4. Nik Needham
In 2019, the Miami Dolphins started 30 different players on defense throughout the season. It was head coach Brian Flores’ first year at the helm, and the team was going through a serious transition period. Players who were career special teams and practice squad guys finally got their chances, and some received handfuls of starts at essential positions.
Nik Needham is the most notable holdover from the “Process” Dolphins of 2019.
He was a rookie that season, but Needham stood out above the rest. After being signed off of the practice squad before Week 5, he started 11 of the 12 games he played in, and was one of the most consistent figures on the defense. He played over 97 percent of all defensive snaps for the final 9 games of the season, finishing the year with 54 tackles and 2 interceptions amidst the constant shuffle. He impressed the coaching staff enough that season to be held on to as a part of the immediate future, though he understandably lost out on some snaps when higher profile players were brought in to the secondary.
But he may play a big enough role this season to be considered one of the best value contracts on the team. The Xavien Howard situation has been solved, but the rest of the Dolphins’ secondary could be a boom or bust product. If players like Noah Igbinoghene and Byron Jones experience any issues, then it could be on Needham to come in and fill some big shoes. He is owed $850k for the upcoming season, and could play an important part in one of Miami’s strongest units. Needham’s contract will expire after the season, so he has incentive to try and put up some solid numbers in 2021, which would work out well for both parties.