NFL teams
Cameron Wolfe, ESPN Staff Writer 45d

Miami Dolphins free-agency overview: Backup QB, speedy WR are top priorities

The Miami Dolphins enter 2021 NFL free agency coming off a 10-6 season in 2020 and have 13 unrestricted free agents.

The Dolphins don't have expensive free agents whom they need to re-sign, so the main priority is adding offensive talent to surround quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Miami is focusing on bringing in multiple playmakers, particularly adding reliable speed at wide receiver, a position group that was one of the NFL's worst teams in terms of separation in 2020. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the highest profile free agent, but he is expected to seek a starting job elsewhere. Add on, the Dolphins will need to determine whether to bring back center Ted Karras or seek an upgrade.

Here's what to expect from the Dolphins when the NFL offseason hits high gear with the start of free agency on March 17:

QUARTERBACK

Under contract: Tagovailoa, Reid Sinnett

UFA: Fitzpatrick

Game plan: Tagovailoa is the starter, barring a bold all-in move for Deshaun Watson, so the biggest unknown is which veteran mentor do the Dolphins bring in to be his backup since Fitzpatrick is expected to find a bigger role outside of South Florida. Brian Hoyer and Jacoby Brissett are top free agents to watch for this role, though Tyrod Taylor and Robert Griffin III also make sense. Marcus Mariota is a name worth watching if he gets released by the Las Vegas Raiders.

RUNNING BACK

Under contract: Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, Patrick Laird, Jordan Scarlett

UFA: Matt Breida, Deandre Washington

Game plan: It would be a shock if the Dolphins don't come away with a new feature back this offseason. Gaskin and Ahmed showed promised, but they are best as rotation backs. Najee Harris (Alabama) and Javonte Williams (North Carolina) await as tantalizing draft options. If Miami wants to spend on a free-agent starter instead, then Green Bay's Aaron Jones is the top name to watch -- if he hits the market. Le'Veon Bell or Leonard Fournette are intriguing secondary options if paired with another young back.

WIDE RECEIVER

Under contract: DeVante Parker, Preston Williams, Lynn Bowden Jr., Jakeem Grant, Albert Wilson, Allen Hurns, Malcolm Perry, Kirk Merritt

UFA: Mack Hollins, Isaiah Ford

Game plan: Expect Miami to be aggressive in adding at least one starting caliber wide receiver in free agency with an extra emphasis on playmakers who can run after the catch and show quickness off the line. If they aren't tagged, Tampa Bay's Chris Godwin and Houston's Will Fuller are the best fits. Three more affordable options to watch are Indianapolis' T.Y. Hilton, Carolina's Curtis Samuel and Las Vegas' Nelson Agholor.

TIGHT END

Under contract: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Adam Shaheen, Chris Myarick

UFA: None

Game plan: This might be the only set position group on the roster with Gesicki locked in as the starter, and Smythe and Shaheen providing reliable depth. The biggest unknown here is will Miami give Gesicki and Smythe extensions as they both approach the final season of their contracts?

OFFENSIVE LINE

Under contract: Austin Jackson, Ereck Flowers, Robert Hunt, Jesse Davis, Solomon Kindley, Michael Deiter, Jonathan Hubbard, Cameron Tom, Tyler Gauthier, Durval Neto

UFA: Ted Karras, Julien Davenport

Game plan: Karras had a solid season as the 2020 starting center, and there will be some mutual interest in re-signing. But Miami has to evaluate whether it wants to spend big for a significant upgrade such as Green Bay's Corey Linsley, spend a bit more for a minor upgrade in New England's David Andrews or run it back with Karras while drafting a long-term answer at center.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Under contract: Emmanuel Ogbah, Shaq Lawson, Christian Wilkins, Raekwon Davis, Zach Seiler, Jason Strowbridge, Benito Jones, Jonathan Ledbetter, Nick Coe, Tyshun Render

UFA: Davon Godchaux

Game plan: The biggest weakness on Miami's defense is the lack of a top-end pass-rusher, even after landing Ogbah last year. The elite pass-rushers rarely reach free agency, but this is a very deep Edge group, so Miami might find upside value here. Godchaux is expected to test free agency in hopes of a starting role, especially after Davis proved to be a worthy tag-team partner for Wilkins. Miami could add defensive tackle depth.

LINEBACKERS

Under contract: Jerome Baker, Kyle Van Noy, Andrew Van Ginkel, Sam Eguavoen, Kylan Johnson

UFA: Elandon Roberts, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Vince Biegel

Game plan: Don't be surprised if there's a lot of turnover here. Grugier-Hill is expected to leave in free agency for a more consistent role, Roberts is recovering from a significant knee injury that leaves him uncertain for offseason workouts and Biegel is coming off a torn Achilles. Miami will likely add via free agency or the draft a speedy off-ball linebacker who can cover and blitz. Top free-agents options include Tampa Bay's Lavonte David, Tennessee's Jayon Brown and New York Jets' Neville Hewitt.

CORNERBACKS

Under contract: Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Noah Igbinoghene, Javaris Davis, Terrell Bonds, Tino Ellis

UFA: None

Game plan: Miami will likely have to address Howard's contract situation this offseason, but assuming that is settled, the main focus should be on training Igbinoghene to become a slot cornerback. No way a first-round pick can be a backup, outside-only cornerback for the second straight season. Nik Needham and Jamal Perry are exclusive rights free agents who are expected to receive a tender, so this room should largely be set.

SAFETIES

Under contract: Bobby McCain, Eric Rowe, Brandon Jones, Clayton Fejedelem, Brian Cole

UFA: Kavon Frazier

Game plan: Miami will have to decide whether to stay the course with starters McCain and Rowe. Jones found a nice home as a frequently used No. 3 safety and he might be Rowe's eventual replacement, but the bigger focus is on McCain, who has been decent though unspectacular. It's a deep safety free-agent crop headed by Denver's Justin Simmons, New Orleans' Marcus Williams and Los Angeles Rams' John Johnson III -- all who would be significant upgrades if they hit the market and Miami wants to spend. The Dolphins could also look at more affordable options such as Duron Harmon and Malik Hooker.

SPECIALISTS

Under contract: K Jason Sanders, LS Blake Ferguson, LS Rex Sunahara

UFA: P Matt Haack

Game plan: Sanders (with a contract extension) and Ferguson will return. Haack has been a middle-of-the pack punter who is worthy of bringing back, unless Miami can find a rookie upgrade.

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