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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins 5 Worst Free Agency Signings

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins have had their fair share of mistakes throughout the years, and with free agency set to begin this week, I’m here to remind you about all the bad times we had together before you get excited for the “hope” that lies ahead (see what I did there….)

Maybe it’s a coincidence that all of the players listed are relatively current. Only one of these players played for the team in the 2000s, with some of them being on the team as recently as 2017.

Recent memory serves us best, but with player contracts annually increasing, you’re going to find plenty more-recent Dolphins bust.

Not a single person is going to say Brian Hartline‘s 5-year, $31m ($12.5m guaranteed) contract was more detrimental to the team’s cap space than any of the players listed below. Not even Daunte Culpepper‘s $8m contract was that bad (even though he’s technically a trade acquisition, not a free agent) – even if his production was far worse than Ryan Tannehill‘s.

The Miami Dolphins have had plenty of underwhelming players throughout the 21st century, below are the five free agent contracts that were abysmally worse than all the rest:

Note: this list does not include extensions – this list strictly looks at players that came from another team. Which means players like Ryan Tannehill, Reshad Jones, Mike Pouncey and Bobby McCain will not show up here)

5) Philip Wheeler: 5-yr, $25m ($13m guaranteed)

The perfect example of a player performing in a contract year and happily walking off into the sunset; Philip Wheeler was a head-scratching free agency signing and an even worse linebacker.

Paired with the #3 player on our list, Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe were an atrocious duo for the Dolphins. Brought on to replace Kevin Burrnett and Karlos Dansby respectively, both players were role players rewarded with starting contracts. They were anomalies that the Dolphins fell in love with (just like Andre Branch).

In his first season with Miami, Wheeler started all 16 games and recorded 118 tackles – mostly because opposing teams realized they could be productive running/passing at Wheeler. Wheeler did record 5 tackles for a loss and 5 QB hits, but that average comes out to less than 1 every 3 games, which is pathetic for a linebacker meant to stop the run and close gaps.

I wasn’t able to find the clip, but there was one play of Wheeler’s that will always stick out at me. He was turning around to call out a play to his fellow defenders and then turned back towards the opposing offense to get into his stance – ready to attack the play. Except the play already started and the opponent was tackled right by his feet. It took until the player was tackled for Wheeler to diagnose that the play had actually started.

This play perfectly sums up Wheeler’s career in Miami and perfectly sums up what every fan feels about him. Confused and unmotivated.

4) Jake Grove: 5-yr, $29m ($14.5m guaranteed)

This signing may have swayed us because of how poorly the Miami Dolphins misdiagnosed everything involved in this “prized” free agency signing.

After an Oakland Raiders career marred by injuries, the Dolphins thought they were lucky to find their future center and signed Jake Grove to a ridiculous $29m offer (half of which was guaranteed).

Sure enough, Grove got injured in his first season with the team and started only 10 games. He didn’t even make it to his second season with Miami, and was released during the 2010 preseason.

Grove hasn’t played another snap in the NFL since.

A few things play into this monstrosity:

  1. No one else was interested in Jake Grove – which made the length and price of the contract completely unnecessary.
  2. Jake Grove played 1 full season in the NFL (2006). He was active for 54/80 games with Oakland (67.5%) and started just 46 of those 80 games (57.5%)
  3. The Miami Dolphins already had Samson Satele on the roster and subsequently traded him to Oakland to fill the void left by Grove. Satele would go on to start 42/48 games with Oakland over the next 3 seasons before becoming the Indianapolis Colts starting center for 3 seasons after that.

Eventually, Miami moved on from Grove and started Joe Berger in his place. Berger was alright for Miami, though the team let him go and Berger eventually wound up with the Minnesota Vikings where he would go on to have an adequate career as both a backup and a starter.

Miami eventually settled the position by drafting a makeshift center from Florida, Mike Pouncey, in the 1st-round of the 2011 draft. Ironically enough, Miami has still yet to solve the center position after almost a decade of allocating valuable resources towards it.

