Setting Realistic Expectations for Each Miami Dolphins Free-Agent Signing

Andrew Tornetta@AndrewTornettaCorrespondent IIMarch 17, 2014

Sep 19, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Branden Albert (76) during the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The Chiefs defeated the Eagles 26-16. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins were one of the most active teams over the past week of free agency, with general manager Dennis Hickey doing an impressive job of filling holes throughout the roster.

Thus far, Miami has brought in five new players while also surprising most fans by bringing back Randy Starks as well.

We already know what Starks brings to the team, but fans are also hopeful for the production Louis DelmasBranden Albert, Earl Mitchell, Shelley Smith and Cortland Finnegan are going to offer the Dolphins.

This is obviously expected, as nobody likes to view a free agent their team just signed as the next Gibril Wilson or Philip Wheeler.

However, it's much better to keep these expectations in check, hoping for the best but also preparing for the worst.

Taking into account talent, age, injury history and also how they will fit in with the team, let's take a look at the four new players the Dolphins brought in and set realistic expectations for how they each will perform in 2014.

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 12:  Louis Delmas #26 of the Detroit Lions leaves the field celebrating a 7-3 victory over the Green Bay Packers on December 12, 2010 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

 Louis Delmas, S

Delmas was the first domino to fall in the Dolphins' offseason plan. 

The former Detroit Lion agreed to a one-year, $3.5 million deal with Miami just before the start of free agency, via ESPN's James Walker.

Delmas is a hard-hitting safety that will bring a toughness and leadership to the defense that Chris Clemons didn't bring.

He also is much more of a playmaker, as evident by the fact that he picked off nearly as many passes last season (three), as Clemons has recorded in his five-year career (four).

The problem with Delmas is that he's had issues with injuries over his career.

The 2013 season was the first time in his five-year career that he played a full 16-game season, although he was limited to just one day of practice each week in an attempt to preserve him for game day.

Providing Delmas can stay healthy, he should provide a solid boost to the Miami defense as he works on a one-year prove it deal.

 Branden Albert, LT

The Dolphins made it very clear that Albert was their top priority at the start of free agency.

Therefore, it came as no surprise that they inked him to a five-year, $47 million contract shortly after the free-agency period opened.

It was truly a perfect match. Miami filled its biggest offseason need while Chris Perkins of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that Albert went to his top choice in teams:

Of course, the best-case scenario would be that Albert regains his Pro Bowl form, stays healthy and solidifies Ryan Tannehill's blind side for the next five years.

However, health continues to be the biggest question mark for Albert.

Over his six-year career, Albert has played a full season just one time and has missed a total of seven games over the last two seasons.

What Dolphins fans can expect from Albert is what he has proven to be over his career—an elite pass-blocker and decent run-blocker that will likely miss a couple of games every year.

Most importantly, he will make sure that Tannehill will be standing upright far more often than he was last season.

Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

Earl Mitchell, DT

When free agency began, Earl Mitchell was not a player that was very high on the radar of most Dolphins fans.

That changed very quickly, though, when the former Houston Texan signed a four-year, $16 million deal to replace fan favorite Paul Soliai.

Mitchell is a talented pass-rusher and a very capable run-stuffer as well.

According to Beasley, the Texans' run defense allowed just 3.1 yards per carry when Mitchell was on the field last season compared to a 4.2 average when he was off it.

At just 26 years old, Mitchell is an extremely athletic player that will finally be able to play in his natural position in Miami's 4-3 defense.

While it's certainly possible that Mitchell won't develop into the caliber of player that the Dolphins expect him to be, but I truly believe that the sky is the limit for Mitchell.

Mitchell thinks so too. According to Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald, he feels that playing in the Dolphins' scheme gives him the best opportunity to succeed:

At the very least, he should easily surpass his numbers from last season (48 tackles and 1.5 sacks).

He will also provide a major impact in both stopping the run and getting after the quarterback from the interior of the Dolphins' defensive line.

Tom Gannam/Associated Press

Shelley Smith, G

In the second step of the Dolphins' offensive line rebuild, Miami signed former St. Louis Rams guard Shelley Smith to a two-year, $5.5 million deal.

The 26-year-old Smith was drafted by the Texans in the sixth round in 2010 and was picked up by the Rams a year later.

At 6'4" and 312 pounds, Smith is a fierce run-blocker that is very good at getting to the second level.

He played in 14 games in 2013starting twoand Pro Football Focus (subscription required) graded him as the fourth-best run-blocking guard in the league.

Smith is very much an unknown, as it is yet to be determined how he will hold up as a full-time starter.

He struggles a bit as a pass-blocker, but should be covered more playing in between Albert and Mike Pouncey on the left side.

However, his run-blocking ability is unquestioned and he should bring much-needed help to the Dolphins' running game.

ST. LOUIS, MO - NOVEMBER 3: Cortland Finnegan #31 of the St. Louis Rams intercepts a pass intended for Kenny Britt #18 of the Tennessee Titans at the Edward Jones Dome on November 3, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Cortland Finnegan, CB

When NFL Media's Albert Breer reported that the Dolphins agreed to a two-year, $11 million deal with Cortland Finnegan, the natural comparison was to Brent Grimes.

Much like Grimes in 2013, Finnegan didn't have much of a market this year thanks to an injury-plagued 2013 season.

After signing a five-year, $50 million deal with the Rams prior to the 2012 season, Finnegan was terrible in his limited time on the field last season.

He played in just seven games before ultimately being placed on injured reserve with a fractured orbital bone.

When he did play, PFF indicates that Finnegan allowed quarterbacks to complete 76.5 percent of their passes thrown at him for a 136 passer rating. He ranked 109th out of 110 cornerbacks.

The main key for Finnegan this season will come down to how healthy he is and if he can keep the injury bug away for the full 16-game season.

As South Florida Sun-Sentinel reporter Omar Kelly argues, a cornerback tandem featuring Grimes and a fully healthy Finnegan could prove to be very dangerous.

The problem is that he hasn't been fully healthy since the 2011 season and bounce-back seasons like the one Grimes had in 2013 don't happen often.

The more realistic expectation for Finnegan is that he fills into the role as the slot cornerback behind either Will Davis or Jamar Taylor and puts up a similar season to what Nolan Carroll did in 2013.

Andrew Tornetta is the Miami Dolphins' featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Check out his B/R archive and follow him on Twitter @AndrewTornetta.


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