5 Biggest Needs Miami Dolphins Have Yet to Address This Offseason
The Miami Dolphins entered the offseason with a number of pressing needs.
Dennis Hickey has gotten off to a good start over the first week of free agency, bringing in upgrades at a few key positions.
The new Dolphins general manager signed Louis Delmas to replace Chris Clemons, Earl Mitchell to replace Paul Soliai and Cortland Finnegan to replace Dimitri Patterson.
He also brought back Randy Starks and added Branden Albert and Shelley Smith to upgrade the offensive line.
For a look at some of the expectations for these new free-agent signings, you can check out my recent article.
But while we look at how the new guys will perform next season, Hickey will be hard at work, as there are still a handful of positions that need to be addressed for Miami.
For starters, what will the Dolphins do with the rest of their offensive line?
There is also the question of if they are they going to look for an upgrade in the backfield or at linebacker?
There is clearly still plenty of work left to do so let's take a look at the five biggest needs the Dolphins need to address in the rest of the offseason.
5. Tight End
Thanks to Charles Clay's career season in 2013, the Miami Dolphins can feel confident about their top tight end heading into next year.
However, the rest of their tight end depth chart isn't nearly as clear.
Dustin Keller is coming off of a season-ending injury and is a free agent, and Dion Sims and Michael Egnew are both still relative unknowns.
While it is possible that Miami heads into 2014 with the hopes that Sims and Egnew can develop, at this point it seems more likely that they will address the tight end position in the draft.
Eric Ebron is the first name that comes to mind, as the North Carolina Tarheel would instantly be the team's best all-around weapon the minute he steps on the field.
However, it seems unlikely that he will be there when the Dolphins pick at 19. Plus, his blocking is still suspect and the Dolphins are more in need of an in-line blocking tight end to complement Clay.
That leads to Georgia's Arthur Lynch and Iowa's C.J. Fiedorowicz, who are two of the best dual-threat tight ends in the draft and are expected to go somewhere between Rounds 3 and 5.
Both guys would step right in and be the best pass- and run-blockers on the roster at the position.
As an added bonus, the 6'5", 258-pound Lynch and the 6'7", 265-pound Fiedorowicz are difficult matchups and could be major red-zone weapons as well.
4. Offensive Guard
The Dolphins addressed one offensive guard position late last week when they signed Shelley Smith to a two-year, $5.5 million deal, via ESPN's James Walker.
However, they still have another one left to fill.
Nate Garner and Sam Brenner are both capable of filling the spot, although both are much more valuable off the bench as players that can fill in at different positions.
Veteran free-agents such as Wade Smith and Davin Joseph are both still very much in play for the Dolphins, who could get great value by signing either guy at a discounted price.
Even bringing in either guy on a short-term deal would be beneficial as the team can buy themselves time to wait on a guard in the draft.
The draft is extremely deep on the offensive line and the Dolphins can find a plethora of guys capable of becoming elite players at the guard position in the future.
Xavier Su'a-Filo, David Yankey, Gabe Jackson, Brandon Thomas and Cyril Richardson are just a few of many possibilities for Miami come draft day and are all guys that could be drafted after the first round.
Right before free agency began, the Dolphins held a visit with linebacker D'Qwell Jackson.
Although he ended up signing with the Colts, the visit at least showed that the Dolphins are not happy with their current group of linebackers on the roster.
But the problem is that the team can't afford to find a good enough replacement in free agency, especially considering the amount of money that is still owed to Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler.
With the Dolphins addressing some of their other pressing needs in free agency, the draft is the perfect opportunity to bring in a young and inexpensive linebacker to take over inside.
I fully expect Miami to look long and hard at both C.J. Mosley and Ryan Shazier in the first round come draft day.
Bringing in either guy would allow Ellerbe to shift to the outside and cut out Wheeler's playing time altogether.
Even if they decide not to go with a linebacker in the first round, they still have other options later on, such as Chris Borland, Kyle Van Noy, Jordan Tripp, Telvin Smith, Adrian Hubbard and Shayne Skov—all of whom are capable of unseating Wheeler as a starter.
Regardless of who the team goes with, you can rest assured that they will draft someone, as there is simply no way they can enter the 2014 season with the same terrible linebacker play that they had in 2013.
2. Running Back
Things have been relatively quiet for the Dolphins on the free-agent running back market over the first week, as the team has yet to bring in anyone for a visit.
However, considering the seasons that Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas had in 2013, there is little doubt that the team will be bringing in someone else to compete in the backfield.
While there are still a few solid backs left on the market, it appears that Dennis Hickey prefers to draft his running backs instead of signing them.
According to the Sun-Sentinel's Omar Kelly, Hickey feels good about his ability to evaluate running backs and prefers to address the position through the draft.
In all likelihood, the guy they bring in will replace Thomas, who has been the worst running back in the league, in terms of yards per attempt, since he was drafted.
Among players with at least 350 carries since 2011, he has averaged a league-worst 3.59 yards per rush, according to Pro-Football-Reference.
That makes Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde an interesting name to look out for in the second round, although Miami could also go after other big bruising backs like Jeremy Hill, Tre Mason, Bishop Sankey, Charlie Sims or Terrance West later on in the draft as well.
1. Right Tackle
The Dolphins made Branden Albert their top priority entering the offseason and came through when they signed him to a five-year, $47 million deal to fortify Tannehill's blindside.
However, as well all know, that is not the only side that needs to be addressed on the offensive line.
The free-agent market for tackles dried up extremely quickly and it appears that the team's best free-agent option remaining would be to bring back Bryant McKinnie and flip him over to the right side.
According to Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel, McKinnie is willing to play right tackle, despite the fact that he has spent his entire 12-year career on the left side of the line.
However, as mentioned earlier, the draft is loaded with talented offensive linemen that can step in and make an impact right away.
Cyrus Kouandjio, Morgan Moses, Antonio Richardson, Jack Mewhort, Billy Turner and Joel Bitonio are just a handful of guys that are capable of solidifying the right side of the line for years to come.