The Miami Dolphins' Offseason Plan

Luke TaylorCorrespondent IIMarch 12, 2013

The Miami Dolphins' Offseason Plan

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    With around $30 million in salary cap space and five draft picks in the first three rounds, Jeff Ireland has positioned himself well for the offseason.

    It’s do or die for Ireland, who is entering the final year of his contract, and he knows the pressure is on to succeed.

    Miami has a number of glaring holes in the roster, most notably in the playmaker department, but they are also likely to lose some key starters this offseason, which will only add to the front office’s challenge.

    However, Dolphins’ owner Steve Ross is preparing to splash the cash. He wants a winning team in Miami, and Ireland knows that the only way to save his job is to deliver it.

    That means spending Ross’ cash.

    So what can be done with the huge salary cap surplus and a possible seven picks in the first four rounds (if Miami is awarded a compensatory pick as expected)?

    I’m going to unveil my offseason master plan, which aims to return the Miami Dolphins to the NFL playoffs.

Miami’s Needs

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    Look at our quarterback Ryan Tannehill all sad and alone.

    Looks like he needs some friends to help him out, and that's exactly what this offseason is about.

    The key for the offseason is to surround Ryan Tannehill with offensive weapons. This has two benefits: First, it will help his development, and second, it should show if Tannehill really is the answer to Miami’s quarterback woes.

    On offense, the Dolphins need a top wide receiver. After that, they probably want to add another, giving them four reliable, consistent players at wideout.

    They also will be looking to bring in a seam threat tight end (preferably one who can block), and there might also be a need for depth at running back, but it is a much less pressing need.

    Staying on offense, the offensive line will need rebuilding (again). There are needs at tackle and guard, with either a right or left tackle required (depending on Jake Long’s future), and a pulling guard is an absolute necessity.

    On defense, Miami’s big need is in the secondary. The Dolphins need at least one starter at cornerback, but probably need to add another for depth, and they might also be in the market for a free safety.

    Linebacker depth is an issue, and another pass-rushing threat to play opposite Cam Wake is a necessity.

    Finally, Miami might like to add some competition at kicker.

    So, there is the laundry list of needs for the Dolphins.

    The question is how do they satisfy them?

Miami’s Free Agents

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    Randy Starks has been hit with the franchise tag but is yet to sign it.

    To free up cap space, it’s best for the team to work towards a long-term deal, but it’s unclear if that will come to fruition.

    Secondly, the re-signing of Brian Hartline and Matt Moore were good moves.

    Hartline, Tannehill’s favorite target, was vital to keep for the offense.

    I expected Moore to leave in free agency and look for a starting job, but re-signing him was a good move. He’s arguably the best backup in the league and could easily be starting on several teams (see NY Jets for one example…)

    As for the remaining free agents, while Sean Smith would be a good retention at the right price, there doesn’t seem much chance that Miami will get the “right price”.

    Jake Long expects too much money to justify his re-signing, and while it will be a shame to see him go, it wouldn’t be right to have him back for any more than $7 million a season. I can't see that happening, so Miami should let Long walk and replace him with Martin, who will hopefully benefit from a full camp and improve his play at left tackle.

    If not, then it's next year's problem...

    Reggie Bush can be replaced cheaply with Lamar Miller. 

    Anthony Fasano is an important player to keep, particularly if Miami does not sign Martellus Bennett, who is the only blocking tight end worth signing in free agency. I’d offer him a two-year deal worth around $2 million.

    Nate Garner and Tony McDaniel could also be re-signed at the veteran minimum and would be important for depth.

    I’d also try to resign Chris Clemons if I was unable to sign a big-name free agent, as he had a very solid year, but I expect he’d be off the market by then.

    In the case that Miami misses on all safeties (which is unlikely), I’d draft a replacement.

