Miami Dolphins: Gauging the Flight Risk for Dolphins' 2012 Free Agents

Scott AltmanCorrespondent IFebruary 26, 2012

Miami Dolphins: Gauging the Flight Risk for Dolphins' 2012 Free Agents

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    Before the Miami Dolphins' brass can start to zero-in on which players they will target in free agency and the 2012 NFL draft, they have to settle things on the homefront.

    There are 13 players slated for free agency. Jeff Ireland and Co. must thoroughly evaluate each one and decide whether they warrant contract extensions or walking papers. 

    Here's a breakdown of every Dolphins free agent and the likelihood they play elsewhere next season. 

Chad Henne

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    Good riddance, Chad Henne. 

    Flight Risk: I think this sums it up

J.P. Losman

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    J.P. Losman will be lucky to play in the NFL next season.

    Even if he does, it won't be for the Dolphins. Miami will likely target two quarterbacks this offseason and Matt Moore isn't going anywhere.

    Losman appeared in one game for the 'Fins last season and actually fared well. But, frankly, he's just not very good. There's a reason he played in the UFL.

    Flight Risk: Very High

Lex Hilliard

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    Lex Hilliard has managed to stay on Miami's roster for the last three years, but his time with team may expire shortly. 

    He is a restricted free agent in March, and the Dolphins don't have much incentive to bring him back. Hilliard turns 28 in July, and while he has performed well on special teams, he hasn't been effective with the ball in his hands, and the team can easily replace him with a younger back. 

    The Dolphins gave Hilliard a chance to establish himself as a short-yardage back, but he was eventually replaced by Steve Slaton. It doesn't seem like the organization has too much confidence in Hilliard anymore.

    Flight Risk: High

Steve Slaton

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    After watching Steve Slaton rush for 55 yards on 11 carries in Miami's Week 17 victory, I couldn't help but wonder if he might resurrect his career one day. 

    Either way, he won't do so in Miami. Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas aren't going anywhere, and I think the Dolphins will add another young back (or maybe keep recently signed Jerome Messam as their third running back). 

    There simply isn't room for Slaton on the Dolphins roster, even if he might still have something left in the tank. 

    Flight Risk: High 

Jeron Mastrud

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    I know what most of you are thinking right now: "Who?"

    And I can't blame you. Mastrud is one of the many ineffectual tight ends who has come through Miami over the last few years. Last season, he appeared in five games and caught just one pass. 

    Unless he proves to Miami's staff that he is an outstanding blocker, I can't think of any reason to believe that Mastrud will be back. 

    Flight Risk: Very High

Vernon Carey

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    Vernon Carey was born in Miami. He attended Miami Northwestern High school, played his college ball at the University of Miami and has played his entire NFL career with the Miami Dolphins.

    Carey even took an abrupt pay-cut to stay with the team last summer. 

    I can't imagine Carey wants to leave Miami, especially as he enters the twilight of his career. But he might be offered more money to play elsewhere.

    This will be one of the most interesting stories to monitor throughout the next few weeks.

    Flight Risk: 50-50

Lydon Murtha

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    In a recent interview, new offensive coordinator Mike Sherman alluded to "hidden talent" on Miami's offense.

    Who specifically was Sherman alluding to? We'll have to wait to find out, but my best guess is offensive tackle Lydon Murtha (but don't sleep on Nate Garner and Roberto Wallace/Marlon Moore). Murtha was a preseason standout who missed the entire 2011 season with a toe injury.

    Had Murtha stayed healthy, he could have challenged Marc Colombo for the starting right tackle spot. But he should have a chance to compete for it once again. Murtha needs the Dolphins and the Dolphins need Murtha.

    Flight Risk: Very Low

Kendall Langford

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    Those who watch Dolphins games intently know how valuable Kendall Langford is. He defines consistency and reliability, and he never makes mistakes. 

    Unfortunately, Miami will probably have to replace him.

    Langford has earned a pay raise with such dependable play, but with Randy Starks, Jared Odrick and Tony McDaniel onboard, the Dolphins can survive without him. Plus, if the team moves to a 4-3, Langford would be in limbo.

    Flight Risk: Very High

Phillip Merling

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    Prior to the start of last season, the Dolphins were overstocked at defensive end. It only seemed logical for Miami to trade one, and Phillip Merling was the first name to stick out as potential trade bait. 

    Of course, Merling was never traded, and he even logged some significant playing time.

    But Merling, who is now slated for restricted free agency, probably won't return. The Dolphins still have an overabundance of defensive ends and Merling has underachieved and disappointed on and off of the field. 

    Flight Risk: High 

Paul Soliai

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    Paul Soliai is as good as gone. 

    The Dolphins have limited cap space, and they simply can't afford to sign a marquee quarterback and give Soliai a long-term deal (or the franchise tag).

    Despite recent contract negotiations, both parties have already acknowledged that a deal probably won't be reached. It hurts to say it, but expect Soliai to don a different uniform in 2012. 

    Flight Risk: Extremely High

Ikaika Alama-Francis

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    Two seasons ago, Ike Alama-Francis nearly broke into the starting lineup

    Since then, though, things haven't gone so swimmingly. He has only dressed for a combined 16 games and spends most of his time on special teams. Even more depressing: He has registered just 12 tackles and no sacks. 

    But Alama-Francis is still young (27) and clearly has some raw potential. I suppose Alama-Francis could bolt for more playing time, but he might not get that anywhere. 

    Flight Risk: Low

Marvin Mitchell

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    When the Dolphins signed linebacker Marvin Mitchell in August, it seemed like a pretty inconsequential move. Mitchell projected as a special teams player who would help bolster Miami's ailing coverage units. 

    But Mitchell turned out to be one of the team's most pleasant surprises. He racked up 30 tackles, a pair of forced fumbles and an interception. Whenever Mitchell got a chance to play defense, he made it count. Hopefully, we'll see more of him next season.

    Flight Risk: Low 

Will Allen

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    After missing back-to-back seasons with injuries, retirement seemed like the only logical move for Will Allen. Instead, Allen decided to give it another go.

    The 33-year-old cornerback ended the season as Miami's starting nickelback, which is no small feat for an injury-riddled veteran. Allen's solid play suggests he isn't ready for retirement quite yet, and given the Dolphins' need for a cornerback, it now only seems logical for him to return once again. 

    Flight Risk: Low