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Free Agent Targets by Position for the 2020 Miami Dolphins

Travis Wingfield

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“We can do anything we want. Whether it’s free agency or the draft, we’ve positioned ourselves where we can do anything, or get whatever player we feel that will help us as soon as possible.” – Chris Grier, September 17, 2019

After a pair of home drubbings to kick off the 2019 season, the Miami Dolphins’ brass felt it necessary for newly appointed Executive Vice President Chris Grier to answer questions from the media. Questions about where exactly this team — a team that had lost those two games by a combined score of 102-10 — is going.

Grier spoke with clarity. He spoke with consistency to the message relayed to the masses when Stephen Ross cleaned house on New Year’s Eve. Miami’s empowered General Manager discussed the irrefutable offers made by Houston and Pittsburgh that sent promising young players in Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick out of town.

The most revealing aspect of Grier’s availability, and the lone detour from the discussions of the grand plan to acquire many draft picks, was his proclamation about free agency.

“We’ll build very aggressively,” Grier said when asked if the front office will wait until the team is more established before spending big on the open market. “We’re not going to sit here on a bunch of money or anything.”

The pile of money accounts for roughly $150 million — fun coupons, as it were. With proverbial “road work” signs plastered throughout the roster, here are the best options at each position for Miami to explore.

Scheme fit, possibility of the player exiting his current team, resources the draft has to offer, and market value were all examined carefully when constructing this list. (Some data points provided by Pro Football Focus).

Quarterback: None

With Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen under contract next season, the need to support the imminent highly-drafted quarterback with a veteran can be handled in-house. Rosen certainly provides more upside on the field, but Fitzpatrick’s knowledge of the scheme and the league would better prepare the rookie for Sundays.

Rosen’s upside and significantly cheaper contract will probably outweigh the mentorship that Fitzpatrick can offer. The best case scenario would probably be to retain Fitzpatrick and peddle Rosen for a draft pick as close to the one the team gave up for him last April.

Running Back: Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
Previous Contract: UDFA Rookie Deal, $557K APY
Market Value: $5M APY (Dion Lewis, Duke Johnson deal)
Why He Might Be Available: Melvin Gordon’s return

Melvin Gordon’s holdout didn’t bear any fruit, but he’s back in the building and the Chargers could become incentivized to extend his contract. If they are, Ekeler likely hits the open market. His fit in the offense is seamless. The Dolphins want to pump the ball to the backs in the passing game, utilize the screen and feature backs that can pass protect.

On top of a 96% catch rate, six touchdowns, and an average of 6.13 yards per touch (10th in football) through four games, Ekeler is 9th in first downs via the rush, and hasn’t allowed a hit on his quarterback this season in pass protection. He leads all tailbacks in receiving yardage and total touchdowns.

According to Pro Football Focus, Ekeler is 26th among all backs in yards after contact average. He runs with exceptional balance and finishes runs with attitude. His lateral agility and elusiveness keeps the playbook open between all man and zone schemes.

He was a three-time academic All-American in college, and his testing numbers at his pro day were through the roof. Ekeler checks every box the Dolphins look for in a player.

Wide Receiver: Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos
Previous Contract: FA Deal worth $11M APY
Market Value: $10M APY, short-term (Tyler Boyd deal)
Why He Might Be Available: Antiquated scheme, no quarterback in Denver

Sanders turns 33-years-old in March, I’m perfectly aware. As the Dolphins are currently constructed, they need a technician of a route runner to run the inside routes and exploit linebackers and zone coverage. Devante Parker and Preston Williams are the trees on the outside, and the current production from the slot has been nil.

Sanders still gets it done with nuance. He’s a technician that attacks leverage and blind spots to uncover early in the pattern. Chad O’Shea wants to go empty from a variety of personnel packages, primarily 11 (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs). In that look, Sanders can draw two-way-go matchups inside and provide Miami’s rookie quarterback with a veteran security blanket.

Health has been a problem, but Sanders is back with a vengeance this year. He’s catching 67.6% of his targets for 13 yards per reception. His 2.04 yards-per-route-run mark ranks 21st among receivers with 20 targets this season.

Tight End: Mo Alie-Cox, Indianapolis Colts
Previous Contract: UDFA Rookie Deal, $525K APY
Market Value: $1.5M APY (Darren Fells deal)
Why He Might Be Available: Jack Doyle, possible re-signing Eric Ebron

Alie-Cox comes cheap because of the dying nature of his position. Inline blocking tight ends aren’t at the epidemic level of the fullback yet, but the money the league pays for those services would suggest it’s heading that way.

