When the free agency period opens in March, the Miami Dolphins are expected to be active in trying to overhaul their linebacker group.
The Dolphins spent the 2016 season holding their linebacker group together with band aids. Koa Misi was in three games all season while Jelani Jenkins missed five. Misi and Jenkins both may not be back which would leave the Dolphins looking for an almost entirely new group at the position.
Miami fans remember quite well when the Dolphins played the merry-go-round at linebacker from 2010 to 2013 when they went through players like Tim Dobbins, Karlos Dansby, Dannelle Ellerbe, Phillip Wheeler, and Kevin Burnett. The Dolphins released both Dansby and Burnett in one off-season and then jettisoned Ellerbe and Wheeler two seasons later.
Since 2014 the Dolphins have relied primarily on Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins with a mix of players in the middle. The Dolphins simply haven’t done enough to fix their linebacker group and as a result, they continue to rank near the league worst in stopping the run.
Will that change this off-season? Miami has tried before but failed. The Dolphins had a habit of buying free agents who didn’t fit their scheme and as a result they failed. Now with another off-season ahead, the Dolphins need to make big changes for the sake of their defense.
Newly promoted defensive coordinator Matt Burke says he wants a far more aggressive defense. Burke was in charge of the linebackers last year. If Burke is going to get his wish, he will need to significant upgrade his linebacker group.
Unfortunately for the Dolphins this years draft class isn’t loaded with linebacker like it was last year so the Dolphins will need to have a successful free agency period to fix this issue. And there will be options. The question will inevitably come down to how much the Dolphins want to allocate to the position.
Here is a look at the potential linebackers who might hit the open market in March. I won’t speculate on the potential salary that these players will get because the market will change and define the salaries this year.
DeMarcus Ware: The top linebacker in this years class will command a big contract. The Broncos have spent a lot of money on the defensive side of the ball in recent years but it’s hard to imagine they won’t “pony” up for Ware this year.
Melvin Ingram: Ingram is notable because there has been a rumor floating around that he wants to play for the Dolphins.
Dont’a Hightower – ILB – New England
Jarvis Jones – OLB – Pittsburgh
Chad Greenway – OLB – Minnesota
Nick Perry – OLB – Green Bay
For a complete list of linebackers visit here.