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Miami Dolphins

Predicting Miami’s 2019 Roster Allocation

Travis Wingfield

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When a character on the silver screen purposes an inconceivable idea, his (or her) scene partner’s automated response is generally along the lines of, “That might just be crazy enough to work.”

Approaching two decades of futility has put Dolphins fans in a defeatist mood. Pleas of desperation reek of a starved fan base seeking any path that leads to a championship destination.

It would be awfully naïve to pretend like their cries are unwarranted. This team has abused its fan base for the better part of this century. Sans a few pop-up seasons that ended in early playoff exits, this team has been on a perpetual cycle. A cycle that leaves the fans frustrated and wanting come Christmas, but eager for new beginnings come Easter.

Now, after another coaching staff has been flushed; after the presumed answer to the post-Marino Apocalypse at quarterback went belly-up in his seventh year, most are ready to initiate the self-destruct sequence. A full-measure, opposed to the half-measures overseen by Stephen Ross and company, is the preferred method of the majority.

Nov 4, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross (left) celebrates with Dolphins president and chief executive officer Tom Garfinkel (right) after a game against the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

After all, if we learned anything from Mike Ehrmantraut, half-measures only lead to innocent people dying. Or in a real-life setting, like a professional football organization, jobs are lost and sales plummet – same concept, right?

Television and movie parallels aside, the Dolphins embark on another period of change. At press-time, the Head Coach search charges on, the roster is set for some drastic change, and the team enters a critical point in the franchise’s timeline – the search for the next quarterback.

That calls for a disclaimer. This column is going to marginalize the difficulty of finding and acquiring the quarterback. Hitting on the quarterback is the single most difficult thing an NFL organization must do – I know that.

But the holes on this roster aren’t in an apocalyptic state. This isn’t the 2017 New York Jets devoid of any talent on the entire offensive side of the ball. This isn’t the 2018 Buffalo Bills who entered this past campaign as favorites to pick first in April’s Draft.

There are parts to work with.

Over the course of the next 2-3 months, Locked On Dolphins will be producing plenty of roster prediction columns. Frankly, it was our (my) bread and butter last spring. Nailing the free agent targets (Josh Sitton) and positional targets (OL, RB, WR) along with the draft plan (Fitzpatrick, Gesicki and Ballage all predicted by LOD) went far better than the prediction for what those parts would mean for Miami on the field in 2018.

Serving merely as a rough draft, this column provides a blue print for what the Dolphins will likely attempt to accomplish in the crucial months of March and April.

First, the offense.

This side of the ball, as crazy as it sounds for a unit that finished second-from-bottom in the league, is in good shape. Young, speedy play-makers at the skill positions, a pair of bookend tackles and serviceable interior linemen, the apparent needs aren’t large in quantity.

With expected cuts coming to some of Miami’s more expensive veterans (Branch, Alonso, Parker, to name a few) the checkbook will be available for Ross and new EVP Chris Grier.

That’s not to say Miami will revert back old habits by buying on the open market (Mike Wallace, Branden Albert, Ndamukong Suh). Rather, it offers a prelude to a strategy the ‘Phins should’ve under taken a long time ago.

Paying and keeping the home grown talent.

It starts with Ja’Wuan James. Any free agent lineman (or any position, for that matter) purchased on the open market is generally a bad investment the moment the ink dries. Ask the New York Giants how they feel about paying top dollar for Nate Solder – it’s bad business. The scarcity of quality play at the position pushes the price for marginal players into the stratosphere of the elite.

Miami can, instead, use any money it was considering using to pair Laremy Tunsil with a positional colleague via a foreign export, on a player that has had success in the aqua and orange.

James offers far greater value to the Dolphins than anyone that will become available the first week in March.

Sure, Miami could target a starting right tackle in the draft, but those picks are precious and ultimately wind up wasted if spent on holes you as an organization have created (refer to the scene at the Hoover Dam in the comedy ‘Vegas Vacation’).

With James back, that gives Miami a hypothetical offensive line of Tunsil, Sitton, James and Jesse Davis – only the center position is vacant.

Retaining Josh Sitton as the “Plan A” at left guard is enough to make any Dolphins fan uneasy. He has a recent history of poor medical and his age continues to climb above the wrong side of 30.

That plan must be supplemented with a young, ready-to-play-in-a-pinch swing interior lineman.

