The Miami Dolphins need at linebacker isn’t as glaring as it was when the off-season began but it’s still a position that needs work.
For the Dolphins, linebacker may no longer be the priority it was when the teams season ended last year. Koa Misi is expected to return and signed a contract that guarantees him $1.7 million whether he plays this season or not. Miami believes he will.
While they have yet to announce where Kiko Alonso will play it is expected that the re-signed middle linebacker who led the team in tackles in 2016 will slide outside allowing free agent signee Lawrence Timmons to play in the middle.
On paper it would seem the Dolphins have their group figured out but addressing the position is still important. Misi’s health is an unknown and the 31 year old Timmons is only on a two year deal. If not this year, Miami has to figure out their long term plans at the position.
Over the years the Dolphins haven’t spent high draft picks on linebackers. Looking back over the last 17 draft the breakdown shows one reason why Miami has struggled to find starters.
The last true linebacker that was drafted by the Dolphins was Jordan Tripp in round 5 of the 2014 draft. Tripp had a lot of potential but injuries kept him off the field. A year before that Miami drafted Jelani Jenkins in round 4. Jenkins had a good career in Miami but injuries derailed his improvement. He left Miami via free agency this past off-season. 2012’s draft added Josh Kaddu in round 5 but he didn’t last.
in 2010 the Dolphins drafted Koa Misi who we spoke of earlier. Misi was drafted in round two and when healthy has played well but at times inconsistent. In addition to Misi in 2010 the team drafted A.J. Edds in round 4 and Austin Spitler in round 7. Both players served as back-ups for a short time but never developed into anything more than special teams players.
Overall since 2010 the Dolphins have invested six draft picks on linebackers but no linebackers in round one and only one, Misi in round two or three. The list of linebackers prior to 2010 isn’t a great list either.
2009 – J.D. Folsom – round 7
2007 – Kelvin Smith – round 7
2005 – Channing Crowder – round 3: Crowder had a solid career that never reached its full potential due to nagging injuries but when healthy he played well in his 5 seasons.
2004 – Tony Bua – round 5 & Derrick Pope – Round 7
2003 – Eddie Moore – round 1: A lot is made of Miami’s draft busts through history and Eddie Moore ranks as one of the worst. He lasted two seasons in Miami also drafted Corey Jenkins in round six.
2001 – Morlon Greenwood – round 3: Greenwood had a decent career with the Dolphins but that career only lasted four seasons. Rick Crowell was drafted in round 6.
Miami has not put a priority on drafting linebackers but instead have turned to free agency signings. From Joey Porter to Dannelle Ellerbe Miami has tried to find linebackers to make impacts on their defense but most of the time, they haven’t succeeded for the long term.
This year it’s likely that Miami will spend a draft pick in one of the first three rounds on a linebacker prospect but it is also not out of the question that Miami doesn’t address the position at all. In 10 days the Dolphins will know what their options are as the draft kicks off.