The Miami Dolphins had a season to two halves in 2021. They were the first time in NFL history to have a seven-game losing streak followed by a seven-game winning streak in the same season. Rumors were non-stop surrounding Deshaun Watson leading up to the trade deadline. However, after firing former head coach Brian Flores, the Dolphins are out of the Watson sweepstakes and committed to Tua Tagovailoa. After weeks of searching for a new head coach, the Dolphins hired former San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel on February 6. Thanks to their massive trade with the 49ers last year, the Dolphins have the draft capital to make a blockbuster trade this offseason if they desire.
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Pending Free Agents
According to Over the Cap, the Dolphins have a projected $62.8 million in cap space, the most in the NFL. While they have plenty of cap space to work with, the Dolphins also have 32 upcoming free agents. However, only a few of their upcoming free agents played a critical role last season. With only a few starters that need to be re-signed, the Dolphins can save the majority of their cap space to add new players on the open market.
Gesicki has been a consistent weapon in the passing game the past few years. However, he had a career year in 2021 with 73 catches on 112 targets for 780 receiving yards. The veteran tight end was a chains mover for Tagovailoa as 39 of his 73 catches resulted in a first down. While the Dolphins spent a third-round pick on Hunter Long last year, Gesicki has earned a new deal. Unless he wants Travis Kelce type money, Gesicki should be back in Miami next season.
Over the first four years of his career, Ogbah had 18 total sacks. By comparison, he has 18 sacks in his two years with the Dolphins. Furthermore, Ogbah had a career-high 12 passes defended and nine tackles for a loss in 2021. However, it is unclear if the Dolphins will prioritize Ogbah this offseason. With Flores now in Pittsburgh, the new coaching staff might let Ogbah test the open market before offering him a new deal.
After a career year in 2020 with the Houston Texans, the Dolphins signed Fuller to a one-year deal worth $10.6 million last offseason. However, he played only 65 snaps this season because of a finger injury. When the Dolphins signed him, they had hoped he would give them a consistent downfield weapon. After totaling only four catches in two games, Fuller will hit the open market next month.
Potential Cap Casualties
With a projected $62.8 million in cap space, the Dolphins won’t have to make any desperate moves this offseason. That said, they will still cut players who are no longer paying up to expectation. Most of the roster falls into two categories. One is players on their rookie contract, making them unlikely to be cut due to limited cap space gained. The other is veterans worth their contract. For example, Xavien Howard has a $16.4 million cap hit for next season but is worth every penny.
Allen Hurns ($2.6 Million Saved)
Hurns hasn’t played in a regular-season game the past two years. The last time he was on the field, Hurns had 32 catches in 14 games for the Dolphins. While the veteran has been a good locker room leader for the younger wide receivers like Jaylen Waddle, the Dolphins will release Hurns in the coming weeks. Whether they use the $2.6 million saved on a big-name free agent wide receiver or some other player, Hurns’ days in Miami are over.
Cethan Carter ($2.5 Million Saved)
After three years with the Cincinnati Bengals, Carter signed a three-year deal worth $7.8 million with the Dolphins last year. However, he had only two targets in 20201 while playing only five percent of the offensive snaps. Whether the Dolphins re-sign Gesicki or not, the $2.5 million saved by releasing Carter can be served better on another player. With Adam Shaheen, Long, and potential Gesicki in the tight end room, Carter is the clear odd man out.
Myles Gaskin ($2.5 Million Saved)
The Dolphins have been one of the worst teams running the ball the past few years. Gaskin has played well at times, but he has also struggled. Last season the Dolphins used several running backs, including last-minute addition Duke Johnson. While the Dolphins won’t cut Gaskin at the begging of free agency, he could get cut after the draft. The Dolphins will try to trade Gaskin before cutting him. However, that might be difficult. Depending on Miami’s offseason plans, Gaskin could find himself on a new team next year.
Open Market Free Agent Targets
As the Dolphins head into the offseason with a league-high $62.8 million in cap space, fans should expect them to be aggressive on the open market. On defense, the Dolphins have one of the best units in the NFL. However, their offense needs plenty of work. Most importantly, Miami needs to address the offensive line. Not only did they give up sacks last season, 11th most in the NFL, but the offensive line also struggled to run block. Fans should expect the Dolphins to sign at least one, if not two, big-name offensive linemen in free agency.
