Looking back, looking ahead, and everywhere in between ahead of a critical Miami Dolphins offseason
This publication has always fancied itself as an unaffiliated extension of the Miami Dolphins operation. In an attempt to arm fans with the researched clues about the team might do — and commentary on what they should do — we like to follow the same timeline as the coaches and decision makers at the facility in Davie.
The time for reflection is now. The coaching staff will be reviewing the 2019 season with an eye on self-scouting, and evaluating the job of every member that donned the Dolphins logo this past fall. The college scouting staff is buried in draft prep, and the pro personnel side is under water searching for potential free agent targets.
Since Locked On Dolphins is the most comprehensive Miami Dolphins outlet in existence, we’ll tackle all three subjects.
1. Reviewing the incumbents
2. Identifying free agent targets
3. Stacking the draft board
And we’ll do it for every position. It’s 10 days of offseason preparation, here on Locked On Dolphins dot com, as well as the Locked On Dolphins Podcast.
All things considered, the defensive backs of the Miami Dolphins outperformed expectations more so than any other area of the roster. The receivers might have an objection to that claim, but on paper, the Miami secondary should’ve never achieved a defensive stop.
The Dolphins — because of the hard reset on the cap, and injuries — used 21 different defensive backs this season. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills used less than half that amount with 10 each. Even a horrendously bad defense like the Jaguars used just 12 defensive backs all year.
Every week, it seems, Miami were picking up cornerbacks and throwing them into the fire. Amidst the chaos, Brian Flores, Josh Boyer and company might’ve discovered some hidden gems. Nik Needham has the look of a potential long-term starting perimeter corner, Jomal Wiltz has the makeup for quality depth, and Tae Hayes had a strong finish to the season.
Sweeping changes are likely to occur in this position group — maybe as many as five new additions. Developing depth from this group and having capable players ready to step onto the field in a pinch could prove invaluable.
Let’s look at the players that made up the ever-changing cornerback position in 2019 in Miami.
Xavien Howard (Perimeter Exclusive)
Stats: 17 tackles, 1 INT, 4 PBU, 117.9 passer rating allowed
PFF Grade: 56.5 (141 of 213)
Snaps: 322 (28.8%)
Everything that could go wrong this season did for Xavien Howard. The knee issues that have plagued him since his time at Baylor showed up again, forcing the Dolphins to shut the star corner down after the Monday night game in Pittsburgh. Additionally, Howard was involved in a domestic dispute with his fiancé hours after Miami’s victorious season finale in New England.
Let’s marvel at how great Xavien Howard is — this is some Revis stuff. Two-play sequence, Hollywood into the boundary with a + split, so we play off. No more, X takes him in the slot, mirrors, stays in phase, and makes a play on the football. Surprised he didn’t pick it. pic.twitter.com/A6qQ8kXS2E
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) September 10, 2019
At his healthy best, Howard is an elite, shutdown corner. He’s physical as all get out. He’ll press at the line as well as anyone, stay in phase up the stem, and then continues the aggression at the top of the route and at the catch point. He’s among the league’s best ball hawks with a better interception per game rate than any cornerback dating back to the end of the 2017 season. Ideally, he’s Flores’ version of Stephon Gilmore.
Bobby McCain (Slot, Perimeter, Free Safety)
Stats: 25 tackles, 2 INTs, 3 PBU, 107.1 passer rating allowed
PFF Grade: 61.9 (108 of 175*safeties)
Snaps: 540 (48.3%)
McCain was exclusively at safety this past season. It’s entirely possible that’s where he stays, but he was always best as a slot cornerback, so we’ll move him for the time being. The safety experience only makes him a more valuable entity next year, and he excels in the areas that Brian Flores loves in a corner.
Please make Bobby McCain a 100% snap taker. pic.twitter.com/fAxhO2oNAN
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) April 9, 2018
Tackling, ball-tracking, and ball skills are each traits McCain offers in spades, and he’s an unquestioned leader and captain of this defense. There’s an out in McCain’s contract after the 2020 season, so it’s imperative to find a distinct job he can regularly execute for him to be around beyond next year.
