When Brian Flores cut the roster down to 53 players, there weren’t too many surprises. However, typically every year, you see one surprise move, and this year, it was linebacker Benardrick McKinney. McKinney was acquired in a trade from the Houston Texans in exchange for Shaq Lawson. McKinney was coming off an injury cut 2020 season and had been very productive in his career to date, but Flores decided to move on from him for whatever reason. McKinney had 3 years left on his contract worth more than $20 million, but the Dolphins and McKinney agreed to void the final two years and cut his base salary this year, and it still wasn’t enough. McKinney is a tackling machine and good run defender, which seemed to make him a good fit, but the problem is he couldn’t cover in the passing game, and perhaps that was his undoing. If so, the Dolphins should have realized this before they made the trade. Linebackers in 2021 have to cover to stay on the field because it’s a passing league.
Miami Dolphins General Manager Chris Grier and Head Coach Brian Flores have done many good things since taking over together 3 years ago. They fixed their salary cap, tore up the roster, made a commitment to building through the draft and developing players, and they made a positive culture change. However, one thing that hasn’t changed is their ability to bring in free agents that make a difference. Last year the Dolphins spent a lot of money on players like Lawson, Kyle Van Noy, and Erik Flowers in hopes of upgrading the team on the field. While the team did improve, the Dolphins either traded or released those players after one year because they weren’t performing or didn’t fit into the team’s scheme. The Dolphins also made Byron Jones the highest-paid corner, and he didn’t play up to expectations. That signing created another problem as Xavien Howard had a career year and wanted a new contract.
The Dolphins have had bad luck the past decade with free agents as the team overpaid for players like Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe, Phillip Wheeler, Ndamukong Suh, and others. All players were disappointments, and the team suffered for years against the salary cap and on the field. For all Grier and Flores have done, they haven’t been able to fix this problem. I realize free agency and trading for veterans don’t always pan out, but the Dolphins have had some really bad luck over the years. Last year, the play on the field didn’t suffer for the Dolphins because some of the younger players they drafted stepped up. The Dolphins salary cap is in great shape to help absorb some of the dead money against the cap, but it’s not something the Dolphins want to continue to do.
Flores and Grier have done a great job of turning this team around, but if there is one criticism, I have it’s their free-agent choices and trades for veterans that haven’t panned out like McKinney. This is an area they have to get better at and fix moving forward. It’s fine if you get rid of a player when it’s obvious it isn’t working out, but you don’t want to keep getting bit in the behind multiple times.