Miami Dolphins FA and 2016 NFL Draft Plan

Scout Fantasy Expert reveals his Free Agency and draft plan for the Miami Dolphins heading into the combine.

The Miami Dolphins are in a very strange position. They seem so close, yet so far. They have a ton of talent, but also quite a few holes to fill in free agency and in the NFL Draft. There biggest areas of concern are offensive guard, cornerback and linebacker. They also use a free safety and pass rusher could become a major question with the status on Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon up in the air. With a ton of talent on this team and new regime, they cannot afford to mess this offseason up.

Let’s start with free agency. First and foremost, they must and will restructure Ndamukong Suh's contract. Both sides have already agreed to this. Despite catching heat after a slow first month of the season, Suh actually played like an elite tackle after the firing of Joe Philbin. He deserves his money, it just has to come in a more cap friendly manner.

That brings us to the issue of what to do with Lamar Miller, Rishard Matthews, Brent Grimes, Wake and Vernon. As of now, the Phins are expected to retain both Wake and Vernon. Vernon is candidate for the franchise tag if the two sides can’t work out a long-term deal. I love the idea of a “prove it deal” before the team commits long-term to the up-and-down defensive end. He really came on strong last season and it could be a major mistake to just let him walk. Let’s just hope he can play the role Adewale Ogunleye once filled. Wake is a fan favorite and I know what I’m about to say is not a popular stance. Nevertheless, he’s a 34-year-old pass rusher coming off a torn Achilles and is set to count $9.8 million against the cap. That is a nightmare. Obviously that will not be the case in 2016. He will have to restructure his contract, which the two sides are already working on, however, I have a bad feeling he’s still going to be overpaid. That injury sucks the explosiveness from athletes, and few positions in sports need that initial burst more than an NFL pass rusher. He’s extremely high-risk. With that said, we’re going to assume he’ll be back next year at a reasonable price.

Brent Grimes took a major step back in 2015 after taking a smaller step in 2014. He’s $9.5 million cap hit. While he’s no longer a top corner, he’ll be a great CB2 opposite another proven veteran who I’ll get to later. As long as he’ll take a major pay cut, he’s worth holding on to.

Somebody has to be a casualty. I hate to say it because I’m a huge fan, but it looks like Lamar Miller is going to walk. He seems a bit sour about his lack of touches and is going to get a very generous contract from someone. There is a chance that if Adam Gase and the new crew promise him more touches, the former Miami Hurricane could take a bit of hometown discount, nonetheless, I’m expecting Jay Ajayi to be the Dolphins’ starting back in 2016. Matthews is also probably gone. He’s better than Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings is all but gone, nonetheless, unless they dump Stills, Matthews has to go. I don’t expect them to cut Stills and sign Matthews as much as I’d like them to. He’d be a great WR3, but also a costly player to have as their third option. He’s probably gone.

Then we have the lesser guys that have to go. We’ve already cut a few and I fully expect Jennings and Jordan Cameron to find themselves on the unemployment line as well. Sadly, Matt Moore is also going to walk as well. With limited cap space, they just can’t afford him as the backup right now. It’s time to let Moore walk and maybe draft a quarterback on the third day of the draft.

While the Dolphins are going to bring in a backup running back and a few linebackers in free agency, I only expect them to address three major issues. That’s free safety, corner and guard. There are a handful of very good guards available in free agency and Miami must make a run at one of them. They will still need another in the draft, but a veteran is a must. A guy like Jahri Evans may be too costly, however, a guy like Alex Boone may be reasonable or even a lower level guy like Ramon Foster would be an upgrade. Almost anybody would be an upgrade though. Although many people don’t love him, the key to this free agency class for the Phins is Pacman Jones. Prior to getting injured last season he was a top five corner and was unbelievable on film. Even after the injuries, he was still very good. There is a reason he was a sixth-overall pick. He already has connections with new Dolphins defensive coordinator and former Bengals DBs coach Vance Joseph, who has already praised Jones publicly in Miami. Character issues will drive down his price. Despite his meltdown in the Wild Card game, which I still feel he wasn’t all that much at fault, he’s done a great job of turning around his life and image. Since having his daughter, he has completely avoided any off-field issues. Yes, he’s a fiery player that may cost you 15 yards every now and then, but at this point his risk isn’t really much greater than Suh’s. Plus, why not get a little nasty. Sticking with the Bengals secondary, they should continue to poach their defensive backfield stealing a safety. Reggie Nelson would be ideal, although, George Iloka could also be a nice fit as well. The Dolphins won’t have a ton of money on the open market, but they can fill a few key holes.

That takes us to the draft. While there will be an abundance of tempting options at the No. 8 overall pick, Miami should trade back. The most likely suitor would be the Los Angeles Rams at pick No. 15, who desperately need a quarterback and have the 43rd and 45th overall picks. If they drop back to that spot and pick up a second-rounder, Miami can still address the linebacker or corner position. I believe they should grab a linebacker. Reggie Ragland should be available. Also, if Jaylon Smith is still sitting there, he’d be a very intriguing option. I just don’t see it with the though with the Dolphins so desperate to win now. So Ragland it is. With the 42nd pick, the Dolphins should steal hometown boy Artie Burns. The Miami Hurricane star corner and track star is going to light it up at the NFL Combine and will climb draft boards. They could still realistically grab him with this pick, especially with a plethora of talented corners already slated to go in Round 1. There is little he doesn’t do well. He has excellent football instincts and exceptional ball skills to go along with his speed. Burns also led the ACC with six interceptions this past year.

Now they will have the 45th-overall pick and can grab guard Vadal Alexander or Landon Turner. At this point Miami will have successfully addressed their three biggest needs at CB, ILB and OG. Their third round pick will very much depend on what happens with their free agents, most notable Wake and Vernon. Since I’m predicting they stay as of now, they should add more offensive line or linebacker depth here. If Scooby Wright is still available, he is the guy to draft in this spot in my opinion.

There you have it, as of now that’s my game plan for the Miami Dolphins. There is very little doubt plenty will change with the combine and free agency looming. Nevertheless, I’m hoping this is how things play out. What’s your take?

 

Miami Dolphins Starting Lineup 2016

Offense

Position

Player

QB

Ryan Tannehill

RB

Jay Ajayi

WR1

Jarvis Landry

WR2

DeVante Parker

WR3

Kenny Stills

TE

Dion Sims

LT

Branden Albert

OG

Ramon Foster

C

Mike Pouncey

OG

Landon Turner

RT

Ju’Wuan James

 

 

Defense

Position

Player

DE

Cam Wake

DT

Ndamukong Suh

DT

Jordan Phillips

DE

Olivier Vernon

OLB

Jelani Jenkins

ILB

Reggie Ragland

OLB

Kelvin Sheppard

FS

George Iloka

SS

Reshad Jones

CB

Pacman Jones

CB

Brent Grimes

Nickle

Artie Burns


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