Philadelphia Eagles LB Mychal Kendricks could be key target for Miami Dolphins

Mychael Kendricks could solve an ongoing problem for the Dolphins. (Getty Images)

It’s a smart idea to take elements from a championship team, and a lot of pieces fit together if the Dolphins want to make a run at Philadelphia linebacker Mychal Kendricks.

Kendricks is coming off a strong season but figures to be a salary cap casualty after the Eagles re-signed Nigel Bradham to a five-year, $40 million deal Tuesday. That makes Kendricks a candidate to be released or traded.

Considering the Dolphins need linebacker help and have a great business relationship with Philadelphia, Kendricks is worth a long look. As of now, Miami’s top linebackers are Kiko Alonso coming off an uneven season and Raekwon McMillan coming off a torn ACL. Kendricks would round out that group much better than a bargain free agent signing.

While the Dolphins could wait to see if he hits the open market, they could secure him with a trade, and it’s hard to imagine it taking more than a late-round draft pick to get a deal done.

Kendricks, 27, is scheduled to carry a cap hit of $7.6 million this season and $8.6 million in 2019. He might very well be worth it considering how he played last year and how badly the Dolphins have struggled to find good linebackers.

The Eagles had the No. 1 run defense in the league last season, and Kendricks factored heavily in that. He had 73 tackles, two sacks and six pass break-ups. Pro Football Focus ranked him the ninth-best linebacker in the NFL.

It’s also worth noting that he’s rarely had any health issues. He’s missed 11 games in six seasons, and last year he played 59.6 percent of Philadelphia’s defensive snaps.

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2018 NFL season: Ranking all 32 teams’ shot at reaching Super Bowl LIII

Carson Wentz makes the Eagles a serious threat to repeat as champions. (Getty Images)

Nobody’s in better shape than the Philadelphia Eagles as the NFL shifts toward the upcoming season.

Coming off a Super Bowl win over the Patriots, Philadelphia will get MVP candidate Carson Wentz back from knee surgery and still has giant slayer Nick Foles under contract as a contingency. As good as the Eagles were during the playoffs, there’s an upgrade coming at the most important position.

Add that to a defense that was fourth in the league in yardage and points allowed and one of the strongest run games in the NFL, and it makes them the obvious favorite going into next season. The Eagles should be able to retain the majority of their core players, most of whom are already under contract, and there’s no reason to doubt them. They won’t be playing the underdog card this season.

With much to be settled in the seven months between now and opening weekend, here’s how all 32 teams stack up:

1. Philadelphia Eagles
Even after a 13-3 season and a championship, it doesn’t seem like this team has peaked yet. The Eagles go into 2018 on top.

2. New Orleans Saints
The Saints have limitless potential on offense with Drew Brees still playing among the best in the league, and some tweaks to the defense will make them a threat to Philadelphia.

3. New England Patriots
Things aren’t going quite perfectly in New England, but this remains by far the best team in the AFC.

4. Green Bay Packers
As long as Aaron Rodgers is their quarterback, the Packers are to be feared. They’ll win a minimum of 10 games if he plays all year, which is a nice starting point.

5. Atlanta Falcons
Going 10-6 and getting in the playoffs was a decent follow up to Atlanta’s Super Bowl appearance the year before. The defense was much better, and that’s promising.

6. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings allowed fewer points than any team in the league and have a surplus of quality quarterbacks.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers
This window looks closer to closing than New England’s. Le’Veon Bell might be on his way out, and Ben Roethlisberger turns 36 next month.

8. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams’ plus-162 point differential ranked behind only the Super Bowl participants, and everything about this team points upwardly.

9. Detroit Lions
New coach Matt Patricia inherits a team that finished one game out of the playoff field last season and has a proven quarterback in Matthew Stafford.

10. San Francisco 49ers
This is going to be a trendy playoff pick assuming San Francisco doesn’t hit any snags in re-signing Jimmy Garoppolo.

11. Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton is the best and worst thing about this team. When he’s on, he’s almost unbeatable, but his inconsistency killed Carolina last year.

12. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboy are good, but not good enough. Another underwhelming year probably spells the end for Jason Garrett.