With an emphasis on James and the swing interior lineman (call this a third or fourth round draft pick), that leaves Miami with a black hole at the center position, and also in need of a swing-tackle.

Ideally these swing players never see the field. James and Tunsil missed one game each (the same game in Green Bay) and were removed from a pair of other games, mid-game.

Mitch Morse (KC) and Matt Paradis (DEN) headline a free agent class of centers that is lacking. With Mike Pouncey’s checkered medical history, this crucial position that requires stability has been in flux for a number of years. The Dolphins would be wise to invest at this core spot. Going a step further, re-signing Travis Swanson as depth and as the primary backup center would be good business.

At tackle, the free agent list is loaded with names that would provide an upgrade over Sam Young.

Sep 16, 2018; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake (32) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the New York Jets during first half at MetLife Stadium. Image Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

There’s one positon group on this team that could go untouched. The running backs (Kenyan Drake, Kalen Ballage, Brandon Bolden) were all productive and the Drake-Ballage duo is oozing with potential.

Wide receiver gets a substantial shot in the arm when Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant return from injuries. Danny Amendola can be cut without penalty and Devante Parker is all but guaranteed to be playing elsewhere in 2019.

Brice Butler’s immediate inclusion into the offense, and a cheap contract worth just $805,000, means he’ll be in camp to compete for the “X” receiver position. His competition will depend on what Miami are able to accomplish on the open market or in the draft.

For the sake of this exercise, I didn’t give Miami a draft pick on the first two days to spend on a receiver – it’s not a primary need.

The best bet would likely be to pair Butler with a bargain-level free agent to compete for snaps. Tyrell Williams is set to hit free agency from the Chargers; he’s an affordable option. Or, if Miami has faith in Butler, it could be a reclamation project in the form of Kevin White, Devin Funchess, or even a Rishard Matthews reunion.

Tight End is a tricky spot to figure going forward. Plenty of room for growth exists for both Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe, but banking on that improvement isn’t a risk-free practice. Nick O’Leary is back in 2019 and MarQueis Gray (though he enters free agency) returns from an Achilles injury. Miami would be wise to supplement the group with another mid-level free agent.

Then there’s the quarterback. Miami is going to have to double dip at the position just to fill out the roster. Teddy Bridgewater is the name more frequently attached to Miami (he wants to play here, bring Teddy home) than any other signal-caller. Any regular of the Locked On Dolphins brand knows the preference for Kyler Murray – that’s option/target number one come draft day.

If Murray is not obtainable, then the options shift towards a trade-back, pick accumulation, and taking a shot on day-two to give Bridgewater a rookie understudy.

With that, the first ultra-rough draft of a 2019 Dolphins Depth Chart:

Offense:

 

Quarterback – FA and Rookie (Bridgewater, R1/R2 (Murray/Lock))
Running Back – Drake, Ballage, Bolden
Wide Receiver – Stills, Wilson, Grant, Butler/FA
Tight End – Gesicki, Smythe, O’Leary, FA
Tackle – Tunsil, James, FA
Guard – Sitton, Davis, R3/R4
Center – FA, Swanson

 

The defense will require more resources in 2019 – there’s no way around that. Even though this side of the ball has a lot of young upside, there are more apparent holes at crucial positions on the Dolphins stop-unit.

Moving on from Andre Branch, Kiko Alonso, Akeem Spence and possibly Robert Quinn would free up plenty of cash, but it creates holes at three spots – sort of.

Aside from Quinn, none of those players contributed in any meaningful way. It means the pro-personnel and scouting departments will be busy, but it would take some woeful mismanagement to fail to upgrade on those imminent departures.

Then there’s Reshad Jones. He makes a lot of money, the cash owed is essentially guaranteed this year, and he’s one of the pillars of this organization’s recent era. Some suggest that he could be a trade target, and maybe he will, but moving his contract would be just as hard as asking Kiko Alonso to cover a back or tight end.

So, operating under the assumption that Jones is back, that brings up the first off-season priority – perhaps even ahead of re-signing Ja’Wuan James.

Make Xavien Howard the highest paid cornerback in football.

Just do it. He’s an elite cover corner, he takes the football away and the defense melted when he was injured the final four games. The knee injuries (two in three years) are an understandable concern, but neither were extensive, nor has either shown signs of lingering effects. Howard likely could’ve played the final two games of the season, but management made the correct call to hold him out of meaningless December football.

