Ranking the Miami Dolphins' Best Remaining Free-Agency Options
Six days into free agency, the Miami Dolphins have already made quite a splash.
The moves made by the team are moves that have me optimistic about the direction of the team. They've locked down the left side of their offensive line, strengthened the secondary and got younger on the defensive line.
I approved of every signing thus far except the Cortland Finnegan deal, but that's more because I don't really like Cortland Finnegan (and I'm sure seeing him in a Dolphins uniform will change my mind, especially if he plays well). Even that deal was good in the sense that it gave Miami some much-needed depth at cornerback and much needed competition for Jamar Taylor.
The Dolphins aren't finished yet, nor should they be. They can still fill up some holes with some of the best remaining free agents out there on the market, and today we will rank said free agents.
These rankings will be based off of what the Dolphins need and whether the player can start or just provide depth, with some help from Rotoworld's list of the top free agents in each position.
5. Davin Joseph
So far, Miami has three-fifths of an offensive line thanks to the signings of Branden Albert and Shelley Smith.
There are still two more spots to go, and both of those spots could be filled in the draft. While I would consider that, I'd want to use free agency to set up the Dolphins to be able to go after the best players available at skill positions in the first and second round (a good right tackle that can start in Week 1 can be found in rounds three and four).
Guard might be more of a challenge to find than right tackle, meaning a player can be taken, but will need development. The best option for this would be to sign another guard to go alongside Shelley Smith, Sam Brenner, Dallas Thomas and Nate Garner, all of whom are currently on the roster.
As a bridge to whomever the Dolphins might choose to develop at the position (or a bridge to 2015's offseason), Davin Joseph would be a likely fit.
The Dolphins have already reached out to Joseph, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, and you could see why, as general manager Dennis Hickey is familiar with Joseph from their time with the Buccaneers.
The only real question would be whether Joseph could fit into Miami's zone-blocking scheme. He's not nearly as athletic as you'd prefer, yet he does provide a big body that can go on the right side of the line.
4. Devin Hester
I might have not been on board with this idea at first.
I was actually against the idea and didn't think it would happen.
Devin Hester to the Dolphins was something that I thought wouldn't come to pass simply because he is a specialist and nothing more, and the Dolphins would want a return man that would be used in the offense.
Despite those thoughts, the rumblings appear to be that the Dolphins are interested in signing Hester, at least according to Jodie Wagner of The Palm Beach Post.
That same report also states that Hester, a South Florida native and alum of The U, would be interested in signing with the Dolphins, as he's quoted in the piece as saying: “I grew up watching them. It’s closer to home. It’s closer to my family.”
In addition to his return duties, Hester would also like to be used as a receiver more, and seeing how the offense worked in Philadelphia while offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was their quarterbacks coach, I could see that working (even if Hester isn't the type of receiver Miami needs, but that should be filled out in the draft, preferably with one of the first two picks).
Could it happen? Before I doubted it, but now, I see it clicking. Hester shouldn't be too expensive, and I doubt his deal would go longer than two seasons. He'd be an instant upgrade to the return game over Marcus Thigpen.
I'm on board with this now, but if it doesn't come to pass, I won't be too disappointed, for the Dolphins can still fill the return man role, or at least give Thigpen some competition before training camp.
It would also help sell tickets, as Hester is still one of the most electrifying players in the NFL with the ball in his hands and a true star in the game.
Here's a comparison between Hester and Thigpen courtesy of Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post, although if you've been paying attention to the NFL since Hester's rookie season, you would know that there is no contest between the two players.
3. Knowshon Moreno
What should the Dolphins do at running back?
That might be another subject for another article, because I myself am conflicted.
I decided to only put one running back on this list because I'm of the school of thought that running backs should be drafted, not signed in free agency or traded for. I should mention, though, that the Dolphins have had some success trading for or signing veteran running backs in the past, but that doesn't change my philosophy.
What running back did I choose? Knowshon Moreno of the Denver Broncos. I went with him because for a running back I just want three things: someone who can block on passing downs, someone who can complement Lamar Miller and someone who's not Daniel Thomas.
Moreno fits each of those qualities. He has a different and more aggressive style than Miller, and his pass-blocking in Denver was superb.
This piece from November of 2012 from Jeff Legwold of The Denver Post explains how Moreno's pass protection is a big component to the Broncos' offense.
Pro Football Focus has him as their top free-agent running back due to not only his pass blocking, but also his ability to catch passes out of the backfield.
Moreno wouldn't just complement Miller, he'd actually take over as the starter if he signed in Miami, and as much as I like Miller, I'd be fine with that, as Miller could be used more as a receiver in the slot by Bill Lazor.
If it means more toys for Tannehill, I'm all for it. Moreno can provide that better than any free-agent running back on the list, which is why he's ranked third.
2. Wade Smith
Wade Smith is two years older than Davin Joseph, but he might be a better fit for the Dolphins due to his experience in the zone-blocking scheme.
According to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald, the Dolphins have already reached out to Smith, just as they have with Joseph.
Smith was originally drafted by the Dolphins in 2003 and for the last four years played under Dolphins' offensive line coach John Benton. He hasn't missed a start in any of his four seasons with the Texans and made it to the Pro Bowl in 2013.
Smith ranks ahead of Joseph on my list because he's a better schematic fit along with his experience working with Benton.
The previous Dolphins ties help a little in the sense that he's familiar to Miami. Considering that he was drafted by the Wannstedt-Spielman administration and released during Nick Saban's tenure, it would likely feel more like going to a different team than it would a homecoming.
1. Zach Strief
I know this is a long shot, but as long as Zach Strief is available, he's number one on this list.
If the Dolphins can add Strief, along with one of the guards mentioned in this piece, then you could consider the offensive line complete, with the need to draft for depth now instead of looking for a starter.
This then opens up the ability to go for the best player available regardless of the position, thus allowing the Dolphins to draft an inside linebacker, tight end or wide receiver.
It's a long shot simply because according to Larry Holder of The Times-Picayune, Strief never set up a visit with the Dolphins. Strief's preference seems to stay in New Orleans; the question is can the Saints carve out enough cap room.
You'll notice that Strief is the only tackle on this list alongside the fact that he's number one. I have him at number one due to the fact that he's a good player that, along with a guard, would put the finishing touches on Miami's rebuilding offensive line.
He's also the only tackle on this list because none of the other available tackles (aside from Tyson Clabo, who you can consider an honorable mention) really pique my interest.
If Strief does the inevitable and goes to New Orleans, Miami can find a right tackle, and it won't even have to be in the first round.
Just the fact that we're one guard-signing away from that possibility, I'd say Miami did very well in free agency in 2014.
Update: Strief to Miami isn't going to happen. He has re-signed with the Saints.