Nik Needham (Perimeter Exclusive)
Stats: 54 tackles, 2 INTs, 11 PBU, 116.6 passer rating allowed
PFF Grade: 60.8 (106 of 213)
Snaps: 742 (66.4%)
After earning first-team work in training camp, and then getting absolutely victimized in the preseason opener, Dolphins fans couldn’t sell Needham stock fast enough. Serving as the microcosm of the entire Dolphins season, Needham responded to give Miami a quality perimeter corner from out of nowhere.
Nik Needham to the field in a 1v1. He takes the cheese for the takeoff route, but you see the feet and the hip fluidity in his game as he’s able to flip and recover. pic.twitter.com/qa8p3Xr5Ul
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) October 20, 2019
Needham has two traits that will keep him in the league for a long time. First, his instincts. He regularly falls off his man and jumps into the passing lane because of his studious prep work.
Second, he has the goods in the footwork department. A smooth operator, Needham has tremendous recovery instincts due in large part to the minimal wasted movement from the most important aspect of the game — the feet.
Jomal Wiltz (Slot, Safety)
Stats: 53 tackles, 1 INT, 100.1 passer rating allowed
PFF Grade: 43.7 (196 of 213)
Snaps: 598 (53.5%)
This season was a learning experience for many of Miami’s young players, and Wiltz sits at the head of that table. Wiltz got beat a lot, but he continuously picked himself up off the mat and competed.
Sure do like the way Jomal Wiltz plays the game. pic.twitter.com/pIs9YkJkEP
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) August 23, 2019
Wiltz worked his way up from practice squad nobody to a prominent figure in the Miami secondary. He’s a sure tackler and has corner/safety versatility — those two traits make him a terrific candidate to serve as Miami’s dime back next season.
Tae Hayes (Slot, Perimeter)
Stats: 7 tackles, 2 PBU, 41.4 passer rating allowed
PFF Grade: 43.9 (195 of 213)
Snaps: 107 (9.6%)
A Late-December addition, Hayes was thrust into the lineup because of the dire situation at corner for Miami. All hays did was compete to the tune of a passer-rating-against nearing the number for a quarterback continuously spiking the ball into the ground (39.0).
Tae Hayes is competing. Nice structure from Miami to clamp on the underneath options, and for Hayes to run under the flag route — makes for a much smaller window. pic.twitter.com/eIKslPO945
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) December 29, 2019
Hayes can play inside and out, and will let you know when he wins a rep. He plays with his hair on fire and loves the trash talk aspect of the game.
Ryan Lewis (Perimeter Exclusive)
Stats: 24 tackles, 1 INT, 5 PBU, 81.9 passer rating allowed
PFF Grade: 38.8 (205 of 213)
Snaps: 293 (26.2%)
Lewis’ best game came in primetime against the Pittsburgh Steelers, as he showed the mirror technique and pattern matching that will have him the good graces of this coaching staff. The question for Lewis — and many other Dolphins corners — are they talented enough to hold off high-priced imported parts? It’s not likely.
Ken Webster (Perimeter Exclusive)
Stats: 19 tackles, 1 PBU, 97.4 passer rating allowed
PFF Grade: 51.7 (170 of 213)
Snaps: 226 (20.2%)
Like Lewis, Webster’s health wouldn’t allow him to finish the season. A 2019 draft pick of the Patriots, Webster was immediately claimed by Miami after his release. He’s big, long and aggressive, and he’ll need to hone those traits into translatable production to earn a job on the squad next year.
Cordrea Tankersley (Perimeter Exclusive)
PFF Grade: N/A
Snaps: 0 (IR)
Tankersley is a match-made-in-heaven for this scheme, but the ACL tear in October 2018 cast some serious doubt over his future. Tankersley was never able to get on the field in 2019, and with just one year left on his rookie deal, time is getting short for the 2017 third-round pick.
Futures Contracts: Rishard Causey
Unrestricted Free Agents: Aqib Talib
Exclusive Rights Free Agents: Nate Brooks, Linden Stephens
Free Agent Market:
The Guy — Byron Jones
To acquire Jones Miami would likely have to match the contract awarded to Xavien Howard this past summer. As unlikely as that seems, Jones is worth it. A premier outside corner, Jones has played essentially every position in the secondary since his first-round selection out of UCONN.
— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 28, 2016
His tackling is superb, his versatility allows the defense to disguise coverages and blitz concepts, and his ball production doesn’t match the skill set he has tracking the football in the air. Dallas is unlikely to bring Jones back, but Miami would be stretching the defensive back budget with an offer to the star corner.