The make-up of this defense’s strength is in the back-seven. It’s a group that has room to ascend and the best players are on rookie deals.

We’ll start in that secondary, the strength of this football team. Howard locks down one side of the field, Reshad Jones patrols the box as the strong safety and Minkah Fitzpatrick plays Free Safety and Big Nickel. Bobby McCain is your other option in the slot, and nowhere else (seriously, don’t play him on the perimeter ever again).

This leaves depth and the second starting cornerback gig up for grabs. Miami has some in-house candidates that could compete for the job, but no one from that group showed enough to give management the confidence to bypass a new addition.

Cordrea Tankersley, Cornell Armstrong, and Jalen Davis all saw playing time in 2018 – the latter as a slot corner. That trio has promise, but a free agent addition would be best practice for the Dolphins to round out its solid secondary. Bolstering a strength is an under-rated, under-utilized practice – Miami should go against the grain and make this defensive backfield spectacular.

The problem becomes compensation. With Howard making bookoo bucks, McCain eating up a nice chunk in the slot, and Jones among the highest paid safeties, funds could be tight in this department. That likely takes Miami out of the Mo Claiborne market, but Bradley Roby, Pierre Desir, and Jason Verrett are schedule to hit free agency.

The Dolphins could use a high draft choice on a corner and, frankly, it would make sense from a financial standpoint. Off-setting the cost of Howard with a rookie contract on the other side would be wise but, in this exercise, we’re using those resources elsewhere.

If the ‘Phins do decide to spend on a CB2, some cash alleviation will have to come from other positions. Running back and tight end are the “givens” on offense (Drake, Ballage, Gesicki and Smythe all on rookie deals).

Those positions are underpaid in comparison to other, more premier positions in the league, just the same as linebackers – and that’s where Miami’s relief comes from on the defensive side.

Raekwon McMillan, now 17 months removed from ACL surgery, came on like gangbusters down the stretch in 2018. Not to be outdone, fellow former Buckeye Jerome Baker had a dazzling rookie season. Once Alonso’s $7.9 million in cash-owed comes off the books, Miami will have a mere $2.2 million committed to three linebackers (Chase Allen the third under contract).

Chase Allen could conceivably serve as the third linebacker in 2019, but the Dolphins will have flexibility here. Whether it’s via free agency or the draft, finding a player with a specific, defined role (which is certainly the case for a third LB) isn’t exactly the trickiest problem to solve.

Dec 3, 2017; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) reacts during player introduction before the game against the Denver Broncos at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Sweeping changes in the trenches appear on the horizon. Robert Quinn is a good, not great, player, but he’s due $13 million. Cam Wake is an unrestricted free agent and has taken hometown discounts his entire career in Miami.

Like Jones and McDonald on the back-end, Wake and Quinn’s games are modeled too closely together. Wake, most likely a pass rush specialist at this point in his career, would come at half the cost Quinn is scheduled to make in 2019, so the future Hall of Fame inductee gives it one more ride in South Florida.

Beyond Wake’s retention it’s a barren wasteland at the DE position. Charles Harris has been a waste his first two years in the league and, after axing Branch and Quinn, we’re left only with Wake and Harris.

This is where the bulk of Miami’s resources will go. And it flies directly in the face of Ross’ commitment to the rebuild, but operating under the “R” word doesn’t mean Miami should limit the number of avenues it can use to upgrade the roster.

The free agent market is stacked at the top, but those players typically require quarterback money – Miami isn’t in a position to make that type of push. Then again, if the job does wind up going to Kris Richard, his connection to Frank Clark would be awfully enticing.

Again, the big ticket isn’t likely. Miami are likely shopping in the bargain bin for reclamation projects ala Dante Fowler, Markus Golden or even Zeke Ansah.

The good news; those high-end options (Clark, DeMarcus Lawrence, Jadeveon Clowney) could push the rest of the market back to a reasonable value. Ethan Westbrooks will likely shake free from Los Angeles, and Miami could look to roll the dice for a third year on William Hayes.

And if the quarterback is out of reach in round one, the smart money is on the Dolphins first pick being spent on an edge rusher – this class is full of them.

Kicking it inside to the interior defensive line, Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor are young, cheap, and arrow-up players with quality resumes in their rear views. Miami will need to round out the depth behind them, but that can come with minimal investment.

Compile it all together and what do you get?

