(I original posted this column on another site. I thought I would take a look back before we move forward to the NFL Draft in two weeks.)
The NFL offseason is upon us. It is a wonderful time of the football year, it is like Christmas. As fans and writers we cannot wait to open what presents await us in free agency and the upcoming draft. Every team is optimistic right now, every team believes they have a chance to win it all. There are months and months before reality will fall down and crush our dreams.
Looking forward to the NFL Combine, Free Agency and the Draft I wanted to take a look at where the Miami Dolphins are at heading into this offseason. Sometimes you need to take a look at what you have before you go after what you need.
Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill has looked good, obviously there is room to improve but now is not the time to pull the cord. On the other hand I could see taking a quarterback with a late round pick. At some point Matt Moore will be replaced as the backup quarterback. Taking a flyer on Brock Jensen (NDSU) or Aaron Murray (Georgia) would be a good idea in my opinion.
Running Back: The Dolphins running game underperformed last year, how much was due to a bad offensive line and how much blame belongs with the running back is up for debate. I expect Daniel Thomas to be gone but Lamar Thomas and Mike Gillislee have talent. The bigger problem is the lack of a short yardage back. There are backs available in the draft as well as Ben Tate and LeGarrette Blount in free agency. Personally I think they should go after Toby Gerhart from Minnesota. He is a strong runner with good vision, has good hands out of the backfield and best of all actually knows how to pass block.
No Gerhart but Knowshon Moreno is a very nice fit. Solid pass blocker, good hands and very capable running the ball.
Fullback: A good start would be to actually have a fullback, not just a tight end manning the position part-time. Ryan Hewitt from Stanford looks good to me. Played the position on a running team, also worked as an H-Back and tight end which is important for how this offense would likely use a fullback.
Wide Receiver: After the spending spree last offseason I cannot see any reason to go after more wide receivers this year. Now that is not to say that I would not take Sammy Watkins if he fell to the Dolphins, but he is not going to fall all the way to 19.
Tight End: Charles Clay had a breakout year last season, that does not mean we are set at tight end. By no means is Clay an inline tight end, he works better when you move him around. While Dion Sims may develop into a quality tight end, I would still bring in more competition at the position. Arthur Lynch (Georgia) would be a nice addition.
Offensive Line: Even without the drama of the Incognito/Martin saga the line was a problem. Giving up a team record 58 sacks is a big problem, not to mention the lack of running room for any of the backs. Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey is the only starter from last season expected to be back. A big portion of the offseason will be spent rebuilding the line. I feel chemistry is more important than big names. Geoff Schwartz (KC), Jared Veldheer (OAK) and Anthony Collins (CIN) are some free agent names to remember. I expect at least two players from free agency and another two or three in the draft. This is the important part of the offseason for this team, everything for the offense starts here.
Brandon Albert, Shelly Smith and Jason Fox are a good start to rebuilding the offensive line. A few more pieces should arrive during the draft. Xavier Su’a-filo, Joel Bitonio and Michael Schofield would be some good names to watch for.
Defensive End: Do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon and Dion Jordon do I need to say more, did not think so.
Defensive Tackle: Randy Starks and Paul Soliai are both free agents, only one will be back. That is the big question. Jared Odrick will excel at one tackle spot, just need to worry about the other one. A.J. Francis and Isaako Aaitui are both promising young players but they are still raw.
Soliai is gone replaced by Earl Mitchell.
Linebacker: Disappointing at the least, horrible may be a better description of the linebacker play this season. Dannell Ellerbee and Philip Wheeler were expected to improve the speed and overall play of the linebacking corps, that did not happen. They were the problem more than the cure. Bad angles and lack of effort were evident all season long. Taking Chris Borland (Wis) in the later rounds might be a good idea. He may not look great but he makes plays, that is all that matters.
I would consider C.J. Mosley (Alabama) or Jordan Zumwalt (UCLA) in the draft to upgrade this unit.
Defensive Backs: Resign Brent Grimes. That is essential; he is the cornerstone of the defensive backfield. That is the least of the moves necessary. Chris Clemons is also a free agent. While I would resign him many want a more active playmaker at safety. The choice is one of security versus upside. We know Clemons will be a solid safety for us. His replacement does not only need to make plays, he needs to prevent the big ones as well. The grass is not always greener on the other side.
Louis Delmas and Cortland Finnegan joined the Dolphins secondary during free agency. While Delmas may do a good job replacing Clemons, I am not as fond of Finnegan. I have never been a fan.
So that is where we are at, now we must take a look at where we are going. This is the fun stuff.