13. Seattle Seahawks
The pass defense in Seattle is still one of the league’s best, and that’s going to make this team competitive.

14. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville was a nice story this year, but its division will be tougher with the Colts and Texans improving in 2018.

15. Los Angeles Chargers
After an 0-4 start, they went 9-3 with losses to playoff teams New England, Jacksonville and Kansas City.

16. Houston Texans
It’s hard to say what this team would’ve been if it hadn’t suffered injuries to Deshaun Watson (six starts), J.J. Watt (five) and others.

17. Miami Dolphins
If the Dolphins can be this good, maybe a nine-win team, it will be put them on the fringe of the playoff field. They’re sixth among AFC teams on this list.

18. Tennessee Titans
There’s a lot to like with the Titans, but too many question marks to be confident in them.

19. Washington Redskins
The Redskins will be better with Alex Smith at quarterback, but he doesn’t put them over the top.

20. Buffalo Bills
Everyone thought the Bills were tanking last year, and they stunned the league with a playoff berth. It’ll be equally surprising if they get back to the postseason.

21. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore needs to consider an extensive rebuild after going 22-26 the last three seasons and missing the playoffs each time.

22. Indianapolis Colts
Josh McDaniels looks like a good hire, but this team won’t be a winner unless Andrew Luck is fully back.

23. Kansas City Chiefs
Look for a rough first year with Patrick Mahomes taking over as the starting quarterback.

24. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders’ offense dropped off significantly last season, and their defense wasn’t particularly dependable anyway.

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis Winston has yet to prove he’s a franchise quarterback, and that remains Tampa Bay’s biggest problem.

26. Chicago Bears
Chicago’s defense is solid, but the offense is so awful that it doesn’t matter. Any of the teams from here on down have a chance to land the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft.

27. Cincinnati Bengals
Everything about this team is mediocre, and it seems more likely to slide than to make a big jump in 2018.

28. New York Giants
The Giants’ only decent win was an overtime escape at home against Kansas City. They were outscored by 142 points last year, and that won’t be easy to fix.

29. Denver Broncos
Unless the Broncos swoop in and sign Kirk Cousins, they’re going to be a wreck this season. Even if they get Cousins, they might not be a playoff team.

30. Arizona Cardinals
It’s a wonder the Cardinals managed to go 8-8. They give up a lot of points, they have no quarterback and they’ll have a new head coach next season.

31. New York Jets
The Jets can’t even tank well. They tried to bottom out last year, but went 5-11 and will pick sixth in the upcoming draft.

32. Cleveland Browns
After going 38-122 over the last decade, maybe the CFL would be a better option for the Browns.

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Super Bowl LII: TV ratings down, particularly in South Florida

Fewer eyes were on the Super Bowl this year than in recent history. (Getty Images)

The allure of former Dolphin Jay Ajayi playing in the Super Bowl and Tom Brady’s bid for a historic sixth ring wasn’t enough to captivate South Florida.

While Super Bowls are always among the most watched television programs of all-time, Sunday’s game between the Patriots and Eagles was the lowest-rated since Super Bowl XLIII between the Cardinals and Steelers. It had an average of 103.4 million viewers, down from 111.9 million for Patriots-Falcons last year.

It was a down year for the game in Miami, in particular. Of the 56 markets tracked, it ranked 55th with just 38.7 percent of television-owning homes tuned in for the Super Bowl, according to an NBC spokesman.

For comparison, Buffalo was the top market at 56.4 percent of homes. The other top viewerships outside of the participating teams and host city were No. 4 Pittsburgh (54.9 percent), No. 6 Norfolk, Va. (53.9) and New Orleans (53).

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Super Bowl LIII (53) odds: Dolphins well behind Patriots, Eagles

Could this be the Dolphins a year from now? Don’t bet on it. (Getty Images)

How big is the gap between the Dolphins and the two teams that just played in the Super Bowl? Enormous, according to Bovada’s odds for next season’s championship.

The online sportsbook opened its futures betting for Super Bowl LIII shortly after the Eagles beat New England for the title Sunday, and Miami is one of the biggest longshots in the league.