Free-Agent Signings

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    Starting with the most high-profile position, signing Mike Wallace for a maximum of $62 million over five years seems reasonable. Any higher, and Greg Jennings gets the nod for around seven to eight-million dollars a year.

    It’s nothing out of the ordinary, but Miami needs to sign one of them.

    I’d look to sign Eric Winston at around $20 million over four years. If Winston wants any more cash, then I’d make it a five-year deal.

    Martellus Bennett would be my favored target in the tight end market. A package of around $12-15 million over three years could do it, but if he chooses to sign elsewhere, then I’d move on to Dustin Keller. I fully expect Jared Cook to get paid; his contract will be too high, and he will be off the market quickly; therefore, I’d go for Bennett, and failing that, try to steal a divisional rival in Keller. If Bennett does not sign, then Fasano is a player Miami must re-sign.

    Depth on the offensive line is also necessary, preferably a veteran who can play left tackle for the veteran minimum salary; Max Starks, Khalif Barnes and Bryant McKinnie all come to mind.

    Adding secondary depth would be important too, and I’d look into options at both cornerback and safety.

    At cornerback, there are several options that are intriguing.

    The first is Chris Houston, who could be an every-down starter in Miami. However, with a lot of big names on the market, I’d keep a offer low, also recognizing that there are some very talented players in the draft too. Offering something in the region of $17 million over three years would suffice but may not get the man, in which case, I'd turn to the draft for a starter.

    EJ Biggers is another interesting option and would be due less money than Houston, and if the market was flat for names such as Terrance Newman and Nnamdi Asomugha, then I’d consider an offer.

    However, the final name that may be worth looking into is Adam “Pacman” Jones. He had an outstanding year with the Bengals as their nickelback and knows Kevin Coyle, but there are real character concerns.

    Coyle would have to sign off on the deal and vouch for Jones before I even explored the option, but if he did this, then I’d look into signing Jones to a two-year contract to play the Dolphins’ nickel corner. I would, however, insist on clauses dependent on his behavior. The ball would then be in his court, but provided that Coyle believed putting Jones in Miami would not be a risk, I’d try to make the deal.

    At safety, Charles Woodson and Ed Reed would be my priorities, but Woodson would come at the better price. Providing he wasn’t asking for too much, I’d make him my number one target at the position.

    If Woodson did not sign, then Kenny Phillips or Patrick Chung might be worth considering at the right price, but I’d likely choose to resign Clemons if he was still on the market.

Free-Agency Haul

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    If the offseason plays out as I hope, then my free-agency signings are as follows:

    Mike Wallace (or Greg Jennings if Wallace goes elsewhere), wide receiver

    Eric Winston, offensive tackle

    Anthony Fasano, tight end

    Martellus Bennett (or Dustin Keller, if Bennett goes elsewhere), tight end

    Nate Garner, offensive line

    A Veteran left tackle

    Tony McDaniel, defensive tackle

    Charles Woodson or Chris Clemons, safety

    Adam Jones, cornerback (depending on Kevin Coyle's character reference!) 

    EJ Biggers, cornerback (if Coyle says no to "Pacman")

    Obviously, there would still be a need for a few more acquisitions and changes, but that outlines my plan nicely.

NFL Draft 2013

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    With free agency out of the way, there are still needs at several positions.

    Most pressing is the need for two cornerbacks. At least one will need to start right away, but the second corner would also be added to the starting competition.

    Staying on defense. There would still be needs on the defensive lines. The biggest void is a pass-rusher to play opposite Cam Wake on obvious passing downs, but Miami could also add a defensive tackle, considering both Randy Starks and Paul Soliai are currently scheduled to be free agents next year.

    Depth at inside linebacker is also a necessity, and the roster would still need at least one more safety added for competition and depth.

    On offense, the Dolphins’ most glaring need would be at guard. There is still a need for one more wide receiver, and depth on the offensive line is a necessity.

    A big running back could also be on the radar, to compete with Daniel Thomas, who has struggled so far in his career.

