The Miami Dolphins have been mired in mediocrity for far too long. The only thing that has become rarer than a winning season is one that ends after a playoff game. The 2014 season seemed promising enough and for a while it appeared that Miami may finally be heading for some January football but the teams latest late-season collapse has them right back where they always seem to be at this time of year.
We're just days away from when agents can start reaching out to teams and negotiate the best possible deals for their players. That's when news will start trickling out that this player intends to sign here or that player has a bidding war going between team A and team B. It's when fans can start to envision what their team is going to look like for the upcoming season and just how committed those teams are to putting out a winning product.
It's also a time when teams around the league start to show what their plan is for the upcoming season. Some teams are going to be big spenders while others will try to rebuild through the draft. The Dolphins have been clearing up cap space in recent weeks which leads one to believe that they are going to go on yet another offseason spending spree in hopes of finally finding the right combination of players to get them to the promise land. With that in mind, and in no particular order, here are the top offseason needs for the Dolphins.
This isn't something new as the Dolphins have had problems with their linebackers for the past several years. The team spent a lot of money in 2013 bringing in free agents Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler but both have not performed up to their expectations and have been largely disappointing. Ellerbe has battled injuries so some might say he hasn't gotten a fair share but at the end of the day, all that matters is what happens on the field. Both players are possibilities to be cut in the coming days to free up more cap space and it's clear that Miami will be targeting new linebackers for the upcoming season.
Miami has seen numerous players come and go at the corner position but can't seem to find a combination that sticks. Pro Bowler Brent Grimes has given the team some stability since signing with Miami in 2013 but the second cornerback spot has been a bit of a revolving door. The Dolphins cut Cortland Finnegan earlier this week, likely moving on from the veteran due to his track record of injuries in recent years. Finnegan did a good job when healthy last season but Miami needs someone they can count on for an entire season. There are possible options already on the roster in guys like Jamar Taylor, Will Davis and Jimmy Wilson, who is a free agent and also plays safety, but neither of them have shown that they can handle the load for 16 games.
When the Dolphins endured their latest late-season collapse it was due in large part to an inability to stop the run. While Randy Starks is still under contract, his age (31) is starting to become a factor as he clearly wore down as the season went on. Former first round pick Jared Odrick is an unrestricted free agent and could be retained at the right price, depending on what Miami does in the open market and if they plan on drafting another DT. Over the past few days the Dolphins have been linked to free agent Ndamukong Suh who is undoubtedly the top available player at his position, but the price tag will be extremely high.
Slowly but surely the Dolphins have been rebuilding their offensive line after it was in shambles just a couple years ago. The signing of Branden Albert and drafting of Ja'Wuan James took care of the two tackle positions and Miami has Pro Bowler Mike Pouncey at center so three of the five spots are pretty well taken care of. The Dolphins used back-to-back third round picks in 2012 and 2013 on Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner, respectively, but neither have shown to be a long-term answer. That could change after another offseason of hard work and improvements, but it's more likely that Miami will need to address their need in free agency. The draft is also a possibility but it's difficult to find someone outside of the first round that can step right in and start and it's hard to think that the Dolphins will spend another high pick on an offensive lineman with so many other glaring needs that need to be addressed.
Similar to at cornerback, Miami has one of the two safety spots pretty well locked up with Reshad Jones. The second spot was filled in nicely last season by Louis Delmas but the injury prone veteran went down with a torn ACL late in the season and is now an unrestricted free agent, as is backup safety and nickel corner Jimmy Wilson. It wouldn't be a surprise for Miami to try and re-sign Wilson but the team still needs to find a solid starter to play alongside Jones. The likelihood is that they try to find someone on the open market but the options are limited.
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