Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Free Agent Options – Pre June 1st

As I write this, it is 11.23am on the 31st May. A day this year, which I believe is very much the calm before the storm. 

Wit the cap number what it is this year, and with teams across the NFL pressed right up against that, June 1st cuts could explode this year as teams create more flexibility. Players who if cut today could be cap liabilities, will become more manageable cap casualties in just a few hours time. Rumours and names are being floated around the social media platforms within the various team’s communities. 

Not only will that give more franchises more flexibility for the season, but it adds a plethora of names to the current free agent pool. So in this piece I look at seven players currently on the market who could be of interest to the Miami Dolphins front office, before all the new names become available. Of course Miami would need to create cap space of their own, but these names could be a reason to do so, starting with two obvious names… 

Melvin Ingram, OLB/Edge, Previously at the Chargers 

 An obvious place to start. It is clear to us all that Miami have interest in Ingram and the presence he can bring on and off the field, and it appears that Ingram has interest in Miami too. Ingram has recently visited the facility in a long and engaging visit, he remained in Miami and worked out with members of the current Dolphins roster. The interest is clear. 

Ingram would bring a presence on the field and attract the attention of the opposition blockers, freeing up room for other Miami rushers. He brings aggression and forcefulness that Miami have lacked in recent seasons and he brings leadership and strong mentality to a young linebacker group. He also brings with him a recent injury record, but with the other pieces that Miami has added this year, he can be more situational which could help manage his injuries with a smaller workload. 

It’s clear this could happen, it’s clear there are a lot of people hoping this will happen. It now depends on if Miami can free up enough space to make this deal work. 

 Malik Hooker, Safety, Previously at the Colts 

 Another obvious name. Another name who has visited the facility, brings a lot of upside but injury related downside. This one seems less likely now, as since Hooker visited Miami, they have signed Jason McCourty and claimed prospect Trill Williams into their secondary group. Both players are more naturally suited to cornerback but have the versatility to cover safety positions in certain circumstances. 

However, McCourty is ageing and may only be a one year addition, and Trill Williams in not guaranteed to make the roster as an UDFA. Hooker could come straight into that safety group which has one rookie and one second year pro and add some experience and still the potential to improve and develop within the system. 

Managing injuries would again be a major factor, and he wouldn’t be brought in to block the path of one of the younger prospects, but has the talent to be a fantastic option in certain packages if the price is right. 

LeVeon Bell, Running Back, Previously at the Chiefs 

Don’t hate me. This is a name that seems to be linked with Miami time and again yet never seems to lead anywhere. This may very well end up the same. 

To be clear, I like that Myles Gaskin will start as RB1 and I think he deserves to after his performances last season in a difficult situation. That said, I would still be happy to see the group behind him improved. I believe Bell still has enough to work if not used as an every down option. 

He was linked last year when leaving the Jets, but ultimately chose the Jets as he chased a superbowl. This last week, he has tweeted that he is waiting for the “right time” to sign for a team… could that be post June 1st when cap room is created? He also suggested that he is more suited to a defensive head coach, as opposed to an offensive guru trying to create experimental packages… could Brian Flores be that defensively minded Head Coach. 

I’ll admit the link is tedious, but RB remains a position group that could be improved depth wise, Bell remains a good age to be part of that improvement if things can be worked out. 

Kwon Alexander, ILB, Previously at the Saints

One area that Miami have struggled with in the Linebacker area is their pass coverage. Wide receivers crossing across have tended to find short yardage gains and plenty of yards after catch. Third down conversion has been a frustrating thing to watch as a fan over the last few years. 

Miami have moved to address their run defence with the addition of strong DTs and the trade for Benardrick McKinney, the have addressed their edge rushing with the addition of first round pick Jaelan Phillips. With Kwon Alexander available and at a good age, they could still address their pass coverage too, and with someone who has been around the NFL a while, with good experience and pedigree. 

Alexander follows the trend of being an injury risk, as is so often the case with these late free agent pick ups. Another as unlikely as the rest, but with clear upside if Miami felt he was worth the risk. 

