Miami Dolphins’ Best Fit For Each Need This Offseason
Miami Dolphins' Best Fit For Each Need This Offseason
NFL teams are officially allowed to begin discussing contracts with free agents on Saturday and they can officially begin to sign free agents on Tuesday. The calm before the storm won't last much longer. The NFL offseason is about to kick into full throttle.
For the Miami Dolphins and GM Dennis Hickey, the looming free agency period and draft could determine whether or not the club will emerge as a legitimate playoff contender in 2014. The Dolphins were one win away from the postseason in 2013 despite the league's worst offensive line, an oftentimes invisible running game and a leaky run defense. Improvement in those areas won't be easily had, but the Dolphins have ample cap space to seek it.
Still, overhauling the entire offensive line save Mike Pouncey, finding a consistent between-the-tackles runner, nabbing a seam-threat tight end who can block, signing or drafting adequate replacements for Paul Soliai and/or Randy Starks, bolstering a disappointing linebacker corps and snagging a reliable playmaker at free safety is a tall order for Hickey in his first offseason. Striking the right balance of spending and investing in talented prospects come May's draft should be Hickey's ambition.
Before the free-agency frenzy ensues, let's step back and look at the offseason as a whole. Which free agents and draft prospects would be the best fits in Miami for each of the team's needs?
It should be noted that the following slideshow isn't meant be viewed as an accumulative scenario for the Dolphins' offseason. Instead, it simply looks at each position individually in order to determine which potential veteran or rookie would be the ideal fit to fill the listed area of need.
For example, there are first-round selections listed on more than one slide. With only one first-round pick, the Dolphins won't have the resources to land more than one first-round prospect barring an unexpected trade.
Although some of these players might be difficult to obtain, I tried to limit the list to free agents and draft picks who can be realistically had. For example, although Jimmy Graham would be the best fit at tight end for the Dolphins, I don't see Hickey investing two first-round picks to pry him from the New Orleans Saints. Therefore, Graham and other borderline pipe-dream solutions don't qualify.
Without further ado, here are the best fits for each of the Dolphins' needs this offseason.
Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.
Running Back: Carlos Hyde
The Dolphins' offensive line was not only horrible in pass protection but in run blocking as well this past season. Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas didn't do the line any favors, though. Neither hit holes with consistency or made something out of nothing like many starting-caliber backs are able to do elsewhere. With that said, expect the Dolphins to select a running back in the middle rounds of the draft. Addressing the need in free agency would be unwise considering potential stars at running back will be available in May.
With the Dolphins projecting to need a power runner the most, Ohio State's Carlos Hyde will be a tempting solution in the second or third round. At 230-pounds, Hyde has the size and the physicality to be just what the Dolphins need. He's the most well-rounded power runner of the class and could emerge as an excellent complement to Miller in Miami.
Tight End: Eric Ebron
Charles Clay answered the call in 2013, emerging as one the league's most productive receiving tight ends after Dustin Keller suffered a season-ending injury. His rise doesn't eliminate the Dolphins' need for a tight end this offseason, though. Given Clay's struggles as an in-line blocker, the Dolphins will likely look to draft a reliable blocking tight end. That doesn't necessarily describe Eric Ebron, but the North Carolina product might be too tempting of a talent to pass on with the No. 19 overall selection.
Ebron isn't an incapable blocker and his frame isn't maxed out yet. There's room for him to grow in that area. Making him the pick at No. 19 would be all about his elite athleticism, though. He has great speed and is a natural pass-catching threat. With a relatively small group of receivers, a target like Ebron could be just what quarterback Ryan Tannehill needs to breakout in 2014. Well, that and substantial improvement from the offensive line.
Left Tackle: Eugene Monroe
This one is fairly obvious. Eugene Monroe will be the best left tackle on the market, and the Dolphins' most pressing need is -- you guessed it -- left tackle. Providing Tannehill reliable blindside protection is absolutely pivotal considering he's set to enter his third season and the Dolphins are still unsure about how good he is. Monroe is, without a doubt, the most capable option of every potential free agent and draft pick to provide Tannehill with just that.
According to Pro Football Focus, Monroe graded as a slightly better pass protector and a significantly better run blocker than Branden Albert, who is also considered a possibility. On top of that, Monroe will only be 27 in April and is just now entering his prime. Albert is 29 and is rumored to have a bad back. Now that Brent Grimes is under contract, Monroe is the Dolphins' top priority. It will take a steep price to land him -- possibly as much as $11-$12 million per season -- but he's arguably worth every penny.
