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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins 2020 Cap Situation

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Money must grow on palm trees, because the Miami Dolphins are set to own the league in 2020.

According to Brian Flores and Chris Grier, “tanking” isn’t occurring, but if you believe the Miami Dolphins are exclusively planning for 2019, you’re falling for the trap the front office wants you to believe.

How gullible do they expect us to be?

If the 2020 quarterback class (mixed with the sub-par 2019 QB class) wasn’t enough enticing evidence that the Dolphins were planning to obtain their franchise quarterback at the turn of the decade, the trades of Ryan Tannehill and Robert Quinn for 2020 draft picks, as well as allowing Ja’Wuan James to sign with the Denver Broncos for a 2020 compensatory pick, further teases us with Miami’s plan.

A roster that needed to be expunged of expensive contracts, paired with an ever-increasing 2020 draft capital, tied together with a group of quarterbacks that rivals the 2004 draft class (that yielded Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger), and you have all the makings for a team that has formulated a plan directed at 2020.

Now, for the final piece of the puzzle. I present to you, Dawn Aponte‘s dream come true, a football team with minimal contractual obligations and a boat load of money to play with (or was that Mike Tannenbaum‘s dream…?):

Current Roster Situation:

Since 2014, the salary cap in the NFL has grown between $10m-$12m per year. With the salary cap currently sitting at $188.2m for 2019, let’s go ahead and assume that the cap increases another $12m and gives us a pretty $200m to work with for 2020.

At this very moment, the Miami Dolphins have ~$100m tied to the 2020 salary cap – giving us another $100m in cap space.

Their 5-biggest cap hits in 2020? Might not be on the 2019 roster let alone the 2020 squad:

If the Miami Dolphins are able to get anything for Reshad Jones before the beginning of the 2020 season, Chris Grier can consider himself Gandalf’s most formidable opponent, because that would be some kind of magic.

But frankly, even with Jones’ contract on the books for 2020, let’s look at how much more money Miami can remove from their cap:

  • Albert Wilson may be Miami’s 2018 offensive MVP (behind Frank Gore), but his season-ending hip injury raises enough cause for concern. While I expect Wilson to return to Miami in 2019 and perform, I’m not sure how much the Dolphins are willing to wager on a player we don’t currently know the status of.
    • $10m in salary cap space for any receiver is a lot. The dead cap space tied to Wilson’s 2020 salary ($1.33m) is extremely manageable, and much more appealing than the $10m roster option.
    • Depending on how Chad O’Shea views Wilson, he might choose to restructure his contract and remain with the team at a reduced rate. If he’s released prior to 2020, it’s a $9.5m cap savings for Miami.
    • Looking at the differential between Wilson’s cap hit and dead cap hit, it appears as if the original contract was essentially looked at as a two-year deal. I don’t think Miami ever expected to pay Wilson $10m in 2020.
  • Kenny Stills has been a professional workhorse and an off-the-field role model for children everywhere, but how valuable is a 28-year-old receiver entering his 8th NFL season?
    • In a vacuum, as a player, Kenny Stills is worth that $8.75 salary cap hit. But for a team looking to get younger and rebuild, are they going to retain Stills at an increased rate for his leadership qualities, or are they going to utilize the 2019 and 2020 draft to replenish their receiving corps?
    • With a $1.75m dead cap hit versus a $8.75m salary cap hit, Miami can save $7m in cap space by releasing Stills prior to 2020.
  • Kiko Alonso is simultaneously a fan favorite and a source of fan frustration. Set to cost $8.2m against the salary cap in 2020, the decision on Kiko may have already been made, and it’s just a matter of getting through the 2019 season before he’s off the roster.
    • Lets get a few things straight, Kiko’s durability and reliability are two things we thoroughly like about the linebacker, but with that reliability comes inconsistency, coverage liability, and average run defense.
    • With Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker set to cost $1.5m and $1.05m against the salary cap respectively in 2020, the Dolphins are able to afford Alonso, but would also be able to utilize the ~$6.4m salary cap savings to spend on any potential free agent they desire.
    • If Kiko is willing to renegotiate his contract and accept a salary cap hit that is under $6m, I think it’s more likely he stays. Anything above that $6m mark is best utilized elsewhere, even if it creates a hole at the position (a hole I expect them to fill in the 2019 or 2020 draft).
  • T.J. McDonald‘s dead cap hit in 2019 ($6.5m) is higher than his regular cap hit next season ($6m), but that shouldn’t keep the Dolphins from dealing the team’s other strong safety if they receive an offer. With McDonald, it almost doesn’t matter if the draft pick is in 2019 or 2020, the Dolphins are looking to purge his contract rather than pay a player to be a roadblock for Minkah Fitzpatrick at safety (since Reshad Jones isn’t going anywhere anytime soon).
    • The hope with McDonald, similar to Alonso, is that Flores’ defensive influence and an entirely new coaching staff will maximize their strengths rather than try and evolve their pitfalls. Cameron Wake should never drop back into coverage, but it was something he was asked to do on numerous occasions under Matt Burke‘s defense. Likewise, having Alonso cover a running back on a passing route is asking for an automatic first down.

