2020 NFL Offseason: Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins (Last Year: 5-11)

2020 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
RB Matt Breida, RB Jordan Howard, G Ereck Flowers, C/G Ted Karras, DE Shaq Lawson, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, LB Kyle Van Noy, LB Kamu Grugier-Hill, LB Elandon Roberts, CB Byron Jones, S Clayton Fejedelem.
Early Draft Picks:
QB Tua Tagovailoa, OT Austin Jackson, CB Noah Igbinoghene, OT/G Robert Hunt, DT Raekwon Davis, S, Brandon Jones, G Solomon Kindley. Dolphins Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
TE Clive Walford, G Evan Boehm, CB Aqib Talib, S Reshad Jones.

2020 Miami Dolphins Offense:
The Dolphins traded some of their key players before or early in the season, including Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatick. It was clear that Miami’s goal was to “Tank for Tua.” It seemed as though that plan changed when Tua Tagovailoa suffered a gruesome hip injury during the collegiate regular season. There was speculation that Miami could opt for Justin Herbert instead – or even a tackle – but the team ended up selecting Tagovailoa, as initially planned.

Tagovailoa has Russell Wilson-type upside, but it’ll be difficult for him to play immediately. Perhaps that’s for the best, and even his own agent agrees with that sentiment. Legendary agent Leigh Steinberg opined that quarterbacks should sit as rookies, and it’s easy to see why he would say that, given that his top client is Patrick Mahomes, who did exactly that. With that in mind, we will almost certainly see Ryan Fitzpatrick for most, if not all of 2020.

Fitzpatrick was surprisingly effective in the second half of the 2019 campaign, which was remarkable, given how bad the offensive line was. The Dolphins took some measures to improve the blocking this offseason, though it’s not quite where it should be for Tagovailoa quite yet, which is another reason he should sit until 2021. The Dolphins addressed the left side of their line, using their second opening-round choice on Austin Jackson to be their new left tackle. Jackson is coming off a down 2019, but only because he donated bone marrow to his sister in order to save her life. He’ll be better going forward, and he’ll start next to the newly acquired Ereck Flowers. Everyone knows Flowers as a former first-round bust as a tackle on the Giants, but he played better at guard in Washington. He’ll handle the same role in Miami.

The Dolphins also have a new center and right guard. They signed Ted Karras, who played well in relief of injured center David Andrews in New England last year. Meanwhile, second-round rookie Robert Hunt could take over at right guard early in the season. There’s still a weakness at right tackle, but one big void isn’t too bad considering how bad things were for Miami’s offensive line last year.

While Miami’s offensive line was abysmal last year, the reason why Fitzpatrick had so much success was because of the receiving corps. DeVante Parker, previously deemed a first-round bust, was nearly unstoppable last year, as he managed to live up to expectations when finally separated from Adam Gase. Preston Williams, an undrafted rookie, also showed plenty of promise, though he was lost in November with a knee injury. Slot receiver Albert Wilson performed well down the stretch, as did tight end Mike Gesicki, who will play in the slot in Chan Gailey’s offense.

There was no running game to speak of in Miami last year, as the team was down to the no-talent Patrick Laird at the end of the season. The Dolphins signed plodder Jordan Howard to eat up some early-down carries, then traded for Matt Breida. The former 49er has a very dubious injury history, but the talent is definitely there for him to thrive in Miami.

2020 Miami Dolphins Defense:
The Dolphins had three first-round picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, but with countless holes on their roster, they couldn’t address all of their needs. They did, however, make some improvements, and actually obtained a colossal upgrade at one position.

One of the greatest needs was the edge rush, and that mostly went untouched this offseason. The Dolphins added Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah to be their new pass-rushers. Lawson is a former failed first-round pick, but he’s still young enough to live up to expectations. Perhaps he’ll get there with Brian Flores’ coaching. Ogbah, meanwhile, is a mediocre talent who would be best served as a backup, rotational player.

The Dolphins had poor play from their defensive tackles last year, but there’s some hope because 2019 first-rounder Christian Wilkins has some experience heading into this season. Wilkins struggled last season, but the potential is there for him to make a big leap. Miami also added Alabama’s Raekwon Davis in the second round to help in this area.