Terron Armstead, New Orleans Saints
Unlike the Dolphins, the Saints are in salary cap hell. They project to be way over the salary cap this offseason. Armstead has been one of the better left tackles in football the past few years. He made the pro bowl three straight years from 2018 to 2020. If not for an elbow injury that limited him to eight games last season, Armstead was on his way to a fourth straight pro bowl selection. 2021 second-round pick Liam Eichenberg started at left tackle for most of the year. However, he is better suited on the right side. Adding Armstead and moving Eichenberg to right tackle would upgrade two spots on the offensive line.
James Daniels, Chicago Bears
Even if the Dolphins sign a big-name left tackle like Armstead, they shouldn’t be their only move on the offensive line. Former first-round pick Austin Jackson currently projects as the starting left guard next season. However, he has struggled so far in his career. Daniels has experience playing left guard and center. He would be a massive upgrade for the Miami offensive line at either position. If Tagovailoa is going to succeed in the NFL, the Dolphins have to keep pressure out of his face.
Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears
Miami hit a home run last year with Waddle. However, DeVante Parker has struggled with injuries and consistency during his career. Even after the failed Fuller experiment, the Dolphins will be aggressive in adding a wide receiver in free agency. Robinson had a horrible 2021 season in Chicago. However, both sides knew the relationship was over after Robinson had to play last season on the franchise tag. Over the previous two years, Robinson averaged 100 catches for 1,198.5 receiving yards and 6.5 receiving touchdowns per season. Pairing him with Waddle and Parker would give Tagovailoa an excellent trio of wide receivers.
Previewing the 2022 NFL Draft
The Dolphins don’t have their first-round pick as it belongs to the Philadelphia Eagles as part of the Waddle trade from last year. However, they have the 49ers’ first-round pick as part of the Trey Lance deal. While the Dolphins don’t have their third-round pick, they have the 49ers’ compensatory third-round pick. With three picks in the top 101 selections, including two in the top 50, Miami is in a position to add a few difference-makers in the draft.
Round 1, Pick 29: Offensive Line
Have you caught the theme yet? The Dolphins have to invest a load of money and draft capital in fixing their offensive line. If they are committed to Tagovailoa, Miami must give him a fair chance of succeeding. The first and foremost thing they need to do is improve the offensive line. While the Dolphins will miss out on the elite offensive line prospects, two names to keep an eye on for this pick are Zion Johnson and Bernhard Raimann.
Round 2, Pick 50: Linebacker
Most of the starters on the Miami defense are under contract for next season. The one exception is linebacker Elandon Roberts. However, Roberts was a Flores addition after their time together with the New England Patriots. At soon to be 28 years old, the Dolphins could decide to move on from the linebacker and go with a younger option. Some potential options for this pick include Christian Harris and Chad Muma.
Round 3, Pick 101: Running Back
New head coach McDaniel comes from San Francisco. The 49ers have a history of going cheap at running back position. While many fans are hopeful Miami spends big money on Leonard Fournette or James Conner, the Dolphins are more likely to use a middle-round pick on a running back. Whether Gaskin is with Miami next season or not, they will not use a prime draft pick on the running back position. Two possible options for this pick are Kenneth Walker and Kyren Williams.
Early 2022 Expectations
After starting the 2021 season with a 1-7 record, the Dolphins got to 8-7 before losing to the Tennessee Titans in Week 17. Unfortunately, that loss cost the Dolphins a chance at the playoffs. Miami has now missed the playoffs for five consecutive years. However, that could change next season. The Dolphins have the salary cap space and draft capital to put an elite roster around Tagovailoa. However, that is easier said than done. The Dolphins must hit on their draft picks and free agent additions if they are going to make the playoffs. If Tagovailoa struggles in 2022, Miami will miss the playoffs. Furthermore, if he struggles next season, the Dolphins could find themselves in the Bryce Young sweepstakes.
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