After these top-5, your next-most expensive Miami Dolphins in 2020?:

Bobby McCain is one roster move away from becoming one of the top-5 most expensive players on the team. Poor contract or great cap management? Guess that can be viewed both ways – especially with his inconsistent performance last season after he was awarded with the new contract.

The only other player on this list that looks daunting is Minkah Fitzpatrick, and that’s only because cutting him would accelerate all of his bonuses and cause a heavy dead cap hit in 2020. I think it’s fairly obvious that Miami will not only retain Fitzpatrick at that rate, but he will be viewed as a bargain for that price.

The rest? Are almost a take-it-or-leave it skeleton crew of players that would only cost $1.5m in dead cap space between the 3 of them.

Miami’s cap space throughout Mike Tannenbaum’s tenure was always minimal, but it just shows that no matter how much hell one person voluntarily tries to create, it only takes a single season to undo all of the mistakes.

Granted, who here is enjoying a lost season while we have friends and family cheering for other successful franchises, but when you look at 2018 as a year in which the Dolphins tried to make a playoff push and “bought” towards it, it’s amazing how one offseason later they can be free from all of those restraints.

For an interesting reference, below is Miami’s salary cap space by year (since Mike Tannenbaum officially took over in 2015):

  • 2015: $8.05m
  • 2016: $14.21m
  • 2017: $38,597 (that’s $39k…)
  • 2018: $6.92m

Buying a Supporting Cast:

If you were envious of the New York Jets‘ spending spree this past offseason (where they landed Le’Veon Bell, C.J. Mosley, and Jameison Crowder), then be ready for a similar offseason from your Miami Dolphins in 2020.

Barring any crazy signings over the next few months, the Miami Dolphins will go into 2020 with $100m in available cap space, and that’s before they carry over any additional money from 2019.

As of this moment, the Miami Dolphins are set to carry-over $28m from 2019. Granted, Miami is going to have to sign injury-replacements, draft picks, various veterans that other teams cut as well as field an overall 90-man roster for training camp (they currently have 58 players on their roster…).

Expect that number to dwindle down to somewhere near $12-15m when the 2019 season is said and done, but that’s still a decent chunk of change to add to 2020. Essentially, that’s Le’Veon Bell savings right there.

Now the question is, would you be content with the Miami Dolphins utilizing their cap space to extend current players like Laremy Tunsil, Xavien Howard and Kenyan Drake? Or do you want to dip your toe in the free agency pool?

This is what happens when teams convince themselves a player they know nothing about is going to be better than a proven player they already have on their team (see: Miami Dolphins).

We all know how much we’re going to have to pay Tunsil and Howard – and if Drake breaks out in his contract year, you can expect him to sign a contract similar to Lamar Miller‘s 4-year, $26m ($14m guaranteed) contract back in 2016.