With the Dolphins not doing a whole lot for the defensive line, they spent lots of energy upgrading their cornerbacks. They already had the talented Xavien Howard at the position, but that didn’t stop them from signing Byron Jones to a mega deal. Jones was an excellent corner for Dallas in recent years, so he and Howard were viewed as one of the better cornerback tandems in the NFL. That tandem turned into a trio when Miami spent its third opening-round choice on high-upside cornerback Noah Igbinoghene. He’ll likely be a big upgrade in the slot.

While the cornerbacks are great, the safeties won’t be as good with Reshad Jones gone. Bobby McCain and Eric Rowe are as pedestrian as they come, so this is an area the Dolphins will need to address next offseeason.

One other important addition was linebacker Kyle Van Noy. The former Patriot is a do-it-all versatile weapon who will have a smooth transition into Flores’ defense. He’ll play along with Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker in an improved linebacking corps.

2020 Miami Dolphins Schedule and Intangibles:
The Dolphins, unsurprisingly, don’t have much of a home-field advantage. Since 2007, they’re an underwhelming 50-53 as hosts, though they were 6-2 in 2018.

Jason Sanders kicked well in 2018, but regressed in 2019. He was 23-of-30 last year.

Punter Matt Haack was 28th in net average in 2018, and he improved to 18th last year.

Miami had the worst kickoff coverage in the NFL last year, so that must improve.

The Dolphins have some winnable games, including at Jaguars, vs. Chargers, Jets (twice), vs. Bengals and at Raiders.

2020 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.

2020 Miami Dolphins Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2020 Miami Dolphins Analysis: This is the final year of the Dolphins’ rebuilding process. They made many improvements to their roster this offseason, but they still have too many holes to compete for anything close to a playoff spot. However, with another offseason to improve next spring, as well as the emergence of Tua Tagovailoa, the Dolphins will be far better in 2021 and beyond.

Projection: 4-12 (3rd in AFC East)

2019 Projection: 1-15. 2019 Actual Result: 5-11.
2018 Projection: 4-12. 2018 Actual Result: 7-9.
2017 Projection: 7-9. 2017 Actual Result: 6-10.
2016 Projection: 4-12. 2016 Actual Result: 10-6.

NFL Draft Team Grade: B+ Grade

Goals Entering the 2020 NFL Draft: The Dolphins obviously need to decide whom they want as their franchise quarterback and then build around him. Their offensive line is dreadful, so they need at least two new blockers. They also must find a new running back to pair with their franchise-signal caller. The defense must be addressed as well, particularly the weak pass rush.

2020 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Dolphins general manager Chris Grier won the ultimate game of draft chicken when he refused to trade up to No. 3 or 4 despite there being rumors that the Jaguars were attempting to do the very same thing. Grier remained at No. 5 and snatched the player the Dolphins wanted ever since they began tanking, Tua Tagovailoa.

Rebuilding is a two-year project by default because Tagovailoa probably won’t be able to play in 2020. Despite this, Miami still used two of its next three selections on offensive linemen Austin Jackson and Robert Hunt. Jackson was an underrated commodity because he struggled after donating bone marrow to his sister in 2019. Hunt is versatile and can upgrade at either right tackle or guard. And speaking of upgrades at guard, fourth-rounder Solomon Kindley could provide just that.

The Dolphins didn’t draft a running back, which was a surprise, but they traded for Matt Breida. The former 49er is a talented player, but has an extensive injury history. If he doesn’t pan out, the Dolphins can just use a 2021 choice on a replacement. Meanwhile, Miami added some defensive talent like Noah Igbinoghene, Raekwon Davis and Brandon Jones. The Davis pick was nice, but I think the Dolphins reached for the other two players.

Nevertheless, I like what the Dolphins did overall. They appear to have missed with some picks, but not surrendering anything for Tagovailoa and providing blocking for him is considered a win.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

5. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama – A+ Grade
The Dolphins once didn’t sign Drew Brees because they deemed him too risky. A few years later, they passed on Matt Ryan because they wanted to go the safer route with Jake Long. This time, they didn’t make the mistake. The Dolphins medically cleared Tua Tagovailoa, so he had to be the choice at No. 5 overall. What makes this an A+ is that the Dolphins didn’t have to trade up for him. The Miami front office did a great job of not panicking and getting its franchise quarterback.