The 270-pound tight end is PFF’s 16th-graded run blocker and 8th-graded pass blocker among tight ends. In this offense, juxtaposition at tight end is vital. Durham Smythe has a role on the team, but if the front office wants to double down on hand cuffing Mike Gesicki (who I believe is a big part of the future plans), Alie-Cox is a logical option to be that link.

Offensive Tackle: George Fant, Seattle Seahawks
Previous Contract: Re-signed One-Year, $3.1M APY
Market Value: $3M APY (D.J. Fluker deal)
Why He Might Be Available: Already paying Duane Brown, playing sixth OL behind Brown and Germaine Ifedi

Not the marquee name you were looking for, certainly, but Fant falls in line with the Dolphins prototype at the position. He’s big, he’s long, and he has the athletic profile to grow into a dominant NFL tackle.

The wide wingspan (not accurately available online) is in line with Miami’s signings this offseason, but the athleticism is what sets him apart. Fant jumped 37 inches vertically, and 109 inches in the broad jump at his pro day. He blazed a 4.83-second forty-yard sprint in that workout as well.

Fant is a former basketball play still developing his game in year-four in the NFL. He’s the ball of clay that Miami can sign as competition at either tackle position. If he loses the job, he’s an adept swing tackle that can come onto the field in heavy personnel (sixth offensive lineman).

Offensive Line Interior: Brandon Scherff, Washington
Previous Contract: First-Round Rookie Deal, $5.3M APY
Market Value: $14M APY (Highest paid guard, Zack Martin)
Why He Might Be Available: Dan Snyder

Nobody wants to play in Washington these days. Reports are that, despite the club’s offer to Brandon Scherff, the two remain far apart from an agreement to extend Scherff’s stay in the nation’s capital.

Scherff is going to get paid, that’s what happens when top-shelf players hit the open market. If Joe Thuney shakes free in New England he’ll be the preferred option, but it sounds like the Patriots have no intentions of letting him escape.

With Scherff, the Dolphins would be getting the game’s premier run blocking right guard. The Iowa product plays with power. He offers enough lateral movement skills to bring that sheer strength out on the edge. He’s not the smoothest bender or pass protector, but he gets the job done.

Allowing a sack and three pressures through four games, a down-year for Scherff in pass protection would still be better than anything Miami currently has at the position. In 2018, Scherff surrendered one sack and just one additional hit on the Washington quarterbacks. He committed only two fouls, though it should be mentioned he only played 503 snaps.

The eight games Scherff missed last season brought his career total to 11 out of a possible 68. Scherff calls the torn pectoral “a fluke,” but he’ll have to prove that with a clean bill of health this season. He missed Giants game with an ankle injury, but is set to return this Sunday against the Patriots.

Defensive Edge: Efe Obada, Carolina Panthers
Previous Contract: International Pathway, $570K APY
Market Value: $3.5M APY (Barkevious Mingo deal)
Why He Might Be Available: Backup in Carolina, only 70 snaps this year

It’s time for Miami to start reaping the rewards of the development of other programs. Obada, a product of the NFL’s International Pathway Program, is a perfect fit for the edge position in this Dolphins defense. At 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, he has the size to take on the outside gap in the run game, but also the explosiveness to win one-on-one pass rush situations.

With 35 5/8” arms, Obada displays the heavy hands that Patrick Graham and Marion Hobby prefer from their defensive linemen. He’s off to a slow start this year in the production department, and his playing time is a big reason for that. Obada has played only 70 snaps, but the strides he’s made against the run from last year are tangible.

Obada is certainly on the budget end of this position group. Jadeveon Clowney would be the real prize, but the Dolphins can’t spend top-of-the-market money at every position. Obada did apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks 14 times last season on just 108 pass rush reps.

Defensive Interior: Adam Butler, New England Patriots
Previous Contract: UDFA Rookie Deal, $557K APY
Market Value: $5M (Malcolm Brown deal)
Why He Might Be Available: Talent and production all over the defense, especially the DL

Adam Butler is one of the many examples of the New England model at work. He arrives as an undrafted free agent, gives the club three years of production, and then departs to beef up the Patriots compensatory cupboard.

