2015 NFL Offseason: Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins (Last Year: 8-8)

2015 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Josh Freeman, WR Kenny Stills, WR Greg Jennings, TE Jordan Cameron, C J.D. Walton, C Jacques McClendon, DT Ndamukong Suh, DT C.J. Mosley, OLB Spencer Paysinger, CB Brice McCain, CB Zackary Bowman.
Early Draft Picks:
WR DeVante Parker, DT Jordan Phillips, G Jamil Douglas, CB/KR Bobby McCain, RB Jay Ajayi, S Cedric Thompson, WR/CB Tony Lippett. Dolphins Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
RB Knowshon Moreno, WR Mike Wallace, WR Brandon Gibson, WR Brian Hartline, TE Charles Clay, G Shelley Smith, G Daryn Colledge, G Nate Garner, C Samson Satele, DT Randy Starks, DT Jared Odrick, LB Dannell Ellerbe, LB Philip Wheeler, LB Jason Trusnik, CB Cortland Finnegan, CB/S Jimmy Wilson.

2015 Miami Dolphins Offense:
When it was initially reported that Ryan Tannehill signed a contract in May worth $45 million guaranteed, it seemed like a reasonable price for a potential franchise quarterback. Tannehill hasn’t gotten the recognition he deserves because the Dolphins have yet to qualify for the playoffs with him at the helm – the last time the team won more than eight games was 2008 – but Tannehill has made tremendous strides in each of his three seasons.

Tannehill threw for 4,045 yards, 27 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions in 2014. He also picked up 311 rushing yards, all while completing 66.4 percent of his passes. There were a couple of issues, however. The first was that he often failed to connect on deep passes with Mike Wallace. The problem seemed to be Wallace’s however, as the overrated receiver quit on his team on numerous occasions. In the season finale, he just walked off the field and refused to go back in the game. Miami was able to get rid of him and picked up veterans who will be more reliable, like Greg Jennings and Kenny Stills.

Tannehill’s second problem was his lack of efficiency in the red zone; the Dolphins would too often have to settle for threes instead of sevens. That would explain why they spent their first-round pick on 6-3 receiver DeVante Parker after signing 6-5 Jordan Cameron to play tight end. Tannehill will focus on these players deep in enemy territory, but he’ll still target Jarvis Landry the most. As rookie this past season, Landry emerged as Tannehill’s favorite weapon, catching 84 passes for 758 yards and five touchdowns.

Perhaps another reason for Miami’s red-zone woes was its poor pass protection. Two of the team’s best blockers, left tackle Branden Albert and center Mike Pouncey, were both hurt last season. Albert played in just nine games with a torn ACL, but appears to be on track to make it back for the season opener. Pouncey, meanwhile, played in 12 games, but was ineffective because of lingering hip and hamstring maladies. He was also out of position; he had to move over to guard to compensate for some injuries. He’ll be back at center in 2015, where he’ll be much better.

Rounding out the rest of the offensive line, Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner are expected to start at guard, while Ja’Wuan James will be back at right tackle. Thomas was dreadful this past season, so perhaps fourth-round rookie Jamil Douglas will be able to replace him at some point. Turner barely played in 2014, but as a third-round selection a year ago, he has some promise. James, meanwhile, was solid at right tackle, but struggled when he had to move over to the blind side to replace Albert. It’ll obviously be crucial for Albert to stay healthy so that the Dolphins can have stout blockers on both sides.

Despite the poor blocking for most of the season, Lamar Miller still ran extremely well. He rushed for 1,099 yards and eight touchdowns on just 216 carries – good for a 5.1 average. The problem with Miller was that he often wore down as games went along, so perhaps he’ll split the workload with fifth-round rookie Jay Ajayi. The Boise State product was projected to go in the second or third frame, but he fell because of injury concerns.

2015 Miami Dolphins Defense:
The Dolphins began the year with a promising 6-4 record, beating the likes of New England and nearly upsetting Green Bay. However, they ended the season with a 1-5 skid, thanks to some awful performances by the defense, which surrendered 39, 13, 28, 41, 35 and 37 points in the final six contests. Miami had to make a big splash in the offseason in order bolster a stop unit that collapsed down the stretch, and it managed to accomplish that, signing Ndamukong Suh to a 6-year deal worth a whopping $114 million.

