With free agency just around the corner, the Miami Dolphins are already making moves. Most of their needs are on defense, but the Dolphins recently reached an agreement with the Jacksonville Jaguars essentially swapping two offensive players. This move brought veteran tight end Julius Thomas to Miami. Tight end was a major need for Adam Gase‘s team this offseason but this might be a temporary solution.
Miami Dolphins 2017 Off-Season: Top Three Needs
Now that the Dolphins have addressed one key aspect of their needs, it is still important to note that Julius Thomas is not a long-term solution. Tight end should be included as a priority, but for now it is safe to assume that Thomas will suffice. Now we will delve into what aspects of the team Miami should concentrate on.
While makeshift middle linebacker Kiko Alonso had a favorable season, Miami’s surrounding cast at the linebacker position was subpar. Just to put that in perspective, Miami allowed the third most rushing yards in the league. Poor linebacker play is to blame for this.
There is a plethora of excellent linebackers in this free agency class, most notably Dont’a Hightower and Melvin Ingram. While Ingram has seemingly expressed some interest in coming to South Beach, Hightower proves to be the more suitable option. Alonso is not a middle linebacker by trade. He played outside linebacker in his rookie year in Buffalo and in Philadelphia. Hightower is the natural middle linebacker of the two available, but Miami would surely be content having either of them.
This is debatably placed as second most important. It could be argued that it is the most, or even third on this list. Unfortunately for Miami they have corners that either play superb, or so bad they determine the outcome of the game. Byron Maxwell is over priced and completely overrated, but is a decent number two guy. Rookie Xavien Howard, when healthy, actually had a decent season. The best corner for Miami was Tony Lippett, in his sophomore year out of Michigan State. These three are not enough for Miami to make a run.
Having a shutdown corner in this league is a great asset, but these players are few and far between. In free agency, the only decent cornerback is A.J. Bouye from Houston. Miami would be unwise to chase him since the linebacker free agency class is far superior. Vice President Mike Tannenbaum was able to free up a lot of cap space, so a splash in a potential trade could be on the horizon.
Their Own Free Agents
Miami have three key pending free agents. Wide receiver Kenny Stills and defensive end Andre Branch are the most notable. Yet, most fans don’t seem to understand the aforementioned Alonso also remains unsigned. Miami would be unwise to not retain at least two of these players.
Kenny Stills became a fan favorite this past season. However, his statistics are somewhat misleading. Stills is simply a deep threat, and although he has worked tirelessly to become a possession receiver as well, it should be noted where his place in the team is. Stills should in theory be the first person re-signed, but since Tavon Austin wrecked contracts for underperforming wide receivers, he may have to walk. If a team friendly contract is a possibility, inking Stills would be a great addition for 2017.
Defensive end Andre Branch is anther enigma for Miami. He had a great year, but he also played alongside Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake, two Pro Bowlers. He, along with Stills, should be seeking team friendly contracts. Alonso will most likely re-sign. Losing their best linebacker would not go over well with the Miami faithful.
Assuming Miami is able to keep only two, presumably Stills and Alonso, they should address the vacant position on the draft. If Branch walks, someone like Michigan’s Taco Charlton would be a great compliment to Wake, who just signed a two-year extension. If Miami can re-sign all three, while snagging an elite linebacker like Hightower and possibly addressing their cornerback situation appropriately 2017 could be a great year for the Dolphins.