Notable 2013 Unrestricted Free Agents: QB Matt Moore, RB Reggie Bush, WR Brian Hartline, TE Anthony Fasano, OLT Jake Long,
DT Randy Starks, LCB Sean Smith, FS Chris Clemons
Notable 2014 Unrestricted Free Agents: WR Davone Bess, LG Richie Incognito, RG John Jerry, DT Paul Soliai, SLB Koa Misi, CB Nolan Carroll, SS Reshad Jones, K Dan Carpenter
Potential 2013 Cap Casualties: LG Richie Incognito, MLB Karlos Dansby, CB Richard Marshall
Offensive Scheme: Mike Sherman’s playbook is heavily influenced by the Mike Holmgren West Coast Offense. The standard up-tempo, rhythm passing attack is featured, but Sherman has added a few wrinkles. Sherman employs a zone-blocking scheme, but leans on a power-running game more often than your classic WCO desciple. Sherman is also unafraid to take his fair share of deep shots downfield; an element rarely seen in a standard WCO that makes its living attacking underneath.
In Sherman’s scheme, runners must display a decisive, quick burst through the hole, and possess reliable hands for the passing game. Pristine route-running, short-area quickness, and the ability to get tough yards after the catch are valued traits for a WR in Sherman’s scheme; size and straight-line speed are just gravy. The offensive linemen must be intelligent and stout at the point of attack, yet athletic enough to get out and block at the second level.
Defensive Scheme: Kevin Coyle cut his schematic teeth under Mike Zimmer and Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati, so it comes as no surprise that Coyle’s 4-3/3-4 hybrid closely resembles the Bengals defense. As in Cincinnati, the front seven is comprised of rangy athletes who are flexible enough to vacillate between the 4-3 and 3-4. A massive, run-stopping presence capable of anchoring both sets is critical in Coyle’s scheme. In the secondary, Coyle prefers big, aggressive athletes for his press-zone. The corners should be physical in man-coverage, and intelligent, rangy safeties are required in the two-deep zone.
In the War Room: On paper, the Miami draft day decision-making unit consists of GM Jeff Ireland, his right-hand man Brian Gaine, and head coach Joe Philbin. However, some would argue that Stephen Ross is the man behind the curtain.
It does seem odd that a whimsical owner like Ross has staunchly defended the embattled Ireland for this long. We’re talking about a guy who wooed Jim Harbaugh while Tony Sparano was still under contract, and scrapped Miami’s beloved old fight song for no apparent reason. Ross is obviously a “change for change’s sake” kinda guy, yet he’s been hesitant to make the one move that ‘Fins fans have clamored for the loudest; to fire Ireland. It’s all pretty fishy…and seems to offer credence to those who suggest that Ireland and Philbin are little more than Ross’ puppets. However, there’s also the possibility that Ross has embraced the idea of stability, for the good of his organization. Time will tell.
As for Ireland’s personnel track record, it’s spotty, but not as awful as some would have you believe. Sure, there have been some draft and free agency whiffs (Pat White, Ernest Wilford, etc.), but you’ll have that. Ireland has also had his wins; Tannehill shows promise. Pouncey was a direct hit in the first round. Odrick and Misi have begun to emerge. Hartline, Clay, Clemons, and R. Jones were nice third-day gets. Bess and Carpenter were UFA gems. Dansby was a solid F.A. signing, and bringing Cameron Wake across the border was an all-time heady move.
Like his mentor, Bill Parcells, Ireland plays it relatively safe on draft day. He fills needs, and when in doubt, he’ll usually address the trenches…Ireland seems to have an affinity for BIG 10 prospects; perhaps another trait inherited from Parcells…Philbin brought the “build through the draft” philosophy with him from Green Bay, and appears to be an important voice in the Miami war room. I don’t expect Miami to be major players in free agency.
