By: Jason Sarney
In football, hindsight is usually 20/20. In this game and business, however, it’s foresight that requires more accurate Vision.
Regardless of clarity on the optics of what lies ahead for the Miami Dolphins and general manager Chris Grier, he has a Multiverse of options from which he can choose the franchise’s adventure in the months ahead. With a healthy allotment of salary cap at his disposal, he can acquire some premium free agents. Additionally, he has nine draft picks (with four in the top 50) in the upcoming NFL Draft this April. Chris Grier has nothing but options.
With 2021 being year three of the Brian Flores era and year two of Tua Tagovailoa at QB, it’s time to solidify the roster with weapons on the offensive side of the ball as well as strengthen one or two missing links on defense. While spending wisely is much more valuable than spending widely, there is a feeling that the 2021 free agent market will be a little bit different than last season, in that there is a quality over quantity mindset.
This isn’t a knock on last year’s free agent class. Miami brought in outstanding players such as Byron Jones and Kyle Van Noy, just to name a couple. At their time of signing, role players like Emmanuel Ogbah and Shaq Lawson were undervalued in the market. While Lawson was arguably a hit signing, Ogbah was a home run.
What is meant by the “quality over quantity” mantra is that instead of eight or nine free agents being signed, the move this season will be to sign one or two high-priced, highly-talented centerpieces of offensive firepower.
At this point of the offseason last year, Miami needed to fill around a dozen or so holes with starting-caliber players. Along with the aforementioned signings, role players were brought in such as Kamu Grugier-Hill, Clayton Fejedelem, and Matt Breida in a draft weekend trade.
Miami continued the rebuild by drafting a quarterback, three offensive linemen, a cornerback/return man, a safety, a defensive lineman and a defensive end. These players should be in Miami’s plans for at least the near future. Add in a long snapper and a gadget player, and the Dolphins had an offseason that resulted in doubling their win total from five in 2019 to ten in 2020.
With pieces of the puzzle still left to fill prior to completing the work of art, this is the time to put the fun trimmings on the foundation. The infrastructure is in place, the wiring is all set up, and the plumbing is working phenomenally. If you correlate these inner workings and core pieces of the football team to the analogy, the House of Grier is a serviceable franchise to call home.
But now, it’s time to make it a party house.
There are a pair of free agents in this class, that when combined, would be an immediate answer to the question plaguing Miami, "Where are the weapons for Tua?”
This is a fantastic free agent class in terms of running backs and wide receivers. While with most things, history should be our guide, football history tends to change every decade or so. Contract situations change, the market climate changes, the decision makers on individual teams move on, and philosophies are skewed during the process.
Historically, spending a mint on a free agent running back hasn’t always worked for teams hunting for that “work-horse” back. Regardless of that, the NFL has gone away from work horse running backs in the 2000s and moved toward running back by committees. Looking back over the last 20 Super Bowls, there has only been a small handful of work horse running backs who lifted the Lombardi Trophy. Marshawn Lynch and Jamal Lewis come to mind immediately, and a pair of Patriot rings with Corey Dillon and Antoine Smith. The latter two took place in the beginning of the Patriots’ dynasty.
The point is this: This is a unique and opportunistic climate for Miami. Not only do they have another year of a treasure trove of top 50 draft picks, but also the contractual structure around the league could result in a number of short-term deals, and several unexpected veteran cuts across the NFL.
Additionally, the Dolphins have four more years of a rookie contract at quarterback, and several undrafted free agents and draft selections who far outperformed their draft value, or undrafted value. Re-signing them in a few years is conversion for another late February day.
There is a three-year window if you want to win a Super Bowl with this current business of the Miami Dolphins. If they can add a few key players to those we’ve seen the last two years, Miami could become Super Bowl contenders immediately. If they perform as we all hope, they can even become consistent contenders.
The two players the Dolphins need to sign on offense are Aaron Jones and Curtis Samuel. While the big splash running back certainly will dent Miami’s wallet, I feel it has the potential to be a mutually friendly deal. And even if it is a little bit too rich for most fans’ liking, the Samuel signing would add a pertinent weapon for this offense. He probably will be the fourth or fifth highest paid free agent wide receiver in this class, which is potential music to the ears of Dolphins fans, and more importantly the accounting department.
Breaking the bank for a receiver like JuJu Smith-Schuster or Chris Godwin isn’t a “bad” play, but it’s a very expensive one that could create targeting drama with Miami’s other existing weapons and potential draftees. Samuel is a perfect player to utilize in the slot and help move the chains, mixing in with Lynn Bowden, Jr. on the inside and allowing Preston Williams and DeVante Parker to succeed on the perimeter. Throw in Mike Gesicki doing Mike Gesicki things as well.
Of course, no off-season article would be complete without mentioning the Dolphins should draft a wide receiver in the first round, adding to their offensive firepower and resulting in five potential threats at wide receiver. Throw in an overall tight end room that was the most productive in more than a decade, and this offense suddenly has some legs to it.
Back to the Jones and Samuel signings; those moves could take a bit of pressure off of the front office with needing to draft a wide receiver AND a running back in the first round of the draft. This could allow them to maximize young talent on offensive line or a defensive player or perhaps cash in with it all via trade back.
We might even see Brian Flores do the “Carlton Dance” to one-up his seat-shimmy when Raekwon Davis was selected in the second round last April. Which when we see something like that, we should all circle that players name.
The Dolphins do not need to sign 5 very good players. They need to draft 5 very good players in their top 5 selections. Prior to the draft they should spend money wisely on 1 or 2 premium products.
Now is the time to fill the house with all the fun toys. Like the saying goes, “if you want to make money, you’ve got to spend money.” And if you want to win a Super Bowl, Miami needs to spend their money wisely. Less is more in terms of number of players signed. Just sign the right ones for what it takes to get them.
This is a remarkably unique circumstantial year in the NFL and the overall situation is building for a “perfect-storm” coming for the Dolphins. All they need to do, is benefit from it, and ride the wave.
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