2021 NFL Offseason: Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins (Last Year: 10-6)

2021 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Jacoby Brissett, RB Malcolm Brown, WR Will Fuller, G Jermaine Eluemunor, C Matt Skura, DT John Jenkins, DT Adam Butler, OLB Brennan Scarlett, LB Benardrick McKinney, LB Duke Riley, LB Shaquem Griffin, CB Justin Coleman.
Early Draft Picks:
WR Jaylen Waddle, DE Jaelan Phillips, S Jevon Holland, OT/G Liam Eichenberg, TE Hunter Long. Dolphins Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Matt Breida, C Ted Karras, DE Shaq Lawson, DT Davon Godchaux, OLB Kyle Van Noy, OLB Kamu Grugier-Hill, S Bobby McCain, P Matt Haack.

2021 Miami Dolphins Offense:
The Dolphins had a difficult decision to make with their first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. They had the option of selecting either Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert to be their next franchise quarterback. They opted for the former, which appears to be a big mistake, based on how well Herbert played as a rookie.

That said, things can certainly change. Tagovailoa wasn’t even supposed to play in 2020 because of the devastating hip injury he suffered the preceding fall. Tagovailoa took the field in the middle of the season and had an uneven rookie campaign. He put together some great performances, but struggled in some others. He was even benched in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick late in the season. This was discouraging, but Tagovailoa is expected to play much better in 2021 because he’ll be in better health.

It’ll also help that Tagovailoa will have a much better receiving corps at his disposal. He was able to throw to the talented duo of DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki as a rookie, but he now has a dynamic quartet. The Dolphins signed the electric Will Fuller and then used the sixth-overall choice on Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle. If Waddle reaches expectations, Tagovailoa will have one of the best arsenals in the NFL.

While the receiving corps has gotten much better, the offensive line is still a big question mark. Miami’s tackles, Austin Jackson and Robert Hunt had mediocre 2020 seasons, but both were rookies. There’s a chance that Jackson and Hunt, first- and second-rounders, respectively, will improve this upcoming year. Then again, they could also continue to struggle, which will limit Tagovailoa’s ability to develop as a starter.

The Dolphins have other young players in the interior of their offensive line as well. The front office used a second-round pick on Liam Eichenberg, who can play both tackle and guard. Unless he busts, he’ll be able to start at left guard, with 2020 fourth-rounder Solomon Kindley starting at the other guard spot. Center Matt Skura is the lone veteran on the front line. He’s an average performer as well.

Unless Miami’s offensive line makes great strides this season, the team’s rushing attack will continue to be limited. The Dolphins were expected to address the position, but neglected to do so, meaning Myles Gaskin is the favorite to start once again. Gaskin rushed for 584 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games last year. He wasn’t an overly effective runner, but he did a good job catching passes out of the backfield, logging 41 receptions.

2021 Miami Dolphins Defense:
The Dolphins had two first-round picks in the 2021 NFL Draft. The first was used on Jaylen Waddle, while the second was spent on another big need, which was the pass rush. Miami struggled to get to the quarterback last year, so it’ll be hoping that its new defensive superstar will change things.

The player in question is Jaelan Phillips. The Miami product is an extremely athletic player who would have been a top-10 pick if it weren’t for severe injury concerns. It remains to be seen if Phillips can remain on the field, but if he’s able to, he’ll almost certainly bolster the team’s pass rush. The Dolphins’ other primary edge rusher is Andrew Van Ginkel, who notched 5.5 sacks in 2020. Brennan Scarlett was added to be a solid depth player.

Miami will be hoping that some of its interior defensive linemen put pressure on opposing signal-callers as well. Christian Wilkins is the primary candidate to make a big leap in 2021. Wilkins, the 13th-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, has been a disappointment thus far. He hasn’t been a liability – he stuffs the run well – but Miami was counting on more than 3.5 total sacks in his first two years. Likewise, Raekwon Davis, a second-round choice in 2020, failed to log a sack as a rookie. He has upside, but needs to live up to it. Emmanuel Ogbah, conversely, notched nine sacks in 2020.

