Here’s what Dolphins envy about each of NFL’s last 4 teams standing

Stefon Diggs and the Vikings are where the Dolphins want to be. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

When the NFL holds its version of the Final Four on Sunday with the Jaguars, Patriots, Vikings and Eagles, South Florida will be watching with a tinge of envy.

Each one of these four teams has managed to do something the Dolphins can’t figure out. For New England, the league’s gold standard for more than a decade, it’s far more than just one thing.

Here’s a look at one element that got each team to this point and why the Dolphins covet what they have:

New England’s stability at the top

Belichick’s been a fixture in New England since 2000. (Getty Images)

Imagine the difference in approach to roster building between Bill Belichick, who has been in charge of the Patriots since 2000 and knows he’ll have the job as long as he wants it, and everyone who’s been frantically trying to rebuild the Dolphins before they get fired. Fearlessness and long-term thinking have paid off tremendously for New England.

During Belichick’s run with the Patriots, Miami’s had six head coaches (not counting interim guys) and seven general managers. The new regimes are constantly trying to flush out the previous group’s personnel and hoping they can do it quickly enough to keep their jobs.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase is going into Year 3 of trying to get the roster the way he wants it following Joe Philbin’s failed stint as head coach. Owner Stephen Ross hopes he has the triumvirate of Gase, Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier in place for years to come, but there’s no guarantee of that, and it’ll be hard for him to remain patient if the team is bad again in 2018.

Jacksonville’s expensive (and awesome) defensive line

Calais Campbell might win Defensive Player of the Year. (Getty Images)

Here’s the right way to drop $40-ish million on a defensive line. The Jaguars were second in the NFL with 55 sacks, or one every 10.3 drop backs.

They paid out $44.1 million for this group, including a four-year, $60 million contract for Calais Campbell last offseason, and it’s been worth every penny. That line has made the entire defense better, and Jacksonville is arguably the toughest defense to pass against this season.

Miami wasn’t far behind in spending at $36.2 million, the fourth-most expensive d-line in the league, but managed just 30 sacks. The ageless Cameron Wake accounted for more than one-third of those. For the Dolphins to salvage this investment, which will likely be even pricier in 2018, they need a bounce-back season from Andre Branch and more sacks from first-round pick Charles Harris.

Philadelphia’s sturdiness at linebacker

Bradham (53) has been a great find for the Eagles. (Getty Images)

Linebacker has been a trouble spot for the Dolphins for a long time. At one point they were convinced Dannell Ellerbe would be a game-changer. Philadelphia uses him as a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency option.

The Eagles are going to be pretty good regardless of who they stick in the middle when they have Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham on the outside. Kendricks is a 2012 second-round pick they developed, and they got Bradham on the cheap when he didn’t pan out in Buffalo.

Those two combined for 161 tackles and three sacks this year, ranked in the top 17 at their position according to Pro Football Focus and were a big reason the Eagles were so good against the run this year. They gave up the fewest rushing yards in the NFL, and if that’s attributable to them having leads most of the season, they also were No. 6 in fewest yards allowed per attempt at 3.8.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, were middle of the pack in both categories and go into next year still searching for answers at linebacker. They’ve got Kiko Alonso, but they need to figure out if he fits better inside or outside. They’re optimistic about Raekwon McMillan, but he’s never played an NFL game. And there are many more questions beyond those.

Minnesota’s deftness with quarterbacks

Imagine having this guy instead of Jay Cutler this season. (Getty Images)

The Vikings drafted Teddy Bridgewater in the first round in 2014 and made him their starter, then lost him to injury and scrambled to keep things together by trading for Sam Bradford and signing Case Keenum. Bradford and Keenum have both posted passer ratings of 98 or higher over their time in Minnesota. That’s pretty good crisis management.

