Ranking the Biggest Free Agency Priorities for the Miami Dolphins

Mario Cuadros@@mario_cuadrosContributor IIFebruary 22, 2013

Ranking the Biggest Free Agency Priorities for the Miami Dolphins

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    With the beginning of free agency less than three weeks away, teams have narrowed down their wish list for the offseason. Other than the front office, nobody really knows what teams will be doing with their salary cap.

    With Miami's recent record during the offseason, it's always unclear what moves they will be making. This is a vital offseason for Miami. They have plenty of cap room to make some big moves that can eventually help them make a playoff run as early as next year.

    They won't fill all their needs through free agency, but they can most definitely fill some of the more important ones. This will allow them to be more flexible with their draft picks when April rolls around.

    In this slideshow we will look at Miami's most pressing needs heading into free agency.

5. Safety

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    Safety is not a matter of life or death for Miami. However, Chris Clemons is a free agent this year so if Miami fails to re-sign him, it becomes a major need. 

    According to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins have made Clemons one of their priorities this offseason. Clemons isn't the most sought-after safety, but Miami feels comfortable about the pairing between him and Reshad Jones. 

    Clemons just finished playing out his rookie contract and will be looking for a lot more money. A $3-4 million per-year offer would benefit both Clemons and the Dolphins. 

    Miami can opt out and try to sign one of the premier free agents at the position such as Dashon Goldson or Jairus Byrd. However, Miami looks to be pretty satisfied with Clemons and probably won't change their minds.

    Other options include Louis Delmas and Ed Reed.

4. Pass-Rusher

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    Miami has the luxury of having one of the premier pass-rushers in the NFL in Cameron Wake. He constantly demands double teams and is always pressuring the opposing quarterbacks. Even with all his skills and abilities, Wake can't do it by himself on every down.

    Randy Starks will be a free agent and Miami hasn't shown any sure signs that they want to re-sign him. If they decide to let him walk, they would most likely move Jared Odrick to the inside, making defensive end a pressing need.

    This class of free agents is not very top-heavy. There are a few names that can help fill a role, but only a couple that can really make an impact. 

    Dwight Freeney is coming off a position switch to 3-4 outside linebacker and a couple of nagging injuries. He only recorded five sacks last year and did not show his impact as we're used to seeing. Freeney is 33, which will prevent some teams from giving him a long-term contract. 

    Another big name on the market is Michael Johnson from the Cincinnati Bengals. Johnson had a very good season racking up 11.5 sacks and showing improvement every game this season. It's hard to believe the Bengals will let him walk, but if they do, Miami has the cap room to make a move and get Wake the help he needs.

    Aside from these two big names, Miami might also look at Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Osi Umenyiora. 

3. Offensive Line

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    Jake Long looks to already have one foot out the door in Miami. His play has been decreasing lately and he has suffered season-ending injuries the last two years. With a mega contract on his mind, Miami probably wont meet his high demands.

    Jonathan Martin looks to be the candidate that will take over for Long at left tackle. This leaves Miami with a need at either right tackle or right guard if they decide to move John Jerry one spot to the right.

    In a weak crop of interior linemen, Andy Levitre seems to be the candidate to go after for many teams. He has started 64 consecutive games for the Buffalo Bills and has been one of the more consistent linemen in the league. Levitre will command some serious cash, but he would be a great addition.

    At right tackle, Sebastian Vollmer seems to lead the conversation among the best available. He has had some injury history, but when he's healthy, he's one of the best in the league. Miami would be taking a big gamble here, but if it pays off, they can finally complete the line they've spent so much money on already.

    Other possible options here are Andre Smith, Brandon Moore and Branden Albert.

2. Cornerback

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    Cornerback is one of Miami's weakest positions. They traded their best cornerback in Vontae Davis, thinking they would be fine without him. However, Sean Smith greatly underperformed and Richard Marshall was lost for the season before he proved he could be a reliable starter.

    Smith is a free agent and is reportedly looking for a five-year, $8-10 million deal. Miami most definitely will not give Smith that much money. If they are unable to re-sign him, Miami will be left with an unproven Marshall as their top cornerback. They must sign at least one cornerback through free agency or look to the draft to bring in some young talent.

    Brent Grimes is considered by many to be the top cornerback in this year's free-agent class. Grimes is an All-Pro-caliber player who can give Miami the impact player they are looking for in the defensive backfield. He was given the franchise tag last season and suffered a season-ending injury. However, it's expected that he will be back at 100 percent. It's a risk, but it also has a big payoff.

    Another big name that has been circling around is Derek Cox. He is mostly unknown to some fans since he played for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Staying healthy has been a big problem for Cox, as he has missed 17 games in the past three years. He would be an upgrade over anyone Miami has at the moment and would give them the security in the defensive backfield that they have been lacking for the last few years.

    Other names to keep an eye out for are Cary Williams and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.  

1. Wide Receiver

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    The biggest need for Miami this offseason is wide receiver. Ryan Tannehill will be going into his second season and needs some weapons around him. Miami had one of the weakest wide receiver groups last season and is in dire need of an upgrade. 

    First, Miami should re-sign Brian Hartline as he was their best wide receiver and has already built a reliable rapport with Tannehill. He is one of their priorities and will probably try to get a deal done before he's able to test the open market.

    With all the cap room available to Miami, they will most likely make a very high offer to the wide receiver of their choice. Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has reported that Mike Wallace will be that receiver. Wallace gives Miami the deep threat and big-play receiver they have been lacking since Brandon Marshall left before the start of last season. With the re-signing of Hartline and the addition of Wallace, Miami's receivers can go from one of the worst to one of the better receiving groups.

    If Miami strikes out with Wallace, Greg Jennings seems to be the most obvious choice. He has been linked to Miami since it became known that he would most likely not be re-signed by the Packers. Jennings is older and less explosive than Wallace, but he would most definitely be an upgrade. 

    Other options include Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston, Danny Amendola and Wes Welker.