Dolphins should only make small moves this off-season


The Miami Dolphins have a bad habit of making a splash in free agency. This year they should try something a bit different and just role with what they have and make small adjustments to the roster.

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The idea of making small adjustments isn’t new and when the reference is made some positions need to have a major change. For example both guard positions. Outside of that would Miami be better served to let some contracts just run out?

Personally I have been back and forth on this issue. In some regards it would make sense to cut some losses now and just eat the salary and rebuild the defense. There is a lot to be said about cutting Earl Mitchell, Cam Wake, and Brent Grimes and also allowing Olivier Vernon to leave as well. Those moves obviously would create holes that need to be filled but what if we stayed the course somewhat?

Looking at this in a more realistic way the Dolphins could fix this team for the long term by allowing certain things to stay in place. It goes against other articles I have written but as free agency approaches examining all of the options is just as important as examining the best way to create salary space.

Restructuring the deal for Ndamukong Suh would create around $18 million. It’s not an ideal situation but if you need to spend money it’s the best way and frankly Suh isn’t going anywhere anytime soon so why does it matter if you set yourself up to pay him the next few years? So let’s start there for this idea to work.

With the money saved by Suh’s restructure and the $4 million saved by cutting Greg Jennings, the Dolphins would have money to spend. So let’s put this plan on paper and see what happens.

Releasing the four above mentioned players would create cap space but also leave gaping holes especially considering that Vernon will likely be gone. So let’s keep Wake and Grimes and know that we have a starting cornerback and 34 year old defensive end.

My first plan would be to attack the offensive line. This is my major overhaul. A top guard, maybe two, fixes the offensive line problems. Alex Boone, Jhari Evans, Ramon Foster, Brandon Brooks are the top guys that will be affordable for the Dolphins. Miami might be able to land two starting guards but they have Billy Turner who has only one season in the NFL of playing time and a youngster with some potential in Jamil Douglas. Ideally Miami should target Osemele of the Ravens. He can play tackle as well and could be the replacement for Branden Albert down the line.

With the guard spots filled I would turn to the cornerback market. Adam Jones is a very good coverage corner and while there are mental breakdowns on his part, he has a high upside and playmaking ability. Miami could spend money on another corner as well.

Leaving Grimes on the books for another season allows the team to draft a cornerback in round one or two. Maybe Vernon Hargreaves, III. This would give Miami adequate time to get him acclimated and get him on the field as slot corner in year one. Then in 2017 I can release Grimes knowing that I have on my team the starter in his place.

Wake is similar. In 2017 he isn’t on the books anymore as his contract is up so let him go test the market. You can either match it or sign him for less as a 3rd down pass rush specialist. Either way you are not eating any dead money on Wake’s deal. You get Wake this season which eliminates a potential hole.

On the other side you need to let Vernon walk unless the offer sheet he signs elsewhere is conducive to Miami’s future cap and team plans. If Vernon leaves, and I assume that he will, I can draft a defensive end in round two and ride it out for the season allowing him to grow into the role. DE’s are deep in this years draft.

The defensive line is an issue and Paul Solia could fix some of that. Soliai is still a solid run stopping defensive tackle and his price won’t be as high. I can release Mitchell and use some of that money to bring in Soliai who should be an upgrade.

Linebacker is a different issue. The Dolphins are talking with Koa Misi on an extension which would keep him as the strong side linebacker. Jelani Jenkins is on the other side and Miami has a promising youngster in Neville Hewitt. I can address this one of two ways. If the market in free agency and my cap allows it, I can add a starter inside there and if not, I can address it in the draft.

Thus far I have addressed both guard positions, cornerback, the future cornerback to replace Grimes, defensive tackle, the immediate loss of Vernon at DE, and possibly linebacker. In 2017 the Dolphins will be around $96 million committed to cap space without the addition of any free agents this year. The only hole I have yet to really address is safety and I can do that in the mid-rounds of this draft or wait until next off-season to deal with it.

Of course there will also be the issue at quarterback. With an improved offensive line and the possibility of Lamar Miller returning who I would re-sign, I should get a clear idea as to Tannehill’s past four years. Was his play a result of his own or were they result of the line play?

Another player that should be restructured is Cameron Jordan. Releasing him would save a lot of cap space and that might be the best route to go but keeping him will allow Adam Gase to utilize the tight end position without actually having to find a new one to replace him.

Miami needs to think beyond 2016. It’s unrealistic to believe Miami will have a 10-6 season and win the division or a Wild Card spot. More than likely they will fall around .500 or just over. By keeping some players and adding some others Miami can keep themselves competitive in 2016 but really put themselves in a better position in 2017 by already having most of the replacements on the team at reasonable cap numbers.

The other option of course is to cut Grimes, Wake, Mitchell, Jennings, Cameron, and so on and then have to find replacements for all of the now and that might not work this year and more importantly it might not work for 2017 and beyond. Miami can’t fill all of those holes in the draft nor can they fix them all with free agents who will be expensive. It’s time to supplement the roster with free agents and focus on building this team through the combination of the right free agents and more importantly the draft.

At least that’s what I’m thinking today.