Miami Dolphins' Blueprint for Winning Free Agency
Free agency is just around the corner, and the Miami Dolphins will need to make some noise to help erase the stench of the 2013 season. This period of the offseason has become much more manageable now that Brent Grimes has signed a long-term deal to stay in Miami, per James Walker of ESPN.com.
The Dolphins have some tough decisions to make about certain players, most notably Paul Soliai, Randy Starks and Chris Clemons. In addition to re-signing the right players, the Dolphins will also be looking to bring in a few new faces.
Every team is looking for a successful combination of free-agent acquisitions and draft picks to build their franchise. The Dolphins are no different. Here are a few moves the Dolphins could make to have a successful free-agency period.
Sign a Big Left Tackle
No surprises here. The Dolphins are fresh off the worst season of offensive line play in franchise history. Throw in the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin saga, and it is no secret that the Dolphins are looking to rebuild the offensive line.
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald (h/t ProFootballTalk) reported that the Dolphins hope to land either Eugene Monroe from the Baltimore Ravens or Branden Albert from the Kansas City Chiefs. Monroe is likely to remain a Raven, but Albert could be there for the taking. Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk reported that the Chiefs have chosen not to franchise Albert.
The Dolphins made an attempt to land Albert via trade last season and should be one of the first teams to make him an offer once he becomes a free agent. Jared Veldheer of the Oakland Raiders could be another possibility if the Dolphins fail to acquire either Monroe or Albert.
Signing a left tackle during free agency would give the Dolphins the luxury of taking one with a mid- to late-round draft pick and grooming him for future success. It would also allow Miami to focus on the interior offensive line with its first pick of the draft.
Bringing in a big left tackle now and drafting Zack Martin later would, in theory, rebuild the entire left side of the Dolphins O-line.
Re-Sign Either Paul Soliai or Randy Starks
Paul Soliai and Randy Starks have both been staples of the Dolphins defense for many years. Both are about to hit free agency in one week. The Dolphins should let one of them go but cannot allow both to land elsewhere.
To lose both Soliai and Starks would decimate the Dolphins' depth at defensive tackle. As I said in my mock draft, I expect the Dolphins to take a defensive tackle in the second round of the draft. Assuming that is the direction they go, they can afford to let one of these big men walk.
At this point in time, Soliai seems less likely to return to Miami than Starks. Soliai's agent, David Canter, recently tweeted, "It's been a great 7 years in Miami sadly I think it's time to move on." This could simply be a way to bait the Dolphins into an offer, but regardless, Soliai returning to the Dolphins doesn't seem likely at this moment.
Bringing back Starks would help keep the depth on the defensive line. Starks—along with Olivier Vernon, Cameron Wake, Dion Jordan and whatever defensive lineman the Dolphins select on draft day—would still give the Dolphins a very formidable D-line.
Sign Louis Delmas
The Dolphins have shown little interest in bringing back Chris Clemons. That puts Miami in the market for a new free safety. Louis Delmas would be a nice upgrade from Clemons—not that Clemons was really all that bad, but he's just not a playmaker.
Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel reported that Miami has already had Delmas down for a visit. The New Orleans Saints have also shown interest in him. The Dolphins could have a slight edge given that Delmas is a South Florida native.
At just 26 years of age, Delmas still has a lot of football left in him. He has spent five years in the league, all with the Detroit Lions. During that time, he has recorded 331 tackles, two forced fumbles, six interceptions and a safety. He had a career three interceptions last season before being cut in a money-saving move by the Lions.
Should Miami fail to acquire a free safety during free agency, they must think about drafting one early or giving Jimmy Wilson a chance to start.
Sign an Inside Linebacker
The Dolphins could use some serious support with their run defense. Philip Wheeler is a capable linebacker who may just be in need of a push. Or he may need to be pushed to the sideline. The Dolphins have expressed interest in D'Qwell Jackson, and the interest appears to be mutual at some level.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport (via Chris Wesseling of NFL.com) has reported that Jackson will meet with the Dolphins on Tuesday. If he is signed by the Dolphins, all signs point to Wheeler being pushed to the side.
In 2013, Jackson recorded 75 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, one interception and a fumble recovery. He captained a Cleveland Browns defense that ranked ninth in the league last season. He had started 48 consecutive games for the Browns prior to his release.
Sign a Power Running Back
A quarterback's best friend is often a strong running game. Consider Ryan Tannehill friendless. The Dolphins running attack was mediocre at best last season. Daniel Thomas has fallen out of favor with many supporters, and Lamar Miller hasn't fared much better.
At times last season, it seemed as if getting a single yard was a major accomplishment for the Dolphins rushers. To be fair, it would be hard to find a running back not named Adrian Peterson who could have consistently carried the ball behind the Dolphins O-line.
That being said, Thomas has never lived up to his expectations, and the current coaching staff seems to have no desire for a fullback. Thus, a power back who can plow ahead for three or four yards when needed is a must.
Luckily for the Dolphins, there is no shortage of solid running backs available. My personal choice for this role would be LeGarrette Blount, but Knowshon Moreno, Darren McFadden, Ben Tate or Maurice-Jones Drew could pair with Miller for a much-improved Dolphins backfield.
All stats courtesy of NFL.com unless otherwise noted.