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We now have gone thru 2 weeks of NFL Free Agency, and the Dolphins have filled some holes and had new holes created with some of the losses thru the process. 

 

Miami pretty much knew they would lose DE Olivier Vernon and WR Rishard Matthews, who signed with the New York Giants and the Tennessee Titans.  Miami wanted to retain RB Lamar Miller, but did not want to go over 6 million/per year.  Well, the Houston Texans ended up paying Miller 6.5 million/per year, and he is now with the Texans.  Miami never made a serious effort to re-sign DE Derrick Shelby, who signed with Atlanta.

 

Miami attempted to sign OG Alex Boone, but ended up getting outbid for him at the last minute by Minnesota, and also thought they had a good chance of signing CB Adam Jones from the Bengals, but he ultimately ended up signing back with Cincinnati.  The Dolphins thought they had a good chance at getting C.J Anderson from Denver, as the Broncos put the lowest tender on him and would not have had to give the Broncos ANY compensation for him if they could have gotten him.  Miami made Anderson a strong offer, one they thought the Broncos would not match, but ultimately the Broncos did match the offer.  Maybe it was me, but if you read some of the comments from Anderson, I think the young man wanted to come to Miami.  He felt disrespected by the low tendor the Broncos put on him and was very familar with Adam Gase and his offense and thought he could do well in the system.

 

Miami has missed on a few others, and it has become apparent now that the Dolphins, who will as of right now have 3 compensatory picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, will not do anything that will jeopardize them losing those additional picks gained from losing Vernon, Miller & Matthews.  While I do expect Miami to add additional free agents, it will be low cost players later in the process.  The Dolphins did add DE Mario Williams, WR Griff Whalen, OG/OT Jarman Bushrod via free agency.  Via the trade route, Miami added CB Byron Maxwell and ILB/OLB Kiko Alonso.

 

The NFL Draft has always been a way to add valuable talent to a roster, a way to build your team.  It will have added importance to this Miami team, and I expect the Dolphins to be aggressive in looking to trade down to obtain additional picks to add talent to the roster.  My mock will not have any trades scenarios, but I think it will happen.

 

Here is my thoughts on who Miami could possibly look to add via the draft.

 

1) Mackensive Alexander, CB, Clemson, 5'10, 190 lbs - With the release of CB Brent Grimes, the need for a CB opposite Maxwell is a need that has to be addressed, and Alexander could be the guy.  Strong, compact, physical and very good in man press coverage.  Is a technican and studies his technique as well as the player he will be playing against.  He will have to become more comfortable with zone coverages and he does not have the ideal size, but he has everything else you want in a cornerback.  Will come up and hit.  Spoke with Alexander at the Combine.

 

2) Vadal Alexander, OG, LSU, 6'5, 326 lbs - I have been disappointed that Miami has not done MORE in trying to address a position that has been problems for years.  They tried to sign Boone, but missed on him.  There were other guards that I thought Miami could go after, but did not and have not gone after any other OG so far  Bushrod was bought in to compete at OG, and while it is thought that he can make that move, he still will be making a transition to a new spot.  Alexander is big, powerful, and is a Road Grader in the run game and has the quickness to get to the next level and get to linebackers.  Adujst well to stunts and blitz and was a 4 year starter, playing at RT and OLG.  He does need to improve his sink and anchor to deal with rusher that go from speed to power, but he fits the bill for what the Dolphins are looking for.  Spoke with Alexander at the Combine.

 

3) Deion Jones, OLB, LSU, 6'1, 222 lbs - The linebacker position for Miami in 2015 was a position of concern.  Kiki Alonso will provide an upgrade at one spot, and Jones could provide another upgrade.  Active, instinctive and very athletic with range and coverage ability.  Good against the run and is good working off blocks, making plays.  Performs on special teams as well.  Miami was at the LSU Pro Day.

 

4) Johnathan Williams, RB, Arkansas, 5'11, 224 lbs - With Miami missing on Anderson, and then just last week on Arizona RB Chris Johnson and Green Bay RB James Starks, Miami now needs to look at a RB.  Williams would have been a probable Day 2 pick if he had not broken his foot in August, which caused him to miss the entire 2015 season.  Runs behinds his pads and runs with power, runs well inside between the tackles, good in short yardage.  Also is shfity in the open with good lateral quickness.  Was Arkansas leading rusher in 2014 while splitting carries with talented RB Alex Collins, as he had1,190 yards.  Was elected Team Captain.  Miami spoke with Williams at the Senior Bowl, where he did practice.

