Miami Dolphins: 5 Free Agents the Team Should Still Pursue for the 2012 Season
I know it's May, and finding a great NFL free agent at this point is like finding a success story in the Miami Dolphins' offseason. But for a team that filled almost no holes adequately in the draft, there is still the potential to find a serviceable player or catch lightning in a bottle from the scrap heap that is the remaining free agents.
All of the following suggestions, mind you, are based on the idea that the players here can be had for a song. Tainted goods shouldn't cost much anyway.
Andre Carter, DE
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Carter showed he still has something left in the tank last year, although since 2006 he has consistently alternated between one bad season and one good one. Combined with his late season injury, that doesn’t bode well for 2012.
Aside from that, the Dolphins will need to fill the void left by the retired Jason Taylor, whose seven sacks were second best on a team that, despite finishing tied for 10th in sacks, had a inconsistent pass rush. The team attempted to address the need in the third round of the draft, but in classic Jeff Ireland fashion, picked a player whose combined unders (sized, whelming) are pronounced in Olivier Vernon.
Carter would be nothing more than a short-term solution, and if the plan for 2012 is full-on rebuilding, it may make more sense to go with what you have and hope someone else steps up. However in today’s NFL, a strong pass rush is a necessity against elite-level quarterbacks, and as currently constructed, it doesn’t appear the Dolphins have that.
Mark Clayton, WR
The Dolphins inadequately used the draft to address their obvious lack of talent at the WR position, leaving a glaring hole in what could otherwise be a productive offense.
Clayton’s career has been a disappointment, and as of late, he can’t seem to stay on the field. That being said, in the (very) limited time he spent outside of Baltimore, Clayton showed above average yard production and the ability to have a big game when used properly.
At this stage in the game, Clayton probably cannot be the field-stretcher the Dolphins sorely lack—sorry, Clyde Gates—but he could be useful.
Bob Sanders, S
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Sanders, like Clayton, has a terrible time staying on the field. In seven years he's only played 14 or more games twice, and in the last three years he's played a combined five games.
That being said, when Sanders does play, it's usually at high level, a player who makes up for a lack of size with good instincts and range.
Sanders is also a veteran (well, maybe not if you count games played, but he has been in the league awhile), and the Dolphin secondary while talented, is still very young. Whether or not there's anything left in the tank is at best highly questionable (and, at worst, impossible).
But at this point, you can get a potential high-upside player for next to nothing at a position of need.
Melvin Bullitt, S
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Early in free agency, one of the popular rumors going around was that the Dolphins would attempt to upgrade their secondary by courting Bengals safety Reggie Nelson. Unfortunately for Miami, Nelson resigned with Cincinnati, but Bullitt and Nelson profile so similarly that it might still be possible to land a useful piece for the secondary.
Both players are listed as weighing between 200-210, with Bullitt have a slight height advantage (6’1" to Nelson’s 5’11"). Scouts Inc. gave them the same grade and lauded both of their instincts, although Bullitt is described as being less fluent with his hips.
Perhaps the most interesting facet of Bullitt is his versatility. The Dolphins aren’t settled at either safety position, and Bullitt’s size and willingness to play the run make him a fit at both spots.
Like most of the other men on this list, Bullitt has had trouble staying on the field the last few years, but he’s also still young enough where he can overcome the injury and be a productive player.
Vernon Carey, OG
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Carey is a Dolphins FA, and although he’s probably priced himself out of Miami, he’s still a better option for the 'Fins at right guard than anyone else they have on the roster.
Miami's 4.37 ALY (Adjusted Line Yardage, a measure of offensive line effectiveness in yards gained) from their interior line was good for seventh best in the league, and considering Carey played alongside offensive turn-style Marc Colombo, his job couldn’t have been easy.
ESPN.com’s Scouts Inc. rated Carey the second best guard available in free agency (behind Carl Nicks), grading him at an 82 out of 100. That's a full 20 points better than Artis Hicks, whom the Dolphins signed as a possible replacement.
Coach Philbin may try to turn the Dolphin offense into a dynamic passing system, but right now he just doesn’t have the horses. The team would be well served to institute a healthy run attack as its base offensive package, and Carey is best equipped to succeed in that scenario.