The Miami Dolphins enter the offseason with plenty of big decisions to make. The team went 6-10 during a disappointing 2015 and will enter this year with a new coaching staff and general manager.
With that said, here are the latest news and notes on the Dolphins:
I’m told things are quiet on the Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon fronts. No serious negotiations have taken place with Vernon this offseason, and the team has yet to approach Wake about potentially restructuring his $8.4 million salary for 2016. The Dolphins are unlikely to retain both players at full price and must make a firm decision on their approach at defensive end during the next few weeks. Vernon will be an unrestricted free agent next month and will get plenty of interest if he hits the open market. Wake, 34, is coming off a season-ending Achilles injury. Miami must decide if it wants to continue making him one of its highest-paid players, especially with a tight salary cap this year.
Look for Dolphins rookie head coach Adam Gase to give quarterback Ryan Tannehill more freedom and control of the offense. Gase has studied Tannehill’s game film, and one of the biggest issues during the past two seasons is the quarterback’s heavy restrictions with audibles. Gase made his name working with quarterbacks and is in the process of putting together a position-friendly offense for Tannehill, who also must prove he can handle the added responsibility in his fifth season.
Although I like Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland, I’m not sure he’s the best fit for Miami at No. 8 overall. Ragland is the projected to be the first middle linebacker taken in the draft, but I noticed some holes in his game while studying him up close in the Senior Bowl. The biggest concern is Ragland can be a little “heavy footed” against the pass. He doesn’t seem naturally fluid getting out in the flat and in open space. He was beaten several times in the passing game during Senior Bowl practices. Ragland makes up for it with his physical play against the run and overall hustle. But the Dolphins have enough linebackers who struggle in the passing game, and I suspect Ragland will need time to develop in that area at the NFL level. UCLA’s Myles Jack and Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith, when fully healthy, are better fits in that respect.
Miami’s first set of roster cuts should be coming down the pike soon. Among the early list of players I expect to get the ax include veteran receiver Greg Jennings, cornerback Brice McCain and defensive end Quinton Coples, who might restructure his $7.751 million salary to stay with the team. Those are easy decisions as the Dolphins search for much-needed cap room. There also will be plenty more cuts to come during the next month.
The Dolphins haven’t used the franchise tag since 2013 with former defensive tackle Randy Starks. That streak likely will continue for the third straight season. Miami’s free-agent class has a few solid players, but none who are elite. Vernon would be the closest candidate who could receive some consideration for the franchise tag. Other Dolphins free agents, such as running back Lamar Miller, receiver Rishard Matthews and linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, are not options for the franchise tag.