 

5)  Matt Judon, DE, Grand Valley State, 6'3, 275 lbs - Dominated at the D-II level, and led the nation in sacks in 2015 with 20.0.  Well built, powerful young man with long arms and has good, initial quickness off the snap.  Good flexibility to get under the reach of tackles, and is good at containing against the run and breaking down and making tackles against RB's.  The question with Judon is concerns about his level of competition, but we have seen players come from D-II and have success.

 

6) Cassanova McKinney, ILB, Auburn, 6'1, 248 lbs - Miami is possibly looking for a Thumper inside, and McKinney fits the bill.  Athletic mover with the ability to make plays sideline to sideline.  Quick lateral agility to avoid blocks, patient, but active at the line of scrimmage.  Brings the wood with him when he makes a hit.  Versatile, as he has played strong side, weak side and middle linebacker for the Tigers.  Can get better in his stack and shed, and has limited experience in coverage.  Miami spoke with Cassanova at the Auburn Pro Day.

 

7) Nate Sudfeld, QB, Indiana, 6'6, 234 lbs - There is a lot of talk that Miami will look to draft a QB in this draft, and Miami has recently looked at setting up a private workout with Michigan State QB Connor Cook.  I would hope that Miami would not take a QB with a mid round pick, and would much rather them look to take a developmental QB later in the draft.  Sudfeld can make all the throws in the NFL Passing Tree, he has the arm strength, size and intangables that you look for in a developmental QB.  Threw for 3,573 yards completing 60.0% of his passes, had a 27-7 TD-INT ratio in 2015, and is Indiana all time passing leader with 7,940 yards, 61-20 TD-INT career ratio and completing over 60% of his passes for his career.  He struggles with consistency due to his long arms and his accuaracy and decision making needs to improve.  Miami spoke with the young man at the Combine.

 

 

Many Miami Dolphin fans, myself included anticipated the Dolphins coming out firing, contending for big ticket free agents like OG/OT Kelechi Osemele of Baltimore, St. Louis CB's Trumaine Johnson and Janoris Jenkins just to name a few.  Even with the fact that Miami had limited cap space at the time Free Agency was to begin, Miami had the ability to create more than enough cap space to be a player, and this is something which they did do.  By releasing WR Greg Jennings, OT Jason Fox, DE Quinton Coples, CB Brice McCain and restructuring DT Ndamankung Suh's contract, the Dolphins created well over 20 million dollars of salary cap space.  Restructuring TE Jordan Cameron and LB Koa Misi contract's help create more space.

 

But something happened along the way as Free Agency approaced and began.  Miami, known for winning the off season championship during free agency the last few years, did something that smart teams like New England, Baltimore, Green Bay and Cincinnati do.  The Dolphins took the time to place values on players they had interest in and they stuck with that dollar figure.  Miami decided not to over spend for GOOD FOOTBALL PLAYERS.  Miami got slammed last year for making Suh, a 4 time All Pro, 4 time Pro Bowl player the highest paid defensive player in football.  There are no players in this year free agent crop that is close to having Suh's resume.

 

Miami signed DE Mario Williams before the beginning of free agency and stuck by the value number they had assigned for Mario, coming off a down year for him playing in a system that was not a good fit for him, but also coming with a lot of question from people saying he quit on Buffalo.  But prior to this past season, in his prior 3 years with Buffalo, Williams had 10.5, 13.0 and in 2014 he had 14.5 sacks in a 4-3 defense, the same defense Miami plays.  He signed a 2 year deal with Miami for 17 million, or 8.5 million/per year with incentives that can get him to 20 million for the 2 year length of the contract.  Williams came to Miami anticipating he could be 10 milllion/per year from Miami, which he did not get.  He was suppose to have meet with the New York Giants as well, but when it became apparent that they were not going to give him that amount of money. he came back to Miami and the deal was done.

 

So far in Free Agency, Miami has completed a trade with Philadelphia which bought CB Byron Maxwell and LB Kiko Alonso to Miami.  They exhanged spots in the 1st round of the upcoming NFL Draft, Philadelphia moving up to the #8 spot, Miami moving down to 13.  The Dolphins signed Detroit FS Isa Abdul-Quaddas to a 3 year/12.75 milllion dollar deal and have signed Denver RB C.J Anderson to a 4 year/18 million dollar offer sheet.  The Broncos have until Tuesday to decide if they will match that offer.  Miami also signed Chicago OT Jermon Bushrod, who Adam Gase is familar with from his time in Chicago.  Bushrod is being bought in to compete at the troublesome OG spot for Miami.

 

WalterFootball.com has been very critical of Miami in the past and were critical of the Dolphins in the trade with Philadelphia, but they had positive things to say about the signing of Quaddas and the possible signing of Anderson.  Here are there quotes on these two players.

