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Miami Dolphins

Defining the Tank and Exploring the Alternatives

Travis Wingfield

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A Message from a Pro-Tanker

The season began as a quiet one for the Dolphins fan base through the four games in September. Social media or otherwise, supporters were mostly able to compartmentalize the 2019 season for what it is — a stepping stone.

Now, the Dolphins are set to host a fellow winless outfit, and the fan base is divided once more. The possibility of a win tantalizes some. The likelihood of a loss brings the others one step closer to the ultimate prize — the top pick in next year’s draft.

We’ll delve into the hypothetical alternative, and what it might have looked like this season, but it’s important to take the temperature of the collective. To self-govern ourselves (myself) by observing the rhetorical situation and how our ideas (tweets) are perceived by others.

One obstacle of covering this sport (this team) for a living is the development of rigid ideas. Inundating myself with the daily activity of the team, the analysis and the all-22; all of it can equate to a sense of entitlement. Platforms in this industry are hard-earned, but it’s equally difficult to avoid becoming a preachy prick that dismisses any idea other than his own.

While I’m adamantly behind the idea of doing whatever it takes to acquire the best quarterback available, I don’t ever think it’s fair to dismiss another’s feelings or emotion attached to the team. That’s entirely the right of the individual.

The sport is entertainment, an enjoyable hobby that we all digest in different ways. The last 20 years — which equates to nearly the entirety of my football fandom as a 31-year-old — has somewhat desensitized me to the idea of a losing season.

Growing up directly in the middle of the century of mediocre Dolphins football has allowed me to open myself up to drastic measures to get this thing fixed. I have longed for even the imaginary scenario where Miami are 10-3 heading into a December game with the Pats, and a chance to clinch home field. How sad is that fantasy? No grand illusions of winning the big game, but rather settling for entering January with expectations. Something that simply hasn’t happened since Lamar Smith’s epic, overtime touchdown run in the 2000 playoffs.

It’s not as though the pro-tank crowd is taking solace in Miami’s defeats; it’s the foresight to recognize that this is beneficial to expediting the rebuild. It’s no different than rooting against the Steelers in pursuit of that draft pick climbing up the board. Of course, there are more preferable routes to get back to the glory that this franchise used to enjoy, nobody is arguing otherwise. It’s the belief that either outcome — winning five games, compared to winning no games — leaves the team in the exact same place, but with one caveat.

A higher draft pick.

There’s no thought about 2019 in this pursuit. It’s entirely, 100%, unequivocally about 2020, and beyond. It always has been. If it all works, this will be a mere, comedic footnote to a new era of Dolphins football.

Alternatives to the Tank

These two topics could’ve stood on their own as independent articles, but I think they work best in tandem. To support the argument of the tank I’d like to look at the likely alternatives had Miami taken an alternative route.

The route defined as maximizing market opportunities. If Miami continues to properly assess it’s own assets, then the likelihood of building a roster capable of sustaining postseason and championship success increases.

Market opportunities. That term should stand out as you comb through that description. Nobody will argue against losing Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick, and those departures certainly prolong the rebuild. The Dolphins negotiated the situation to capitalize on a rare opportunities (Houston desperate for OL help, Pittsburgh dealing a R1 pick with a backup QB at the reins),  to sell commodities for a price much greater than what Miami paid to initially acquire said players.

The Minkah Fitzpatrick pick is on its way to turning into a top five selection, while Laremy Tunsil brought back more draft picks than some blockbuster quarterback moves.

Those deals should be viewed on a unanimous plane by the fan base. Difficult pills to swallow as talent exits, but an acknowledgement that Miami seized unusually above-market value assets in return.

We good with that?

Then, the issue of the rest of the roster.

Sep 15, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (29) celebrates after recovering a loose football during the second half against the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Miami’s biggest free agent buy — aside from the unrivaled salary at the quarterback position — didn’t break camp with the team. Nobody received a bigger free agent contract to bring their respective talents to South Beach than Dewayne Allen. He was cut at the conclusion of August.

