Projecting Miami Dolphins Depth Chart After Peak of Free Agency
The Dolphins spent that money in the hopes of helping to rebuild their offensive and defensive lines as well as improving their overall depth. We still have the draft, as well as the possibility of some more signings as the offseason progresses, but it's fairly safe to say that the peak of Miami's free-agent spending has now passed.
Now comes the question of what Miami's depth chart looks like as of right now, which we will be looking at with this slideshow. Every position will be discussed, and through this we shall see which holes Miami will have to fill come draft day.
QB1: Ryan Tannehill
QB2: Matt Moore
QB3: Pat Devlin
Right now there's no argument, as Ryan Tannehill is Miami's starting quarterback.
The question this offseason should center around the backup quarterbacks Matt Moore and Pat Devlin. Moore might seem like a bit of a salary-cap anchor this season, as he's due to make $5.5 million (compare that with Tannehill, who will be making $3.445 million), but he is a reliable backup in case the worst-case scenario comes to pass with Tannehill.
Despite being reliable, the price for Moore is extravagant, especially since he really wouldn't push Tannehill the same way a quarterback the Dolphins might draft could. For this, Miami would be wise to spend a mid-round pick on a quarterback (San Jose State's David Fales comes to mind, as would Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo if he is available at the time), which would give Miami not only some competition for Tannehill but also a cheaper backup option.
At the very least, drafting a quarterback allows Miami to move on from Pat Devlin, who in three years has shown that he can be the teacher's pet, but not much else.
RB1: Knowshon Moreno
RB2: Lamar Miller
RB3: Mike Gillislee
RB4: Marcus Thigpen
Daniel Thomas hasn't been released by the Dolphins yet, but as his non-placement on our projected depth chart shows, I'm going to speculate that he will be.
I already like Knowshon Moreno's attitude coming into Miami. While most free-agent signings who started with their previous team would likely expect to start upon signing their name on the dotted line, Moreno expects to compete, per Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald:
[I’m] definitely competing. Compete and the best man will win. We’ll learn from each other. And the same time, we’ll go out there and compete and do what we have to to help this team win.
That's the attitude of a winning culture, and will not only serve Moreno well, but will also help out Lamar Miller. You will see the two backs splitting carries next season, with Moreno more likely to be in the game on passing downs and in short-yardage situations, which Miami struggled with last season.
Miami is still likely to sign a running back, as they only signed Moreno to a one-year, $3 million deal. What the signing does do for the Dolphins is it allows them to wait until the middle rounds to draft a back instead of spending a second or third-round pick on a Carlos Hyde or Tre Mason.
WR1: Mike Wallace
WR2: Brian Hartline
WR3: Brandon Gibson
WR4: Armon Binns
WR5: Rishard Matthews
Miami's wide receiving unit is awfully troubling to me right now, with three of their receivers recovering from knee injuries suffered last season.
The Dolphins should draft a wide receiver, preferably a big red-zone target that can complement Mike Wallace's speed and Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson's dependability.
TE1: Charles Clay
TE2: Dion Sims
TE3: Michael Egnew
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that the Dolphins might be open to re-signing Dustin Keller, but since that hasn't happened yet, he's not on the projected depth chart.
Keller would provide Miami with a redundancy at tight end with Charles Clay, who last season broke out and gave the Dolphins the type of production they expected from Keller when they signed him. Their styles of play are about the same.
What Miami needs is a tight end that can be a red-zone target and a good blocker, and depending on where they look in the draft, that type of player will be available.
The question is will Miami pull the trigger on drafting said tight end, something that they never seem to do in the draft despite it being a need for the team since 2009.
LT: Branden Albert
LG: Shelley Smith
C: Mike Pouncey
RG: Dallas Thomas
RT: Jason Weaver
T: Will Yeatman
T: Michael Ola
G: Nate Garner
G: David Arkin
G: Danny Watkins
C: Sam Brenner
The left side of the offensive line is in fairly good shape with incoming free agents Branden Albert and Shelley Smith.
Center is obviously fine with Mike Pouncey, who will be the lone starter on the offensive line from last season (barring Miami bringing back Tyson Clabo and Bryant McKinnie to play right tackle since both players are still on the market).
The right side of the offensive line could use a lot of work. Miami can still find a decent right guard if they sign former Texan Wade Smith (they could put him at left guard while shifting Smith to right guard, or just plug Smith in at right guard), and there are plenty of veteran right tackles available as well.
Both of those positions will get some attention in the draft as well—or at least they should. Miami has already started the offensive line rebuilding process, but it's far from complete.
DT1: Randy Starks
DT2: Jared Odrick
DT3: Earl Mitchell
DT4: A.J. Francis
This is as solid a unit as you will find on the Dolphins, as Miami was able to get younger at defensive tackle while maintaining it as a strength of the defense.
While Starks and Odrick will likely be the two starters, the Dolphins like to rotate their defensive tackles in and out, so you will see a lot of these four players rotating in and out of the game from series to series (or even from snap to snap).
Miami could also still go after a defensive tackle in the draft, which would be a good idea since Odrick is a free agent next season and Starks is only signed for two years and is 30 years old. Giving said late draft pick at defensive tackle a year to work with defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers would be a smart investment in the team's future.
LDE: Cameron Wake
RDE: Olivier Vernon
DE: Dion Jordan
DE: Derrick Shelby
Will we be seeing more Dion Jordan this season?
I'd hope so. With a full offseason to work out with the team, Jordan should have more opportunities to earn some more playing time for himself.
It would help the Dolphins if he was on the field more too, as he created results when he was on the field in 2013.
SLB: Koa Misi
MLB: Dannell Ellerbe
WLB: Philip Wheeler
LB: Jonathan Freeny
LB: Jason Trusnik
LB: Jelani Jenkins
Next to offensive line, Miami's weakest position is at linebacker.
To make matters worse, this is also the Dolphins' most overpaid position (yes, even more so than wide receiver, Mike Wallace at least produced at times).
Plenty will have to change at this position to truly make the Dolphins defense an elite one. However, this weak link is doing nothing but holding them back.
CB1: Brent Grimes
CB2: Jamar Taylor
CB3: Cortland Finnegan
CB4: Will Davis
On paper, the Dolphins look stronger at cornerback than they have gotten credit for.
In terms of off-man zone coverage corners, the Dolphins have a pretty good lineup. I have Taylor starting over Finnegan because I expect big things out of the second-year player from Boise State, as do the Dolphins.
SS: Reshad Jones
FS: Louis Delmas
S: Jimmy Wilson
S: Jordan Kovacs
S: Don Jones
S: Michael Thomas
The Dolphins felt strong enough at safety to allow Chris Clemons to leave, and other than the injury history of Louis Delmas, it's easy to see why they felt that way.
Miami wants a safety unit that can create big plays, and it seems like by giving up Clemons they gave up some of the consistency he brought to the table in exchange for said big plays. Ultimately, this is a gamble that I see working for the Dolphins, but the health of Delmas will factor into how much it works.
Behind Delmas, Miami does have plenty of good options, making the position one of the deepest on the team.
K: Caleb Sturgis
P: Brandon Fields
PR/KR: Marcus Thigpen
LS: John Denney
This unit is the one least likely to see any changes for Miami. Brandon Fields and John Denney are both reliable Pro Bowl players at their positions, so there's no reason to replace them. Caleb Sturgis will likely get another season to show more consistency as well.
Marcus Thigpen is probably the player on special teams most likely to see competition come training camp, not just as a return man but as a backup running back as well.