Eyes on the Competition : Miami Dolphins

 

Can the $114 million DT lead Miami to a division crown?

Can the $114 million DT lead Miami to a division crown?

 

NEPD Staff Writer CJ Sousa

Few teams have been busier this offseason than the Miami Dolphins.   The Dolphins have wheeled and dealed, as well as mortgage the farm in the process for some immediate success.

The crown jewel of the 2015 Free Agency class, Ndamukong Suh, bolted the Motor City for South Beach inking a cool six year $114,375,000 contract.  I expect Suh to have an obvious and immediate impact on the defensive front, making an already solid defensive front one of the best in the league.

That wasn’t the Fins’ best move this offseason though, not even close.  By far, the best move was dumping Mike Wallace‘s dumpster fire of a contract and a seventh-round pick on the Minnesota Vikings for a fifth-round pick.

To make matters even better, the Fins ditched Wallace before they were on the hook for his $3 million bonus this offseason.  Wallace originally signed a $60 million contract in 2013.  He was made even more expendable than he already was when the Fish traded for former New Orleans Saints WR Kenny Stills.

Some other additions that could help out this year are former Cleveland Browns TE Jordan Cameron and Steelers CB Brice McCain.

In a backup role, former first round pick Josh Freeman will be brought in and should compete for a roster spot.  A trio of former New York Giants, DB Zack Bowman, LB Spencer Paysinger and C J.D. Walton have been signed as well.

The Fins were able to resign one of the more underrated players in the league, safety Louis Delmas, but when you dish out over $114 million to a non-quarterback losses are guaranteed.

WR Brian Hartline (CLE), DT Jared Odrick (JAX), TE Charles Clay (BUF), G Shelley Smith (DEN) & LB Phillip Wheeler (cut) will be suiting up elsewhere in 2015.

LB Jonathan Freeny and WR Brandon Gibson have been signed to future contracts with the New England Patriots. I would guess Freeny has a better chance of sticking around at 1 Patriot Place.

Before we get into the Fins’ draft plans, let me bring light to the ultimate risk the Dolphins took this summer in signing Suh.

Sometimes big money Free Agent deals can be the difference in a Super Bowl run – look no farther than Darrelle Revis and his (essentially) 1 year $12,000,000 contract with New England last season.  Often times though, big money deals on non-quarterbacks blow up in a team’s face – particularly long term.

Look no farther than the Dolphins 2013 off season when they spent big money on Mike Wallace, Brent Grimes, Dannell Ellerbe and Dustin Keller among others.  That heralded class won the offseason headline battle of 2013, but never made the playoffs.

Nobody will ever question Suh’s dominance on the field.  He will make an already solid defensive front of Cameron Wake, Anthony Johnson, Oliver Vernon, and Earl Mitchell one of the most fearsome in the league.  I left Dion Jordan’s name out of that on purpose.

The risk the Fins’ management took is clear and obvious.  They already gave $114 million to a DT, so what the heck happens when Tannehill’s deal is up?  There has been news all offseason that the Dolphins are “committed” to Tannehill and even want a deal done before week one.

Is Ryan Tannehill worth the money he is about to receive?  My answer is No, and then Yes.  In three years he is 23-25 as a starter while tossing 63 touchdowns to 42 interceptions.  For the glass half full people out there, he did have his best year as a pro last year compiling 4,045 yards with 27 touchdowns to 12 interceptions.  Based just on his career and what I’ve seen in the last three years – I’d say no – he isn’t worth $100 million plus.

However, when thinking of Tannehill’s deal a relevant contract comes to light : Andy Dalton‘s six-year $115 million deal.

The Bengals did a nice job of minimizing long term risk by just guaranteeing the first few years of the deal, sure.  Nonetheless, they still handed an average quarterback at best over $100 million – and the Dolphins are about to find themselves in a similar boat.

The Dolphins look to be in a cap bind going forward, and that’s why shedding contracts such as Wallace and Dannell Ellerbe ($2.1M freed after dead cap hit) were so important.

