The bullying scandal has created a hole in the Miami Dolphins. That hole is at the coaching position and the national level of respect. The holes that will be created come March when free agency kicks off will be a result performance not scandal.
Sure you can argue that one vacancy is that of Jonathan Martin who left the team and likely won’t be back. Martin however failed at the left tackle position and was replaced by Bryant McKinnie who the team traded for. Martin’s lack of ability on the left made the move back to the right necessary. However his performance on the right wasn’t all that either and some would argue that after having been benched, Tyson Clabo had a better impact on the right side than Martin would likely have had.
Both Clabo and McKinnie are free agents at the end of the league year. Chances are they would not have been re-signed although it’s still not out of the question to see at least one of them back while the team grooms a rookie to replace them eventually. Although my money is on a free agent replacement.
John Jerry is at the center of the bullying scandal and there is little doubt that he will not return. In fact, many wonder if Jerry will find work anywhere in the NFL. Consider that his involvement wasn’t simply as a follower but at times as bad or worse that Richie Incognito. Adding to that is the fact that Jerry wasn’t very good on the field. He telegraphed snap counts, got beat regularly in the passing game and couldn’t open a hole in the running game. Truth be told, the Dolphins were likely ready to move on from Jerry this off-season. Why? Because he is going to be a free agent.
That brings us to impending free agent Richie Incognito. Last year it was rumored that Incognito could be a salary cap release but that didn’t happen. Chances are the Dolphins were not all that keen on re-signing the guard this off-season. Given their knowledge of the off-field issues it was an easy way to let him walk without having to take on the media. That didn’t work out quite that well. When Incognito was in the game the left side didn’t exactly produce consistent stellar results.
Looking at last years starting line RT Tyson Clabo, RG John Jerry, LG Richie Incognito, and LT Bryant McKinnie all are set to become free agents. Only McKinnie played well in the half-season he was here and he is not a long term solution by any stretch.
Making it worse of course is the lack of real starting quality depth the Dolphins have behind their starters. Last years draft pick Dallas Thomas is no where ready to take on so much a regular back-up role let alone a starting one. Sam Brenner played well above expectations when he was activated immediately after Martin left the team and while he played very well there is still some questions as to whether he is ready to be a full time contributor as a starter. Training camp will help resolve that question but you can’t wait until training camp to figure that out.
Mike Pouncey is the lone returning full time starter on the line and he is coming off a Pro-Bowl season. While Pouncey is a very good center there are more than a few who see him as a better guard. Whether the Dolphins will tinker with that kind of move is unknown but it would be a bold one if they did.
The only other contributor the Dolphins have on the roster is G/T/C Nate Garner who will likely be back. Garner isn’t a starter at any one position but has a lot of value by versatile enough to step in at any position along the line and play well. So what of the rest of the roster? Well David Arkin is a free agent. Converted TE Will Yeatman is a free agent. Guard Randy Thomas is a free agent. All the team has left is a practice squad player.
The fact that the Dolphins have been unable to find an offensive line solution is troubling and it falls on the shoulders of former GM Jeff Ireland. It was rumored that his “plan” was to get through the 2013 season and then rebuild the Oline to Philbin’s liking. We won’t know if that was the case but the lineup of free agents from that offensive line do speak volumes to the mindset that the Dolphins were ready to overhaul the unit before the scandal broke.
The question now becomes how do they fix it and where do they get the players? The NFL Draft in May will likely find some of that talent but the Dolphins need to address the line in free agency and at more than one position. They simply can’t rely on rookies to manage the line. It would also help the Dolphins to enter the draft without the need to spend a first round pick on a lineman but instead fill another need with a top prospect. This years draft is very deep with lineman so the Dolphins should be able to get better in the rounds following one.
This will be the first time that GM Dennis Hickey has run his own draft and made all the decisions. That will not get him any passes. Simply put he needs to hit on both free agency and the draft. Something Ireland for whatever reason you wish to believe, was unable to do.