Defense:

 

End – FA, Wake, R2, Harris
Tackle – Taylor, Godchaux, Hood/Pittman/FA/Day-Three Pick
Linebacker – Baker, McMillan, FA/Allen
Cornerback – Howard, FA, McCain, Armstrong/Davis/Tankersley
Safety – Jones, Fitzpatrick, McDonald

 

There aren’t 53 players on those given projected depth charts as the exercise doesn’t call for predicting the back-end of the roster.

This isn’t the best roster in the NFL. It’s likely not a playoff roster. But the Dolphins will be flush with more resources this off-season than any of the previous years under Mike Tannenbaum’s questionable spending habits.

Rebuilding is still a sound, secure approach; but the team can still win some games along the way.

@WingfieldNFL

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Drew

    January 9, 2019 at 8:04 pm

    Was thinking they keep Alonso and they switch to a 3-4 with Harris playing the rush LB like Bud Dupree does in Pittsburgh.
    Murray is to short at 5′-8 plus if he chooses football he needs to pay 4 mil back to the A’s. My guess choice would be Will Grier who would allow them to trade back a little.

  2. David Holcomb

    January 9, 2019 at 11:17 pm

    Patker & Stills will excel with a good QB like Bridgewater. I was hoping for Jake Fromm as a QB to groom for a year.

  3. pacificfinfan1

    January 10, 2019 at 5:16 am

    This model took some time to compile but its not upgrading the core players. Its accepting lower level talent that is over paid. Players like Kenny Stills who without Landry showed 9mil for an invisible #3WR is a waste of money. The window on the core of this team comes due in 2020 when the other half that doesn’t get cut now has to also be paid. By making X the highest paid CB and isn’t the best is wasting money like Mike did with the Suh contract.

    I agree round 1 should be to get Murray to do that is going to require moving up to avoid Giants and Jaguars who are closer position to move up. Round 2 needs to be on either an IOL or DE. To move up without selling the farm is the key can Grier do what other GBs here have not been able to do like get value for trades?

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Sign Chris Reed

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Looks like the Miami Dolphins have begun replacing the plethora of offensive linemen they either released or let walk this past offseason.

According to the Dolphins official social media account, the team signed offensive guard Chris Reed.

Details of the contract are currently unknown, but with the losses of Ja’Wuan James, Ted Larsen, Josh Sitton and possibly even players like Jake Brendel and Travis Swanson, the Dolphins need bodies to fill out their roster.

After signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent out of the 2015 NFL draft, Reed was placed on the team’s practice squad and wasn’t activated until September, 2016. Over the past three seasons, Reed has been active for 25 games and started 8 of them.

You can’t expect too much from this signing, as Reed is simply expected to compete for depth on the offensive line and it’s possible he doesn’t even make the team out of training camp. Then again, Ted Larsen was originally supposed to be offensive line depth and he ended up playing 1,272 snaps over the course of his two-year Dolphins career.

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Miami Dolphins

Rebuilding Previous Rebuilds

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we have accepted the notion that the Miami Dolphins are going to start rebuilding their franchise in 2019 (and as a result, a lot of losing will incur), we have moved on to the optimistic hope that this team is going to build their foundation “right”.

Hope is about the only thing that will temper the frustration that comes with going 6-10 with freshly signed Ryan Fitzpatrick as our starting quarterback, so over the next calendar year, you’re going to hear how most decisions are geared towards 2020.

Sure, Fitzpatrick will dazzle us with a couple 400-yard passing games and a few offensive performances that trick us into believing that we don’t need to desperately grab a franchise quarterback, but don’t let those extremely inconsistent anomalies fool you. Miami most definitely needs a franchise quarterback – one that leaves us with minimal doubts at the top of the draft.

Are they going to trade up for one in 2019? Or are they going to, um, conveniently lose in 2019 and attempt to save their assets for 2020, where there’s a chance that four starting-caliber quarterbacks come out of college – all of whom are possibly better than the top-2 quarterbacks in this class: Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray?

As Travis echoed on Sunday, the Miami Dolphins are building a treasure trove of draft picks that will allow themselves to navigate the murkiest of trade waters in either 2019 or 2020. With the trade of Ryan Tannehill to the Tennessee Titans netting Miami an extra 4th-round draft pick – along with the assumption that losing Ja’Wuan James to the Denver Broncos will return an extra 3rd-round pick as a compensatory selection – Miami will have the ability to tack on whichever mid-round picks are required to seal the deal for a top-3 draft pick.

