Where Should the Miami Dolphins Be Spending Their Money This Offseason?

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Where Should the Miami Dolphins Be Spending Their Money This Offseason?
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press
Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey (left) has plenty of resources to make some big decisions for the Dolphins this offseason.

The Miami Dolphins were one of the busiest teams in free agency last season, but they still have plenty of money to spend this year, and could be wielding over $30 million in salary-cap space this offseason. Obviously, they should be cognizant of the long-term future with regards to the salary cap, but the Dolphins don't have to be shy about spending more money this offseason.

There are plenty of ways they could look to spend, but where do they begin? A good place to start is to look at where they have already invested heavily and put their resources elsewhere to best spread the wealth over the entire team.

Luckily, the hard-working folks at Spotrac have charts that make this process a lot easier. By plotting out each team's positional spending with bubble graphs, we get a better idea of where the Dolphins could stand to strengthen their team.

So, here's a look at where the Dolphins are currently spending, where they could save money, and where they could spend more this offseason.

 

Offense

Source: Spotrac.com

Positional spending, offense
Position Cap dollars Percent*
Wide receiver $28,273,403 22.39%
Quarterback $8,955,046 7.09%
Tight end $3,686,127 2.92%
Center $3,441,266 2.72%
Running back $3,249,521 2.57%
Right tackle $1,791,666 1.42%
Left tackle $1,724,800 1.37%
Guard $1,396,594 1.11
Total $52,558,423 41.61%

Source: Spotrac.com (* = % based on projected $126.3m cap)

Where They Can Save Money: Quarterback

There really aren't any major cap-saving moves the Dolphins can make on offense—not that they need to, anyway, with the abundance of cap space they have at their disposal. Obviously, the spending at wide receiver stands out, but $17.25 million of that is being spent on Mike Wallace

Aside from that, the Dolphins aren't spending more than $9 million on any other position on offense, but that's due in part to the fact that four of the team's five starting offensive linemen have an expiring contract this offseason. The next-highest positional spending, quarterback, is due in large part to a $5.5 million cap hit for Matt Moore, who is the highest-paid backup in the league.

 

Where They Can Spend Money: Guard, Tackle and Running Back

Where should the Dolphins spend money on offense?

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That transitions neatly into where they can spend money. The Dolphins' offensive line was a dumpster fire in 2013, but luckily for them, the rebuilding of that line is made easier by the pending free agency of four starters.

There are plenty of available free-agent offensive linemen: Carolina Panthers guard Travelle Wharton, Kansas City Chiefs guard Geoff Schwartz, Oakland Raiders tackle Jared Veldheer, Panthers tackle Jordan Gross and many others will be available if the Dolphins want to reload on the offensive front. Heck, the Dolphins could even sign Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack and move Mike Pouncey to guard if they felt like it would help.

As for running back, there are some doubts as to the viability of Lamar Miller as the starter.

The Dolphins would be foolish to re-sign Daniel Thomas, whose 3.59 YPA career average (2011-2013) is the second-lowest for any back over the past three years with at least as many carries (365) in that span. 

This year's market, however, is not rich with talent. The Dolphins could pursue New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount to replace Thomas, who was the primary short-yardage back, and they could bring in Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno or Raiders running back Darren McFadden to take over for Miller, but most of the other backs on the open market have significant warts. 

 

Defense

Source: Spotrac.com

Positional spending, defense
Position Cap dollars Percent*
Defensive end $13,293,378 10.53%
Outside linebacker $10,412,839 8.24%
Cornerback $7,499,425 5.94%
Inside linebacker $7,425,000 5.88%
Safety $6,506,949 5.15%
Defensive tackle $3,769,868 2.98%
Total $48,907,459 38.72%

Source: Spotrac.com (* = % based on projected $126.3m cap)

Where They Can Save Money: Cornerback

Much like on offense, there aren't many money-saving moves the Dolphins can make this offseason. With contracts for both Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler that would pay them more if released than if retained, it's not likely the Dolphins will part ways with either linebacker—regardless of how poorly they played last season. 

The other position with big-ticket spending is defensive end, but the Dolphins aren't likely to cut Cameron Wake or Dion Jordan this offseason; Wake is the heart and soul of the Dolphins' defensive line, and Jordan was the third-overall pick in the draft just 10 months ago, despite hardly seeing the field in 2013.

There's only one contract that really stands out: Dimitri Patterson's $5.5 million cap figure is a bit of a stretch for a corner who has been battling injuries for the past two years. Although Patterson was playing at a high level before a groin injury ended his season, his contract is on par with what some top-flight cornerbacks made last year, and he still has a long way to go before entering that discussion. 

 

Where They Can Spend Money: Defensive Tackle, Cornerback

Where should the Dolphins spend money on defense?

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With Randy Starks and Paul Soliai both set to hit the open market, the Dolphins will probably look to re-sign one or the other, and they may also look to supplement their depth on the interior of the defensive line through free agency and the draft.

The Dolphins could look to either Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton or Green Bay Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji if they wanted to move on from one or both of their free agents.

At cornerback, the Dolphins signed Brent Grimes to a one-year, stay-healthy deal before the 2013 season, and he ended up being their best signing of the year, proving to be a top-flight corner and a great fit for the scheme.

Pairing him with Patterson, who was playing solid at the No. 2 corner spot, would make a nice duo of starters. The Dolphins also have expiring deals for Jimmy Wilson and Nolan Carroll, two players who proved to be valuable depth, but neither of whom are worthy of a big contract.

 

Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases. 

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