Outside of their own free agents (restricted, unrestricted or otherwise), the Dolphins would have the ability to sign potential 2020 free agents such as:

Offense:

  • Russell Wilson
  • Michael Thomas
  • Amari Cooper
  • Melvin Gordon
  • A.J. Green
  • Hunter Henry
  • Kyle Rudolph
  • Eric Ebron
  • Allen Hurns
  • Nathan Peterman
  • Josh Gordon

Defense:

  • Jadeveon Clowney
  • Leonard Williams
  • Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
  • Kevin Johnson
  • Ronald Darby
  • Bradley Roby
  • Marcus Peters
  • Grady Jarrett
  • Michael Brockers
  • Kyle Van Noy
  • DeMarcus Lawrence
  • Frank Clark
  • Dante Fowler Jr.
  • Bobby Wagner
  • Trae Waynes
  • Vic Beasley
  • Brent Grimes

Who needs to draft defensive linemen in 2019 when you can buy an entire defensive line in 2020 – and still have money to spare!

What Miami needs to ensure is that they don’t sign the wrong players.

Mike Wallace was the wrong player. Ndamukong Suh was a very good player, but signed to the wrong contract. Branden Albert was a good player, but what exactly did we get from that signing?

Similar to what the Jets are doing now, the Dolphins are set to build a roster around a young quarterback. The team already has a formidable group of core, young players that they can plug into various spots on the roster (McMillan, Baker, Fitzpatrick, Tunsil, Kalen Ballage, Jesse Davis, Davon Godchaux, Vincent Taylor).

What the team needs to do is utilize the 2019 and 2020 drafts to supplement the roster with more young, cheap talent and then use free agency for its intended purpose which is to patch any holes your roster might have – not to be the solution for your overall roster problem. Until 2020 hits, we’ll be impatiently waiting to see who the Dolphins future franchise quarterback is, but once they have their selection, you can bet he’ll have a proper supporting cast around them.

It will be really hard for the Miami Dolphins to get this wrong – especially after doing everything right this current offseason to set themselves up. Then again, another failed rebuild would be the most Miami Dolphins’ thing they could do.

(contract statistics courtesy of Spotrac)

Growing up a passionate Dolphins fan in Jets territory, Jason learned from an early age that life as a Dolphins fan wasn’t going to be easy. Previously the Sports Editor for his university newspaper, Jason has experience writing columns, creating game recaps and conducting interviews with Hall of Fame athletes (Harry Carson and Yogi Berra are two of his proudest interviews). When he’s not dissecting the latest sports news, you can find him perplexed over the Dolphins offensive line woes or involuntarily introducing music to his neighbors.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Anthony

    April 2, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    Great piece. I played around on Spotrac and even if we were to extend our big 3 of Howard, Drake and Tunsil (and Grant cuz why not), we should still have around 65 million to play with. Plenty of funds to make some moves!

  2. Avatar

    Chris J. Ephgrave

    April 3, 2019 at 7:44 am

    I honestly fear we’re going to play to well in 2019 and somehow end up 7-9 again! We have plenty of low end ’20 picks but they don’t get you from outside the top ten to #1. Plus there will for sure be at least 3 teams looking to get QB1: WR, OR,CB, NYG(?) negating any “will” to deal?

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Scouting Reports

Face of the Franchise Series: Best of the Rest

Travis Wingfield

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Two decades removed from his retirement, the Miami Dolphins are still in-search of Dan Marino’s replacement

Tua Tagovailoa Scouting Report
Jake Fromm Scouting Report
Justin Herbert Scouting Report
Jordan Love Scouting Report
Best of the Rest

Foreword:

7,094 days, 308 games. That arduous, ceaseless waiting period spans the time from Dan Marino’s last buckle of the chin strap, to present day. The Packers and Colts were fortunate enough to hand the ball from one legend to another without skipping a beat. For Dolphins fans, Marino’s retirement coincides not only with the turn of the century, but with the downturn of the once winningest franchise in professional sports.