The Reasonable Route — Logan Ryan
We talk all the time about smooth transitions for free agents changing teams. For Logan Ryan, he’d show up for the first day of work with a comprehensive understanding of the system and the program.
Impressive discipline/study out of Logan Ryan here. Wasn't buying Patrick Mahomes having his eyes to the flat. Triggered back to the MoF as soon as Mahomes drew the ball. pic.twitter.com/hlKsnDhPMk
— Derrik Klassen (@QBKlass) November 14, 2019
The Titans would be foolish to let Ryan walk, but perhaps with contracts coming for Ryan Tannehill, Derek Henry, and Jack Conklin, the underrated corner can shake free. He’s aggressive, he’s an exceptional tackler, and he’s just as good in the slot as he is outside. If he signed up with the Dolphins he’d probably play the slot in nickel and dime packages, and stay on the field in base as one of two perimeter corners.
The Sleeper — Brian Poole
The lone keeper of the Jets cornerback group a year ago, something would have to go terribly wrong for the Jets to let Poole walk. Or perhaps he asks for too much money, and in that event, the Dolphins probably stay away. Poole is strictly a slot corner and he’s been steady in that role.
Other Notable Free Agent Cornerbacks:
|Chris Harris Jr.||Broncos|
The Guy — Jeff Gladney
Only Okudah (CB1) has better feet than Gladney. The smooth transition and weight-transfer skill set allows him to pattern match, mirror, press, play off, and fire out of a back pedal with ease. He will need to learn to use his length better at the next level, he’s not great at rerouting.
— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) December 30, 2019
Although Gladney is best in coverage, he rarely misses a tackle. He has the long-speed to stay in phase on takeoff routes outside, and does well to clear his hips and change direction to keep up with the shiftiness that slot receivers present. The inside-outside versatility puts him atop Miami’s board in this exercise (sans Okudah since I believe he’s a top 5 pick).
The Reasonable Route — A.J. Terrell
Terrell had the task of a lifetime in the National Championship Game. Drawing Ja’Marr Chase is enough to make any corner look silly, but Terrell competed and had his share of wins in the matchup.
A little bit grabby from AJ Terrell, but that’s a nice inside hand jam! That’s the best receiver in college football this season he’s up against. pic.twitter.com/JSBYmvgXdz
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) January 14, 2020
For such an aggressive, long, press-man corner, Terrell can flip the hips and transition well enough to win as a man-cover corner. He’s a smart player that can get a little bit grabby, which will draw more flags in the NFL, but he’s exactly the prototype Miami wants in its man-heavy defense.
The Sleeper — Damon Arnette
A copy-and-paste approach from Terrell’s write-up would suffice here for Arnette. Overlooked because of the presence of Okudah and Shaun Wade in that Buckeye defensive backfield, Arnette took considerable strides this season in Columbus.
Damon Arnette Pick Six 🙌 pic.twitter.com/yhcl3AQxIn
— Buckeye Videos+ (@BuckeyeVideos) September 14, 2019
Arnette will challenge every route at the three critical points — off the line, at the top of the stem, and at the catch point. He’s a sound tackler, but isn’t real interested in fighting off blocks. He’s more athletic than most players with his play-style which should bump his draft stock come April.
Travis Wingfield’s 2020 Cornerback Draft Rankings:
|1. Jeff Okudah||Ohio State|
|2. Jeff Gladney||TCU|
|3. Kristian Fulton||LSU|
|4. A.J. Terrell||Clemson|
|5. Trevon Diggs||Alabama|
|6. Bryce Hall||Virginia|
|7. Jaylon Johnson||Utah|
|8. Damon Arnette||Ohio State|
|9. Cameron Dantzler||Mississippi State|
|10. C.J. Henderson||Florida|
This position will be interesting to follow as the Dolphins could take a variety of routes towards the solution. Signing Logan Ryan essentially fixes the position — if we are to assume that Howard is healthy and McCain returns to the slot — and the same could be true of drafting Okudah with the fifth pick, or one of the other top corners later in the first round.
Instead, I believe the Dolphins will rely on their greatest strength in the coaching staff, the ability to get production from the position with minimal investment. It’s expected that Needham takes another step next season, but Miami should still invest in competition for the former UTEP Miner.