NFL Draft: 1st Round (12th Overall)

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    It’s clear Miami needs a cornerback, and there are two obvious candidates with Dee Milliner almost certain to be off the board: Xavier Rhodes and Desmond Trufant.

    Johnthan Banks poor 40-yard dash dropped him down the pecking order, but Trufant and Rhodes both ran well and both have the skills required to be shutdown corners in the NFL.

    Trufant has the potential to be a versatile corner, with good speed and smooth hips. He is confident in man coverage but also able to play in zone. However, he has questionable ball skills, with only three picks over his last two years at Washington.

    Rhodes, meanwhile, is a physical press-corner with the ability to pick off the opposing quarterback, recording eight interceptions before leaving college early (more picks than Trufant in one year less). He might get too physical at times, drawing flags, but that can be worked on, and there is plenty of potential here for Kevin Coyle to work with.

    In the end, I opt for the Florida native. (I must confess I had Rhodes pegged for Miami when he was a considered a second-round prospect too; he’s a player I really like, so there was never much chance of Trufant beating him out here!)

    With the 12th overall pick, the Miami Dolphins select Xavier Rhodes, Cornerback, Florida State

NFL Draft: 2nd Round (42nd Pick)

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    First, I will lay out several players I would consider trading this pick for:

    Tavon Austin, wide receiver, West Virginia—If he falls into the mid-late first round, then I’d give up both second-round picks for him (or a second, third, and later-round pick). Explosive and dangerous receiver whenever he touches the ball.

    Tank Carradine, defensive end, FSU—If he falls into the early second-round, then I’d consider trading this pick and a third-rounder. He’s a top defensive end, can stuff the run and rush the passer.

    DeAndre Hopkins, wide receiver, Clemson—Again, in my mind, worth at least a second and third-round pick to trade up for, particularly, if he falls into Round 2. He could be a number one receiver in time.

    I’d also consider trading back in Round 2 with my other pick to try and add some late-rounders.

    However, seeing that it is impossible to predict trades, for the purposes of the mock, I’m sticking with the 42nd pick and drafting defense again…

    Texas defensive end, Alex Okafor, has violent hands and a nose for the ball. He recorded 12.5 sacks last season and has a great motor, and dangerous closing speed. Watching his tape, it's difficult not to love what he brings to the field.

    His work ethic is excellent, and his versatility and pass-rushing tools earn him this pick. He can be used on clear passing downs opposite Cam Wake, and can learn from one of the best in the business.

    With the 42nd overall pick, the Miami Dolphins select Alex Okafor, defensive end, Texas

NFL Draft: 2nd Round (54th Pick, from Indianapolis Colts)

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    Damn you Andrew Luck for being so good and costing Miami an early-second round pick.

    Anyway, with the pick Miami received from the Vontae Davis trade, I’d look at adding to the receiving corps or the offensive line.

    Dallas Thomas, a versatile lineman from Tennessee could definitely be an option, as he fits Joe Philbin’s zone-blocking scheme perfectly and has the ability to start anywhere on the line in the NFL.

    There are also a number of solid receivers in the early rounds, and depending on free agency, my targets would vary. For example, if Miami signed Mike Wallace, then I’d look for a possession receiver with good route-running (Quinton Patton, Terrance Williams), and if Greg Jennings was signed, then I’d go after a deep-threat (Stedman Bailey, Marquise Goodwin).

    As my perfect offseason has Mike Wallace signed, I’d choose a possession receiver over an offensive lineman, considering there is good depth at that position later in the draft.

    If you’re looking for good route running, solid hands, durability and good character, then look no further than Louisiana Tech’s Quinton Patton, who has all of this and more. He may not have breakaway speed but has the potential to be a great receiver. Patton would be hard to defend in a four-receiver set alongside Wallace, Hartline and Bess.

    Patton also offers good value at this pick and is unlikely to be on the clock for too long on the second day.