But with all of these assets in mind, can we confidently assume that the Dolphins are just one year away from being a relevant franchise that can sustain success? No, not one bit.

Since Chris Grier took over as the Director of College Scouting in 2007, Miami has had 5 drafts in which they have had at least 9 draft picks to work with. Although it’s obvious that not every draft pick is going to pan out, the assumption is that a team should be able to identify enough cheap labor to fill their roster. You don’t need superstars in every round, though it would be nice if the Dolphins drafted even one of them.

Before you get ready to soak in the success of 2020, I’m going to remind you of the somber past we have together. Hopefully, Grier doesn’t allow history to repeat itself:

2007

Chris Grier’s first year on the job yielded Miami with multiple draft steals, but came with an ample amount of draft busts as well.

Whether the selection was general manager Randy Mueller‘s, head coach Cam Cameron‘s, Grier’s, or a combination of the three, the Miami Dolphins shocked everyone by selecting Ted Ginn Jr with the 9th-overall pick in the draft.

Choosing Ted Ginn Jr over Brady Quinn proved to be the correct choice, but was Ginn really the player you wanted to commit a top-10 pick to? Especially when he was coming off of an injury and was seen more as a dynamic kick returner than an elite, #1 receiver?

Here are a few players taken shortly after Ginn was picked #9: Patrick Willis (11), Marshawn Lynch (12) and Darrelle Revis (14). I was going to include Lawrence Timmons (15th-overall), but I don’t think Miami fans are going to think too fondly of that linebacker (though let’s be honest, he was still a better pick than Ginn).

But the Miami Dolphins had 10 draft picks in 2007, and should have been able to build a team with more than just a failed 1st-round pick, right? Alas, this is what they graced us with that year:

Paul Soliai in the 4th-round and Brandon Fields in the 7th-round ended up being phenomenal choices for the Dolphins, as both players combined to play 227 games with Miami. Even Samson Satele was a good selection in the 2nd-round; Miami just doesn’t understand their own talent and allowed Satele to be a good starting center for two other teams instead of their own.

The rest of that draft class? Combined to be active for 32 games with the Dolphins. All of which were off the team by the start of the 2008 season.

2008

Coming off of a 1-15 season that felt less like a rebuild and more like a purgatory, the Dolphins were now poised to genuinely begin their ascension with the 1st-overall selection in the draft.

The thing is, Miami’s biggest mistake wasn’t selecting Jake Long with the #1 overall pick, but bringing an archaic Bill Parcells on board to build a team for the future.

Parcells figured there was no sense having a franchise quarterback if there was no one to protect him (the opposite logic of what the Dolphins did with Ryan Tannehill throughout his career), and selected Jake Long to protect whoever’s blindside.

You might be able to excuse Parcells for selecting a potential hall of fame left tackle (for the first four years of their career) over Matt Ryan, since Miami did have 8 more draft picks that year. Instead, this is how the draft shook out:

Kendall Langford was a solid player on the Dolphins defensive line throughout his rookie contract, but other than Jake Long he was the only player to plug a hole on the roster. You can say Chad Henne played prominently for the Dolphins, but we all know he was a detriment more than a solution, and even forced Miami to pick yet another quarterback in the 2nd-round the following draft.

Phillip Merling gave us that exciting interception against Brett Favre and the New York Jets the year Chad Pennington led the team to the playoffs, but other than that, he was basically an extra 1st-round pick that ended up being a complete bust.

After two years and 19 draft picks, the Dolphins should have set themselves up to be a young team worth reckoning with. Looking back, there were really only 5 players that filled a capable roster spot: Satele, Soliai, Fields, Long and Langford. For reference, NFL rosters held 52 players…

2009

After two failed drafts and nearly 19 wasted draft picks, the Miami Dolphins actually got a draft right. This comes with the caveat that it’s the third-consecutive year in which the team is selecting a quarterback in the 2nd-round, so it tells you just how lost the Dolphins really are.

Pat White was a fascinating college athlete to watch, but he had no business being a quarterback in the NFL. The football community was stunned to see White selected so high, but the Dolphins envisioned a quarterback that could complete their wildcat offense and keep opposing defenses confused at all times.

The only confusion White caused was on Miami’s offense, because the playbook was extremely small for the limited quarterback, and the offense was stale at best.