Arnette, Terrell, Gladney, Diggs, and Johnson all make a lot of sense on day-two of the draft. Or the Dolphins could opt to go after a mid-tier free agent like Eli Apple or Rashaan Melvin.
And we’d be foolish to dismiss the possibility of Josh Boyer finding another gem from the 2020 undrafted free agent class. Or perhaps that surprise player is already in house. Above all, Miami will probably utilize more safeties, making the need to acquire multiple corners obsolete.
2020 Cornerback Rankings (Listed in Order of Snaps):
1. Xavien Howard
2. Bobby McCain
3. Damon Arnette
4. Nik Needham
5. Jomal Wiltz
6. Tae Hayes
7. Trajan Bandy
Turning the Machine in the Right Direction
Nearly a year ago, 11 months to be precise, I wrote this piece for Locked On Dolphins: “Small, Important Steps in the Right Direction”. It was me opining on what I felt like were a series of small steps Miami, specifically Chris Grier and the front office had taken in the right direction just after the Draft. At the time, Miami had accumulated a Draft Pick haul of a: 1st rounder, two 2nd rounders, a 3rd, two 4ths, a 5th, two 6ths, and two 7ths. We know war chest has expanded, and Miami’s sure to put that to effective use in just over a month at the 2020 NFL Draft.
So, where are Miami now?
Well, that’s an interesting question, but I’ll attempt to answer it. With a haul of 11 free agents, counting TE Michael Roberts who was signed before the new League Year, Miami’s managed to fill some of the holes the exited 2019 with. Perhaps most important, despite shelling out big money deals, all of them are structured in smart, team-friendly ways. Kudos to Chris Grier and Brandon Shore for that. It’ll pay dividends down the road.
With the Draft still a month away, at least as things stand with the COVID-19 outbreak right now, Miami’s needs have become clearer. Quarterback was always and still is the top priority for the Draft. Running Back is a need still, and there’s a plethora of top notch backs in this year’s class. Offensive Line, obviously. Miami can use help across the board there. With the defensive free agent signings, I’m not sure edge defenders are a need anymore, but I think Miami will still bargain shop there. Safety, specifically free safety, and a true nose tackle round out the needs list. At lest in my mind.
With 14 picks, and Miami probably won’t use all of them to make actual picks – I think some get used in trade ups and some get pushed to 2021 – Miami will likely be able to fill that remaining chunk of needs, which is a great place to be in. Perhaps Miami still shops around a bit in free agency, maybe for O-line depth or a cheap running back, but I think the focus now narrows to the Draft. Since that’s next month, let’s review the free agent crop.
Free Agent Fits
Our pal Travis Wingfield has done plenty of in-depth reporting on all of Miami’s free agent signings, so I’m going to give you my broad stroke takes on what Miami’s added this past week.
Miami added defensive ends Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah to help set the edge against the run. Kyle Van Noy is an outside linebacker with a sneaky amount of strength and ability to play with heavy hands and good leverage who can help set the edge too. What this means for Miami’s defense is that we’ll likely see more 4-man defensive fronts. Remember, when Brian Flores called the Patriots defense in 2018 his most used for formations were:
4-2-5 (307 snaps)
3-3-5 (226 snaps)*
3-2-6 (132 snaps)
4-3 (97 snaps)
* With the 3-3-5 package, there’s really two versions: The Bear front and the slide front. The Bear front typically included bigger defensive lineman to cover the opponents G-C-G with Hightower and Trey Flowers or Kyle Van Noy on edges, with Van Noy or Elandon Roberts off-ball. Think of the slide front as really a 4-2 front, but you have an OLB playing as a stand-up DE.
A potential hidden bonus here is that both Lawson and Ogbah have some experience playing in stand-up OLB/DE roles. Shaq Lawson did it some at Clemson and Ogbah had some limited experience in doing so last year with the Chiefs. I think Ogbah was used primarily as a rusher as I haven’t seen snaps of him dropping into coverage from that spot. But he’s been aligned there.
