8 Holes the Miami Dolphins Must Fill in 2012 Offseason
Between free agency and the 2012 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins will have every opportunity to patch up the holes that plagued their roster this past season.
But it will be no easy task.
The Dolphins have leaks and gaps everywhere, so they might have to pick and choose which positions actually receive upgrades. There will be a great deal of pressure on Jeff Ireland to make the correct calls and find some diamonds in the rough who can help solve this team's plethora of problems.
Here are the eight positions that Ireland and the rest of Miami's staff must address if they wish to see this team succeed in 2012.
Matt Moore exceeded everybody's expectations in 2011, but he simply lacks the physical traits of a franchise quarterback. He doesn't have a particularly strong arm and started to commit turnovers at an alarming rate towards the end of the season.
Consequently, the Dolphins will be on the hunt for a franchise quarterback this offseason. The list of potential targets is short and underwhelming, but the team will bring somebody in, if only to please the fan base.
Because the Dolphins already have names like Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess in the fold, the wide receiver position does not stand out as one that needs upgrading. But Miami is far weaker at wideout than most seem to realize.
Davone Bess just registered career lows in receptions and receiving yards and dropped six passes. He seems to be getting a free pass—probably because he is a fan favorite and has been so reliable in the past—but there's no telling if Bess will rebound next season.
Meanwhile, Brian Hartline reeled in a measly 26 receptions, which is inadequate production for a player who started 10 games.
Bringing in another quality wide receiver would do wonders for this offense. Maybe this shouldn't be a top priority for the 'Fins, but it should not go neglected.
If you've been watching the NFL Playoffs, you may have noticed a trend that binds all of the remaining teams. No, I'm not talking about the presence of a franchise quarterback, I'm talking about the presence of a dangerous seam-threat tight end.
The Saints have Jimmy Graham, the 49ers have Vernon Davis, the Patriots have Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, the Texans have Owen Daniels, the Packers have Jermichael Finley, and the Ravens and Broncos are both grooming youngsters at the position.
Will Jeff Ireland ever get a clue? Anthony Fasano doesn't measure up to any of the aforementioned players, and Miami needs to invest in a tight end. Plain and simple.
Right Guard / Right Tackle
Vernon Carey and Marc Colombo are both slated for free agency this offseason, which leaves the Dolphins with holes at right guard and right tackle. Upgrading the offensive line is a top priority, especially after it yielded 52 sacks—third most in the NFL.
John Jerry's strong play towards the end of the season suggests that he might be able to fill the right tackle spot. However, Miami might prefer to spend their first round pick on a stud prospect to fill that vacancy. Also, there's no guarantee that the Dolphins are ready to trust Jerry again. After all, he was being labeled a bust just a few short months ago.
Regardless of whom they sign to replace Carey and Colombo, the Dolphins can't afford to whiff. The offensive line has been a liability since the Trifecta arrived, and no quarterback will be able to succeed without a fortified front.
Rush Outside Linebacker
Miami's outside linebackers are Koa Misi and Cameron Wake—two quality players. So, they don't need to acquire another one, right?
Outside linebacker is one of the Dolphins' most pressing needs right now. Cam Wake is the only "rush" outside linebacker on the roster, and Miami desperately needs another one in order to generate consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Plus, Koa Misi regressed from his rookie season. Even though he should bounce back in 2012, Miami should be prepared for the worst.
Will Paul Soliai stay or will Paul Soliai go?
This might be the most important question the Dolphins will encounter this offseason. Soliai, who has emerged as one of the league's better nose tackles over the last two seasons, is slated for free agency and figures to demand a big contract—one which the 'Fins might not be able to afford.
Losing Soliai would be devastating for Miami's defense, and it would completely alter the team's offseason outlook. Even if Soliai stays, though, the Dolphins must acquire a quality backup to add depth to the nose tackle position.
Neither Vontae Davis nor Sean Smith have become the lockdown cornerbacks we thought they would be by now, but both still have bright futures. The outlook for the rest of Miami's cornerbacks isn't so bright, however.
Will Allen will be 34 next season and might not even return to the team. Meanwhile, Nolan Carroll was a liability for much of 2011 and we still don't know how Jimmy Wilson will progress—though he could become a role player next season.
The NFL is currently a pass-happy league, and no defense is sufficient without at least three high quality cornerbacks. Miami must shore up their secondary, especially if they want to dethrone the Patriots and their aerial attack.
Free safety was widely acknowledged as a need for the Dolphins last summer, but the team chose to neglect it. There were more pressing needs at the time, namely center and running back, and Chris Clemons figured to improve in his second season as a starter.
However, injuries derailed Clemons' season, and his replacement, Reshad Jones, played miserably throughout much of the season.
So, free safety headlines Miami's list of needs once again. There aren't many notable safeties headed for free agency, so don't be surprised if the Dolphins end up using their first or second round pick on one.