Compare that with what the Dolphins have done during the same amount of time. They lost Ryan Tannehill late in 2016 and turned to Matt Moore. They lost him again in training camp this season and pleaded with Jay Cutler to come out of retirement. Cutler and Moore are likely gone, and Miami goes into 2018 banking on Tannehill to snap back strongly from a knee injury. The current contingency is David Fales, a 27-year-old who has appeared in three games since being drafted in the sixth round in 2014.

Minnesota is 13th in yards passing, fourth in passer rating at 103.1 and has a 3.5:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio over the last two seasons. During that same span, the Dolphins are 21st in total yards by air, rank 18th in passer rating at 86.1 and stand at 1.4:1 in touchdowns versus picks.

[Pretty much every team has made a conference title game in the last 25 years, so why haven’t the Dolphins?]

[The 20 most exciting Dolphins plays ever]

[Dolphins connections on the Eagles, Vikings, Patriots and Jaguars]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

2018 NFL international series: Miami Dolphins not playing London game

No overseas trips for the Dolphins in 2018. (Getty Images)

There’s good news for the Dolphins today: They are in the clear when it comes to playing overseas next season.

The NFL announced three pairings for the 2018 London Games, and Miami is not on the slate. The league will stage Seahawks-Raiders, Eagles-Jaguars and Titans-Chargers in the United Kingdom next year.

The Dolphins fulfilled their obligation to play a home game in London as part of the arrangement that will bring Super Bowl LIV to South Florida, but face the possibility of being selected as a road team for an international game next season. With the three London games solidified, the only remaining slots are for the one game in Mexico.

There’s been nothing official on the Mexico game, but multiple media reports say it will be Rams versus Chiefs.

That means the Dolphins will play all 16 games in the United States next season, which will be a welcome change for the team after last year’s travel schedule. Including giving up a home game to play in London, Miami ventured the fourth-most miles in the league at 27,520.

The most brutal stretch came in Weeks 2-4, when the Dolphins went to Los Angeles, New York and London for consecutive games. Anytime the team plays more than one time zone away, it leaves early (typically Thursday) to acclimate.

This year, with no international games and a full home schedule, the itinerary is much more manageable. The farthest west the Dolphins will go is Houston, and their most distant game is at Minnesota. Their entire schedule will be played in the Eastern and Central Time Zone.

Click here to view the Dolphins’ full set of home and road opponents for 2018.

The Dolphins have played more game in London than any team but the Jaguars. They won beat the Raiders there in 2014, but lost to the Giants (2007), Jets (2015) and Saints (2017).

[Possible Dolphins 2018 NFL Draft target Baker Mayfield cleared for NFL Combine]

[What does Las Vegas think of the Dolphins’ chances in 2018?]

[Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry is headed to the Pro Bowl]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

ESPN’s Adam Schefter suggests Dolphins trade WR Jarvis Landry

Trade who now? (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

BALTIMORE—With the Dolphins pushing for a repeat trip to the playoffs, ESPN’s Adam Schefter suggested today they should trade their best offensive player for a draft pick.

In a list of seven trades he thinks make sense, Schefter proposed that Miami unload Jarvis Landry to Jacksonville for a second-round pick in the upcoming draft.

Landry, 24, leads the Dolphins in catches (45) and yards (365) this season. He’s also the only 100-reception receiver in team history.

The basis for any trade speculation involving Landry is his contract status. After he and the team never failed to agree on an extension before his deadline of the season opener, he is playing the final year of his rookie deal for $1.1 million.

Landry will become a free agent at the end of the season, bringing into question whether he’ll be back in 2018. The Dolphins’ options are to give him a new contract, franchise tag him (a one-year guaranteed contract worth the average of the top five salaries at that position, which was $15.7 million for a receiver this season) or let him walk.

[Dolphins “cutting corners” everywhere in Baltimore preparation]

[Trust Adam Gase on Dolphins QB decisions]

[Matt Moore brings entertainment, enthusiasm that Jay Cutler can’t match]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

Ex-Dolphin LT Branden Albert continues messy holdout in Jacksonville

The Dolphins averted a challenging situation by unloading Branden Albert. (Getty Images)

Branden Albert was the opposite of a headache during his three seasons with the Dolphins, but he’s causing some angst in Jacksonville.

