Dolphins Addressing Needs Early and Often in Free Agency
The start of free agency in the NFL has so far proven to be a prosperous time for the Miami Dolphins — at least on paper.
During the first week of free agency, Miami wasted little time securing needs. At the conclusion of the 2016 season — a year in which the Dolphins made the playoffs for the first time since 2008 — Miami had concerns to address in each area defensively. On the offensive side of the ball, tight end was the major point of focus.
The tight end position was addressed quickly as Miami acquired Julius Thomas in a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Though Thomas’ production noticeably dropped in Jacksonville, he is reunited with Adam Gase.
The Dolphins’ soon-to-be second-year head coach was Thomas’ offensive coordinator with the Denver Broncos in 2013 and 2014. During each of those campaigns, Thomas made the Pro Bowl.
Addressing the tight end position however, didn’t end with Thomas as the Dolphins brought back Anthony Fasano for a second stint. A member of Miami from 2008-12, Fasano caught 23 touchdown passes as a Dolphin and should serve as the perfect compliment to Thomas.
Whereas Thomas is more known for his athleticism and ability to enhance a passing game, Fasano also brings an added dimension as a blocker. The two will help fill the voids left by injury-prone Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims.
On the defensive side of the ball, Miami immediate addressed depth issues at defensive end. Though the Dolphins cut Mario Williams, they increased production with the acquisition of William Hayes and the re-signing of Andre Branch. The two combined for 10.5 sacks last season and will serve as short-term solutions to provide depth and pressure opposite Pro Bowler Cameron Wake.
At linebacker, the Dolphins used a first round tender to keep leading tackler Kiko Alonso, but they also found a huge help for him at the position in the form of Lawrence Timmons. The former Pittsburgh Steeler and NFL veteran will likely man the inside, moving Alonso outside. Timmons made the Pro Bowl in 2014 and has recorded at least 100 total tackles in each of the last five seasons.
In the secondary, the Dolphins did part ways with Isa Abdul-Quddus, but may have found his replacement in veteran Nate Allen. Over his two years with the Oakland Raiders, Allen saw a steep decline in production, but isn’t likely a huge step down from Abdul-Quddus.
The Dolphins have also reportedly agreed to a five-year extension with safety Reshad Jones. Jones was on his way to a second straight Pro Bowl appearance before a season-ending knee injury. Jones has never seemed to get the league-wide attention he deserves, but the Dolphins being willing to sign him to an extension following an injury shows that his hard work has not gone unnoticed.
Notable losses for the Dolphins aside from Williams include defensive tackle Earl Mitchell and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. Miami traded left tackle Branden Albert to the Jaguars and will likely move Laremy Tunsil from guard to fill that role. The Dolphins also added guard Ted Larsen, who started eight games for the Arizona Cardinals last season, to compete for time at the left guard position.
Perhaps the most notable of the offseason moves made so far was the one most talked-about heading into free agency. That was the status of wide receiver Kenny Stills. Stills led Miami with nine receiving touchdowns last season and served as the team’s vertical threat. Stills was re-signed for four years and $32 million.
Mike Ferguson is a sports writer and reporter for several publications and the Pro Football Spot lead writer for the Miami Dolphins. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson