Loads of important free-agent decisions loom for Dolphins

Kenny Stills went from Week 1 goat to arguably the team's best deep threat. (Getty Images)

Kenny Stills went from Week 1 goat to arguably the team’s best deep threat. (Getty Images)

With Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Miami Dolphins began an offseason that will see them forced to make decisions on whether to retain a veritable bunch of free agents.

While Miami will undoubtedly look outside its roster to make some personnel moves to improve upon current weaknesses, they will also need to lock up some of their own free agents in hopes that they will improve upon their 2016 outputs.

Here’s a look at Miami’s 2017 free agents and their chances of re-signing with the team:

Jordan Cameron, TE

It’s hard to envision a scenario that affords Cameron another contract in Miami. The veteran tight end has been plagued by a string a concussions that severely limited his time on the field. Cameron expressed that he would consider retirement at the end of the year, but even if he chooses to continue playing, it will likely be with another franchise.

Dion Jordan, DE

After a series of substance-abuse suspensions, the Dolphins have kept the 26-year-old off of the field and will all but certainly move on from Jordan during the offseason. The former third overall pick was left on the non-football injury list in 2016 and has been mostly a non-factor during his tenure in Miami.

Andre Branch, DE

It is possible that Miami brings back the 27-year-old defensive end, especially considering his 27-tackle, 5.5-sack season. Branch provided solid depth at the defensive end position working opposite of Cam Wake and stepping up amid an underwhelming season from fellow defensive end Mario Williams.

Jermon Bushrod, G

Bushrod’s future with Miami, and the game of football, is uncertain following Sunday’s loss. The 32-year-old guard who dealt with several injuries expressed his uncertainty over whether he will retire, but made it clear that he would like to stay in Miami if he continues playing.

“There ain’t too many places I want to go. I’m not interested in moving, so if it happens it happens,” Bushrod told the Palm Beach Post. “If not, we’ll see what the future holds, but I’m just proud of the way these guys fought.”

John Denney, LS

Denney has been with the Dolphins for 12 seasons and may be their most underrated player — simply because of his job description. Despite the lack of praise, Denney should continue to find a home in South Florida.

Spencer Paysinger, OLB

One of the areas that Miami will likely attack in free agency and/or the draft is the linebacker position, making it harder to predict what happens with Paysinger. The 28-year-old outside linebacker had a respectable 37 tackles this season and could be brought back for depth. If Miami upgrades the position heavily, Paysinger may find himself the odd man out, though he has seemingly done enough to warrant a return.

Donald Butler, ILB

Butler had 17 tackles this season for Miami but is unlikely to return next season. Miami appears willing to move on from the 28-year-old as part of their efforts to improve the linebacker position.

T.J. Yates, QB

Used as an emergency quarterback following starter Ryan Tannehill’s injury, Yates is not expected to return next year. With Tannehill and backup Matt Moore under contract, Brandon Doughty seems poised to grab the third spot on the QB depth chart.

Michael Thomas, FS

Coming off a 27-tackle, one-sack season in 2016, it would appear that Miami will look to keep the safety for at least another season. Thomas saw a decrease in production after 57 tackles the season before, but he was still effective in his eight starts this season. Expect the Dolphins to look to keep Thomas, who won the 2016 “Good Guy Award” from the local media and serves as a special-teams captain.

Dominique Jones, TE

Jones made seven catches this season, including one for a touchdown, but will likely be a roster casualty as Miami looks to add to the tight end position. The signing of a veteran or an incoming rookie from the 2017 draft appear likely to occupy his roster spot.

Bacarri Rambo, SS

Rambo struggled toward the end of the season, but he posted an interception and 25 tackles in his nine games for Miami. His future with the team remains unclear considering fellow defensive backs Byron Maxwell, Reshad Jones, Isa Abdul-Quddus, Tony Lippett, Xavien Howard and Bobby McCain are all under contract for next season.

Jelani Jenkins, OLB

It appears unlikely that Jenkins will remain with the team this offseason. Jenkins told the Palm Beach Post that he “wasn’t sure” whether Miami was interested in bringing him back next season. The former Florida Gator missed seven games due to injury this season, but still managed to finish the year with a respectable 31 tackles.

Dion Sims, TE

Miami will look to keep Sims this offseason, though he may not be the starter upon his return. The 25-year-old caught 26 passes for 256 yards and four touchdowns, but if Miami adds a veteran tight end in free agency, he may be relegated to a backup role.

Kenny Stills, WR

All indications are that Miami will do everything it can to retain Stills, who caught a career-high nine touchdowns in 2016. Stills made 42 catches for 726 yards and proved himself to be a reliable and important piece of the Dolphins offense. After a sizable leap in production, Stills would have the attention of several teams on the open market, so Miami will need to be aggressive in its pursuit of the 24-year-old receiver to keep him.

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