Left Guard: Xavier Su'a-Filo
Not only must the Dolphins replace both tackle spots, but they have to replace both guard spots as well. It's a massive rebuilding project that must be completed utilizing a combination of the draft and free agency.
UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo is one of the top guard prospects in the entire draft. His athleticism and run-blocking prowess make him an ideal fit in Miami. Chances are Su'a-Filo will be long gone when the Dolphins are on the clock in the second round, but he would be a great pick if he's still available.
Right Guard: Jon Asamoah
It probably wouldn't be wise of the Dolphins to enter the 2014 season with a rookie starting at both guard spots. While Hickey can address one of the two openings via the draft, signing a veteran to play alongside Pouncey should be a goal.
Many will claim that signing Geoff Schwartz would be the Dolphins' best bet, but I like his teammate Jon Asamoah a little better in Miami. Asamoah is two years younger than Schwartz and more athletic. According to Pro Football Focus, Asamoah was the league's 20th-most efficient guard in 2013 and its 10th-most efficient in 2012.
Right Tackle: Taylor Lewan
With so much discussion centering around which left tackle the Dolphins will sign in free agency, the need for a solid right tackle is being overlooked. Tannehill was sacked 12 times thanks to lapses by the right tackle in 2013. That number should be at least cut in half in 2014. Unfortunately, finding a new right tackle won't be as easy as finding a new left tackle. It may cost much more to find reliable blindside protection, but there are fewer quality options on the opposite side of the line.
Michigan's Taylor Lewan falling to pick No. 19 -- unlikely but not impossible -- would be the best-case scenario for Miami. Lewan possess a good combination of athleticism and strength. Many teams would likely entrust him to play left tackle, but assuming the Dolphins address that need in free agency, Lewan could be an immediate starter on the right side for John Benton's line.
Defensive Tackle: Linval Joseph
With Paul Soliai and Randy Starks set to enter free agency, the Dolphins will be in the market for one or two solid additions to their interior defensive line rotation. Jared Odrick is an emerging force, but the Dolphins will need to add a run-stuffing defensive tackle if they hope to prevent a further drop off in their ability to stop the run in 2014. Hickey could wait until May's draft to address the issue and Soliai could certainly come back to Miami for cheap if he isn't compensated with his asking price on the market.
But the Dolphins could look to make a splash at the position by targeting free agent Linval Joseph. At only 25 years old, Joseph would be a long-term upgrade over Soliai. He finished as Pro Football Focus' 21st-overall defensive/nose tackle in 2013 and its 15th best run defender. Odrick and Joseph would be an excellent duo on the inside for years to come.
Linebacker: C.J. Mosely
The Dolphins expressed interested in replacing Dannell Ellerbe at middle linebacker when they visited with free agent D'Qwell Jackson earlier this week. Jackson chose to sign with the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday, but the Dolphins' interest in him suggests changes along the corps could be imminent. According to reports, Miami is considering moving Ellerbe to weakside linebacker and Philip Wheeler to strongside linebacker to compete with Koa Misi. Hickey is obviously looking for a strong presence in the middle to help clean up the team's leaky run defense.
The free-agent class at the position is relatively weak, and given the $11 million guaranteed the Colts were willing to pay Jackson, it could be too expensive for the Dolphins' liking. Addressing the position in the draft would be ideal, and Alabama product C.J. Mosley would be the best fit. Mosley is a tough linebacker who possesses superb athleticism and instincts. He has the versatility to play on the inside or the outside, making him a potential replacement for Ellerbe or Wheeler. Many mock drafts project Mosley to be chosen well before the Dolphins select, but Hickey should consider making him the pick if he falls.
Free Safety: Jairus Byrd
The Dolphins obviously covet more of a playmaker at free safety seeing as though they appear willing to move on from a solid player in Chris Clemons this offseason. There may not be a more adept playmaker at the position in the entire league, let alone the free agency market, than Jairus Byrd. The Buffalo Bills are expected to let Byrd entertain offers from other teams next week, and if the Dolphins are willing to splurge, expect them to be among those teams that pursue.
Byrd has 22 interceptions in only five seasons as a pro. He was also Pro Football Focus' eighth-overall safety in 2013. Signing Byrd would potentially equip the Dolphins with elite secondary play.