Sunday, February 19, 2017

5 Offensive Players The Miami Dolphins Could Target In Free Agency

@TomLikeNFL's latest article for DolphinsTalk.com

The Miami Dolphins only have 2 picks inside the first four rounds (excluding compensatory picks). It has also been reported that Miami is looking to address the Defensive side of the ball in the Draft. Once LT Branden Albert is released (widely reported that he will be either cut or traded), the Dolphins will have $49.6m to address the holes on this current roster.
The Dolphins reached the play offs in 2016, however, that does not mean they have a play off-calibre roster. That success was largely down to a young coaching staff - managing to extract every bit of talent out of this team through a bend-but-don't break approach on Defense and an Offense that changed its focal point week-to-week. 

Miami will likely start the season with Laremy Tunsil sliding over to LT in his 2nd year, Mike Pouncey playing Center and Ja'Waun James playing at RT. This leaves two obvious holes at Left and Right Guard. It is also unclear whether Kenny Stills will be back - considering that the Dolphins will need to start locking up Jarvis Landry for the long term. The Miami Dolphins also have no game-changing, pass-catching TEs. The Dolphins do look secure at RB for the foreseeable future with Jay Ajayi and Kenyan Drake.

The Dolphins have a lot of holes to fill on Offence, but will be restricted by salary cap. This is because Miami's Front Seven needs a re-build, and their secondary could do with adding another playmaker. Below are five Offensive players, I believe the Miami Dolphins could target in Free Agency.

Tweet @TomLikeNFL with ideas for Defensive Players the Dolphins could target (next week's article).

Kevin Zeitler, Guard
Kevin Zeitler has played at a high level since entering the League as the 27th overall pick in 2012. Zeitler started every game at RG for the Bengals his rookie year and has only missed 9 games in 5 years (started all 16 games the past two seasons).

(Timothy T. Ludwig/ USA TODAY Sports)

Zeitler is a strong physical Guard, who also has the athleticism to pull and block in the second level on run plays. His skill set and tape will attract a lot of attention - and the Miami Dolphins might end up in a bidding war for this extremely talented young Guard. He was Pro Football Focus's (PFF) 7th best Guard this season (one place above T. J. Lang who is also on this list). 

Zeitler is a bull dozer in the run game and able to beat up Defensive Linemen in the trenches or pull into the second level and seek out Linebackers and Safeties. In pass protection, he uses his strength to go blow-for-blow with opposing interior Linemen. Dolphins fans might want to go back and watch Ndamukong Suh vs. Zeitler in Miami's Thursday Night game this year. The Bengals left their RG alone to handle Suh 1-on-1; something most teams fear doing. 

He will enter the season, 27 years old - with clearly his best years of football still ahead of him. If the Dolphins could land this extremely talented young Guard, Miami's Offensive Line would be instantly upgraded. The only problem is that NFL Guard's are now starting to be paid like 'very good' Offensive Tackles. Zeitler could set the Dolphins back as much as $9m per season - however, he's an extremely talented and young Guard who could be a key component of this Offensive Line for the next 5-6 years.

Ronald Leary, Guard
Ronald Leary is a physical and athletic beat you up Left Guard who was a key player in Ezekiel Elliot leading the NFL in rushing this season. Leary is an athletic Guard who is able to pull on stretch run plays or hang inside and exert his will on opposing interior Linemen.

(DallasCowboys.com)

Leary has struggled with injuries since entering the NFL undrafted in 2012 but could be a big part of Miami's makeover along its Offensive Line and help this unit get younger and more athletic. Leary is also sound in pass protection and uses his size and strength to stand up Defensive Linemen who try to bull rush him.

Leary would be a solid addition for the Dolphins, however, he is not the elite young Guard that Zeitler is. Leary would definitely improve this Dolphins line, and would likely command a more team friendly salary cap figure of around $5-6m. He will be 28 years old when the 2017 season starts and is another young free agent who could feature on this Dolphins O-Line for many years to come.