Devante Parker was brought back, though hit deal was greater than Allen’s, but as far as incoming free agents not named Ryan Fitzpatrick, Allen was the gem of the class, financially speaking.

The Dolphins entertained current Saints fill-in Teddy Bridgewater, but the Miami native opted to stay in New Orleans as Drew Brees’ backup. Losing games was never the driving point of the offseason model, but rather setting a price point and committing to a linear mode of operation.

The opposing approach is exactly the route Miami took to wind up in this mess. Undoing the nearly $100 million in guaranteed money signed over to the likes of Andre Branch, Kiko Alonso, T.J. McDonald, Ryan Tannehill and Robert Quinn required some accounting gymnastics to reset the books, and give the team a fighting chance in the future.

Eric Rowe, Chris Reed, Tank Carradine — this was store from which Miami were shopping. These players — and their contract demands — jived with the Dolphins first priority of a hard financial reset.

It started with the firing of Adam Gase. In his 2018 season debrief with Stephen Ross, Gase was informed of the new direction. He didn’t agree with it, and the two sides parted company.

So, what if Gase persuaded Ross to maintain the status quo? What would that look like? Of course, the Dolphins could’ve axed Gase, then continued the Band-Aid approach with a new regime. But the jimmies and joes were still lacking, even with better X’s and O’s.

Let’s go name-by-name.

Ryan Tannehill – I don’t think this one requires a lot of explanation. It was time for the organization to end this relationship. If Tannehill had been brought back, the team’s on-field performance improves from what we’ve seen through four games, but the win total doesn’t. The additional $13 million of cash compensation would’ve prevented Miami from rolling money into next offseason by paying the debt in this rebuild season.

Saving money and preventing another seven or eight-win season sounds like a win-win. Tannehill is the Titans backup and has not seen regular season action.

Robert Quinn – Miami also ate dead money on Quinn’s trade, but the cash savings were considerable with the pass rusher’s departure. Miami finagled another draft pick (4th for Tannehill, 6th for Quinn) in addition to clearing out more cash commitments — $20 million between the two.

Quinn has appeared in three games for the Cowboys with four QB hits (he had 15 all of 2018).

Josh Sitton – The team cut Josh Sitton in March. The guard promptly retired from football two months later.

Danny Amendola – Lopping off Amendola’s salary saved the team $6 million in 2019 cash commitments. The receiver has 11 receptions and 147 yards through four games in Detroit.

Dec 30, 2018; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Kiko Alonso (47) leaves the field after being ejected against the Buffalo Bills during the third quarter at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Ja’Wuan James – James is a good player, but the concerns with him were always about injuries. After inking a deal with Denver that made him the second highest-paid right tackle in football, James played one game and has been on the shelf since the opener. That brings his games-played-total to 47 out of 69 over the last five seasons. If Miami matched Denver’s offer, they would’ve owed James $17 million in cash this season, and been on the hook for another $15 million in guaranteed cash over the coming years.

Akeem Spence – Spence was a surprise survivor of the original purge, but didn’t make it past camp with the Dolphins. Now, in Philadelphia, the defensive tackle has four tackles and no sacks, or tackles-for-loss, through four games. Miami saved more than $3 million by cutting Spence.

Kiko Alonso – Alonso personified faulty self-scouting among football fan bases. For three years, Alonso was a liability, yet he ate up hefty portions of the cap. Trading Alonso relieved Miami of $3 million in guaranteed money. Alonso has six tackles in five games for the Saints.

T.J. McDonald – Cutting McDonald penalized the Dolphins more than it saved ($1.4 million in total savings), but it removed a player that was not a scheme fit. McDonald worked out for the Raiders in September, but remains a free agent.

Tunsil, Fitzpatrick and Kenny Stills are all performing well in their new cities. Excusing those three players would be disingenuous to the exercise. The point remains, however, that retaining those players wouldn’t have moved the needle beyond a few games for a team that benefitted from cap relief (present and future) and acquired a ransom of draft picks.

