The 5 Moves the Miami Dolphins Must Avoid in Free Agency
I'm referring to the Brent Grimes contract, which is reported by Omar Kelly of The Sun-Sentinel as being a four year deal worth $32 million, with only $16 million guaranteed.
I love this deal for every reason stated: Grimes is a two-time Pro Bowl player whose performance in 2013 was instrumental in the success Miami's secondary had, yet the amount of guaranteed money doesn't hinder Miami too much in the future.
I can't wait to see the year-by-year details of the deal, which so far have not been posted to Spotrac.com.
That eliminates my "letting go of Brent Grimes" slide from this list, which details the five moves that Miami must avoid in free agency.
Why should Miami avoid these five moves? For the reasons that I will explain on each slide.
1. Signing Branden Albert If Eugene Monroe or Jared Veldheer Are Available
The stars aligned perfectly for the Dolphins to find options at left tackle beyond Branden Albert.
I like Albert and he would be a much-needed addition to the Dolphins, however there are better players on the market that most didn't expect to be on the market.
Two of those better players—Jared Veldheer of the Oakland Raiders and Eugene Monroe of the Baltimore Ravens—will be free to talk to whatever team they choose come March 8 unless they re-sign with their current teams.
On Monday it was reported by Aaron Murray of The Baltimore Sun that Monroe would not get tagged by the Ravens. On the opposite end of the country, NFL.com's Chris Wesseling reported that the Raiders declined to use the tag on Veldheer.
This gives the Dolphins options, assuming contract talks between the two tackles and their respective teams stall.
Both players are younger than the 29-year old Albert, as both will be 27 at the start of the season. Both players have less NFL years on them than Albert, and they don't have his recent injury history.
Veldheer also fits better in Miami's zone-blocking scheme, which is why he just barely has the edge over Monroe in my opinion, but the Dolphins can't go wrong with either player.
There is the possibility that neither Monroe nor Veldheer will be available. They can still re-sign with their current teams, but for now, each is available.
If that's the case, go younger. If Albert is the only left tackle available, go after him.
With all of this talk about tackles, there is something else the Dolphins should do when it comes to their offensive line.
2. Neglecting the Guards
The big money and attention will go to the free agent tackles this offseason, yet the Dolphins are as deficient at guard as they are at tackle—maybe even more so.
It would be easy if the Dolphins just signed a left and right tackle in free agency, then used the draft to pick up their guards. It's easy but it wouldn't be the best thing for the team to do.
Miami should devote some of their free agent resources to the two guard positions, and it should be able to do so without a problem due to the quality of guards on the open market as well as how inexpensive it should be to sign one.
There's no Andy Levitre-type guard in free agency that will get big money in 2014 (Levitre signed a six-year, $46.8 million deal with the Titans last year) and some of the choices will merely be plug-ins for two years or less as the Dolphins develop other players (they should still draft at least one guard).
But there are good players out there, such as Kansas City's Jon Asamoah, Denver's Zane Beadles, St. Louis' Rodger Saffold (which would also add depth because he can play left tackle), Kansas City's Geoff Schwartz and Cleveland's Shawn Lauvao.
Each of those players would be an upgrade for the Dolphins, and they should at least be examined as options. Even if you can pick up a great left tackle to go along with your Pro Bowl center, if your guards are mediocre, you still have a relatively mediocre offensive line.
3. Crippling the Future for Today
We already know this is a make-or-break year for the Philbin-Aponte-era and sometimes when you face a make-or-break year, you tend to do what's best for today even if it means crippling the future.
The Miami Dolphins cannot afford to do that.
So far they're already on the right track when it comes to doing what's best for today without sacrificing the future based off of what we know about Brent Grimes' contract. While I'd love to know when he'd get those $16 million guaranteed, my guess would be in the first three years, with the majority of the guaranteed money coming in 2014 and 2015.
Hopefully, more free agent contracts are written out in a similar fashion and for good reason.
Miami already has a young core of talent that's still on their rookie contracts but in the coming years it will be time to talk extension.
Mike Pouncey is one of those players, and he likely would've gotten an extension this season had it not been for his off-the-field issues. Luckily for the Dolphins, he has 2014 to continue his great play while keeping clean off the field, and if he does that, he's due a big contract.
