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2015 Dolphins Draft Picks
This where things get moving. Over the last few years just about every other position has seen either pricey free agents/re-signings, trade acquisitions or high draft picks used to overhaul the unit. Perhaps only QB has received less attention. The Laremy Tunsil pick in 2016 was mere chance due to immaturity. Tunsil may still blossom into his Pro Bowl talent level, and he has improved a lot as the year has gone on, but he is not irreplaceable at this point. Don't fret, he sticks.
The OL is on the books for nearly $25 million in 2018. Currently on the roster are Laremy Tunsil, Ted Larsen, Mike Pouncey, Jesse Davis, Ja'Waun James (they would be projected starters), Isaac Asiata, Eric Smith and Zach Sterup. Free agents include Jermon Bushrod, Anthony Steen, Jake Brendel, Sam Young and John Denney (I guess long snapper can be associated with OL).
Laremy Tunsil is sticking around. According to the beat writers the staff likes Jesse Davis and considers him a potential starting RT. Ted Larsen only costs $2 million and gives you flexibility at guard and center. He stays. Eric Smith showed promise before injury and will have a chance to be a solid backup. He stays. Anthony Steen and Jake Brendel probably get non guaranteed deals. John Denney gets his usually $1 million and is great at his job.
The bigger names become big question marks. The writing is on the wall for Ja'Waun James. Miami saves $9.3 million by cutting him and Gase's comments don't show a lot of support. Jermon Bushrod is not being re-signed again. Mike Pouncey costs $9 million against the cap, frees up $7 million if cut, or can be restructured to lessen his hit to about $5 million. His play is declining but he is a locker room leader and a Gase guy. He gets restructured.
Zach Sterup is a recent waiver claim who probably gets cut. Isaac Asiata was a Day 3 pick who will be 26 next year. If he can't get snaps when the line is this decimated then why waste a roster spot. Both get cut to free up $1 million.
So after the signings, releases and restructures, Miami adds $13 million to its cap space for a total of $21.8 million. There is now plenty of cheap, experienced depth. There are couple of guys who can challenge for snaps, but clearly there are major holes and questions.
Will Miami finally spend on a big, free agent OL? Let's revisit the job security questions of Adam Gase and Mike Tannenbaum. Gase should be in the clear for at least 2 or 3 more seasons given Ross's pursuit of him. Tannenbaum, while probably never being fired, has maybe another offseason with say in the matter. I just don't see Ross letting him buy his way out of a problem. If the offense fails again mightily in 2018 then a complete reset will happen. That is when they spend.
In my previous write up I mentioned using a draft pick on TE. That may still happen, but this AJ Derby guy might erase the need to do that. That doesn't mean he is a huge answer, but he has put up numbers and can combine with Grey and Fasano to hold it down for 2018. That 3rd day pick now has returned for use (for our purpose of discussion).
With a top 10 pick Miami will likely have the option of securing OT Connor Williams or OG Quentin Nelson. Both are plug and play starters on Day 1 (barring bad medicals for Williams). There are several other 1st Round options but they don't warrant that high of a pick. The Tannenbaum philosophy is not to spend a premium pick on an OG, but quality OG play can really elevate the run game which sets up the play action passing game that worked so effectively in 2016. I believe Tannenbaum sticks to his approach and avoids OL here, especially with some really premiere defensive options potentially on the board.
My hunch is Miami doubles down with a Day 2 pick and 4th Rounder to address the need. Keep your eyes on OG Will Hernandez, OT/OG Braden Smith and a very likely OT/C Mason Cole (hint hint, Michigan guy). Cole was previously a potential 1st Round C who was asked to play LT this year due to his previous experience there. He is exactly the kind of prospect who can be a Day 1 starter almost anywhere on the line. Will he be Pro Bowl caliber? Who knows, but right now Miami should be looking for above average play without paying $9 million/year for it.
If the drafted guys or the young depth disappoints during camp then maybe Miami makes a Bushrod panic move prior to training camp.
Tunsil - Drafted guy - Pouncey - Drafted guy - Davis. Two rookie OGs and barely proven RT? Yuck! Take two steps back. Maybe Larsen starts at RG for the time being unless a drafted option really shines. As for Davis, the only reason he isn't at RT now is no one is capable of holding down the RG position. Miami's hands are tied, they are in cap purgatory and the MO is not to buy your way out of a problem. Spending two reasonably high picks, further investing in Davis, and continued improvement from Tunsil could go a long way in reshaping this over priced albatross. If Larsen gets outplayed by a rookie, or one of Brendel/Steen/Smith improves enough to supplant him then we could be looking at three new starter on the line next year while trimming a lot of bloated salary.
To be honest, I don't feel a heck of a lot better after writing that. Sometimes reality just hurts.
Rather than drag this out I decided to lump these positions together for one thread. The OL most certainly deserves its own write up so we'll save that for Thursday.