With the additions of Lawson, Ogbah and Van Noy, Miami’s going to try and be able to find analogs similar to Van Noy himself, more on that in a minute; Ogbah compares pretty well in play style to how the Pats used Adrian Clayborn and Deatrich Wise that year; and Lawson’s versatility might lend him to be used in some, and I stress some, of the capacities in which they used Trey Flowers. With Van Noy, in 2019 he was almost an exclusive on-the-LOS edge LB. In 2018, his duties between being an edge player and off-ball linebacker were about 50-50. I don’t know that we’ll see that, but I think Van Noy’s snaps won’t be as an exclusive edge – he’s so versatile in how he can be used.
As much as I love Khalid Kareem and really like guys like K’Lavon Chaisson, Curtis Weaver, Yetur Gross-Matos, and Marlon Davidson I have a difficult time picturing Miami spending a top-level resource on an edge defender. I think they’ll take a stab on a guy that falls or try and find value later on like Trevis Gipson, Jason Strowbridge, Chauncey Rivers, James Smith-Williams, etc.
No Fly Zone Southeast
I’ll admit, I in no way shape or form saw Miami going after someone like Byron Jones. In fact, I wonder if the Patriots franchise tagging Joe Thuney meant that money Miami might’ve offered to him was “freed up” to pursue other options. And man, did Miami get a nice player in Jones. Yes, he doesn’t have a ton of interceptions, but he does have 20 PBUs the past two years, and 44 for his career – nearly nine a year.
I’m a little dumbfounded that so many Dolfans think this signing means that Xavien Howard is on the trade block. Why would he be? Why would you dismantle a CB tandem this good? I get that X had the legal issue, but that was dismissed. I feel like if Miami wanted him gone, he’d have been gone by now.
What it means having a tandem like Byron and X is that you have a pair of corners that excel at press, can play off man, can both play on either side of the formation, and both can travel to the slot. That gives them some really nice flexibility and the opportunity to get creative with coverages. I’ll be really intrigued if they add a FS that allows Bobby McCain to play in the slot more, like he did in 2015-17. Miami could disguise a lot if that becomes an option.
When you combine Jones with the additions of Lawson and Ogbah up front, and Van Noy as someone who can play on the LOS or off-ball, you have to tip your cap to Miami for adding help at all three levels of the defense.
Depth and Special Teams
Miami apparently isn’t bringing back Walt Aikens, who was their best special teamer the past few seasons. Instead, Miami opted to bring in a trio of damn good special teamers, two of whom were captains. The one that wasn’t, Elandon Roberts, figures to get a chance to play in some packages on defense, just as he did with New England, and is a core special teams guy. It wouldn’t surprise me if he ate some of Chandler Cox’s reps as a fullback either. He’ll be fun to watch on whichever unit he’s getting snaps at.
Kamu Grugier-Hill, a fellow 6th round pick mate of the 2016 Patriots Class with Ted Karras and Elandon Roberts, is an intriguing player. While he might have been a better fit for Miami’s previous staff under Gase and Burke, he’s a fantastic special teamer and has shown well as a blitzer and coverage linebacker. His presence probably means guys like Sam Eguavoen and Calvin Munson are in the danger zone.
Clayton Fejedelem is more a like-for-like replacement for Aikens. A hard-hitting safety who’s a demon on special teams. Fejedelem probably won’t get a lot of looks on defense, especially if Miami ends up drafting another safety, but the bonus with Fejedelem, as compared to Aikens, is if you have to call on him to play on defense, he’s going to be better equipped to handle it.
Improving the Ground Game
I’ll admit, with Ereck Flowers being the first reported signing of free agency, I was a little worried the ghosts of Jeff Ireland and Mike Tannenbaum were summoned by the Tequesta. Flowers reputation carries stains, but he played well the second half of 2019 as LG for the Redskins. I hope Miami leaves him there. Ted Karras comes over after playing as center for the Patriots in 2019. He’s a bigger guy than Daniel Kilgore. He’s smart. He’s tough. He struggles a little in space and with power. I do wonder if Michael Deiter gets a shot to compete with him at the C spot with Flowers at LG, where Deiter played last year.
Both Flowers and Karras will get the opportunity to block for newly signed running back Jordan Howard (a favorite of my wife’s as he’s a fellow Indiana Hoosier). Howard’s a bigger back at 225lbs, but he’s more well rounded than he is a power back. He can catch and be a weapon in the pass game. He’s also pretty savvy with inside and outside zone runs. With Chan Gailey and Eric Studesville working on the ground game, Howard’s sure to get plenty of use.
