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.
Defensive Line (Nose to 5-technique)
The modern day NFL is making positional distinctions antiquated — particularly on the defensive side. In a league full of complex, versatile schemes, few defenses are more ambiguous than Brian Flores’ approach. Name the defensive front, odds are the Dolphins ran it at some point during the 2019 season.
Because of Miami’s multiplicity, branding any player is difficult. For that reason, we’ll split the defensive front into two categories — the down defensive lineman that play anywhere from head-up over the nose, all the way out to the 5-techinqe off the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle.
The Dolphins had three players sharing significant reps across those varietal positions between the 0 and 5-techniques. Rookie Christian Wilkins, in the most fluid role, led the way in snaps. For long stretches, Miami would call on its Bear front, which utilizes a pair of 2-techniques (head-up up over the guard) and a nose (head-up over the center). Wilkins, Davon Godchaux, and John Jenkins were the pillars of those fronts.
For Flores and the Dolphins to deploy more of the creativity that exists inside that massive playbook, a true base 5-techinque is an essential need. On top of the help off the edge, Miami needs depth both inside and outside.
Stats: 75 tackles, 2 sacks, 18 QB pressures (7 hits), 33 run stops
PFF Grade: 64.6 (97 of 199)
Snaps: 717 (64.1%)
It’s difficult for a defensive tackle to regularly impact games or pop on the tape, but Godchaux shows up in the backfield with as much regularity as any interior lineman. Pass rushing still isn’t his strong suit, but he made strides in that area.
Whew boy. Davon Godchaux just gave Travis Fredric all he can handle. pic.twitter.com/Z7z1CgaxOs
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) September 22, 2019
Godchaux’s a run-stuffing maven, piling up better than two run-stops per game. He offers a strong initial punch and a powerful base to hold the point against double teams. He drew on his experience in a two-gap system in college to produce the best year of his professional career. Godchaux is a leader and loud voice in the locker room — he should be up for an extension this offseason.
Stats: 56 tackles, 2 sacks, 30 QB pressures (4 hits), 29 run stops
PFF Grade: 64.4 (97 of 199)
Snaps: 730 (65.3%)
Christian Wilkins lead all rookie interior defensive lineman in tackles, and made a profound impact on that team behind the scenes — he’ll be a cornerstone for this franchise for years to come. Wilkins is exceptionally quick off the snap and made considerable strides in the crucial hand-fighting department of the game. Wilkins played the back-side 1, front-side three, he lined up as a 2-tech in bear fronts, and played plenty as the 4-tech as a big defensive end.
Christian Wilkins whacks Brandon Scherff. The rookie is getting better every week. Also, Raekwon doing his thing being the strongest dude on the field. pic.twitter.com/rF28jqEMHK
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) October 13, 2019
He’s consistent, he’s durable, and he’s an infectious leader. On top of consistently bubbling the offensive line (pushing it back), Wilkins was always the first player to greet touchdown scorers in the end zone with a full sprint from the sideline. He also showed his versatility catching a touchdown pass as a fullback in the goal line package against the Bengals.
Stats: 8 tackles, 1 sack, 4 QB pressures (1 hit), 6 run stops
PFF Grade: 76.2 (22 of 199)
Snaps: 78 (7.0%)
Keep this name at the front of your mind heading into camp, Sieler can play. He’s huge. The two-man sled was invented for players like Seiler for his ability to shoot the hands, lock out, and disengage as he reads the flow of the play. He was simply unblockable in the Cincinnati game.
Omg Zach Sieler pic.twitter.com/eNgBTAMutM
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) December 29, 2019
Ravens fans weren’t too happy about moving on from Sieler, and his immediate impact showed us why that was. He has the good to play multiple positions and really excel within the type of line-play Miami wants up front.
Stats: 4 tackles, 0.5 sack, 2 QB pressures (1 hit), 4 run stops
PFF Grade: DNQ
Snaps: 51 (4.6%)
Perhaps the most forgotten name in Miami, Ledbetter climbed from undrafted rookie at the bottom of the depth chart to opening day starter — and he played well in his brief stint. Ledbetter is another ideal big defensive end type with the ability to condense inside on rushing downs.
