Mason Thompson | January 8th, 2020
Everyone knew that the Dolphins weren’t going to be competitive during the 2019 season. The team was set to “tank” for Tua Tagovailoa. The team started 0-7, sending off key players such as Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills, Kenyan Drake, and Minkah Fitzpatrick for draft picks. During this stretch, the team was switching between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen as the starting quarterback. Once they turned and stood pat with Fitzpatrick, the team found success, resulting in a 5-4 finish and an overall record of 5-11.
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What Went Right
Management knew that the team wasn’t going to compete for the playoffs this year and started to build for the future. The Dolphins now have three first-round picks, two second-round picks, as well as a third-round pick, meaning they will have six selections in the first 100 picks as it stands right now.
DeVante Parker was thought to have been a bust after he didn’t prove much last year. However, he burst onto the scene this year boasting a stat-line of 72 catches for 1202 yards and nine touchdowns, all three being career highs. Rookie Preston Williams also had a good season before suffering a torn ACL in the middle of the season. These two should help whoever finds themselves under center for the Dolphins at the start of next year.
Many players on the Dolphins were not too fond of the idea of the team tanking for a higher draft pick. Many were disgruntled with first-year coach, Brian Flores. After the 0-7 start, Flores turned the team around, making them one, if not the most entertaining team to watch on a weekly basis. He has gained the team’s trust after finding success late in the season.
What Went Wrong
Following a trade on the second day of the draft, the Dolphins looked to have their quarterback of the future with Rosen. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out so well last year. The offload of talent made him look terrible even if he wasn’t. He was sacked 16 times in less than five games, he watched as receivers dropped perfectly thrown passes, and watched as the team turned to Fitzpatrick as the starter. Rosen’s development has been plagued by two awful situations.
The team’s offense had seemingly found a spark during the late half of the season under offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea. Flores deemed it necessary to fire O’Shea and replace him with the recently retired Chan Gailey instead. Gailey has a history with Fitzpatrick which should help Fitzpatrick but it is still a head-scratching move.
The team had no rushing attack to help both Rosen and Fitzpatrick. The leading rusher for the Dolphins was Fitzpatrick with 243 yards. The Dolphins averaged a measly 72 rushing yards per game, last in the league. With Kalen Ballage, Patrick Laird, and Myles Gaskin being the running backs on the team, they will need to find someone to shoulder the load next year.
Outlook for the Offseason
The Dolphins made a major shakeup to their offense by electing to hire Gailey instead of retaining O’Shea. A year under Flores will help the Dolphins by having the same head coach and perhaps the same philosophy as the year prior. With over $98 million in cap space to work with this offseason, the most in the league, the Dolphins should be very active in free agency as well as retaining any pieces they view valuable that are already on the roster. It should be a very entertaining offseason in Miami.
The Team’s Free Agents
The Dolphins don’t have any impact free agents if any at all. Aqib Talib, who was acquired in a trade during the trade deadline from the Rams, could be the only candidate for the franchise tag. Talib didn’t play a snap for Miami last year and was mostly traded to Miami to offload his contract from the Rams. If the Dolphins were to retain him, it would be an awkward move for a team trying to get younger and they could potentially get a compensatory pick next year if they let him walk.
Restricted free-agent, Vince Biegel should be the team’s main priority re-signee. The former fourth-round pick out of Wisconsin acquired in a trade with the Saints last year proved to be a major find for the Dolphins. He started in ten games, totaling 57 tackles, 13 quarterback hits, seven tackles for loss and two and a half sacks. Biegel has expressed interest in returning to Miami, and the team loves his energy and enthusiasm. The Dolphins would have to match any offer a team puts on Biegel, or receive a fourth-round pick for allowing him to go to a new team.
Open Market Free Agents
The Dolphins have the most cap space in the league, as they have over $98 million dollars to spend this offseason. The quarterback position should be addressed at some point and it surprisingly might be via free agency. Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota, and Jameis Winston are all viable options under the age of 30 that the team could potentially sign if not brought back by their respected teams. The Dolphins should look to both free agency and the draft to find one or multiple running backs. Kareem Hunt and Austin Ekeler are both backs that can do everything and wouldn’t cost as much as Melvin Gordon or Derrick Henry are expected to be paid.
Amari Cooper should be a top target for the team to potentially have a dynamic receiving core between him, Parker, and Williams. A potential steal at the receiver spot could be Rashard Higgins. The offensive line is where most of the spending should go during the offseason if possible. Brandon Scherff, Jack Conklin, and Bryan Bulaga should all be targeted if they are not retained prior to the open market.
The Dolphins lack a potent edge rusher on the defensive side of the ball. With Jadeveon Clowney, Yannick Ngakoue, Chris Jones, and Leonard Williams scheduled to be free agents, Miami would be wise to shelve out some cash to any of these players. They were already tied to Clowney as a potential landing spot before he was shipped off to Seattle for scraps. Cornerback is a huge need, especially with the recent news of Xavien Howard‘s arrest. Unfortunately, there aren’t many cornerbacks I see fitting in for Miami.
Projecting the NFL Draft
Round 1, Pick 5: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
I am a big believer in the Dolphins waiting to draft a quarterback until next year. Yes, Tua did declare earlier this week but there’s no guarantee he even plays this year. Jeudy is one of the best players in the draft and if the Dolphins don’t snag Cooper, they would be perfectly fine with getting Jeudy as a consolation prize.
Round 1, Pick 18: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
The Dolphins need help everywhere on defense and will likely be taking a BPA approach to the draft this year. Gross-Matos has risen all year long and won’t stop anytime soon. He will be a great complementary piece to whichever premier pass rusher they get in free agency.
Round 1, Pick 27: Tyler Biadasz, IOL, Wisconsin
The Dolphins need help everywhere on the offensive line and there are not enough pieces available in free agency to make the offensive line mediocre at best. Biadasz is the best interior offensive lineman in the class and will help out in both the passing and running game.
Round 2, Pick 39: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
As I said in the Biadasz pick, the offensive line is going to need help in both free agency and the draft. Becton has been getting first-round buzz recently as he has quickly climbed draft boards. If he isn’t selected on day one, he will be a prime trade-up candidate on day two.
Round 2, Pick 57: Running Back
Here is a prime spot for a running back. By now I expect Travis Etienne and Jonathan Taylor to be gone. J.K. Dobbins would be a good fit for the Dolphins, but I don’t think he’s here at this spot either. Zack Moss, Eno Benjamin, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire all would be worthy of the selection here.
Round 3, Pick 70: Cornerback
Cornerback is the biggest need that hasn’t been addressed at this point. If Howard’s arrest is more serious than we know, the team will need to select one earlier than this.
Another year under Flores will be beneficial to the team. This isn’t a one-year turnaround for the Dolphins, as many expect. This offseason should be used to build up the core of the team and not focus on one position, quarterback, in particular. The Dolphins had no expectations heading into this year and were able to pull off five victories. I would expect the team to have higher expectations but a long-shot to make the playoffs. If the team manages to be 7-9 or better, I’d call 2020 a success.
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