There’s no doubt that the Dolphins overpaid for Suh. The former Lion is one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL, but there’s a long history of big-bodied individuals getting paid tons of money and failing to pan out, with Albert Haynesworth being the most recent culprit. Despite the major risk, however, the Suh signing could be a successful one, given his extraordinary talent. Suh will replace the Jacksonville-bound Jared Odrick in the interior of the defensive line. Odrick had a strong 2014 campaign, so Suh does have some big shoes to fill. He’ll probably start next to Earl Mitchell, who was just mediocre while playing about half the snaps in 2014. However, second-round rookie Jordan Phillips could push Mitchell out of a job. Meanwhile, C.J. Mosley, acquired via free agency, will provide solid depth behind Suh.

The rest of Miami’s defensive line is stout. Cameron Wake is still one of the better pass-rushers in the NFL despite turning 33 earlier this offseason. A decline is coming soon, but his sack total actually increased last year from 8.5 to 11.5. It helped that the opposition couldn’t completely focus on Wake, given that Olivier Vernon had developed into a skilled pass-rusher. Vernon has collected 18 sacks over the past two seasons. Both he and Wake will have even more success in terms of getting to the quarterback now that opposing teams have to deal with Suh.

A better pass rush will help a secondary that had some holes last season. It wasn’t all bad though, as Brent Grimes continued to be a terrific cornerback. It’s amazing how well Grimes has played the past two years after tearing his Achilles. Meanwhile, safety Reshad Jones was even better; the former fifth-round pick missed four games because of a PED-related suspension, but was terrific upon making his return. He’ll line up next to Louis Delmas, whose absence at the end of the 2014 campaign was one of the reasons Miami’s defense declined. Delmas will return from his torn ACL – he apparently has recovered quickly – but given his injury history, the Dolphins can’t count on him being in the lineup for all 16 games.

Miami had major issues at cornerback outside of Grimes. Cortland Finnegan was so dreadful that he retired, while the likes of Jimmy Wilson and Jamar Taylor were even worse. Despite the glaring need, the Dolphins didn’t do much to remedy the situation. They signed Brice McCain, who struggled for the Steelers last year, and then they followed that up by spending a pair of fifth-round choices on Bobby McCain and Tony Lippett. It’s unclear if either of them will be able to make a contribution right away.

Another neglected area on the defense was the linebacking corps. Excluding Jelani Jenkins, who performed well in all regards this past season, the Dolphins don’t have a three-down player in this group. Koa Misi is fine to play on two downs, but Miami doesn’t have a No. 2 linebacker. The front office was expected to pursue someone like Benardrick McKinney or Denzel Perryman in the draft, but it failed to acquire someone of that caliber, settling for undrafted free agents instead. Spencer Paysinger, who was signed over from the Giants, may end up starting, but he’s not a promising option.

2015 Miami Dolphins Schedule and Intangibles:
The Dolphins, unsurprisingly, don’t have much of a homefield advantage. Since 2007, they’re a pathetic 28-37 as hosts. As a barometer, they’re pretty much the same as visitors (27-35) in that span.

Dan Carpenter was deemed too unreliable, so the front office spent a fifth-round pick on kicker Caleb Sturgis in 2013. Sturgis was even worse, going 26-of-34 as a rookie, including 3-of-7 from 50-plus. He wasn’t much better in 2014, connecting on 29-of-37 tries.

Punter Brandon Fields struggled this past season after thriving in years before. He was 25th in net yardage and couldn’t place enough punts inside the 20.

Miami allowed a touchdown on special teams and didn’t score any itself. The opposition outgained the team on both punt and kickoff returns.

The Dolphins have a shot at starting 6-0 or 5-1. Their first six games are against the Redskins, Jaguars, Bills (home), Jets, Titans and Texans. After that, however, they have to deal with the Patriots, Bills and Eagles, all on the road.

2015 Miami Dolphins Rookies:
Go here for the Dolphins Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2015 Miami Dolphins Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2015 Miami Dolphins Analysis: The Patriots are dealing with Tom Brady’s suspension and trying to assemble a defense that lost several key players. The Bills and Jets still don’t have quarterbacks. As a result, this could be the year the Dolphins finally claim the AFC East. Ryan Tannehill has improved each season, so with a better supporting cast assisting him, Miami could unseat New England.

Projection: 10-6 (Tied 1st in AFC East)

NFL Draft Team Grade: B Grade

Goals Entering the 2015 NFL Draft: The Vikings and Dolphins have very similar goals. They both need a receiver and a cornerback, but instead of a left tackle and a running back, Miami has to find a guard and a safety.

