Dolphins' Top Players to Avoid in 2021 NFL Free Agency
From the financial perks of playing in a state with no income tax to the already-competitive roster to the spending power to invest some serious money, the Dolphins are going to have an enticing pitch to some free agents.
In terms of building a championship team, free agency is a tricky proposition. Free-agency signings can bring in that key piece to the roster that elevates the team to the next level. After just missing the playoffs at 10-6, that should be the hope with this class.
But choosing the wrong free agents can result in subtraction by addition, misused resources and future financial headaches.
It's still important for Miami to do its homework, spend wisely and avoid some signings they may regret in the not-so-distant future. Based on how much they could command, potential fit with the Dolphins and actual on-field impact that can be expected, the franchise should be looking to avoid these guys.
WR T.Y. Hilton
The Dolphins should be targeting a receiver in free agency. There are a lot of mock drafts that will have the Fins taking DeVonta Smith or Ja'Marr Chase with the third pick in the draft, but bringing in a top-flight receiver with their cap space would allow them to target additional offensive line help.
But that's contingent on being able to bring in a true No. 1 receiver. Someone of Allen Robinson II, Chris Godwin or Kenny Golladay's caliber. What they can't do, is settle for a second- or third-tier free-agent wide receiver and convince themselves they've truly upgraded the receiving room.
One such signing would be T.Y. Hilton. The Colts receiver has a projected market value of a three-year deal worth $30.4 million, per Spotrac. That's well within the Dolphins' budget but does little to upgrade the potential of the offense.
At this point, Hilton is entering his age-32 season and hasn't topped 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. He's a reliable pass-catcher but has averaged just 7.4 and 8.2 yards per target over the past two seasons.
That's not markedly better than either DeVante Parker or Preston Williams, both of whom will play large roles if they can stay healthy. The Dolphins need a No. 1 receiver, not a veteran who will produce No. 3 numbers if he doesn't suffer an age-related decline.
RB Aaron Jones
The team doesn't have to look that far to realize why that's potentially a waste of resources. It has little to do with Jones, but both the in-state Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers found success with the running back position using a different approach.
The Bucs won a Super Bowl in part due to a strong postseason from Leonard Fournette. They had Ronald Jones II on the roster and drafted Ke'Shawn Vaughn in 2020 but were patient in making a move in free agency and found Fournette for just $2.5 million.
The Jags should rarely be looked at as a franchise to model, but they did find James Robinson as an undrafted free agent. That's not necessarily a replicable strategy, but it shows that value can be found at the position.
Myles Gaskin showed enough last season that the team shouldn't be desperate enough to spend big money on a marquee name at the position. Instead, they should draft another option and wait until the third or fourth wave of free agency to find a potential bargain.
Jones is a good running back and has a diverse skill set. But the Dolphins should continue to build their defense, receiving corps and offensive line with the resources they have.
LB Lavonte David
The Dolphins spent quite a bit last offseason to bring in veterans to restructure the defense. Emmanuel Ogbah, Kyle Van Noy, Byron Jones and Shaq Lawson were all costly guys brought into re-shape a struggling unit in 2019.
It worked. The Dolphins were massively improved and the play of those four was a big reason why. This season, the Dolphins can still spend some money to beef up the defense again, but they'll need to be picky with who they spend it on.
It would be tempting to steal an important piece from the Buccaneers defense that won a championship. That's what they did when signing Ogbah from the Chiefs.
The problem is that poaching someone from a Super Bowl champion usually involves paying a premium. The latest example was the Washington Football Team shelling out $40 million over four years to Kendall Fuller after his role on the Chiefs' Super Bowl-winning defense last season.
David figures to command a high price tag. Spotrac projects a three-year, $38 million deal for him, which doesn't even consider that championship premium.
As good as David is, that's a lot of money to commit to an inside linebacker when Jerome Baker needs to be extended, and there are needs elsewhere on the defense. The Dolphins got a lot out of Ogbah last season, but they still need a pass-rusher who will command double teams and produce on his own.
That's the element of the Bucs defense the Dolphins should be looking to emulate.