Miami’s best selections came from Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. The team also envisioned having a pair of young, cheap, shutdown corners to give Tom Brady, Brett Favre and whoever the Buffalo Bills had hell. And they were really onto something for a little bit, but Joe Philbin‘s inability to handle egos mixed with some immaturity on the player’s side “forced” the Dolphins to trade Davis and allow Smith to leave in free agency.

At the time, this was a very good draft, but looking back at it, it’s just some more disappointment:

Brian Hartline received a contract extension with the team and probably outperformed all of our expectations. Maybe it speaks to the lack of playmakers the Dolphins have had over their history, but Hartline has the 7th most receiving yards and 9th most receptions in Dolphins history. We can knock the extension as a separate topic, but selecting Hartline in the 4th-round was a very good draft pick.

Chris Clemons ended up playing 80 games with the Dolphins and served as a valuable depth player for 5 seasons.

This can be deemed a good draft for the Dolphins, but the problem is, we’re excited the team was able to find 3 starters. While every team would love to say they found 3 starters in each draft, the Dolphins didn’t have much of a roster around those guys, which meant the team hadn’t rebuilt much of anything up to this point.

A budding franchise looking to sustain success is going to need more than a good #3 receiver to escape mediocrity.

2012

2012 was another very good draft for the Dolphins that saw virtually no sustained success going forward. This is the point where you have to wonder if the Miami Dolphins legitimately try to win or if they’re fine creating media headlines and bringing in ad revenue.

Ryan Tannehill was the first 1st-round quarterback the Dolphins selected since Dan Marino back in 1983. Between all of the excitement and optimism, fans were sold on the fact that Tannehill was going to turn the team around (after he firmly learned the quarterback position). His old coach at Texas A&M, Mike Sherman, was set to be his offensive coordinator, so you know Miami was really building this thing right because, you know, “chemistry”.

7 seasons later, and there are no surviving members of the 2012 draft class. In fact, only one of them made it past year 4 (Tannehill) – which also happens to be the same number of players eventually arrested from this draft class (Jonathan Martin).

How can a team sustain success when the team doesn’t sustain any of their successful players?

Olivier Vernon and Lamar Miller proved to be great risks that Jeff Ireland took. Coming right out of the Dolphins backyard from the University of Miami, Vernon and Miller were underclassmen that Ireland saw potential in. And he was right.

Both outperformed their draft status and earned themselves wealthy contracts in free agency. This goes back to the argument that the Dolphins are incompetent when it comes to signing their own draft picks, so overall, this draft doesn’t seem like much, but this draft could have been much more than a free agent payday for 3 of their selections.

Rishard Matthews was one of the best 7th-round picks in Dolphins history, but Philbin’s deadpan personality placed Matthews on the bench for most of his rookie contract rather than the starting lineup ahead of players like B.J. Cunningham and Legedu Naanee.

As of 2019, the Dolphins are still looking for a player at every position from the list of 2012 draft picks (QB, RT, DE, TE, LB, WR and DT). You can say Miami doesn’t need a running back, but that’s also the easiest position to find and it’s not even like the team currently has a solidified running back room anyway.

2013

Identifying a “can’t-miss” athlete in an inactive market, Jeff Ireland made one of the best draft-day trades of the century and traded the team’s 1st-round pick (12th-overall) and 2nd-round pick (42nd-overall) to move up to #3 overall. That kind of trade would be unheard of today, where those top picks are commodities that you have to pry away with current and future draft capital.

So what did the Dolphins do with their robbery? Select a stellar athlete with a history of demons that rivals that of Josh Gordon.

Dion Jordan was built to be a football player, but he never actually wanted to be a football player. He wanted to escape reality and realized this was a profession he was good at. Fortunately for Jordan, but unfortunately for the Dolphins, Jordan took 5 years to mature past all of those inner turmoils and emerge as a defensive threat.

But like the theme of this article, his success doesn’t benefit the Miami Dolphins one bit.

Dion Jordan wasn’t the only player to fail Miami’s expectations yet perform better elsewhere.

2nd-round pick Jamar Taylor was always hampered by injuries and was shipped to the Cleveland Browns for a 27 slot draft boost in the 7th-round (a farcry from #54 overall). Dion Sims was a solid backup and blocking tight end before cashing in with the Chicago Bears. Mike Gillislee was a decent kick returner who has seen a good amount of success as a running back with the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots. Even Caleb Sturgis was viewed as a “bust” and has since played 36 games for other teams.