The Dolphins begin at 66-to-1 odds to break their 44-year championship drought next season, putting them even with Jets, Bills and Bengals. Only the Bears (5-11 last year) and Browns (0-16) are behind that group, checking in at 100-to-1.

Bovada’s odds forecast a Super Bowl LII matchup of New England (5-to-1) versus the Packers or Eagles (9-to-1). The Vikings and Steelers are nearby at 12-to-1, and four teams stand at 18-to-1: Falcons, Cowboys, Rams, Saints.

Several teams that were worse than the Dolphins in 2017 have better odds than them, including San Francisco (20-to-1), Indianapolis (33-to-1) and Denver (33-to-1).

Miami opened at 50-to-1 going into last season and missed the playoffs at 6-10.

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Super Bowl LII: Where does Dolphins’ drought rank after Eagles win?

The 1972 group was the last Dolphins team to win a Super Bowl. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

Every time the Dolphins celebrate their 1972 perfect season is a recognition of arguably the best team in NFL history, but it’s also a reminder of how long the franchise’s championship drought has lasted. Miami won it again the following year with a triumph in Super Bowl VII and hasn’t stood atop the football world since.

The Eagles’ 41-33 victory over New England in Super Bowl LII delivered the team’s first Lombardi Trophy and ended a 52-year wait in Philadelphia. The team did win the 1960 NFL championship, but it had been one of seven teams that have been around the entire Super Bowl era and failed to win one.

Miami is now sitting at 44 seasons without a Super Bowl win, which is the 12th-worst drought in the league, and hasn’t appeared in one since losing to San Francisco at the end of the 1984 season. The only five teams that have a longer run of failing to reach a title game are the Lions (60 years), Jets (49), Chiefs (48), Browns (45) and Vikings (41).

Here are the longest droughts without a Super Bowl win, now that Philadelphia is off this unfortunate list:

52 years: Cardinals, Lions, Titans, Chargers, Bills, Vikings, Falcons
50 years: Bengals
49 years: Browns, Jets
48 years: Chiefs
44 years: Dolphins
34 years: Raiders
32 years: Bears

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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.

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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).

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2018 NFL Draft: What picks do the Miami Dolphins have this year?

The Dolphins took Ted Ginn at No. 9 in 2007. (Getty Images)

[Updated March 15, 2018 after compensatory picks were awarded and trades involving Jarvis Landry, Robert Quinn and Daniel Kilgore]

As the Dolphins ramp up their preparation for the 2018 draft with the Senior Bowl coming up this month, they currently have eight picks.

Miami has its own pick in each round except for the fifth, which it sent to the Saints in September in exchange for linebacker Stephone Anthony. In addition to its six base selections, the team has a fourth rounder from the Jay Ajayi traded and an extra pick in the seventh from Tampa Bay.

When the Dolphins shipped Ajayi to the Eagles this season, they got a fourth-round pick that Philadelphia had previously acquired from the Vikings. The first 20 draft slots in each round are determined by regular-season record, and the remaining 12 are filled based on how far those teams go in the playoffs.

The seventh-round pick from the Buccaneers came from a trade last year when the teams swapped spots in the seventh round, with the Dolphins moving down from No. 223 to No. 237.

These selections can change if the team makes any trades between now and the draft, which is April 26-28. As of now, here is the Dolphins’ stock of 2018 draft picks:

First round: No. 11 overall
Second round: No. 42 overall
Third round: No. 73 overall
Fourth round: No. 123 overall, No. 131
Fifth round: No selection (traded to New Orleans for Stephone Anthony)
Sixth round: No. 209 overall
Seventh round: No. 227 overall, No. 229 overall

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Dolphins trading RB Jay Ajayi to Eagles for fourth-round draft pick

Jay Ajayi #23 of the Miami Dolphins looks on during the second quater against the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium on October 22, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

The Miami Dolphins are trading Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles for a fourth-round pick, ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported Tuesday morning.

Others confirmed the report, suggesting that the move is an attempt by head coach Adam Gase and the Miami front office to teach a lesson to the remaining players, particularly following the team’s 40-0 loss to the Baltimore Ravens last Thursday night.

More to come on this developing story.

