Nov.25, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Randy Starks (left) talks with umpire Garth DeFelice (right) during the second half against the Seattle Seahawks at Sun Life Stadium. The Dolphins won 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Grading The Miami Dolphins First Week of Free Agency

Aug 22, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions free safety Louis Delmas (26) picks up the fumble by New England Patriots defensive back Kanorris Davis (44) in the first quarter of a preseason game at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins have been one of the more active teams during this year’s free agency period. Miami has been able to fill a few holes along their roster and add some depth at positions of need. Although the team has done a good job thus far, they still have some holes they will need to fill either via free agency or the draft.

General Manager Dennis Hickey certainly did not break the bank this offseason, nor did he chase after big name free agents. Hickey has done a marvelous job of signing players at a position of need and guys that fit Miami’s system.

Let’s take a look at Miami’s signings thus far:

Louis Delmas, FS:

This was one of the riskier signings, but with that risk comes a reward if Louis Delmas can stay on the field. Delmas is one of the league’s hardest hitting safeties, but with that comes a price.

Delmas has only completed one full season during his 6 year career with Detroit, but he has been quite productive over that time. In six seasons, Delmas has collected 331 total tackles, 5 sacks, 1 safety, 24 passes defensed, 6 interceptions, 1 touchdown, and 2 forced fumbles.

Delmas can certainly provide an upgrade over former Dolphin Chris Clemons, IF he can stay healthy. Delmas is a very smart player and should be able to step right in for Clemons and quarterback Miami’s defense.

Grade: B / A- if he stays healthy


Branden Albert, LT:

There was no secret that Miami would be one of the biggest players in the left tackle market, but what many were no expecting was that Miami would opt for the oft-injured Albert over the seemingly healthy Eugene Monroe.

Dennis Hickey and co. opted to bring Branden Albert aboard to block for QB Ryan Tannehill and give him some time to find his plethora of targets. Albert is no spring-chicken, but there is no denying his ability from an offensive lineman perspective. Albert, when healthy, is one of the best left tackles in the game.

Hickey needed to find a left tackle to protect his quarterback, something former GM Jeff Ireland really failed to do last season, and Hickey signed his top choice giving him more flexibility come May. If Albert can stay healthy and keep Ryan Tannehill upright, this signing could pay large dividends for the Miami organization.

Grade: A/ A+ if healthy


Earl Mitchell, DT:

This may surprise you, but Earl Mitchell is actually a very interesting prospect and could pair well with DT Jared Odrick in Miami’s defensive scheme. DC Kevin Coyle likes to attack opposing teams with athletic defensive players, Earl Mitchell is just that.

Mitchell, a former college fullback, is a very athletic man for a defensive tackle his size. He has a nice first step and uses his hands well. He defends the run in a solid fashion, but the real reason he was brought to Miami was to take on multiple blockers and clog the lane, which is something he can do just fine.

Hickey knew DT Paul Soliai was not returning to Miami, so he opted to sign a much younger and cheaper option.

Grade: B


Randy Starks, DT:

“Randy Starks likely leaving Miami.” – That is the exact headline every single Miami fan read this past week, month, and basically year. It was a conclusion that Starks was not happy with his situation in Miami and he would be leaving for greener pastures.

That is until he tested the waters and realized his market was not as high as he thought it would be.

Starks, who will be 30 this season, is one of the better all around defensive tackles in the game, but teams do not dish out large amounts of money for defensive tackles who are going to be 30 next season (I know, there are exceptions).

Starks has been a staple for Miami defensively over his tenure with the team and it honestly would have been a huge blow if Miami had lost both Soliai and Starks only to replace them with…Earl Mitchell. But, Dennis Hickey was able to bring back Starks AND sign Earl Mitchell basically for less than Paul Soliai would have cost to retain.

Having Starks back provides Miami the ability to wait on a defensive tackle early in this year’s draft, thus giving the team more flexibility.

Grade: A


Cortland Finnegan, CB:

It’s official: The Miami Dolphins have signed former Pro Bowl corner Cortland Finnegan to a two-year deal and I absolutely love it.

