The Miami Dolphins filled arguably their biggest need over the weekend by agreeing to a six-year, $114 million contract with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The move will take up a majority of Miami’s free-agent spending this offseason, but there is still some cap space to make moves, especially if the team releases defensive tackle Randy Starks ($5 million) and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe ($8.45 million).
With that in mind, let’s revisit Miami’s biggest remaining needs heading into free agency, which officially begins Tuesday:
Linebacker: The Dolphins still need at least one linebacker (maybe two). Last week they cut former starter Philip Wheeler to save $3 million on their salary cap. Fellow former starting linebacker Ellerbe also is expected to be cut. Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi are capable starters, but Miami has at least one starting job open for next season. This could be a need filled via the draft.
Safety: Miami is in the market for a starting safety for the third straight year. Chris Clemons re-signed with the Dolphins for one year in 2013, and Louis Delmas also signed for one year in 2014. Delmas tore his ACL in December and is not expected to return. There are reports linking Miami to former Buffalo Bills safety Da'Norris Searcy. I also like the match of former New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle, who is a Miami native and played his college football for the Hurricanes. Those are two affordable options the Dolphins could still handle after Suh’s monster contract.
Guard: The Dolphins haven’t done anything as of yet to address their guard position. Former starter Daryn Colledge is a free agent not expected to return and fellow starter Mike Pouncey will be moved back to center next season. The Dolphins may try to fill this position in-house with young, inexperienced offensive linemen Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas. But that’s a risky proposition. Protection for quarterback Ryan Tannehill is a high priority. He’s tough and durable, as evidenced by his 48 consecutive starts. But Tannehill has been sacked an astounding 139 times in three seasons. One issue is there are not many top-flight guards on the market in free agency.
Cornerback: The Dolphins are in an interesting position at cornerback. They released veteran starter Cortland Finnegan in order to save cap room, but the Dolphins do not currently have a replacement. There are some veteran options in free agency and quality corners in the draft. However, my take is Miami should save its resources to address other areas and fix this problem in-house. The Dolphins have two high draft picks from 2013 in Jamar Taylor and Will Davis. With proper coaching and good health, Miami should be able to mold one or both of these young corners into contributors.
These are the top needs for Miami heading into free agency. But things always remain fluid this time of year. The Dolphins could have additional needs at tight end and receiver depending on what happens with the contracts of starters Charles Clay and Mike Wallace, respectively.