Butler checks many of the boxes Miami wants on the interior defensive line. Most importantly, he’s already playing in the same scheme he’d transition to upon signing in Miami. He’s contributing in both phases (run and pass) in his third season. Butler has already racked nine QB pressures (3 sacks) and nine run-stops.

Without an invitation to the combine, Butler had to dazzle scouts at his pro day, and boy did he. He’s not the most impressively built player, or the fastest, but his 7.5-second three-cone time would’ve been second best in 2017 in Indianapolis. Those quick feet make him an ideal sub-package interior rusher.

With one pressure every 10 pass rush snaps, and nearly a run-stop every other running down, Butler might be driving his price to steep levels on the DT market.

Linebacker: Kyler Fackrell, Green Bay Packers
Previous Contract: Re-signed one-year deal, $2.1M
Market Value: $3.75M (Markus Golden deal)
Why He Might Be Available: Green Bay has three OLBs in the top 16 for pay rate (Smith, Smith, Gary).

After a career-year in 2018, Fackrell has been relegated to backup duty in Green Bay. Giving way to high-priced free agents Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, Fackrell has been reduced to a 30% player (down from 58% last season).

When Miami hired Patrick Graham, one could assume he would bring the 3-3-5 bear package that the Packers regularly run. One of the focal points of Graham’s linebacker’s corps in Green Bay was Fackrell defending the edge and rushing the passer.

Fackrell has nine pressures this season on just 37 pass rush snaps. He’s built similarly to Kyle Van Noy, and he could fill that considerable missing piece to this Dolphins defensive adaptation of the New England scheme.

Last year, Fackrell had 23 quarterback pressures (13 hits, 10.5 sacks) and 27 run-stops. He misses to many tackles, but the tape shows a player that can do his job within the scheme and provide pressure — that’s worth a lucrative free agent deal.

Cornerback: Byron Jones, Dallas Cowboys
Previous Contract: First-Round Rookie Deal, $2.2M APY
Market Value: $13.5M APY (A.J. Bouye deal)
Why He Might Be Available: Too many mouths to feed in Dallas

The job that Brian Flores had in mind for Minkah Fitzpatrick isn’t a carbon copy of what Jones would do in Miami, but his versatility is what Fitzpatrick was billed to be as a college prospect. Jones, a corner by day, safety by night, is one of the best defensive backs in football.

Presently a perimeter cornerback, Jones ranks 19th in yards per coverage snap among all corners with at least 75 coverage reps. He’s allowing just 50% completion rate and just 5.5 yards per pass. He has four stops in the running game, and his time at safety will showcase how good he is defending the run — he has just one missed tackle this season.

He fits the prototype with length, long-speed, agility, and the ability to move all over the formation. Nearly exclusively a corner this year, and in 2018, Jones primary position in 2017 was free safety. He only played 396 snaps at that spot and was in the box or in the slot for an additional 313 snaps.

In this defense, a scheme that requires safeties to come down and cover, and asks everyone to support in the run game, there isn’t a better fit than Byron Jones.

Safety: Vonn Bell, New Orleans Saints
Previous Contract: Second-Round Rookie Deal, $1M APY
Market Value: $8.5M APY (Malcolm Jenkins, Tony Jefferson deals)
Why He Might Be Available: Too many mouths to feed in New Orleans

Miami can finally get out of the awful Reshad Jones contract after this season without a severe, punitive cost. After that, the club could opt to offer Bell a similar deal and get better production from the position. Fulfilling the Patrick Chung role in the defense, Bell is as instinctive and diverse between man and zone coverage. He plays with the alpha mentality that changes the temperature in the locker room.

He’s not the fleetest of foot, but condensing his responsibilities and tasking him with tight-ends, robber coverage, and restricting him to the hook zones and flats can mitigate that shortcoming.

Bell was PFF’s third-highest graded run defending safety last season. He racked up 29 run-stops and 82 total tackles. This year, he’s the belle of the ball — number one on PFF. He’s on track to top those 29 stops (8 in the first 4 games), and he’s already matched his pass breakup production from last year.

His lack of ball production could give Miami a discount, and they’ll need to pair him with a rangy free safety, but there’s an immediate fit in this scheme.

