2012 was the beginning of a new era for the Miami Dolphins. They had a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback, they killed Ochocinco and then fired Chad Johnson, and they did enough good to get people to get people to store the team away in a mental file as a possible up-and-comer.
Now the Dolphins enter an offseason in a position general managers and head coaches dream about. They own nine draft spots and are rumored to be in line for a compensatory pick as well. Five of the nine picks are within the first three rounds and if they do receive the extra selection it would likely be in the fourth round, giving them seven picks in four rounds. With the depth of talent in this year’s draft, Miami is in position to come away with one of the greatest draft classes in NFL history.
Saying the Dolphins could be so successful is not simply whimsical hyperbole. All of the pieces are truly there. The team began to fill some of it’s needs last season, and with such a large number of selections in a draft class as deep as this one is, the Dolphins truly are in position to put together a team that will compete for a title for years to come.
To add to the “perfect set-up”, the Dolphins also have plenty of money to work with. After placing the franchise tag on defensive tackle Randy Starks, the team sits at $36.5 million in cap space, the fourth highest amount of cap in the league. This is without restructuring any deals, so the number could potentially increase.
The Dolphins do have a large number of free agents to contend with. As of today, there are 11 free agents, as well as five restricted free agents, on their roster. The Dolphins will need to go through and decide which players they are willing to spend the cash on, and which of those they are comfortable with letting loose.
Running back Reggie Bush, left tackle Jake Long and cornerback Sean Smith are all free agents, and all are looking for a pay raise. This will likely mean they will be playing in a new uniform when the new season rolls around. In the case of Bush and Long, the Dolphins already have players in place that they feel are capable of filling the void that would be left by their exit. With or without Sean Smith, the Dolphins need to concentrate on improving the defensive secondary and will likely do so through the draft process.
The point here is, the Dolphins do have a free agent jail break in progress, but the affect it will have on their ability to pay big name free agents should be minimal. The Dolphins upper management believe they can let just about anyone go out into free agency and still be in good shape at each position by the time training camp rolls around.
Like it or not, the Dolphins are in prime position to become one of the premier teams in the NFL for the foreseeable future. Now, the pressure is on the Dolphins brain trust to not screw this up. Opportunities like this do not come around very often, and if they blow their chance to build a contender, you can expect the passionate fan base to do more than simply picket the facility.