Miami Dolphins: Most Under and Overrated Offseason Moves
The Miami Dolphins' offseason has been somewhat of a whirlwind. Perhaps the most active team over the last four months, the Dolphins have added and subtracted players with surprising frequency, resulting in a completely retooled roster.
Much noise has been made about the Dolphins' offseason moves. We've seen them graded, evaluated, and flat-out mocked by countless voices in the media. But we can only say so much until we see the final product that Miami puts on the field this season.
That said, there's no fun in not arguing over the impact of offseason moves. And considering the sheer amount of moves the Dolphins made over the past few months, there's plenty to argue about.
So let's not waste any more time. Here are the Dolphins' six most under and overrated offseason moves.
Overrated: Letting Reggie Bush Walk
A few days after the opening of free agency, the Dolphins had already dropped a fortune on a handful of game-changing players. They had even re-signed a few key contributors from their own roster to new deals.
One player who fit into both of those categories wasn't getting any love, however. That player is Reggie Bush, who is now gearing up for his first season as a Detroit Lion.
Bush revitalized his career in Miami, running for over 2,000 yards in two years and giving Miami's backfield the spark it's missed since Ronnie Brown's early days.
But Bush was not in Miami's plans for the future. The running back regrets the fact that the Dolphins never extended him an offer, but understands it's part of the business.
While the Dolphins certainly felt confident in their backfield without Bush, some outside the team's inner circle were not. Some even went so far as to say the Dolphins would regret the decision.
To which I say, not a chance. Bush is a fine running back who has the skill set to be an explosive threat. But with the additions Miami made, his status as the offense's deadliest weapon shrank.
It also doesn't hurt that the Dolphins have a guy who could potentially be as dangerous as Bush in incumbent back Lamar Miller. Combined with rookie Mike Gillislee, the Dolphins' running attack is poised to be twice as deadly as it was with Bush carrying the load.
Simply put, letting Bush walk was not only an overrated move, but one that ultimately could work in Miami's favor.
Underrated: Re-Signing Matt Moore
When it comes to quarterbacks in Miami, all of the attention is rightfully focused on second-year gunslinger Ryan Tannehill. He is looked at as the future of the franchise and the savior the Dolphins have so desperately sought at quarterback for more than a decade.
Which is why re-signing Matt Moore to be Tannehill's backup was a move that many people overlooked, despite being one of the smartest things the Dolphins did this offseason.
Rewind back to 2011, when then-starter Chad Henne went down with an injured shoulder that kept him out for the rest of the season. Matt Moore, who was acquired prior to the season as a free agent, filled in for Henne and led the Dolphins to a 6-10 season.
On its own, that doesn't sound impressive in the slightest. But if you look closer at how Miami's offense responded to Moore, the truth comes out. He threw for nearly 2,500 yards and 16 touchdowns in only 12 starts, cementing himself as an above-average starting quarterback.
But Moore is a superb backup. By re-signing him to a two-year deal, the Dolphins get a relief option who is intimately familiar with the offense. If Tannehill happens to succumb to injury at any point this season, Moore steps in and Miami doesn't experience the significant drop off that many teams would face in such a scenario.
Case in point: Moore filled in for Tannehill after a knee injury sidelined the rookie in Week 8 against the Jets. The veteran was 11-of-19 and threw a touchdown en route to a 30-9 victory.
This move gives Miami a bit of added security at quarterback for at least two years.
Overrated: Not Re-Signing Jake Long
Perhaps the most hotly-contested issue surrounding the Dolphins' offseason was Jake Long's future with the team. An All-Pro left tackle his first few years in the league, Long's play had suffered recently due to multiple injuries.
His body appeared to be wearing down as he reached the end of his rookie deal with Miami, and it became questionable whether he was worth a reinvestment from the Dolphins. That answer ended up being a no, at least in the eyes of Miami's front office.
Much like the Dolphins' choice to let Reggie Bush walk, some people thought not re-signing Long was a grave mistake. There is some validity to that, as the Dolphins don't necessarily have the same potential behind Long as they did behind Bush.
Jonathan Martin is currently the projected starter at left tackle for 2013. He filled in for Long at the tail end of last season after a season-ending injury kept the veteran out of action. The rookie struggled a lot at the position, prompting fans to think he wasn't the answer.
Indeed, he still may not be. But the youngster deserves a fair shot. For one, Martin played left tackle at Stanford and only switched to the right side in Miami out of necessity. After an offseason spent re-acclimating to the left side, gaining a deeper understanding of the blocking schemes and bulking up, Martin has a good chance at showing he's the right choice for the position.
