The 2014 Miami Dolphins have apparently finished the free agent shopping, turning the team's attention to the NFL draft, which will take place in the first week of May.
Here is a quick and easy breakdown of the Dolphins' active depth chart, which still needs to add more offensive linemen, and an inside linebacker. Based on what new GM Dennis Hickey accomplished in free agency those are the only glaring needs the Dolphins have left.
Everything else - quarterback, tailback, tight end/H-back, receiver, defensive linemen, and the secondary - can be addressed by taking the best available player approach in the draft.
The Dolphins need to get to 90 players by July, and will do so by signing more free agents, and adding rookies in May till 28 newcomers are competing in Davie.
This depth chart breaks down where the roster has a few holes, and projects what might come next.
Quarterback - Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore, Pat Devlin, Jordan Rodgers
Breakdown: The Dolphins would benefit from adding a young quarterback to compete for a backup role, if not push Tannehill for the starting stop down the line. It would be ideal for someone with upside to learn Bill Lazor's offense at the same pace as Tannehill, who has produced a 79.1 passer rating in his 32 NFL starts. The Dolphins will likely be in position to take one of the draft's top four quarterbacks - Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Derek Carr - in the first round, but it is more realistic that Miami addresses the position later in the draft because Hickey believes in encouraging competition. Tannehill hasn't had any real competition since David Garrard tore his knee on the eve of the 2012 exhibition opener. There are some talented youngsters - Jimmy Garoppolo, David Fales, Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd, who will be available later in the draft, and might be worth a third or fourth-round pick.
Split End WR - Brian Hartline (injured), Armon Binns (injured), Michael Rios
Flanker - Mike Wallace, Ryan Spadola, Kevin Cone
Slot receiver - Brandon Gibson (injured), Rishard Matthews
Breakdown: Three of Miami's front-line receivers - Hartline, Gibson and Binns - are coming back from knee injuries, and might not be healthy enough to participate in the team's offseason training program in April without limitations. The unit lacks size (Binns is the only frontline receiver is over 6-foot-2), and players who can contribute on special teams as gunners and returners. Wallace will be entering a make-or-break season because the Dolphins are done paying the guaranteed money on his five-year, $60 million contract after giving him $15 million in base salary this upcoming season. Wallace needs to play like a $12 million a year receiver in 2014 or it is possible his tenure in South Florida could be cut short Desean Jackson style. Miami needs to be concerned about Hartline, Gibson or Binns suffering a setback that depletes the team's deepest unit. this draft class is filled with quality receivers so it is possible Hickey might select one late.
LT - Branden Albert, Jason Weaver
LG - Dallas Thomas, David Arkin
C - Mike Pouncey, Sam Brenner
RG - Shelley Smith, Michael Ola
RT - Jason Fox, Nate Garner
Breakdown: Signing Albert addresses this unit's biggest weakness, but the Dolphins still need to find a pair of starting guards. Newcomer Shelley Smith will be a contender, and will likely be plugged in as the starting right guard. The Dolphins added former Hurricanes standout Jason Fox late in free agency, but will draft a starting right tackle early. Fox, Garner, Thomas, Arkin, Brenner and the draftees will compete for the remaining starting spot. The Dolphins need to get deeper and more athletic in this unit. The Dolphins typically carry eight offensive lineman on the 53 man roster, and two on the practice squad. Miami usually brings 15 offensive linemen to training camp, which means at least five more O-linemen need to be added. It is possible that Miami will sign a veteran or two after the draft.
TE - Charles Clay, Dion Sims, Michael Egnew, Kyle Miller
Breakdown: The tight ends and tailbacks all struggled protecting the quarterback last season, contributing to the 58 sacks the offense allowed. Sims needs to develop as an in-line blocker, and improve his play speed. Clay, who caught 69 passes for 759 yards and contributed a team-leading seven touchdowns, is playing on the final year of his rookie deal. Another big season could get him handsomely rewarded. Adding another veteran seam threat - like Jermichael Finley, or a top shelf rookie tight end - could help the Dolphins attack the middle of the field better. Egnew has sparingly contributed the past two seasons, and will likely struggle to make the 53-man roster again if he doesn't improve as a blocker.