2015 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Dolphins came away from the draft with a solid class. Its two best picks will help the offense. DeVante Parker was a mini-steal at No. 14, as he was being discussed as a possibility for the Rams (10th), Vikings (11th) and Browns (12th). He can’t possibly have worse chemistry with Ryan Tannehill than Mike Wallace did as the team’s No. 1 receiver. The other top selection was Jay Ajayi in the fifth round. Ajayi would have gone in the second frame if his knee wasn’t “bone on bone,” as Mike Mayock described it. If he can get over that issue, he has the ability to emerge as Miami’s starting running back.

One area in which the Dolphins disappointed was their inability to find help in the secondary. They waited until the fifth round to take their initial defensive back. I would have gone with a corner or a safety in the second frame instead of the overhyped Jordan Phillips.

Miami had what seemed like a thousand fifth-round choices, and it may have hit on most of them. After Ajayi, the best of the bunch seems like Tony Lippett, who can play both receiver and cornerback. I imagine the Dolphins will be using him at the latter position, given their huge need there.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

14. DeVante Parker, WR, Lousville: A- Grade
The Rams and Vikings were considering DeVante Parker at Nos. 10 and 11, so this is a slight bargain for the Dolphins. Parker also fills a big need at receiver; Miami signed Greg Jennings, but he never factored into the decision of this selection. Ryan Tannehill already had his possession receiver in Jarvis Landry, but he had to have a legitimate No. 1 wideout at his disposal. Parker is projected to be a primary option, so I like this selection.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

52. Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma: C+ Grade
Wow, how many massive defensive tackles do the Dolphins need? Jordan Phillips is a massive man who happens to be very athletic for his size. The problem is that he doesn’t play football very well. I thought he might go in the first round, which would’ve been a big reach. He makes sense in this range, but I don’t like the scheme or need fit very much. The silver lining is that Miami moved down and picked up extra picks in the process.

114. Jamil Douglas, G, Arizona State: B Grade
The Dolphins spent a ton of energy talking up Dallas Thomas as a starting-caliber guard during the owners’ meetings, but they would’ve been foolish not to address the position in the 2015 NFL Draft. Jamil Douglas makes sense as an early Day 3 selection, so this is a nice choice by Miami’s front office.

145. Bobby McCain, CB/KR, Memphis: B+ Grade
Bobby McCain makes sense for two reasons. The first is that he’ll provide depth at the cornerback position, which is pretty thin in Miami. The second is that he’ll be a solid return specialist; he thrived in that regard at Memphis. McCain generated strong interest during the pre-draft process, so he projects as a solid pick in Round 5.

149. Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State: A Grade
Mike Mayock described Jay Ajayi’s knee as “bone on bone,” which would explain his drop to Round 5. He’s great value here though, as he would’ve gone in the second or third round had he been completely healthy. If Ajayi can get over his injury, he stands a chance of being a starter in this league.

150. Cedric Thompson, S, Minnesota: B Grade
More secondary help makes sense for the Dolphins. I’m not as excited about this fifth-round pick, but it makes sense, as Thompson fits the range at this juncture.

156. Tony Lippett, WR/CB, Michigan State: B+ Grade
Will the Dolphins use Tony Lippett at receiver or cornerback? That’s the question, and it’s interesting that they listed him as a defensive back upon making the selection announcement. Lippett will probably be better at corner, and Miami needs talented players at that position. I was told to put Lippett in the fourth round, so there’s some value with him here.

Season Summary:
Ah, what could’ve been. If the Dolphins prevented Aaron Rodgers from throwing that last-second touchdown … if they had maintained their lead on the Lions in the final minute … if they had played better special teams and beaten the Bills in Week 2… Alas, their trip to the playoffs was not meant to be. The entire group will try again in 2015, as Joe Philbin and Ryan Tannehill will both be back.

Offseason Moves:
  • Dolphins sign DT C.J. Mosley
  • 49ers sign LB Philip Wheeler
  • Dolphins sign C Jacques McClendon
  • Dolphins sign WR Greg Jennings
  • Dolphins sign CB Zackary Bowman
  • Dolphins sign QB Josh Freeman
  • Dolphins sign OLB Spencer Paysinger
  • Panthers sign ILB Jason Trusnik
  • Dolphins re-sign QB Matt Moore
  • Dolphins re-sign S Louis Delmas
  • Dolphins sign C J.D. Walton
  • Bills sign TE Charles Clay
  • Browns sign DT Randy Starks
  • Chargers sign CB/S Jimmy Wilson
  • Broncos sign G Shelley Smith
  • Vikings acquire WR Mike Wallace and 7th-round pick from Dolphins for 5th-round pick
  • Dolphins acquire WR Kenny Stills from Saints for LB Dannell Ellerbe and 3rd-round pick
  • Dolphins sign TE Jordan Cameron
  • Dolphins sign CB Brice McCain
  • Dolphins announce retirement of CB Cortland Finnegan
  • Dolphins cut DT Randy Starks
  • Dolphins cut G Shelley Smith
  • Patriots sign WR Brandon Gibson
  • Dolphins re-sign ILB Kelvin Sheppard
  • Browns sign WR Brian Hartline
  • Jaguars sign DT Jared Odrick
  • Dolphins sign DT Ndamukong Suh
  • Dolphins cut OLB Philip Wheeler
  • Dolphins re-sign OT Jason Fox
  • Dolphins transition-tag TE Charles Clay
  • Dolphins cut CB Cortland Finnegan
  • Dolphins cut G Nate Garner
  • Dolphins cut WR Brian Hartline
  • Dolphins cut WR Brandon Gibson

    Team Needs:
    1. Guards: Miami’s offensive line was much better than the unit that embarrassed itself in 2013, but the group still needs to be bolstered in the interior, as the two guards were woeful throughout 2014. Mike Pouncey needs to improve, while another guard has to be added. Perhaps the second round of the draft will provide an answer.

    2. Center: The center position has to be upgraded as well. Samson Satele did not play well at all last year, and he’s an impending free agent anyway. Signed J.D. Walton

    3. Cornerback: Miami’s secondary is the big problem area on defense. The Dolphins have to find someone better than Cortland Finnegan to start across from Brent Grimes next season. A first-round choice could be the solution. Signed Zackary Bowman and Brice McCain

    4. Safety: Louis Delmas, who will be hitting the market in March, tore his ACL. An early draft choice has to be used to find someone who can play next to Reshad Jones. Re-signed Louis Delmas

    5. Defensive Tackle: The Dolphins got Ndamukong Suh as a replacement for the Jacksonville-bound Jared Odrick, but lost Randy Starks in the process. Signed Ndamukong Suh and C.J. Mosley

    6. Tight End: Charles Clay, a free agent in March, is an H-back. Even if he’s retained, the Dolphins will have to find a real tight end. Another intermediate target would help, as Ryan Tannehill doesn’t like taking shots downfield. Signed Jordan Cameron; transition-tagged Charles Clay

    7. Wide Receiver: Mike Wallace quit on the team multiple times in 2014. The Dolphins need a more-reliable receiver. Traded for Kenny Stills

    8. Linebacker Depth: Jason Trusnik and Kelvin Sheppard are both impending free agents. Re-signed Kelvin Sheppard; signed Greg Jennings

    9. Running Back Depth: Lamar Miller proved to be capable of being a lead back, but Miami will need an upgrade behind him, as Knowshon Moreno is headed for free agency.

    10. Kicker: Cal Sturgis has yet to connect on 80 percent or better in either of his two NFL seasons. He’s just 14-of-20 from 40-49 yards.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2015 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Lions. Age: 28.
      Signed with Dolphins (6 years, $114 million; $60 million guaranteed)

      Ndamukong Suh is capable of dominating games in the trenches, as he is a major force as both a run-stopper and a pass-rusher. He’s arguably the top 4-3 defensive tackle in the NFL, but his on-the-field antics have to be at least a slight concern for some teams. More body stomping means more suspensions, after all.

    2. Jordan Cameron, TE, Browns. Age: 27.
      Signed with Dolphins

      Jordan Cameron caught 80 passes in 2013, but was an obvious candidate for regression when Rob Chudzinski left. Still, Cameron is a very athletic tight end who is capable of posting big numbers. The main issue is his health; he has an extensive concussion history.

    3. C.J. Mosley, DT, Lions. Age: 32.
      Signed with Dolphins

      Nick Fairley going down with an injury would’ve been a big deal for the Lions, except that C.J. Mosley handled the starting job well. He was solid, both in terms of stuffing the run and putting pressure on the quarterback. The downside is that he’ll be 32 in August.