T. J. Lang, Guard
Despite only making his first Pro-Bowl this season, T. J. Lang has been playing at an extremely high level since cracking Green Bay's starting line up in 2011. Since then Lang has only missed 6 games in 6 seasons and has been arguably one the League's best Offensive Guards. Lang has played solely at Guard since 2013, but before this also played at RT.

(Jeffrey Brown/ Icon Sportswire)

While Lang is an excellent run blocker, it is in the passing game that he truly shines. PFF had Lang as their 2nd best Guard in pass protection this season. Lang routinely sees off speed rushes and power moves from interior Defensive Linemen and is a sound technician with his footwork and hands. 

Lang will be turn 30 during the 2017 season. While he does not have the upside in terms of youth that Zeitler and Leary possess - he is still one of the top 5 Guards in the NFL and could turn the Dolphins interior Offensive Line from a position of weakness, to a massive strength. Lang is likely to command a large contract like Zeitler and it may come down to whether the Dolphins favour youth or experience.

Martellus Bennett, Tight End
Martellus Bennett could be the mis-match, game changing Tight End that the Miami Dolphins have struggled to find. Bennett is a complete Tight End - an excellent run blocker and a pass catcher who can use either, his speed and route running to beat LBs, or his large frame to box out Safeties on jump balls.

(CBS Boston)

Bennett is a complete Tight End and could easily line up next to a Tackle and become a 6th Offensive Linemen, blocking for Jay Ajayi. Bennett could also put his 6'6", 275lbs frame to use in the red zone as a mismatch for Adam Gase to scheme for. Despite struggling with injuries last season, Bennett still managed to haul in 55 receptions for 701 yards and 7 TDs. Bennett could turn the Tight End position from a weakness to a clear strength for this Miami Dolphins Offense. With Head Coach Adam Gase scheming for Jay Ajayi, Kenyan Drake, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and possibly Bennett and Kenny Stills - surely someone will step up and make plays for the Dolphins on any given down...

Jack Doyle, Tight End
Before 2016, Doyle was preliminary known for his special teams play and blocking ability. Like Bennett, Doyle removes the need to bring in an additional Offensive Linemen in obvious blocking situations. Doyle is like a plough in run blocking, routinely driving back opposing defenders.

(Jim Brown/ USA TODAY Sports)

While not athletically gifted like other Tight Ends around the League, Doyle showcased his talent as a pass catching TE in 2016. In 14 starts he tallied up 59 receptions for 584 yards and 5 TDs. He also caught an impressive 78.7% of his 75 targets in 2016 (higher than anyone on the Dolphins with 20+ targets in 2016). Doyle could likely be subject to a bidding war, and the Dolphins may instead look to the draft - to secure the talents of a young Tight End. However, if available at the right price - Doyle could be a great asset for this young Dolphins Offense.

@TomLikeNFL

Friday, February 17, 2017

Florida Residents May Soon Be Able To Get Dan Marino License Plate


For those that live in the State of Florida you may have the option soon to have Dan Marino be on your liscense plate.  Boynton Beach Democrate Joe Abruzzo has filed a bill to have Dan Marino be a liscense plate tag in which all of the money from those who get the plate would go to the Dan Marino Foundation. The speciality liscense plate would cost $25 and it would look something like this possibly.

Salary Cap- what will it look like before March 9th

Image result for salary cap


As we noted yesterday, it was a VERY busy day for the Miami Dolphins.  With the moves of Mario Williams, Earl Mitchell and Efo coming off the books, the Dolphins currently are hovering at $42.42M according to overthecap.com.  Branden Albert is still on the books, and according to Armando Salguero, the Dolphins are looking to move Albert and his 10M salary in a trade.  A team has emerged in the Jacksonville Jaguars.  While nothing is close to materialized and at this point is speculation. Albert is still as good as gone, as the team and him both mutually agreed to the release. 

