5 Underrated Free Agents Miami Dolphins Should Target This Offseason
5 Underrated Free Agents the Dolphins Should Pursue
What was supposed to be a season of change and triumph turned into a campaign of failure and misery for the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins began 2013 promisingly, and the talk of Miami possibly taking over the AFC East was in full swing. The Dolphins got out to a 3-0 start, which included victories against the Indianapolis Colts on the road and the Atlanta Falcons (who were still seen as a contender at this point) on a last-second touchdown in Sun Life Stadium.
The Dolphins had seemed to turn the corner as a team, but had significant holes on the roster that were masked by wins, which would ultimately lead to their downfall. The Dolphins gained a whopping 20 yards on the ground in the first game of the season against the Cleveland Browns.
This would not be the lowest total of the season for a team with an abysmal offensive line and a lack of an every-down running back. The team had also given up 14 sacks during this three-game winning streak, which foreshadowed events to come. The 2013 Dolphins eventually surrendered 58 sacks, the most in franchise history.
Miami allowed over 125 rushing yards in two of three games to open the season. The Dolphins’ once-stingy defense allowed less than 125 yards in only six of their 16 games this season.
This is in large part due to the now-infamous linebacker swap of the 2013 offseason, which was one of the final mistakes Jeff Ireland would make in his tenure as Miami’s GM. Ireland was fired following the 2013 season after six lackluster years, the last five failing to produce a winning season.
The Dolphins succumbed to the roster limitations many times during their streaky season. The lack of offensive line and consistent ability to run the ball and stop the run eventually cost the Dolphins a shot at the playoffs. The Dolphins were at 8-6 with two games left in the season before they stumbled over their last two opponents.
The Dolphins put up a total of seven points in losses to the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets. Miami’s running game put up a combined total of 106 yards in these games, and the Dolphins’ offense had five turnovers. The atrocious display was not playoff football and highlighted the type of inconsistent season the Dolphins had in 2013.
Ireland was let loose with Dolphins’ owner Steve Ross’ money last offseason and spent over $250 million, only to produce an 8-8 team which choked and lost its final two games to miss the AFC playoffs. Whether you blame Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin for not motivating his troops (which is a huge problem that is overlooked) or Ireland for his lack of ability to build a team, it is obvious that there is still work to be done for this team to reach the AFC playoffs for the first time since 2008.
New Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey will have to completely rebuild the Dolphins’ offensive line and add a featured back to this offense. A new linebacker with some coverage instincts is a must as the current Dolphins linebackers' lack of coverage ability is one of the reasons Reshad Jones struggled last season, and the reason that opposing teams' running backs were often wide open.
After so much reckless spending last offseason and still so many holes to fill, the Dolphins are looking for some cheap upgrades this time around. These are the five underrated free agents that the Dolphins should pursue this offseason.
5. RT Zach Strief
A QB cannot flourish without an offensive line. For Ryan Tannehill’s sake, this list will be full of offensive linemen. Strief was one of the best RTs in the league last season. Strief would be a huge upgrade to Tyson Clabo, who was benched during the season and will likely be leaving as a free agent.
4. G Travelle Wharton
The Dolphins are in need of offensive lineman and can’t be picky. Although he will be 33-years old when the 2014 season starts and played in a power running game offense, the good news with Wharton is the that Dolphins will likely be able to pick him up at a discount due to his age. Picking up Wharton, who played the most snaps in 2013 out of all free agent guards with a positive grade according to Pro Football Focus, could be one of the best bargains of the offseason.
3. RB James Starks
Starks played under Philbin in Green Bay while he was still the Packers’ offensive coordinator. Starks averaged 5.5 yards per carry this season while running behind rookie Eddie Lacy. Starks likely won’t command a huge amount of money in free agency due to other free agent running backs available, but his toughness, quickness and experience in the zone blocking scheme that the Dolphins run will add a valuable piece to the team's roster. However, is he a no. 1 running back?
2. LT Eugene Monroe
Monroe is the man who replaced Bryant McKinnie in Baltimore when the Ravens traded with the Jacksonville Jaguars to acquire him midseason. Monroe may once again replace McKinnie in Miami. Monroe is only 27-years old and still has plenty left in the tank. Signing Monroe would likely save the Dolphins at least five sacks next season. Those five sacks would be huge for a team that set a new franchise record for sacks allowed in 2014, and lost at least two games due to sacks and pressure on Ryan Tannehill.
1. FS Jairus Byrd
While he may not be an underrated player, he would be an underrated signing for the Dolphins. Byrd, who has 22 interceptions in his five NFL seasons, is a ball hawk. If Miami can find a way to land him at a decent price along with in-house free agent Brent Grimes, the Dolphins could field one of the NFL’s best secondaries in 2014.