3) Dannell Ellerbe: 5-yr, $35m ($14m guaranteed)

Brought on to replace Karlos Dansby as the starting middle linebacker, Dannell Ellerbe took millions from the Dolphins and left them with the same problem they started with – a void at linebacker.

Ellerbe started 15 games for the Dolphins in 2013 and put up some gaudy numbers:  2 interceptions, 5 passes defended, 1 sack, 101 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss and 4 QB hits. Though, like Wheeler, statistics are a bit misleading.

Ellerbe was a liability in coverage and against the run. Between Wheeler and Ellerbe, it was open season for opposing offenses – with an invitation to attack the middle of the field. It didn’t matter what kind of pass rush Cameron Wake was putting up or if Randy Starks was holding the middle of the defensive line just fine, the offense was still going to be productive.

To this day the team is still searching for an adequate replacement for (future Hall of Famer) Zach Thomas.

2) Mike Wallace: 5-yr, $60m ($30m guaranteed)

When you would rather have Davone Bess and Brian Hartline receiving the ball, you know something went wrong. Originally signed to a 5-year contract to be the kind of deep threat Desean Jackson actually is for the Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Mike Wallace was neither motivated nor all that good.

Wallace clashed with head coaches, quit on the team years before Reshad Jones made it “a thing”, and required fellow wide receiver Brandon Gibson to talk for him at his locker  because he was too much of a diva to face the heat.

What started out as an offseason that was set to change the course of this team’s future quickly turned into another regrettable signing for the Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins did end up with the last laugh. After signing with the Dolphins, Wallace admitted that he turned down more money with the Minnesota Vikings to head down to Miami. With the Dolphins finally fed up with the receiver, the team traded Wallace to the Vikings after the 2014 season. They didn’t receive much compensation, but Wallace was forced to play in an environment he wanted nothing to be apart of. He was released from the Vikings following the 2015 season and has since been relegated to a #2 or #3 receiver on an NFL team.

The only thing that saves Wallace’s time in Miami are the pedestrian numbers he put up. Even with erratic quarterback play from a young Ryan Tannehill, in two years, Wallace was able to haul in 140 receptions for 1792 yards and 15 TDs. Think that’s alright? What do you think of Brandon Marshall? Because at least Marshall eclipsed 1000 yards each year, he just couldn’t catch touchdowns to save his job.

Honorable Mentions

Below we have (quite) a few more players that didn’t work out, they just worked out slightly more than the others. Or, their contract just wasn’t as bad:

Nate Allen: 1-yr, $3.4m

You really can’t have a bad one year contract – especially one that costs this little. But sub-par play mixed with a season-ending injury halfway through the season leads to an unproductive signing for Miami.

He came one year after Isa Abdul-Quddus was one of the best free agency signings in Dolphins history.

Gibril Wilson: 5-yr, $27.5m ($8m guaranteed)

The only thing saving Gibril Wilson from being on the list is the guaranteed money he signed for.

Brought in to be the free safety compliment to Yeremiah Bell, Miami realized their mistake one year into the five-year contract and released Wilson during the 2010 offseason. His stat line was adequate (7 passes defended, 93 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss and 3 QB hits), but he was susceptible to giving up the big play at the wrong time.

Don’t get me wrong, Wilson was terrible for the Dolphins, and deserves to be on this list – his contract just wasn’t quite bad enough to warrant a top-5 spot.

Mario Williams: 2-yr, $17m ($11.9m guaranteed)

After years of tormenting the Dolphins, Miami thought they won one over on their division rivals by signing Mario Williams to a 2-yr, $17m contract ($11.9m guaranteed). Williams was happy with the paycheck and played with minimal effort – making it obvious he was just trying to end his NFL career without injury.

The Dolphins couldn’t be happier to release him following the 2016 season. Williams started 15 games in 2016 and accumulated 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks during his time with Miami. Or in other words, slightly more than literally nothing.

Ernest Wilford: 4-yr, $13m ($6m guaranteed)

The failed wide receiver couldn’t make it as a tight end in Miami and was released from the team after just one season.