    4. Greg Jennings, WR, Vikings. Age: 31.
      Signed with Dolphins

      Greg Jennings derailed his career by leaving Aaron Rodgers for the money. Perhaps he can still play, but he may have to take a short-term “prove it” contract. Jennings turns 32 in September, so time is running out for him.

    5. Zachary Bowman, CB, Giants. Age: 30.
      Signed with Dolphins

      Zachary Bowman, who has played well over the past two seasons, would’ve started at corner this year if he wasn’t stuck behind two talented players.

    6. Brice McCain, CB, Steelers. Age: 28. — Signed with Dolphins
    7. J.D. Walton, C, Giants. Age: 28. — Signed with Dolphins
    8. Spencer Paysinger, OLB, Giants. Age: 27. — Signed with Dolphins
    9. Jacques McClendon, C, Jaguars. Age: 27. — Signed with Dolphins

    Miami Dolphins Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Jared Odrick, DE/DT, Dolphins. Age: 27.
      Signed with Jaguars

      Jared Odrick had a terrific 2014 campaign, as he got to the quarterback frequently and also was sound against the run until a late-season injury limited him a bit. Odrick, who won’t be 28 until December, can fit into any scheme, which will help him on the open market.

    2. Charles Clay, TE, Dolphins. Age: 26.
      Signed with Bills (5 years, $38 million)

      Charles Clay saw a drop in production this past season because of a lingering knee injury. Clay, just 26 in February, is an athletic H-back who provides mismatches for most teams. He should be able to rebound in 2015, as long as he’s healthy.

    3. Randy Starks, DT, Dolphins. Age: 31.
      Signed with Browns (2 years)

      Randy Starks had a terrific 2013 campaign, but didn’t play as well last season, perhaps because of a back injury he dealt with in the middle of the season. Starks, who is still capable of being a disruptive pass-rusher, turns 32 in December.

    4. Louis Delmas, S, Dolphins. Age: 28.
      Re-signed with Dolphins (1 year, $3.5 million)

      Louis Delmas would be ranked much higher than this if he could stay healthy. Delmas is constantly banged up, however, and his latest injury, a torn ACL he suffered in early December, could hinder his 2015 campaign.

    5. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Dolphins. Age: 28.
      Knowshon Moreno looked great during the early stages of the season, but tore his ACL in October. Injuries have always been an issue for Moreno, but when he’s healthy, he’s a very strong, all-around back.

    6. Samson Satele, C, Dolphins. Age: 30.
      Samson Satele wasn’t a liability for the Dolphins last season. He’s a sub-par starting center, however, as he can get beaten in pass protection more than his quarterback would like. He’s a solid run-blocker though.

    7. Brian Hartline, WR, Dolphins. Age: 28.
      Signed with Browns (2 years, $6 million)

      Brian Hartline has shown that he can post No. 2-receiver numbers if given the chance, but he’s a very sub-par second option. On the bright side, he’ll be just 28 well into the 2015 season.

    8. Matt Moore, QB, Dolphins. Age: 31.
      Re-signed with Dolphins (1 year)

      Though he has barely played in the past couple of seasons, Matt Moore remains one of the top backup quarterbacks in the NFL.

    9. Philip Wheeler, OLB, Dolphins. Age: 30.
      Signed with 49ers

      Philip Wheeler is one of many busts the Dolphins have brought in via free agency over the past few seasons. They let him go after just two seasons into his 5-year, $26 million deal. Wheeler was decent in run support, but totally lost in coverage. He’s just a two-down linebacker at this point in his career.

    10. Jimmy Wilson, CB/S, Dolphins. Age: 29. — Signed with Chargers (2 years)
    11. Jason Trusnik, ILB, Dolphins. Age: 31. — Signed with Panthers
    12. Cortland Finnegan, CB, Dolphins. Age: 31. — Announced retirement
    13. Brandon Gibson, WR, Dolphins. Age: 28. — Signed with Patriots (1 year)
    14. Derrick Shelby (RFA), DE, Dolphins. Age: 26. — Tendered by Dolphins
    15. Kelvin Sheppard, ILB, Dolphins. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Dolphins
    16. Jason Fox, OT, Dolphins. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Dolphins (2 years)
    17. Daryn Colledge, G, Dolphins. Age: 33.
    18. Shelley Smith, G, Dolphins. Age: 28. — Signed with Broncos
    19. Nate Garner, G, Dolphins. Age: 30.
    20. Jonathan Freeny (RFA), DE/OLB, Dolphins. Age: 26.
    21. Mark Asper, C, Dolphins. Age: 29.


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