It’s no secret that the Miami Dolphins have low expectations going into the 2018 season. Vegas is betting that Miami finishes with a 6-10 record; a disappointing repeat of 2017. A lot of the concern is stemming from the defense. After finishing 28th in points allowed and 16th in yards allowed last year, experts are expecting similar sub-par results from the defense in 2018. From the outside, it seems as if Miami hasn’t done much to improve their defense. The casual fan might even say the defense got worse (thanks to Suh’s departure). However, those that have been paying close attention will know that Miami is building something special. It may not look like it right now, but Miami has quietly put together a premier defense that will last for years to come.

Drafting has been an area of weakness in Miami for longer than most fans would care to admit. Too often the organization would draft the wrong players and eventually release the ones they got right. Years of poor drafting forced Miami to over-pay free agents to fill the holes left in their roster. This created a scarcity of homegrown players that left Miami without a true identity. With their backs against the wall, the organization realized it had to change its philosophy.

Rebuilding a team through the NFL draft is arguably the most common philosophy shared within the league, and lately, it seems the Dolphins have finally gotten the memo. The organization now recognizes that keeping their own drafted players should be their number one priority. No longer is Miami funneling money into big name free agents leaving them with little options financially. Instead, Miami has been signing depth players on friendly contracts. These friendly contracts have given the Dolphins solid depth, and more importantly, the ability to extend their own drafted players.

A perfect example of this is the recent extension of CB Bobby McCain. McCain was signed to a 4-year $27 million contract extension thanks to the money that was saved from the release of Ndamukong Suh. Releasing a player of Suh’s stature was a difficult decision, but it showed that Miami is now committed to its future rather than bloated contracts. The $27 million deal came at the perfect time too, as McCain would’ve been entering a contract year. If Miami waited until his rookie contract was up, they would’ve run the chance of having to pay him more, or possibly even losing him to free agency. The organization realized that now was the perfect time to pull the trigger if it was to get the most value from the deal.

While extending Bobby McCain was a solid move, it was only a piece of the puzzle when it comes to the construction of Miami’s young defensive squad. The Dolphins have utilized many draft picks on defense within the last few years of its current regime. Below is a glimpse some of these players followed by their ages and final years of their current contracts:

Minkah Fitzpatrick, 21 years old, under contract through 2021/22
Jerome Baker, 21, 2021
Charles Harris, 23, 2020/21
Raekwon McMillan, 22, 2020
Cordrea Tankersley, 24, 2020
Davon Godchaux, 23, 2020
Vincent Taylor, 24, 2020
Xavien Howard, 25, 2019
Bobby McCain, 24, 2022

Many of these players, such as Fitzpatrick and McMillan, were taken in the early rounds, and are expected to take on impactful roles as starters. Others, such as Godchaux and Tankersley, have pleasantly surprised the organization by playing early, often, and at a high level. The combination of these young players provides Miami with a promising defensive core that has the ability to last for years to come.

Since the majority of the defense is already under contract for the foreseeable future, the organization should have ample time to formulate a plan going forward. The main hope is that Miami continues its newly found philosophy of extending its own players. Should this hold true, the defense’s chemistry together would be unmatched. Right now, most people see an inexperienced, unheralded defense when they look at Miami. That will change in the near future. Soon, fans and analysts alike will be praising Miami for its construction of a long-lasting premier defense.