Free agency, in the NFL, is a year-long courting process. Despite all the tampering rules and restrictions, it’s the job of the agent to gage the market for his client, and you can bet that’s currently underway. In this exercise, I spent roughly $65 million. Granted, Miami won’t be able to sign everybody, but this gives you an idea of the prototype they’ll shop for at each position, and how the team can manage its budget in this imminent spending spree.

Chris Grier promised to be aggressive, to attack the many holes on this roster with free agent cash and draft picks. These players listed above all fit a need with a ready-made plan in place to get production out of every single one should they put pen to paper in Miami.

None of this is a guarantee; it’s an inexact science. The only guarantee is that this team will look almost unrecognizable from the one we’re watching in 2019. And to take that a bridge further, the roster will be entirely unidentifiable from the final year of the Adam Gase regime.

I get the sense that’s just fine with Dolphins fans.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Tua Tagovailoa has IT.

Brian Flores is THE guy.

And I have to admit, Chris Grier has done a phenomenal job.

After an exciting 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals (5-3), the Miami Dolphins (5-3) solidified themselves as a legitimate playoff team in the AFC. Sure, you can say we’re getting a bit cocky – we’ve watched our team falter plenty of times before. But do you get the sense that these are the same Dolphins we’ve been watching this century?

Right now, are you skeptical or optimistic?

Do you have butterflies because you’re nervous or because you’re excited?

Do you think the Dolphins are trying to survive each game or do you have confidence that they’ll win?

Coming off of 4-straight victories, it’s easy to feel like we’re on top of the world, but this team looks different. It feels different. They act different.

Below are a few thoughts following Miami’s promising 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Monday Morning Thoughts

Tua Tagovailoa is the franchise quarterback we’ve been waiting for

Admit it, when they originally ruled that throwaway an interception, you saw shades of every failed quarterback to come since Dan Marino.

That play was so comically bad that it easily could have defined Tua’s career if it didn’t pan out. Thankfully, it was ruled that the receiver’s foot was out-of-bounds and it was an incomplete pass – but imagine the memes that would have been unleashed if Miami lost this game and that play counted.

But, it didn’t count….and the Dolphins didn’t lose….and Tua Tagovailoa out-dueled Kyler Murray when it mattered most.

When the Dolphins needed a game-winning drive, Tua delivered. When Kyler Murray had an opportunity to tie it, he didn’t (along with an obscure Zane Gonzalez kick).

Tua’s elite pocket presence, accuracy, decision-making, and ball placement were all on display. And none of that accounts for the plays he made with his legs.

If you’re a Dolphins fan, you’re thrilled with what you saw. And though it’s only a small sample size, I think we can all exhale – he looks like he’s the guy.

Byron Jones is still a damn good Cornerback

After three-straight dominant performances, Byron Jones was a bit humbled this game. We’re so used to watching him shut down opposing receivers that a game like this really sticks out.

He was absolutely burned by Christian Kirk on a beautiful deep ball from Kyler Murray late in the first quarter, but that wasn’t his worse play.

Dolphins fans and Byron Jones both thought he hauled in his first interception since October, 2017. Instead, Darrell Daniels’ first career touchdown reception is one of the highlights of the year as he snatches the ball right out of Jones’ hands.

I mean, Byron Jones had that ball in his hands for an interception, and before they hit the ground Darrell Daniels steals it into his possession. AND somehow had his knee down so it would count as a catch. Crazy.

Miami’s (really, it’s Brian Flores’) now infamous “zero” boom-or-bust scheme is susceptible to the long-ball, as our corners are expected to cover their receivers 1-on-1; with no safety help behind them. So far this season, it has worked tremendously to their advantage (as seen below)

But, if your coverage isn’t on par, this will happen:

With all of that said, Byron Jones is still a great cornerback in this league. Was this a bad game? Definitely. But I don’t expect this to become a trend. Lets not take for granted the elite secondary we currently have.

Christian Wilkins should NOT stop celebrating

Just please celebrate responsibly.

One of the reasons Dolphins fans adore Christian Wilkins is because of his infectious personality. He’s notoriously running in and celebrating every offensive touchdown with his team. His trash talking is innocently intimidating. The way he pumps his team up is perfect for any locker room culture. On top of the fact that he’s a pretty good defensive tackle.

Which is why I want him to keep celebrating – and I want him to continue celebrating excessively.

Preston Williams‘ unfortunate injury during a touchdown celebration is a huge reason why professional coaches like to contain their million-dollar players. Not just on the field, but off the field as well. It makes sense, they’re valuable commodities, but Wilkins’ spirit is too valuable to douse.

