Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My 2012 Offseason Plan

The offseason is officially underway, and already my prepared offseason plan has undergone numerous changes thanks to a wave of free-agent signings around the league and a major, surprising move by the Miami Dolphins.

What follows is my 2012 offseason plan, which picks up right now with the trading of wide receiver Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears, as well as the re-signing of restricted free agents Phillip Merling and Lydon Murtha.

Feel free to share your own thoughts about the Dolphins' offseason and comment below!


Initial roster count: 53
Offseason roster limit: 80
Open roster spots: 27


Re-sign...
  • DT Ryan Baker (UFA) — Baker has been on and off the team for a few years now since being signed as an undrafted rookie in 2009, playing sparsely on defense. He was non-tendered as an RFA but could be brought back at a lower salary to compete again in 2012.
  • FB Lex Hilliard (UFA) — Hilliard didn't show much of anything in three seasons as a tailback and was moved to a fullback/short-yardage back role in 2012. He was non-tendered like Baker, but could return on the cheap.
  • DT Kendall Langford (UFA) — Along with nose tackle Paul Soliai, Langford is one of the Dolphins' priority free agents. Reports Tuesday have the Dolphins showing a renewed interest in re-signing him, which would be great for the Dolphins' interior defensive line as he could continue to team with Randy Starks and Jared Odrick against the run.
  • TE Jeron Mastrud (ERFA) — Mastrud has shown next to nothing as a backup tight end, but he's worth bringing back to compete as there's no depth behind him.
  • LB Marvin Mitchell (UFA) — Though he's not a real starting talent, Mitchell held his own as a fill-in linebacker and is useful on special teams. He's worth bringing back if the money is reasonable.
  • LB Austin Spitler (ERFA) — I don't think Spitler has much upside on defense, but he's proved to be a solid special-teamer and should be allowed to compete for a roster spot in camp.
  • New count: 59 players

Don't re-sign...
  • DE Ikaika Alama-Francis — IAF showed promise with a switch to outside linebacker a few years ago, but nothing ever materialized. He could be brought back to provide depth at end in the switch to the 4-3, but I don't really see the point.
  • CB Will Allen — Allen was an obvious cut after the preseason last year (to me at least) and was brought back due to some injuries and struggles. He's a nice veteran presence but doesn't have much in the tank at this point.
  • OG Vernon Carey — The move inside limited Carey's exposure as a liability, but he was still sub-par. Carey plays older than he is and continues to lose athleticism, so I'd say it's time to move on.
  • OT Marc Colombo — There are really no words to describe how bad of an offensive tackle Colombo was in 2011, but he was easily one of the worst in the league. I can't imagine any NFL team signing him at this point and he's obviously not a solution for the Dolphins.
  • QB Chad Henne — I've supported Henne as much as anyone and I still believe in his potential to start, but a split is best for both parties here. Henne will go somewhere and be a quality backup that could end up starting down the line, but it won't be in Miami.
  • QB J. P. Losman — Losman was signed as a veteran backup after injuries to Henne and Sage Rosenfels, but he doesn't have any upside. He'll have trouble being signed before the 2012 season begins.
  • RB Steve Slaton — Reports have the Dolphins interested in re-signing Slaton, but I don't see the point. Two teams have now failed to give him the ball in the past few years and I'd look for cheaper options as a No. 3 back.
  • NT Paul Soliai — Soliai has been a huge asset for the Dolphins over the past two years, but he's a goner. The switch to the 4-3 alleviates the need for a monster nose tackle and there will be other teams willing to pay him serious money.
  • OLB Jason Taylor — The long-time Dolphin and future Hall of Famer has decided to call it quits, so the team will need to look elsewhere for some long-term pass rush help.

Extend the contracts of...
  • OT Jake Long — The first overall pick in 2008, Long is entering his final season coming off the worst year of his career, as he was never 100% healthy. Although he remains one of the elite left tackles in the game, it's a bit risky to extend him because of durability concerns, but it's probably worth biting the bullet and reducing his cap number in 2012.
  • DE Cameron Wake — Signed to a four-year, $4.9 million contract out of the CFL in 2009, Wake has been vastly underpaid for a few years. His pressure numbers in 2011 were among the best in the league and the 30-year-old deserves on big pay day.