Please, don’t throw the Pro Football Focus stats at me because they do not tell the whole story

Finnegan is widely known for pissing Houston Texans WR Andre Johnson off and getting destroyed by a few Johnson blows to the head. That’s just it, he’s an arrogant, feisty, fiery, passionate trash talker on the field. But when is the last time you heard about Finnegan causing issues off the field? Exactly.

Finnegan is a veteran and will provide some leadership to a very talented looking secondary. He’s going to add a tenacious level to this defense along with FS Louis Delmas.

Finnegan as a #1 corner would be a bad, bad decision. But as a #2 corner? I’ll take it.

Grade: B+


Brent Grimes, CB:

Pairing this guy with the guy above, man do I love the sound of that. Brent Grimes was the most important move of the offseason for Dennis Hickey and the Miami Dolphins. They were able to get it done and bring back their #1 and Pro Bowl corner on a very good deal.

Grimes will add some stability for this defense and adding Finnegan opposite Grimes gives Miami the ability to send those exotic blitzes now.

There’s not much else to say. Grimes is the best move of the offseason thus far.

Grade: A+

UPDATE: BREAKING: Shelley Smith, G:

The Miami Dolphins have signed former St. Louis Rams G Shelley Smith to a two year deal.

To be quite honest, I did not know much about Smith so I did a little research.

He’s going to be 27 in May and has played in 25 games over his 3 year career with both St. Louis and Houston. He is 6’4″ 312 pounds and looks like a solid fit for some competition at one of Miami’s guard positions.

Obviously this is not a huge deal or a huge name, but it does provide some competition at one of the guard spots and could end up paying some dividends. While I would still like to see Miami kick the tires on G Davin Joseph, who recently spent some time with the Rams, Smith may end up being the only guard added to this team’s roster via free agency this season.

Grade: C+

Who could be next?

That’s the question we all have to be wondering. Miami seemingly struck out on RT Zach Strief, who declined a meeting with Miami and will likely return to New Orleans, and had St. Louis Rams’ G Shelley Smith in for a visit recently. Another guy I would love to see the team bring in for a visit (and hopefully lock up) would be former Tampa Bay G Davin Joseph. Former Tampa bay LT Donald Penn could also be an option for the team if he would be willing to shift to either guard or right tackle.

Miami is still in need of one more move. Just one more free agent move and then they can take a breather and look towards the draft. Dennis Hickey and co. need to find one more offensive lineman (or two!). Right tackle would be a great choice as it would allow them to draft two guards, potentially two of the top guards in round 2 and 3. But adding a guard via free agency may be their best option as the right tackle pool has seemingly run out of decent players.

Don’t forget to tune in to Direct Snap tomorrow night at 8:30 PM Eastern for our Free Agency recap edition. We will be taking a look at every team’s moves and discussing what they mean for their draft implications. We will also have our winners and losers of the free agency period! 

If you missed last week’s podcast here is a link:

Keep your eyes open Dolphins fans!

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Tags: 2014 NFL Free Agency Branden Albert Brent Grimes Cortland Finnegan Miami Dolphins

  • Johnny

    I like the upside of Earl Mitchell… Could be the best signing of FA…
    Struck out on top guards and RT… Got to scrape the bottoms if the barrel..
    Can’t rely on Rookies to fill these needs.. (Except if we draft Zach Martin, who will immedietly start at RT or G depending on need)

    • TylerMcMullen

      Johnny, a guy I would really like to see them bring in would be Davin Joseph. He’s still available and would be a great fit in Miami’s scheme at right or left guard. If they could sign Joseph or Shelley Smith (Or both) and then draft either Su’a-Filo or Yankey in rd 2, with Mosley or Ebron in rd 1 and then a RT or G in rd 3, we’re looking pretty hot.

      • Johnny

        I still think Zach Martin is the way to go with the Phins 1st round pick… That’s if he’s there… Fingers crossed.

        • TylerMcMullen

          I’m not sold on him. I’d trade back if I’m taking him in round one. I don’t see the value at 19.

