2013 Free-Agency Targets Who Should Be on Miami Dolphins Radar
For the first time since Stephen Ross purchased a controlling stake in the Miami Dolphins, the team wasn't a major player in free agency.
Will that continue in 2013?
The Dolphins have an overwhelming number of starters slated for free agency next offseason, including Jake Long, Sean Smith, Reggie Bush and Randy Starks. If any number of these players opt to flee for greener pastures, then Miami will have some cap space to play with.
Barring any unexpected breakthroughs, the Dolphins need to address a slew of positions.
Here are some potential targets for the 'Fins to consider in 2013.
Hype is mounting around Reshad Jones following his standout play at OTAs, but he's still a wild card. Jones struggled last season, and there's no guarantee he'll suddenly right the ship and become a solid starter.
On top of that, there's no guarantee that whoever starts next to him (Chris Clemons, Jimmy Wilson) will play serviceably either.
The Dolphins' safety corps is in a very vulnerable state right now. Unless two players have breakout seasons, then Jeff Ireland may be on the hunt for a safety next offseason.
Buffalo's Jairus Byrd is the best safety currently slated for free agency in 2013 (Ed Reed is too, but he's not going anywhere). Byrd burst onto the scene with a sensational nine-interception rookie season in 2009, and he's established himself as one of the league's best safeties since.
The chances of Byrd bolting Buffalo are slim. Bills general manager Buddy Nix has already said he'd like to sign Byrd to a long-term contract. But, there's always a chance Byrd will opt to test the free-agent waters. Cap space permitting, he'd definitely be on Miami's radar.
Another, and perhaps more realistic, safety for the Dolphins to target is Kenny Phillips.
Phillips has played a key role in the New York Giants defense over the last two seasons. He's started 30 games and established himself as a top-notch safety. Despite his success in New York, Phillips could feasibly land in Miami next year.
The Giants have been very frugal with their free agents in recent years. General manager Jerry Reese has no qualms letting a player walk if he can't compromise. Reese let longtime starting offensive linemen Shaun O'Hara and Rich Seubert go prior to the 2011 season, and he let Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham walk this year.
New York will also have to pay Osi Umenyiora and Victor Cruz next offseason, so Phillips could be a cap space casualty.
If Phillips does in fact hit the open market, then the Dolphins are a logical destination. Phillips was born and raised in Miami, and he was a star at the University of Miami.
Third-round draft pick Olivier Vernon should help bolster Miami's pass-rush, but Jeff Ireland still has a long way to go.
If the Dolphins want to consistently pressure opposing quarterbacks—which, the Giants have shown, is the way to beat the Patriots—then they need to get Vernon and Cam Wake more help.
Jeff Ireland was on Dallas' staff when it drafted Anthony Spencer in 2007, and the 6'3", 261-pound defensive end is slated for free agency next year. Spencer has racked up 17 sacks in the last three seasons and missed only one start during that span.
The Cowboys slapped a franchise tag on Spencer in April, but the team doesn't sound too intent on inking him to a long-term deal. It's still early, but there's a decent chance Spencer will be available next offseason. If this is the case, then Miami will be a potential suitor.
If the Dolphins are strapped for cash next offseason, then Lawrence Jackson would be a cheap alternative to Anthony Spencer.
The Seahawks drafted Jackson in the first round of the 2008 NFL draft, but abruptly traded him to the Lions two years later. Jackson hasn't started a single game for Detroit, but he's still managed to register 10.5 sacks.
With an expanded role, Jackson could emerge as a great pass-rusher.
But can the Dolphins offer him a bigger role than Detroit does?
It ultimately depends on whether or not Randy Starks re-signs and how quickly Olivier Vernon progresses. Either way, Jackson is a realistic 2013 target for the Dolphins.
The Dolphins are scarily thin at cornerback right now.
What if Vontae Davis or Sean Smith get hurt? Richard Marshall could fill one of their roles, but then who plays nickelback? And what if Sean Smith doesn't re-sign?
One of Miami's main priorities next offseason should be bolstering the cornerback corps, and Arizona's Greg Toler is an ideal target. Toler, a former fourth-round pick, is entering his fourth NFL season. He missed the entire 2011 season with a torn ACL, but he'll have every opportunity to reestablish himself in 2012.
This is obviously a pivotal year for Toler. Regardless of how he plays in 2012, there's a decent chance he'll hit the open market. Toler would be a great low-risk, high-reward option for the 'Fins.
The only big-name cornerback slated for free agency in 2013 is Atlanta's Brent Grimes.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dmitroff has a serious and unenviable dilemma on his hands. Grimes will seek a long-term contract after this season, but Atlanta might not have the resources to re-sign him.
Dunta Robinson and recently-acquired Asanta Samuel take up a massive chunk of cap space, and it'll be tough for the Falcons to justify dedicating another chunk to a 30-year-old. Plus, the Falcons have to re-sign other players (William Moore, Lawrence Sidbury).
The Dolphins will only be players for Grimes if Sean Smith doesn't re-sign. Even then, Miami might not have the cap space to reel Grimes in. However slim, though, Grimes could land on the Dolphins' radar in 2013.
What happens if Jake Long doesn't re-sign with the Dolphins?
Like it or not, it's a very real possibility.
If this nightmarish scenario comes to fruition, then the Dolphins will have to either sign an offensive tackle or draft one. If Miami chooses the free-agency route, then Jeff Otah is one player worth checking out.
Otah is becoming a pariah in Carolina, and it's starting to look like he's going to hit the open market. The Panthers used a first-round pick on Otah in 2008, but a pair of major knee injuries have kept him sidelined for the last two years.
According to Pro Football Weekly's Dan Parr, Carolina's patience is wearing thin: "There are some inside the organization who are not overly optimistic about his chances of returning to the promising form he once displayed.
Otah's injury history a major concern. Miami's medical staff would have to feel completely confident Otah is capable of returning to full health.
When the Dolphins traded Brandon Marshall, they not only gave up their best wide receiver, they also gave up their biggest wide receiver.
Now, Roberto Wallace and Jeff Fuller are the only wideouts taller than 6'3", and there's no guarantee either will ever become productive players. It'll take a few years to gauge Fuller's potential, but Wallace is on his last leg. If he doesn't deliver this season, then the Dolphins need to go out and get a tall, possession wide receiver.
San Diego's Malcom Floyd is a candidate to fill that void. Floyd will be 32 by the time the 2013 season rolls around, but he is just hitting his stride. The 6'5" wide receiver has missed nine games over the last three seasons, but still managed to reel in a combined 2,349 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The biggest question with Floyd is whether or not he'd fit in a West Coast offense. In San Diego's offense, he spends much of time running deep routes as Phillip Rivers heaves up deep balls.
Either way, Miami's receiving corps needs size, and Floyd offers it for a moderate price.