The Dolphins are already expected to pick up his fifth-year option, per Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk, but for 2015 Miami will either have to pay him, or pay a center at his level.
Other players with big paydays coming down the pike include Charles Clay (2015), Olivier Vernon and Ryan Tannehill (2016). If those three players can continue to improve, they will be sought-after.
Tannehill is the biggest one of the group. If he can reach the potential he has shown and firmly establish himself as an NFL starting quarterback, Miami will have to pay him like one. The hope for the Dolphins, if he does this, should be to have enough money to pay him without having to resort to the franchise tag.
4. Not Addressing Defensive Tackle
One problem I've always had with Jeff Ireland was how he'd fill a hole while simultaneously creating another one.
He did this last season when he filled holes at wide receiver, then created a hole at left tackle by not re-signing Jake Long (or finding a suitable replacement) and spent more money to create two holes at linebacker.
So far, it doesn't look like Dennis Hickey has done that as once again, I cite the Brent Grimes deal.
He can't do that with the defensive line in 2014 either.
Both Randy Starks and Paul Soliai are free agents, and according to The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson, the Dolphins have had yet to speak to either of them.
They do have an interest in signing both players, however that might be harder than the Dolphins planned on it being, especially after this tweet from Paul Soliai's agent David Canter:
@Phinatic_Pick appreciate it. It's been a great 7 years in Miami sadly I think it's time to move on— David Canter (@davidcanter) March 3, 2014
Let's hope that this is just your typical pre-free agency agent posturing used to light a fire under the Dolphins to get a deal done.
If it isn't, it won't be the end of the world unless the Dolphins allow it to be.
There are plenty of good (and younger) defensive tackles available via free agency. Henry Melton of the Chicago Bears is coming off of a torn ACL but he should be an option (especially since he will only turn 28 during the season).
Green Bay's B.J. Raji would make sense too, provided that the Dolphins don't overpay for him.
Linval Joseph of the New York Giants turns 26 this season and would be a great fit in Miami's system. He'll likely cost as much as Soliai or Starks, but he would not only be one of the few players worth the cost, he would also eliminate one of Miami's draft needs (a younger defensive tackle).
Miami has options to play with at defensive tackle, so even if they lose out on their two interior studs, there is no excuse why they can't keep one of their deepest positions a strength.
5. Not Taking Advantage of a Cheap but Good Player at Safety or Linebacker
Did I mention that I like what Dennis Hickey has done so far?
Yes, it's only one move, but he's shown intent when it comes to other moves.
Showing the intent in terms of signing another linebacker probably made me smile more than the Grimes deal considering how I feel about Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe. As Chris Wesseling of NFL.com reported, the Dolphins had former Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson in for a visit on Monday.
Now, in case you need the cribs notes of my opinion on Wheeler and Ellerbe, here it is as short as I can make it: Ellerbe is best as an outside linebacker, while Wheeler just drives me crazy. Jackson is an inside linebacker, which if signed could lead to the Dolphins moving Ellerbe to the outside, and Wheeler to the bench.
(Why not cut Wheeler you ask? The answer is $10.6 million in dead money if he's cut this year, which would be only $4.2 million in 2015.)
Jackson is getting up there in age as he turns 31 this season but if the Dolphins draft a linebacker to eventually replace him this year (why hello there, Chris Borland, Christian Jones and Telvin Smith) they should be in pretty good shape at the position.
At safety, Miami would be fine with re-signing Chris Clemons, but that doesn't mean they can't upgrade. Omar Kelly of The Sun-Sentinel reported that the Dolphins hosted Louis Delmas for a visit on Friday, and Delmas would be a good upgrade over Clemons if he's signed for a one-year deal to prove he can stay healthy.
If that's not the direction the Dolphins want to go in, they could go towards younger guys like Carolina's Mike Mitchell, Kansas City's Kendrick Lewis, New Orleans' Malcom Jenkins or if they choose they want a veteran like Delmas, San Francisco's Donte Whitner would be a great option as well.
Despite the problems of last season that seemed to have lasted into February, Miami still has a great opportunity to drastically improve the team thanks in part to the money they have to spend in free agency. The start so far has been good, now let's see if they can finish it better than they did the 2013 season.
Salary cap figures provided by Spotrac.com unless otherwise specified.