Now back to the Salary cap conversation.  The Dolphins still have more moves to do, and here is what to expect going forward:

Branden Albert - Traded or Released (7.2M in savings, 3.4M in dead money) Cap will go to $49.62M

Koa Misi- expect the Dolphins to Release him (4.2M savings, 578K in dead money) Cap up to $53.82M

Dion Jordan- definite release coming (3.26M in savings, 0 dead money) Cap up to $57.08M

Kraig Urbik- this release is my opinion, as Dolphins are trying to go younger up front (1.25M in savings, 125K dead money) Cap up to $58.33M

I would still expect some other moves to occur but that is what the cap will look like prior to March 1st.  We know the Dolphins are likely to extend both Jarvis Landry and Reshad Jones to longer term deals.  Depending on how things shake out, the Dolphins may have $35-45M in space in 2018 as well.  I believe they will be smart with spending.  But who will get the money from the Dolphins in free agency?  That article will follow once all the cuts and FA list is more finalized.  But expect the Dolphins to be major players this offseason, for the first time since 2014.

@ternisse13




Thursday, February 16, 2017

An Active Thursday In Dolphins Nation

Today wasn't your typical quiet Thursday for the Miami Dolphins organization as the team made a plethora of moves. Let's break them down.

--First move is the Dolphins announced they Cut Branden Albert...but wait, no they didn't cut him. FAKE NEWS (just kidding people it's a joke!) A report came out later in the afternoon stating the Dolphins now will not cut Albert as they are getting calls about teams wanting to trade for him. For Miami this is the best news they could have potentially gotten today. IF (big IF) this was the plan all along it is genius by Chris Grier and Mike Tannenbaum. IF they lucked into this then hey, great to be lucky sometimes! There are teams that are desperate for offensive tackles (Carolina and Seattle come to mind) that would probably part with a 5th or 6th round pick to get their hands on Branden Albert with no competition or having to fight for him. If you are Miami after the horrible trade they made to move up and draft Leonte Carroo last year you are wanting to add as many draft picks as possible to make up for the ones you gave away. Win-Win for Miami here.

And yes keeping Albert isn't an option. He is old, he is breaking down, and you are wasting (yes wasting) an elite talent like Laremy Tunsil in his prime years at guard. So if you want to keep Albert and have that opinion you don't understand NFL football and how to construct a roster for success.

--The Dolphins cut Mario Williams today in the least surprising move of all time. Mario Williams had a great (yes great) Week 1 game vs Seattle and then did absolutely nothing the remainder of the season. Mario blamed his 2015 poor performance on Rex Ryan and the Bills scheme, well in a totally different scheme, a scheme that was tailor made for him, he was an utter failure last season. I "like" Andre Branch but I am not in "love" with Andre Branch. If Miami re-signs him great if they let him walk I am fine with it. That is a different story, but Mario Williams is easily replaced by someone like Terrence Fede at 1/10th the cost.

--The most interesting move is Miami cut DT Earl Mitchell. Mitchell is an OK player, not great, not awful, but he wasn't worth his contract. In fact I would NOT be shocked to see Miami re-sign him in a few months at a reduced rate as I don't think there will be a big market for Earl in free agency.

--Last but not least Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald reported the Dolphins are looking to trade for a big-name CB. I have feelers out at this time to see if I can get any idea who that may be. Just Guessing (and I am just guessing here so don't go reporting DolphinsTalk.com is saying blah blah blah) the two names that came to mind off the bat are Joe Haden and Richard Sherman. Why you ask? The Browns HATE veterans, Haden is starting to become a guy with nagging injurie's constantly, and if the Browns want to trade with NE for Garoppolo they will want to acquire as many draft picks as possible to recoup anything they give up in that trade. The other name that came to mind (again just a flat out guess) is Richard Sherman. Seattle has needs in a lot of areas and if they could move him, take the cap hit now, and be out of his deal within a year they could re-load that roster. Yes Sherman is great but he has been running his mouth a lot of late making headlines off the field fighting with the league and Seattle drafts so well and has so much depth they could be ready to move on. And Sherman is nearing 30 which is the age where CB's start to slow down some.

