When the 2019 Season is over, the Miami Dolphins are likely to be the worst NFL football team ever assembled and that’s exactly how they want it to be. Until this year’s Miami team, I did not believe NFL teams actually tanked but there is no doubt what the Dolphins’ intentions are this season.
The Dolphins’ course forward is simple on the surface - deplete the roster while making it near impossible to compete, stockpile draft picks and focus on the future. Miami will try to win every week but the talent discrepancy will be too great to overcome and well, let’s just say the Miami Dolphins are now on the clock.
I have a lot to say about the situation in Miami, and this week’s 6-pack is dedicated to revealing those thoughts. But first things first - I give Miami a lot of credit for finally being realistic about the state of the franchise. For years, band-aids were placed over problems and perpetual mediocrity and below average football teams was the result. Miami is finally embracing a true rebuild in hopes of building a sustainable winner.
I hope that this column has become a staple for you each week, but just in case you are new, 6-Pack Thursday is my weekly brain dump on six football-related things that involve the NFL, College Football or NFL Draft.
Let’s crack this thing open.
Save Your Stats
The contest for sending the wittiest tweets is in full bloom in the age of social media and the Miami Dolphins are sure to provide plenty of ammunition for some zingers. Beat a dead horse all you want, but remember what Miami’s objective is this season: Get the No. 1 overall pick.
And with that being the objective, Miami is doing a damn good job of positioning themselves to achieve their goal. So just remember with your wise cracks that on the receiving end of the joke is Dolphins’ general manager Chris Grier who is lighting a cigar with a glass of bourbon while he fires up the Tua Tagovailoa tape. Or maybe that’s Kyle Crabbs, but you get the point.
Hitting On Picks - Lotta Picks, Lotta Holes
Miami has stockpiled a ton of draft capital in the coming years. Let’s recap:
- 1st Round: Own pick, Texans’ pick, Steelers’ pick
- 2nd Round: Own pick, Saints’ pick
- 3rd Round: Own pick, likely compensatory pick
- 4th Round: Titan’s pick
- 5th Round: Steelers’ pick and possible compensatory pick
- 6th Round: Own pick, Cowboys’ pick
- 7th Round: Own pick, Chiefs’ pick
- 1st Round: Own pick, Texans’ pick
- 2nd Round: Own pick, Texans’ pick
- 3rd-5th Round: Own pick
- 6th Round: Steelers pick
That’s not just a lot of capital, that’s a lot of premium draft capital. Five 1st-round picks, four 2nd-round picks and three 3rd-round picks positions Miami to potentially add considerable quality talent to the mix in the coming years.
While that’s an exciting forecast, the truth is they need every bit of that draft capital to start building a roster capable of competing in the NFL. Miami is in a massive hole and while the path forward includes plenty of opportunity to improve, it’s a gamble.
Ready for the wet blanket? Go back to any draft and examine it. You’ll be quite surprised by how many draft picks don’t pan out. It’s not plausible to think Miami is going to hit on every one of these picks. You can look over the Dolphins first round resume and understand that.
Acquiring the picks is only half the battle, now it’s up to Grier and his staff to make them count. And in the process of accumulating the draft capital, Miami dug a deeper hole. The Dolphins are very much in search of an offensive tackle like Laremy Tunsil and a defensive back like Minkah Fitzpatrick. While there is a net gain with both trades and Miami did well to get outstanding returns, the acquisition of draft capital came with the creation of holes.
Miami isn’t adding all of this young talent to a competitive NFL roster - there is a ton of ground to make up and that must be considered when thinking about the opportunities ahead in the coming drafts.
Who are the keepers?
What does Miami currently have in place that represents meaningful building blocks that can be part of the long-term solution in South Beach? CB Xavien Howard, OT Jesse Davis and WR Jakeem Grant and recently signed contract extensions. I like the upside of 2019 Draft picks G Michael Deiter and DL Christian Wilkins. LB Jerome Baker is certainly part of the solution. In addition, DL Davon Godchaux and Jonathan Ledbetter have some appeal.
