Skip to main content

The antidote for the problems in Miami

Matt Johnson
© Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 offseason is everything the Miami Dolphins prepared for. A year of trading away talented players and essentially tanking the 2019 season culminates with the chance to fix years of problems in Miami.

Miami’s preparation for a franchise-changing offseason in 2020 began in August when it traded Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills to the Texans for Houston’s 2020 first-round pick and its first and second-round selections in 2021.

The Dolphins added to their draft capital during the season by dealing star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 first-round pick.

Of course, this offseason is about more than draft picks alone. The Dolphins will enter with more than $100 million in cap space. The timing is perfect with a class of free agents particularly deep at positions the Dolphins must address.

Miami’s head coach Brian Flores proved this season that he is the right man for the job, winning five games with a roster that some thought would go winless. It’s critical to have the right voice leading the locker room and the Dolphins now have that.

Now it’s all up to general manager Chris Grier. Everything is in place to address many of the problems that haunted the Dolphins for years. It will take great execution this offseason, but we’re about to show just how that can be done.

Create more cap space: The Dolphins are already in an excellent position to spend this offseason. However, a few moves could give Miami even more money to put towards roster upgrades.

  • Cutting receiver Albert Wilson’s contract would free $9.5 million in cap space. It’s money that can be used far more efficiently than going towards a below-average slot receiver.
  • Miami can move on from center Daniel Kilgore to create $3.6 million in cap room. The Dolphins can find a better and cheaper center this offseason.

Just two moves created an additional $12 million in cap space. The Dolphins could go even further than this, exploring a way to move on from Reshad Jones’ contract, but these two moves alone create more offseason flexibility.

Rewarding their own: While not a lot went right for Miami in 2019, a few players stood out and proved they can be long-term pieces for this team. The offseason is the time to reward them for their hard work.

  • Nik Needham emerged as a breakout player in his rookie season. Signed as an undrafted free agent, the 23-year-old was one of the best rookie defensive backs in 2019. Miami just needs to tender him the minimum salary and he’ll be back as a key piece in 2020.
  • Miami acquired linebacker Vince Biegel from the New Orleans Saints before the season. He recorded 13 quarterback hits, seven tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. By placing the original-round tender on him this offseason, the Dolphins can match any offer he receives.

Miami already rewarded DeVante Parker for his breakout year. By securing Needham and Biegel, the Dolphins demonstrate they pay young players once they prove themselves.

Bring talent to South Beach: The Dolphins already offer a great selling point to free-agent talent with the beautiful city. Thanks to an improving team culture and absurd money to give out, Miami could be a compelling spot for free agents this offseason.

  • Joe Thuney, offensive guard – Thuney is one of the best linemen available this offseason and Flores’ familiarity with him helps. A four-year, $34 million contract is easily affordable for the Dolphins, weakens a divisional opponent and helps protect Miami’s quarterback.
  • Chris Jones, defensive end – Jones is the best free-agent defender available and he’ll be paid like it. He can be used as a defensive end in a 3-4 and kicked inside when needed, the type of versatility that Flores loves. A five-year, $97.5 million deal likely gets it done.
  • Jack Conklin, offensive tackle – Upgrading the offensive line must be Miami’s No. 1 priority. While right tackles don’t receive the same recognition as their peers on the left side, Conklin is a Pro Bowl right tackle. A four-year, $52 million deal is a win-win for both sides.
  • Xavier Rhodes, cornerback – Rhodes is no longer a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback and he’s certain to be cut by the Minnesota Vikings. A return to his roots in Miami could be just what the 29-year-old needs and Rhodes should come on a cheap one-year deal, too.
  • Kyle Van Noy, outside linebacker – Of course, there needs to be a reunion. Van Noy and Flores know each other well and could look to reunite in Miami. The 28-year-old recorded 14 quarterback hits and 6.5 this season. He could offer intriguing versatility for this defense

These five moves alone address critical needs before the draft even arrives. Miami will have added two outstanding tackles and bolstered the defense with upgrades at all three levels.

There is still money to spend, but this would easily be a great offseason by itself for the Dolphins. Of course, things can be even better with a strong draft.

Build a foundation in the draft: This is everything the Dolphins worked for. Three first-round picks and six top-75 selections in a loaded 2020 draft class. As the latest mock draft shows, everything could work out perfectly.

  • 1.05 – Tua Tagovailoa – Miami gets its franchise quarterback. He comes with durability concerns, but he also draws frequent comparisons to Drew Brees. A quarterback with poise, excellent accuracy and the ability to consistently hit throws like this. He can be the face of the Dolphins for years to come and will benefit from a strengthened offensive line.
  • 1.18 – Kenneth Murray – Flores’ defense needs chess pieces and athletes, making Murray a perfect fit. He can start at inside linebacker immediately and his speed makes him the perfect sideline-to-sideline linebacker to patrol the field and lead the defense.
  • 1.26 – D’Andre Swift – Now it’s all coming together. The Dolphins desperately need a playmaker in the backfield with Tagovailoa – Swift provides that. He is LeSean McCoy in his prime. Swift is exactly what the Dolphins’ offense needs and he’ll thrive in these surroundings with this supporting cast.
  • 2.39 – Curtis Weaver – Miami is thanking the football gods. Weaver is a first-round talent, but the depth of this year’s class pushes him into the second round. Flores’ loves to mix in 3-4 and 4-3 formation schemes, Weaver fits the scheme versatility perfectly. The Dolphins need more pass rusher and adding Weaver, Jones and Van Noy changes everything.
  • 2.56 – Tyler Biadasz – We mentioned the Dolphins replacing Kilgore with a better, cheaper player. In this scenario, they land the No. 1 center prospect in the draft. He’s a mauler on the interior with outstanding intelligence, toughness and awareness. He’ll step in instantly to help protect Tagovailoa’s pocket and create running lanes for Swift.
  • 3.70 – Jaylon Johnson – Cornerback remains a glaring need for the Dolphins. Fortunately, Johnson offers incredible value with this third-round selection. The 6-foot corner brings size, length, instincts and playmaking ability immediately to the NFL. He needs coaching and will draw some penalties early, but Miami is the right place for him to learn and grow.

This is the draft the Dolphins need. A franchise quarterback, a potential Pro Bowl running back and more help on defense and the interior offensive line. Miami can address receiver and offensive tackle in the later rounds, while still celebrating this incredible haul.

Big Picture

The Dolphins can take monumental strides in 2020 with a strong offseason. An offense that looked incapable of scoring for much of the season and a defense that couldn’t stop anyone, is suddenly turned around with huge additions at nearly every position.

If Tagovailoa isn’t immediately ready to start, Ryan Fitzpatrick will have a far better cast of talent to help him. Once Tagovailoa is healthy, he can step in and immediately uplift this offense and make it a difficult team every week.

The defense would also be in far better shape. Putting more pressure on opposing quarterbacks will make things easier on Miami’s secondary, which will also see reinforcements to make the unit stronger. Now with more talent at his disposal, Flores can start unleashing even more of his ideas on defense and help this team reach new heights.

Just a year after being a laughing stock, this offseason would change everything for the Dolphins. Miami would be rocking with excitement and the fans will be ready to support a team that will compete and entertain for the first time in years.