For all intent and purposes free agency in the NFL is over. While not really over the free spending wheeling and dealing ran its course and teams like the Miami Dolphins now enter the second and third phases of this period.
The Dolphins made a bigger splash with their own internal signings than they did on the open market. This is the new Miami Dolphins and the days of free spending on big names is over. At least while Mike Tannenbaum, Chris Grier, and Adam Gase are running things.
According to mainstream media the Dolphins have between $18 and $20 million of cap space available to the them. They need around $6 million for their rookie pool which will leave them roughly $12 million in spending money. The Dolphins however like to have around $5 million in space during the season.
The Dolphins entered the new league year with several needs on offense and after the first wave of free agency have they gotten better? Here is a position by position look at what Miami has done on offense and what positions still need addressing if any.
It’s easy to start here because the Dolphins made no moves at all at the position. Despite rumors that Miami would have interest in Jay Cutler as a back-up Matt Moore still remains with the team as the back-up quarterback. He has one year left on his deal and releasing him would not give the Dolphins enough cap space to warrant the move.
Better or worse: The Dolphins technically are better than they were at the end of the season because Ryan Tannehill is healthy and doesn’t need surgery for his knee injury.
Miami’s only move at the position was to tender restricted free agent Damien Williams. Williams can sign with any other team until he signs his $1.7 tender deal. If another team signs him Miami has a week to match or let him leave with no compensation. Jay Ajayi is the unquestioned starter in Miami. Entering the off-season the Dolphins were not in the market for a running back and that remains the case.
Better or worse: No change. The Dolphins are not in the market for a running back right now but could add competition from the free agent pool as the off-season training gets under way but if they do it won’t be a significant signing.
Miami entered the free agency period not sure if they would need to address the position because of the uncertainty surrounding Kenny Stills. Stills was set to become a free agent, unrestricted at that. During the two-day tampering period, many reports had Stills heading to Philadelphia and the Dolphins with a list of possible replacements for his departure.
At zero hour the Dolphins and Stills came to an agreement and Still signed a four-year deal to remain with the Dolphins. Miami didn’t lose any other players from the position.
Better or worse: Despite the new contract the Dolphins receiver group remains as good as it was last season. The return of Stills doesn’t strengthen the unit but it doesn’t weaken the unit either. Miami has a solid group of receivers but still need to address the contract of Jarvis Landry who becomes a free agent next year. There are reports or rumors if you will that Landry’s asking price may be so high that Miami lets him walk. They are just rumors but barring a new contract this year the Dolphins will run into trouble next off-season.
Miami made their tight-end splash well before the start of free agency when they traded for Julius Thomas of the Jaguars. Thomas claims that he is 100% healthy and ready to pick up where he left off with Denver while there with Adam Gase.
Miami did however lose Dion Sims and while they tried to keep him his price tag wasn’t justifiable given the trade for Thomas. They replaced Sims’ blocking skill set with Anthony Fasano who returns to Miami after two seasons with the Titans. Fasano is over 30 and isn’t the player that he was previously but he is still a solid blocker with good enough hands to give Miami a legit dual tight-end threat with Thomas.
Better or worse: The Dolphins got a lot better at the position as they head towards the 2017 season. Thomas will replace the now retired Jordan Cameron who was on IR last season while Fasano will replace Sims. On paper the offensive weapons for Tannehill got stronger as both give the Dolphins legit red-zone possibilities.
The Dolphins entered the 2017 off-season by trading left tackle Branden Albert to Jacksonville and moving Laremy Tunsil from guard to tackle. The move created a gaping hole at left guard but the Dolphins were already entering the season needing a right guard as well. Miami opted not to retain last years starter Jermon Bushrod although he could still return. Instead Miami entered the off-season with only Anthony Steen and Kraig Urbik on the roster.
That changed when they signed Ted Larsen to a three-year deal. Larsen has starting experience up and down the line but he isn’t viewed as a clear number one starter and will need to compete. Unfortunately the Dolphins have not addressed either guard spots with a clear starter.
Better or worse: It’s hard to say at this point as the Dolphins still have a lot of work to do at the positions of the offensive line. They clearly need to add guards and really need someone who can be a reliable starter the entire season at both guard spots. With only three guards on the roster at this time it’s impossible to say they improved over last year.
In general the Dolphins offense improved at tight-end and stayed the same at every other position. That includes the offensive line where changes needed to be made and clearly have not been made just yet. How the Dolphins fix their line will determine whether or not the offense as a whole improves or not on paper.
While the team has more weapons at their disposal, thus far, blocking for Tannehill and Jay Ajayi is not going to happen until the issues of the line are fixed and until that happens the Dolphins will not be as good as they were last season. The Dolphins will need to address the guard position in both free agency and the draft if for depth alone.
Because of the glaring holes at guard Miami’s initial post-free agency puts them slightly worse than they were last season. Simply because they have no starting guard and possibly two.
NOTE: This is entirely based on what has happened thus far in the league new year and not representative of what the Dolphins 2017 roster will look like. The Dolphins will address their holes at some point, or so we hope.
Dion Sims, Jordan Cameron (retired), Jermon Bushrod, Branden Albert, and T.J. Yates
Anthony Fasano, Julius Thomas, and Ted Larsen.