The Miami Dolphins will go into Free Agency in 2014 with close to 30 million dollars, so while they don't have the cap space that they had in 2013, the team still has plenty of cap space to add some key pieces to this roster.
I want to take a look at some possible free agents that I believe the Dolphins could have an interest in. Let's start with the offensive side of the ball and the unit that needs the most help, the offensive line.
Branden Albert, the OLT for Kansas City will likely not be re-signed, as Kansas City drafted OLT Eric Fisher with the thought of possibly moving him to OLT if they could not get Albert signed to a long term deal, which they could not. Albert is 29 years old and a very good OLT who has been durable during his 6 years in the league. This past year he missed 4 games due to injury, the most he has missed in his tenure. The concern is Albert will be in demand, which could spark a bidding war. The Dolphins could have acquired Albert for a 2nd round pick and less in regards to a contract in 2013, but Jeff Ireland balked at giving up the pick. Now, he is going to be a free agent at a PREMIUM position. Another OLT that would be a prime target is Eugene Monroe of the Baltimore Ravens, but it hard for me to see the Ravens letting him get away. If they do, then he would be someone that would probably be more highly thought of than Albert and he is only 26 years old. Jared Veldheer is also 26 years old, and has been solid for Oakland, but he is coming off his 1st year were injuries was a factor, as he missed 11 games in 2013. Anthony Collins of Cincinnati is a consideration as well, for both OLT & ORT. Green Bay OT Marshall Newhouse is another player that has played both OLT & ORT, and is 25 years old.
Make no mistake about it, the Dolphins need to address both OLT and ORT, and it could be via free agency or a combination of free agency and the draft.
Travelle Wharton is a veteran OLG at 32 years old from Carolina, and he is rock solid. Also, it is very apparent that this team needs solid, veteran leadership, something that Wharton can provide along with solid play at the OG position. Denver OLG Zane Beadles was a Pro Bowl player in 2012, and is 27 years old. A couple of Kansas City Cheifs could be prime targets at ORG in Geoff Schwartz, 27 years old and the starter at the end of the year. Jon Asamoah lost his spot due to injury, but is a talented ORG at only 25 years old.
OC is a position I just started considering when the news came out about Mike Pouncey being involved in the Jonathan Martin fiasco, and now it has come out that he could possibly be suspended for 1-4 games. When you combine this with his possible involvement with one Aaron Hernandez, the reason for concern with Pouncey is very legitimate. One player that I would look at if the Dolphins were to look at it a player is OC Alex Mack of Cleveland. At 28 years old, Mack is one of the top OC in the game.
I think if the Dolphins do anything from a wide receiver standpoint, it will be in the draft, and I do think having Brandon Gibson out due to injury really hurt the team, as he and QB Ryan Tannehill had developed a nice chemistry and he was turning into a go to guy for Ryan. At TE, Charles Clay finally showed the talent level and producition on the field that I thought he had when he came out of Tulsa. 1st year player Dion Sims has size and talent, but is a work in progress as is Michael Egnew. IF Miami were to look to add another talented TE, look for Green Bay TE Jermichael Finley to be a possible target if he passes his physical. He is a bigger version of Charles Clay and would give the Dolphins a lethal TE combo. Detroit TE Brandon Pettigrew could be a possible target if the Lions don't get him re-signed. He is what the Dolphins hope Sims can turn into, a player that is very good in the passing game and is a solid blocker as well.
At RB, the Dolphins have to look at a power back and a player that Dennis Hickey is very familar with is 27 year old LeGarrett Blount of New England. He is considered an early down back and not much of a factor in the passing game though. An interesting option could be former Houston Texan Ben Tate, 5'10, 214 lbs with very good speed, Tate has the ability to be an every down back given the chance. He been backing up Arian Foster, but he is now a free agent and he is 25 years old. Another intriguing player is former 1st round Miami Dolphin pick Ronnie Brown. Good in both the pass and run game, Brown, 32 years old, could be a nice veteran pick up for Miami. Oakland Raider Rashad Jennings could be a interesting options if he does not re-sign with the Raiders. Jennings, 29 years old, has the size you like at 6'1, 228 lbs and he good in the passing game as well as the run game.
Switching to the defensive side of the ball, Miami has some of their own free agents that they have to make decisions on. I do believe the Dolphins will look to re-sign DT/NT Paul Soliai and in my opinion, CB Brent Grimes is a MUST re-sign. Grimes, coming off an achilles injury proved not only that he had overcome the injury, but he had a Pro Bowl season for the Dolphins. With that said, let look at the defensive side of the ball.
The Dolphins have went from a top 3 run defense in 2011 to the 24th ranked run defense in 2013. When healthy, Soliai can still be a factor against the run. A kid Miami could look at if Soliai wants more than they want to pay for a player his age is Linval Joseph, the massive 25 year old run stuffer from the New York Giants. He does a pretty good job providing interior pass pressure as well, as he had 3 sacks. DT Pat Sims of Oakland could be a consideration as well, as Kevin Coyle coached Sims while he was with the Benglas. Sims is very good against the run.
At OLB, a kid that Dennis Hickey is familar with is Dekoda Watson, 25, who is starting to get run with Tampa Bay. He has speed and is very good in coverage. OLB Rob Jackson could be an interesting options on the cheap. He is 28 years old. These are guys that Miami can sign at team friendly contracts that can provide depth and compete for playing time.
ILB that can provide depth and compete for playing time are is Arthur Moats of Buffalo. Help Miami and hurt the Bills would be a good thing, and this 25 year old kid has ability. An intriguing veteran would be Daryl Smith of Baltimore. At 31 years old, he could again be a solid veteran on this young team. As much as Darnelle Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler struggled, he could compete for a starting job at a fraction the cost.
At safety, the Dolphins have to make a decision on Chris Clemons. If they decide to go the free agency route, Buffalo safety Jarius Byrd has to be at the top of the list. Byrd is a playmaker with top notch coverage skills and ball skills, something that Clemons lacks. Byrd will be looking for top dollar, but if the Dolphins want to upgrade this position, this 27 year old is THE guy. Clemons has been solid for Miami, and he and Rehad Jones have solid chemistry, so if Byrd is not the guy, I would think the Dolphins would look to bring Clemons back.
At cornerback, as I mentioned, CB Brent Grimes is a free agent, but I fully expect the Dolphins to re-sign him. CB Nolan Carroll is a free agent as well, and he is coming off a very solid year for Miami. You need more than your starting CB to be solid, and I do believe the Dolphins will look to re-sign Carroll as well. Dmitri Patterson is the key piece. When healthy, he has been VERY good. That the problem, as Patterson has played in only 5 games for Miami and is 30 years old. Miami will probably approach Patterson about restructuring his contract to a more team friendly deal, but if he balks at that, he will be released in my opinion. If that happens, a CB that I would look at is CB Sam Shiels of Green Bay. At 26 years old, Shields is coming off a very good year, but he is looking to get paid. Seattle CB Walter Thurmond could be a possiblity as well as Tennessee Titan CB Alterraun Verner. Also, remember the Dolphins have their own draft picks from 2013, Will Davis and Jamar Taylor, and they will be expected to contribute much more in 2014.
There are a lot more names out there, and many, many things will shape how the Dolphins use free agency. This will also shape how the Dolphins approach the draft, and I will discuss the draft much more in the following weeks.