So those are just 2 guesses but something to keep an eye on.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Dolphins to host K'Wuan Williams

 
 
As we continue the slow time of the NFL offseason, the Miami Dolphins are expected to host K'Wuan Williams who was recently released by the Cleveland Browns.  Willliams, a Free Safety, is only 25 years old but could not play in the 2016 NFL season due to an ankle injury.  In 2014-215 seasons, he racked up 77 combined tackles, 2 sacks and 10 passes defended.  This potential move may lead to a training camp body, but the Dolphins lack significant depth behind Isa and Reshad Jones, both coming off injuries.
 
We will keep you updated on Dolphinstalk.com for any news that comes. 
 
@ternisse13

Friday, February 10, 2017

Five Players the Miami Dolphins could target at No.22?

Areas of weakness heading into 2017
The obvious area of weakness for this Miami Dolphins team is at Linebacker, Guard and Tight End. The Dolphins could also do with adding a young talented edge rusher. The Dolphins massively overperformed in 2016 as they reached the Play Offs with a roster that was an 8-8 team at most. How did the Dolphins get to the Play Offs? Excellent coaching that managed to squeeze every bit of potential out of 2016's roster as a rookie Head Coach managed to win crucial games in Buffalo and New York in December, with a rookie QB... The Dolphins Defense also had clear deficiencies but Vance Joseph adopted a bend but don't break philosophy and was creative with his scheme. The Miami Dolphins were 29th in total yards conceded, but 18th in points allowed. 

Miami needs a Left Guard and Right Guard - assuming Albert is a cap casualty and the 'Fins slide Laremy Tunsil across to LT. The Dolphins are also without an obvious threat at Tight End as Jordan Cameron has struggled with concussions. Miami also has no clear starting Linebackers, unless Kiko Alonso is resigned (they should start him at OLB). Alonso was great filling in Inside, but his size and skill set are more suited to excel as an OLB.

Cameron Wake is 35 years old and sooner or later Miami will need to draft his heir apparent. If the team moves on from Andre Branch (if he costs too much to bring back) then the Dolphins could look to add a talented pass rusher. Miami could also do with adding a lock-down corner, but I believe they will wait and see how Byron Maxwell, Xavien Howard and Tony Lippett progress in 2017 - this could be a promising young trio. If the Dolphins do not retain WR Kenny Stills (again, money could be an issue) then a speedster and vertical threat could be appealing in the later rounds.


Draft Policy
The Dolphins clearly have needs all over the board, with some gaps much larger than others. That being said, I believe the Dolphins should pursue the tested formula of 'best player available' with the 22nd pick, (unless it's a Quarterback or Running Back the go for the second best). A lot can change between now and April 27th through free agency, yet the point remains that Miami has the fewest picks in the Draft (alongside the Texans) with a measly FIVE picks. Executive VP of Football Operations, Mike Tannebaum and General Manager Chris Grier are going to have to hit on every one of their picks as they look to build a competitive roster for Adam Gase and this young coaching staff to work with.

Options at No.22
While I would LOVE Miami to get ILB Reuben Foster from Alabama at no.22 or for Derek Barnett, the DE out of Tennessee to be available at 22, sadly I don't think that will be the case. If a Laremy Tunsil-type situation occurs again then the Dolphins might just be getting help from the Kremlin/ Russia... The following are five players who the Dolphins could target with the 22nd pick. 
N.B. The Miami Dolphins only have two picks within the first four rounds - they must NAIL the 22nd pick. 


Solomon Thomas, DE - Stanford
Solomon Thomas is a name that I expect to rise between now and April. The Stanford standout had an excellent 2016 season and could be moving up draft boards as teams review the tape from the previous college season. Some scouts argue that Thomas is somewhat undersized to be an elite 4-3 DE at 6 foot 3, 273lbs - however, Miami's own Cameron Wake is 6 foot 3, 263lbs. Thomas was extremely productive in 2016, logging 62 tackles, 8.0 sacks, 15.0 Tackles for a Loss (TFL), 1 Forced Fumble (FF) and 7 QB Hurries.