18. Austin Jackson, OT, USC – A Grade
Tua Tagovailoa probably won’t play until 2021, so the Dolphins have some time to make sure they can retool their offensive line. Their blocking was atrocious last year, so Austin Jackson will go a long way in helping matters. Jackson is coming off a down year, but that was because he donated bone marrow to his sister. He certainly would’ve been picked earlier if it wasn’t for that, so I like the value Miami is getting.

30. Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn – D Grade
This is a bit surprising for two reasons. First, the Dolphins needed to keep building around Tua Tagovailoa, and there are some solid tackles still available. Second, Miami spent so much money on Byron Jones to go along with Xavien Howard, so why spend a major resource on a cornerback? I know the Dolphins still needed a third cornerback, but I don’t like this philosophy, especially in a division where the best quarterback is Josh Allen. Making matters worse, Noah Igbinoghene is rather raw.

39. Robert Hunt, OT/G, Louisiana-Lafayette – B Grade
I wonder where the Dolphins plan on playing Robert Hunt. Will it be at tackle or guard, and does it even matter, given how many needs they have on their offensive line? Robert Hunt is a solid option at this juncture, but I think I would’ve preferred the Dolphins to take Ezra Cleveland or Josh Jones.

56. Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama – B Grade
Raekwon Davis’ stock has slipped since an explosive 2017 season. The Dolphins might be getting a great bargain if Davis can play that well again. The Dolphins needed to add players who can pressure the quarterback, so this is a solid choice.

70. Brandon Jones, S, Texas – O’BRIEN Grade
Yuck! I had Brandon Jones in the sixth round of my 2020 NFL Mock Draft, so this is a major reach. I imagine the Dolphins are doing this after being salty after missing out on all the second-day safeties. I get it, but they’re undergoing a two-year rebuilding process. There was no need to reach for an undersized safety like this, despite the major need.

111. Solomon Kindley, G, Georgia – A+ Grade
The Dolphins apparently felt it necessary to trade up for a guard after the Raiders did the very same thing. This was a smart decision. Solomon Kindley, a large lineman who moves well for his size, could have easily gone in the second or early third round. The Dolphins are addressing a huge need with him.

154. Jason Strowbridge, DE/DT, North Carolina – B Grade
I’m not sure about Jason Strowbridge’s fit into a 4-3, but he’s a talented player who should have been chosen in the fourth round, or maybe even at the end of the third frame. I like his potential, but I’m not sure about the fit.

164. Curtis Weaver, DE/OLB, Boise State – B Grade
Curtis Weaver is one of those players who is highly productive in college, but can’t get it done in the NFL because of skill limitations. I’ll be rooting for him, but he’s not a steal as some people would deem him. I had him in the fifth round, so I’m fine with this selection.

185. Blake Ferguson, LS, LSU – O’BRIEN Grade
Drafting a long snapper is a Bill O’Brien-type move. Let’s just move on.

246. Malcolm Perry, RB/WR, Navy – C Grade
It’s unclear what position Malcolm Perry will play in Miami. He was a quarterback at Navy, but he’ll have to move over to running back or receiver in the pros. I didn’t think Perry was a draftable player.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The Dolphins’ front office did their best to tank in 2019, but Brian Flores’ excellent coaching foiled those plans. This may not matter if Miami’s ultimate strategy was to draft Tua Tagovailoa, as the Alabama quarterback will be available later than anticipated because of his injury.

Offseason Moves:
  • Dolphins sign LB Elandon Roberts
  • Dolphins sign C/G Ted Karras
  • Dolphins sign RB Jordan Howard
  • Dolphins sign LB Kamu Grugier-Hill
  • Dolphins sign DE Emmanuel Ogbah
  • Dolphins sign OLB Kyle Van Noy
  • Dolphins sign CB Byron Jones
  • Dolphins sign S Clayton Fejedelem
  • Dolphins sign G Ereck Flowers
  • Dolphins sign DE Shaq Lawson

    Team Needs:
    1. Quarterback: The Dolphins could use their initial first-round pick on Tua Tagovailoa to finally fix their quarterbacking woes. Due to his injury, Tagovailoa will have to sit for a year. Ryan Fitzpatrick would start in the meantime.

    2. Two Offensive Tackles: It’s nice that the Dolphins can sit Tagovailoa, if they decide to draft him, because the offensive line isn’t ready to protect him yet. Two new offensive tackles are needed.

