As evidenced by their 5-7 record, the Miami Dolphins are a team with a lot of holes. But, luckily for them, along with the five picks that they will have in the first three rounds of next April's draft, they will also have plenty of cap room to fill out the rest of the roster as well.
However, the Dolphins are also a team with a lot of promise going into 2013 based off of how well they have played this season, even during their losses. They only really got blown out in two games—one of those being the inexcusable home loss to the Tennessee Titans—and they managed to put a scare into the New England Patriots in Week 13.
To go along with that promise, the Dolphins have plenty of cap room to spare next season, with some estimates putting Miami at $50 million under the cap. Some of that money will likely be used to retain some of their own key free agents (who we will also highlight in this slideshow), but for the most part, the Dolphins will go into the 2013 offseason with an open wallet and checkbook.
The list of desirable free agents for Miami to look into is a long one, but these are the 13 names that Miami should take a look at and kick the tires on next offseason.
Why 13? Because it's the 2013 offseason...as well as Dan Marino's number.
I've always wanted to see Ed Reed in a Dolphins uniform. Since he broke into the league with Baltimore, he's been one of my favorite players. Now, he's an impending free agent, so there is a small chance that Miami could have the 35-year-old future Hall of Famer for a good price.
But Baltimore likely won't let Reed go quietly. Reed has been as important to their unit as Ray Lewis has been throughout the years, and the Ravens will do what they can to ensure that he winds up retiring as a Raven.
Even if Reed decides to leave Baltimore for Miami next year, it possibly won't be for the Dolphins. Reed could instead just opt to retire.
But if the Ravens are looking to move forward beyond Ed Reed and if he still wants to play for another season, Miami being in the mix shouldn't surprise anyone.
A defensive backfield that would pair Reed with Reshad Jones at the safety positions would become one of the best in the AFC almost overnight, and it would give the corners some sense of security.
Reed's leadership would also be an asset to a unit that, for most of the season, has been one of Miami's weakest.
This is as pie-in-the-sky as you will find, but if the opportunity knocks, it's one that the Dolphins have to take.
Of all of the positions on Miami's offensive line, the most stable ones would be left guard and center. So why would I suggest signing Buffalo's left guard, Andy Levitre?
That is because there's still a huge hole on the right side of Miami's offensive line, and he goes by the name John Jerry. Yes, Jerry has improved this season, but he's still John Jerry, and he still misses blocks like they're going out of style. He looks lost on the field.
My solution would be for Miami to sign Levitre, who has been a solid part of Buffalo's offensive line since the Bills drafted him in 2009, and he has never missed a game. The Dolphins could either move him to right guard, or move Richie Incognito to the right guard slot.
The better solution would be to move Incognito to the right guard spot because he's actually played that position pretty well in the past. In fact, he only started playing left guard when he signed with the Dolphins.
Signing Levitre also takes one of Buffalo's biggest weapons away from them. He's been a spectacular run blocker who also does well taking care of the quarterback.
If there's anyone on the Dolphins who would be excited to sign Levitre, it would be the Dolphins defensive line, who know very well how difficult it can be to go up against the former Oregon State Beaver.
So why is he ranked so low if I like the guy so much? Do you really think the Buffalo Bills will just let this player walk to a division rival? It will take some work, and a lot of money.
Why hasn't an extension with Randy Starks been talked about?
We've heard the Dolphins pay lip service to "keeping Jake Long being a No. 1 priority" all season, even as we saw Long play poorly prior to his triceps injury. We've heard rumblings of a Brian Hartline extension ever since his big game against the Arizona Cardinals, and Hartline will likely remain in Miami, which is why he's not on this list.
But there has been nothing about any ongoing conversations between the Dolphins and Starks over an extension? How does this make any sense?
Starks has been a stalwart on Miami's defense this season, and he is the main reason why they have been so great against the run. He's a top-10 player at the defensive tackle position and has done nothing but impress.
Is Miami really that sure that they can get a contract extension with Jake Long without resorting to the franchise tag? And will their plan just be to tag Starks instead and go from there?
That would be a silly assumption. Miami needs to do what they can to retain Starks. He's their most important impending free agent of 2013, and if he left, the Dolphins would have a big hole in the middle that would be tough for anyone to fill.
If Jake Long leaves, Miami already has his replacement in Jonathan Martin.
How Martin does in the next four games at left tackle should indicate how the Dolphins will approach Jake Long. My gut feeling is that Martin will do well, since left tackle is the position that he's played since high school. He also played well against New England on Sunday.
But Miami will need a right tackle after moving Martin to the left side, which I'm sure you noticed I harped on a lot in the draft slideshow from last week. But what if Miami felt they could improve at the position without drafting someone?
And what if I told you that there would be a right tackle turning 29 at the start of next season that will probably be available as a free agent—a right tackle who's primary job has been to protect Tom Brady?
Here's where Sebastian Vollmer comes into play. Vollmer is coming off of his rookie contract, but he's had some struggles with his health recently. However, in 2012, he's been active and healthy all season long and has been a tremendous part of the Patriots' offensive machine.