Regardless, the Dolphins now have the highest paid defensive player in the league combined with a future $100 million plus quarterback.   Not ideal for a team who has the 8th least 2016 cap space in the league according to OverTheCap.com  (Before the new Tannehill deal, no less).  The Lions never made a conference championship with a talented roster including Suh, so I’m not just automatically penciling in the Fish as a guaranteed playoff team.

Draft Needs – OG , CB , WR , MLB

If Danny Shelton falls to #14 the value could be too high to pass on.

If Danny Shelton falls to #14 the value could be too high to pass on.

The Fish stand at a good position drafting at pick #14. Seven names stand out to me here.  MSU CB Trae Waynes, UW CB Marcus Peters, FSU OG-C Cameron Erving, UW DT Danny Shelton, UL WR DeVante Parker, USC WR Nelson Agholor and UGA RB Todd Gurley.

Why Waynes fits:  Brice McCain is a nickelback, so the Fish need somebody on the opposing side of Brent Grimes.  Having a great pass rush is pretty useless if you can’t cover on the back end.  Waynes is one of the top two CB’s in this draft.  He is used to working on an “island” (too soon, I know guys) which will be helpful as Grimes is pretty locked down to his side of the field.

Why Peters Fits: Much of the same here. I view Peters as the most talented CB on the board, but the baggage issue is why I list Waynes first.  Willing tackler, great recognition, phenomenal competitor.  He’s got a little Cortland Finnegan and Aqib Talib in him on film.

Why Erving Fits: He would start immediately and fill the biggest hole on the team.  Highly versatile and intelligent player.  If you’re going to hand out a pool full of Benjamins to your QB in the near future, why not take the best interior Olineman on the board?

Why Shelton fits:  I know, I know! They got Suh, sure.  But Shelton would play alongside of him right away and make an immediate impact.  I view Shelton’s value at 14, should he get there, extraordinary and would fill a depth issue on the defensive interior.

Why Parker fits: My absolute biggest pet peeve in the draft process is when teams invest big time in a QB (either high pick or big contract) and don’t make significant efforts to give him the tools he needs.  Parker is a primetime talent, with an ideal size/speed combo (4.45 6’3 210 lbs).  Would make a great trio with Jarvis Landry and newly acquired Kenny Stills.

Why Agholor fits: Would fit the WR need, but a different player then Parker.  More of a quicker, explosive receiver that is exceptional before and after the catch.  Most impressive to me is his sudden acceleration through routes and directly after catches.  For a while, Agholor flew under the radar.  But after a great combine performance, his secret is out.  #14 might be a bit high, but I wouldn’t mind the pick.

Why Gurley fits: I’m going to be honest, I’m such a big fan of Gurley that I think he’d look great in 32 NFL uniforms.  If you put Gurley back there behind #17, spelled by Lamar Miller, I believe the Fish would be greatly improved on offense.  With Lamar Miller, Damien Williams and LaMichael James running back certainly isn’t a pressing need.  However, the would-have-been Heisman winner last year may be the best way to improve what is a pretty formidable offense.

So past the first round, what are we looking at for the Fish?  Miami owns six picks in total, which makes their ‘hit’ rate at a premium.  Their strategy past the first round obviously hinges on their pick in the first round.

I would expect in the middle rounds some interior offensive linemen as although I highlighted him, I don’t think Cameron Erving will be the pick at #14.  If a Parker or Agholor isn’t the play at #14, expect the Dolphins to use a middle round pick on this deep wide receiver class.  I think overall based on their needs moving back a bit to add some picks would be ideal, but that process is easier said than done.  With only six picks and limited cap room, I don’t expect the Dolphins flying up draft boards via trade.

Do I think Miami has done enough this offseason to overtake the Patriots in the AFC? No I do not.  At the end of the day, it’s a quarterback’s league.  It isn’t that I hate the Suh signing, so don’t get that impression.  In my eyes he is the second most disruptive player in the league.  It’s just for the money – he better be healthy and dominant for 16 games a year – which is a tall task for any player.  Dishing out $114 million to a non-quarterback is a risk.  Giving $100 million plus to a quarterback who is two games under .500 for his career is probably a bigger risk.

Can the Dolphins take a Wild Card spot?  Possibly so.  It hinges on their future $100 million quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Next time on Eyes on the Competition – we’re getting to the good stuff – Denver Broncos.

