A breakdown of the first week of free agency for the Miami Dolphins:
Most significant signing: Former Pittsburgh Steelers middle linebacker Lawrence Timmons was an ideal match for Miami in terms of need, experience and price tag. The Dolphins filled one of their biggest holes at linebacker by signing Timmons to a two-year, $12 million contract. Timmons will immediately add size and physicality to the middle of Miami’s defense, which was 30th against the run last season. Timmons also has plenty of experience in big games and joins Miami at a time when the team will enter the season with playoff expectations. Timmons has made his offseason home in Miami for the past decade.
Most significant loss: Miami did not have any huge losses in free agency this year because it made a big push to keep its own players. But perhaps the biggest loss was backup tight end Dion Sims, who was underrated in Miami but signed with the Chicago Bears. The writing was on the wall for Sims once the Dolphins traded for former Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Julius Thomas. Miami was not going to overspend on two tight ends. The Dolphins quickly negated Sims’ loss by having a Plan B in place to sign backup tight end Anthony Fasano to a one-year contract. Fasano, like Sims, is a tremendous run-blocking tight end and will fill that role well in Miami’s power running game led by Pro Bowl tailback Jay Ajayi.
Player they should have signed: The biggest complaint for the Dolphins’ offseason thus far is the team hasn’t done nearly enough to address its guard position. The Dolphins signed Ted Larsen, who started eight games for the Chicago Bears last season and will compete for a starting job in Miami. Former Green Bay Packers guard T.J. Lang would have been a nice fit. He signed a three-year, $28.5 million contract with the Detroit Lions. The Dolphins appear to want to fix the position for much less money. That’s risky considering how many hits quarterback Ryan Tannehill has taken over the years due to poor guard play. The Dolphins still have next month’s NFL draft to address the guard position.
What’s next: The Dolphins still have one big move left this offseason. Look for them to give two-time Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, a sizable extension. Miami has approximately $17-19 million of cap room remaining, and Landry’s potential new deal will take up a good chunk of that. Otherwise, the Dolphins will scan the leftover free-agent market for inexpensive players who may be able to contribute and provide roster depth. There has been speculation that Miami could still make one significant move in free agency to push for defensive tackle Dontari Poe, but that would be surprising at this stage.
Overall grade: B-plus. The Dolphins took a much different approach to free agency compared to the big, splashy signings in recent years. Miami’s primary focus was to spend most of its cap room re-signing its own players and handing out extensions to players already under contract. The Dolphins rewarded players such as wide receiver Kenny Stills ($32 million), defensive end Andre Branch ($27 million) and safety Reshad Jones ($60 million) after their 10-win season. This is how you build a winning culture, by showing loyalty to your own players. Miami also made smart moves in the trade market to land Thomas and defensive end William Hayes at bargain rates.