Dolphins bleed talent in offseason, earn B- in PFF grades
New Miami Dolphins general manager Chris Grier didn’t exactly walk into the healthiest cap situation this offseason. With a handful of impending free agents, Grier had to make some difficult decisions on who to let walk and who to try and re-sign. The result was extensive roster turnover. Some players were obviously long shots to come back (Lamar Miller, Greg Jennings, Olivier Vernon) while others could have been made to work yet Miami still decided to part ways (Derrick Shelby, Rishard Matthews, Brent Grimes).
After bleeding that much talent, it’s difficult to be too excited about what the Dolphins did this offseason, even if many of the moves were necessary. They had one of our favorite draft classes, but Miami still only ekes out a B- for an overall grade.
Below is a compilation of the Dolphins’ 2016 offseason transactions, including free-agency moves and draft picks:
Offseason grade: B-
Free agency and trades
New arrivals: OT Jermon Bushrod, G Kraig Urbik, TE MarQueis Gray, DE Mario Williams, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, DE Andre Branch, OT Sam Young, S Isa Abdul-Quddus, DE Jason Jones, DT Chris Jones, CB Byron Maxwell (trade), LB Kiko Alonso (trade)
Re-signings: LB Spencer Paysinger, OL Jacques McClendon, QB Matt Moore, LB Terrell Manning, LB James-Michael Johnson
Departures: S Dax Swanson, WR Greg Jennings, RT Jason Fox, DE Derrick Shelby, DE Olivier Vernon, LB Kelvin Sheppard, DE Damontre Moore, DE Quinton Coples, TE Brandon Williams, RB Lamar Miller, WR Rishard Matthews, CB Brice McCain, S Louis Delmas, G Shelley Smith, CB Brent Grimes
After the Dolphins “won” free agency in 2015 and signed Ndamukong Suh to a record deal, some concessions had to be made this offseason. Olivier Vernon and Lamar Miller were easily the largest casualties, but losing Rishard Matthews, Brent Grimes, and Derrick Shelby will prove costly as well.
The issue isn’t so much that they didn’t dish out new deals to their free agents, it’s who Miami decided to replace them with. Signing Mario Williams, PFF’s lowest-graded edge rusher last season, to a two-year, $17 million deal doesn’t fit in with Miami’s larger offseason restocking theme, especially when it forced them to let the younger and more productive Shelby sign elsewhere. Williams had obvious effort concerns last year in Buffalo (as shown below), but at 31 years old it’s also possible he just might not be the player he once was. The best thing that can be said about the signing is that because he was cut, Williams won’t qualify into the compensatory pick calculation and the Dolphins will still likely get a third and a fourth next season, according to overthecap.com.
The big offseason news, though, was the trade with Philadelphia that netted them Kiko Alonso and Bryon Maxwell. Maxwell might be an upgrade from their current situation at cornerback, but he’s still an average cornerback who they’ll have to pay $17 million over the next two seasons. Alonso, on the other hand, didn’t look close to the player he was as a rookie in Philadelphia and with all his injury issues it’s unclear if he’ll ever get back there. The risk, however, was minimal and it could pay off dividends.
2016 NFL draft
- Round 1 (pick No. 13) Laremy Tunsil, OL, Mississippi
- Round 2 (pick No. 38) Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor
- Round 3 (pick No. 73) Kenyan Drake, RB, Alabama
- Round 3 (pick No. 86) Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers
- Round 6 (pick No. 186) Jakeem Grant, WR, Texas Tech
- Round 6 (pick No. 204) Jordan Lucas, SS, Penn State
- Round 7 (pick No. 223) Brandon Doughty, QB, Western Kentucky
- Round 7 (pick no. 231) Thomas Duarte, TE, UCLA
Even after the trade with Philadelphia that bumped Miami back to the 13th pick, the Dolphins still selected an offensive lineman — Laremy Tunsil — with legitimate top-five talent. The pick also fills an egregious need, after Miami had the lowest-graded left and right guards in the NFL last year. It’s unclear if Tunsil will slide in to guard or if it will be one of either Ja’Wuan James or Brandon Albert.
In later rounds, they also nabbed a couple PFF favorites for Ryan Tannehill to throw to in Leonte Carroo (second-round grade) and Thomas Duarte (third-round grade). The heavy investment on the offensive side of the ball will be extremely important in helping Chris Grier to fully evaluate their quarterback before the Dolphins’ opt-out clause at the end of the year.
Outside of the unnecessary extension for the 34-year-old Cameron Wake and head-scratching signing of Williams, Miami had a decidedly impressive offseason. They couldn’t throw around as much dough as they did a year ago, so they executed a trade with the Eagles to infuse the roster with talent and also targeted a number of budget offensive linemen to plug holes. The defensive line might not have the same punch it did a season ago, but their offensive line figures to be among the most improved units in the NFL.
Unfortunately, even if the offense takes a step forward from its 2015 form, the defense as a whole still figures to be a problem. Swapping out Grimes for Maxwell is a wash, and Abdul-Quddus is a solid addition, but the front seven will still have issues against the run. If their season ends in a playoff appearance, it will be because Tannehill finally took the next step with a talented line and group of receivers.