Previously : Colts, Bills, Chargers, Texans, Ravens

 

 

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12 Responses to “Eyes on the Competition : Miami Dolphins”

  1. hdpaulie says:

    Really like Marcus Hardison. I was hoping we could steal him at the end of the 3rd or with our 4th rd pick from TB. He seems to be gathering steam headed to the homestretch, so it’s possible that we’d have to get him in the very early 3rd, if we really wanted him. Unlike many others I don’t view the DT position as being deep at all, but we need to draft a DT somewhere in the draft. Haven’t done much research on him, but Tyeler Davidson of Fresno St. has a stat line that shows he can pressure and sack the QB. He would be a 7th rd or UDFA. We’ve got a 7th rd comp pick that can’t be traded, so he may be worth a shot. If his pressure stats can transfer to the NFL, he could be a steal as a situation and depth player.

  2. Dan Sullivan says:

    Patriots Mock Draft
    1 Traded for 2,4 and 5.
    2 Quinton Rollins CB Miami Ohio
    2 Nelson Agholor WR USC
    3 Grady Jarrett DT Clemson
    3 Ameer Abdullah RB Nebraska
    3 Josue Matias G FSU
    4 Shaquille Mason G/C Georgia Tech
    4 Alani Fua OLB BYU
    4 Traded for 3
    5 Traded for 3
    6 Brian Mihalik DE Boston College
    7 Hayes Pullard ILB USC
    7 Ladarius Gunter S Miami (Fla)

    Enjoy meeting President Patriots as its quite a Honor.

  3. Jackson says:

    Everyone says Pittsburgh picks a CB at 22. Any chance we trade our first, third and Tampa’s 4th to Cincy to jump to 21 and choose Kevin Johnson? Still leaves us with a pick in every round but fifth. Curious to hear people’s thoughts on this one.

    • acm says:

      Not the draft to trade up in the first – top of this draft class is rather poor. Those 3rd and 4th round picks would be better used to create an extra pick in late 2nd/early 3rd range – or just stay put – than try to chase marginal upgrade, if any at all, at a position in the 1st. Just not many special players this year and whatever few there may be, are unlikely to fall within range for the Pats to trade up.
      Also, don’t think Kevin Johnson is the player to trade up for either. He is as good in coverage a CB as you’d hope to find in this average CB class but he lacks strength and physicality in run support, which is very important for the Pats at the CB position.

  4. Russell says:

    Draft day getting closer Mock;
    1st Cameron Erving OL
    2nd Michael Bennett DL
    3d Kenny Bell WR
    3d Davis Tull OLB
    4th Henry Anderson DL
    4th Adrain Amos S/CB
    6th Julian Wilson CB
    7th Brey Cook OL
    7th Banard Blake CB

    • Russell says:

      If Erving is gone, (likely) OG Laken Tomlinson.

    • acm says:

      Off the top of my head, issues I have with the above mock:
      1) You fail to address depth in talent at OL for the Pats – only one quality reinforcement at the position, when they need at least 2 (assuming Connolly is back)

      2) Seem to scramble for numbers over talent at the DB position acquiring players, who are ultimately not very likely to improve that are of the roster.

      3) I very much like M. Bennett but he is just too similar to Easely, which would create a redundancy … unless you are already giving up on the latter. In that area of the draft, players like Hardison (bigger and just as disruptive) or Edwards Jr (has lost weight and is now more of a big DE than DT) would be better picks as they would complement what the Pats already have on the roster.

      4) You are not adding a bigger DT who’d help vs the run and eventually replace someone like Branch in the future. This is a good and deep DT class and it would be wise to draft for depth, and the future, at the position.

      5) I really hope they stay away from Henry Anderson.

      • MM-II says:

        acm –

        WRT your point #3, referencing Bennett’s similarity to Easley. I’ve been thinking that, if they go for a DT with one of their first two picks, it might well be a guy who’s a similar to Easley (a HEALTHY Easley) as possible – to PAIR UP with Easley (not necessarily Bennett, but in the same genre). With two (potentially) elite interior rushers who are also good in run defense, and who can also play 3-tech and even 5-tech and set the edge well, maybe life gets a little easier an more productive for Chandler, Nink and Sheard. And, they can probably get a developmental, 2-gapping, run-stuffing semi-NT type to eventually take over for Branch a little later.

