Certainly, there are a few concerns for the Miami Dolphins going into the 2011 season, that is if there is one. The team currently lacks stability on offense, especially at quarterback, running back and the interior of the offensive line.
Then there is the way the team from South Florida ended the season with losses to woeful Cleveland and Detroit before being blasted by a New England team without much to play for.
But enough of the negativity, one thing that Miami is well set for is free agency. See, the Dolphins only have 11 unrestricted free agents, two restricted free agents, and three exclusive rights free agents, according to the current player designations.
There is a chance that some player designations will change with a new collective bargaining agreement, but that will even benefit the Dolphins further if a player such as nose tackle Paul Soliai is regarded as a restricted free agent instead of an unrestricted free agent.
Regardless, there is no need for Dolfans to worry because everyone of the free agents is replaceable and most probably should be allowed to depart.
Here is an in-depth look at each of Miami's free agents:
"Big Paul" finally played as Cam Cameron and Randy Mueller envisioned when they drafted him in 2007. Still, you are talking about a player who had just 39 tackles and two sacks.
Now granted, nose tackles aren't tackling or sack machines, but from a production standpoint, Miami could possibly come up with a suitable replacement, even if they had to move Randy Starks inside again.
Soliai is probably the one player I would push fairly hard for Miami to re-sign because there is a dearth of nose tackles in the NFL and there is no doubt that Soliai was a factor against the run last year.
However, the Dolphins can't get in a bidding war because you have to wonder if the Dolphins would be getting the motivated Soliai from last year or the one who underachieved for the first three years of his career.
Don't forget that Soliai was a player considered to be on the roster bubble during the 2010 preseason.
At 355 pounds, Soliai will also be constantly battling a weight issue, which should scare those willing to sign the former Utah product to a long-term deal.
Here are some facts about Ronnie Brown that are pretty hard to ignore.
Brown has played in all 16 games once in his career, which just happened to be last season when he averaged just 3.7 yards per carry. Brown also averaged just 12 carries per game.
He has broken the 1,000 yard rushing mark just once (in 2006 when he rushed for 1,008 yards).
However, what is far more important than Brown's statistics is the fact that he doesn't seem to have the same power or explosiveness that he had even a couple of years ago.
Consider that Brown's average number of carries was the lowest of his career, which seems to reflect a coaching staff that didn't believe in him down the stretch.
Running backs have a short shelf life in the NFL; Brown will enter his seventh season and turn 30 in 2011. That's a not a recipe for a long-term contract.
Earlier this offseason, General Manager Jeff Ireland indicated that the Dolphins were likely to retain either Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams. Personally, I would probably let both walk.
Williams might have more left in the tank than Brown even at 33, but he is a reserve player at best right now having not carried the primary load since 2003 with the exception of a seven-game stretch in 2009.
Williams still has some speed to the outside, but whereas he used to break tackles up the middle, he too often goes down on first contact now.
One other ulterior motive for letting Brown and Williams walk now is that if they have one good year left in them, the Dolphins could score a nice compensation pick or picks in 2012.
Let me start by saying that I wouldn't mind keeping Tony McDaniel. He racked up 36 tackles and 2.5 sacks despite starting just one game.
I just don't think that Miami can offer the full-time role and size contract that McDaniel will want. The Dolphins return Kendall Langford and Randy Starks as the starting defensive ends and figure to get production out of second-year product Jared Odrick and veteran Philip Merling.
The only scenario that I can see right now that would make re-signing McDaniel a possible priority would be if Soliai left, and either Starks or McDaniel could slide inside.
Truth be told, I don't think that scenario would even be enough to keep McDaniel in South Florida. His probable success elsewhere could also result in a compensation pick in 2012.
After he was acquired from Dallas right before the start of the 2010 season, McQuistan actually didn't do a bad job for the Dolphins in starting eight games.
He just didn't do a particularly good job, either. He is what he is, which is a serviceable backup with position versatility.
The problem for McQuistan is that Miami needs a better interior lineman with power, speed, and nastiness.
The Dolphins will desperately try to find one in the draft or free agency (Logan Mankins, Carl Nicks, Davin Joseph and Harvey Dahl would all be massive upgrades for the Dolphins).