Chad Pennington’s 2008 MVP runner-up season sits a mere blip on the radar of futility. Ryan Tannehill teased fans for five years before an injury brought all hope to a fiery end. Daunte Culpepper was the worst consolation prize ever contrived and John Beck, Chad Henne, and Pat White each qualify as second-round busts.

The misery feels perpetual yet, somehow, not defeating. At least the Dolphins got the bat off the shoulder this offseason by taking a crack at Josh Rosen, but his rookie tape leaves plenty to be desired. A first-round signal-caller is the odds-on-favorite for Miami in next April’s draft; a class brimming with quarterback talent.

If patience truly is a virtue, then Dolphins fans have waited long enough. The collective has earned the right to unanimously appoint the next hero of professional football in South Florida. No more arguments, no more debates; just an unequivocal beast of a quarterback capable of willing the aqua and orange to victory on any given Sunday.

The same way #13 did for so many years.

Over the summer we will look at the top quarterback prospects entering the 2019 college football season.

Now, for the group battling to infiltrate the top four QBs — the best of the rest.

The Best of the Rest

Any prospect with professional aspirations would prefer to enter his final college season with considerable fanfare and expectations. More attention equals more eyeballs, and more eyeballs equals more opportunity to make an impression.

That’s not to say that expectations are the only path to a Thursday night selection during the NFL’s three-day draft extravaganza. Far from it. With the ever-changing landscape of the college game, each of the last two draft classes saw unknown signal-callers rise from afterthought, to bells of the ball.

Baker Mayfield was — at best — a distant fourth behind Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen entering the 2017 college football season. Kyler Murray was signed, sealed, and delivered to the Oakland A’s and off the radar of NFL scouts entirely. Yet, a short eight months after college football’s opening Saturday, both were standing on the podium with the commissioner before any of their peers.

Tua Tagovailoa is the prohibitive favorite to earn the honorable distinction of first overall pick. Dominant performances at a prominent school will have that affect.

Justin Herbert’s rare physical skills have scouts fawning over Oregon football this fall, while Jordan Love will garner similar jaw-dropping attention.

Then there’s the polished and professional Jake Fromm.

These four quarterbacks will take the field next month and begin their (potentially) final chapters before their NFL dreams are realized.

So who is the pick the rocket up the draft board from seemingly nowhere? The options are vast, and we’ll cover them right now (in no particular order).

D’Eriq King – Houston – 5-11, 195 lbs. (Senior)

The aforementioned Kyler Murray, one year after Baker Mayfield paved the way, ushers in a new way of thinking in regards to projecting passers from college to the professional ranks. King is an electric dual-threat QB — evident by his 50 touchdowns in 2018 despite missing 2.5 games with an ankle injury.

K.J. Costello – Stanford – 6-5, 215 lbs. (Senior)

With ideal size and natural arm talent Costello is a threat to climb draft boards next spring. He doesn’t have the strongest arm, but he can alter his release points and vary the velocity and touch of his throws for the circumstance. Costello took a big jump in 2018, but needs another significant climb in the mechanical portion of the game to garner first round consideration.

Khalil Tate – Arizona – 6-2, 216 lbs. (Senior)

The transition from Rich Rodriguez’s to Kevin Sumlin impacted Tate in the worst way possible. With game-breaking, dual-threat talent that rivals Kyler Murray, Tate was asked to play more within the structure of a traditional drop back game last season. The result, a dramatic efficiency drop-off across the board. Tate is electrifying with his legs and more than adequate with the arm — he’s a sleeper pick to join Tagovailoa, Fromm, Herbert and Love.

Jacob Eason – Washington – 6-6, 230 lbs. (Senior)

Eason barely has more collegiate accolades than anyone reading this piece. He was a five-star recruit that missed two years due to injury and ineligibility after transferring; this after showing minimal promise as a true freshman at Georgia. Eason is long, and a tad gangly, but he’s an accurate thrower with ideal size for the position.

