By: Tom Shannon
Armando Salguero at the Miami Herald takes issue with the fact that so many positions are likely to see change in the offseason for the Dolphins:
“An NFL team is a living, breathing organism that ebbs and flows as people come and go.
“But there’s a difference between that organism evolving through thoughtful roster succession and simply repeating the same exercise, at the same position, time and again, because the last attempt wasn’t successful.”
“One is building a team.”
“The other is perpetually rebuilding.”
Salguero points out that the Dolphins are seeking changes at quarterback (Deshaun Watson), edge, wide receiver, running back and along the offensive line and tries to make the case that all of this turnover is the result of mismanagement.
Although I have doubts about Chris Grier as a general manager, I’m not sure I agree that this criticism is a fair one. For now.
Let’s take quarterback as an example. Salguero points out that though you could see Watson as an upgrade over Tua Tagovailoa (he is) that the Chargers are not seeking Watson over their young quarterback, Justin Herbert.
The flaw in this argument is the belief that the Chargers are right. They’re not. Every team with the exception of the Chiefs, the Packers and maybe the Seahawks should be seeking Watson. In fact, most probably are. They just don’t’ realistically have the available resources to get him.
Salguero tries to make the argument that the Dolphins thought that they were “set” at these positions last year and that now they are trying to perpetually correct their mistakes. I really doubt that’s the case.
The Dolphins are in a unique position for several reasons.
For one thing they aren’t “perpetually rebuilding”. They are in year three of their first one.
Many of the new signings last year were made with the idea that the players involved might be one year stop gaps, most notably center Ted Karras (one year contract) and edge defender Kyle Van Noy (for all practical purposes a series of one-year contracts).
Salguero’s criticism might have been more timely next year when the Dolphins rebuild would be, theoretically, complete. Yet for now, the Dolphins knew that they might, and in some cases probably would be, seeking younger replacements at some positions in 2021. They knew they weren’t done yet.
The second difference between the Dolphins and most other teams is more subtle but at least as significant.
Every team that doesn’t believe that they were a Super Bowl contender last year should be trying to get better at every position and in every way possible. That essentially means every team that wasn’t in the top 5. And that most especially includes the Dolphins.
To their credit, the Dolphins went 10-6 last year when very few people thought that the record would be that good. But that comes with caveats that made last year a special one. They had a weak schedule with only 4 playoff teams (Buffalo twice) and they were relatively healthy for most of the year. More to the point, it was one of those special years where the ball simply bounced their way with timely turnovers and freak plays that made the difference in a number of games.
That’s unlikely to repeat itself in 2021. Though the Dolphins have the sixth easiest schedule in the NFL next year and the second easiest in the AFC, those timely turnovers and freak plays are unlikely to repeat themselves. Certainly, it is not the kind of situation that any team can count on long term.
So, the Dolphins still need to get better to really be competitive for a championship. Maybe a lot better.
And here’s the point. They have the resources to do it this year. Unlike most other teams, the Dolphins are blessed with what is, relatively speaking, a wealth of cap space at around $35 million, give or take, depending upon what you think the cap will be. At the same time, they have plenty of draft ammunition to use to get better including 2 picks in the first round and 2 in the second.
So, while other teams build, the Dolphins will do what is effectively the same thing. But with a plethora of resources, they have the ability to do it to a much greater extent.
The Dolphins will have a bigger turnover in personnel this year simply because they have the ability to turn it over. Unlike other teams, they won’t be settling for the players at positions all over the field as being “good enough” because they won’t have to.
The Dolphins have the ability to improve where other teams can’t. So why not do so?
That’s not bad management. But deluding yourself into thinking a 10-6 team in a unique year is ready to compete as it stands without getting better at every position in every way possible would be.