RB - Knowshon Moreno, Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, Marcus Thigpen, Mike Gillislee, Cameron Marshall
FB - Emmanuel Ogbuehi
Breakdown: Adding Moreno this offseason provides the offense a veteran tailback who can run efficiently, pass block, and pass catch effectively. Moreno has averaged 4.1 yards per carry in his five previous seasons. This 2009 first-round pick has caught 157 passes for 1,401 yards during his NFL career, and he's scored 35 touchdowns, which breaks down to seven a season. That's far more than anything Miller, Thomas and Gillislee have accomplished collectively. His addition should enhance the Dolphins' running game, which averaged 4.1 yards per carry, and consistently failed at producing short yardage runs. But Hickey continues to workout out 2014 draftable tailbacks, which hints he's not done tinkering with the unit.
RDE - Olivier Vernon, Dion Jordan
DT - Jared Odrick, A.J. Francis, Isaako Aaitui
DT - Randy Starks, Earl Mitchell
LDE - Cameron Wake, Derrick Shelby
Breakdown: The Dolphins produced 42 sacks last season, which averages out to be 2.6 sacks a game. This unit should have done better than that, but Wake struggled with a knee injury most of the year, and Jordan, the team's 2013 first-round pick, was just learning how to play the position. However, the defensive front needs to be more stout against the run considering the Dolphins allowed 1,998 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns last season. Starks, Odrick and Jordan provide the unit versatility, but need more girth from the nose tackle spot. Mitchell is athletic for a 300-pounder, and might thrive in a 4-3 scheme. Francis, Aaitui and Shelby have each been training camp standouts from past years.
SLB - Koa Misi, Jonathan Freeny
MLB - Dannell Ellerbe, Jason Trusnik
WLB - Philip Wheeler, Jelani Jenkins
Breakdown: This unit is by far the weakest on the defense because none of the linebacker have exhibited the instincts needed to quickly diagnose a play, and the skills required to consistently shed a block. It would benefit the Dolphins to move Ellerbe to the weakside spot and have Wheeler compete with Misi for playing time as Miami's strong side linebacker. That might require the Dolphins to use its first-round pick on Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley. He's this draft's only sure thing at inside linebacker, but might be taken by the time Miami gets on the clock with pick No. 19. This unit's ability to cover tight ends and tailbacks is also a concern, but Jenkins could blossom in that role with extended playing time.
RCB - Cortland Finnegan, Jamar Taylor
LCB - Brent Grimes, Will Davis, Jalil Brown
Nickel CB - Jimmy Wilson, Michael Thomas
FS - Louis Delmas, Don Jones
SS - Reshad Jones, Jordan Kovacs
Breakdown: Cutting Dimitri Patterson and allowing Nolan Carroll to sign with the Eagles weakened the secondary. But signed Cortland Finnegan, who two years ago was viewed as one of the NFL's elites, should help. If Finnegan is healthy he'll likely earn a starting role on the boundary, or at the nickel cornerback spot. The Dolphins are expecting Taylor and Davis to blossom in their sophomore seasons, but the duo has plenty to learn. Depth at cornerback is also an issue considering Miami presently using two safeties - Wilson and Thomas - to man the nickel spot. Adding Delmas potentially upgrades the free safety spot, but he's struggled to stay healthy throughout his NFL career. The Dolphins would be wise to add another safety in the draft because Wilson is playing on the final year of his contract, Delmas was signed to a one-year deal, and Thomas, Jones and Kovacs are all fringe NFL players. This is a deep year for safeties in the 2014 draft and a few good ones (LSU's Craig Loston, FSU's Terrence Brooks, North Carolina State's Dontae Johnson, Vanderbilt's Kenny Lader, Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward, Minnesota's Brock Vereen) should be available on day three.
Punter - Brandon Fields
Kicker - Caleb Sturgis
Long Snapper - John Denney
Return Specialist - Marcus Thigpen
Breakdown: Sturgis struggled as a rookie, missing eight of his 34 field goal attempts (four of which came from 50-plus yards). The former Gators standout has the potentially to improve in his second season. Fields is coming off his first Pro Bowl season, and has been very reliable. Thigpen struggled in his second season as Miami's return specialist, which is why adding competition would be beneficial.
G.G.G.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun