Miami Dolphins: State of the Franchise at the Start of the 2014 Offseason
"Make or break" appears to be the theme for the Miami Dolphins in 2014.
Coming off of a disappointing 8-8 season where they lost twice to division rivals, the Dolphins made a few changes to the coaching staff and front office in the last month, and will now prepare to make the necessary changes to the roster.
With that in mind, here's the state of the Miami Dolphins heading into the 2014 NFL offseason—the most important offseason for head coach Joe Philbin.
2013 Season in Review
What went wrong for the Miami Dolphins in 2013?
Did the previous general manager not bring in enough talent? Most people believe so.
Did the head coach and his staff not do a good enough job coaching the talent on hand? Some people believe that.
Was there a combination of the two? I say there was, while others believe it was one or the other.
How about this option: The team's ceiling was 8-8 to begin with, so they actually met expectations?
No, no one wants to think that? Fine.
Miami's 2013 season was a roller coaster both on and off the field, from being bullied by Buffalo (twice) on the field, to a bullying scandal.
The Dolphins finished at 8-8, and despite the deficiencies on the roster (offensive line), the Dolphins left anywhere between one and three victories on the table.
The reason has to do with a predictable offense and a defense that couldn't stop a team on 3rd-and-anything to save their lives.
Despite the Dolphins' struggles, they had a habit of beating very good teams, as they went 4-3 against playoff teams this season, but went 4-5 against non-playoff teams.
Where do you stand on Ryan Tannehill?
Currently he sits with a 15-17 record in two seasons.
In that time, he has started every game despite being sacked a combined 93 times and has completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 7,207 yards, 36 touchdowns and 30 interceptions for a passer rating of 79.1.
This despite a first season when he had a halfway decent offensive line and only two reliable targets, followed by a second season with five reliable targets and one of the worst offensive lines in NFL history.
Taking a look at the numbers, then the context to go along with said numbers, it's safe to say that Tannehill has room for improvement and the potential to do that.
With an improved offensive line and a better offensive coordinator, Tannehill should grow in 2014, but the Dolphins have to improve the offensive line before we can really see how much he will grow.
Coaching Staff and Front Office Shake-Ups
Here's a quick breakdown of some of the changes to the Dolphins' front office and coaching staff.
Gone are Jeff Ireland as general manager and Mike Sherman as offensive coordinator.
Jeff Ireland would find himself "parting ways" with the team on January 7, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. While the majority of the Dolphins fanbase was happy with that development, they weren't so happy with the long and arduous process of finding a new general manager, as it took the Dolphins 19 days and many interviews before Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald announced that the Dolphins would be hiring Tampa Bay Buccaneers director of player personnel Dennis Hickey on January 26.
There have been other changes to Miami's coaching staff, as Alex Marvez of Fox Sports tweeted that linebackers coach George Edwards would leave Miami to take the defensive coordinator role with the Vikings on January 16.
Edwards' replacement was found quickly, as on January 21 the team announced that Jaguars linebackers coach Mark Duffner would take the same position with the Dolphins.
Miami would add an assistant offensive line coach as well, as Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel reported on January 28 that former Texans offensive line coach John Benton would be added to the staff in that capacity.
Impending Free Agents and Salary-Cap Situation
Here's a rather long list that consists of Miami's impending 2014 free agents.
|Randy Starks||Defensive Tackle|
|Paul Soliai||Defensive Tackle|
|Dustin Keller||Tight End|
|Bryant McKinnie||Left Tackle|
|Tyson Clabo||Right Tackle|
|Chris Clemons||Free Safety|
|Marlon Moore||Wide Receiver|
Offensive tackle Will Yeatman and wide receiver Armon Binns finished the season on injured reserve and are both restricted free agents.
The most devastating losses from this free-agency class would be Brent Grimes and Paul Soliai/Randy Starks (they can lose one, not both). Grimes and one of the defensive tackles should be the top priority for the Dolphins this offseason before they move on to other free agents.
Luckily for the Dolphins, they are projected to have $26.5 million in cap room, which should allow them to re-sign Grimes, Clemons and one of the defensive tackles.
Once that's done, then they will be able to tackle other needs (I hope you found the pun in that last sentence).
Team Needs and Possible NFL Draft and Free-Agent Targets
We all know what the Dolphins' needs are: offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, running back and (possibly) secondary.
The Dolphins will look to free agency to fill more pressing needs. They can solve the defensive line and their secondary by re-signing Brent Grimes, Chris Clemons and one of the two defensive tackles (and then drafting another defensive tackle to go into the rotation).
Miami is also going to look to free agency to solve one position need, as The Palm Beach Post's Andrew Abramson reports that the Dolphins will "go hard after a left tackle with Kansas City's Branden Albert being the biggest target."
Cheaper players who could fill roles at guard and in the secondary will also likely be targets for the Dolphins in free agency.
Then comes the draft, where Miami will likely have to draft another offensive tackle, at least one guard, a running back and a defensive tackle. Here's a look at my big board for the Dolphins, and here's a look at my 2014 Dolphins mock draft.
The Dolphins may seem like they are as far away from contention as you can get, but the truth is they have a quarterback they can believe in to develop more in his third season and a roster that with the right moves can get to the playoffs.
However both of those things will have to happen for the Dolphins not only to make it to the playoffs, but also to save the jobs of the current front office and coaching staff.