Tight end Michael Roberts has played just 12 games over the past three seasons due to injuries and poor play. He was traded to the Patriots last year but failed a physical cancelling the trade. Detroit waived him and he was claimed by Green Bay but failed a physical there. He battled weight gain, depression and had his left shoulder surgically repaired. More of a blocking TE, he roasted the Dolphins in 2018, naturally, when Detroit came to Miami. If Roberts plays up to his potential, I think he’s got the ability to challenge Durham Smythe for that #2 TE role – being an inline TE.
Prepping for April
While the Draft won’t have the party that Vegas would’ve offered, that’s the next major step for Chris Grier. Miami needs to get the Draft right. We’re talking 2017 Saints right. We’re talking 2019 Raiders right. Miami has the opportunity to inject a lot of talent, in addition to the quarterback, into this team.
Go figure that the year Miami as FINALLY loaded up on picks, the COVID-19 breakout has forced Pro Days and 30 Visits to mostly be cancelled. And unless something drastically changes in the next few weeks, Miami and the rest of the league aren’t going to have as much operating information as they normally do. Miami will have to rely more on scouting than in the past.
The outbreak also likely puts a dent into each team’s offseason program. Teams will have to head into their offseason programs storming to get ready for the season. Let’s hope Miami doesn’t have a truncated offseason like they did in 2011 under Tony Sparano, which lead to an 0-7 start.
For now, with quarantines in place, there’s likely not going to be a lot happening for the Dolphins between now and the Draft. Hunker down. Watch tape (Game Pass is free). Familiarize yourself with Flores’s scheme. Watch “Humble and Hungry” – I highly recommend it! But above all, stay safe. We can get through this together.
You may recall Travis and I made a trip to Miami last year for the Bengals-Dolphins game. We were credentialed for it, meaning we were members of the media for that day. I think one of the most lasting impressions I have from that trip is just how many pieces work to create the “machine” that is each NFL team. Miami have a lot of great people in place.
I’d only ever been to one other Dolphins game in Miami. That was back in 2010. I don’t remember what Hard Rock Stadium was called at the time; it’s had many different iterations since it was Joe Robbie Stadium. But I remember walking around that stadium thinking it was dumpy. And I’d been to some dumpy stadiums – Old RFK Stadium for a Washington Nationals Game, whatever they call the Coliseum where the Raiders played, and the A’s still call home. Riverfront Stadium – the stadium of my youth. These were the stadiums that Hard Rock rivaled in 2010.
What Mr. Ross and Tom Garfinkel have done to the place is INCREDIBLE! I’ve been to Lucas Oil Stadium and the renovated version of Lambeau Field (2010 and 2016). Those two places are crown jewels. Hard Rock Stadium as it stands right now is nicer than both!
Miami’s building a fantastic new team headquarters and training complex. Travis and I stopped by Team HQ in Davie on our trip to pick up a parking pass for the game. The current HQ is nice (I live in Cincinnati and drive by Paul Brown Stadium daily on my way to work – that’s my comparison, but Miami’s is nicer), but it’s small. This new place is going to be world-class.
Brian Flores the Head Coach. While it’s only been a year with him at the helm, just by being in his presence, hearing him speak and listening to what the players said about him – there’s not a man in that building that wouldn’t run to the TNT Wall for him. Miami’s finally got the Head Coach they’ve longed for since Don Shula strode the sidelines.
The Dolphins have added 11 pieces so far, and the have the opportunity to select a new franchise quarterback in a month. If Chris Grier, Marvin Allen, Reggie McKenzie, Brian Flores, the staff, and the scouts get this right Miami’s going to have built one hell of a machine. Just in time for the post-Tom Brady Era in the AFC East.
It’s a wonderful time to be a Dolfan! All is certainly not right in the world. Not by a longshot. But in these trying times where we all need to cling to some form of solace, the Dolphins are providing one. It’s a small part of my everyday life, but it’s one of my favorite parts. Always has been. Always will be. FinsUp!
Free agency opens; Reshad Jones, Mike Hull lead Miami Dolphins cuts
MIAMI (Locked On Dolphins) – While the two-day legal tampering period has already been underway, free agency officially opened on Wednesday at 4 p.m.
