by Paul Wanecski
As we roll through the 2nd of AFC East teams (see NY Jets Article), this year poses a very interesting wrinkle for the future of the Miami Dolphins. 2015 will mark the start of an exceptionally pivotal year in the history of the franchise. They are working with limited resources, having only $1.68 million in projected salary cap space. While they have several players to extend or restructure, the free agency class has to bring consistent starters.
Holding the 14th selection in the 2015 NFL draft, Miami is perfectly poised to address team needs without reaching for a player too early. They have restructured the front office and will continue to try and make an impact while looking at the long-term future of the roster that is currently assembled. While the Dolphins looked like a formidable opponent at times throughout the year, lack of depth and injuries riddled the team.
QB Ryan Tannehill will find out his fate in the coming months. Being drafted 8th overall in the 2012 draft, Miami will need to decide if they are willing to pick up his team option, extending his contract for an additional season at the price of approximately $15 million. While this option does not impact the 2015 year, as the option year is for the 2016 season, it does lay the ground work for the team to make a decision if Tannehill is the future of the franchise. His contract in 2015 is very affordable at just over $2 million. Several schools of thought exist, but no path is without chance. The Baltimore Ravens decided not to work out an extension with quarterback Joe Flacco prior to his most recent Super Bowl victory, ultimately costing them major money to keep him from leaving via free agency. The Cincinnati Bengals extended quarterback Andy Dalton’s rookie contract to the tune of $100 million dollars, however, given his production, the team may be looking for an alternative at the position. Tannehill has been something that the Dolphins have been missing. He has been injury-free and productive enough. So much, in fact, that he is the first QB since Dan Marino to start back-to-back 16 game seasons (actually last year was his third year starting 16 games in a row) for Miami. Dan Marino started 16 games 11 times in 17 seasons. The organization can only hope to be so fortunate again, although Tannehill is nowhere near the player that the Hall Of Fame Marino was.
CB Cortland Finnegan will be released saving $5.475 million.
G Randy Starks will need to go, release saves $5 million. While once considered an integral part of the franchise, injury, age and ineffectiveness will be the reason he will be changing uniforms.
Extending C/G Mike Pouncey will help spread his $7.43 cap hit. While the move of Pouncey to guard did not go as planned in 2014, just about every team in the league will tell you it is harder to find an adequate guard than center. Expect him to move back to the middle of the line
Hashtag Sports would like to wish “Bon Voyage” to wide receiver Mike Wallace. He will be a post June 1st cut creating nearly $7 mil in cap space for 2015.
DT Jared Odrick could see the franchise tag, which will pay him around $9.5 million. He is worth it. They should not allow him to hit the open market.
DB Louis Delmas should also return absent a long term commitment. The Dolphins will want to look for a 2 year deal with an injury buyout as he ended the season on IR after torn right knee ligament.
TE Charles Clay will be paid big money and it will not be from Miami.
Searching the depths for a punishing running back to compliment (and handcuff another annual injury by RB) Lamar Miller will be a move that most likely flies under the radar.
They will also be in search for an affordable veteran QB. Names like Christian Ponder, TJ Yates, or Tyler Hansen all will come with little commitment. While Miami offers advantages (like a state with no income tax), free agency will start rolling long before the team has to make a determination on the long term future of Tannehill; this might actually hurt a play for a younger back-up quarterback with a possible long-term commitment on the horizon for the incumbent QB.
Affordable guard depth, like Jah Reid from Baltimore, will need to be found. The free agent market is loaded with players that fit Miami’s need. Avoiding reclamation projects like Gabe Carimi has been hard for the team to do in the past.
While they will have an opportunity to get younger in the NFL draft, targeting someone like former New York Giant Antrel Rolle would immediately improve the secondary.
This year’s first round selection should be about rebuilding the secondary, since they will be cutting Finnegan. A player like CB Trae Waynes (Michigan State) would fit nicely.
Targeting a tight end figuring the loss of Charles Clay would be the simplest and most affordable way to address the position. Investing an early 4th round selection on Tyler Kroft (Rutgers) would be a good bet, but depending on your late round selections to turn into starters is risky business. They will need to handcuff this selection with another veteran.