          • Johnny

            After Robinson, Mathews, and Lewan.. There is a drop off.. But Martin is somewhat of a technician… Very sound and moves well.. Powerful and agile.. The biggest plus is that he’s versatile and can play 3 positions on the OLine… Would be a great RT and can easily move to guard.. And to LT incase of an injury.. Only con is his size at 6’4.. That’s why I think he’ll make a good RT and guard instead of LT (in which we don’t have to worry about with the Albert signing)

          • TylerMcMullen

            Oh, I think he would be a solid addition. But at 19 I don’t feel it. 24 on, sure. 19? If Ebron, Amaro, Mosley, etc. are there? I don’t feel it.

          • Johnny

            Not sure we are that flex able where we can not address the OLine.. We will see..

          • TylerMcMullen

            Johnny, the offensive line is incredibly deep in this year’s class. We need a RT and a G possibly two. That’s all. No reason to press for a lineman in round one unless we trade back. No reason to trade up.

          • Johnny

            Agreed… But only if we add a RT in FA… Looks like Strief will be resigning with NO… So??? If we don’t add a RT in FA.. Then we might have to go with Martin at 19..

          • TylerMcMullen

            I would still trade down. I don’t think the value is there. That being said, if the value is there IE Ebron, Mosley, etc. are all gone, then yes, take him. I wouldn’t press it, though. The tackle class is incredibly deep and there’s no need to take over-draft a player this season.

          • Paulmatthew22

            I know that Lewan is a great athlete,.But I think he is a bit UNDERSIZED to play LT in the NFL

          • Johnny

            Lewan??? Lewan is like 6’7 310lbs!!!

  • Spencer John Taylor

    This is an excellent article. I haven’t seen one as well written that makes as much sense in a long time.

    • TylerMcMullen

      Why thank you for your kind words, Spencer John Taylor!

  • tpl

    If this is an example of what kind of manager hickey is, I cannot wait until the draft. Kudos to hickey and Ross.

    • TylerMcMullen

      Boom! Kudos to Hickey and Aponte! Aponte has done an excellent job with the numbers for Miami in recent years.

  • Johnny

    I’ll tell you one thing… I like the way Hickey is introducing players.. He seems like a classy guy.. Not like the slime way Ireland was (is).. Hickey seems like a class act.. Giving the players respect and a chance to shine.. And just his overall demeanor..

    • TylerMcMullen

      He has done a stellar job thus far. Hopefully he keeps it up.

  • Johnny

    Finn 2yr 11 mil.. Is a lot of $$$ for a has been #2 CB at best…. He’s getting more then Grimes this year?? Or too close to it..
    And a lot of $$$ for Smith who is pretty much a back-up G..
    Those. 2 are overpaid big time!!!
    I do think Earl Mitchell will be the best investment of all Free Agents… He’s the black horse… A 300lb DT who ran a 4.75 40… He’s athletic and can move for a big guy… And we are getting him on the way up… Watch… In a few years he’s going to want more $$$ and probably will deserve it..

  • FakeMelKiperJr

    Very Complete Article, Thanks.
    Personally, I would have gone with the younger and just as talented Eugene Monroe. I’m concerned on who would back-up Albert at LT and Louis Delmas at “S”. At the moment I would grade Miami’s first week of free agency as a B, health being the main concern.
    As you stated one more offensive lineman would make us all feel better. Lets not forget that Nate Gardner did a good job last year and I personally admire how he does not stop pushing people around until the whistle blows.
    With the devaluation of running back market, I feel that the Dolphins should kick the tires on Knowshon Moreno, He’s talented: 1036yds, 60 catches for another 527yrds and 10 TD’s, oh and an excellent blocker out of the backfield. Originally, I thought he would sign around $8 million/2Yrs, now I’m thinking $5million/2yrs could bring Miami a great all down back to add to coach Lazors’ offense

  • Paulmatthew22

    I think that Donald Penn would be a pretty good RT for us,.Saw him have it out with Jared Allen last yr,.That was about as hard a match-up as I saw all yr

    • TylerMcMullen

      I agree, if not a RT than at the very least a pretty good G. He’s a strong blocker, but struggles with his weight. If we were to bring him in, he would be a decent player along our offensive line. I will say, however, I would rather have Davin Joseph!

  • Paulmatthew22

    Im pretty sure if Martin is there,.He will be a Dolphin

  • Paulmatthew22

    I WISH we had gotten Toby Gerhart in FA,.3yrs/10 mil was a steal by the Jags