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
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.