Although I was able to name eight names, maybe two or three of those players actually profile as potential high-caliber starters.
One other thing. While I don’t fully support Minkah Fitzpatrick’s antics to demand a trade and get out of Miami, I can at least reason with him since he is a draft pick that didn’t ask to spend his early NFL years as part of a team that is tanking. With that said, being a first-round pick and rostered in the NFL is a rare privilege and honor. Miami gave him that opportunity which should count for something.
And then there’s this:
I don’t feel one bit bad for Xavien Howard who recently inked a five-year contract extension with Miami that made him the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history. He chose to be part of this.
Balancing The Roster
Every NFL coach will talk about the importance of veteran leadership and no team can win with players on rookie contracts alone. One of the underrated challenges ahead for Grier is signing enough meaningful free agents to balance out Miami’s roster and it won’t be easy.
Not only is Miami loaded with draft capital, the Dolphins are projected to have the most salary cap space in the NFL at its disposal next offseason with estimations around $120 million. Will premium free agents choose to go play in Miami given the state of its roster? We already know that Jadeveon Clowney wanted nothing to do with the Dolphins’ rebuild.
Money talks and over-paying for players is a possibility. But if that’s the case, is Miami truly getting the “right” players in the building or does that encourage “paycheck” players to sign and not leaders? Surely it would help if Miami can arrange visits with prospective signees to outline the vision for the franchise, but that’s not often the case in this day and age where the top free agents fly off the market in the opening hours of free agency.
While I’m sure Miami is fantasizing about potential free agents like Chris Jones, Yannick Ngakoue, Leonard Williams, Brandon Scherff, Melvin Gordon and others, they are likely to have multiple suitors in competition for their services. Will they even hit the market and why would they pick Miami?
I am fascinated to see what Miami’s free agent strategy is and who they can lure in. There promises to be a massive influx of young players over the offseason and there is a tremendous burden on the coaching staff to mentor and develop that talent. Balancing things out with meaningful veterans will be critical. Remember, free agency in the NFL hits before the draft.
Ready for a QB?
Dolphins fans should be elated about adding Tua Tagovailoa or even Justin Herbert to be the next franchise quarterback. I love the upside they present and believe they have every trait needed to be outstanding players. But will Miami be ready for them? It’s a fair question.
Names like David Carr and Josh Rosen immediately come to mind as examples of talented quarterbacks that were put in awful situations and weren’t set up to succeed.
There’s no waiting until 2021 for the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. Miami is tanking now and is all-in on the quarterbacks for 2020. Miami cannot pass up the opportunity this year.
And perhaps that’s why Josh Rosen is here. If the environment isn’t appropriate for Tua or Herbert to step in and start, Rosen will be entering Year 2 in the system in what should be a much improvement situation. Rosen can bridge the gap and buy time until the time is right for the rookie to step in. Meanwhile, Rosen could play well and net Miami even more draft capital via a trade. The reasonable worst case scenario is that Rosen becomes the backup.
Can Miami Stick to the Process?
While substantial progress can be made, Miami isn’t going to be fixed in one offseason. Grier recently offered some insight into him timing.
“We’ve talked about building this long-term with sustained success right away, and for us, we’ll be very aggressive. We’re not going to sit here on a bunch of money or anything. The plan is to build a winner here. No one likes losing,” said Grier on Monday in meeting with the media.
“We’ve positioned ourselves to where we think the organization will be in a good place here shortly. How long that takes – like I said, we’ll be aggressive (in) free agency. Again, we’re not going to sit back and not do anything. We’re going to be very proactive and try and get this turned quickly.”
Miami was in on Clowney and Trey Flowers, indicating some urgency to acquire talent.
What is ownerships timeline and how does that agree with Grier’s vision? This is going to take time and there is no reason to rush it. Expectations need to be realistic. If this works, Miami’s going to be a problem in the AFC for years to come.