 Waive or release...
  • OT Will Barker Barker has done little to get on the field since being plucked off Tampa Bay's practice squad in 2011. There's little upside here and it's time to clear room for new blood.
  • SS Yeremiah Bell — A fan favorite among many, the reality is that Bell is horrific in coverage and can no longer run well enough to start even as an in-the-box safety because he's a liability elsewhere. The Dolphins could save a bunch of money by releasing him and it seems like an obvious choice.
  • DT Tony McDaniel — McDaniel has been a solid rotational lineman over the past few years, but he's coming off a down year and is due $3 million in 2012. I'd much rather put that money toward keeping Langford among the big three.
  •  New count: 56 players

 Sign free agents...

  • TE John Carlson (Seahawks) — Carlson is attracting quite a bit of attention in free agency despite missing last season, but I hope the Dolphins get in on the action. He's still young with upside and would make a great No. 2 tight end or even potentially replace Anthony Fasano down the line.
  • QB Peyton Manning (Colts) — Obviously the Dolphins appear to be a long shot for Peyton at this point, but I'm hoping they can make it happen. He'd be an incredible stopgap that would allow the Dolphins to contend while they look for a long-term quarterback over the next few years.
  • CB/FS Richard Marshall (Cardinals) — Marshall hasn't been all that great for the Panthers and Cardinals since being taken in the second round, but he still has upside. Marshall tweeted Tuesday that he's visiting the Dolphins and would provide great depth and insurance for Sean Smith, who is a free agent next year.
  • DE Frostee Rucker (Bengals) — Rucker isn't starter material, but is a solid backup defensive end that new defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle should know well from his time in Cincinnati.
  • OT Eric Winston (Texans) — One of the best right tackles in the game, Winston was a cap casualty by the Texans and visited the Dolphins on Tuesday. Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman has experience with him from their time in Houston and his brother is a regional scout for Dolphins. The former Hurricanes standout would be an excellent addition that would give the team a ridiculous pair of tackles.
  • New count: 61 players

Draft...
  • 1st round: DE Nick Perry (USC) — One of the Dolphins' biggest needs heading into the offseason is a pass rusher, and the market's best names will all come with significant price tags. Perry has been rising up draft boards with strong workouts and would be a much cheaper alternative. He could bookend Wake and finally give the team the second rusher they've been lacking for a few years now.
  • 2nd round: SS Harrison Smith (Notre Dame) — With Yeremiah Bell cut in my plan, a new strong safety is needed. Smith is the best in his class at the position and could be a starter as a rookie and for years to come.
  • 3rd round: OG Brandon Washington (Miami-FL) — The Dolphins' right guard spot is still unsettled despite John Jerry's promising performance late in 2011. Local prospect Washington is a worthy developmental candidate inside.
  • 3rd round (from Chicago): WR Marvin McNutt (Iowa) — The need for receiver depth was created when Marshall was traded and the free agent market has dried up quickly. New wide receivers coach Ken O'Keefe spent the past few years running Iowa's offense and should be familiar with McNutt's abilities.
  • 4th round: LB Audie Cole (NC State) — The switch to the 3-4 likely puts both of the Dolphins' starting inside linebackers outside, so a long-term middle linebacker would be a good addition. Cole has significant upside as a hard-hitter with the athleticism to drop back in coverage.
  • 5th round: OT Andrew Datko (Florida State) — Datko is a much better prospect than this round would indicate, but his stock has taken a hit with a lingering shoulder injury. He'd be great insurance behind Long and Winston.
  • 6th round (from New Orleans): WR Jeff Fuller (Texas A&M) — An inconsistent senior season coupled with some lingering injuries has damaged Fuller's stock, but he's a prospect with some upside that former Aggies' head coach and new Dolphins' offensive coordinator Mike Sherman knows well.
  • 7th round: DE Donte Paige-Moss (North Carolina) — A former top prep prospect that saw his collegiate career marred by maturity issues, Paige-Moss is worth a gamble in the draft's final round solely based on physical tools.
  • New count:  69 players