(GoStanford.com)

Thomas combines quickness and strength to penetrate into the backfield and disrupt plays behind the line of scrimmage. He is quick enough to get quickly into the backfield and blow up plays, while strong enough to anchor at the point of attack. Thomas combines his long arms and powerful punch to gain inside leverage on Tackles and Guards as he is able to rip past Offensive Linemen and into the backfield. Thomas has the strength to be able to line up at either DE or DT and bull rush interior Linemen or line up in 5-technique and use explosive speed to shoot into the backfield. If Thomas runs a low to mid 4.6 at the Combine - which he is capable of - sadly for the Miami Dolphins, he will not be available when pick 22 rolls around.

Thomas would an excellent young pass rusher to line up opposite Cameron Wake in 2017. More importantly, Thomas could learn under Wake and Suh and present a long-term replacement option when Wake eventually hangs his cleats up. Thomas has a high motor and is able to quickly shut down runs to the outside. Coming out of Stanford, Thomas should be able to pick up the play book quickly and has impressed scouts with his maturity, character and work ethic. 


O. J. Howard, TE - Alabama
O. J. Howard is the consensus, best Tight End prospect in this years Draft. He also seems to be the name most heavily associated with the Dolphins 2 months away from the Draft. Howard is a big bodied, athletic Tight End who could be a mismatch in the NFL. He would burn Linebackers in coverage and box out Safeties on jump balls.

(AP Photo)

Howard turned heads at the Senior Bowl as he dominated as both a run-blocker and route running Tight End. At 6 foot 5, 249lbs and an estimated 40 time of 4.6 seconds (Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce quick), Howard could develop into a true mismatch in the NFL and an excellent Red Zone threat. He was under-utilized in the passing game in Alabama, hence his numbers do not jump off the screen. Howard proved he can be a playmaker as he was named Offensive MVP of Alabama's National Championship Win over Clemson in the season before last. In that game, he had five receptions for 208 yards and 2 TDs. 

O. J. Howard would excel in Adam Gase's Offense as Gase utilizes TEs in the Red Zone. In Denver, Julius Thomas had back-to-back 12 TD campaigns; in Chicago Zach Miller led the team with 5 TDs; in Miami, Dion Sims developed from a primarily run-blocking TE to post 4 TDs this past season. Howard could develop into Ryan Tannehill's ultimate check down target as he has a knack for sitting down in soft spots of zone coverage. Alternatively, he could develop into a big play receiver on a seam route if he was lined up against a Linebacker. If Howard is available at 22, alongside others on this list - you have to think that Adam Gase would be banging the table to get himself an explosive play maker.


Marlon Humphrey, CB - Alabama
Humphrey's availability will depend on how the Cornerbacks shake up on draft day. Humprey has the potential to easily slide into the top-15 or fall to Miami at 22. His draft stock all depends on where Florida's Jalen Tabor, Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore or Florida's Quincy Wilson end up getting taken. All three are over 6 foot, like Humphrey but in the end it could down to personal preference and how Scouts and Front Office officials judge their respective talents.

(Cedric Mason/ Touchdown Alabama Magazine)

Humphrey is a long physical corner who boasts excellent size, speed and athleticism. He is sticky in coverage and his speed allows him to stay with receivers down the field. His size and competitiveness means he is not afraid to get involved in run support. Humphrey has shown he is able to fight off blocks and square his shoulders, actively getting involved in run support during his time in Tuscaloosa. Humphrey's logged 5 INTs and 16 Passes Broken up in his 2 years as starter, proving he can be productive. 

The one knock is that he does not play the ball well. Despite often remaining stride for stride with receivers down the field, he is unable to locate the football and thus surrenders big catches. I believe this is something that is coach-able in the NFL. His physical skill set and production make him an enticing prospect, and one that could mark the ending of Miami's two year re-build of their secondary. Humphrey, Howard Maxwell, Lippet with Reshad Jones and IAQ at Safety - that's a young play making secondary right there! 


