5 Available Free Agents Still Within Miami Dolphins' Reach
After coming out strong in free agency by signing Branden Albert, Shelley Smith and Knowshon Moreno among others, the Dolphins have quietly shifted their attention to the draft, much like the rest of the league.
This doesn't mean their work in free agency has finished though, as the Dolphins still have the potential to at the very least add depth to their roster at key positions. They might not find a true game-changer, but they could still improve the team.
Here's a look at five such prospects the Dolphins have been looking at, as well as some players that already have Miami's attention.
G Uche Nwaneri
Uche Nwaneri is the player on this list that's the most stunning to me in terms of not having a team yet.
I'd figure that the Jaguars would've kept him considering that the only viable guard they have at the moment is the newly signed Zane Beadles, however, the Jaguars cut Nwaneri prior to the start of free agency, and since then (despite a weak guard class), he's had very little in the way of nibbles from other teams.
This is a shock to me because he's fairly good. According to Pro Football Focus, Nwaneri was ranked as the 34th-best guard out of 81 in the NFL (h/t to Josh Katzowitz of CBSSports.com). He also can fit well in the zone-blocking scheme, and he is very durable, starting in 92 of 104 games with the Jaguars since 2008 and playing all but a few snaps in 2013.
The Dolphins haven't been linked to Nwaneri, and the most recent visit he had was with the Tennessee Titans earlier this month, per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. If he's lasted this long, it wouldn't surprise me if he remained unsigned until after the draft.
He would be a great pickup to Miami's offensive line, for at the very least he could hold down the right guard spot for a year or two while a younger player develops.
G Wade Smith
I've brought up Wade Smith as a potential Dolphins target since the beginning of free agency. Is it a surprise he hasn't been signed yet? Not really, he is getting up there in age and it wouldn't surprise me if he went unsigned until after the draft as well.
He would be a better fit at guard than Uche Nwaneri (mentioned in the last slide), since he is much more accustomed to the zone-blocking scheme and previously worked with Dolphins offensive line coach John Benton with the Texans.
Smith actually had his best seasons in Houston under Benton, including a Pro Bowl season in 2013 (he played in the 2013 Pro Bowl, which was for the 2012 season).
He would be more of a stop-gap while developing another guard, much more so than Nwaneri due to his age. Along with his play, Smith also adds leadership to the offensive line in what would be a homecoming (Miami originally drafted Smith in 2003).
Back in March, Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald reported that the Dolphins showed some interest in Smith, interest that I could see being renewed after the draft.
T Tyson Clabo
The Dolphins have practically preached to the world that they will likely draft their next starting right tackle in May, at least that seems to be the basis of this report on the matter by The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson.
Miami also signed someone that could provide depth at the position in former Detroit Lion Jason Fox, however, Fox does have an injury history that isn't the most reliable.
With that in mind, what is Tyson Clabo up to these days?
Clabo at this point would mainly be a depth signing, he didn't exactly have what one would call a good, or even decent year with Miami last season (he was benched at one point prior to the Jonathan Martin incident thrusting him back into the starting right tackle position), but he did improve a bit after his benching.
Would I want Clabo starting? Not at all, Miami should still fill this position in the draft. In terms of depth and experience, his signing would work for Miami.
MLB Jonathan Vilma
I have a big list of former Hurricanes who played for the Dolphins' rivals that I still like, and Jonathan Vilma is atop that very list.
So if you excuse me, I'm going to go out of my way to say that this might be emotion talking rather than rational thought, I've always wanted Vilma on the Dolphins ever since his days at The U. I forgave him for being a Jet since they drafted him, and then loved his play with the Saints.
Also as a rule, if you sue Jeffrey Loria and the Miami Marlins, you're alright in my book.
With that said, what does any of this really have to do with football? It's simple: Vilma fills a need for the Dolphins, albeit as a stop gap at middle linebacker.
He fits well as a 4-3 middle linebacker and can provide this defense with the leadership needed to really become an elite defense.
The question around Vilma is his health, which is part of the reason why he's still out of work as of now. The last time Vilma (who will be 32 at the start of the season) played in every game was in 2010, a year where he led the Saints in tackles. In the last two seasons, he's only played in 12 games.
According to Christy Cabrera Chirinos of The Sun-Sentinel, Vilma is currently working out at the University of Miami's facilities and, according to Omar Kelly of The Sun-Sentinel, Vilma would "love to play with the Dolphins."
Best case with Vilma, draft a linebacker (do that anyway), then sign Vilma after the draft. Vilma's leadership and experience will help said draft pick, as well as the rest of the defense.
TE Jermichael Finley
Everyone knows I want a tight end, and I want one now!
Should Jermichael Finley be that tight end? Let's look at the pros and cons.
Finley is only 27 years old. That's good, as he's still fairly young. He's 6'5" and 247 pounds, making him the best possible red-zone target that Ryan Tannehill could ever ask for. In 70 career games he has 223 receptions for 2,785 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Now the cons: his injury history. He's had issues with his knees, as he missed the final 11 games of the 2010 season with torn ligaments in his knee.
The most concerning injury is the one he's attempting to return from, one where he injured his neck and was temporarily paralyzed. He would need spinal fusion surgery afterwards but since then he has been rehabbing in anticipation of a return to the NFL.
Whether he will return to the field is contingent upon if he's cleared to play (for a full explanation on the possible complications of Finley's injury, check out this piece by Bleacher Report's Dave Siebert, M.D. on Finely's recovery).
Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald reports that Miami has already had conversations with Finley about joining the Dolphins if cleared, and Dave Hyde of The Sun-Sentinel reports that if that comes to pass, Miami will want to sign Finley to a one-year prove it deal that's "low-dollars, low risk."
If Finley's cleared and can remain healthy afterwards (which Dr. Siebert says is a great possibility), Finley would be a steal for the Dolphins in free agency and one that I would endorse.
Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.