MDD Staff Writer: Neal Driscoll
Free agency and the draft are rapidly approaching which are the best avenues for teams to improve their team and address their needs. The Miami Dolphins are a team that oozed resiliency in 2011 and a team who is on the verge of becoming an AFC playoff team.
The Dolphins have some major holes they need to fill in order to take those next steps and this article is going to examine the five positions which the Dolphins need to address with the most importance.
5. Wide Receiver
This might come as a surprise to some people but it is clear that the Dolphins lack a number two receiver to play opposite of Brandon Marshall. Brian Hartline makes some tough catches but in 2011 he caught 35 balls for 549 yards and only one touchdown. Davone Bess, the teams’ gifted slot receiver, had a pedestrian season catching 51 passes for 537 yards and three touchdowns. The Dolphins need to get more production out of this position especially if you consider the fact that defenses are shifting coverage to Brandon Marshall which should put the other receivers into one on one battle. I don’t expect for the Dolphins to use an early draft pick on the position even if Baylor’s Kendall Wright or Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon are available. The Dolphins could look for a viable target in free agency with players such as Pierre Garcon, Mario Manningham, and Robert Maechem hitting the market. If the Dolphins are lucky enough to land a certain quarterback Jeff Ireland could be on the phone with Reggie Wayne.
This isn’t a glaring need as the Dolphins have some capable players at the position but there are also some major question marks at the position. Their best safety, Yeremiah Bell, could be a cap casualty as the Dolphins would save $4.3 million dollars if they were to release the 33 year-old veteran. Chris Clemons started in 2010 but showed a lack of ball skills which kept his 2011 playing time at a minimal after losing his starting position to 2010 5th round draft pick Reshad Jones. Jones should be in the starting lineup again in 2012 but it is clear that the Dolphins need to find a play-maker at the position. Unrestricted free agent Reggie Nelson makes a ton of sense as his former secondary coach in Cincinnati; Kevin Doyle is now the Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator. The best players available in free agency are Laron Landry and Michael Griffin but they could come with outrageous price tags. The 2012 draft-class for the safety position is relatively weak but does offer some mid round talent such as Winston Guy (Kentucky), Janzen Jackson (McNeese State), and Harrison Smith (Notre Dame) which are solid players.
3. Right Tackle
Marc Colombo was absolutely horrible for the Dolphins in 2011 and single handedly lost the team a few games. The Dolphins need to improve this position through free agency or the draft. The Dolphins could use their 1st round selection on Iowa’s Riley Reiff or Stanford’s Jonathan Martin who are players that you can plug in day one and not have to worry about the position again for a decade but drafting another offensive linemen this high might have a mass suicide for all Dolphins’ fans. Some free agents who could make sense are Kareem McKenzie (NYG), Anthony Collins (CIN), and Brandon Keith (ARZ).
2. Outside Linebacker/Defensive End
The Dolphins need to find a pass rusher they can plug-in opposite of Cameron Wake. Wake is a more than solid pass rusher but teams have shifted their blocking and Wake faced double-teams in 2011 due to the lack of pass rush opposite of him. Two of the best pass rushers in the NFL will be available as Mario Williams is a free agent and Dwight Freeney could be on the chopping block in Indianapolis. The Dolphins best bet is to take a long hard look at Quinton Coples (UNC), Nick Perry (USC), and Melvin Ingram (South Carolina) with their 1st round draft selection. The best of the bunch is Coples who is an elite player who faces accusations that he has an inconsistent motor which are overblown.
This has been a need for the Dolphins for well over a decade. Well know the stories of passing on Drew Brees for Daunte Culpepper, missed 2nd round draft selections, and blotched trades so it is imperative that the Dolphins find themselves a franchise quarterback this off-season. The guy everyone wants is Peyton Manning and ESPN’s Chris Mortensen thinks that Miami is where Peyton will wind up. There are major questions with Peyton’s health but if that checks out the Dolphins should have Stephen Ross’ jet in the air in no time. The potential franchising of Matt Flynn by the Green Bay Packers will scare the Dolphins away because giving away draft picks and a huge contract is a double risk that the Dolphins won’t be willing to take. The Dolphins could be bold and trade up with St. Louis or Minnesota in order to secure Baylor’s Robert Griffin but the price to do so will be very expensive. The Dolphins could also stay put at pick # 8/9 and take Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill. There are plenty of options for the Dolphins here but they must hit one of them or the fan-base is going to become even more distant.