        Of course, this sort of scheme then puts a little more gap-responsibility pressure on the LBs, which – at the moment – is a bit of a question mark. I’d have to guess that, if the Pats don’t believe they have sufficient solid depth on the roster (who knows about Morris?), they may go for a good, general-purpose LB with a relatively early pick, too.

        Of course, all of this needs to be worked around acquiring interior O-line help, as well.

        I’m thinking that WR and RB – possibly even DB – may be on the back burner for this draft.

        • acm says:

          I don’t think we necessarily disagree there – more a matter of what your interpretation of “similar” is, I guess.
          Part of the reason why I suggested Hardison or Edwards in place of Bennett is that they are both similar, as opposed to identical, to Easley. Bennett is identical i.e. I see that as roster redundancy. Hardison and Edwards are “similar” – Hardison being bigger, while Edwwards is on the smaller side. Hardison is big enough to provide better defense vs the run (more flexibility in pairings in the interior of that D), while still athletic and quick enough to play all over the line, inside or out, including DE in 4-3. Edwards is now more of a bigger 4-3 DE, while he’s still big enough to play on the inside in a NASCAR package. All in all, either of these two, would bring something different, and thus more flexibility in formation, as opposed to more for the same.

          P.S. Like your emphasis on Bennett being a “healthy” Easley … this draft class has quite a few of those; a distant 3rd on the list of reasons why I was so against considering Easley any earlier then the 3rd last year. Just breaks my heart watching Bitonio go to waste in that disaster zone by the name of Cleveland.

        • MM-II says:

          acm –

          Good point about Bennett vs. Hardison/Edwards, and I agree. While we’re on this, what do you think of Preston Smith as a thinking-WAY-outside-the-box selection in the mid-late 2nd round?

          BTW – Wholeheartedly agree about Bitonio. He would’ve been my pick at #29 as an exceptional prospect and perfect fit in the Pats ZBS. Of course, BB then threw a wicked curve and drafted three guys who were more appropriate for a man/power run-blocking scheme and an RB (White) who came out of a man/power scheme. Of course, Bitonio now looks like he could’ve handled either scheme equally well. We’ll just have to wait and see how Easley performs this season.

        • acm says:

          Preston Smith’s stock has been rising in the pre-draft process and I can understand why with a quick glance at his stat/measurables sheet – great size, killed it at the combine, long arms, big hands. What’s not to love? Well, I am not as big a fan of his tape – don’t see that “track” athleticism and don’t quite see the effort or technique either. I don’t think he has the burst or bend to be a difference-maker as an edge rusher while not sure he’s refined enough or nasty enough to do so on the inside. Not saying he can’t improve in certain areas or that he is a scrub, just that I am not sure what he’d bring to the Pats roster that Zach Moore coming into his 2nd year or M. Bucanon (hopefully adding some size) won’t? That’s along the lines of the M. Bennett argument above – will this new prospect really add anything new to the roster or not? And I am much higher on Bennett than P. Smith as a prospect.

          Something else that bothers me with P. Smith is that, with his stock rising, I don’t see him making it to 64, at least not in a draft class this average. His stellar combine sort of made sure of that IMO considering how teams are suckers for a track athlete at the DE position (and does he pop out on paper). So, my thinking is that if the Pats were to draft him, in my estimation they’d have to take him either at 32 or with an early 2nd round pick in a possible trade-down scenario. And I just don’t think the value would be there in spending your first pick on a player who 1) I am not too crazy about in the first place and 2) would not add to the scheme versatility of the DL as there are similar players already on the roster.

          From a pass-rushers perspective, in that area of the draft, I much prefer Owa Odighizuwa. Now, he’s not perfect either – hip surgeries that may or may not be related to stiffness on the edge, limited time as a starter, etc, etc – but I like his character better and think he has a higher upside down the line and would bring something “different” to the roster as is. There are questions if he is available at 32 at all but I wouldn’t have a problem if the Pats picked him with their first pick, preferably in early-mid 2nd round in a trade-down scenario.

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