If something like this happens again, then we can talk about stifling his excitement, until then….celebrate smarter.

Xavien Howard’s “penalties” tell half the story

Xavien Howard was tasked with shadowing DeAndre Hopkins, and he ended up accounting for more penalty yards (43) than receiving yards against him (30).

The real testament to Howard’s coverage throughout the game? DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best wide receivers in the league, didn’t see a single target in the first half of the game.

A couple (terrible) penalties shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Xavien Howard and Byron Jones may be the best cornerback tandem in the league.

The Miami Dolphins need a Running Back in the worst way

Jordan Howard‘s 8-yard run on the last drive of the game – which helped seal the victory – was his biggest play as a Miami Dolphin. Up to that point, I was kind of rooting for Howard to continue his 1 YPC average. If you take away that 8-yard run (EASILY his longest of the year), Howard has gained 25 rushing yards on 27 rushing attempts (0.93 YPC).

Rookie Salvon Ahmed had a solid game, with 7 carries for 38 yards (5.4 YPC). I’m not sure how reliable he is, but he can’t be worse than Howard. If Matt Breida is available for next week’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, I’m sure Howard will once again be inactive, giving Ahmed another shot to prove himself.

We probably should have given Austin Jackson the week off

Austin Jackson returned to the lineup for the first time in 4 weeks (due to a foot injury) and was “ok”. He was beat on a few plays, but it’s evident he wasn’t 100%. I wouldn’t make any presumptions based off of this game; if anything, the reps help from an experience/mental perspective.

Jason Sanders is a stud

Jason Sanders connecting on 56 and 50-yard field goals are that much more impressive when you take into account that weird Zane Gonzalez miss (where he was short from 49 yards).

The conspiracy floating around is that the ball died (on Gonzalez’s kick) because the roof was open. Yet, Sanders made his 50+ yard field goals with room to spare.

Today’s the day we will never take Jason Sanders for granted as he surpassed Olindo Mare‘s franchise record of 19-straight field goals made.

The Miami Dolphins are going to “have to” extend Emmanuel Ogbah

I think we all would love to see a contract extension, but it’s bordering on a “necessity” at this point. Not just because we want to lock up a top-notch defensive end, but because he’s going to (rightfully) demand more financial security.

Though it always felt like he was on a one-year deal, this is technically the first year of a 2-year, $15m contract for Emmanuel Ogbah, but there’s no guaranteed money tied to 2021 – and there’s no way he’s playing like a $7.5m defensive end.

Jordan Phillips averages $10m a year with his recent contract, and I think it’s fair to say that Ogbah is worth more than that. Expect a holdout if the Dolphins don’t give him a raise and an extension this offseason. That’s not to say we should be concerned – I think Miami will look to make this extension a priority – but if they don’t see eye-to-eye expect a holdout to occur.

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Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Football is a team sport.

Wins don’t individually define a quarterback’s success.

Yet everyone agrees that the only way to win in the NFL is to have a quarterback that is better than (just about) every other franchise in the sport.

Once you have an upper-echelon quarterback, then you can talk about the nuances of creating a team. Whether it’s surrounding that quarterback with the proper talent, ensuring you’ve built the right scheme around them, or complimenting them with a staunch defense to complete a championship run, developing an entire roster means nothing if you don’t have a quarterback that can lead you to the playoffs.

38 years ago, the Miami Dolphins selected a quarterback that would revolutionize the NFL.

A man decades before his time, the immediate success Dan Marino brought us – after 13 championship-caliber years with Bob Griese – shielded us from the horrors of football purgatory. Maybe it’s this curse of #13 that has us clamoring for football relevance after almost 50 years without a Super Bowl Championship.

We watched our franchise devolve from the model of perfection to a team without an identity; floundering desperately to find a viable quarterback for two decades.

And with one swift decision, the Dolphins simultaneously expunged their football idiocy of years past and exhibited the type of football prowess that should lead them to salvation.

Image Credit: South Florida Sun Sentinel

As we’re destroying the team for wasting 2nd & 5th-round picks on Josh Rosen, we’re praising them for building the foundation for future success. Gone are these false prophets of yesteryear, as the real prodigy we’ve all been yearning for is one step closer to leading the helm.