Lieser: Jay Cutler shows he’s what the Miami Dolphins need this season

Jay Cutler showed pocket poise throughout his playing time against the Eagles. (AP)

PHILADELPHIA—For all the time he missed while playing pickup basketball at Vanderbilt and throwing with his kids in the backyard, Jay Cutler is right where the Dolphins need him to be as they hit the homestretch of the preseason.

He wasn’t great in Thursday’s game against the Eagles, but there were signs that he’s on track. The whole week, beginning with two joint practices, seems like it was the cram session Cutler needed as he tries to catch up by the opener. He completed 5 of 8 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown, exiting early in the second quarter with a 21-14 lead.

“I think this week sped things up a little bit because you got some more game-like situations practicing against them,” he said. “I was able to speed up my clock. Normally where i would be if–Well, there’s no real normal because I’ve never sat out this much football, so it’s kind of a learning curve for me.”

Cutler hit a few snags, including a lost fumble to end the opening drive, but coach Adam Gase saw enough in five drives to be satisfied with his quarterback’s grip on what’s still a relatively new situation. It’s easy to forget that Cutler’s been a Miami Dolphin for exactly 18 days.

During that time, though, he’s already established rapport with his passing targets. He got Julius Thomas more involved in practice this week and used him in the red zone for a one-yard touchdown pass.

He went long to DeVante Parker for the second week in a row, further clarifying that Parker’s a weapon he intends to use often. Late in the first quarter, as space was shrinking up front, Cutler launched one to Parker down the right sideline. Parker had maybe a half-step on cornerback Ronald Darby, made a nice adjustment to catch the ball, then regained his footing and made it 72 yards before the Eagles dragged him down at the two-yard line.

“I just kind of threw it out there,” Cutler said. “You just don’t want to overthrow him. That’s my biggest thing with a lot of these guys: Just don’t overthrow him, and give him a chance to play the ball.”

Cutler had a feel for Kenny Stills’ speed in Tuesday’s practice, and Stills got over the top of Philadelphia’s defense for what could’ve been a 43-yard touchdown at the start of the second quarter.

Cutler underthrew the ball instead of hitting Stills in stride in the end zone, a forgivable timing error in August, which allowed Darby to catch up to him in and commit pass interference.

“I think he was a little surprised he got down the field that fast,” Gase said. “Kenny got down the field pretty fast. He didn’t think he’d be that far down the field that fast.”

Cutler also found Jarvis Landry open in the middle of the field during an emergency just like Ryan Tannehill used to, connecting for 17 yards.

All that’s left is for him to sync up with Jay Ajayi, who could become a favorite target given Cutler’s frequent dump-offs to Matt Forte over the years in Chicago. Ajayi wasn’t very involved in the passing game, but rushed nine times for 53 yards and two touchdowns.

Most importantly, given the forecast for Miami’s offensive line right now, Cutler looked at ease behind an offensive line that comes with no guarantee of protection.

“It seems like his pocket presence is coming back pretty quick,” Gase said. “He made some nice step-ups and kinda sliding and finding some lanes. It was a step in the right direction. Last week he was still kinda of feeling his way out, but now I think he looks more comfortable.”

The Dolphins had four of their projected opening day starters in with Cutler, and the left guard spot remains to be determined. Mike Pouncey was at center for the first time since November and looked good, but there were issues elsewhere.

The tackles, two guys this team rarely worries about, each let a defensive end run free toward Cutler. Philadelphia’s Vinny Curry raced past Laremy Tunsil for the strip-sack that wrecked the opening possession. Ja’Wuan James is fighting through a shoulder injury, so that likely factored into his performance.

And considering the trouble Miami’s having trying to pick a left guard, it was a tense moment when right guard Jermon Bushrod left with an injury in the middle of the first quarter. He returned after missing one play and was pushed deep into the backfield on his first snap back.

Through all of it, Cutler kept his poise. The most convincing evidence came on back-to-back passes in the first quarter, starting on a third down when he stepped up to his right as James was getting beat and hit Stills for 15 yards.

The next play was the deep ball to Parker. Cutler released the ball almost immediately after he got the snap, mitigating any pressure that might have materialized.

Cutler will surely get sharper over the next two weeks, and he’ll need to be, but this was a clear indicator that he’s got a handle on what this job entails.

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