Miami saved more than $45 million by parting ways with Quinn, Alonso, Amendola, Spence, McDonald, James and Tannehill.

Together, these 7 players respectively rank 48th, 103rd, 48th, 140th, and three DNQ’s (Tannehill, McDonald and James) at their positions according to Pro Football Focus. With them, Miami was still in need of a roster reconstruction project. With a reward for what? Six, maybe seven wins?

Is that satisfactory?

It’s up to you to embrace the new operating procedure in Miami. It’s nuanced, it’s consistent, and yet it promises nothing — but after two decades of enduring positively nothing, I’m willing to try something new.

@WingfieldNFL

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Damon Williams

    October 9, 2019 at 11:39 am

    Another great piece!

    • Avatar

      Rick Vesser

      October 9, 2019 at 11:58 am

      Hey Travis, loved the article. Everyone should see this to help possibly seeing the Dolphins mgmt thinking & finally acting responsible in making right decisions. From a Dolphin Fan in N. Idaho, thanks for putting it out there!

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Extend DeVante Parker

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

One of the longest-tenured players on the team may very well be a Miami Dolphin for life.

According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, the Miami Dolphins have extended DeVante Parker through the 2023 season.

All of the details are still being flushed out, but the deal is a 4-year, $40m extension, with an $8m signing bonus (which is guaranteed).

According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Parker will earn $4.5m guaranteed in 2020, and $7.7m guaranteed in 2021.

Parker signs this extension in the middle of a career year. His 55 catches are 1 shy of his career-high (56, 2016), his 882 receiving yards surpass his prior career-high by 138 yards (2016), and his 6 touchdowns are only 3 less than his career total coming into the 2019 season.

Whether it’s Chad O’Shea‘s offense, a shift in Quarterback mentality, or the receiver finally coming into his own, Parker has shown that he can be a #1 receiver in this offense. Though some fans may be hoping for DeAndre Hopkins or Odell Beckham Jr. “elite”, the truth is, Parker isn’t that far behind.

His extension is in line with his production, and it’s fair to say that Parker’s potential still hasn’t been tapped. It’ll be interesting to see how much Parker builds off of his career-year, especially if the Dolphins can solidify their offensive line and give their receivers a chance to get open (more often).

Parker joins Ryan Tannehill and Mike Pouncey as the only other 1st-round picks drafted this decade to have signed an extension with the team.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins roster move round-up: Week 15 sees several more changes

Shawn Digity

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Miami Dolphins Linden Stephens
Linden Stephens defending Los Angeles Rams tight end Johnny Mundt

MIAMI (Locked On Dolphins) – Miami Dolphins continue to change up the roster

The Miami Dolphins have continued their roster churning in Week 15, leading up to their prizefight against the New York Giants on December 15.

While it’s been a mainstay strategy for the Dolphins this year, to comb over the waiver wire and the free agency market, there was a significant uptick in waiver wire awards last, totaling four new players being claimed.

Last week’s claimed players included Trevor Davis, Mack Hollins, Zach Zenner, and Zach Sieler. Zenner’s Miami stint was short-lived; he was waived on Tuesday, December 10 to make room for the newest wave of Dolphins signees.

Along with Zenner’s release, the Miami Dolphins added cornerbacks Ken Webster and Ryan Lewis to the Injured Reserve list.

Those three transactions allowed the Dolphins to scoop a player from the New England Patriots’ practice squad, defensive back Nate Brooks, a second player from the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad, linebacker Jamal Davis II, and a third player, offensive lineman Adam Pankey, who was waived by the Green Bay Packers.

Nate Brooks is a rookie defensive back that played at North Texas and has spent time with the Patriots and Arizona Cardinals.

Jamal Davis II is also a rookie. He entered the league from Akron. As mentioned above, he spent time with the Titans earlier this year before the Miami Dolphins signed him.