Once Tua Tagovailoa was selected 5th-overall in the 2020 NFL draft, Rosen’s exile was cemented. He was never going to have an opportunity to make it here, it was always going to be Tua Tagovailoa backing up Ryan Fitzpatrick. The grizzly, 13-year veteran handles the nuances of a young football team while the young, energetic and extremely talented rookie spends valuable time learning and developing.

That move…that single transaction…will forever symbolize the moment the Miami Dolphins transitioned from football purgatory to football relevance.

The Purgatory We Built

No one remembers the cost of a successful trade.

Off the top of your head, what did the New York Giants trade to swap Philip Rivers for Eli Manning? How much did Carson Wentz cost the Philadelphia Eagles when they traded up for him? I bet you all remember the litany of picks the Washington Football Team paid for Robert Griffin III, or how badly the Chicago Bears missed on Mitch Trubisky when they gave up a bunch of picks to move up from #3 to #2.

It’s because mistakes are always magnified for franchises that fail. As a fan base, we’ve been groomed to remember all the negative aspects of our favorite football team, because that’s all we’ve known for the better half of our adult lives.

After trudging through this wasteland for so long, we are finally ready to move past all of the detrimental mistakes that have cost us 20+ years of our lives – including the Josh Rosen trade.

Sure, you have your classics like failing to draft (and then sign) Drew Brees, drafting Ronnie Brown over Aaron Rodgers with the 2nd-overall pick, drafting Jake Long over Matt Ryan with the 1st-overall pick, and trading a 2nd-round pick for A.J. Feeley.

It’s not that the Dolphins haven’t tried, it’s just that they have failed almost mightily when doing so.

I respect that Miami was aggressive in their pursuit of Josh Rosen – or for any of the other quarterbacks they’ve attempted to put under center – but their aggression was either misguided, ill-informed, or even desperate at best.

A year prior to Rosen’s draft-day trade, another draft-day trade was occurring – one that would transcend the Baltimore Ravens organization for the prolonged future. With the 32nd pick in the draft, the Ravens selected Lamar Jackson – a quarterback some Dolphins fans wanted with the team’s 11th-overall pick.

To move back into the first round and secure a quarterback with the 5th-year option, all Baltimore had to give up was an additional 2nd-round pick (see the full trade at the end of the article).

With their draft-day trade, the Baltimore Ravens landed an MVP.
With their draft-day trade, the Miami Dolphins landed a quarterback that was released for nothing.

Again, I don’t fault the Dolphins for being aggressive, but their pursuit was often awry.

The frustrating part of all of this may be that this team actually “spent” both in assets and money, they just didn’t seem to take that extra step at the right time.

Spending 2nd-round picks was fine 3 years in a row (with Chad Henne, John Beck and Pat White), but spending 2nd-round picks then became “too much” when they could have moved up in the 2017 draft to select Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson – instead, they stayed put at #22 and drafted Charles Harris.

Think about it, Miami’s best quarterbacks since Dan Marino were:

  • Castaway by the New York Jets (and subsequently got his shoulder destroyed like everyone predicted)
  • (Allegedly) Forced upon us by Stephen Ross because he knew what a new quarterback would inject into a flat-lining brand (ie: making $$)

Between Chad Pennington and Ryan Tannehill there is 1 playoff appearance and 0 playoff wins.

There are definitive reasons why the Dolphins are executing a rebuild in 2019-2020 – after attempting to rebuild numerous times already this century – and you can say that lots of it has to do with the Head Coaches that have been in place.

Watching Ryan Tannehill lead the Tennessee Titans to the AFC Championship came was the most-conflicted I’ve felt in a long time as a Dolphins fan. I was thrilled he was able to prove himself, but frustrated that my team was once again watching from the couch.

Heck, for all the praise we give Brian Flores, he couldn’t get Minkah Fitzpatrick to buy into his system – ultimately losing a near-Defensive MVP player to an organization that has been breathing success since the Dolphins’ perfect 1972 season.

Miami hasn’t lacked talent – it’s why they’re constantly hovering around 8-8. The problem is, they lack the most important piece on the football field combined with the right leader to mold them. Which explains why they constantly sit around 8-8.

The Future We Created

But thoughts of perpetual 8-8 seasons are a thing of the past. The Dolphins may have drafted their future franchise quarterback back in April, but they officially rolled out their #1 prize just a few days ago. Coincidentally, just 3 days after Rosen was released.