Sign undrafted free agents...
  • QB Aaron Corp (Richmond) — A former USC Trojan, Corp put together a strong senior season at FCS Richmond and has the physical tools to develop into an NFL backup. He'd be a worthy challenger for Pat Devlin's roster spot as the Dolphins' No. 3 quarterback, likely on the practice squad.
  • RB Jewel Hampton (Southern Illinois) — Hampton is coming off a 17-touchdown performance as a junior in 2011 and is an intriguing developmental prospect. He's had two significant knee injuries thus far, but he has upside and originally played under for Dolphins' receivers coach and former Hawkeyes' coordinator Ken O'Keefe at Iowa.
  • WR Aldarius Johnson (Miami-FL) — A former top-10 prep receiver prospect, Johnson was suspended for his entire senior season for a violation of team rules and never quite produced at the college level. If he can get his head on straight, he has the physical tools to potentially develop.
  • TE Garrett Celek (Michigan State) — The brother of Eagles' tight end Brent Celek, Garrett Celek only caught 14 passes in college but is a solid athlete and good blocker with a history on the offensive line in high school. He's worth bringing to camp due to his NFL pedigree.
  • OT Jeff Adams (Columbia) — A three-time All-Ivy League selection at left tackle, Adams looks the part and is an intriguing developmental lineman that could become a useful backup down the line.
  • OG Adam Gettis (Iowa) — Gettis is fairly undersized at 280 pounds, but he's a solid technician and a little room to grow. He might be worth bringing in as a camp body considering Joe Philbin's ties to the Iowa program.
  • DE Jamie Blatnick (Oklahoma State) — Blatnick finished his collegiate career with 16 sacks and a first-team All-Big 12 selection. He lacks physical tools to be a stud pass rusher, but he could be a good backup on the strong side.
  • MLB Garrick Williams (Texas A&M) — Another member of Mike Sherman's Aggies team, Williams racked up 260 tackles at the college level and could be a quality special-teamer.
  • OLB Nathan Stupar (Penn State) — The brother of a former Bills tight end, Stupar comes from Linebacker U where he was an ace special-teams player and totaled 80 tackles as a senior. He'd fill that same role in Miami.
  • OLB Eltoro Freeman (Auburn) — I had the pleasure of watching Freeman play at Auburn, and I can say he is a pretty good athlete that never really lived up to his potential. An on-and-off starter in college, Freeman might be undersized as a linebacker but oversized for safety, though he's worth a look on special teams.
  • FS Trent Hunter (Texas A&M) — A fairly borderline NFL prospect, Hunter arrives with familiarity due to Mike Sherman's ties to the Aggies and would serve as a camp body and special-teamer.
  • New count: 80 players

Wrap-up

There aren't many huge changes to the offense here, as the backfield remains the same and Marshall's only replacement is a third-round rookie. I did add a capable No. 2 tight end which is something that's been lacking for a while now, and landing right tackle Eric Winston would be absolutely huge.

On defense, Langford, Odrick and Starks continue to man the Dolphins' run defense and first-round end Nick Perry would finally give the Dolphins a young pass rusher. Depth on the outside is a bit of a concern, but Rucker would provide some experience on the bench and hopefully they'd hit on one of the rookies.

Linebacker is two-thirds set with Dansby and Burnett, but one spot remains open and that's ideally the middle spot as both of the veterans project outside in the 4-3 scheme. Cole would be a huge pickup and would solidify the unit for the immediate future.

In the secondary, replacing Bell with Harrison Smith and adding Marshall would finally solidify the backend of the secondary. Marshall would also provide insurance with Sean Smith's inconsistent start to his career.

All in all, there aren't many huge splashes here and an immediate No. 1 receiver to replace Marshall isn't added. But the reality is quarterback is a key and signing Manning would solve all the teams problems for the immediate future while making them instant contenders.


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