Adam Pankey is the most traveled player the Dolphins have added. Pankey went undrafted in 2017 out of West Virginia and has had two runs with the Packers and a short one with the Titans.

On December 7, cornerback Linden Stephens was added to the roster in a last-minute shuffle before the Dolphins-Jets game. Cornerback Chris Lammons was released to make room for Stephens on the squad, per Adam Beasley.

Stephens has had tenures with the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. He formerly played at Cincinnati in college.

In practice squad news, cornerback Rashard Causey was added to the group on December 12, per Safid Deen. Causey played college ball at UCF and has spent time with the Denver Broncos.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Giants Week 15 Preview

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins set to run it back in New York

Who: Dolphins (3-10) @ Giants (2-11)
When: Sunday December 15, 1:00 East
Where: MetLife Stadium — East Rutherford, NJ
Weather: 35 degrees, partly cloudy
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +3

DolphinsGiants

The Miami Dolphins did not equip Brian Flores with a competitive roster for the 2019 season. Despite taking a path traveled by nobody else in the league, Miami sits with a better record than three teams in the league, and Sunday will pit the Fins up against one of those teams.

The Giants thought they were constructing a playoff roster that could run the football behind former number-two overall pick Saquon Barkley, and disrupt both the run and pass with an influx of high resources spent on the defensive line.

Even with half the cash payroll of the next lowest team on that notorious list, and 11 of its original opening day starters gone for one reason or another, Miami enter a week-15 road game as mere three-point dogs.

Still, with three or four new bodies working into the rotation every week, Brian Flores’ Dolphins have won three games since the bye week, and been within a score in the fourth quarter for all nine games.

Does either team want to win this game? Of course the players and coaches will want to be rewarded for a long, arduous work week, but what good does a victory do in the grand scheme of things? Flores has proven that he can coach his ass off, while Pat Shurmur is assured to lose his job whatever happens these final three weeks.

The cost, for the Giants, could be Chase Young. For Miami, perhaps even more severe as the best quarterback prospect of the last several years could suddenly be available because of medical concerns, should the team land in the top five.

A victory Sunday will likely remove Miami from that perch as the Lions and Cardinals are both underdogs, and would each jump the Dolphins with a one-game difference in the standings.

The Scheme:

Offense:

Mike Shula’s scheme is as 11-personnel heavy as any in the league, but things have changed due to injuries. Without Evan Ingram to provide the ultimate flexibility between 11 and 12-personnel packages, the Giants have lacked much variety in his absence. Using 81% one back, one tight end (3rdmost in football), Miami will be afforded the opportunity to get creative on defense altering its pre-snap look from the same package.

The Giants are successful on just 41% of their plays from this personnel grouping, including 12 interceptions, 31 sacks and just 6.6 yards per passing play. New York only runs one other package (12-personnel) and also doesn’t have a lot of success out of that grouping. Adhering to old school principles, the Giants don’t throw from run formations, and the predictability has the Giants averaging just 5.7 YPA from 12-personnel.

The Giants rank 26th in total offense, 22nd in passing, 26th in rushing and 25th in scoring.

Defense:

James Bettcher is a fan of sending pressure, and he will certainly try to heat up Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday. Fitzpatrick might have the last laugh with his ability to get the ball hot to the interior receivers working in behind the linebackers and winning one-on-one matchups with a young defensive backfield.

The Giants base is a 3-4 look, but elements of that defense are always sparingly used because of the nature of modern day football. Bettcher wants to get pressure out of his outside backers in Markus Golden, Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter, using his interior backers in a more traditional, off-ball sense.

New York blitzes 28.7% of the time — exactly the middle of the pack at 16th— but it’s safe to assume they’ll turn that number up on Sunday. The G-Men are in the middle of the pack in hurry rate, knockdown rate and pressure rate. The Giants 94 missed tackles are 13th most in the league.

The Giants rank 27th in total defense 26th in passing, 20th in rushing and 28th in scoring defense.

