Top 10 Free Agents Miami Dolphins Should Consider This Offseason
Top 10 Free Agents Dolphins Should Consider
Free agency is now only six days away for the Miami Dolphins and the club's rookie GM Dennis Hickey. Miami has already taken care of its most important in-house business by agreeing to a four-year contract with cornerback Brent Grimes on Monday morning.
Now, Hickey and the Dolphins can turn their attention to rebuilding the offensive line, finding a consistent running back, shoring up the defensive line and putting the finishing touches on a solid secondary. Some of those issues will be addressed during May's draft, but most expect Hickey to nab one of the market's most coveted left tackles in free agency.
The next order of business will be retaining Paul Soliai or Randy Starks, or letting both walk in order to get younger at the defensive tackle position. Inking a more capable playmaker to pair with Reshad Jones at safety is also thought to be a priority of Miami's in free agency, although re-signing Chris Clemons is still considered a contingency plan of Hickey's.
If the 2013 offseason is any indication, expect some surprises as well. With four positions along he offensive line to supplant, don't be shocked if Hickey looks to snag a right tackle or guard from the market -- even after signing a potential cornerstone left tackle to a lucrative deal.
Whatever the plan is, the Dolphins likely have the cap space to execute it. Before Grimes was re-signed, Miami was $39.1 million under the cap. It's unclear how Grimes' deal will affect that standing, but the Dolphins should still have more money to spend than all but a handful of teams.
It should be fascinating to see how free agency plays out for the club. Here are the top 10 free agents the Dolphins should consider this offseason. It should be noted that this list doesn't rank each player based on talent alone; factors like price tag, age, scheme fit and team need are also taken under consideration.
Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.
10. Chris Clemons - FS
Every indication from the Dolphins is that the team is hopeful it can upgrade at free safety this offseason. The only problem is, Clemons was solid in 2013 and won't be easy to best. As Pro Football Focus' 19th-overall safety this past season, Clemons was one of the league's most reliable defenders in coverage. His mistake-free play, speed and range are all assets to the Dolphins' secondary.
The lack of game-changing plays he's been able to produce makes him expendable, but the draft offers no can't-miss prospect at the position and the most qualified options on the market come with red flags. Jairus Byrd, one of the most adept playmaking safeties in the league, will require a colossal contract to land and Louis Delmas, who the Dolphins have already visited with, has a degenerative knee condition that could scare Hickey away. Re-signing Clemons might be the safe move, but it's hard to argue that it would be a poor one.
9. Pat Sims - DT
It's becoming increasingly possible that Randy Starks and Paul Soliai will both sign elsewhere in free agency. The Dolphins have yet to offer either a contract as of Tuesday night and appear content to at least let them test the open market. In that scenario, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald has reported that Hickey will pursue a defensive tackle in free agency.
There projects to be a few qualified options on the market, including Pat Sims. With Jared Odrick, a solid interior pass rusher, expected to man one of Miami's defensive tackle spots, Hickey should particularly have interest in run-stuffing specialists at the position. Sims fits the bill. He was Pro Football Focus' 17th-overall interior defensive lineman in 2013 and its 12th-best run defender. Sims would likely be a relatively inexpensive option for the Dolphins as well.
8. Jon Asamoah - OG
The Dolphins face a massive rebuilding project along the offensive line. Replacing four starters would be a near impossible feat to complete in just free agency or just the draft. Therefore, filling at least two of the spots with veterans should be the goal. That way Hickey will have more flexibility during the draft to potentially select the best player available in the first and second rounds.
Jon Asamoah is expected to be one of the top free-agent guards available. He possess the athletic ability the Dolphins covet, is only 25 years old and is coming off of three-straight seasons being ranked as one of Pro Football Focus' top-20 guards. Asamoah only graded as a slightly above average run blocker in 2013, but finished as the ninth-most efficient run blocker among guards in 2012. He's also been solid in pass protection, having only allowed a combined six sacks since 2011.
7. Paul Soliai - DT
The Dolphins appear set on moving on from Paul Soliai and Randy Starks. Both defensive tackles are 30 years old and their presence didn't prevent Miami's run defense from ranking in the bottom half of the league in 2013. Hickey might want to rethink that stance, though -- at least in regards to Soliai. Miami's run defense could fare even worse in 2014 without the presence of a blocker-eating force on the interior of its defensive line.
Soliai has consistently graded as one of Pro Football Focus' top run defenders at the defensive tackle position thanks to the fits he gives opposing offensive lines, which often have no choice but to double team him. There are younger options that could be signed on the market, but none are arguably as proven as Soliai.
