If you read tweets by most Dolphins fans, you’ll get the impression that the Dolphins were terrible this year and will never, ever be successful. What most of these negative, short-sighted fans don’t realise is that Miami exceeded expectations in 2012, and laid the foundation for a great future. Many “experts” expected a 3-4 win season with Ryan Tannehill struggling throughout, and I expected the same after seeing the Dolphins dreadful preseason performance and embarrassment on Hard Knocks. But to many people’s surprise, Tannehill played much better than expected, and the Dolphins overall managed to stay mathematically in the playoff hunt until week 16.
Year two of the Joe Philbin era in Miami should bring improvement, its what the previous coaching staff/QB failed to do, improve. They had a really good 11-5 record in their first season, but gradually got worse after that. Chad Henne followed a similar path, providing hope in his first year, but never taking the next step, something I’ll talk about a lot over the coming months concerning Tannehill, he must show improvement next year so he doesn’t join Henne in the long list of failed Dolphins quarterbacks.
Must be Re-Signed:
Brian Hartline: Hartline and Tannehill formed a formidable partnership, resulting in Hartline going over 1000 yards receiving for the first time in his career. This sort of chemistry will be extremely useful as Tannehill and the new receiver(s) will take time to form similar chemistry. Hartline isn’t #1 receiver material, but will be one of the best #2s in the league.
Sean Smith: Despite an underwhelming season, Sean Smith must be re-signed. The Dolphins already have a weak secondary, and although most Dolphins fans will argue against this, losing Smith would make the secondary even weaker and would require the Dolphins to replace him with a high draft pick or an expensive free agent.
Randy Starks: Starks was one of the Dolphins key components in their success against the run on defense in 2012, him and Paul Soliai form a lethal duo who need to be kept together. This is a must for me as the Dolphins need to avoid creating another need with an important offseason ahead.
Others that must be re-signed: Chris Clemons, Jake Long (Depending on his price), Anthony Fasano (If the price is right)
Free Agency Additions
One of the top receivers: This will be costly, but it will also allow the Dolphins to spend their first round pick on a position with more top end talent than wide receiver. This is an obvious need as it was clear last season that Tannehill had the least amount of viable weapons of the rookie quarterbacks. Mike Wallace would be my preferred choice, but both Dwayne Bowe and Greg Jennings would still be great pick-ups.
Jared Cook: Another weapon for Tannehill, Cook is the pass catching tight end that Anthony Fasano isn’t. It’d be better if Jeff Ireland had the luxury of drafting a tight end early in the draft, but the early picks have to be used to positions like defensive end and cornerback where the Dolphins will struggle to find a quality starter in free agency.
Offensive Tackle: I have absolutely no idea if Jake Long will stay in Miami or leave, I assume it will depend on how prepared the Dolphins are to pay him what he wants. This need doesn’t change depending on Jake Long, as if he is re-signed a backup OT is needed (Nate Garner is awful), and if he isn’t re-signed, the Dolphins need a starting calibre OT to start opposite Jonathan Martin.
First Round: If the Dolphins sign a top receiver in free agency, this pick should be used on a defensive end or cornerback. Names that come to mind are Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama), Johnthan Banks (CB, Mississippi State), Dion Jordan (DE, Oregon) and Sam Montgomery (DE, LSU). These are guys that should be available (Milliner the least unlikely) when the Dolphins are on the clock, but don’t count out the potential “draft day sliders” who could fall into the Dolphins lap at pick number 12.
If the Dolphins don’t sign a top receiver in free agency, this needs to be used on a wide receiver. I think that there’s only one receiver in this draft class worth taking #12, and that’s Keenan Allen (WR, California).
Second Round, pick A: Even if Keenan Allen is drafted, this must be used on another weapon for Tannehill. Whether he will be a receiver or a tight end, this pick should be used on the best player available at either of those positions. Surrounding Tannehill with weapons won’t hurt him.
Second Round, pick B: With this pick, the Dolphins should draft a cornerback or a defensive end, depending on who they picked in the first round. If neither was selected in the first round, then like the WR/TE situation, this should be used on the best player available at either of those positions.
Third Round, pick A: Looking at the Dolphins’ backups along the offensive line is scary, and this must be addressed this offseason. This is why the Dolphins must select a guard/offensive tackle in April.
Third Round, pick B: Jeff Ireland could go in a number of different directions with this pick; another weapon for Tannehill, a backup QB (If Matt Moore leaves), linebacker depth or even a player in the secondary. After this, I’d expect the Dolphins to draft the best player available who fills a need.
Its pretty clear how huge this offseason is for the Miami Dolphins, it could make or break Ryan Tannehill’s/The franchise’s future. Most fans are unhappy that Jeff Ireland will be the one making the picks in this important draft, and trusting him with the future of the franchise is a scary thought. That was only the plan I’d use if I was GM, and there’s every chance Ireland has completely different ideas, but its obvious where the Dolphins need to strengthen. To reiterate how huge this offseason is: If Ireland hits on the key picks, the Dolphins will be playoff contenders next year and will be set for many years to come. If Ireland misses on the key picks: The Dolphins will remain the under-achieving underwhelming team that has been around since Dan Marino retired, and Ireland will probably be out of a job very soon.