Dolphins bleed talent in offseason, earn B- in PFF grades

Financial concerns forced the new front office to tighten the purse-strings and get creative this offseason. How did they do?

| 7 months ago

Financial concerns forced the new front office to tighten the purse-strings and get creative this offseason. How did they do?

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.

MarioGivesUp

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.

Conclusion

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.

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • corners

    “They couldn’t throw around as much dough as they did a year ago,”

    Dont they have $20 millon in cap space right now?

    • crosseyedlemon

      According to Spotrac they are currently 17th in cap space with $11,371,834.

  • BartDePalma

    Last season, Williams and Alonso were 4-3 players fitting poorly into a 3-4. Similarly, PHI was misplaying Maxwell (a man player) in zone coverages too much. All three of these players were brought back to a 4-3, man coverage scheme in which they enjoyed success in the past.

    Alonso was also coming off an injury last year and is reportedly thrilling MIA’s defensive coaches with his recovered range in this year’s OTAs.

    Where MIA is remains thin on D is in the secondary. Expect them to sign another starting caliber free agent CB.

    The MIA O has a chance to make a big step forward this year.

    The primary problem during 2014 and 2015 was a thin OL which was repeatedly wracked with injuries. In the seven games during which the starting OTs and C played the entire game, MIA went 6-1, the O averaged over 30 points per game and Tannehill put up a top five 107 passer rating.

    In the offseason, MIA added the best offensive lineman in the draft, who will replace a poor OLG and can fill in for either OT. The Phins also added a great deal of veteran depth to cover for any injuries. IF the starters stay basically healthy, MIA could actually field a top ten OL.

    MIA reloaded or added talent at WR, TE and RB, with an emphasis on speed.

    Gase will insert that talent into the same offense he ran for DEN a couple years back when Manning enjoyed a record year.

    I have become extremely cynical about MIA, always waiting for some unexpected shoe to fall and ruing the season. But there is reason to be cautiously optimistic this offseason.

    • crosseyedlemon

      The Dolphins need stability and patience more than anything else. So many changes with coaches, schemes and personnel make it difficult to establish the continuity an organization needs to be successful.

      • JJ Watt eat dirt

        People said the same thing about Carolina. Let the haters hate

  • Mark Zuraf

    Unbelievable comment in this article re Mario Williams, a perennial All Pro player “might not be the player he used to be”. At age 31? Because of a down year playing in a ridiculous scheme implemented by defensive “guru” Rex Ryan?

    Criticize Mario for “protesting on the field” by not giving full effort in Ryan’s D. I get that. But by no means is Mario old and washed up at 31, that assertion is just plain crazy.

    Swapping Vernon for Mario at half the cost was a GREAT move. Mario is the better player hands down and should be in the league another 3-4 years.

    I give the Fins a solid B for the off season moves given their cap restraints and that grade could turn into an A if Kiko, Mario, Maxwell and Tunsil play like we all hope and expect and if Drake, Howard, Duarte, Carroo and Grant contribute as rookies.

    • Daniel

      It’s hard to say how Mario Williams will play, but to say he’s a better player hands down than Oliver Vernon is absolutely ridiculous.

  • bJosh Pratt

    Please put depth charts in all of these articles

  • Herb

    The four most needed player needs may have addressed one. Tunsil is a wait and see?? The O-line sucked last year. One wait and see ain’t a fix.
    The linebacking last year allowed opponents to win games by not re-enforcing the D-line, tackling or pass defending. No change for this year.
    Defenseive secondary was a fifty-fifty bunch at best. This year was not improved.
    The ground game was no real threat last year, part O-line part a RB who went down at a touch. Third and two was a death grip on any drive, yeah Miller could run but not against a defender. The back up wasn’t a
    hundred per cent the draft also provided a wait and see. But with the O-line basically the same its a big question mark. Don’t need a thousand yard rusher, need a first down back.
    The 5-11 projection is bad. 8-8 would still be a gift.

    • Daniel

      For the O-line there were lots of injuries so if guys can just stay healthy (a big if in the NFL granted) they should be better than last year, but yeah still looks like a below average group to me.

    • JJ Watt eat dirt

      You’re so stupid.

  • Rubén

    Pay Reshad Jones and sign Leon Hall…. that will make offseason grade an A.