    3. Two Guards: Two new guards are needed as well. The only viable starter the Dolphins have on their offensive line is center Daniel Kilgore. Signed Ereck Flowers and Ted Karras

    4. Running Back: It’s unclear why the Dolphins didn’t recognize that Kenyan Drake was a supreme talent. Because they traded Drake for almost nothing, Miami will need a new running back, perhaps D’Andre Swift at the end of the first round. Signed Jordan Howard

    5. Two Defensive Ends: Moving to the defense, the Dolphins have absolutely no pass rush. They need two new edge players, one of which they can probably obtain early in the 2020 NFL Draft. Signed Emmanuel Ogbah and Shaq Lawson

    6. Linebacker: Raekwon McMillan is solid in run support, but the Dolphins need a linebacker who can excel in coveerage. Signed Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and Kamu Grugier-Hill

    7. Cornerback: Miami has a couple of talented cornerbacks in Xavien Howard and Nik Needham, but there’s very little depth at the position. Signed Byron Jones

    8. Safety: The Dolphins cut Reshad Jones, so he’ll need to be replaced. Signed Clayton Fejedelem

    9. Wide Receiver: DeVante Parker finally emerged as a stud. We’ll see if he can continue to play this way. Miami needs a second receiver to complement Parker.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2020 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Byron Jones, CB, Cowboys. Age: 27.
      Signed with Dolphins (5 years, $82.5 million)

      Byron Jones is one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL. He’s been excellent for the previous several seasons, and he’s not even 28 yet, so he likely won’t regress throughout the duration of his next contract.

    2. Kyle Van Noy, OLB, Patriots. Age: 29.
      Signed with Dolphins

      Kyle Van Noy does everything for the Patriots, whether it’s rush the passer successfully, clamp down on the run or drop into coverage. It remains to be seen, however, if he could thrive outside of Bill Belichick’s system.

    3. Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Chiefs. Age: 26.
      Signed with Dolphins (2 years, $15 million)

      Emmanuel Ogbah was a quality edge rusher for the Chiefs this past season when he was healthy, producing 5.5 sacks in 10 games. Unfortunately, Ogbah suffered a torn pectoral in November.

    4. Jordan Howard, RB, Eagles. Age: 25.
      Signed with Dolphins (2 years)

      Jordan Howard fell out of favor in Philadelphia, but it wasn’t his fault. Miles Sanders and Boston Scott simply thrived when Howard missed some time with an injury. Howard is still very young, so he has a bright future ahead of him.

    5. Ted Karras, C, Patriots. Age: 27.
      Signed with Dolphins (1 year, $4 million)

      Ted Karras filled in well for the injured David Andrews at center. He’s young enough to keep improving his skill set.

    6. Kamu Grugier-Hill, OLB, Eagles. Age: 26.
      Signed with Dolphins (1 year)

      Kamu Grugier-Hill is a quality run defender. He’s not very good in coverage, but he’s just 26 (as of May), so he could improve his game.

    7. Ereck Flowers, G/OT, Redskins. Age: 26. — Signed with Dolphins (3 years, $30 million)
    8. Elandon Roberts, LB/FB, Patriots. Age: 26. — Signed with Dolphins
    9. Clayton Fejedelem, S, Bengals. Age: 27. — Signed with Dolphins (3 years)

    Miami Dolphins Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Reshad Jones, S, Dolphins. Age: 32.
      Reshad Jones has been an excellent safety over the years. He can still play at a high level, but he turned 32 this offseason, so a decline is coming.

    2. Aqib Talib, CB, Dolphins. Age: 34.
      Aqib Talib was a shell of his former self in 2019. At 34, Talib is likely finished in the NFL.

    3. Matt Haack (RFA), P, Dolphins. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Dolphins (1 year)

      Matt Haack finished in the middle of the pack this past season in net punting average.

    4. Evan Boehm, G, Dolphins. Age: 27.
    5. Clive Walford, TE, Dolphins. Age: 28.
    6. Trevor Davis, WR/KR, Dolphins. Age: 27.
    7. Ken Crawley, CB, Dolphins. Age: 27.
    8. Walt Aikens, CB, Dolphins. Age: 29.
    9. J’Marcus Webb, OT, Dolphins. Age: 32.
    10. Mike Hull, LB, Dolphins. Age: 29.
    11. Chase Allen, LB, Dolphins. Age: 27.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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