Although the season ended on a ‘low note’, the Dolphins success in 2016 sets the team up for an even better 2017.
For all but the most optimistic Dolphins fans, the 2016 season was expected to be a ‘rebuilding year’. With a first time head coach (Adam Gase) and defensive coordinator (Vance Joseph), the Miami Dolphins weren’t expected to improve much on the 6-10 record from the previous year heading into the season.
After starting 1-4, and getting man-handled by the Tennessee Titans, however, an amazing thing happened. Whether it was a comeback by the offense, big turnover caused by the defense or a big play on special teams; Miami began winning games. When the team won for the 9th time in 10 games, Miami found itself in the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
As we all know, Miami’s season ended this past Sunday in Pittsburgh at the hands of a healthier Steelers team. But you know what? It was STILL a heck of a season and here are reasons to believe that 2017 will be even better.
(1) Returning players
Of the 14 impending free agents, only five would-be starters are among that list. (Six if you want to include LS John Denney.) The list of notable pending free agents:
Jordan Cameron – He might still be able to play in the NFL but too many injuries and too little chemistry with QB Ryan Tannehill should spell the end of his time with the Dolphins
Andre Branch – Branch had a resurgent year with Miami (5.5 sacks) and would make a good rotational DE for the team. His future with the team will come down to what kind of dollars he commands in free agency.
Jermon Bushrod – He was the most reliable RG the team has had in years but that bar wasn’t set too high. Although he’s a ‘capable’ starter, Bushrod’s age and declining skills make him expendable in Miami. He’s probably a fallback/depth option if he does return.
John Denney – Long snappers are among the most underrated players on an NFL team and Denney has been the cornerstone of the Dolphins special teams unit for 11 years. (Can you remember the last bad snap he made?) Although he’s 38 years old, Miami should strongly consider resigning him. However, you couldn’t blame the team if they decided to go younger/cheaper at the position.
Michael Thomas – A core special teams player who can play in sub-packages and start in a pinch. It would be nice to have him back but not a major loss if he leaves.
Jelani Jenkins – Three year starter for Miami who had a great 2014. The last two years, though, he has been ineffective and/or injured. Should only return at team’s price.
Dion Sims – Late bloomer at TE who has shown he can block and be a threat in the passing game. Gase’s offenses have had an affinity for 2-TE sets so Sims will be a priority to resign this offseason.
Kenny Stills – Good timing and the arrival of Adam Gase will make Stills a lot of money in the next two months. He emerged as the Dolphins deep threat and is expected to have multiple suitors (a la Rishard Matthews). Look for Miami to make an effort to sign Stills but won’t get into a bidding war with both Landry and Parker returning.
While another writer included Alonso among his “Five player contracts that need to be addressed” https://phinphanatic.com/2017/01/09/miami-dolphins-five-player-contracts-need-addressed/4/ I don’t count Alonso because he is a restricted free agent so he will be here next year.