    With the 54th pick, the Miami Dolphins select Quinton Patton, wide receiver, Louisiana Tech

NFL Draft: 3rd Round (77th Pick)

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    Offensive and defensive line depth could be added here, with a number of solid prospects at both.

    However, with a number of zone-blocking lineman likely to be available on the third day, Miami could instead pick up a great talent to add to their defensive line rotation.

    It is also worth considering that both Paul Soliai and Randy Starks are slated to be free agents next year, and Miami could do with some “cheap labor” on the line.

    It's not the biggest need, but it could be a great value pick that is hard to ignore.

    Starks, Soliai and Odrick were all overworked last year in Miami, so depth is vital here, and the Dolphins should look no further than Georgia’s giant John Jenkins.

    At 6-3, 359 pounds, Jenkins is a man mountain that can play as nose tackle or as a 4-3 defensive tackle. He is exceptionally powerful and very hard to move. He could blossom into Soliai’s replacement. However, he isn’t just a run stuffer, he is fantastic run stuffer.

    Jenkins also has a powerful bull-rush and is deceptively agile, with the ability to collapse the pocket, and although he doesn’t always get to the quarterback, he would offer another huge threat on passing downs for Miami, figuratively as well as literally.

    There are concerns about Jenkins’ weight, but Soliai could prove an influential role model here, having faced similar criticisms for several years. Soliai overcame them to become a dominant defensive tackle in the NFL. Jenkins could follow this path, and he’d be hard to pass up—if for nothing else, then because I see the Patriots grooming him as a replacement for Vince Wilfork.

    With 77th overall pick, the Miami Dolphins select John Jenkins, defensive tackle, Georgia

NFL Draft: 3rd Round (82nd Pick, from Chicago Bears)

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    Miami needs more depth at cornerback, and with talented players such as Jordan Poyer, Logan Ryan, Robert Alford, Terry Hawthorne and Leon McFadden still likely on the board, Round 3 seems a good time to double down.

    Of the four names, Rutgers’ Logan Ryan is the prospect I’m most comfortable with, as he has the versatility to play in man or zone, with great ball skills and smooth hips.

    While I have concerns over his straight-line speed, which might call for safety help on occasions, seven interceptions and 31 passes defended in two-seasons is enough to convince me.

    If Ryan improves his 40-yard dash time at his pro day, I’m completely sold, but even without that, he is clearly talented and can create turnovers, something Miami need.

    With the 82nd overall pick, the Miami Dolphins select Logan Ryan, cornerback, Rutgers

NFL Draft: 4th Round

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    The exact pick number isn’t ironed out yet due to compensatory picks, but Miami will have at least one fourth-round pick, perhaps two if they get compensation for their free agent departures from last year.

    For now, I’ll assume it’s just the one, and I’ll use it on the offensive line.

    Xavier Nixon, Oday Aboushi, Justin Pugh and David Quessenberry could all be on the board here if Miami want depth at tackle and potential cover for guards, but if Miami wants a starting guard, then Alvin Bailey (6'3'', 312 lbs), Omoregie Uzzi (6'3'', 302 lbs) and Brian Winters (6'4'', 320 lbs) could be the answer.

    All those players fit in a zone-blocking system and all could be considered at multiple positions, Brian Winters is my favored player at guard (in case you wondered, I prefer Nixon at tackle).

    Winters has excellent athleticism for a man of his size and is capable going one-on-one, or pulling, as we saw in the Senior Bowl. He would be even more ideal for Miami’s system if he lost few pounds, but he is very capable of starting from day one in the NFL. His toughness and durability are also impressive, having started every game in college.

    Miami Dolphins select Brian Winters, Guard, Kent State

NFL Draft: 5th Round

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    Depth at inside linebacker is a must for Miami, and with my two favorite prospects (Jon Bostic and Sean Porter) off the board, the Dolphins can find a solid contributor and experienced leader in Keith Pough from Howard.