Sam Ehlinger – Texas – 6-3 235 lbs. (Junior)

Following the trend of athletic quarterbacks taking over professional football, Ehlinger is another prototype player. He’s a threat to score on the ground on any given play, but that’s something of a cover up for some mechanical and arm talent short comings. Ehlinger exploded at the end of the 2018 season, and he needs to continue on that trajectory to vault his draft stock beyond day-three.

Brian Lewerke – Michigan State 6-3, 215 lbs. – (Senior)

Adding Lewerke to this list feels a little disingenuous because I’m clenching to his sophomore season. His junior year at East Lansing was an unmitigated disaster, but the processing, anticipation, accuracy, and off-script prowess were enough for some pundits to tab Lewerke as QB1 heading into 2018.

Honorable Mention: Bryce Perkins (Virginia), Nathan Stanley (Iowa), Cole McDonald (Hawaii)

If expectations play out this season for the Dolphins, a first round quarterback is likely the result at the conclusion of year-one of the rebuild. The future employment of everybody associated with the Dolphins would then depend on getting that draft pick right (Brian Flores, Chris Grier, and the entire coaching and scouting staffs).

Due to the urgency and importance of this evaluation for the ‘Phins, we will be covering the college quarterback landscape throughout the 2019 season with weekly progress reports.

As always, Locked On Dolphins is your exclusive provider of analysis, commentary, and news on the Miami Dolphins.

Way Too Early 2019 QB Prospect Ranking

 

(Rank) Player School
(1) Jordan Love Utah State
(2) Tua Tagovailoa Alabama
(3) Jake Fromm Georgia
(4) Justin Herbert Oregon
(5) Khalil Tate Arizona
(6) D’Eriq King Houston
(7) K.J. Costello Stanford
(8) Jacob Eason Washington
(9) Brian Lewerke Michigan State
(10) Sam Ehlinger Texas

 

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

5 Developments That Would Signal a Successful 2019 Dolphins Season

Travis Wingfield

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In a bottom-line business, the Dolphins can find success elsewhere in 2019

Any coach, player, or essential personnel attached to the 2019 operation of the Miami Dolphins would immediately dispel the notion of this article. While the mindset is imperative for each of the 32 organizations in the NFL to enter a new season with championship aspirations, the truth tells us that, that is simply not realistic.

The Dolphins — like it or not — fall into the category of teams building for future success.

Since Stephen Ross’ Black Monday presser — held with the purpose of conveying sweeping organizational changes — the mantra of the 10th administration in franchise history has been the same — ‘we are only worried about today.’ Ross’ opening statements contradicted that idea, just as Miami’s offseason maneuvers have suggested something of a transitional year.

A reset. A step back. A “change from the way we’ve done things previously,” as Mr. Ross stated at that presser, was a necessary evil on the track to, “building a consistent team with sustained success.”

Any NFL team, regardless of its standing on the superiority hierarchy, will dispel any talk of Super Bowl dreams during the summer. But for the 2019 Miami Dolphins winning games is not the end-all-be-all.

Operating under protection from the end results the typical importance of the only numbers that ultimately matter — victories and defeats — Brian Flores and staff can focus on the true exigency of the 2019 season; the development of his program and young players.

Last year I wrote about the 25 most integral players to the 2018 Miami Dolphins success. In year-three, with an experienced quarterback and significant investment in veteran contracts, the only option for Adam Gase and company was to win football games.

Now, the focus takes a hard left turn. We hone in on the particular units, identity development, and most crucial aspects that must occur in 2019 to set Coach Flores up for success in the win-loss column in 2020 and beyond.

1. Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker Assert Their Standing

Linebackers are falling out of favor in many-an-NFL-defense, but not in this one. Versatile ‘backers helped drive Brian Flores’ defense to back-to-back championship caliber performances in the season’s two biggest games in 2018 (Super Bowl and AFCCG).

McMillan was one of Pro Football Focus’ highest graded run-defenders from October on last year while Jerome Baker flashed the pass rush skill set, speed, and coverage dynamics that helped him earn significant playing time as a rookie.