The Players:

Offense:

Eli Manning is Eli Manning. The Giants hung onto him for three years too long, and his storied career appears to be coming to an end in three weeks. Filling in for the injured Daniel Jones gives the Miami defense a chance to tee off on a quarterback for the first time since the home win over Sam Darnold and the New York Jets.

Manning can’t move, he can’t drive the ball, and there’s really no reason for him to be on a roster at this point. The Dolphins will hit him, turn him over, and dominate the Giants offense is he plays.

New York funneled a lot of resources into its offensive line, and it’s still one of the worst in football. Miami lacks true pass rushers, so it’ll be up to the stunts and games up front to get pressure. Expect Flores to blitz Manning relentlessly, likely with a lot of zero looks.

Holding Saquon Barkley has been easier for opponents this year. A lot of the Giants running game gets Barkley going horizontally, and he’s been able to make the big plays due to poor blocking and a nasty ankle sprain earlier in the year.

This game will be a big test for Taco Charlton, Vince Biegel, Andrew Van Ginkel, Charles Harris and the rest of the Miami edge players.

Defense:

Markus Golden stands to wreck this game for Miami. He’ll come down off the offense’s left edge, and that position has been an issue for the Dolphins all year long. Sliding protection and using a back or tight end to chip Golden is the only way Fitzpatrick will have any time to throw.

On the inside, the Giants offer the beef that Miami’s interior line struggles with the most. Dexter Lawrence is massive, and those are the kind of players that give Daniel Kilgore problems up front.

Alec Ogletree remains a focal point of the Giants defense, and that presents a lot of opportunities for the Dolphins. Look for Miami to empty out the backfield from 12 and 11-personnel, find Ogletree in coverage, and go to work.

The New York secondary is full of inexperience. Rookie DeAndre Baker has worn the rabbit hat (teams go after him) all year long while Janoris Jenkins appears to have past his prime.

This is a slow defense and I’d be surprised if Chad O’Shea doesn’t have his way with it in the passing game.

The Medical:

(Coming Friday)

The Opportunities:

If Devante Parker can go, there isn’t a player in the Giants defensive backfield that can handle his skill set. Regardless, Miami’s passing schemes will create opportunities for whichever players are healthy, especially Allen Hurns inside on mismatches from 12-personnel against linebackers. Patrick Laird should draw some favorable matchups in the passing game in his own right — expect a big day for The Intern.

If it’s Eli, expect a lot of pressure sent to overwhelm a bad Giants line and quarterback. If it’s Daniel Jones, expect Miami to play coverage and take the ball away from the rookie. Either way, this is the day the Dolphins defense gets healthy.

The Concerns:

The Giants skill players can make some noise. Darius Slayton’s speed is a problem, and he’s been producing regardless of who’s under center. The Dolphins added yet another pair of defensive backs to the injured reserve, and that’ll provide a challenge against Slayton, Golden Tate and Sterling Sheppard.

Miami haven’t been able to block many pass rushes, and they’ve created almost nothing by way of the ground game, so the Giants talented front is an issue. There will be one-on-one opportunities aplenty for Markus Golden, Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson and Leonard Williams.

The Projected Outcome:

It doesn’t matter if it’s Daniel Jones or Eli Manning. Both are going to give the Dolphins defense opportunities to take the football away, and neither presents much fear to a unit that is full of undrafted free agents are largely unknowns. Manning doesn’t have the physical traits to scare anyone and Jones is on track for the most turnovers at the position per game of all time. If Jones plays, it will be on a tender ankle that robs the one trait he has — his mobility.

Miami beat the Jets in November in convincing fashion. Every other game since the bye week — with the exception of the Cleveland and Buffalo (home) games — have been white knuckle affairs. This game has the makeup of a blowout, but in favor of the road team.

A bitter, angry team off the loss last week responds to Brian Flores’ message and puts a beating on the Giants.

Dolphins 27
Giants 13

@WingfieldNFL

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