After a horrendous 0-7 start, the Miami Dolphins closed out the remainder of 2011 with a 6-3 run. That poor start led to a coaching change that had Joe Philbin replace Tony Sparano at the helm. Despite finishing the season with a losing record, Dolphins fans can take some positives from the season. The play of Cameron Wake (+43.4), who was our highest graded 3-4 Outside Linebacker as well as Reggie Bush (-3.7) who finished the season with four performances in a row where he averaged more than four yards per carry.
That being said, the Dolphins still face an uphill battle if they want to push the Jets and Patriots. Over the past three seasons, one or the other have played in the AFC Championship game. The roster has some solid pieces but could do with some upgrades at key positions for them to make a playoff run. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the Dolphins needs this free agency period, and which players would fit perfectly in Miami.
Primary Need: Quarterback
It’s probably a little unfair on Matt Moore (+11.4) who put together a stellar season in his 13 games in Miami. Moore had 16 touchdowns compared to just nine interceptions while completing 60.5% of his passes so it’s not like he had a sub-par season. That said, this was the first season where we have given him a positive grade so the Dolphins still need to go after a potential franchise quarterback if one is available.
While Matt Flynn (+4.6) has a very small body of work, he’s shown in that limited playing time that he indeed has the potential and skill set to be a franchise QB. Does he represent a massive risk for whoever gambles on him? Of course he does, but he also at a relatively young age where he could lead a franchise for a good few years. You only have to look back on that game against Detroit in Week 17 to see how good Flynn can be. He made throws all over the field while putting up huge numbers, and he’s likely made himself a boat load of money in the process.
Secondary Need: Right Tackle
The Dolphins took a chance on Mark Colombo (-26.7) at Right Tackle, despite how poor he looked at the position in 2010 in Dallas (-34.1). With a new head coach in town, a change seems likely, especially if they have a new franchise QB to protect. It just doesn’t make sense to draft or sign a QB to lead your franchise and have a RT who allowed nine sacks, nine hits and 35 pressures in 2011.
While the offensive tackle market isn’t exactly overflowing with talent and potential this offseason, there are still a few players out there who would represent an upgrade over Colombo. Anthony Collins (+4.3) is another player with a relatively small body of work. However, in the limited amount of time we have seen him play he has looked the part and is definitely worthy of a shot at a starting gig in the NFL. In 89 plays in pass protection this season he allowed just a single pressure. Again, he comes with some risk due his lack of playing time, but with that risk there is a lot of upside.
Tertiary Need: Defensive Line
There seems to be a bit of debate over what defense the Dolphins will favor in 2012 with talk of a switch to a 4-3. Regardless of what scheme they go with in the end, help along the defensive line looks necessary with Phillip Merling (-1.9) and Kendall Langford (+1.7) soon to be free agents. Ideally, someone who would fit both schemes makes the most sense.
Red Bryant (-2.2) had an up and down season in Seattle in 2011, but he has shown himself to be an adequate defensive lineman in the NFL. Big enough at 328lbs to play in either a 3-4 or 4-3, he also brings a little bit extra to the table with his ability to block kicks: he had two against the Cleveland Browns in Week 7. However, it will be his play against the run that will suit the Dolphins the most. Bryant was our 12th highest graded 4-3 Defensive End in 2011 with a grade of +9.0 against the run.