Olivier Vernon, Edge, Previously at the Giants 

OK, this is purely a name included for my giddy nostalgia. Vernon has clearly had his prime in the NFL, but that is the same with so many names on this list. 

That said, Miami has a need in the depth of their pass rush position, and Vernon remains a well liked player after his fantastic production on his rookie contract. In fact, pass rush 

prospect Jaelen Phillips has come in, and some people have suggested that Vernon’s rookie numbers is where Phillips should be aiming if he wants to be considered a successful pick. 

While I think that is an unnecessary comparison to draw and Phillips should be given the freedom to play and produce his way with his clear natural talent, the prospect of putting Vernon in the building to learn from is an underrated idea. This would give our young, hungry pass rushers elite advice to learn from, an example to follow, a leader for these young guys who knows the franchise and the culture of the community. Whilst also bringing ability to disrupt in a more limited capacity than recent years, coming in for situational plays and maximising the skills he could still bring. 

I don’t see this happening, but I like the idea far more that I thought I would, and I believe it is an underrated discussion. 

Duke Johnson Jr, Running Back, Previously at the Texans 

If you have read this far, then you will have seen me discussing the needs and my feelings towards our running back group within the LeVeon Bell section. I believe Duke Johnson Jr could be another option at this position, but without the hype, media circus and national scrutiny that signing Bell would bring. 

A risk with Bell is that his profile attracts a certain amount of attention from a certain kind of media personnel. The kind that will be waiting for it to not work, so that they can leap on the bandwagon. Johnson comes without that kind of profile. 

This signing would have twitter casuals rolling their eyes, “Why sign Johnson when Bell and Gurley are available”, the tweets are drafted and ready I’m sure. But see past the names and reputation for a moment… 

Duke Johnson Jr has experience being a productive RB2, he is happy and comfortable in that role, giving Gaskin the kind of support without threat needed to thrive and feel trusted by the staff. Johnson runs hard, and as he HAS been an RB2 for a lot of his career, doesn’t have the wear and tear of other RB options. He is comfortable running hard, finding holes, pushing for extra yards after contact and catching the ball out of the backfield, all skills required for the RPO offense it seems Miami is trending towards. 

Duke Johnson Jr may not be the exciting, shirt selling name that some fans want, but could be the productive sidekick that Myles Gaskin needs to thrive whilst improving the running back group overall. 

Mitchell Schwartz, Offensive Tackle, Previously at the Chiefs 

Yes, Mitchell Schwartz is injured. Yes, we drafted a tackle in the second round in 2021. Yes, we drafted three linemen in 2020. Yes, Schwartz is most likely to return to the Chiefs if he does make a comeback from injury. So, Yes, I am aware of all the reasons that this is unlikely. 

But still… This is a man who is used to playing RT to a high level, which just happens to be the blindside of our QB of the future. He has experience of protecting a young, exciting QB in Patrick Mahomes and could be an incredible presence to calm the young guards at the line of scrimmage, whilst also mentoring the young Offensive Tackles currently on roster. 

Mitchell Schwartz would bring everything we need in a veteran OLine presence, he has won, knows how to win, knows how to lead, knows how to teach. The chances of him ending up anywhere other than the Chiefs are slim, but if Grier could somehow get him in the building, he is the kind of man whose influence could be felt far beyond the snap of the football. 

Free Agent Summary 

The reality is that Miami need to create space for any of this to happen. It is expected more than any other year that moves will be made in the coming days as we enter June, and I expect Miami to be no different. They have exercised patience in their management of their current roster so far but I expect that as moves are made, that they will join the party. 

I expect that as they see cuts around the league, either post June 1st or further into camps as teams whittle down their rosters, that Miami will see players they like and make alterations to the lower third of their depth chart. 

The names above all clearly bring something new to this Miami situation, with Melvin Ingram the most likely to be seen in Aqua and Orange. But soon enough there will be even more names to add to this list, and plenty of options for Chris Grier and Coach Flores to refine their roster for the coming season. 

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