Joe Philbin exceeded expectations in his first season as an NFL head coach, and Ryan Tannehill’s arrival has changed the stakes a bit for the franchise. The latter’s solid rookie season has the Dolphins ascending — or at least no longer moving in place.
Now, though, it’s time to put him in a position to blossom, the league’s most plugged-in people say, by adding the type of players that would open things up for the entire offense.
With the NFL taking over Indianapolis this week for the league’s ever-expanding Scouting Combine, The Finsiders spoke to some of the top NFL insiders — ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and John Clayton and NFL Network’s Albert Breer and Ian Rapoport — to gauge the Dolphins’ national perception and find out where they may head next.
When you say “Dolphins” this offseason in NFL circles, the oft-discussed top trio of free-agent receivers are usually not too far behind. Chiefs reciever Dwayne Bowe, a Miami Norland graduate, is an intriguing player who produced in spite of some suspect quarterback play, though it’s becoming increasingly likely that he remains in Kansas City.
Purely from a football standpoint, Mike Wallace’s speed could be too much to pass up.
“He’s the type of guy who’s going to be able to threaten the deeper parts of the field and bring a new element that you don’t have on your offense,” Breer said. “The question is whether or not he can be reliable, and whether or not he’s going to bring it game after game after he gets big money – and he’s going to command big money out there.”
While Wallace may be a relative unknown, at least in terms of how he’d react to being a team’s undisputed first option, the Dolphins know another one of the top free-agent receivers quite well. Because Greg Jennings played under Joe Philbin while the latter was the Packers offensive coordinator, it’s easy to connect the dots from Green Bay to Miami. This connection, despite Jennings’ age and health concerns, could make him the “safe” pick for Miami.
That, of course, was the same logic that had Matt Flynn as a lock to be the Dolphins’ starting quarterback last season.
“If there’s one thing that the Dolphins know maybe better than anyone else is if you get a guy that’s familiar with your scheme, then he can come in and compete right away,” Rapoport said. “We saw that with Tannehill and Mike Sherman. Jennings and Joe Philbin – that’s a unique opportunity.”
The Dolphins wouldn’t have the cap space they do without a long list of their own players coming off the books. If one of the aforementioned receivers signs on, does that make Brian Hartline expendable? Maybe it only increases the desire to re-sign him. Jonathan Martin’s viability as a starting left tackle in 2013 could affect how the Dolphins approach negotiaitons with Jake Long.
Whom Miami decides to retain may say just as much about players that are still on the active roster as the player coming back.
“When you look at some of the decisions that they’re going to have to make, they’re going to be referendums on how well they’ve drafted guys behind the guys they already have at those positions,” Breer said
If ESPN’s Clayton had to prioritize, he would make a preemptive move, solidifying a strength before it has the chance to become a potential question mark.
“Randy Starks, I think, is a no brainer. He has to be re-signed,” Clayton said. “You can’t have that much transition on the defensive line, so I think something has to be done there.”
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.