2013 NFL Draft Picks: (9) 1st, 2nd, 2nd (from Colts), 3rd, 3rd (from Bears), 4th, 5th, 6th (from Colts/conditional), 7th
1. Cornerback Sean Smith is an enigma. One week, he looks like a potential Pro-Bowler; the next week, he’s getting beat like a rug. Nevertheless, he’s the best that Miami has to offer at CB…and he’s a free agent after this season. I doubt that Miami lets Smith walk, but more is still needed. Richard Marshall is a decent starter, but he’s on the I.R. with a troublesome back injury, and the fact that he’s on his third different team in three seasons doesn’t inspire confidence. Nickel corner Nolan Carroll appears to be in over his head as a starter. Newly acquired Dimitri Patterson is a bum.
Alabama’s Dee Milliner is a big, physical corner custom-built for Coyle’s scheme. Miami would probably have to move up to secure Milliner, making second-day prospects like Oregon State’s Jordan Poyer or Utah State’s Will Davis more realistic options.
2. Wide ReceiverMiami could use a true #1 receiver to complement Brian Hartline and Davone Bess…and that’s assuming that Hartline and Bess are re-signed. A sizeable deep threat is needed to accelerate Ryan Tannehill’s development, so while Greg Jennings’ familiarity with Philbin seems to make him a logical free agency target, I expect Ireland and Co. to get younger and faster at WR via the draft. Tennessee’s explosive Cordarrelle Patterson (think a big Percy Harvin) could be a first round target. The Dolphins may wait until the second round to gamble on the upside of one of Patterson’s former teammates, Justin Hunter, or another ex-Vol, Tennessee Tech’s Da’Rick Rogers.
3. Offensive TackleWhat to do with Jake Long? How the Dolphins ultimately approach the 2013 NFL Draft may hinge on the answer to that question. Should Ireland decide to bite the $15.4 million bullet and Franchise Long, the need for an OT will fall behind the need for a pass-rushing complement to Wake. If Long is allowed to walk, the need for a tackle rockets up the charts.
While Long has declined due to injury, he’s still only 27 years old and a serviceable performer. Letting him walk with no backup plan in place would be risky business. To entrust Jonathan Martin with protecting Tannehill’s blindside would be a monumental leap of faith, and potentially detrimental to the young quarterback’s development. I’m guessing that Long remains in Miami, but if I’m wrong, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dolphins trade into the top three (Jacksonville and/or Oakland could be looking to trade down) to grab Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel. Mike Sherman is familiar with Joeckel after their days together in College Station. If Long bolts, I have a hunch that (as in the ’12 draft with Ryan Tannehill) Sherman gets in the ear of Jeff Ireland and lobbies for Joeckel.
OTHER FREE AGENCY NOTES:
Miami needs a much more athletic offensive line.
Mike Pouncey is the best center in the NFL, while Jonathan Martin has proven to be serviceable at left tackle. Right tackle still must be addressed (and could be by sliding John Jerry there), but the guard position leaves much to be desired in terms of athleticism.
My solution would be for Miami to sign Andy Levitre, who has been a solid part of Buffalo's offensive line since the Bills drafted him in 2009, and he has never missed a game. The Dolphins could either move him to right guard, or move Richie Incognito to the right guard slot (or better yet, draft another guard).
The better solution would be to move Incognito to the right guard spot because he's actually played that position pretty well in the past. In fact, he only started playing left guard when he signed with the Dolphins.
Signing Levitre also takes one of Buffalo's biggest weapons away from them. He's been a spectacular run blocker who also does well taking care of the quarterback.
If there's anyone on the Dolphins who would be excited to sign Levitre, it would be the Dolphins defensive line, who know very well how difficult it can be to go up against the former Oregon State Beaver.
I've also been pretty high on the possibility of signing Derek Cox of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and for good reason.
Derek Cox is a pretty good cover corner. He finished out the 2012 season with four interceptions, a forced fumble and 60 tackles. You'll notice teams don't pick on him on the basis that he is the Jaguars' best cornerback.
He's also the best cornerback available on the open market, and someone the Dolphins should take a look at.
Signing him to play opposite Sean Smith would improve Miami's secondary. Signing him to replace Sean Smith and play alongside whichever player Miami chooses to draft also improves Miami's secondary.
Jared Cook is a young, strong and athletic tight end who's a bit of a hidden secret in the NFL.
The reason for that? The Titans offensive system, which tends to ignore Cook. In Miami's system he's sure to thrive along side Charles Clay and (if there's anything really in him), Michael Egnew.
Cook ended 2012 with 44 catches for 523 yards and four touchdowns. The number of touchdowns should rise in Miami as Ryan Tannehill could use him as a credible end-zone threat, something that the Titans very rarely use him for.
How could they have a weapon like that and leave him on the shelf? I don't know. But in Miami, he should be a key player ready to jump up to the second echelon of tight ends.
A torn Achilles tendon kept Grimes out for most of the year with the Falcons. However, his body of work up to this season has been a good one, and the injury should make him a bargain.
Grimes will be 30 at the beginning of next season and most likely better suited for a short-term contract that's incentive laden. Prior to his Achilles tendon injury this season, he had recorded 254 tackles and 13 interceptions in five seasons with Atlanta.
It would be an inexpensive gamble for Miami to take, but one that would pay off in 2013.
Jennings is the only player on this list who is still playing as of now, as he's getting ready for the Packers' playoff tilt with the Minnesota Vikings.
Despite that, articles like this get published, titled "More Evidence of Greg Jennings Coming to Miami?" (h/t ESPN.com). What does it say? It contains tweets made by Jenning's sister.
Of course, I've been beating the drum about Miami going after Jennings throughout the season. The reason why it's so intriguing is simple football. Miami has cap space and a huge need at wide receiver.
...a family member of Jennings provided further evidence last weekend that Miami could be on the receiver’s radar. Jennings’ sister, Valyencia, reportedly went off on her Twitter account (which is now deleted) a few days ago during Green Bay’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The USA Today captured all the tweets.
“Who can make a play @GregJennings can. He’s the best freakin [sic] receiver these clowns got,” Valyencia Jennings tweeted out of frustration. “Now take your talents to south beach and get paid.”
Ouch! But there is more.
“@GregJennings ball out so you can leave this team,” Valyencia Jennings tweeted of the Packers. “They will miss u when your [sic] gone. It’s all good bye Packers. Cheap team, can’t afford him.”
h Greg Jennings can’t and won’t say anything about the Dolphins while he is still under contract, you have to think Miami has come up at some point with the Jennings family. Valyencia didn’t just bring up the Dolphins Sunday out of thin air over every other team. Greg Jennings and his family have to be aware of what the Dolphins need, his connection with Philbin and the money Miami is willing to spend. It would make sense for Jennings and the Dolphins to be near the top of each other's offseason wish list.
Jennings will likely need a new home since the Packers are flush with receivers and will likely spend what money they have elsewhere (like a defense capable of slowing down Adrian Peterson).
Jennings is also familiar with Miami's offensive system since it is the West Coast offense he's been running in Green Bay since his rookie season. His offensive coordinator for most of that time: Joe Philbin, head coach of the Miami Dolphins.
The man who drafted Jennings? Well, it wasn't Mike Sherman (who was fired the season prior to Jennings being drafted by the Packers), but Sherman did scout him out while he was still in Green Bay.
This seems destined to happen, and if it does, it would be a major coup for Miami.
Miami has plenty of needs that signing these free agents (if they do sign them all) will not cover. While I'm sure many of you are wondering where Mike Wallace and Dwayne Bowe are not on the list, the reason is because Jennings is a better fit for the system in place and will come cheaper than either of those two receivers.
Wouldn't you rather use Wallace and Bowe money on a cornerback and guard that can create big plays on defense and protect Tannehill well on offense and allow him to make big plays?
The other reason is because Miami will be able to find plenty of capable receivers in Round 2 of the draft. Round 1, in my opinion, should be used on either a pass rusher or an offensive lineman.
The draft is where this team will be built, but these five free agents would fit in with the Dolphins very well if they are signed.