The offseason has begun picking up steam, as the NFL combine is taking place in Indianapolis, Indiana. While the combine serves as place for evaluating draft talent, it also serves as a place for coaches and personnel to settle down and discuss the direction a team will go in the offseason, in regards to not only the NFL Draft, but free agency as well. All the talk now may be about the prospective college players, but it’ll soon turn to the current pros out of contract, as the NFL free agent market is poised to open in just a little over two weeks from now (March 11th).
With that in mind, Dolphins.com spoke to two NFL insiders, ESPN NFL Insider John Clayton and NFL Network Insider Albert Breer, who gave their takes on what the offseason could hold in store for the Miami Dolphins.
Obviously the Fins offensive line is the place full of the most questions after the 2013 season, so it’s not surprising that ESPN’s Clayton believes that the trenches are where Miami should start their offseason spending.
“I think the big thing is trying to work on the offensive line. I think it’s pretty evident that now there’s going to be a lot of change there,” said Clayton. “Now despite the talent that was on the offensive line, Ryan Tannehill was hit way too many times last year, and if they can get better protection and a better running game, then I think their record could turn out much, much better.”
Breer agrees, and believes that the Dolphins could look at a guy they were rumored to be acquiring during last year’s NFL draft to be the anchor of their wall of protection for Ryan Tannehill in Kansas City Chiefs tackle Branden Albert.
“You start on the offensive line and work your way out. It’s a team that really do have a fair amount of guys that are in their prime, 25, 26, 27 years old, but I think we saw last year what deficiencies on the offensive line can do to a team,” said Breer. “I think it’s certainly an area the Dolphins look at right away. Maybe they go back, and go and look at a Branden Albert, who they made a run at last year.”
Now since the Dolphins can pretty much go in any direction, as they could possibly have as many as four new starting offensive lineman, the team will have to have a flexible plan in regards to picking lineman available to them. Breer says they cannot just spend big at every position and hope it all shakes out right.
“You can’t make a huge free agent splash at every offensive line position. It just doesn’t work economically that way. Generally teams will sink a lot of money in their left tackle, so maybe that’s where they make the splash,” said Breer. “The thing about the guard position is that its generally guys that get drafted that you can plug and play pretty quickly coming out of college, so my guess is that you see the guard position taken care of through the draft.”
Another position that many believe that the Dolphins will address this season is that of running back, as the team struggled mightily in some games running the football, and had trouble in short yardage situations as well. John Clayton believes that there’s a player out there that could help the Dolphins that may be flying under the radar at that position.
“If you’re looking for running backs, it’s pretty much a select market, that the Dolphins can kind of pick and choose and take the type of back that they want,” said Clayton. “There is a guy like a Darren McFadden, a guy with great speed, at a very good price so he might be one of the guys that can come in there.”
It’ll definitely be a buyers market, with guys like Ben Tate, Maurice Jones-Drew, Knowshon Moreno, and McFadden available to teams, at a position that is extremely deep all around the league. But all of the Fins additions won’t be on the offensive ball.
They have several key defensive starters that will be free agents, including stud defensive tackles Paul Soliai and Randy Starks. Albert Breer believes that the two players will have a market, and that the Dolphins will have competition for retaining the services of the two given the direction of the league at the moment.
“I think Soliai and Starks will have a market. What’s interesting about it is that you look at the way the Seattle Seahawks won; it’s with guys that can play different positions on the line. Starks can do some of that. And they win with big space eaters, guys like Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant and obviously Paul Soliai fits into that category,” said Breer. “So I think they’re going to be teams out there that are already okay on the defensive line that are going to make runs at big name defensive lineman. I think for the defensive lineman, this year, based on what Seattle did and based on this being a copycat league that you could have a robust market for defensive lineman.”
Of course Miami may not be able to retain all the players they would like to, but if they do miss out on any of their offseason free agency targets, both insiders believe that have options to improve in this year’s draft. Now why is that? It’s because that this draft is incredibly deep at almost every single position imaginable.
“I tell you this, I’ve talked to a couple general managers who told me that about 10-12 players in this year’s draft are better than any player in last year’s draft,” said Breer. “It’s pretty incredible when you consider that kind of depth.”
“This is a draft of riches, so the most important thing is to get a good draft,” said Clayton. “Then you augment everything with a few free agent signings whether it’s going to be an offensive lineman, whether it’s going to be a running back, and that could be very good for this team.”
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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.