First and foremost lets start with QB. As of now only Ryan Tannehill is under contract for 2018. Jay Cutler and Matt Moore are UFAs, David Fales is an RFA and Brandon Doughty is on the practice squad. Ryan Tannehill has a cap hit of $19 million but it can be easily restructured down to $14 million by kicking some of the guarantees to 2019. It makes complete financial sense, both for Miami and Tannehill, to do that and I expect it happens over the winter. I'm not going to get into debates about what Tannehill is or is not at QB. Armando Salguero, Barry Jackson, Ian Rapapport, Jay Glazer, Albert Breer and several other sources have said he will be Miami's starter in 2018. Beyond that is a huge question and his contract is easily escapable. Maybe Jacksonville or Denver offer an unreal trade package for him prior to the draft, but lets not start walking down that path yet. I do not expect any of the other QBs, outside of Doughty as a camp arm to return.
Even Miami knows its time to address the position. Tannehill will be 30 and coming off a major knee injury. Moore is not a starter, Cutler is damaged goods and the others are nice Preseason stories. Tannehill restructuring will free up $5 million (team is currently at $17 million for next year). Miami could use that money to target a young free agent but I think it goes toward locking up one of their own free agents. Miami will have to use either its top pick or a Day 2 pick to secure a guy they think can play early in his career. The upcoming draft has a lot of depth at the position and I've listed several names before. There are 5 current prospects who are receiving top 10 talk and its highly likely Miami picks in that realm. What they will need to decide is whether that group is equivalent to the 2011 crop or worth such a premium pick. The latest I'd guess is the 3rd Round to address the position. Look for a player who currently is in an NFL offense, or, has shown he can at least carry his college team despite some inferior supporting cast members.
RB went from fantasy juggernaut to problem situation in the blink of an eye. A lot of this can be blamed on the OL but now Miami has a big need to fill. Kenyan Drake and Senorise Perry are under contract for next year. Damien Williams is a Gase guy and did very well last year with 6 total TDs. I expect him back on a deal similar to the $1.7 million he is making this year. The problem is that the RB by committee was a problem last year and hasn't been effective since Jay Ajayi's departure. Drake has fumble issues and seems like more of a 3rd Down/Receiving weapon. Miami will again have to turn to the draft which thankfully is loaded with talent. But do you spend a Day 2 pick when there are so many other needs? What happens if you get a top 5 pick and Saquon Barkley, who easily has the traits of successful early picks like Leonard Fournette, Ezekiel Elliot and Todd Gurley, is sitting there for the taking? Remember, Miami was looking hard at Gurley in 2015 before LA grabbed him. I don't think those are viable scenarios. Miami probably looks to use one of its 4th Rounders to get a player who can be eased in Year 1. In other words, don't expect a RB rebuild for next year.
The WR situation has now become incredibly complicated due to Devante Parker not elevating himself into the alpha receiver Miami envisioned. He is constantly injured, struggles against press, and is inconsistent with contested throws. When he flashes its eye opening, but too often he racks up garbage time numbers. For this reason I believe Miami will franchise tag Jarvis Landry. He is said to want $13-15 million per year and Miami doesn't seem interested in a long term deal with him. The tag will probably cost about $15 million next year so freeing up money from a few restructures makes this possible. Kenny Stills, Leonte Carroo, Rashawn Scott, Jakeem Grant and Isaiah Ford are all under contract. I don't think Miami makes any roster changes, however, I believe the door will be open for one of those younger guys to step up and supplant Parker. It isn't out of the question for Miami to field trade offers for Parker either. An early 2nd Round offer might do it. (Again people, its not what I would do but rather what I think will happen based on things I'm reading and hearing.)
The TE position does not have a young, hopeful prospect on the roster. Without wasting a heck of a lot of time on this position lets just say Miami probably doesn't have the means to properly address it in 2018. Too many bigger needs elsewhere. Julius Thomas and Marquise Gray are under contract for next year. No way does Miami bring Thomas back at his current $6.6 million. He'd be luck to get half of that and being a Gase guy it wouldn't surprise me if they worked something out. There should be several Day 3 options in the draft who can come in and challenge for a roster spot. Its possible they scout a current rookie who couldn't get off the practice squad and maybe needs more seasoning (Bucky Hodges comes to mind).
Smoke and mirrors will no longer work for QB depth and skill positions. Like 2012, Miami may end up being fortunate to have a top 10 pick in a QB heavy draft. At the very least they can probably grab a starter caliber guy (even if we want the true franchise player). First Rounds options will include Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield. Day 2 options will include Clayton Thorson, Jarrett Stidham, Luke Falk, Mason Rudolph and Ryan Finley.
An all purpose RB has to be on that wish list as well. Gase really liked Lamar Miller and pushed hard to sign CJ Anderson. If there is a similar back in the draft I will try to highlight him.
The most difficult decision will be whether or not to pay Jarvis Landry. I think they do it for the short term and believe he, Stills and another receiver will find the same success they did with Tannehill in 2016. Miami really likes Rashawn Scott and Isaiah Ford. I wouldn't be surprised if both are given some snaps down the stretch and in camp to challenge Devante Parker. If Miami looks once again in the draft keep your eyes on New Mexico State's Jaleel Scott.