Miami Dolphins Off-Season: 5 Potential Under-the-Radar Free Agent Targets
One year after Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross made a splash by acquiring Brandon Marshall and Karlos Dansby, his team remains plagued by a long list of shortcomings. So will the real estate mogul splurge on another batch of pricey free agents?
He may not have to.
Rather than lure notable names like DeAngelo Williams and Kyle Orton to Miami, Ross and his staff can pursue some under the radar options. There is an abundance of overlooked and cheap free agents who might be able to sufficiently fill all of the Dolphins' needs, perhaps to the same degree as some of those expensive names.
Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome might be one of the greatest talent evaluators of all time. Just look at the Ravens string of success since he took over in 1996. He has stocked the team with future Hall of Famers and perennial Pro Bowlers.
So when a player leaves Baltimore, other teams should take note. The latest Raven to draw league wide intrigue is offensive tackle Marshal Yanda. At 6'4", 307 pounds, Yanda has been extremely effective when healthy, but has struggled to avoid the injury bug.
Obviously, the Dolphins don't need a tackle, but they could move him inside to right guard. Miami will likely have John Jerry and Nate Garner battle for the spot once training camp starts, but adding a player like Yanda would provide a huge upgrade and cement Miami's lines as one of the league's best.
The Packers have Jermichael Finley, the Patriots have Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, the Chargers have Antonio Gates, the Cowboys have Jason Witten, the Falcons have Tony Gonzalez, and you get the picture.
The NFL's most lethal offenses all have a great tight end at their disposal. But the Dolphins? They're still relying on Anthony Fasano to provide that extra punch. To their credit, Miami did draft H-back Charles Clay, but you can't rely on a sixth round pick to fill such a large role. Simply put, the 'Fins need to upgrade their tight end corps.
Unfortunately, there are no marquee tight ends on the market, so the Dolphins would have to pursue a cheaper option (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). Giants tight end Kevin Boss might be the most realistic and best fit. He is a very similar player to Fasano, but has outperformed him in each of the past three seasons. Boss always seemed like an afterthought in New York's crowded offense, so with an expanded role, he could become a weapon.
Everybody has spoken about Miami's need for a quarterback and running back at length, but another equally pressing need has been largely neglected: outside linebacker. Yes, Koa Misi and Cameron Wake will obviously retain their starting jobs; however, Ikaika Alama-Francis is the only other outside linebacker under contract.
What if Misi or Wake breaks an ankle during camp? Miami must add quality players to their linebacker corps to provide both depth and insurance. Moreover, the 'Fins need to add pass rushers—Cam Wake can't do it all by himself.
The list of outside linebackers slated for free agency is very mediocre, but one appealing name is former Giant Mathias Kiwanuka. Since New York drafted him in the first round of the 2006 Draft, Kiwanuka has endured a bit of a roller-coaster career, but he did rack up eight sacks in 2008.
Kiwanuka figures to have plenty of untapped potential, and the Dolphins should go after him.
With potential workhorse Daniel Thomas in the fold, the Dolphins need to acquire a complementary scat-back. Miami desperately needs to add a speedy third down back who can specialize in catching the ball and providing a change of pace.
Players like DeAngelo Williams, Reggie Bush, and Darren Sproles are the most desirable options, but all three will be heavily pursued and subsequently carry heavy price tags.
Instead, the Dolphins could target former Atlanta Falcon Jason Snelling. Not only does the 27-year-old have breakaway speed and great hands (caught 74 passes over the past two seasons), but he can also handle a significant workload, which makes him an even more valuable commodity.
When Michael Turner was sidelined by injury in 2009, Snelling carried the load for Atlanta, recording 142 carries for 613 yards and four touchdowns. Miami can target a pure scat-back who merely brings provides a change of pace, or they can go after a multi-threat back like Snelling.
Miami might not be willing to pay the steep price for Carson Palmer or Kyle Orton, so a free agent-to-be like Tarvaris Jackson could be the perfect target.
Jackson's career has been marred by disappointment, but his struggles are far overblown. In 2007, Jackson's only season as a true starter, he led the Vikings to an 8-4 record and a playoff berth. Although his stats were unimpressive, he had virtually no receiving weapons at his disposal. After that season, Brett Favre arrived and robbed Jackson of an opportunity to build off of his one promising season.
Jackson has already voiced his desire to leave Minnesota, and the Dolphins make a mutually great fit. He could come into camp with a great chance at seizing a starting job, and Miami could likely sign him at a minimal price. His accuracy is concerning, but a change of scenery might catalyze Jackson's development.