Jarrad Davis, OLB - Florida
The Miami Dolphins need a total rebuild at Linebacker. Kiko Alonso was a nice addition via trade, but was forced to play out of position (Inside) last season. Miami can go one of two ways at Linebacker. Do they want to build around big physical thumpers who are also athletic and able to bully opposing Offensive Lines, like the New England Patriots. Or do they want to go the Atlanta Falcons route, and build a unit composed of sprinters who are ultra-athletic and built to shut down opponents passing games. 

(David Bowie/ GatorCountry.com)

Davis is built like an ideal OLB in a 4-3 scheme. He is 6 foot 2, 230lbs and should run a low 4.7 - 40 time. Davis is a senior and played in 12 games as a true freshman. He has seen plenty of football and is an intelligent Linebacker with above average instincts. Despite taking a slight step back in 2016, compared to 2015 - the tape speaks for itself.

In 2015, Davis had 98 total tackles, 11 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 7 QB hurries, broke up 4 passes and had 1 INT. In 2016, he had only 60 tackles, 6 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 5 QB hurries and broke up 4 passes - however, he played in only 9 games. Davis has the acceleration, flat line speed and agility to chase down opponents all over the field - whether closing down runs to the outside, coming up in run support or covering TEs.  Davis' only problem is he sometimes struggles to break free of blockers, but he has all the athletic tools that Defensive Co-Ordinators want in an OLB. With some coaching, Davis has the potential to become a Pro-Bowl caliber player in the NFL. With Alonso and Davis at OLB, the Dolphins could get a thumper to play Inside in Free Agency and be set at Linebacker for the foreseeable future.


Zach Cunningham, ILB - Vanderbilt
Zach Cunningham could be the true playmaking Inside Linebacker, that the Miami Dolphins have failed to find since Zach Thomas left following the 2007 season. Cunningham is a name that is flying under the radar, partly due to his Vanderbilt Commodores performing poorly in the SEC West from 2014 through to this season. 

(Frederick Breedon/ Getty Images)

The first thing that stands out about Cunningham is his speed and and physicality. He is an ILB who is able to beat blocks and disrupt the opponents run game. He can also line up against TEs or pick up RBs out of the backfield as he displays his athleticism and range in coverage. Cunningham has been extremely productive on a poor Commodores team. The past two seasons he has played in 25 games and amassed 228 Tackles, 33 TFL, 4.5 Sacks, 6 Passes Broken Up, 6 Forced Fumbles, 1 Kick/ Punt Blocked.

Cunningham is an intelligent Linebacker with natural instincts and a long frame which should facilitate him to bulk and add further strength. At 6 foot 4, 230lbs -  he clearly has room to add weight and become a run stuffer for this Dolphins Defense. While some may pin him as an 4-3 OLB at the NFL level, he has all the traits needed to be a consistent Pro-Bowl caliber ILB for many years to come. While Cunningham has flew under the radar the past 3 years in Vanderbilt - he should get plenty of attention over the coming months and is likely to be available when the Dolphins pick at no.22.


A lot can change between now and the Draft. We are yet to have the Combine where players will certainly move up and down Big Boards based on measurable and performances. The Dolphins have clear needs outlined above, however, how the Dolphins perform in free agency may dictate what directions the Dolphins go with the 22nd pick. The Dolphins went Offense in the 1st round in 2016, 2015, 2014, 2012 and 2011. The Dolphins only went Defense in 2013 and 2010 (without success it must be added). The Miami Dolphins clearly have plenty to mull over. 

@TomLikeNFL

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

DolphinsTalk.com AUDIO BLAST For Feb 6th

DolphinsTalk.com Audio Blast for February 6th. In this 10 minute audio we cover Jason Taylor making the Hall of Fame, Super Bowl Recap, and we talk about Dolphins Free Agency as we are one month away.