Miami Dolphins: Top 5 Free Agents They Must Re-Sign

Nick WigginsCorrespondent IIIJanuary 13, 2014

Miami Dolphins: Top 5 Free Agents They Must Re-Sign

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    Brent Grimes should be Miami's top free-agent target.
    Brent Grimes should be Miami's top free-agent target.Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    The Miami Dolphins head into the offseason with several holes to fill. Before Miami can look at players to bring in, it must decide which players to keep.

    The Dolphins have 15 players heading toward free agency. Some will be brought back and some will not—the question is, which will return.

     

    Miami's 15 Free Agents

    • Richie Incognito
    • Tyson Clabo
    • John Jerry
    • Will Yeatman*
    • Danny Watkins*
    • TE Dustin Keller
    • WR Marlon Moore
    • DT Randy Starks
    • DT Paul Soliai
    • LB Austin Spitler
    • CB Brent Grimes
    • CB R.J. Stanford*
    • CB Nolan Carroll
    • CB Justin Rogers*
    • Chris Clemons

    * Restricted Free Agent

    Whomever the Dolphins bring in to replace Jeff Ireland will have some big decisions to make. Here are my top five free agents that the Dolphins must bring back, along with a few that just missed the cut.

Honorable Mentions

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    Dustin Keller just misses the cut for the Dolphins.
    Dustin Keller just misses the cut for the Dolphins.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    These guys just missed my top five. I can't see Miami bringing them back.

    Whether it be from a lack of production or injury, here are two players who will not be suiting up for Miami next season.

     

    1. TE Dustin Keller

    Keller came to Miami with big expectations. His season was ended after a gruesome knee injury during a preseason game with the Houston Texans.

    Keller had some solid years with the Jets, but injuries have cost him dearly. He has played just eight regular season games since 2012. I am a big fan of Keller, so this was tough for me. However, with the emergence of Charles Clay—plus Keller's history of injuries—I would be surprised to see him back with Miami.

     

    2. CB Nolan Carroll

    Carroll was an obvious choice. He has played in 58 games for the Dolphins and started 26 of those games. In that time, he has recorded just five interceptions and 23 pass deflections. His modest salary could help his cause for a return to Miami.

    That being said, Miami fans are desperate for a winner and the team is in no position to bargain shop.

     

WR Marlon Moore

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    This will come as a surprise to some I know, but hear me out.  

    Moore received minimal playing time for Miami this season—he was targeted just 10 times. Of those 10 targets, he pulled down six receptions for 56 yards. He has made the most of the very brief opportunities he has received.  

    But with Brandon Gibson's history of injuries and Brian Hartline going down in the season finale, Miami can't let a seemingly reliable target that will command next to no money walk. Especially if Philbin and company plan to only carry four receivers on the active roster again next season.

S Chris Clemons

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Miami's secondary was the most improved unit on the team, and Clemons was a big part of that improvement.

    Clemons has recorded 134 tackles and three interceptions over the last two seasons and has started 32 consecutive games for the Dolphins. While he does not intercept a lot of balls, he is Miami's strongest tackler in the secondary.

    For a team that has had some issues with injuries over the years, a reliable safety like Clemons is a must for this much improved secondary.

DT Randy Starks

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Starks has been one of the centerpieces behind Miami's consistently solid pass rush. At 6'3" and 305 lbs., Starks is a load for any lineman to block.

    Miami would be wise to keep as much of the defense together as possible—Starks being a big part of that defense. He may end up with the franchise tag if Paul Soliai and Brent Grimes decide to accept long term contract offers.

DT Paul Soliai

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    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Soliai's value in Miami is based around his run-stopping ability. The 340-pounder is the most effective run stopper the Dolphins have. Soliai's importance was obvious this season—Miami's run defense struggled mightily whenever Soliai was out of the game.

    What kind of contract the Dolphins offer will depend heavily on Miami's top pending free agent... 

CB Brent Grimes

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    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    Grimes is the obvious No. 1 priority for the Dolphins during free agency.

    The Pro Bowl corner was Miami's defensive MVP and the biggest reason for the improvement in the secondary. Grimes had 52 tackles this season to go along with 16 pass deflections and four interceptions, one of which was returned 94 yards for a touchdown.

    Grimes is Miami's lockdown defender and he should see plenty of offers this offseason.

    How the Dolphins handle Grimes' contract situation will dictate their approach to the rest of their free agents. If Grimes and the Dolphins cannot reach a deal, the Dolphins will certainly be using the franchise tag on him.

    Whatever the result, Grimes has to be in Miami next season.

     

    All stats courtesy of NFL.com.