The timing is likely coincidental, but who says omens have to be a bad thing?

This Dolphins team is young (thanks to Chris Grier), determined (courtesy of Brian Flores’ mindset), talented (after accumulating so many draft picks) and they’re wise beyond their years.

With a bounty of draft picks at their disposal once again in 2021, and with a franchise quarterback seemingly set to take over by season’s end, the future for the Miami Dolphins looks EXTREMELY bright.

After most “experts” predicted the Dolphins would go nearly winless – some even calling for criminal investigations to be conducted – Flores showed off his leadership and led Miami to a 5-11 record.

If the worst roster in the NFL can win 5 games, what can an improved roster accomplish?

Last year, there were too many holes on the roster to count. Now, you’re desperate to find a missing piece. In 12 months, we’ve gone from cringe-worthy to dynasty-bound in some expert’s eyes.

So have the Dolphins finally returned to football relevance?

If this team really identified the right Head Coach, and if Tua’s hip can stay healthy, then there’s no reason why the Miami Dolphins aren’t about to embark on a successful crusade that takes the rest of the NFL by storm.

Earlier this year, we lost one of the greatest leaders to ever bless our organization. In honor of the all-time wins leader, the Miami Dolphins will wear a patch signifying Don Shula’s record-setting 347 career wins.

And who knows, maybe this renaissance is Shula’s last gift to an organization – and a community – that he spent his life already giving so much to. The symbolism would be all-too coincidental otherwise.

The Baltimore Ravens/Lamar Jackson Trade:

Yes, I understand every other team passed on Jackson. I also understand the Ravens passed on him once when they selected Hayden Hurst with the 25th-overall pick that year, but Baltimore has built a championship-caliber organization over the past two decades, while the Dolphins have accomplished one playoff win – I think they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt here.

The Lamar Jackson trade can be broken down like this:

  • Baltimore traded pick 52 (2nd-round) to move up to 32nd-overall (1st)
  • Baltimore also sent Philadelphia pick 125 in the deal, but they received pick 132 in return – a downgrade of 7 spots in the 4th-round.
  • Otherwise, all Baltimore spent was a 2nd-round pick in 2019 (which ended up being pick #53).

Full trade:

Eagles Receive Picks: 52 (2nd), 125 (4th) and pick 53 (2nd) in the 2019 draft
Ravens Receive Picks: 32 (1st) and 132 (4th)

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Miami Dolphins

There’s A Fine Line Between Being A Genius & Being Dumb in the NFL

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Think Brian Flores & Chris Grier aren’t smart?

After successfully navigating through all of the pre-draft smokescreens better than teenagers can survive the high school rumor mill, the Miami Dolphins are in a position to flourish for the next decade.

Yes, it’s something we’ve said before almost annually, but this time, there’s a clear foundation that will allow the roots of this franchise to prosper.

We’ve Heard This Before

Tony Sparano blossomed under the Bill Parcells‘ coaching tree in Dallas, bringing with him an aura of prominence and a pedigree for smash mouth football.

After a miraculous 10-game turnaround that took Miami from #1 overall in the draft to division winners, fans felt they had the proper leadership in place.

That was soon debunked when the Dolphins followed an 11-5 (2008) season with 7-9 (2009), 7-9 (2010) and 6-10 (2011). It’s not that any of us feel that Sparano was a bad coach, but it was more-than-evident that he was handicapped at the quarterback position.

The Dolphins go 11-5 in 2008 because their quarterback was the runner-up in the MVP race, and they falter to 7-9 after that because they decided to build around Chad Henne.

Good coach, but poor coaching decisions.

From there, the Dolphins hired one of the best human beings on the planet – Joe Philbin. The notorious problem with Philbin was: he couldn’t lead a football team.

Failing to rein in Vontae Davis‘ hangovers, everything regarding Richie Incognito, the Chad Ochocinco saga (check out this damning ESPN article from 2012, which gives you a glimpse into how the player’s felt about Philbin early on), and all of the Mike Wallace drama. Those football teams had some decent talent, yet were never better than a mediocre 8-8 in Philbin’s 4 years.

Great person, but terrible with people.

Adam Gase then took a 1-4 season and made the playoffs at 10-6. All the optimism surrounding Ryan Tannehill seemed justified, and we were ecstatic for the future. But we came to learn that Gase’s coaching talents resembled more of a glorified offensive coordinator, which left players feelings ostracized and without a sense of direction – especially those on defense.