A better pass rush would obviously help a secondary that is packed with talent. The Dolphins had two very skilled cornerbacks last year, Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. Howard was excellent, though Jones had a bit of a down year after being signed over from Dallas. Jones is expected to rebound, as is new slot cornerback Justin Coleman, who endured an injury-plagued 2020 campaign with the Lions. Coleman is a quality player, and he’s familiar with Brian Flores’ system.

Safety was weaker than cornerback last year, so Miami spent a second-round pick on Jevon Hollard. The Oregon product is a very instinctive player, so he’ll be able to take the field right away. The other starting safety will be Eric Rowe, who is a solid player.

Rounding out the defense, the linebacking corps lost some key players in Kyle Van Noy and Kamu Grugier-Hill. Miami tried to compensate for this by acquiring Benardrick McKinney from the Texans. McKinney isn’t a star linebacker or anything, but he’s a solid player who won’t be a liability. He’ll play next to one of Jerome Baker or Elandon Roberts, both of whom struggled in 2020.

2021 Miami Dolphins Schedule and Intangibles:
Jason Sanders was excellent in 2020, going 36-of-39, including 8-of-9 from 50-plus. He didn’t miss a single extra point.

Miami’s punter will be Michael Palardy, who was out of football in 2020 because of a torn ACL. He previously punted for the Panthers in 2019.

Miami scored a touchdown on special teams, but surrendered two to the opposition.

The Dolphins have an easy schedule. They get to avoid the Chiefs, and they’ll also battle teams in the AFC South and NFC South.

2021 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.

2021 Miami Dolphins Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2021 Miami Dolphins Analysis: The Dolphins’ outlook in 2021 hinges on Tua Tagovailoa’s development. If Tagovailoa can make the expected leap in his second year, the Dolphins will have a good chance of reaching the playoffs because of his improved supporting cast. Conversely, if he struggles like he did as a rookie and is benched again at some point, this will be a disappointing season.

Projection: 10-7 (2nd in AFC East)

2020 Projection: 4-12. 2020 Actual Result: 10-6.
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 2021 NFL Draft: The Dolphins have already made some good moves in the 2021 NFL Draft, netting an extra future first-round pick, thanks to their move from three to 12, and then back to six. Now that they have the sixth pick again, they can get a blue-chip player to help Tua Tagovailoa. The young quarterback needs at least one more weapon and another offensive line upgrade. Meanwhile, the defense needs an injection of pass-rushing and linebacking talent.

2021 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the Jaylen Waddle pick. I gave it a “B” grade, but I was disappointed that the Dolphins didn’t select Penei Sewell. Not only was Sewell the better prospect; he also filled a greater need. Protecting Tua Tagovailoa is vital to his success, and Sewell would have given the young quarterback the best chance to thrive.

However, Miami quickly made amends for eschewing Sewell by selecting Liam Eichenberg in the second round. At least one team was considering Eichenberg late in the opening round, so the Dolphins obtained good value in the middle of the second frame. They also secured two new starters in between, though there are negatives attributed to each pick. Jaelan Phillips could be a dynamic edge rusher for the Dolphins, but that would require him to stay healthy when he might be a couple of concussions away from being done playing football. Jevon Holland, meanwhile, is an instinctive safety, but I would have preferred the Dolphins to choose Trevon Moehrig.

Having said that, I’m bullish on the Dolphins’ overall draft. Not only were they able to obtain four new starters; they also picked up a first-round pick in next year’s talent-packed draft. That must be factored into their score.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

6. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama – B Grade
The Dolphins couldn’t really go wrong as long as they went with one of Jaylen Waddle, Devonta Smith and Penei Sewell. That said, I would have preferred the other two options, especially Sewell. With Will Fuller and DeVante Parker on the roster, receiver wasn’t a huge need, while the offensive line continued to be. The Dolphins need to protect Tua Tagovailoa, which they could have done incredibly well with Sewell.

18. Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami – B- Grade
This is such a difficult grade. Based on talent alone, Jaelan Phillips is worth an A+. He’s a tremendous athlete and a devastating pass rusher. He could be a star for the Dolphins. Unfortunately, he has a long medical history, and one or two concussions could knock him out for a long time. This is such a risky choice. It could easily pan out, but it could also be a huge bust. Players with injury worries typically fall, so I’m surprised that Phillips went this high.