Look at the heavy hands from Ledbetter. pic.twitter.com/uX5fx3foLO
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) August 9, 2019
This is likely an indictment on the rest of the Miami defensive line, but Ledbetter was the best pure edge run-defender on the team; his loss was impactful.
Stats: 2 tackles, 0 sacks, 2 QB pressures (0 hits), 2 run stops
PFF Grade: DNQ
Snaps: 19 (1.7%)
The former Hurricane saw minimal action and looked out of shape on those 19 reps. A developmental year that was split between the 53-man roster and the practice squad, Willis has an uphill climb ahead of him this offseason.
Unrestricted Free Agents:
Stats: 34 tackles, 1 sack, 12 QB pressures (2 hits), 21 run stops
PFF Grade: 70.8 (49 of 199)
Snaps: 479 (42.8%)
Another gem discovered on the scrap heap for this Dolphins team, Jenkins is the quintessential role player that this team covets, and will need a handful of like-minded players to get the most out of the scheme.
John Jenkins will not be denied on this rep. Sheer power. Carradine won off the edge too. pic.twitter.com/c3fKJPVAU0
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) September 15, 2019
Jenkins isn’t going to wow anybody with his pass rush, but he’s strong and can play anywhere from the nose all the way out to the 5-techinuqe.
Free Agent Market:
The Guy — Jadeveon Clowney
The Dolphins were involved in the Clowney sweepstakes this summer, only to find out the former number-one overall pick wasn’t interested in playing for a team in transition. Now, if the Dolphins can sell the idea of a much more competitive outfit in 2020 and beyond, perhaps this idea re-circulates.
Jadeveon Clowney run-defense thread. Up first, Clowney works inside in a two-point over the nose and quickly disposed of him with a swim. pic.twitter.com/pDIJ5Al6LE
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) August 28, 2019
At his best, Clowney is the type of player this system was built for. An elite edge run-defender capable of holding the point, or completely collapsing the edge against strong left tackles, Clowney is far from a one-trick pony. He’ll stand up off the ball, drop in coverage as a two-point, and he’s even played interior ‘backer. His best trait is the early-down run defense, and the lateral rush ability he exhibits anywhere from the 7-technique all the way inside to a 2i-technique.
Clowney is the potential crown jewel, but he’ll cost upwards of $20 million per year — a risky deal for a guy that has missed games in five of six years as a professional.
The Reasonable Route — Shaq Lawson
It’s been a slow burn for Lawson to arrive as an impact player, but he showed up in a big way for the Bills this season. Lawson, like Clowney, has an inherent skill set to hold the edge against the run. He’s long (33-inch arm), thick (265 pounds), and uses his eyes and hands to keep his frame clean in a two-gap defense.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) November 28, 2019
Lawson measures similarly to former Patriots Edge, Trey Flowers. Lawson will likely call for second-tier money this offseason, and his connection to the defensive line coach in Miami puts the Dolphins on the list of potential suitors. Lawson played for Marion Hobby at Clemson.
The Sleeper — Danny Shelton
A different position than Clowney and Lawson, Shelton would serve a specific function for this Dolphins defense. After a slow start in Cleveland, Shelton made good on his first-round potential in New England. He saw a considerable jump in workload this season and justified his coaches for the promotion with his performance.
Piling up run stops, and even adding some pass rush to his game, Shelton is an ideal candidate to take 400 snaps in specific situations for the Dolphins.
Other Notable Free Agent Defensive Tackles:
|iDL Vernon Butler||Panthers|
|iDL Timmy Jernigan||Eagles|
|iDL A’Shawn Robinson||Lions|
|iDL Javon Hargrave||Steelers|
|iDL Adam Butler (RFA)||Patriots|
|DE Jabaal Sheard||Colts|
|DE Arik Armstead||49ers|
|DE Chris Jones||Chiefs|
|DE Mike Pennel||Chiefs|
The Guy — A.J. Epenesa
Epenesa comes back with a first-round grade before the tape even goes on. He’s massive with unrelenting power, and smooth enough transitions to twist, slant and stunt inside, or win on pure outside rushes.
