2017 Free Agency Preview: Miami Dolphins

Top free agent targets for the Miami Dolphins, players that must be re-signed, team cap space, and more to get you ready for 2017 free agency.

| 3 months ago
(Al Pereira/Getty Images)

(Al Pereira/Getty Images)

2017 Free Agency Preview: Miami Dolphins

[Editor’s note: This preview was originally published on Feb. 24, 2017, and updated on March 6 to reflect changes in the market do to franchise tags, re-signings, cuts, etc.]

What you need to know

Fresh off their first postseason appearance since 2008, the Dolphins will look to build on their success of a year ago, but will need to address both their offensive and defensive lines in the trenches to make that possible. Luckily for them, the free agent/draft pool at the positions of need is looking strong and they should have every opportunity to improve their roster.

Salary cap room

$41,050,292 (12th in NFL; as of 3/6/17)

Biggest needs

  • Guard
  • Linebacker
  • Defensive line
  • Tight end

Notable free agents

  • Kenny Stills, WR, 74.5 overall grade in 2016
  • Andre Branch, Edge, 56.4
  • Dion Sims, TE, 59.3
  • Michael Thomas, S, 56.1

Must re-sign

Andre Branch, Edge, 56.4 overall grade in 2016

While the team has openly expressed bringing back WR Kenny Stills, the market for his services will most likely prove to be too much for Miami. Branch ranked second on the team in quarterback sacks (7) and third in quarterback hurries (32). Still only 27 years old, Branch is in the prime of his career and it makes sense for a team needing edge rushers to bring him back in 2017.

Dream splash

Dont’a Hightower, LB, New England Patriots, 85.7

Signing Hightower would not only significantly improve the Miami Dolphins’ defensive unit; they would also be taking him from their biggest divisional threat, which of course is the New England Patriots. Hightower is one of the league’s most versatile linebackers, highlighted by his 76.4 pass rushing grade in 2016, good for second best at the position.

Top 2017 free agency prospcets

T.J. Lang, G, Green Bay Packers, 87.0

There is no bigger hole on the Dolphins’ roster right now than guard, where are tasked with finding two starters for 2017. The 29-year-old Lang, who has graded out at 86.6 or better in each of the last three seasons, would immediately step in and solidify one of the spots in the trenches.

Zach Brown, LB, Buffalo Bills, 84.1

Kiko Alonso provided the Dolphins with some much-needed stability at linebacker in 2016, but the team still desperately needs another force in the middle. Brown ranked sixth of all inside linebackers with 107 solo tackles and also graded out well in pass coverage in 2016.

Jared Odrick, DL, Jacksonville Jaguars, 44.2

Odrick was a major disappointment in his two seasons for the Jaguars, so the team decided to move on and release him. A return to the team that drafted him, the Miami Dolphins, makes a lot of sense for both sides; the Dolphins need defensive linemen and Odrick had some terrific seasons in Miami, most notably 2013 (82.4) and 2014 (82.2).

2017 Free Agency Rankings
Top 50 free agents
Every 2017 free agent ranked by 2016 overall grade
10 free agents who can make an immediate impact
10 veteran free agents worth a one-year contract
10 sleeper free agents who could bring surprise upside
10 splash free-agent signings we’d like to see
Quarterback rankings
Running back rankings
Wide receiver rankings
Tight end rankings
Offensive linemen rankings
Edge defender rankings
Interior defender rankings
Cornerback rankings
Safety rankings
Linebacker rankings

2017 NFL Team Free Agency Previews

NFC EastDallas Cowboys
NFC EastNew York Giants
NFC EastPhiladelphia Eagles
NFC EastWashington Redskins
AFC EastBuffalo Bills
AFC EastMiami Dolphins
AFC EastNew England Patriots
AFC EastNew York Jets
NFC WestArizona Cardinals
NFC WestLos Angeles Rams
NFC WestSan Francisco 49ers
NFC WestSeattle Seahawks
AFC WestDenver Broncos
AFC WestKansas City Chiefs
AFC WestLos Angeles Chargers
AFC WestOakland Raiders
NFC NorthChicago Bears
NFC NorthDetroit Lions
NFC NorthGreen Bay Packers
NFC NorthMinnesota Vikings
AFC NorthBaltimore Ravens
AFC NorthCincinnati Bengals
AFC NorthCleveland Browns
AFC NorthPittsburgh Steelers
NFC SouthAtlanta Falcons
NFC SouthCarolina Panthers
NFC SouthNew Orleans Saints
NFC SouthTampa Bay Buccaneers
AFC SouthHouston Texans
AFC SouthIndianapolis Colts
AFC SouthJacksonville Jaguars
AFC SouthTennessee Titans

| Analyst

Ryan Smith has been an analyst for Pro Football Focus since 2015. He is featured on the weekly ACC podcast, and is also the Philadelphia Eagles Media Correspondent for PFF.

  • crosseyedlemon

    “Luckily for them, the free agent/draft pool at the positions of need is
    looking strong and they should have every opportunity to improve their

    Sounds great until you remember the front office thought Arian Foster was going to be the answer to their problems.

    • gllmiaspr

      Excellent point. The progress Miami made last year was mostly due to coaches. The FO did select Alonso, Maxwell, Abdus and Branch who were OK. But they also signed Foster and Mario Williams who both flopped.
      Gase looks like a very good coach and to improve all the Dolphins need to do is pick a few FA. But not clear that the FO is up to it.

      • crosseyedlemon

        The FO has to establish continuity instead of jumping from plan A to plan B to plan C and then back to plan B. When there is a constant turnover of player personnel and coaches, maintaining any kind of positive momentum is very difficult.

    • Tammy Oldro

      and then came ajayi duh

    • Essig206

      They didn’t think Foster was the answer, they signed him VERY late. Ajayi was projected as a starter but he was having pass pro issues so they signed Foster and hyped his pass game ability. Ajayi got bitter and they benched him as a lesson to handle adversity better. Hindsight’s 20/20 but at the time it was the right move. There’s sooooo many franchises that are making twice the amount of bad mistakes. Miami’s building something right. Stop grasping at straws.

  • Frank Yi

    The Dolphins would also have to be a place where players would want to go. Last year, they brought in Chris Johnson, who then decided he would rather backup DJ in Arizona than have a chance to be a starter in Miami. Then they brought in James Starks, who decided he would rather back up Eddie Lacy in GB. Then they brought in CJ Anderson, only to negotiate his contract for Denver (not quite free agency, but funny that they tried desperately to get a RB). Then they brought in Arian, who nobody else wanted, only to have him retire and then find out they had their RB on the roster all along. Sometimes players want to go to certain teams, other teams can’t entire players to come (despite having beaches, great year-round weather, and no state income tax)

    • crosseyedlemon

      Good post Frank. There is no question that players around the league keep their ear to the grapevine to learn which organizations and coaches extend players a fair shake and which ones don’t. That can be the tipping point for many players on the FA market facing a decision on where to relocate. In recent years the Dolphins have gone through various plans like a cold sufferer goes through a box of Kleenex. If Gase can bring some stability then the Dolphins will have greater appeal to many players.