36. Jevon Holland, S, Oregon – B Grade
Over Trevon Moehrig? That’s a surprise. Still, the pick makes sense. Jevon Holland was a prospect some team in the middle of the second coveted. He’s a very instinctive linebacker and will be able to play right away. He’ll fill a big need in Miami’s secondary.

42. Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame – A- Grade
Liam Eichenberg was usually slotted in this area in my mock draft; sometimes higher. He ended up at the end of the first round in my final update, so I like this value for the Dolphins, who needed to improve the offensive line. Miami must protect Tua Tagovailoa to help him succeed after a disastrous rookie year, and Eichenberg will help make that happen.

81. Hunter Long, TE, Boston College – B- Grade
The Dolphins really wanted Kyle Pitts, but missed out on him because the 49ers selected Trey Lance instead of Mac Jones, creating a domino effect where Pitts was snatched off the board. Hunter Long is a solid, tough and smart player, but he lacks speed and the ability to separate.

231. Larnel Coleman, OT, UMass – B Grade
This is the Dolphins’ first pick since No. 81, which is kind of nuts. It’s also nice that the Dolphins were able to obtain another offensive lineman to help protect Tua Tagovailoa. I had Larnel Coleman in the seventh round of one of my updates, so the range makes sense.

244. Gerrid Doaks, RB, Cincinnati – C+ Grade
It’s wild that the Dolphins waited this long for a running back. Gerrid Doaks is not the answer – he wasn’t on my radar as a draftable prospect – so Miami will have to move into the 2021 season without a strong ground attack.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The Dolphins failed to make the playoffs despite only needing to beat Buffalo’s backups in Week 17. They failed, but they still made a huge leap in Brian Flores’ second year. Whether they continue to improve will depend on Tua Tagovailoa’s ability to develop after struggling as a rookie.

Offseason Moves:
  • Dolphins sign G Jermaine Eluemunor
  • Dolphins sign OT D.J. Fluker
  • Dolphins sign DT John Jenkins
  • Dolphins sign LB Duke Riley
  • Dolphins sign DE/OLB Brennan Scarlett
  • Dolphins sign WR Will Fuller
  • Dolphins sign C Matt Skura
  • Dolphins sign DT Adam Butler
  • Dolphins sign CB Justin Coleman
  • Dolphins sign RB Malcolm Brown
  • Dolphins sign QB Jacoby Brissett
  • Texans acquire DE Shaq Lawson from Dolphins for LB Benardrick McKinney
  • Dolphins sign P Michael Palardy

    Team Needs:
    1. Offensive Tackle: Protecting Tua Tagovailoa is the priority, as it’ll help him develop. Luckily for the Dolphins, they can obtain Penei Sewell at No. 3 overall, thanks to Bill O’Brien’s incompetence. Signed D.J. Fluker

    2. Guard: The Dolphins can’t be done fixing their offensive line. An upgrade at guard is also needed.

    3. Two Linebackers: This is Miami’s greatest weakness on defense. The team struggled against the run last year, which wouldn’t be much of an issue if the linebacking corps were upgraded. Traded for Benardrick McKinney; signed Duke Riley; re-signed Elandon Roberts

    4. Defensive End: The Dolphins have a bunch of players who can get to the quarterback well, but they lack a dominant pass rusher. Signed Brennan Scarlett

    5. Safety: Miami has a pair of excellent cornerbacks, but it needs to complement them with a better safety.

    6. Center: Center must be addressed as well, though that would just require re-signing Ted Karras. Signed Matt Skura

    7. Wide Receiver: The Dolphins have a solid receiving duo in DeVante Parker and Preston Williams, but a third option could be obtained. Signed Will Fuller

    8. Running Back: Myles Gaskin is a solid running back, but the Dolphins could stand to get better at the position. Signed Malcolm Brown

    9. Punter: Matt Haack is an impending free agent. Signed Michael Palardy

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2021 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Will Fuller, WR, Texans. Age: 27.
      Signed with Dolphins (1 year)

      Will Fuller didn’t exactly look like a No. 1 receiver last year in the wake of DeAndre Hopkins’ absence. However, he still had some explosive games and is definitely worthy of a big contract. However, I can understand teams being worried about his injury history.