AJ Epenesa’s impact is incredible. The Gophs stayed away from him as much as possible, as he was doing whatever he pleased against their LT. That didn’t stop him from doing this. pic.twitter.com/s5M2Uuz4X9
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) November 17, 2019
Iowa played Epenesa everywhere, including dropping into the hook zone in coverage. At 6-6, 280 pounds, he’s going to measure with the longest arms at the position. He can line up in a two-point, three-point, four-point and explode off the football, dent the edge or force it to bubble, and run through chips and doubles as well as anyone.
The Reasonable Route — Curtis Weaver
Another big-bodied edge that can play all over the line, Weaver has a thick, powerful base that presents a strong anchor against the run, and a quality bull rush move. He’s not the most-fluid edge rusher, but his get-off often oversets the tackle allowing Weaver to go to work with his heavy hands to get underneath inside.
I will not rest until Curtis Weaver gets the attention he deserves. The man is WRECKING offensive lines.
Among CFB edge defenders through Week 3 (per @PFF), Weaver has the:
– Most total pressures
– 4th highest pass-rush grade
– 5th highest pass-rush win rate pic.twitter.com/agLifdbZP7
— Anthony Treash (@PFF_Anthony) September 19, 2019
He’ll need to work on his speed rush. Too many times Weaver runs right past inferior right tackles, and sometimes works himself out of the play altogether. In the NFL he’ll have to introduce more counter moves and stay true to his rush lane. Weaver is 6-3, 265 pounds.
The Sleeper — Bradlee Anae
Notice a theme here? Anae is another 6-foot-3, 260-plus-pound edge that Miami will covet in this year’s draft. He’s a refined rusher with multiple moves in the arsenal, and the ability to angle inside as a rusher to expand the stunt game on the defensive line.
Look at this chop-dip-rip by Bradlee Anae. Then flattens and closes for another violent finish. Some team is going to get a huge steal here. pic.twitter.com/nROSHbSMKu
— Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) January 11, 2020
He’s not the most athletic rusher, but none of the guys in this portion are. New England never valued athleticism at end, and I don’t suspect Brian Flores will either. Dig-out or kick-out blocks are often a futile effort against Anae because of his long arms and ability to disengage quickly.
Travis Wingfield’s 2020 Down Defensive Lineman (5-tech and in) Draft Rankings:
|1. Derek Brown||Auburn|
|2. A.J. Epenesa||Iowa|
|3. Yetur Gross-Matos||Penn State|
|4. Neville Gallimore||Oklahoma|
|5. Curtis Weaver||Boise State|
|6. Javon Kinlaw||South Carolina|
|7. Bradlee Anae||Utah|
|8. Raekwon Davis||Alabama|
|9. Leki Fotu||Utah|
|10. Davon Hamilton||Ohio State|
This is Dolphins specific, so if you’re looking for Chase Young, K’Lavon Chaisson, Terrell Lewis and the like, they’ll be in tomorrow’s piece on stand-ups and on-ball linebackers.
This position group is loaded with plug-and-play options. Of the 10 on that list, there is a role on the Dolphins front to take 70-80% of the snaps straight away in the 2020 rookie campaign. Epenesa, Gross-Matos, and Weaver are first-round options — likely in listed order for each of Miami’s three first-round picks — to take on a similar workload that Christian Wilkins saw this season.
Those three players start outside at the five, and condense inside based upon the defensive package. Derek Brown is the best player out of all of them, and he spearheads a strong group of players that start inside — from play-side 3-technique to a back-side 1-shade, or straight up over the nose — and could fill valuable reps in Miami next season.
The depth of the class creates value. With all of Miami’s premium picks, and the need for versatile parts on the defensive front like the ones this draft offers, it would be a surprise to come away from Vegas without one of these college stars.
2020 Down Defensive Line Prediction (Listed in Order of Snaps):
1. Christian Wilkins
2. Shaq Lawson
3. Davon Godchaux
4. Bradlee Anae
5. John Jenkins
6. Zach Sieler
7. Bravvion Roy
Tomorrow: Edge (Ends, Stand-Up/On-Ball Linebackers)
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