Dolphins free agency needs to be perfect ahead of the draft

CARSON, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: Mike Pouncey
CARSON, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: Mike Pouncey /

The Miami Dolphins need a solid free agency period this season. With this years draft class being good, Miami needs to have flexibility in the draft.

There is no question that the Dolphins have needs on both sides of the ball. Linebacker, tight-end, offensive line, depth at running back, another quarterback and so on. Free agency can help if it is handled correctly and let us be honest, it hasn’t for some time now.

Last season Miami blew free agency. Julius Thomas was a mistake. Ted Larsen didn’t help much, nor did any of the other free agent lineman they brought it. Lawrence Timmons? Mistake. This has been a problem for the Dolphins to say nothing of the contracts handed out to Andre Branch and Kiko Alonso.

Miami will pick 11th in the first round and there is an abundance of talent in the top 15. From top-tier offensive tackles a solid ready for the NFL guard, quarterbacks with high upside, and a linebacker who could potentially change everything on defense. Yes, I’m talking about Roquan Smith. Who the Dolphins take in the draft is important but not as important as being able to draft the best player instead of entering with a big need that must be addressed.

This is where free agency comes into play. Hitting in free agency can make a difference. Despite the holes the Dolphins have they are not as numbered as many might believe. This helps make the free agency period easier.

Miami has a starter at running back so unless Saquon Barkley pulls a Laremy Tunsil the Dolphins can wait until the mid-rounds to find quality depth. Or they could just re-sign Damien Williams and go from there. Running back isn’t as important this off-season. Not now. But depth is.

At tight-end Miami has failed to find a suitable option. They have tried to take a back-door approach. Drafting mid-round talent that hasn’t developed or signing free agents like Thomas and Jordan Cameron. This off-season there is talk they could pursue Seattle impending free agent and Miami University star Jimmy Graham. Graham scored 10 touchdowns in 2017 wrapping his 8th season. He might be a good bridge until Miami sees what they have with A.J. Derby.

If the Dolphins did sign Graham tight-end isn’t a need.

At linebacker options will not only be limited and sought after but they will also be expensive. It might be more beneficial to hope the draft can produce but understand this, there is no guarantee that Smith would fall to 11 and in fact many believe he will be drafted long before Miami is on the clock. Free agency may be the only option.

The real need is on the offensive line where the Dolphins will have to finally address their guard and potentially their right tackle spot. Ja’Wuan James will likely leave via free agency and Miami does not have a suitable answer at the position. Drafting one is an option and there is talent that should be available at 11 but do the Dolphins want to spend another draft pick on a rookie lineman?

Over the last 10 drafts the Dolphins have drafted four offensive lineman in the first round. Jake Long number one overall, Laremy Tunsil, Ja’Wuan James, and Mike Pouncey. They have also drafted four lineman in the first three rounds. Those include Billy Turner, Dallas Thomas, and Jonathan Martin taken in round two.

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Miami does not have a great track record drafting offensive lineman early or late and that is the reason why they are still looking to fix the line. Free agency hasn’t been kind either.

You can’t build a team through free agency but Miami needs to bring young players coming off rookie contracts that can make an impact and turn the needs into gains thus allowing them to draft the best player available.

This becomes more critical if the Dolphins are thinking about drafting a first round quarterback this year. A quarterback will not play in 2017. Miami will have one less starter from the draft class. Miami needs to think long-term but they can’t afford to have a player sit if they can’t address other areas in free agency.

It is too early to know what free agency will bring. There is over a month before that new league year begins and a lot of potential free agents will be re-signed by their teams. The Dolphins do not need big names but they can’t afford to go cheap with aging veterans either. There must be a middle ground where they can find solutions.

As free agency approaches, the Dolphins will have a better idea of what they need to do and where they can spend their money. If they can finally do it correctly it will make their draft much easier and likely more long-term effective. We will see if they can finally turn their off-season mistakes into fruitful additions.