    The small-school prospect is 6'2'', 241 pounds. He has good size to play in a 4-3 defense. He stood out at the East-West Shrine Game for both his play and his character. He also has good athleticism.

    He has a good motor and technique, with great agility and is solid in coverage as well as run support. He may need to improve his blitzing and block-shedding, but he’ll have time sitting behind Dansby, Burnett and Misi to do just that.

    Additionally, his leadership qualities should rub off on his teammates, and he will be able to contribute straight away on special teams. He is a good value pick.

    Miami Dolphins select Keith Pough, linebacker, Howard

NFL Draft: 7th Round

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    Without a sixth-round pick as a result of the trade up in last year’s draft for Lamar Miller, Miami can use its seventh-round picks to take the best players available, which might also coincide with the Dolphins’ needs, considering the deep class of running backs.

    Notre Dame’s Cierre Wood has a good blend of speed and size (5'11'', 213 lbs) and still has a lot of tread on his tires, having been used in a two-set back for the Fighting Irish.

    He has good vision and is very agile, making him hard to bring down. He averaged 6.7 yards per carry in college, with 740 yards and four touchdowns.

    While he still needs work as a blocker, he could certainly provide competition to Daniel Thomas as the “bigger back” in Miami.

    Miami Dolphins select Cierre Wood, running back, Notre Dame

NFL Draft: 7th Round (from Dallas Cowboys)

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    Remember Ryan Cook? Vaguely?

    Well Miami traded him to Dallas for their final pick in the 2013 Draft.

    With most other areas filled, I fully expect the Dolphins to, again, go for the best player available. I propose adding depth to the secondary by selecting Rashard Hall, a safety from Clemson.

    He’s by no means a household name and has had his struggles, but with 17 career takeaways for Clemson and two nominations to the ACC All-Conference Team, he has the potential to be a steal here.

    Hall recorded four picks and 75 tackles last season. He has good size at 6'1'', 210 pounds. He may not be the quickest (low 4.6 speed) and has had issues in coverage but would certainly be worth the risk with this late-round pick, considering he provides what Miami need: turnovers.

    Miami Dolphins select Rashard Hall, safety, Clemson

Final Offensive Depth Chart

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    Quarterback—Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore, Pat Devlin

    Running Back—Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, Jonas Gray, Cierre Wood

    Fullback—Jovorskie Lane, Charles Clay

    Wide Receiver—Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, Quinton Patton

    Tight End—Martellus Bennett / Dustin Keller, Anthony Fasano

    Left Tackle—Jonathan Martin, Veteran LT

    Left Guard—Richie Incognito, Nate Garner

    Center—Mike Pouncey, Josh Samuda

    Right Guard—Brian Winters, Nate Garner

    Right Tackle—Eric Winston, John Jerry

    Kicker—Dan Carpenter (add rookie competition in camp)

    Kick Returner—Marcus Thigpen

Final Defensive Depth Chart

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    Left Defensive End—Jared Odrick, Alex Okafor

    Defensive Tackle—Randy Starks, Tony McDaniel

    Defensive Tackle—Paul Soliai, John Jenkins

    Right Defensive End—Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon

    Linebacker—Karlos Dansby, Josh Kaddu

    Linebacker—Kevin Burnett, Keith Pough

    Linebacker—Koa Misi, Jason Trusnik

    Cornerback—Xavier Rhodes, Nolan Carroll

    Cornerback—EJ Biggers / Richard Marshall, Logan Ryan*

    Nickel Corner—Adam Jones, Richard Marshall*

    Free Safety—Chris Clemons / Charles Woodson, Rashard Hall

    Strong Safety—Reshad Jones, Jimmy Wilson (If Adam Jones signs, then Richard Marshall is starting corner No. 2. If Jones does not, then Marshall starts in nickel, and Biggers starts)

    Punter—Brandon Fields