The Dont’a Hightower role — working both inside and on the ball as a rusher off the edge — has been imparted on McMillan. Baker, McMillan’s former Buckeye teammate, figures into a prominent rush role with the occasional buzz to the flat.

The Dolphins have club control on McMillan for the next two years with Baker under contract for the next three. Both have been lauded for their leadership and quick acclimation to the new scheme and program.

Anchoring the middle of the defense with 23 (McMillan) and 22-year-old (Baker) linebackers would be a sterling beginning to the construction of a championship stop-unit.

2. Discovering a Viable Counterpart to Xavien Howard

One of the many faulty pillars of the Mike Tannenbaum regime was poor financial structuring of the roster, i.e. paying exponentially above market value both starting safeties, and continually pumping financial resources into a middling pass rush.

Aug 17, 2018; Charlotte, NC, USA; Miami Dolphins cornerback Torry McTyer (24) brings down Carolina Panthers running back C.J. Anderson (20) during the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

With Xavien Howard taken care of on one corner, the Dolphins can offset his cost by uncovering a viable second perimeter starter on a cheap contract. Eric Rowe gets first crack, but a clean bill of health and quality play likely earns him a big offseason paycheck — he’s signed on the cheap through 2019.

The other, more prudent options are homegrown talents. Cordrea Tankersley entered camp in 2018 with well-earned buzz, but has had the worst imaginable ensuing 11-month stretch since that time. He’s a candidate to start the year on P.U.P (which carries a distinction to return post-week-six).

Torry McTyer is on year-three of his rookie contract from 2017 and has the most playing time to his credit. Last season was a struggle for McTyer after a strong camp earned the UDFA a spot on the depth chart.

Cornell Armstrong and Jalen Davis flashed glimpses during their rookie seasons. Armstrong more so on special teams and Davis primarily in the slot.

Former Patriots practice squad member Jomal Wiltz and undrafted rookie Nik Needham have head their names called during offseason minicamps.

Pairing Howard with a rookie contract, while the team absorbs the immediate, steep costs #25’s new deal would be a massive boon heading into 2020.

3. An Unquestioned Star Skill Player Emerges

The last time the Dolphins featured an offensive threat that forced defensive coordinators to alter their game plan was Ricky Williams nearly two decades ago. The Dolphins need that spark to resurrect an offense that has been bottom-of-the-barrel for just as long.

Kenyan Drake is the favorite. His five-week slate of production to close 2017 is exactly what we’re looking for here. His versatile, game-breaking skill set could develop if he’s finally given the lion’s share of the workload.

Albert Wilson strung together a dominant stretch for two weeks last season before a serious hip injury stopped his breakout campaign short. Jakeem Grant flashes big-play ability regularly, but he’s yet to prove that he’s a permanent fixture as a wide receiver.

The dark horse option might be Tight End Mike Gesicki. His rookie tape is a difficult watch, but his Penn State cut-ups suggest that something is there — particularly in the red zone.

4. Two More Solutions on the Offensive Line Emerge

At press time the Dolphins have Laremy Tunsil and four question marks on the offensive line. Michael Deiter comes in with expectations, but a rookie third-round pick is hardly a slam dunk to provide a solution at a position that has been a problem for a decade-plus.

Daniel Kilgore is back after a season-ending injury. His three showing prior to the injury left plenty to be desired, however. Chris Reed is a career backup that figures into the starting right guard position while Jesse Davis returns to right tackle (he played sparingly at the position in 2017).

Truthfully, if one of these players emerges to form 40% of a competent offensive line, that should be considered a victory. If the Dolphins, however, find two solutions on the offensive front, that fits right in line with the rest of the league at a position starving for talent.

5. A Definitive Answer on Josh Rosen

It’s safe to say most who read this article expected this to come in at number one. Rosen’s evaluation checks in at number five for two reasons:

1.) The 2020 QB class is loaded.
2.) The evaluation doesn’t have to find a conclusion this season.

