Julius Thomas trade shifts Miami Dolphins’ offseason priorities

Julius Thomas will try to restart his career with the Dolphins. (Getty Images)

Julius Thomas will try to restart his career with the Dolphins. (Getty Images)

Now that the Dolphins have a proven pass-catching tight end in place, they can rearrange their list of pressing issues to address this offseason.

The arrival of Julius Thomas, who comes over from Jacksonville essentially in a swap for left tackle Branden Albert, gives Miami the threat it lacked at that position last year — at least the team hopes that’s the case. Thomas was a two-time Pro Bowl selection under Adam Gase in Denver, but struggled with the Jaguars the past two years.

Either way, the Dolphins go into the 2017 season with Thomas as their starting tight end. That makes linebacker the undisputed priority heading into free agency and the draft, followed by addressing the offensive line.

At linebacker, all that’s certain is Miami wants to bring back Kiko Alonso. He played middle last year and put up 114 tackles, two interceptions, four passes defensed and four fumble recoveries. Alonso is a restricted free agent and is highly unlikely to leave. There remains a question, though, of whether the Dolphins will play him inside or outside.

The other starters from last season were Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi. Jenkins is an unrestricted free agent and seemed to fall out favor with the coaching staff at times last year, and Misi missed most of the season with a neck injury. Misi has one season left on his deal, and there’s concern that he might not make it back to full capacity because of his neck.

Miami can start by looking at linebackers in free agency, which begins in a few weeks, and can take one with the No. 22 overall pick. Florida’s Jarrad Davis looks like someone they can get in that range.

Then comes the offensive line, where both guard spots are in play. Miami goes into the season with Laremy Tunsil at left tackle, a supposedly healthy Mike Pouncey at center and the resurgent Ja’Wuan James at right tackle. The left guard position is a total vacancy after Tunsil moved positions, and last year’s starting right guard, Jermon Bushrod, is an unknown. Bushrod hinted he was at least contemplating retirement, and it’s unclear whether the Dolphins will try to persuade him to re-sign for another year.

After that, Miami should look for a pass-rushing prospect who could one day replace Cameron Wake. Wake is signed through 2018. It’s also possible the team will need an immediate replacement for Andre Branch, who could leave in free agency.

Once those areas are solidified, the Dolphins shouldn’t forget about tight end. While Thomas looks more promising than anyone who was on last year’s roster, there is no guarantee he’ll get his career back on track. Miami should pick one up in the draft — this year’s class is loaded with them — and could find a hidden gem in the fifth round.

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