The Dolphins have 21 impending free agents. Some are unrestricted while others are restricted and exclusive right free agents. If we are looking at age brackets vs. salary and production (almost sounds like money-ball) some of these players should be ruled out quickly while others who we think should go might stay.
The youngest players are Lafayette Pitts, Thomas Duarte, and Jake Brendel. All three are ERFA players meaning the Dolphins have exclusive negotiating rights to keep them. And they should. Damien Williams at the age of 24 is a restricted free agent and the Dolphins should consider tendering him as he has provided solid depth and a change of pace to the offense.
The only other ERFA and RFA players on the Dolphins roster are Anthony Steen, Nick Williams, and Mike Hull. Kiko Alons is also an RFA player. All four are under the age of 27 with Alonso, Steen, and Nick Williams 26 and Mike Hull at 25 and Damien Williams at 24.
The UFA’s or unrestricted players below the age of 26 are Jelani Jenkins, Kenny Stills, and Dion Sims. Of those three Kenny Stills is as close to a must sign than any other free agent but even if Miami doesn’t sign Stills they have his replacement on the roster, or at least one that is penciled in.
Jenkins is interesting because his play has dropped considerably in the past two season and the Dolphins need to upgrade their entire linebacker group. Jenkins is expendable and his return will be predicated on his salary demands. Sims too is expendable and the Dolphins need to upgrade their TE group.
The Dolphins have seven players in the 2nd age group. Bacarri Rambo is the youngest at 26 while Jordan Cameron, Spencer Paysinger, and Donald Butler are all 28. Andre Branch and Michael Thomas are 27. None of these players are must sign free agents. In fact, each of them are all expendable in one way or another. Only Andre Branch is a consistent starter and comes close to being a must sign.
A return by Branch would help with continuity on the defense and he played well but not well enough to warrant a huge contract. However he would be one of the top players I would hope to re-sign.
Michael Thomas knows the system and has some good games and some bad and when they are bad they can be really bad. His contract demands will determine his return but the Dolphins typically keep four safeties total.
From 28 to 32 the Dolphins have six free agents with Jermon Bushrod the oldest at 32. Bushrod is at the end of his career but played well in 2016 and wants to return. Miami should bring him back for insurance at the very least.
T.J. Yates, Jordan Cameron, and Donald Butler have no reasons to return while Spencer Paysinger will be cheap as will Dominque Jones.
Finally there is John Denney. Denney is 38 years old, is strictly a long snapper, makes over $1 million a season, and happens to be the longest tenured Dolphins player with 12 years in the league and with the team. Denney was undrafted in 2005 signing with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent. He has not missed a game since being joining the team. 192 games total.
Denney should be re-signed and allowed to retire as a Miami Dolphin when he decides he is ready.
The Dolphins overall are in good shape as it relates the age makeup of the roster but they lack solid production from many of the players in the third group and need to get more production from many of their starters. However with injuries the way they were and the younger group stepping up, the Dolphins did very well with what they had.