5 Moves Miami Dolphins Should Have Made This Offseason
Instead of playing Monday morning quarterback after the season, now is the time to put the predictions on record with training camp just 10 days away.
From signing Branden Albert and Earl Mitchell to drafting Jarvis Landry and Jordan Tripp, the Dolphins clearly made a number of solid moves to improve the team.
However, there were also a few things they could have done differently that would have made the offseason even more successful.
So let's take a look at some of those moves the Dolphins should have made this offseason that would have maximized the potential of the team in 2014.
Restructuring Matt Moore's Contract
It would be pretty tough to find a player on the Dolphins who's more overpaid than Matt Moore.
According to Spotrac, Moore is scheduled to make $4 million in 2014, with his contract counting a ridiculous $5.5 million against the cap.
As the sixth highest-paid player on the team, Miami is paying a steep price for someone it never even wants to see step on the field.
Even if he does get forced into action, his 11-12 career record as a starter doesn't provide the fans any confidence in his abilities to lead the team to the playoffs.
There's no doubt the Dolphins should have approached Moore about taking a pay cut, and if he refused, they could have easily cut him to gain an extra $4 million in cap space.
While there's no way to know for sure what that $4 million could have been used for, it's safe to say it would be better served going to a player who will actually step on the field.
At this point the only logical option the team has left is to trade Moore at some point this season because allowing him to stick around and play out his contract at that price would be a huge missed opportunity for the Dolphins.
Trading Back in the 1st Round
In a vacuum, the drafting of Ja'Wuan James in the first round makes plenty of sense.
At 6’6” and 311 pounds with 35-inch arms, he should make a smooth transition into Miami’s zone-blocking scheme and will start from Day 1 at right tackle.
Unlike most of the other options who were available, the former Tennessee Volunteer doesn't even have to make the adjustment of switching over from the left side, as he played all 49 games of his college career at right tackle.
Combine that with his impressive combination of quickness, awareness, technique and hustle, and James should make an immediate impact and be a solid contributor all season long.
The problem is that at No. 19, the Dolphins clearly reached big time on James.
Not only was James not considered one of the top two available tackles by most experts at the time, but there wasn't a single team after the Dolphins in the first round that was looking for offensive line help.
After the Dolphins selected James, the next offensive tackle off the board was Joel Bitonio in the second round at No. 35 overall.
Meanwhile, the team picking directly after the Dolphins—the Arizona Cardinals—picked up an extra third-round pick from the New Orleans Saints just to move back seven spots from 20 to 27, via NFL.com's Chris Wesseling.
There is every reason to believe the Dolphins could have made the same trade with the Saints, netting them a third-round pick while still allowing them to draft James at No. 27 overall.
While we can speculate as to who they could have gotten with that extra third-round pick, the chances are good that the player would have given them some type of contributions this season.
Extending Upcoming Free Agents
Back in April I wrote about how signing Charles Clay to an extension was one of the Dolphins' remaining offseason priorities.
Fast-forward a few months, and the team is currently sitting with just over $13.4 million in cap space available, according to Spotrac, and has a trio of key players set to hit the free-agent market after the season.
We know that Mike Pouncey will be around next year after the team picked up his fifth-year option, but Jared Odrick, Jimmy Wilson and Clay are entering the final year of their contracts.
The 25-year-old Clay is coming off a breakout season where he recorded 69 catches for 759 yards and six touchdowns, and this is likely the team's last chance to sign him at a relatively discounted price.
Another big year from Clay, and the price tag is going to shoot sky-high.
Wilson is in a similar position to Clay, as the 27-year-old has steadily improved the last few years but has yet to have a full breakout season.
As I recently mentioned, I believe that this is the year Wilson breaks out and becomes an integral part of the Dolphins defense.
Considering the former seventh-round pick is scheduled to make just $1.4 million this year, it's very likely he would jump at the chance to sign an extension and net some long-term security.
Odrick, meanwhile, is in a slightly different position as he is a bit more proven than the other two.
The former first-round pick is coming off a dominant 2013 season and would likely demand a contract similar to Paul Soliai's five-year, $32 million deal he signed with the Atlanta Falcons.
While I wasn't willing to invest that much time and money in the 30-year-old Soliai, I would be more than willing to do it for the 26-year-old Odrick, who is just about to hit the prime years of his career.
It's unlikely that the Dolphins sign all three players to extensions before they hit free agency, but it would be smart to try to get at least one or two of them locked up long term.
After all, the longer the team waits, the more money each player is going to cost on the open market.
Signing LeGarrette Blount Instead of Knowshon Moreno
We all knew that the Dolphins would be in the market for a running back during the offseason; we just didn't know if it would come through free agency or the draft.
If what we have seen for the last two months is any indication, it appears the Dolphins made the wrong choice.
Based on his initial four-to-five week timetable, Moreno should be back within the next two weeks, but it remains to be seen how healthy he will truly be upon his return.
In signing him, the Dolphins clearly believed that Moreno would be a good fit for the team as a weapon in the passing game and as a blocker in the backfield.
While Moreno still can do those things if healthy, a case could be made that Blount would have been a much better fit.
The 27-year-old Blount is exactly the type of big, physical running back the team needs to complement the speedy Lamar Miller, and he is coming off a 2013 season where he rushed for 11 total touchdowns in the regular season and playoffs.
In signing him, the Dolphins could have also saved money in 2014, as Blount agreed to a two-year, $3.8 million deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers—a number that's just a bit higher than the $3 million Moreno is getting for this year alone.
Signing Alterraun Verner Instead of Cortland Finnegan
The Dolphins clearly felt their secondary could use some improvement in the offseason, and they addressed it by cutting Dimitri Patterson and signing Cortland Finnegan to a two-year, $11 million deal.
While I'm all for bringing in another cornerback to solidify the secondary, I'm very skeptical as to whether Finnegan is the answer.
The 30-year-old cornerback is coming off an injury-plagued 2013 season that saw him play in just seven games before being placed on injured reserve with a fractured orbital bone.
When he did play, he allowed quarterbacks to complete 76.5 percent of their passes thrown at him for a 136 passer rating, ranking 109th out of 110 cornerbacks, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
While all reports out of Miami have been very positive on the veteran cornerback thus far, it stands to reason that the team could have found a better use for its money on the open market.
Instead of paying Finnegan an average of $5.5 million for two years, the Dolphins could have given the 25-year-old Alterraun Verner a similar contract to the four-year, $25 million deal he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
At this point in their careers, Verner is a much better player than Finnegan, and he is only costing Tampa Bay an average of $1 million more for the next two seasons.
It's certainly possible that Finnegan can return to his 2011 form, when he was one of the league's top cornerbacks, and become a lethal combination with Brent Grimes.
However, at this point it's safe to say that the secondary would have one less question mark if the team paid a bit extra to sign Verner.