6. Jairus Byrd - FS
If the Dolphins are willing to dish out the coin, they could obtain one of the league's best secondaries by signing free safety Jairus Byrd. With a shutdown cornerback like Brent Grimes already in the fold, a true ball-hawk in center field would potentially elevate Miami's pass defense to an elite level.
With 22 interceptions in a mere five seasons, Byrd's ball skills are second to perhaps none. And he's managed to produce so many takeaways while remaining stingy in coverage. According to Pro Football Focus, only six safeties produced a more efficient coverage grade than Byrd in 2013. Given how aggressive he is, posting such impressive grades is quite the feat.
The Dolphins would be incredibly fortunate to have Byrd patrolling center field in 2014, but with so many pressing needs throughout the roster, expect Hickey to sit out this bidding war.
5. Branden Albert - LT
It's becoming a forgone conclusion that the Dolphins will emerge from free agency with a new starting left tackle. Who that blindside protector will be is the mystery. Branden Albert will certainly be discussed as a possibility, and the Dolphins have already been rumored to have interest in acquiring him. The 29-year-old veteran would reportedly love to play in Miami as well.
While Albert is one of the league's best tackles in pass protection, having graded as Pro Football Focus' 10th-most efficient in that category in 2013, poor run blocking scores and some durability questions position him as an above average left tackle, not an elite left tackle like his asking price suggests. Albert would like to be paid like an elite player at the position, but might not be worth over $10 million per season. There will likely be cheaper and potentially better options available.
4. Anthony Collins - LT
Anthony Collins is far from the proven commodity that Albert is, but he would be a higher upside signing. The 28-year-old veteran has never started more than seven games in a season and was mostly a versatile backup during his first five years in the league. But Collins didn't disappoint with a promotion to starting left tackle in 2013. In 592 snaps, Collins didn't concede a single sack, something only two other tackles can claim. He's not a great run blocker, but he's not horrible at paving the way for tailbacks either.
Signing Collins could cost the Dolphins as much as $5 million less per season than nabbing Albert. Miami is in no position to cheap out at the position after conceding 58 sacks in 2013, but finding a bargain like Collins shouldn't be ruled out. He was better than Albert in 2013 and could continue to be with a full-time starting gig.
3. Linval Joseph - DT
There is one free agent defensive tackle who would appear to be a sure-fire upgrade over Soliai, and his name is Linval Joseph. Soliai graded as the slightly better player in 2013 according to Pro Football Focus (Soliai finished 20th while Joseph finished 21st), but Joseph is nearly five years younger.
At 323 pounds, Joseph is the space-eating clog that Miami will likely be seeking if Soliai and Starks bolt. Although Joseph ranked 15th versus the run among interior defensive linemen according to Pro Football Focus, he still was able to tally 3.0 sacks, eight quarterback hits and 11 pressures. He's not a dominant interior rusher, but he possess the ability to collapse the pocket from time to time.
2. Jared Veldheer - LT
Jared Veldheer shouldn't be slept on as a potential long-term answer at left tackle for the Dolphins. He was forced to sit out the first 11 games of the season with an injury and struggled to the tune of allowing two sacks and 15 pressures after returning in 2013. When healthy, though, Veldheer has been one of the league's most reliable blindside protectors.
In 2012, Pro Football Focus slotted Veldheer 12th among qualifying tackles in overall efficiency and ninth in pass blocking. The Dolphins haven't been rumored to have interest in him yet, but if Hickey is unable to land the No. 1 player on this list, Veldheer should arguably become the club's primary target.
1. Eugene Monroe - LT
What once felt like a pipe dream has progressively become a more realistic possibility for the Dolphins. After trading two mid-round draft picks to the Jacksonville Jaguars for his services in October, the Baltimore Ravens didn't place the franchise tag on left tackle Eugene Monroe before Monday's deadline and are reportedly "far apart" in negotiations to lock up the 26-year-old pro with a multiyear deal.
All indications are that Monroe will at least test the open market. If he does, there's no question that he'll become the Dolphins' most-coveted prize. Desperate for a franchise left tackle, Miami would likely be willing to compensate Monroe like an elite player at the position. He might even be worth it judging by his play in 2013, which ranked 12th in overall efficiency, 10th in pass protection and 14th in run blocking among qualifying offensive tackles, according to Pro Football Focus.
Monroe is the complete package and his prime is still withstanding. He would be an excellent fit in Miami, where he could provide quarterback Ryan Tannehill with the protection he needs to develop into a top-10 passer -- at least on one side of the offensive line.