One day after the Miami Dolphins were thrashed in a playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Daily Dolphin outlined what needed to be the “Top 10 Offseason Priorities” for a franchise that had exceeded expectations, but had a long way to go.
With training camp complete and only two preseason games to play, it seemed a good time to re-visit how Mike Tannenbaum, Chris Grier and Adam Gase have (or have not) addressed these specific concerns raised more than seven months ago:
- Get Ryan Tannehill healthy. If the Dolphins go off the rails and win only five or six games this season, it is likely the absence of Tannehill will be a critical factor. Tannehill is much-maligned, but underrated and underappreciated. That said, the decision for Tannehill to not have surgery to repair an ACL injury sustained last November has proven to be a costly mistake. It was a collaborative decision, but in the end it’s the player’s to make, and this could set the franchise back. Miami was fortunate that Jay Cutler was available at such a late date. But its entirely possible that Cutler’s presence may lead to no more wins than backup Matt Moore would have produced.
- Add two linebackers, at least one terror thumper. Tannebaum and the Dolphins executed this perfectly, adding veteran Lawrence Timmons from the Steelers and drafting Raekwon McMillan in the second round. Unfortunately, an extremely unlucky injury to McMillan on the first snap of his NFL career (not even on defense, but on special teams) has put a bright light back on the depth of the linebacking corps. While it seems Kiko Alonso and Timmons can handle the majority of snaps, adding another veteran linebacker, even if after the season opener, seems prudent.
- Re-sign Andre Branch and/or add youth to defensive end. Again, extremely well played by the Dolphins. Miami signed Branch to a lucrative deal (too sweet to be deemed club-friendly, but they know and trust the player) and drafted Charles Harris from Missouri in the first round. Harris has promise as a speed rusher tutored by Cam Wake, Branch and Jason Taylor. The Dolphins need all three to continue to show improvement against the run.
- Extend wide receiver Jarvis Landry. This has not happened and it would seem there are various reasons. The Dolphins have said there is not a connection between the lack of a Landry extension and an off-the-field investigation into a possible battery. But from an optics standpoint, logic suggests that would play out before any deal is consummated. The larger factor is likely finances. If Landry wants $14- or $15 million a season, the Dolphins likely flinch. At $12- or $13 million a season, talks would seem more likely to heat up. And Miami has the threat — if you can call it that — of a franchise tag, which may not be the worst solution for both sides.
- Re-sign Kenny Stills, but only at a fair price. This happened. At $8 million a year, the price was just right for Stills and the Dolphins. Coach Adam Gase loves Stills. We’ll see if quarterback Cutler loves Stills as much as Tannehill did. Tannehill supposedly can’t throw a deep ball. But it seems like he hit Stills in stride on bombs for more than a few touchdowns in 2016. Stills is not only one of the fastest Dolphins, he’s also done tons of behind-the-scenes volunteering in the South Florida community.
- Decide if Laremy Tunsil’s left tackle future begins in 2017. This decision was made and Branden Albert was traded to Jacksonville, where he decided he’s rather retire. Then he decided he wanted to play. So the Dolphins will lose the late-round draft choice they would have attained but this was really more about clearing space for Tunsil, who should have Pro Bowls in his future. The questions for Miami’s offensive line, of course, really center around Mike Pouncey’s health and the level of play at both guard positions.
- Consider extending Reshad Jones. At the age of 29, Jones landed a 5-year, $60 million contract. If Miami really needed to, it could escape after three or four years. But it was important to lock up Jones, who is one of the Dolphins who can change the course of any game with a big play. At times Jones may freelance, but he has a nose for the ball, a sense of what’s about to come, and he plays the game with a violent temperament. It is too easy to forget how good Jones was before a shoulder injury last season. His return in 2017 is an under-discussed factor.
- Have a plan in case Vance Joseph departs. Credit Gase and the organization for having just that. Linebacker coach Matt Burke was promoted to defensive coordinator after Joseph landed the head coaching gig in Denver. Perhaps Burke, an Ivy-educated man, will come up with a few new ways to slow opposing run offenses. The players respect how Burke teaches. And, of course, they feed off of his enthusiasm, as well.
- Decide if free agent Dion Sims is your starting tight end. The Bears offered Sims three years and $18 million and the Dolphins wished him well. Chicago could really move on from the deal after one year, but Sims would walk away with $6 million, which isn’t bad for a player whose strongest attribute is his blocking. The Dolphins gave up a late-round pick for Julius Thomas and the jury is still out. Anthony Fasano, an excellent blocker, was also added and MarQuies Gray also adds insurance at the position.
- Draft or sign a rising center and/or guard. The Dolphins signed free-agent guard Ted Larsen, but he’ll miss at least eight games with a biceps injury. Miami is banking of the health of center Mike Pouncey, because they did not add a center in the draft. The interior of Miami’s offensive line, frankly, is going to be a concern. The Dolphins believe Kraig Urbik and Anthony Steen are capable and that late-round draft choice Isaac Asiata has potential. But all those weapons Miami has on offense may be useless to Cutler if there is sustained pressure up the middle.
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