The Miami Dolphins have improved themselves more than any other team since the 2012-13 NFL season came to an end. The Dolphins are clearly the 2013 offseason champions, but can Jeff Ireland's seemingly brilliant work translate into regular-season success?
Miami added Mike Wallace, Brent Grimes, Dustin Keller, Brandon Gibson, Lance Louis, Tyson Clabo, Dannell Ellerbe, Philip Wheeler, Dion Jordan and Jamar Taylor, among others—while retaining Brian Hartline, Randy Starks, Matt Moore, and Chris Clemons.
The subtraction of Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett, Reggie Bush, Sean Smith, Anthony Fasano and Jake Long almost seems insignificant when compared to the immense combined talent of the aforementioned group.
Which of these roster moves will prove to be the most significant for the Miami Dolphins?
When Matt Moore was told that Ryan Tannehill would be Miami's starter in 2012, he gracefully relinquished his position.
All Moore has done is win seven of the last ten games in which he played the majority of the game as Miami's signal-caller—including last year's 30-9 drubbing of the New York Jets. Moore was also a mentor to Tannehill.
Only behind Joe Flacco, Moore was the second-best free agent quarterback in 2013. Moore would be a starter for the Jets, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans and potentially some other teams.
Landing Moore on a two-year, $8 million contract was a brilliant yet unheralded move by Jeff Ireland.
The Dolphins' linebackers did their job in 2012. Last year, Karlos Dansby made 134 tackles and Kevin Burnett made 110. Dansby and Burnett are not broken but they are on the wrong side of 30 years of age and provided little to no game-changing plays.
Jeff Ireland decided to gamble on younger, more explosive linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler. Ellerbe has started only 14 games in four seasons, but did a formidable job replacing an injured Ray Lewis during the Baltimore Raven's Super Bowl run. Wheeler compiled 109 tackles for the Oakland Raiders in 2012.
This was a risky move for the Miami Dolphins and will quickly be criticized if it does not provide early returns.
The Dolphins may finally have a tandem of cornerbacks to rival the great duo of Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain.
Even coming off an Achilles tendon tear, Brent Grimes was targeted by a multitude of teams. He is a physical cornerback with strong instincts. In 2009, Grimes made more interceptions (six) than former-Dolphin starter Sean Smith has made in his career.
Jamar Taylor was a late second-round bargain in this year's draft due to kidney issues. Taylor is a more athletic version of Grimes, and it appears he will be able to overcome his health concerns.
The question for Taylor is whether he will adjust to the professional level as well as his new teammate.
While there are health concerns, the Miami Dolphins have improved their secondary.
The biggest question remaining on the solid Miami roster is whether Jonathan Martin can succeed as an NFL left tackle. We know Miami made a play to keep Jake Long, but what exactly happened?
Long signed with the St. Louis Rams for four years, $34 million and is guaranteed $16 million. Ed Werder of ESPN reported that Long turned down a better offer from a team other than the Dolphins. This means Jeff Ireland was likely low-balling Long, erroneously believing that Long would stay in Miami no matter what.
A good connection with Jeff Fisher was the intangible that Miami did not foresee.
Martin found great success as Andrew Luck's blindside protector at Stanford and has added "good" weight this offseason.
Apparently, the Miami Dolphins chose not to go all in on Long because of health concerns. However, their follow-up gamble on Martin is just as risky.
The Miami Dolphins finally have a receiver that can stretch defenses. Mike Wallace instantly turns one of the weakest receiving corps in the NFL into one of the best.
Brian Hartline is questionable as a No. 1 receiver, although he eclipsed the 1000-yard mark last year, in this role. As a No. 2 pass-catcher, Hartline is super-sexy.
Tannehill overthrew a wide-open Hartline on multiple occasions last year, but the young quarterback's strong arm will not be able to upstage Wallace's electrifying velocity. This will simply translate to touchdowns.
Throw in a big, physical slot receiver like Brandon Gibson and a speedy tight end like Dustin Keller, and the Miami Dolphins have one of the best receiving groups in the league.
It all starts with Mike Wallace.