PASS-RUSHING DEFENSIVE END
Let us get this out of the way up front: Dwight Freeney and Osi Umenyiora are aging, and in decline. Umenyioras six sacks last year were his fewest since 2006, while Freeney has seen his sack total drop in each of the last four years. The Dolphins need to find help opposite Cameron Wake, but they might look younger.
Michael Johnson, Cincinnati: Picked the perfect time to have a career year. His 11 1/2 sacks equaled his total in his first three seasons combined. Cliff Avril, Detroit: Considered by many the crown jewel of this position, Avril can rush the passer (9 1/2 sacks in 2012), but struggles against the run. Anthony Spencer, Dallas: Jeff Ireland had a role in drafting him in Dallas, and hes coming off career-best pass rushing year (11 sacks).
Paul Kruger, Baltimore: An outside linebacker with the World Champions, Kruger made himself some serious coin in the playoffs (4 1/2 sacks).
Could Ed Reed return to Miami? Signs are the future Hall of Famer will either re-sign with the Ravens or join long-time admirer Bill Belichick in New England. But if the Dolphins wanted to put a Band-Aid on the position (particularly if Chris Clemons doesnt re-sign), they could do worse than bring back a legend.
Jairus Byrd, Buffalo (possibly franchised): Simply the best cover safety in all of football and by a fair amount. Quarterbacks had a rating of 56.9 when throwing against him. Dashon Goldson, San Francisco: Another safety whos excellent in coverage, Goldson allowed just 54.3 percent of passed thrown in his area to be completed. William Moore, Atlanta: Moores consolation prize for losing a heartbreaker in the NFC title game: A trip to Honolulu for his first Pro Bowl. Glover Quin, Houston (if Byrd gets tagged): The Texans are loathe to lose Quin, and heres why: he missed just seven tackles all of last year.
It has been an effective combination on the inside for Miami. Paul Soliai the muscle; Randy Starks the speed. But with Starks destined for free agency, Big Paul might need a new dance partner. Could Jared Odrick move from end to tackle? Or will the Dolphins look elsewhere?
Henry Melton, Chicago: Despite being a little undersized for his position (6-3, 295), his 24 hurries in 2012 were sixth among all defensive tackles. Vance Walker, Atlanta: Walker used his 6-2, 304-pound frame to anchor the Falcons defense in 2012. Amazingly, he didnt miss a tackle the entire season. Justin Bannan, Denver: Excellent against the run last year, Bannans biggest concern is his age. He turns 34 in April.
Matt Moore wants to be an NFL starter, and odds are, he will get a chance to compete somewhere. Joe Philbin loves third-stringer Pat Devlin, but does he love him enough to make a guy who has never taken an NFL snap the teams insurance policy? Even if he does, the Dolphins could still add a vet.
Jason Campbell, Chicago: Struggled when he subbed in for an ailing Jay Cutler last year, but did play well in stretches earlier in his career. Luke McCown, Atlanta: Heres what can be said about Luke McCown (who has 9 career touchdown passes): Hes seasoned, and would come cheap. David Garrard, out of football: Wouldnt that be something? Garrard missed the entire season after hurting his knee in Dolphins camp, but wants a comeback.