The Miami Dolphins are looking to overhaul their linebacker group. The Dolphins could be searching for two starting linebackers this off-season.
Miami had a horrible run stopping defense in 2016 and some of that blame can be placed on the poor play of the linebackers. Kiko Alonso led the team in tackles with 115 and added a game saving interception pick-6 as well. There are questions on whether he will line up in 2017 in the middle or the outside.
The Dolphins are looking for two starting linebackers one inside and one outside but if Alonso stays inside they will need to fill the outside positions. Jelani Jenkins and Spencer Paysinger are impending free agents and Koa Misi has a severe neck injury that could cost him his career. Donald Butler was a street pick-up in 2016 and didn’t play well enough to come back.
Miami is thin at linebacker and they lack playmakers. Neville Hewitt will return but he has not shown the growth yet to be a full time contributor. Trevor Reilly lacks the experience and Mike Hull has potential but a lot of needed growth awaits.
Linebacker is probably the single biggest need for the Dolphins. While they can piece meal together some back-up guards they need full time three down linebackers who can drop back into coverage, stop the run, and blitz.
1: Zach Brown – Brown has had one very good season in his NFL career and that was last season. The light may have finally come on for the middle linebacker who was basically an afterthought prior to last year. Brown was solid against the run, the pass, and at getting pressure on the quarterback. Was he a player who simply made the most of a contract year?
2: Dont’a Hightower – the free agent linebacker margin is anorexic this year which should mean Hightower gets overpaid. That is the way the NFL works these days. Hightower isn’t a stat producer but he can make plays just not enough of them. In Miami he would need to bring the same intensity that he displayed with New England or he won’t be worth the paycheck.
3: Gerald Hodges – Hodges is solid against the run and improved his game in 2016 while with the 49’ers. Miami got a good look at him when the team visited Miami last year. He won’t be a high priority signing for the Dolphins but could see some interest.
4: Lawrence Timmons – At 31 years of age and showing some signs of decline, Timmons still can be a tough middle linebacker if he can keep motivated. His play has been declining of late and a change of venue might help.
5: Manti Te’o – Honestly, Te’o has not come close to his billing out of college and the Chargers are making no moves to re-sign him. The thing is this is a linebacker with a lot of potential and maybe the coaches in San Diego simply couldn’t bring that talent out. Of course if the Dolphins are coming this far down for a starting interior linebacker they would be better off keeping Alonso in the position.
1: Jarvis Jones – Jones has been stuck behind James Harrison in Pittsburgh and really hasn’t done much when the opportunity has arrived but Jones is a hard hitter and with the right coaching could reach the potential he had out of college. Unfortunately the outside linebackers in this years free agency class are about this good.
2: Michael Morgan – the Seahawk is another player stuck behind top starters and really hasn’t had a chance to shine. When he has been given the chance he has shown good instincts and potential.
3: Barkevious Mingo – Told you it was thin. The former 6th overall pick by the Browns was traded to the Patriots last season and the Patriots are set to let him go to free agency. While he played better with New England he has a long way to go to prove he can reach his college potential.
With the outside linebacker group being as weak as it is this year it’s clear why the Dolphins want to move Alonso outside. Miami will have to look to the draft to fill their outside linebacker hole or rely on 2nd and 3rd tier free agents to handle the job.