Dolphins turn attention to impending free agents


The Miami Dolphins have their coaching staff, or most of them in place. Now the task turns to evaluating the players on the team and the impending free agents.

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Free agency is going to be very interesting this year. The Dolphins have several unrestricted free agents that they will need to address before the start of the league new year in March. It may seem like a long ways away but in reality, it’s just over a month. Topping the list for the Dolphins is running back Lamar Miller.

Miller’s stock has risen over the last two seasons and while the Dolphins failed to utilize the versatile runner other teams have taken notice. Miller is looking at a pretty good pay increase when he hits free agency but will he get that far? It’s hard to say at this point. Internally and publicly the Dolphins are believed to want Miller back but Miller is a bit irked about how the team used him last season. The new coaching regime had nothing to do with that so Miller will likely listen to what they have to say. If they say anything at all.

It’s likely that Miller will seek somewhere around $5-6 million per season and that number is likely to go up if he hits the market and finds suitors. The Dallas Cowboys are one team that could take a long hard look at the running back. Head coach Adam Gase is going to have to weigh the value of Miller and his price tag. When given the opportunity Miller has performed very well but in 2015 the Dolphins often abandoned the running game and thus sidelining Miller for the most part.

When the team finally makes a decision on Miller they will need to address other players as well. Derrick Shelby could be the next player on their list. Shelby played well in the 2nd half of the season after the Dolphins lost Cam Wake to an Achilles injury. Shelby has said that he would welcome the chance to stay in Miami but also said that he wants to go somewhere that he can compete for a starting job. That isn’t a guarantee in Miami.

What makes Shelby’s situation more interesting is the Dolphins also need to make a decision on Olivier Vernon. Vernon was flagged more than any other player in the NFL for roughing the passer but he played very well this past season getting pressure on quarterbacks. The problem is Vernon isn’t as good at stopping the run and while he was able to get pressure he wasn’t quick enough to make the sack. He totaled 7.5 sacks on the year.

If the Dolphins opt to let Vernon go they may look to Shelby as the early favorite to replace him or they may go the draft route. This years free agency class isn’t deep at defensive end and for that reason, the Dolphins may not be able to afford Vernon and possibly not Shelby either. If they view Shelby as no more than a back-up he too will likely be gone.

After those three the Dolphins will need to make decisions on wide-receiver Rishard Matthews and quarterback Matt Moore. Moore is now nothing more than a back-up in the NFL and his play the last two seasons, mainly in pre-season, has left a lot to be desired. The Dolphins could opt to keep Moore on another one or two-year deal and Moore may decided to accept that due to the fact there will be no starting offers for him elsewhere.

Matthews is likely to be gone. He is on a deep unit with a lot of youth and frankly isn’t viewed as a long-term solution at the position. Miami likes Matt Hazel as well and 2016 could see him making strides similar to those made by Matthews. Matthews is expendable at this point and there should be plenty of opportunities for him to land a decent contract this off-season.

Of the remaining free agents, Louis Delmas, DB James- Michael Johnson, LB Jacques McClendon, G Spencer Paysinger, LB Kelvin Sheppard, , G Shelley Smith, none elicit much interest and although Kelvin Sheppard played much better in the last two or three weeks of the season he isn’t really a solution to the Dolphins linebacker woes. Even as a back-up.

The Dolphins have a lot of work to do between now and the first week of March and it starts with addressing the Lamar Miller situation and the salary cap. The Dolphins are currently over the cap but contract restructures and some veteran releases can clear a lot of cap space.