Feb 21, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland speaks at a press conference during the 2013 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
The Miami Dolphins have needs on both sides of the ball. Yes, that is something that goes without saying. They need to address the secondary and pass rushing outside linebacker position on defense while offensively need to tackle the WR, TE, and guard/tackle positions.
Jeff Ireland is putting his job and possibly his career on the line this off-season. He has repeatedly said this year is the result of careful planning. His two previous seasons have revolved around making personnel changes and reducing the cap commitments. This year he can spend. If in fact this is a designed plan, then maybe he should look to making his offense priority number 1.
37 million dollars buys more than most but not as much as one may think. The Dolphins have a new philosophy that they build from within and through the draft. Similar to the approach that Green Bay has taken over the past 5 years or more. The concept is simple, draft, develop, and keep your players.
The problem for the Dolphins is they have not had the players to really build upon or developed enough to keep. As evidenced by the trade of Vontae’ Davis last season and the Sean Smith/Jake Long impending departure. The Dolphins simply don’t have enough play making players to keep around. Which is why if they plan to make an advancement in the 2013 season, they will need to bring in veteran players VIA free agency and hit on the draft.
For Ireland, it may be much smarter and safer to take a one-sided approach to fixing this team. If I were him, I may want to concentrate the bulk of spending money on the offensive side of the ball for free agency. If Ireland can lock down Brian Hartline and then add a deep threat like Mike Wallace, he could do even more to fix the offense entirely.
The addition of say a Jared Cook at TE or another top line TE would immediately improve the firepower at Ryan Tannehill’s disposal. The deep threat would be solved, the mid-range WR in Hartline would be solved, Davone Bess would provide the slot, and a guy like Cook would be left one on one with LB’s or a safety. Add the threat of Lamar Miller out of the back-field and the Dolphins offense would be one of the most formidable in the NFL.
I wouldn’t however stop there. Adding a TE and a WR are paramount to the success of the Dolphins offense but I would also add a starting guard or at the very least a starting RT on the offensive line. The Dolphins don’t need a top of the line offensive lineman. They need a productive and consistent one. Free agency will provide the opportunity for the team to add an athletic lineman cheaply…or at least cheaper.
The Phins have 37 million to spend and will need to keep about 4 – 5 million open for their draft picks. Which is where I would focus my attention on the defensive side of the ball.
The Phins have five draft picks in the first three rounds and rumor has it they could add a late 4th round pick as a supplemental pick.
With the offensive side of the ball completed Ireland could use his first four picks to cure a defensive unit that is strong but could be stronger. Already boasting a stout defensive line that is now losing no one with the franchise designation to Randy Starks, the Dolphins can concentrate their efforts on the positions they now need to fill.
A first round selection at number 12 could provide the Dolphins an opportunity to move down in a trade and gather more picks…especially if they are focusing on one side. Cornerback is clearly the biggest defensive need this off-season with the impending departure of Sean Smith and question marks surrounding the return of Richard Marshall.
Using two of their first three picks at the corner position wouldn’t be a surprise, in fact it should be a top plan for the team. OLB will be a little bit harder to find but there is plenty of talent in the top three rounds. It’s possible that Barkevious Mingo or Dee Milliner could fall to Miami at the 12 spot. Both would provide the Dolphins immediate help along the defensive starting roster.
Should Ireland take a more balanced approach which honestly is more likely, he could find himself on the short end of the stick if he isn’t careful. The reason is this. Ireland could lose out on his first choice of say Mike Wallace and while he is waiting could lose out on a top defender that he is working on. If he tries to balance the attack on the market he could stand to lose out on players he would be interested in as secondary options to teams who weren’t looking at the higher end.
Ireland needs to add players with game changing ability and a stricter focus on one side of the ball or the other allows him even out the team. Defenders usually find earlier success in the NFL than offensive players who have to get timing down and learn how to read opposing defenses. Rookie defenders are not void of their ups and downs but the learning curve is often less.
What Ireland does or doesn’t do in free agency will be the tipping key to what he will or won’t need to do come the draft in April. Maybe he just surprises all of us and works his cap space on both sides of the ball with precision and then adds the best players available in the draft.