The Miami Dolphins went 6-10, which is pretty much the opposite of the 10-6 they posted last season.
Let’s be honest, nothing went Miami’s way this season. But even if everything had gone their way, there would still be offseason changes. Because Miami is trying to build toward something it’s really not all that close to.
Here are our takes on Miami’s top offseason priorities. Since the offseason begins — right now.
- Keep Ryan Tannehill healthy. Last year, our top offseason priority was to “get Ryan Tannehill healthy.” At the time, it was unknown if Tannehill was definitely going to be able to bypass surgery and well, he did, but it did not end well. We may never know if Tannehill would not have sustained a season-ending ACL injury if he had had the surgery instead of choosing rehabilitation. At some point, Tannehill will be asked if he has any regrets about his decision. Last year, Tannehill was the NFL’s 12th-rated passer. This year, Jay Cutler was the NFL’s 23rd-rated passer. There are two or three wins in that discrepancy.
- Sign Jarvis Landry; consider shopping DeVante Parker. We are of the belief that this Landry deal is going to get done. Because Landry wants to be in South Florida. And the Dolphins want to keep him here. We also estimate the final landing spot will be a 4- or 5-year deal worth in the $13.5-to-$14.5 million annual range. So Tannehill will keep his favorite target. We’re not sure what Parker is worth on the open market and we realize Jay Ajayi brought back only a fourth-round pick. But we would consider moving Parker for a second round or high third-round pick, if some NFL team sees all the good in Parker and is willing to overlook the bad.
- Figure out any coaching staff changes. With the departure of Chris Foerster, Miami obviously needs a new offensive line coach. Would Adam Gase add a veteran presence to the offensive and/or defensive sides of the ball? Both are worthy of consideration. Each of Miami’s defensive position groups failed to live up to expectations at various times throughout the season, especially the secondary. It would not be shocking if Gase shook up a few positions on this coaching staff. Let’s be honest, at times, he openly questioned if the staff needed to explore different methods of teaching.
- Evaluate why there is an absence of discipline. Speaking of which. Miami had way too many penalties this season. And they had way too many penalties last season. And there were times that a few players seemed out of control on the field and on the sideline. This is a game of emotion. And Gase wants players who exude passion and commitment. But Gase must do a deep dive into why the team hasn’t played smarter football. Does he need smarter players? Does he need to tweak coaching methods? Does he need a few new coaches?
- Get Laremy Tunsil right. This one is a bit under-the-radar. But Miami really needs Tunsil to play like the high first-round draft choice he was — next season. Something seemed off about Tunsil all season. His transition to left tackle, was not smooth. Tunsil seemed a step slow. Coaches talked about how he needed to stay focused at practice. Tunsil talks about how he wants Gase to not worry about the left side of the line. But Miami sort of had to this season. Tunsil has all the tools to be a Pro Bowl tackle. He needs to find the right mindset, in preparation and during games (way too many pre-snap penalties), in order to maximize his worldly potential.
- Add a linebacker better than Lawrence Timmons. Our number two offseason priority for the Dolphins in 2017 was “Add two linebackers, at least one terror thumper.” In essence, the Dolphins are going to be adding a brand new one this offseason in middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who missed all of last season with a knee injury sustained on his first preseason snap. The Dolphins may have a developmental linebacker in Stephone Anthony worth exploring further. But they could really use a linebacker with speed and power, sturdy enough against the run but capable of also providing occasional coverage. Oh, and no, we don’t expect Timmons to return.
- Add a tight end better than Julius Thomas. We understand why it made sense to take a flier on Thomas. But he was washed. It was easy to see very early in camp that he lacked the explosiveness and the speed that made him special in Denver. Of course, Peyton Manning can make a lot of players look special. The Dolphins may have found a solid #2 tight end in A.J. Derby. But Gase could really, really use an explosive threat at tight end capable of attacking the seam and also emerging as a red zone threat. Oh, and no, we don’t expect Thomas to return.
- Add an upper-echelon guard or tackle. We totally understand that the Dolphins don’t want to spend too much money on their guards. And it’s possible Ted Larsen may be fine at one spot (perhaps right guard, his preference) next season. But it would behoove Miami to pay a little more attention (and dough) the guard spot opposite Larsen in 2018, if in fact Jesse Davis is the right tackle, with Ja’Wuan James moving on. If Davis and Larsen are the guards, and Miami thinks they can upgrade over James at a fraction of the cost, let’s see it happen.
- Add a complimentary back for Kenyan Drake. Someone like say, Jay Ajayi. We kid. In an ideal situation, Miami would add a back capable of bringing power to the offense in 2018. But if the compliment to Drake is someone not entirely unlike Drake, that’s OK, too. Gase is going to want another back to compliment Drake, even if Drake ends up with the most Miami carries next season. It’s uncertain if Damien Williams will return, but if not, another player like him, one who can catch passes on third downs (as Drake can as well) would provide Gase another valuable weapon.
- Re-sign Jupiter’s Cody Parkey. Oh, we could get into who will be the backup quarterback. Or how much longer Mike Pouncey and Cameron Wake will play (we fully expect them back in 2018). We could wonder if Miami can find one of those hybrid linebacker/cornerback/safety types to cover Rob Gronkowski next season. But instead, we will pound the proverbial table for Jupiter’s own, Cody Parkey. In all seriousness, he had one of the best kicking seasons in the NFL this season. And he even converted four onside kicks. Perhaps Miami can pay the man something in the range of $1 million to $1.4 million a season and we can all celebrate together at Square Grouper Tiki Bar.