But the depth New England has at the offensive line position means he's worth more to other teams than the Patriots. For Miami, this could actually be a valuable signing that frees up a draft pick that allows them to turn their attention to other positions.
Health has been the only factor standing in the way of Broncos cornerback Tracy Porter and a successful career up to this point.
You can tell the Saints (the team that drafted him) miss having him in their backfield based off of the fact that any team that plays the Saints know its a good idea to tee off on their secondary, while in Denver the Broncos have done a good job of shielding his absence when he hasn't been on the field.
This season Porter has only played in five games due to an issue he's had with complications he's had with seizures this season.
I'll be the first to admit that my medical training begins and ends with watching reruns of House, but what if there's a chance that Denver's altitude might play a role in this (in much the same way that the altitude prevents Pittsburgh Steelers' safety Ryan Clark from playing anytime the Steelers travel to Denver)?
What if Porter needs to be closer to sea level? If that's the case, then the impending free agent cornerback would fit well in Miami (as close to sea level as you can get).
The Dolphins should at least consider the possibility of adding Porter, and at the very least get him in for a physical to determine what issue could've triggered these seizures. From what I've gathered looking into Porter's past, he's never had issues like this before signing with the Broncos, and was a very effective player with the Saints.
His age also plays a factor too, as he will be 27 years old at the start of next season.
I don't expect Karlos Dansby to be in a Miami Dolphins uniform next season. His contract is too onerous despite the fact that he has produced in 2012.
On top of that, he's more of a 3-4 linebacker. His best years in Arizona were while they ran the 3-4, and in Miami, he came here because they ran the 3-4.
In case you haven't noticed, Miami doesn't run the 3-4 any longer, and again Dansby has played well, but keep this in mind: he's turning 32 next season.
However, Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has always run the 4-3 going back to when he was in Cincinnati. One of the players he coached very effectively is Rey Maualuga, who I should mention is the same age as Koa Misi (25 right now, he will be 26 next season).
Maualuga is a hard-hitting middle linebacker that has grown into a leader on Cincinnati's defense, and has the team potentially headed for a second consecutive playoff berth.
Odds are, Maualuga won't leave Cincinnati, but the Bengals kind of have a reputation for not paying their players. They never seem to have a problem letting them go.
Because of that, there's a good chance that a 25-year-old middle linebacker who hits hard and guarantees you 50+ tackles a season will be available to reunite with his former defensive coordinator in Miami.
This is a signing the Dolphins have to make if the opportunity drops in their lap.
We haven't heard the name Derek Cox discussed, mainly because he plays in Jacksonville. Hey, that's just how it works.
But Cox is a pretty good cover corner. Cox has only allowed 6.4 yards per attempt against him, and quarterbacks complete less than 50 percent of passes thrown to a receiver he's covering.
This season, Cox has only played in eight games, but in those eight games, he's recorded 42 tackles, three interceptions and seven pass deflections.
Signing him to play opposite Sean Smith would improve Miami's secondary. Signing him to replace Sean Smith and play alongside whichever player Miami chooses to draft also improves Miami's secondary.
Yes, the same player that once said this about Reggie Bush (h/t The New York Post):
"He will remember that hit. Every time he sees me, he will remember that hit... if I'm in the box or coming downhill. If I get penalized, I'm not going to stop hitting or head-hunting. I'm not going to stop the way I play.
Just watch the way (Bush) runs on Sunday. I'm not going to overtalk it or make it a story.”
This is someone who I think the Dolphins should consider as a free agent. Why LaRon Landry? Why not?
He'd be a great hard-hitting safety to play opposite Reshad Jones, and he just produces. On top of that, be honest, if Reshad Jones or any other Dolphins player said that about, say Rob Gronkowski, would you really be too upset?
Of course not. You want guys like that on your team. I'm sure impending free agent Reggie Bush wouldn't mind being teammates with Landry, either. You know he's going to give his all out there on the field and what he could bring to the Dolphins' secondary is huge.
Ryan has so much respect from his players (especially the ones on defense), that it's doubtful any of the impending Jet free agents will remain in New York once Ryan is gone.
Last week, I did a slideshow somewhat similar to this one pointing out 10 players that the Dolphins could pick in Round 1. The list was filled with offensive linemen, pass rushers, a linebacker, and only one wide receiver.
My reasoning behind that was this:
I'm not too crazy about the wide receivers available in Round 1. Yes, wide receiver is a pressing need for the Dolphins, and yes, they should use one of their draft picks on a potential number one receiver. It just shouldn't be in Round 1.
Keenan Allen is the best receiver in that class, but he's not so much better than anyone that will be available in Round 2 like USC's Robert Woods or Tennessee's combination of Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson (all late-first to early second rounders that could be available when Miami picks in Round 2).
But another reason why spending a first-round pick on a receiver is foolish of Miami is because of the wide receivers available in a deep free agent class for the position. Dwayne Bowe is one of those receivers.
