The NFL free agency period started last week, and there was an expectation that the Miami Dolphins were going to be aggressive and sign some players. Well, the first few days of free agency came, and the Dolphins were pretty quiet. Last year on the first day of free agency, they sign Kyle Van Knoy, Byron Jones, Shaq Lawson, and others. This year with the cap crunch, the Dolphins appear to be taking a different approach as they are waiting out the market and being more patient trying to find guys at bargain prices. I must admit, as a fan, I’m astonished by this because, for years, I’ve seen the Dolphins be aggressive and make a big splash move but get little return on their investment.
The Dolphins opened the new league year with a little over $30 million in salary-cap space, which isn’t bad. However, it’s not enough to sign a big free agent as well as your draft class this year. The Dolphins could easily have cut players to clear more money and make a run at someone or restructure some contracts, but the Dolphins appear to be staying the course of the roster, and why not? They won 10 games last year. On top of that, the Dolphins improvement from players in 2019, like Christian Wilkins, Andrew Van Ginkel, and others. The team is looking for the same from last year’s rookie class, and head coach Brian Flores wants to develop his culture of drafting and developing players instead of breaking the bank for a big free agent.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) March 21, 2021
An argument can be made that teams with less money, like the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills, find ways to sign a big free agent or keep some of their players. The theory is that the salary cap will continue to rise with the new TV deals, but what if it doesn’t, and this covid pandemic continues, and revenue doesn’t grow? Those teams and others could have cap problems. The Dolphins are sticking to their rebuilding plan, which is a good thing. Too many times over the years, they have signed players like Mike Wallace, Ndamukong Suh, and others on players that don’t pan out, and the team doesn’t meet expectations and is stuck with the bad contract. Plus, with the Dolphins owning 4 of the top 50 picks in next month’s draft, they can add more young talent to improve their roster. I’m really excited to see how last year’s rookie develop from year 1 to year 2. I’m especially excited to see the growth of our young offensive linemen Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt, and Solomon Kindley. All 3 of those guys played significant snaps and played well, but more importantly, the game didn’t appear too big for them. They had their struggles, but with an off-season to get in the weight room and work on their game, it could translate into better results on the field.
I do like the moves the Dolphins have made the past week. I liked the signing of defensive back Justin Coleman. He’s an excellent nickel back, who worked with coach Flores before, and will add competition for incumbent Nik Needham. Needham played better last year but got torched a lot in the season finale against the Bills, and in this division, you have to have good depth in the secondary to go up against the Bills. Flores likes competition, and this could be one worth watching in training camp. The Dolphins also have second-year corner Noah Igbinoghene returning and could get a look at the nickel back spot. Plus, Coleman comes with only a 1-year deal worth a little over $2 million, and that’s a bargain. With the NFL being a passing league, you can never have enough corners.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) March 21, 2021
Another move I liked was the signing of Adam Butler. The Dolphins lost defensive tackle Davon Godchaux and needed to fill the void. This year’s draft isn’t deep at the position, so the Dolphins had to look into free agency. Some Godchaux will be a loss for the defense. I personally don’t believe that. Godchaux is a fine player, but he wasn’t a difference-maker, and in fact, I think the defensive line played better without after he got hurt. Plus, the emergence of rookie Raekwon Davis made him expendable. Butler will bring a veteran presence with pass-rushing ability and familiarity with coach Flores having played with him in New England.
The biggest move was the signing of wide receiver Will Fuller. The goal of this off-season was to add playmakers, and Fuller is that. This free-agent class was considered deep, and a lot of people thought the Dolphins would be active in getting a receiver, but the Dolphins waited it out. They could have given a big contract to Kenny Golladay, JuJu Smith Schuster, or Marvin Jones, but the Dolphins didn’t want to pay a big contract, and on top of that, this draft is loaded with receivers, so the Dolphins didn’t feel the need to spend big dollars on a long-term contract. Fuller does come with some risk. He has to sit out the first game of the season, finishing out his 6 game suspension for PEDs, and he also has durability concerns. Those two factors probably scared teams off, and the Dolphins got him for a 1-year prove-it contract. Yes, it’s at 10 million dollars, but Fuller has the speed to stretch the defense, and the Dolphins needed a player like that. The Dolphins could have easily handed out a big contract but were patient in the process.
The Dolphins also signed some other players to lesser deals money-wise and 1-year contracts, so it seems the plan was to be patient and get crazy spending-wise. This team isn’t one player away. They have several needs and lots of early-round draft capital to add more talent. It’s quite a refreshing approach the Dolphins have taken rather than spending big. Now the question is will this approach mean better results.