Like Philbin, Gase wanted a group of players that followed him, rather than developing a strategy that tailored to his players’ strengths. He traded away (or failed to re-sign) productive players drafted by Grier in years past, just because he couldn’t handle them.

After a 10-6 start to his coaching career (2016), we watched our hopes dwindle to 6-10 (2017) – accompanied with $10m worth of embarrassing Jay Cutler highlights – and then 7-9 (2018) after the “quarterback guru” couldn’t get any production out of a 2019 Pro Bowl & AFC Championship quarterback in Ryan Tannehill.

Offensive visionary, but he couldn’t see past his own shortcomings.

So Why is This Different?

This would be the definition of insanity….if it meant that we were following the same trend.

Yes, we understand the eternal caveat that we won’t know for sure until we see the results, but after a successful 2019 – and a stellar 2020 draft that features plenty of starting potential – we’re not going too far out on a limb to say that they have our trust.

Going into a vital 2020 NFL draft where the team held 3 first-round picks, the Miami Dolphins’ future rested solely on the leis of Tua Tagovailoa. For months we were on edge, because, as Dolphins fans, we just figured they would screw it up. But once they secured their quarterback of the future, the plan was simple: protect him.

Not only was the plan to build a wall in front of him, but Grier and Flores identified that some of these positions take more time to develop than others. Rarely do offensive and defensive linemen jump right in and become dominant players. The difference between pancaking teenagers in college to moving a mountain-of-a-man in the NFL is colossal.

Rookies go through such a strenuous process to improve their draft stock – immediately after completing a full college season – that they are burned out by the time their rookie year is over. That’s exactly what happened to Michael Deiter towards the end of last season; it’s no surprise we see their performance start to slide after putting in so much work throughout the year.

Drafting Austin Jackson (18th-overall pick), Robert Hunt (39th), and Solomon Kindley (111th) means Miami is giving their rookies time to grow before being asked to protect their most-important asset since Dan Marino.

Instead of a trying to learn the nuances of the NFL with a rookie quarterback, they can learn how an offensive play is properly setup, executed and audibled under a veteran, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

When it comes time to protect Tua Tagovailoa in 2021, they won’t have to worry if they understood the protection, if they’ll make a rookie mistake, or if they’ll naively and unintentionally do something embarrassing or costly. They’ll be able to focus on executing the play properly, giving Tua an ample amount of time to handle his own “rookie” adjustments.

With Raekwon Davis, the Dolphins acquire another player at a position that tends to need some time to grow. This move makes me wonder what the future holds for Davon Godchaux, who is expected to receive a very nice payday in free agency after this season, but for now, Miami can rely heavily on Godchaux and their 2019 1st-round pick, Christian Wilkins. Davis has the opportunity to learn under these two as he prepares to take on a much bigger role in 2021.

With their final 1st-round pick, Miami selected another young player at a cornerstone position. The adjustments rookie cornerbacks need to make when guarding an NFL receiver are somewhat substantial, and Noah Igbinoghene will be able to learn and make these adjustments while covering the opponent’s third or forth receiver – with the added security that he has an array of established and Pro Bowl veterans behind him.

This might hint at an ugly and somewhat inconsistent 2020 season, as roughly half of this roster is new to the team, but all of these young players will start to excel as Tua begins to transition into our full-time starting quarterback.

Which means the Miami Dolphins are ready to make a legitimate playoff run in 2021.

Is it possible all of these risks falter? Of course! Austin Jackson just turned 21 years old, and he wasn’t viewed as the best left tackle in college last season – he is a projection. Noah Igbinoghene wasn’t viewed as a 1st-round caliber cornerback, as most “experts” think he’s restricted to covering the slot rather than becoming a boundary corner. And then you have the general, inevitable fact that some of these picks just won’t pan out.

But we watched players like Mike Gesicki, DeVante Parker, Raekwon McMillan, Vince Biegel and Nik Needham take the “next step” under Brian Flores stewardship. It only makes us wonder who he’ll coach up next.

Now that Flores is more-comfortable as a sophomore coach, and the team understands his “win no matter what” philosophy, Miami should naturally thrive in year two….right?

Like all of these other coaches before him, Flores is an absolute genius after year one. And like all those coaches before him, he’s one season away from looking like a dunce.

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