Of the receivers available, Bowe is the weakest of the bunch. He does have the most talent and does have the most potential, but he's also a bit on the diva side.
He will also likely be the most expensive and there's no guarantee that his skill set and talent will work in a West Coast offense or if he's even truly a No. 1 receiver.
This season, Bowe does have solid numbers despite playing for a mediocre team. He has 57 receptions on the season along with 731 yards and three touchdowns. He can burn any cornerback in the NFL with his speed, but he's not the most trustworthy player with the ball in terms of drops.
Would he fit on the Dolphins? We don't know for sure, but I'm looking at no being the answer with the possibility of Bowe's time in Miami winding up a lot like Brandon Marshall's (diva attitude, no production and a lot of complaining).
What does make Bowe signing with the Dolphins intriguing is that Bowe was born and raised in Miami and went to Norland High School. However the homecoming story of Bowe might not be enough to make this a good signing, for it doesn't seem on the surface like he would fit on this Dolphins team.
Despite all that I said, Bowe is still worth a look from the Dolphins, if the price is right.
Here's another current New York Jet for the list: tight end Dustin Keller.
It's no doubt that Miami would benefit by having another tight end, especially since Anthony Fasano is an impending free agent. A more athletic tight end would fit them well, and Dustin Keller fits the bill.
Keller will likely come cheaper than expected as he's having a down season. However keep this in mind: his quarterback is Mark Sanchez and his offensive coordinator is Tony Sparano.
Considering that Sparano believes tight ends are meant to block and little else, it's no wonder that Keller has seen his numbers go down in 2012. Another reason has been some injuries, however he doesn't have a bad history on that front, and will only be 28 years old next season.
If Rex Ryan leaves New York, something will be needed to keep the rivalry going between the Jets and Dolphins, especially since the two teams are headed in opposite directions despite having the same record (any Jets fan that claims they'd rather have the Jets future than Miami's future is lying or delusional).
Keller jumping ship to Miami would be just the thing to do it.
But better than that, Keller just fits better in Miami than he does in New York.
I think the Miami Dolphins know pretty damn well how athletic Jared Cook is and what he can bring to the table.
Why do I say that? He only had one catch against the Miami Dolphins when the two teams squared off, which was a 26-yard touchdown pass from Jake Locker.
Don't you think Ryan Tannehill wants a tight end like that on his side as opposed to Anthony Fasano?
Cook reminds me a lot of Jermichael Finley, except he actually holds onto the ball when it's thrown to him. This season he already has 41 catches for 503 yards and three touchdowns, while also doing a great job blocking for a Titans running game that started off slow, but improved as the season has gone on.
Even better still is his age, 25 years old. There's plenty of football left in him.
The Titans will fight to keep one of their weapons, but he fits in too well into a West Coast offense with his skill set for Miami to pass up on the opportunity to sign him.
Mike Wallace is the wide receiver that everyone seems to love out of this free agent class.
Why wouldn't he be? He has the rare combination of speed, strength and ability that not too many receivers have. In an era where receivers are more specialists than throwbacks to the days of Jerry Rice and Cris Carter, there aren't too many guys that can do it all.
Mike Wallace is one of those guys, and is still a very young man, seeing as he will only be 27 years old at the start of next season.
His relationship with the Steelers this season has been a bit contentious. He held out for most of the offseason and training camp over the details of his contract, however he did return on time and since then resumed his role as the Steelers' No. 1 target.
On top of that, while he held out, he saw Pittsburgh hand a five year, $42.5 million contract to Antonio Brown, a receiver who one could argue has gotten open so much due to the attention that Wallace receives.
Despite being covered most of the game, Wallace delivers. This season he has 52 catches for 616 yards and six touchdowns.
He cannot only burn corners on his routes, but he can also fight them off when you throw the ball up in the air to him. He is the best free agent wide receiver in this class, so why is he second on my list?
Money. Plain and simple, Wallace will also be the most expensive receiver in this class. Will he be worth the money? Yes, except he doesn't run the West Coast offense in Pittsburgh. I do have confidence in him thriving in it, but there are still some reservations about that.
Why put Greg Jennings not only at No. 1, but also have him as the cover boy for this piece?
Because of the reality of free agency: you don't often build through free agency, you supplement through it.
The other reason is because Jennings offers the complete package of what Miami needs. He's a receiver familiar with the playbook who still has at least two or three more years left as a No. 1 receiver.
His experience could help out whomever Miami drafts to be their No. 1 receiver of the future. He demands double teams, and he produces.
On top of that, he will also be the most affordable of the receiving prospects. But you know what you're going to get out of Jennings: a solid No. 1 that can help kick this offense into high gear.
In a vacuum where money isn't an issue, I'd rather Miami go with Mike Wallace. But considering the cap space he will take up compared to what Jennings will take up, as well as the other holes that some of the other players on this list who should be signed can help plug up, Jennings is the better option overall.
He has struggled with health in Green Bay this season, but it's not a recurring problem. While he's not young, he will be only 30 next season with at least two or three years left as a top-flight receiver.
For Miami, he's a perfect fit.