Miami traded Albert after deciding it was time to move Laremy Tunsil from guard to his permanent home at left tackle, though coach Adam Gase said the organization initially gave some thought to keeping both players for another season, and Albert’s time with the Jaguars has been marked by a contract holdout. The latest report, via the Times-Union, is that Albert hasn’t spoken with coach Doug Marrone since mid-March.
Continue reading “Ex-Dolphin LT Branden Albert continues messy holdout in Jacksonville”

Report: Former Dolphin Branden Albert holding out in Jacksonville

Branden Albert is holding out in Jacksonville. (Getty Images)

The Dolphins might have averted a problem by trading left tackle Branden Albert to the Jaguars this offseason.

Not only did that move allow Miami to save money and slide Laremy Tunsil into his natural position, but it appears to have spared the team from dealing with a contract dispute. Albert did not report to voluntary workouts in Jacksonville today because he is holding out for a new contract, according to NFL Network.

He has two years and $18.5 million left on the deal he originally signed with Miami.

Albert, 32, was beloved in the Dolphins’ locker room the last few years but has dealt with various injuries recently. He played 35 of a possible 48 games with Miami and hasn’t started 15 in a season since 2011.

[Dolphins owner Stephen Ross will lobby for team to draft Michigan players, but…]

[Miami Dolphins did all they could to save Dion Jordan’s career]

[Dolphins think they need more cornerbacks]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

Miami Dolphins look to trade Branden Albert for Julius Thomas

Julius Thomas could be headed to the Dolphins. (Getty Images)
Julius Thomas could be headed to the Dolphins. (Getty Images)

The Dolphins‘ search for a playmaking tight end and a trade partner for departing left tackle Branden Albert could intersect in the next few weeks.

Multiple reports have linked Miami and Jacksonville in a proposed swap of Albert for tight end Julius Thomas, and a league source told The Post the teams are in conversations about the deal, but “nothing is finalized.”

Thomas has been a disappointment in Jacksonville, but made back-to-back Pro Bowls with Denver in 2013 and ’14. Dolphins coach Adam Gase was the Broncos’ offensive coordinator both of those seasons.

Over those two years, with Peyton Manning as his quarterback, Thomas totaled 108 catches, 1,277 yards and 24 touchdowns. In two seasons with the Jaguars, those stats dropped to 76 catches, 736 yards and nine scores.

Nonetheless, the Dolphins are desperate to add a dynamic pass catcher at tight end and there could be hope that Gase knows the optimal way to use him. The team record for touchdown catches by a tight end is seven, set by journeyman Anthony Fasano in 2008. Miami has a strong group of skill players headlined by Jarvis Landry and Jay Ajayi, but its best tight end last year was Dion Sims with 256 yards and four touchdowns on 26 receptions.

Thomas, who turns 29 this summer, has three years left on the deal he signed in 2015 and has salary cap hits of $8.3, $9.8 and $10.3 million over those seasons. Those figures are only partially guaranteed, however, and it’s possible Thomas could agree to a new deal with Miami.

No traded can be processed between the teams until March 9, leaving Miami and Jacksonville about three weeks to work out any details such as contract renegotiation and evaluating the players’ health.

Albert’s departure is a foregone conclusion, whether it comes by trade or being cut. Along with the moves the Dolphins made last week, unloading Albert gets them about $50 million under the cap. After three seasons with Miami, including a Pro Bowl appearance in 2015, he will be replaced by second-year player Laremy Tunsil moving from left guard into his spot.

[2017 NFL Mock Draft: See who the Dolphins end up with]

[TE Jeremy Sprinkle out for redemption after shoplifting during bowl game]

[Andre Carter joins Dolphins’ coaching staff]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.