Free Agent TE Targets for Miami Not Named Dion Sims

Nov 27, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins tight end Dion Sims (80) celebrates with teammates after his touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins tight end Dion Sims (80) celebrates with teammates after his touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

Earlier this week, Miami made a trade for TE Julius Thomas from Jacksonville in exchange for a seventh round draft pick. The Dolphins would still like to re-sign Dion Sims, but there are other options on the market if that does not pan out.

The Miami Dolphins have some big needs on their roster following their first playoff berth since 2008. Most of those come on the defensive side of the ball, but tight end is also an important position to build on for the offense. So much so, that many mock drafts had the Dolphins selecting a tight end in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, with Miami taking either Alabama’s O.J. Howard or Miami (FL) native David Njoku.

In my last article, I expressed that I was not a fan of the idea that Miami might take a tight end in the first round with other more dire needs on the roster, and limited draft picks. With their trade earlier this week for Julius Thomas it no longer appears that option is on the table. Still, the Dolphins will need to add another tight end to be complete at the position. Re-signing Dion Sims remains the primary option for Miami, but as an unrestricted free agent, he could warrant interest from other teams.

At age 26, Sims is expected to get paid this summer, marketing at an average annual salary somewhere between $4-$5 million. A big increase compared to the $656,000+ average he saw over the past four years. It remains to be seen whether or not the Dolphins are willing to give Sims that kind of money over the long haul.

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Should the Dolphins let Sims walk, there are other options Miami could take to help fill at the position. One is still through the draft, possibly in the later rounds. Michigan’s Jake Butt or Ole Miss’ Evan Engram are some options that could be had in the middle rounds. The other option is looking elsewhere through free agency. Here are a few unrestricted free agents Miami might consider if a deal with Sims cannot be done.

Martellus Bennett

Trading for Thomas at over a $7 million cap-hit, it seems highly unlikely that the Dolphins would go after a guy like Bennett, who is going to demand a high salary. Turning 30 in just a couple of weeks, and fresh off of his first Super Bowl title, Bennett is looking to get paid in what could be his last big contract.

Going after Bennett could make Dolphins fans scratch their heads a bit, however. Bennett is likely to see an annual salary between $6-$8 million on his next contract. With Thomas already set to receive over $7 million this year that seems like an awful lot tied up in your tight ends with defense still being your primary concern.

Bennett is the full package though when it comes to receiving and blocking, and Miami may look at it as a small increase in price but a major upgrade in production when compared to Sims’ market value. A two tight end set featuring Thomas and Bennett could make Miami one of the more dominant tight end threats in the league, a position they were considered weak at just a year ago.

Jared Cook

Like Bennett, Cook will turn 30 this spring, and is looking for possibly the last big contract of his career. After signing a one-year deal with Green Bay, Cook’s value has risen some in the upcoming market. It sure doesn’t hurt your stock when you have Aaron Rodgers throwing at you. According to Spotrac, the market for Cook this time around will be roughly $3-$5 million annually.

Cook started off slow last season with the Packers, and missed six games in the middle of the season due to injury. He stepped up, however, towards the end of the season and into the playoffs, when other Green Bay receivers started battling injuries themselves. He may not best fit what Miami is looking for in terms of overall talent, but they could do worse.

Mychal Rivera

Mychal Rivera is one of my sleeper options for Miami should they choose not to throw a lot of money at the position. Rivera has spent his entire four-year career in Oakland, starting out hot for the team that drafted him in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Since then, however, Rivera has cooled off and taken a backseat to teammate Clive Walford. Last year, Rivera saw the worst statistical season of his career with just 18 receptions for 192 yards and a touchdown.

At age 26, and entering what should be the prime of his career, Rivera would love nothing more than to receive a long-term deal with a considerable amount of guaranteed money. Given the lack of performance the past two seasons, it’s highly unlikely he receives an offer like that anywhere. It’s more probable that Rivera gets offered a short-term deal with a slight increase in pay.

If the Dolphins offered Rivera a two-year team friendly deal it could be good for both parties. Miami gets their second tight end for cheap while Rivera looks to rejuvenate his career during his prime. If he is successful, Rivera will only be 28 when his deal is done, and could then see the long-term deal he seeks before hitting the wrong side of 30. In turn, the Dolphins could easily cut ties with Rivera after one season if it doesn’t work out.