The Miami Dolphins will enter free agency needing at least one and possibly three linebackers for the 2017 season.
Kiko Alonso is not a lock to return but as an exclusive rights free agent it’s highly unlikely that he goes anywhere. In addition, Alonso grew into a leader in 2016 and the Dolphins like the impact he made.
What isn’t so clear is the future of Jelani Jenkins, an impending unrestricted free agent, and Koa Misi who is battling a potentially career ending neck injury. Miami’s problem is that behind those two starters no internal starter exists.
Miami has to have a plan for entering free agency and that plan will lead to the NFL Draft in late April. Breaking it down isn’t easy and fixing the problem will not be cheap. In fact, linebacker could be a high-priced flirtation for the Dolphins executives once free agency begins.
Ideally the Dolphins would love to have their linebacker group fixed by the time the draft arrives which would allow them to concentrate on the defensive line and defensive end where the Dolphins need to upgrade as well. Remember the Dolphins were horrible in run defense last season despite the presence of Ndamukong Suh.
The Dolphins will have options at linebacker in free agency but the question is how much are they willing to spend and will they go older or younger?
There are a lot of fans who believe that Hightower would be a big inside linebacker signing. Some will point to the strengthening of Miami’s linebacker group while at the same time weakening New England. There are others who believe that Hightower will not make it to free agency.
Hightower is good but is he good because he is part of the New England system or is he that talented? His contract should fall somewhere around the $10 million per season mark.
Hightower had 2.5 sacks last season and really didn’t add much pressure averaging 1.24 quarterback hurries in 2016 according to Spotrac.com. Hightower also doesn’t have any interceptions in his NFL career and only one recovered fumble and no forced fumbles. As a starter in 2016, Hightower registered 65 combined tackles on the season.
Seems like $10 million should buy more productivity.