Chad, thanks for 2008, but it's time for you to start coaching.
This might seem a bit callous, but for a guy who has had more shoulder surgeries than any human being should go through you have to reach the pragmatic conclusion that he can't play anymore.
I wouldn't cry too hard for Pennington, either, because the former Rhodes Scholar finalist will likely find success in his next career, whatever it may be.
While I doubt the Dolphins would stand in the way of Pennington giving it one more shot, I don't expect them to hold a roster spot for him either, which leads us to the fate of another free-agent quarterback.
Several members of the media and a lot of fans have been far more impressed with Tyler Thigpen than I have. Thigpen wants to start and I wish him luck with that, but its not going to happen in South Florida.
With as much uncertainty as Miami had at the quarterback position last season, the fact that Thigpen only got his one start due to a knee injury to Chad Henne is a clear indictment of what Thigpen brings to the table. He is an undersized scrambler with decent arm strength who runs way too hot and cold to rely on.
He has marginal accuracy and still doesn't seem to know when to throw the ball away, as evidenced by being sacked eight times and picked off twice in such limited duty last year.
The decision-making regime seems committed to giving Henne another chance and seems likely to bring in a veteran and possibly a draft pick to compete for the starting job. Translation: There is no room at the inn for Thigpen.
Richie Incognito started all 16 games for the Dolphins in 2010 but he falls into a similar category as McQuistan.
If the best you can do is a limited drive blocker at guard (which is exactly what Incognito is), then Miami is probably going to struggle running the football again.
There has been talk of moving Incognito to center where his skill set would be more appropriate, but he has to show consistency snapping the football, which he clearly couldn't do as of late last season.
I am not sure that you don't extend a deal to Incognito, but I don't think its for more than one year and only if the Dolphins can't do better.
I would actually like to see what Patrick Cobbs could do with a full year removed from a severe knee injury, but more from a "third down coming out of the backfield" perspective.
Yes, he is a core player on special teams (although much more suited as a flyer than a returner) but the reality is that he is probably easily replaceable and no sure bet to make the roster even as Tony Sparano's favorite player.
By the way, Cobbs got a whopping total of nine touches on offense in 2010.
Quite honestly, I would love to know how Quentin Moses is still a Miami Dolphin after four years.
For a guy who is supposed to be a pass-rushing outside linebacker, to have only 29 tackles and 3.5 sacks during that span is mind-boggling.
I'd say he is a lock to depart, but heck I have been wrong on him making the team so many times it seems like the movie Groundhog Day.
Regardless, Dolfans won't miss him if he is gone and probably won't notice him if he stays.
Signing a journeyman center/guard doesn't exactly make or break a team's free agency period. These guys are usually a "dime a dozen."
Ones who are coming off an ACL tears like Procter suffered late in the season don't get usually get jobs. In short, bank on one fewer former Dallas Cowboy on the roster.
I could be wrong here, but I don't think NFL teams will be lining up for a restricted free agent who missed all of 2010 after breaking his foot for a second time.
That could be a good thing for Miami, because when Garner was healthy for a stretch in 2009, he looked like the team's most athletic interior linemen by far.
If, and its pretty big if, Garner passes a physical, the Dolphins should bring him back.
I remember seeing this ridiculously tall lanky kid from about 10 feet away playing in his first game and catching a touchdown in a win against San Francisco in 2008. I thought maybe the Dolphins have something in this kid Joey Haynos.
Unfortunately, that's the best it ever really got for Haynos and he was waived/injured after breaking his foot in training camp last season.
Miami's other restricted free agent won't be back.
Hilliard, Sheets, and Murtha are the team's exclusive rights free agents which means that if Miami wants them back, they are returning.
Figure on Hilliard to return since he is reportedly a favorite of GM Ireland and could potentially be the only veteran runner still in the fold.
Sheets has intriguing speed and might get a look in camp. I look at Murtha and see a human turnstile so I'd rather the team look elsewhere for a swing tackle.
So in review, I'd try to re-sign Soliai, and consider bringing back Incognito, Cobbs and Garner for minimum contracts.
What that means for Dolphins fans is that they can worry more about new arrivals rather than departures whenever a new collective bargaining agreement is signed.