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

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