t have a place in Miami.
Internal Free Agent Overview:
Re-sign (by priority):
- Brent Grimes
- Paul Soliai
- Chris Clemons
- Nolan Carroll
Allow to test Free Agency:
- Bryant McKinnie
- Randy Starks
- John Jerry
- Tyson Clabo
Will not return:
- Richie Incognito
- Dustin Keller