Miami’s run defense was awful last year, and upgrading the linebacker corps was a key objective this offseason. The challenge part for the Dolphins was finding a way to make major upgrades without wrecking themselves financially.
Problem solved: Former Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal this afternoon.
Timmons, almost 31, most likely fits as a middle linebacker in Miami, where the team has already been talking about Kiko Alonso shifting to outside linebacker. That gives the Dolphins two rock solid starters for the upcoming season.
“We’ve got to make sure we do a good job with our linebackers,” general manager Chris Grier said last week when asked about Miami’s shaky run defense. “We’ve got to get some more guys to help Kiko out.”
While Dont’a Hightower had to be enticing for Miami, the team has vowed to take a new approach to free agency that does not include throwing massive offers at the top free agents like previous administrations did. Hightower could end up getting double what the Dolphins are paying Timmons.
Timmons, 6-foot-1, 234 pounds, fits much of the organization’s criteria at the position. He is an every-down linebacker who played 91 percent of the snaps last year, and shift outside if needed.
He spent 10 years with the Steelers after they drafted him 15th overall out of Florida State. He made the Pro Bowl in 2014 and posted 114 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions last year.
As for the other linebacker spots, Alonso is a near-lock to return after Miami placed a first-round tender on him Thursday. The two sides are continuing to negotiate a long-term deal. The tender maintains Alonso’s status as a restricted free agent and assures the Dolphins of being able to match any offer that comes his way.
Alonso was Miami’s top linebacker with 114 tackles, four fumble recoveries and two interceptions while playing 91 percent of the defensive snaps in his best season as a pro. He played middle linebacker most of the season, but the Dolphins have said all along he could play outside if they acquired a meaningful inside linebacker. Timmons certainly qualifies as that.
Miami opened last season with Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins as its starting outside linebackers, but neither made it through the season healthy. Misi has yet to be cleared for a return from his neck injury, and the Dolphins are likely to move on from Jenkins.
Mike Hull and Neville Hewitt, backups who played every game and combined for six starts, are the only linebackers Miami has under contract for the upcoming season. Alonso and Reilly can be brought back relatively easy as restricted free agents, and Jenkins, Donald Butler and Spencer Paysinger are unrestricted.
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