By: Jason Sarney
Last night we had another enjoyable Friday evening community discussion on Twitter Spaces talking Miami Dolphins, joined by Antwan Staley of the Tallahassee Democrat and Waldo Waldie of the Regulators Podcast. In what has become a weekly community conversation live on Twitter, Antwan, Waldo and I fielded questions from Fin-Fans and had some great debates.
To close the show, the guys even welcomed a terrific surprise, when Miami Dolphin Podcast Network host of Drive Time, Travis Winfield, dropped in! Travis shared some bits of info from his recent interview with NFL Network’s Peter Schrager, one of the hosts of Good Morning Football.
In addition to the great stories and little slice of that show’s contents, the Twitter Spaces Crew took a deep-dive into the Dolphins roster and I broke down the next several years of contracts on this current team. The point of this was to try to jump into the minds and psyche of the front office to see where they are leaning in their team building, commencing in under two weeks at the NFL Draft.
While we all know what positions are “needed,” there are some that at first glance seem to be all set. However, if you circle a potential Super Bowl run for the core group of Miami Dolphins in the next three seasons, there is evidence that may lead you to believe certain positions may be checked off in the Draft’s first few picks for the Dolphins.
With Picks #6, #18, #36, #50 and #81 currently to start the first half of the Draft process, Miami can do whatever they want, and we all know this. However, when looking at the position rooms as contracts only, heavy-depth positions at the moment could be an empty house in the beginning of 2022’s and 2023’s off-seasons, much like the popular Will Smith GIF in the Banks’s empty living room.
After this season, that could be the image of newcomer Benardrick McKinney and veteran Andrew Van Ginkel, as they are the only linebackers currently on Miami’s roster with contracts beyond this season. They will likely be drafting a linebacker, relatively early, based on this speculation, and examining contractual evidence.
If Miami has an opportunity for Penn State’s Micah Parsons or Tulsa’s Zaven Collins at #18, there is a very solid chance that could be the time this position is checked off.
Next up, and in a more dramatic sense, is the center position. After parting with Ted Karras, Miami signed Baltimore’s Matt Skura to a 1-year deal, and along with a pair of backups, each rostered player in this room is a free agent after Week 18 of 2021.
We would all be wise to circle pick number #36 as the interior o-line pick. Perhaps a center who can play guard, or vice-versa? Landon Dickenson, Creed Humphrey and fan-favorite Quinn Meinerz are all candidates to be picked with the Fins first 2nd round selection.
Still with me? Don’t worry, running back and wide receiver are next.
All of a sudden, the Miami running back room is crowded, and full of players who have expiring contracts. In fact, only Myles Gaskin will have a valid contract at the start of 2022. Recent free agent Malcolm Brown signed a one-year deal, and Salvon Ahmed and Patrick Laird are no locks to even finish 2021 in Miami.
So, when looking at rookie running backs, and those hitting their stride in their careers, should Miami draft a RB in the top-2 rounds? (sorry Najee Nation, he could be selected pre-#18.)
Drafting a running back in the 2021 NFL Draft is paramount for the Dolphins to have that back on a rookie contract in a hopeful AFC Championship game within the next few seasons. 2023 could be that back’s banner year. Myles Gaskin is no certainty to return to the team once he hits free agency. There are rookies in this Day 2 area of the Draft who can take that role.
Look for one of the UNC backs, Javonte Williams or Michael Carter in the 2nd, or if you want to get riskier and more creative toward the latter portions of round 2 and/or Day 2, Kenneth Gainwell of Memphis and super-sleeper, Jaret Patterson of Buffalo are my guys to circle.
And now the whopper I may need to seek shelter from…and this is a continuation of an earlier article this week from me, insinuating there is heavy interest in drafting yet another cornerback this Draft.
After this season, the Dolphins will have only Xavien Howard, Byron Jones and Noah Igbinoghene rostered in terms of significance. Free Agent Justin Coleman is on another one of those 1-year deals this season, and Miami picked up Nik Needham’s year-three exclusive rights free agent contract. 2021 is a “prove it” season for Needham in the slot or even as depth in his natural boundary role.
Brian Flores will need that depth in his CB room, and his system calls for at least four viable corners he can scheme with. I would not be shocked at all if Miami finds a way to gain another 1st or 2nd round pick, and select a corner that coach Flores pounds his fist on the table for. I like a middle tier of Eric Stokes, Paulson Adebo, and Elijah Molden, to name a few.
Lastly, and perhaps of utmost developmental importance for Tua Tagovailoa is the addition of a superstar pass-catcher.
Mind the phrasing.
Pass-catcher could mean WR, TE, whatever you want to call it. If Kyle Pitts or Ja’Marr Chase are available with Miami’s #6 pick, it would be a Twitter disaster should neither, nor Devonta Smith, be called at that point. There is a safe bet one of those, as well as Jaylen Waddle, could be that WR1 for Miami’s future.
Looking at the room now, there are a slew of young, potentially viable future targets, but all have question marks. Veteran DeVante Parker is on a team-friendly deal and technically under contract and hitting unrestricted free agent status in 2024. He’ll be 31 then and just finishing his ninth season. There have not been many wide receivers drafted by Miami to stay the life-long course as career Dolphins.
Newly signed speedster Will Fuller is on a one-year deal, so we’re all in a wait-and-see approach with him. Albert Wilson is a FA after this season and Allen Hurns after 2023, should one or both even make it to that point with Miami.
Jakeem Grant, like his “uncle” on the team, Parker, is a UFA in 2024. He will be 32 then, and in my opinion, should be called the teams Punt Returner and not on the WR depth chart at the moment.
That leaves guys like Lynn Bowden, Jr and Malcolm Perry who are signed through 2024 and Preston Williams who is in the final season of his sub-$900,000 un-drafted free agent rookie contract.
In conclusion, the contractual status of these current Dolphins has me guess-timating that the first two days of the draft could look a bit like this:
1st Round – WR and LB
2nd Round/3rd Round- C/G and RB (trade in for a CB)
Whatever happens, circle 2023 as the year to bring all of this construction of a winner together. This potential plan has Tua Tagovailoa on his 4th year of his rookie contract, at age 25. If all works out, it’s at that point he can become an extremely wealthy man…with a ring.