Predicting which impending free agents the Dolphins will re-sign

Aug 12, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Miami Dolphins linebacker Spencer Paysinger (42) and linebacker James-Michael Johnson (56) and Miami Dolphins free safety Michael Thomas (31) tackle New York Giants tight end Will Tye (45) in the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 12, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Miami Dolphins linebacker Spencer Paysinger (42) and linebacker James-Michael Johnson (56) and Miami Dolphins free safety Michael Thomas (31) tackle New York Giants tight end Will Tye (45) in the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports /

The Miami Dolphins have 21 impending free agents with 13 of those being unrestricted. Miami doesn’t have to re-sign any of those 13 but they will. And it would be smart.

Which of those impending free agents will get signed is a different story all together. Every player will be slotted in the Dolphins off-season plans. There will be those that will be wanted, those that are needs, and those that are simply, “no’s”.

The Dolphins have players in three categories. Exclusive rights free agents are free agents that only the Dolphins can negotiate with unless released. Restricted free agents can negotiate with other teams but the team that owns their rights has the right to match the offer or possibly receive draft pick compensation. Of course unrestricted means that players can sign with any other team with no right of matching or compensation.

The Dolphins have five exclusive rights free agents. Anthony Steen, Jake Brendel, Mike Hull, Thomas Duarte, and Lafayette Pitts.

The Dolphins like this group and it would be surprising if they are not given tendered deals ahead of free agency. These contracts are not guaranteed. Steen started at both center and guard last year due to injuries to Mike Pouncey and Laremy Tunsil. Pitts and Duarte have spent time on the practice squad.

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Only three players are listed ast restricted. Kiko Alonso, Damien Williams, and Nick Williams. Of the three it seems as though Alonso is the top priority and many believe that the Dolphins will move to the weak outside position. Damien Williams has a shot to be re-signed but he will likely test the market to gauge his value. The same can be said about Nick Williams.

The unrestricted free agent list is where it will get interesting. Barring a transition tag or a franchise tag or a new contract these players will hit the open market on March 9th.

Likely to re-sign

Dion Sims – The Dolphins like the upside of Dion Sims and his blocking has improved over the last couple of years. He is far from ready to be a number one tight-end but he is productive for what the Dolphins ask him to do. Interest on the open market is likely to be lukewarm but given the thin number of tight-ends Sims could find enough suitors to make it difficult for the Dolphins. Sims however should be signed by the start of free agency.

Michael Thomas – Thomas isn’t going to get much attention in the free agent market, at least not initially. Despite the fact that Thomas can play all four or the secondary positions he isn’t an expert at any of them. His forte is more on special teams and the Dolphins should get him signed before free agency. He shouldn’t cost too much.

John Denney – It will be interesting to see what happens here. Denney is the longest tenured player on the Dolphins roster and the oldest. He also makes over a $1 million per season as a long snapper. Denney is looking at one maybe two years tops but as long as he is healthy he is a valuable asset to the team doing his one job very well.

Spencer Paysinger – Each year it’s predicted to be the last for Paysinger and each year he sticks around. Last season Paysinger saw a lot of work with the linebackers and has shown his value on special teams. He isn’t a starter on defense unless there are injuries but the Dolphins will likely bring him back for his depth and ST play.

Could be brought back

Andre Branch – The Dolphins would like to have the DE back but Branch may find it more financially sound to test the market first. DE’s are typically thin in free agency and last year Branch had a good enough season to draw 2nd level interest in free agency.

Kenny Stills – The Dolphins would like to have him back but his market value seems to increase almost daily. Originally thought to be around $6 million per season Still’s is starting to see rumors pushing his contract closer to the $7-8 million range. And out of Miami’s plans. A contract prior to free agency or a transition tag may be the only way Miami keeps him.

Jermon Bushrod – Bushrod was serviceable in 2016 as a starter but if he is brought back, he wants to be, he would compete for a starting job and maybe even a roster spot. Approaching his mid-30’s Bushrod will not be an expensive player to bring back.

Questionable to return

Jelani Jenkins – Jenkins has had one very good year since being drafted but that was followed by injuries and average play. Jenkins isn’t going to get much on the open market but there is always a chance someone pays him. Miami is rumored to be wanting two new starting linebackers while keeping Kiko Alonso. If those rumors are true, Jenkins isn’t high on the Dolphins priority list.

Bacarri Rambo – Rambo was signed as a mid-season street free agent and played o.k for someone who was out of work. He did not wow anyone over his play last season especially not enough to get free agency offers out of the gate. Miami could re-sign him but they would be smart to let him hit the market, determine his value and then try to bring him back if there is any value at all. There probably won’t be much.

Not coming back

T.J. Yates – Yates was added for insurance on Matt Moore when Ryan Tannehill went down. Tannehill will be back as will Moore and Miami will likely take a look at some other options. Yates is not an option or at the very least a small one.

Jordan Cameron – Cameron’s concussion history is enough to scare off a lot of teams. He shouldn’t continue to play and the NFL shouldn’t allow him to play. They will and Cameron still wants to. It won’t be with the Dolphins.

Donald Butler – Butler was added as an insurance policy and it didn’t work. He was not productive as a starter and didn’t do much as a back-up either.

Dominique Jones – Honestly this could go either way and maybe should be on another list but if the Dolphins bring back Sims and sign a TE or draft a TE then the Dolphins won’t have much room on the roster considering they also have MarQuies Gray and Thomas Duarte.

Free agency is still a few weeks away but players should start getting contract offers and we should start hearing about negotiations as well. A lot of things tend to change during and immediately after the Scouting Combine which is coming up soon.