In part 2 of my 3-part series, it is time to take a look at what the Dolphins can do on the defensive side of the ball this off-season. Cap space carries over from the offensive side of the ball at 56.02M in projected space after all moves, I listed in part 1. Here are more moves that could be expected as we near the beginning of the new league year:
Robert Quinn- Cap Hit 12.93M– This gets interesting. I like Quinn, but not at his cap hit. He has 6.5 sacks this season on a unit that vastly underperformed. I can see the Dolphins offering an extension and spreading out some money to lower his cap hit. I also can see the Dolphins saying goodbye, but after giving up a draft pick last season for him, I think Quinn will be back, but at a lower cap hit. Projection: Quinn will be given a 2 year extension, spreading out some of the cap, albeit small). Lets say he is on the books for 9M for 2019 (just a guess).
Andre Branch- Cap Hit 9.00M– Branch has 2 sacks in 2018. This has been a very underproductive group and Branch has been apart of that. I can’t see the Dolphins bringing him back at his cap hit, and its just flat out time to move on. Projection: Branch will be released after signing an extension after the 2016 season. The move will save the Dolphins 7M on the cap.
These moves will leave Quinn and Charles Harris at DE. The Dolphins will be desperately trying to fill need at this spot, with the likelihood of Cam Wake seeing his final days as a Dolphin. Akeem Spence, Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor will start in mini camp as the teams DT. I expect the Dolphins will address this position in FA and draft. The run defense and pass rush have been missing for the last 3 years, time to get it fixed.
(Projected Cap Space after these moves is $66.96M)
Kiko Alonso- Cap Hit 8.27M– Kiko has been by far the best LB on this team for the past 3 seasons. However, even with his production still good (tackles, forced fumbles, int’s), Kiko is still a huge liability in the passing game and TE’s have been crushing him for the past 2 years. This is a move that may not be friendly to many, but I can see Kiko being released and saving the 6+M. The team may approach him about a restructure to his deal to save this season and keep him on the roster. Projection: Kiko will be asked to restructure his deal and may choose to do so. However, for the sake of this article, I will assume he says no and is shown the door.
Jerome Baker, Raekwon McMillan and Chase Allen will be the LB on this roster prior to FA, the Dolphins will be heavily invested in finding run stuffing line backers to fix the core issue with this team. Obviously, a change at DC will play a big help in moving on from the wide 9 and poor scheming from Burke.
(Projected Cap Space after these moves $71.73M)
TJ McDonald- Cap Hit 6.00M– This move potentially makes the most sense. Here’s why. Minkah Fitzpatrick. The Dolphins have misplayed Reshad Jones all season by moving him to FS, while Minkah has been manning the slot, outside and safety at times. Minkah is a natural FS and his play making abilities should be utilized. That’s why I see the Dolphins moving on from TJ McDonald. With his play, he can be traded to a team looking for a cheap contract and good production. Projection: McDonald will be moved in a trade this offseason. The team will save roughly 3M in cap space with the move, but picking up a mid round pick is ideal.
Whoever the new DC will be, Reshad Jones will be moved back to SS, Minkah to FS. Bobby McCain is your slot CB and Xavien Howard (who I will get into more detail in a second), will be your #1 corner. Tory McTyer, Cornell Armstrong, Cordrea Tankersley will be in the fold due to their cheap contracts but, expect some major upgrades and depth at this position.
(Projected Cap Space after these moves $74.73M)
After all these projected moves, the Dolphins will be left with 30 players under contract for 2019. With roughly 74.73M in cap space, the first order of business is to lock up Xavien Howard to a long-term extension. He is worth every penny as his play shows. I believe his projected value on the market is anywhere between 11M-13M. So, if the Dolphins decide to add some money on to the cap this year for him to space it out more evenly over the extension, it would make the most sense. I know many are looking at the fact Reshad Jones is still here, Cameron Wake is not and the team would move on from Kiko Alonso. I am hoping, with a new DC in town, Jones will make his way back to his area of strength which is SS. Wake is 37 and I believe he needs the chance to play for a championship contending team. As for Alonso, I know his numbers are very good (tackles, forced TO’s) but he still struggles in coverage and that is a liability. In part 3, I will look at potential UFA’s prior to teams cutting players and see what players can make the most sense for the Dolphins.
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