Martin may never reach the highs that Long did, but he doesn't have to for Miami to be successful. All he has to do is be pretty good to secure Tannehill's backside. Moreover, Long's elite days appear to be behind him, so the Dolphins made a wise decision not to shower him with money.
Underrated: Re-Signing Brian Hartline
One of Miami's greatest deficiencies as an offensive unit in 2012 was a very thin wide receiver group.
The unit contained Brian Hartline, Davone Bess and a flurry of lesser players who filled in behind the two.
Naturally, the primary focus of Miami's offseason was to outfit itself with a team of talented, dangerous receivers. The Dolphins found that in Mike Wallace and, to a lesser extent, Brandon Gibson. Both moves have generated varying degrees of excitement, but one move to improve the group that has been somewhat overlooked is Brian Hartline's re-signing.
Hartline was the team's leading receiver in 2012, recording a career-high 1,083 yards and one touchdown. He was Ryan Tannehill's top option and it showed. The two developed an impressive rapport. Hartline made a name for himself thanks to his impressive performance.
Unfortunately, that meant he faced a lot of double coverage as he was the team's most dangerous receiver. While Tannehill will certainly benefit from the Dolphins' new receivers, Hartline should also enjoy their presence.
See, with Wallace on the field, defenses must not let him out of their sight. Secondaries will focus a great deal of attention on the speedy receiver, leaving Hartline plenty of room to work on the opposite side. He may not achieve the same great numbers he experienced last season, but he should continue to build upon what is looking to be an impressive NFL career.
Re-signing Hartline solidifies Miami's receiving corps not only by keeping a talented player around, but by ensuring there's at least one guy who's been in the system for a few years who can act as a leader for the unit.
Overrated: Shuffling the Linebacker Corps
Most people with at least a cursory understanding of the Miami Dolphins had a pretty good idea of where the team was looking to go in the offseason. It's a safe assumption that nobody thought linebacker was a key need for the Fins.
Which is why it was so shocking that Miami had replaced two of its starting linebackers before the first day of free agency had come to a close. Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett were cut and replaced by Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler, respectively.
Admittedly, there hasn't been a ton of angry noise made about this move. The general atmosphere has been one of "let's wait and see if this works out." However, many (myself included) have wondered if Dansby and Burnett were so bad—or Ellerbe and Wheeler are such clear improvements—that the moves are justified.
Let's examine it a little closer. First up, the middle linebacker shift is one that seems fairly sensible. Dansby led the Dolphins with 134 combined tackles and led Miami's linebackers with nine pass deflections. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) listed him as the 13th-best middle linebacker last season.
Ellerbe, on the other hand, was right behind Dansby at 14. The former Raven graded similarly to Dansby in run defense (6.2 to Dansby's 7.5), but is inferior to Dansby in coverage (-5.0 to Dansby's 0.6). The key difference between the two is pass-rushing, where Ellerbe crushes Dansby's -2.7 with a 4.5 grade.
The gulf between Burnett and Wheeler is a bit wider, though. Burnett's run grade (6.5) was vastly superior to Wheeler's (-1.7). However, Wheeler dominated Burnett in coverage (5.1 to 1.6) and pass-rushing (8.5 to 2.3).
Looking at the numbers, it becomes apparent what Miami wants out of their linebackers: athletic, dynamic guys who can get after the quarterback. In that sense, Wheeler and Ellerbe fit the mold perfectly.
Shuffling the linebacker corps appears as though it was a move in the right direction for the Dolphins.
Underrated: Drafting Caleb Sturgis
Dan Carpenter was money for the Dolphins for a few years. The strong-legged kicker could be viewed as a lock whenever he lined up for a field goal. No kick appeared to be too long for him, especially when he booted a 60-yarder in 2010.
In 2012, something happened. His stats dropped. His field goal percentage was 81.5, the lowest it had been since 2010. He was missing longer attempts, finishing going 8-of-10 from 40-49 yards and 2-of-5 from 50+ yards. That means he only hit 40 percent of field goals that were more than 50 yards in length, a career-low.
But the most condemning aspect of his struggles in 2012 is this: his misses directly cost Miami at least one win. He whiffed on a 48-yard attempt in overtime against the Jets in Week 4. The kick would have won the game. Instead, the Jets would nail a field goal of their own on the next possession to seal the victory.
Carpenter's decline makes it all the more apparent how important drafting Caleb Sturgis is. Sturgis was rock-solid for the Florida Gators, hitting 85.7 percent of his field goals as a senior in 2012. While his overall percentage was higher than Carpenter's, it's Sturgis's success as a long-range kicker that makes him a giant threat to the veteran.
Sturgis was 5-of-6 from 40-49 yards and a perfect 3-of-3 from 50+ yards. He has the leg strength to nail impressively long attempts.