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Miami Dolphins: Top 5 Free Agents to Target This Offseason

Nick WigginsCorrespondent IIIJanuary 15, 2014

Miami Dolphins: Top 5 Free Agents to Target This Offseason

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    Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

    The Miami Dolphins head to the offseason once again in rebuilding mode. During their 2013 campaign, the Dolphins were atrocious in three key aspects of the game: protecting the quarterback, running the football and stopping the run defensively.

    Changing coordinators will only do so much for this team. The Dolphins' offensive line was one of the worst in NFL history, giving up an astounding 58 sacks this season. Their rushing offense ranked 26th in the league with just 90 yards per game. Defensively, the Dolphins allowed 124.9 rushing yards per game, good enough for 24th in the league.

    Bottom line, Miami has to make some big moves in free agency this offseason. Whoever ends up being the next GM will certainly have some big decisions to make if the Dolphins hope to be serious contenders next season.

    Here are the top five free agents the Miami Dolphins should target this offseason.

Honorable Mention: LB Brandon Spikes

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Brandon Spikes has been a centerpiece of the New England Patriots defense since being drafted in the second round in 2010. In his four seasons with New England, he has recorded 175 total tackles and assisted on an additional 111 tackles.

    Spikes reportedly took issue with being placed on IR by the Patriots last week. The linebacker has been dealing with a lingering knee injury, and according to a statement, reportedly by Gary Uberstine, per Michael Whitmer of The Boston Globe, "The decision to place Spikes on injured reserve was not a mutual one..."

    With a knee injury and reported disagreements with front-office personnel, it is not hard to see the Patriots letting Spikes walk. Miami took a gamble on Brent Grimes last season that paid off, could they gamble again on Spikes. Most importantly, should they? 

     

    Stats courtesy of ESPN.com.

WR James Jones

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    James Jones is a seven-year veteran for the Green Bay Packers. In those seven seasons he has missed just eight games. During his career he has accumulated 310 receptions, 4,305 yards and 37 touchdowns. He averages 13.9 yards per catch, despite never being Aaron Rodgers' top target.

    At age 29 Jones likely has one more long-term contract coming his way. He has had somewhat of a solid career in Green Bay and may want to continue his career catching passes from Rodgers. During the 2013 season, Jones pulled in 59 receptions for 817 yards and three touchdowns. Those numbers become more impressive when you consider Rodgers missed a good portion of the season.

    Jones would be a nice addition to a Miami receiving core in need of another threat. Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson have proven to be capable pass-catchers, and Mike Wallace is clearly Ryan Tannehill's top target. 

    Jones wouldn't be the Andre Johnson-type receiver many Miami fans would like to add, but he would be an improvement the team could make a push for at a reasonable price.

     

    Stats courtesy of ESPN.com.

LB Donald Butler

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Donald Butler could be a nice boost to the Dolphins' linebacking core. The former third-round pick has spent his four-year career with the San Diego Chargers. During the 2013 regular season, he recorded 84 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and an interception.

    Butler put forth a nice postseason for the Chargers as well. In San Diego's two playoff games, Butler recorded 17 tackles, one forced fumble and an interception (of Peyton Manning). Butler has shown he can elevate his play and become a big-game player.

    The middle linebacker will without a doubt be the Chargers' top priority during free agency. His skill set is exactly what Miami needs to improve its run defense. The Dolphins should make an aggressive push for Butler.

     

    Stats courtesy of ESPN.com.

RB Rashad Jennings

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    The Dolphins' struggles in the running game has been well-documented this season. Daniel Thomas has been injury-prone and never lived up to the expectations placed on him. Lamar Miller is still young and has shown flashes of greatness at times. However, nothing has given us any indication that he is capable of being a top running back.

    Rashad Jennings is an explosive running back who gets big chunks of yards after contact. In 15 games this season, he carried the ball 163 times for 733 yards and six touchdowns. He added 36 receptions for 292 yards. Despite having one less game and fewer touches, his stats are across the board better than both Miller and Thomas. Jennings averaged 4.5 yards per carry in 2013.

    According to Joel Corry of CBSSports.com, the Oakland Raiders are an incredible $63,550,126 under the salary cap. Jennings has proven he can carry the load and is likely looking at a nice payday. The questions will be whether Oakland attempts to sign Darren McFadden, Jennings or both to long-term contracts.

    Acquiring him would likely cost Miami a nice chunk considering how high his stock is at the moment. But that shouldn't stop the Dolphins from making an offer. Check out the 3:30 mark of his highlight video if you have any doubts.

     

    Stats courtesy of ESPN.com.

LT Eugene Monroe

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    Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images

    The Dolphins' offensive line is the unit in need of the most repairs. After giving up a league-worst and franchise-record 58 sacks this season, Miami has to make some changes to its line. At 6'5" and 306 pounds, Eugene Monroe would go a long way toward filling the void left behind once Jake Long departed for St. Louis.

    At just 26 years of age, Monroe still has plenty of gas left in the tank. He will not come cheap for the Dolphins. According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, the Baltimore Ravens are willing to part with Michael Oher in order to keep Monroe in Baltimore.

    Monroe is a former first-round draft pick, and according to La Canfora, "very open to the idea of remaining in Baltimore." The Ravens went 5-2 after acquiring Monroe from Jacksonville. As far as offensive lineman go, Monroe may be the top pick of this year's free agents.

    With Monroe likely to return to Baltimore, expect the Dolphins to make a push for a tackle they tried to land once before.

LT Branden Albert

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Branden Albert could be the Dolphins' top free-agent target this offseason. It is no secret that Miami has an interest in the Kansas City Chiefs' franchise player. If you remember, Miami attempted to trade for Albert prior to the 2013 NFL draft. A deal could not be made, and Albert was franchised by Kansas City.

    According to Joel Corry of CBSSports.com, "It would cost Kansas City, who should have close to $6.5 million in cap room, $11,793,600 to once again tag Albert."  

    The Dolphins' offensive line has to be the No. 1 priority once free agency begins. I expect Miami to make a hard push for Albert with Monroe likely returning to Baltimore. Signing Albert and re-signing Bryant McKinnie (and moving him to RT) would dramatically change the Dolphins offense.

    Whichever free agents the Dolphins opt to pursue, one thing is for certain, there are several units of this team that need to be improved. Whoever takes the GM position will have their hands full right out of the gate.

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