 

Dolphins sign S Isa Abdul-Quddus (3 years, $12.75 million): B+ Grade
I mentioned earlier that one of the many reasons the Lions had a surge at the end of the season was the insertion of Tahir Whitehead into the lineup. Another was the play of Isa Abdul-Quddus. He replaced James Ihedigbo and proved to be a major upgrade, playing well in coverage and being even better in run support.

His departure hurts the Lions, but the Dolphins won't mind, as he'll provide a much-needed boost for their secondary. He has shown that he can be a solid starter - albeit not with very much of a sample size (16 career starts in five years) - so this price is pretty good for him.
 
Dolphins sign RB C.J. Anderson to offer sheet (4 year, $18 million): A- Grade
Hey, look, it's another running back who happens to better than Chris Ivory getting less money in free agency. C.J. Anderson received a 4-year, $18 million offer sheet from the Dolphins, and the Broncos have five days to match.

I've been hard on the Dolphins this offseason so far, but this is a great move, provided it actually goes through. Anderson has started his seasons slow thus far in his career, but he has been terrific down the stretch when given the opportunity, and his performance at the end of the 2015 campaign was instrumental in the Broncos' Super Bowl run. Granted, Anderson won't be doing much (anything) in the playoffs with the Dolphins, but he won't have any sort of transition period, given that he'll fit right into Adam Gase's offense again.
 
This past week, the Dolphins had LB Sean Spence, QB Brandon Weedon and DE Jason Jones in for visit, but no contract agreements were reached.  They will be meeting with DE Chris Clemons and have interest in former Dolphin CB Nolan Carroll.  There are a TON of good football players out there still, and the mega deals and big money contracts that were signed the first few days of free agency are the thing of the past.  Smart deals for good football players are now what you have going forward.
 
Rich Rodriguez wrote an excellent piece on Saturday, and his header perfectly reflects my thoughts on Miami and what they are doing right now.  I actually like what the Dolphins have done, though I do have some criticism.
 
I had no problem with Miami letting Olivier Vernon walk, as he good a HUGE contract from the New York Giants, who are attempting to buy a Super Bowl championship.  This is a little snippet from a column Matthew Cannata wrote for The Phinsider
Just a few hours into the free agency period, that scenario played out as Vernon received a five-year, $85 million dollar contract from the New York Giants. A whopping $52.5 million dollars of it is guaranteed. This guarantee by the way is bigger than what All-Pro and multiple time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, J.J. Watt received two years ago when he signed a new contract with the Houston Texans.
 
Vernon was a player I wanted to keep, but there was no way I wanted Miami to pay him the Franchise Tag money of 15 million.  I thought the Transition Tag was in line with what Vernon should be paid, which was 12.75 million.  That contract was an example of a good football player getting paid like an All Pro player, something Vernon is not.
 
I did have a probelm with Miami letting RB Lamar Miller go.  Miami offered Miller around 5 million per year and a little more.  Miller ended up getting 6.5 million per year from the Houston Texans.  Lamar is an explosive RB that is good in the passing game, had improved as a pass protector, and is a homerun threat every time he touches the ball.  He is not as good an inside runner as C.J Anderson, but Anderson is not as explosive as Miller.  I would have thought the Dolphins could and Miller could have meet somewhere in the middle to make a deal, but that did not happen.  He was a kid Miami drafted and developed.  You are going to lose your own players sometimes, but this is a player the Dolphins could have kept at a cost that would not have busted the cap space.
 
Miami also had a chance to land OG Alex Boone and thought they had a deal in place.  Boone was set to take a flight to Miami when the Minnesota Vikings swept in with an offer that was more than Miami was willing to spend.  The OG position has been a problem for Miami for the last 3-4 years, and signing Boone would have been a big plus in helping to address the position.  Miami HAS to address this position, so I do expect more players to be signed to help address this troublesome spot.
 
One last note here.  One thing that the change in philosophy will bring to Miami is compensatory picks.  While Miami will not gain any compensatory picks this year, Miami will likely gain 3 compensatory picks for the 2017 NFL Draft.  A 3rd, 4th and 7th round picks are what is expect by the Miami brass in compensatory picks.  The thing that this does is put pressure on Miami to do something that they have been hit and miss on the last few years.  Draft WELL.  But the more picks you have, the better.
 
Will the change in philosophy help the Dolphins in 2016, time will tell.  Will the change help Miami in the years to come to help build a more fundamentally sound team and program, no question it will.  There more work to be done in Free Agency and the NFL Draft.  The process continues.
 
 
 
 

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