After five consecutive playoff appearances, the Miami Dolphins have made it to the playoffs just once since 2001. Since Dan Marino‘s retirement in 1999, the Dolphins haven’t had an elite quarterback to lead them. The rushing game has been a patchwork job from mediocre players like Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, with Wildcat formation trickery. It’s been a long and steady decline since Marino retired, but things finally appear to be turning around for the Miami Dolphins as a franchise.
Last season, the Miami Dolphins went 7-9 while enduring the growing pains of rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill was certainly overshadowed by fellow rookie quarterbacks like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, but he was effective on a relatively weak team. Tannehill had limited receiving options, an inconsistent rushing game, and poor protection at times. If he can survive his rookie season to produce solid numbers, he can certainly lead the Miami Dolphins going forward.
Further, the Miami Dolphins have plenty of cap space to fill in the holes in their roster. With $45 million in cap space, they can afford to bring back effective players while replacing weaknesses with big-name signings. Talk of potentially bringing in Greg Jennings to be a number one wide receiver is starting to gain traction, as Jennings himself said he would welcome the idea of coming to Miami. They can re-sign Reggie Bush after he narrowly missed a thousand-yard season last year, and they can fill in the pieces defensively – starting with top cover cornerback Sean Smith.
As the AFC East continues to become less top-heavy, the Miami Dolphins have the opportunity to emerge as contenders going forward. They may have found their quarterback of the future, they can sign weapons around him, and a coaching system is in place to build off their relative success last year. There are still holes in the roster, regardless of any key signings they may make this offseason, and the New England Patriots are going to be tough to catch. Still, the Miami Dolphins are in position to battle for a playoff spot, particularly as the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills struggle.
The Dolphins could easily be the second-best team in the division next season, vying for a playoff spot while developing young talent.