Ernest Wilford was active for 7 games in 2008 and accumulated 3 catches for 25 yards and 0 touchdowns. Prior to coming to Miami, Wilford averaged almost 500 receiving yards per season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Although an injury ended his 2008 season prematurely, 25 yards from your tight end is worse than Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron; which makes this signing much worse than either of those two.

Lawrence Timmons: 2-yr, $20m ($11m guaranteed)

Saved by insanity, the Miami Dolphins dodged a really bad contract when Lawrence Timmons abandoned the team and attempted to return home to his family. While I should be careful with the jokes (who knows if that was a result of early CTE or a side effect of drugs he might be taking), in the business world we live and operate in, the airport trip that never happened was the best thing to happen to Miami.

1) Ndamukong Suh: 6-yr, $114m ($60m guaranteed)

This is one of those outliers where the player was not only extremely successful, they were borderline dominant at the position.

So how could a player who was annually top-3 at his position be considered a terrible contract for a team?

When Mike Tannenbaum is your general manager and has that glisten in his eye when a generational player is available, that’s how.

Lets not sugarcoat or undermine Ndamukong Suh‘s career because he made out like a bandit in Miami; he is most definitely one of the best players of this generation. Even if his career is slightly stained by the “dirty” play he exhibited back with the Detroit Lions, everyone will remember the name Ndamukong Suh when you say it 10 years from now. Just say “Suh” and people will know exactly who you’re talking about.

That’s dominance.

What didn’t dominate was Miami’s rushing defense, their overall defense, or the team’s record. In Suh’s 3 seasons with Miami, the teams’ stats looked like:

  • Rushing Defense:
    • 2015: 28th (126.2 yards per game)
    • 2016: 30th (140.4)
    • 2017: 14th (110.4)
  • Overall Defense:
    • 2015: 25th (376.2 yards per game)
    • 2016: 29th (382.6)
    • 2017: 16th (335.7)
  • Dolphins’ Record:
    • 2015: 6-10
    • 2016: 10-6 (0-1 playoffs)
    • 2017: 6-10

Ndamukong Suh is on this list not only because he proved paying money to a generational talent at one of the “non-premier” positions (cornerback, quarterback, left tackle) translates into nothing for the team, but he still counts towards Miami’s cap hit in 2019!

Suh’s dead cap hits in 2018 ($9.1m) and 2019 ($13.1m) were/are more than most Dolphins will cost in 2018 and 2019.

All the tackles, sacks, highlight-reel plays and accolades can’t diminish the impact Suh’s contract had on this team. The inability to build elsewhere hamstrung the organization from retaining valuable players like Jarvis Landry or even valuable role players like Michael Thomas.

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

    Rich McQuillen

    March 11, 2019 at 1:17 pm

    ““non-premier” positions (cornerback, quarterback, left tackle) translates into nothing for the team”
    — What are you talking about? In Suh’s last season, the Dolphins defense improved from 30th to 16th. Then he was cut, and we went back to 30th. NT is the most important position on the defense. The Rams made it to the superbowl by adding him.

    This is absolutely a premier position, with great Hall Of Famers like Bruce Smith and Reggie White who could single-handedly win a game.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      March 11, 2019 at 2:25 pm

      Agreed that a dominant DT/NT can change the course of a defense, but teams are able to get away with average DT play and still win. You definitely need a QB and most winning teams have at least one #1 CB. Miami’s defense was very poor in 2015 and 2016, and although it did improve in 2017, the team also returned Reshad Jones in ‘17 and saw Xavien Howard break out. It was fascinating to watch Suh play, but he didn’t transform the defense the way he was paid/expected to.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Extend DeVante Parker

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Miami Dolphins

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

Shawn Digity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Giants Week 15 Preview

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins set to run it back in New York

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

DolphinsGiants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Scheme:

Offense:

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

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

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

Defense:

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

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

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

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

The Players:

Offense:

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

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

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

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

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

Defense:

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

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

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

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

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

The Medical:

(Coming Friday)

The Opportunities:

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

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

The Concerns:

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

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

The Projected Outcome:

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

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

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

Dolphins 27
Giants 13

@WingfieldNFL

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