Since many of the heavy-hitting signs and trades have already been announced, the start of the new league year will be more about ratifying all those moves.
The Miami Dolphins, at the time of writing, have announced 10 free agency moves.
And with that, there has been the consequential announcement of cutdowns to counterbalance the roster spots of incoming players.
Reshad Jones leads the list and is also the only technical release, but the Dolphins had already announced that.
Jones was going into his 11th season and spent the first 10 with the Dolphins.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Jones sign with a new team in the coming days of free agency.
Nearly half a dozen players were also waived: wide receiver T.J. Rahming, cornerback Rashard Causey, tackle Chidi Okeke, interior offensive lineman Evan Brown, defensive lineman Kendrick Norton, and linebacker Mike Hull.
Rahming, Causey, and Okeke spent the 2019 season as practice squad members.
Brown saw playing time late in the 2019 season but had been plucked off the Giants practice squad.
Hull might be the most interesting name on the list. He had been a scrappy ‘backer presence for the Dolphins after signing with the team as a UDFA in 2015.
Hull re-signed with the Dolphins last spring.
But he spent the 2019 season on the Physically Unable to Perform list with a knee injury and didn’t play.
Norton was also kept on the team during the 2019 season by way of the Non-Football Injury list after a car accident last summer.
Miami Dolphins Bring On Another Ex-Patriot, Sign LB Elandon Roberts
The Miami Dolphins are loading up on leadership. If there’s one thing the Dolphins have made a priority this offseason, it’s adding smart, determined football players to their team. Under Brian Flores‘ stewardship, I doubt we ever see a broken locker room again.
According to Cameron Wolfe of ESPN, the Miami Dolphins are signing linebacker Elandon Roberts to a contract. Financial details are currently unknown.
Dolphins agreed to a deal with former Patriots LB Elandon Roberts, per source.
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) March 18, 2020
Roberts is yet another ex-New England Patriot to leave Boston this offseason for warmer pastures down south, following fellow-linebacker Kyle Van Noy, and the recent addition of (center) Ted Karras earlier today.
Originally drafted as a 6th-round pick by the New England Patriots in 2016, Roberts has primarily served as a special teams ace, while also serving as depth at linebacker.
If you were impressed by Biegel’s production last season, you will be pleased with the type of versatility Roberts brings. Over the past four seasons, Roberts has been active for 60 games (starting 33 of them), and has accumulated 4 sacks, 6 passes defended, 206 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss and 14 QB Hits.
Roberts is stout against the run, something the Dolphins have lacked over the past couple of seasons.
Run-stuffing LB/FB Elandon Roberts, a team captain in 2019, reunites with Brian Flores. The Patriots have Dont’a Hightower and Ja’Whaun Bentley as top ILBs. https://t.co/yvYxvVgMV4
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) March 18, 2020
If you were curious what all the additions at linebacker meant for Vince Biegel, this doesn’t make things any clearer. Biegel is tendered at a “cheap” rate next season, so there’s no need to trade him or let him walk, but with the additions of Roberts and Kamu Grugier-Hill so far this offseason, it seems snap counts are becoming sparser.
Right now, the Dolphins currently have the following linebackers on their roster for 2020:
- Chase Allen
- Jerome Baker
- Vince Biegel
- Jake Carlock
- James Crawford
- Jamal Davis II
- Sam Eguavoen
- Terrill Hanks
- Trent Harris
- Mike Hull
- Deon Lacy
- Raekwon McMillan
- Calvin Munson
- Andrew Van Ginkel
They recently added:
- Kyle Van Noy
- Elandon Roberts
- Kamu Grugier-Hill
Sam Eguavoen was a budding linebacker and special teams player for the Dolphins last season, but it looks like he’ll need to have an excellent training camp to remain on the team. It’ll also be interesting to see what this means for last year’s 5th-round pick, Andrew Van Ginkel.
- Turning the Machine in the Right Direction March 22, 2020
- Free agency opens; Reshad Jones, Mike Hull lead Miami Dolphins cuts March 18, 2020
- Miami Dolphins Bring On Another Ex-Patriot, Sign LB Elandon Roberts March 18, 2020
- Miami Dolphins sign center Ted Karras March 18, 2020
- Miami Dolphins Bolster Their Running Backs, Sign Jordan Howard March 17, 2020