May 21, 2019; Davie, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen (3) during organized team activities at Baptist Health Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterbacks are unique from every other position on the field. Entrusted faces of the franchise, long-term solutions, these are labels that each fan base without the elusive franchise savior craves to slap on a young signal-caller.

While the argument that, without a quarterback you’re merely treading water is valid, it doesn’t always happen overnight. Russell Wilson spearheads a group of franchise quarterbacks that were discovered in unconventional forms (Dak Prescott, Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garappolo).

Even if Josh Rosen strikes out in 2019, and he’s greeted by stiff competition next year, that doesn’t necessarily equal the end of the road for the embattled passer. He’s under club control for three seasons, and not only is he under market-value for starting QBs, he’s cheaper than the league’s most-valued backups.

While it might not be preferable for the self-proclaimed Josh Rosen ‘Stans’, a QB depth chart that features Rosen, Fitzpatrick, and one of the prized first-round options in next year’s draft would put the Dolphins in terrific position to identify the long-term solution.

Should the Dolphins find resolutions to three or more of these critical areas of development in 2019 the season should be considered a success. The omissions of pass rusher and Minkah Fitzpatrick taking the next step towards superstardom were considered.

The reason for the pass rush omission is twofold. First, next year’s class has some elite, top-shelf talent, including a player that is a picture-perfect scheme fit (Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa). Second, the individual pass rush prowess simply isn’t a priority in this scheme.

For Fitzpatrick, there should be little doubt about his development. He’s a special player that will not come up short in his purist of becoming a household name in the league.

Of course, the Dolphins could send a massive middle finger to the entire premise of this article, and the entirety of the national media that is forecasting a rough, transitional season for Flores’ football team.

In that instance, it would probably be safe to assume that more than half of this checklist were satisfied.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Locked On Dolphins staff’s favorite current Fins player

Shawn Digity

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USA Today Sports Miami Dolphins Minkah Fitzpatrick
Minkah Fitzpatrick exiting the tunnel. Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

Let’s try something a little different on this midsummer Friday. It’s always dead around this time of the year, so in a fun way to get amped up for the coming season, the LOD staff presents their favorite current Miami Dolphin and why. So without further ado, check out the team’s favorite Fins.

Jason Hrina – Kenny Stills

I’m going to preface all of this by saying this has nothing to do with his political standing. There is nothing I despise more than politics and everything it entails.

That said, Kenny Stills is one of the most selfless individuals the Miami Dolphins have ever had the luxury of calling one of their own. The amount of time and effort he puts towards people in less-fortunate situations is really something we should all strive to be like. Maybe it’s his paycheck or his platform as a recognizable figure that allows him to do all of this, but he isn’t required to go out of his way for anyone.

It’s the same reason why I was always a fan of former Phins Michael Thomas and Frank Gore. Their dedication to the South Florida community and those around the world have always stuck with me. I can see Christian Wilkins being the next Dolphins player to exude such selfless behavior; I mean, he already does! It’s only going to grow from here.

While Stills may not put up the most-gaudy numbers, nor is he a national figurehead like Jarvis Landry used to be, his charity, selflessness and ability to disregard his celebrity status for the benefit of others has always made me a huge fan of Kenny Stills.

Andrew Mitchell- Albert Wilson

My favorite current player, amongst so many options, is Albert Wilson. There’s so many guys I like; Tunsil, Howard, Drake, Minkah, Bobby McCain, and Kenny Stills to name a few.

However, Albert Wilson hails from where I was raised, Port St. Lucie, Florida. He balled out at one of my high school’s rival teams, Port St. Lucie High. Wilson would dominate as a running back/quarterback hybrid and then go onto college and make his way onto the Kansas City Chiefs roster. 

Before his injury last season, he was arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL! His insane quickness and pure speed help him create separation from defenders. Pair that up with his ability and ability to make defenders miss and you have a dangerous weapon when in open space. 