    2. Justin Coleman, CB, Lions. Age: 28.
      Signed with Dolphins (1 year, $2.75 million)

      Justin Coleman is ordinarily a solid slot cornerback, but he was hurt last year. He missed five games with a hamstring injury, and he wasn’t 100 percent upon his return. He turns 28 in late March, so he’ll be able to rebound in 2021.

    3. Jacoby Brissett, QB, Colts. Age: 28.
      Signed with Dolphins

      Jacoby Brissett has some believers, including Bill Parcells. Brissett played well in 2019 until he suffered an injury against Pittsburgh and wasn’t the same upon return.

    4. Jermaine Eluemunor, G/OT, Patriots. Age: 26.
      Signed with Dolphins

      Jermaine Eluemunor has been a career backup thus far, but he played well in relief for New England last year. He deserves a chance to compete for a starting job, and at 26, he has some upside.

    5. D.J. Fluker, OT, Ravens. Age: 30. — Signed with Dolphins
    6. Duke Riley, LB, Eagles. Age: 27. — Signed with Dolphins
    7. Shaquem Griffin, LB, Seahawks. Age: 26. — Signed with Dolphins
    8. Brennan Scarlett, DE/OLB, Texans. Age: 28. — Signed with Dolphins
    9. Matt Skura, C, Ravens. Age: 28. — Signed with Dolphins
    10. John Jenkins, NT, Bears. Age: 32. — Signed with Dolphins
    11. Adam Butler, DT, Patriots. Age: 27. — Signed with Dolphins (2 years)
    12. Malcolm Brown, RB, Rams. Age: 28. — Signed with Dolphins
    13. Michael Palardy, P, Panthers. Age: 29. — Signed with Dolphins

    Miami Dolphins Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Kyle Van Noy, OLB, Dolphins. Age: 30.
      Signed with Patriots

      Kyle Van Noy does everything, whether it’s rush the passer successfully, clamp down on the run or drop into coverage. He had a down year in 2020, but only because he dealt with hip and groin injuries. Age will soon become a concern, but Van Noy is expected to bounce back in 2021.

    2. Ted Karras, C, Dolphins. Age: 28.
      Signed with Patriots

      Ted Karras filled a need for the Dolphins in the middle of the offensive line. He wasn’t exceptional, but he blocked well, particularly in pass protection.

    3. Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Dolphins. Age: 38.
      Signed with Redskins (1 year, $10 million)

      Ryan Fitzpatrick won some early games in 2020 and then proceeded to be a great relief pitcher for the struggling Tua Tagovailoa. Fitzpatrick can still win some games, but he’s nearing 40.

    4. Elandon Roberts, LB, Dolphins. Age: 27.
      Re-signed with Dolphins (1 year, $2 million)

      Elandon Roberts is a quality, do-it-all linebacker, but he suffered a significant knee injury at the end of 2020, so he may not be ready for the upcoming season.

    5. Bobby McCain, S, Dolphins. Age: 28.
      Signed with Redskins

      Bobby McCain is a sub-par starter who was released because he was due nearly $6 million in 2020. He was one of Miami’s team captains last year.

    6. Matt Haack, P, Dolphins. Age: 27.
      Signed with Bills

      Matt Haack has been in the middle of the pack in net punting average over the past couple of years.

    7. Davon Godchaux, DT, Dolphins. Age: 26. — Signed with Patriots (2 years, $16 million)
    8. Kamu Grugier-Hill, DE/OLB, Dolphins. Age: 27. — Signed with Texans (1 year, $3.25 million)
    9. Matt Breida, RB, Dolphins. Age: 26. — Signed with Bills (1 year)
    10. Isaiah Ford (RFA), WR, Dolphins. Age: 25.
    11. Mack Hollins, WR, Dolphins. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Bills
    12. DeAndre Washington, RB, Dolphins. Age: 28.
    13. Vince Biegel, DE/OLB, Dolphins. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Dolphins (1 year)
    14. Julie’n Davenport, OT, Dolphins. Age: 26. — Signed with Colts
    15. Kavon Frazier, S, Dolphins. Age: 27.
    16. Isaiah Wilson, OT, Dolphins. Age: 22.

    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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