You could argue that Don Jones was Miami’s best draft pick behind Dion Sims that year, and that’s only because he was a very good gunner on special teams.

Truth is, the Dolphins have had plenty of opportunities to rebuild and yet, years later, here we are, still trying to rebuild. So now that Chris Grier has ultimate control, will this be the rebuild the Dolphins finally turn it around? 6th time’s a charm, right?

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Miami Dolphins

Free Agent Analysis: Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick

Travis Wingfield

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Buckle up, Phins Fans – the Fitzmagic Roller Coaster is coming to your town

Ryan Fitzpatrick is on his eight NFL team following a circuitous route that spans 14 seasons as a professional football player. The journeyman stopgap heads to America’s retirement home on a two-year contract that starts at $11 million and could escalate to $20 million if unspecified incentives are met.

Though details of the contract’s structure are not yet available, it’s a near certainty that the bulk of the money will be paid out in year-one. With the Dolphins eating a chunk of dead cap, and pushing assets down the road, this move not only helps Miami get closer to the salary floor, it secures a sturdy backup quarterback for the 2020 season.

Whether it’s Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, Tua Tagovailoa, Jake Fromm or any other quarterback prospect, Fitzpatrick has been heralded for his calm demeanor and approach to providing this very important element to his past teams.

Barring a trade-up for one of the top two prospects in this draft Fitzpatrick will be under-center when the Dolphins open the season on the second Sunday in September. Only one September ago, Fitzpatrick was on an unprecedented roll for a quarterback of his caliber – of any caliber, really.

After the three-game stretch of consecutive 400 yard outputs, Fitzpatrick throttled into a nosedive throwing for less than 250 yards in four of his next five starts. Cumulatively, his passer rating on the season was 100.4, but he failed to eclipse the 90.0 mark in all but one of his final six starts.

The strengths and weaknesses of Fitzpatrick’s game are abundantly clear. Where the flashes with Ryan Tannehill provided false hope, Fitzpatrick is an open book – it only takes a couple of games of all-22 to figure out exactly who he is.

First, the strengths. I’ve talked at length about the importance of a backup quarterback providing the locker room and huddle with a sense of comradery. Whether it’s this season or next, Fitzpatrick will eventually be relegated to the number-two QB. The Ewing Theory suggests that the rest of the roster can elevate its game when the backup enters the lineup, but that typically only applies when said backup is likable.

That clip also showcases the gamer-mentality of Fitzpatrick. With reckless abandon, he’ll take a hit for his team in a way you’d never want your franchise quarterback to play.

As for Fitzpatrick the starter, the strength of his game is also his biggest weakness. He trusts his eyes as much as any quarterback going right now and will let ‘er rip without hesitation. There’s a hint of Matt Moore in his game where he evaluates pre-snap and makes quick decisions based on the leverage of the defense.

The first touchdown of the season for Tampa Bay provides a terrific example of Fitzpatrick’s ability to move the defense with his eyes and hips. The clip also showcases his strength as a play-action passer when given a comfortable pocket.

There’s a reason he’s been on eight teams in 14 years, however. That anticipation, coupled with sloppy mechanics, gets him into a lot of hot water. If the defense is at all nuanced, and capable of disguising coverage, he’s going to turn the ball over a heck of a lot.

Randomly, the ball will sail as he is prone to rushing his setup and spraying bullets all over the field. Pressure in his face only amplifies this shortcoming.

All things told, this was the best veteran option available both in terms of playing time and veteran mentor to the inevitable draft pick coming in a year or two. There will be equal parts excitement and sheer frustration with Fitzpatrick playing in Miami.

As far as the Tank for Tua conversation, this signing likely solidifies that Miami will not be the worst team in football. I’ve argued that they would never reach those valleys to begin, even with a rookie or Luke Falk under-center. I believe too strongly in Brian Flores and the staff he has assembled for this team to lose a number of games in the teens. Fitzpatrick at least gets Miami out of the massive hole of unworthy NFL quarterback territory.

Ideally, the Dolphins find their quarterback straight away and never have to start Fitzpatrick. The more likely outcome is that he starts the season and puts the Dolphins in a tough spot regarding the playing time incentives in his contract.

This signing is great from a financial standpoint right now, but if the Harvard product (had to get it in) starts hitting those contract escalators, that would not be ideal.

@WingfieldNFL

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