My local area has produced talents like Kevin Smith (Detroit RB), Jamar Chaney (Eagles LB), Khalil Mack (Bears DE) and of course Wilson. While Mack is the biggest known name, if Wilson stays healthy all season he could 100% contend for that title! 

Gabe Hauari – Christian Wilkins

When you start your NFL career by chest bumping Rodger Goodell at the draft, you immediately become my new favorite player. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.
In all seriousness, Wilkins appears to have an infectious personality mixed with some dominant tape in college.
If he can live up to his draft billing with Miami, I think the new regime got a perfect player from both a culture and football perspective.

Chris Kowalewski – Kenyan Drake

Whether as a result of conflicts with coaching staff (Jay Ajayi, Jarvis Landry), money issues (Ndamukong Suh) or not factoring into the franchise’s future plans (Ryan Tannehill, Cameron Wake) the past couple of seasons have seen the exodus of a number of Miami’s most popular and talented players. It’s almost at that point where I’m afraid to buy any more Dolphins jerseys because I don’t want to curse anyone else on the team – a throwback Reshad Jones jersey hangs precariously in my cupboard as the final current one.

Kenyan Drake is safe for now, as I’ll leave his jersey in stores and (together with countless other fans) be eternally grateful for his electric on-field play in the ‘Miami Miracle’. There’s plenty to like about Drake and he has a humble nature which encourages you to root for him. He didn’t complain (at least not publicly) when the Dolphins brought in Frank Gore and openly embraced the opportunity to learn from a future HOF’er.

Kenyan was on Good Morning Football about a month ago dissecting the Miami Miracle and the first thing he spoke about was the team effort which the play required, heaping praise on Ted Larsen for his key block which allowed room to make the highlight score.

I think it’s very indicative of the franchise’s view of Kenyan that Tom Garfinkel and Stephen Ross collaborated to pay for the return of the Miami Miracle ball and gave it to him as a present. However, although hugely appreciative to see its return, Drake maintained that the play was a team accomplishment and, as such, its rightful place remained at Hard Rock Stadium.

A threat to score any time he touches the ball, Drake is bottled lightning and fans everywhere should be clamouring to see more of him on the field. A quiet warrior, in the same image as Cameron Wake (another all-time favourite) he’s the lead-by-example type of player who you can’t help but want to see succeed.

Kevin Dern – Laremy Tunsil

As I’ve gotten older, which has coincidentally progressed along with more dynamic free agency rules, it’s been harder and harder for me to become attached to players like Dan Marino, JT, Zach Thomas, Sam Madison, and Pat Surtain.  That being said, I do have a favorite current Dolphin, Laremy Tunsil.
I may be a bit biased towards left tackles – I worked for two years for Anthony Munoz (the best LT and best offensive lineman in history) – and have an extra appreciation for what the position entails.  Tunsil’s footwork and movement skills are superb; his punch is excellent and he’s improving rapidly in the ground game.  If he produces consecutive years like he did last year, I’m not sure who you can honestly say is a better left tackle in the NFL at that point.  He’s a cornerstone for this franchise and should be paid as such.
My favorite Dolphin is likely a very unique choice: Ryan Fitzpatrick. He hasn’t even taken an official snap for the team, but I was all about his signing a few months ago. Quarterback is my favorite position, so it starts there.

FitzMagic is just a colorful one-of-a-kind character that I would love to meet one day. He’s been an NFL journeyman so his career is unorthodox, but he has made his hay on the zeniths of a crazy roller coaster ride, and I’ve enjoyed the chaos of it all.

I went and bought a FitzMagic x Miami Dolphins shirt almost as soon as the Dolphins signed him. I’m all-in on the Fitzpatrick experience for 2019. And I’ll especially enjoy any of the locker room antics like last year in Tampa Bay when he hijacked DeSean Jackson’s wardrobe and wore it out to the media presser and uttered the quoteworthy “We just gotta stay humble”. Classic Fitzpatrick.

I’m looking forward to his on-field wackiness and his off-field bravado.

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