The Dolphins’ emphasis will be on defense, but a few issues need resolution on offense: 1) Sorting out tight end; 2) Re-signing Kenny Stills or finding a replacement if bidding for Stills goes too high for Miami’s liking; and 3) upgrading at right guard.
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With regard to tight end, Dion Sims gave insight into Miami’s thinking this week.
Sims, who will be an unrestricted free agent, told me that not only did coach Adam Gase tell him that he wants to re-sign him, but that Gase views him as a starter.
“He told me he wants me back as a No. 1,” Sims said. “I want to be back. I have obviously proven myself to be a starting tight end in the league and want to continue in that role. I’ve done some great things this year and improved a lot.”
Sims, who replaced concussed Jordan Cameron as Miami’s starter in the ninth game, finished with 26 catches for 256 yards and four touchdowns. A skilled blocker, Sims was rated 39th among 67 tight ends by Pro Football Focus this season. Dolphins backup MarQueis Gray, who recently signed a two-year deal, was rated 28th.
Miami likely will add another veteran tight end or draft one. But even beyond Sims’ vote of confidence, we hear Miami isn’t inclined to make a big offer to New England impending free agent Martellus Bennett (701 receiving yards, seven touchdowns).
The other top veteran tight ends who will be unrestricted free agents: Cameron (who isn’t expected to return to the Dolphins but wants to keep playing despite a history of concussions), Arizona’s Jermaine Gresham (37-391), Green Bay’s Jared Cook (30-377), Washington’s Vernon Davis (44-583), Indianapolis’ Jack Doyle (59-584), Houston’s Ryan Griffin (50-442) and Atlanta’s Levine Toilolo (13-264).
• At receiver, the Dolphins will try to keep Stills --- Gase very much values him and the front office is fully aware of his value, too - but they will need to replace his speed if they get outbid, which is certainly a possibility.
Among receivers with high-end speed, free agent DeSean Jackson would likely be too expensive.
More affordable free agent receivers with very good or great speed, if Stills bolts, would include Carolina’s Ted Ginn, Buffalo’s Marquise Goodwin, Tampa’s Russell Shepard, Dallas’ Terrance Williams and Atlanta’s Aldrick Robinson.
In a worst-case scenario, a player such as Goodwin could compete with, and share No. 3 receiver snaps, with third-round pick Leonte Carroo and another cheap veteran or lower draft pick. Carroo called it a “humbling experience to not play as much” as expected (just three catches, 120 offensive snaps).
Carroo was surpassed by undrafted rookie Rashawn Scott over the final month.
Stills said he prefers to stay but will attract heavy interest.
Stills, Alshon Jeffery, Kenny Britt, Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Brandon LaFell and Terrelle Pryor are the top free-agent receivers.
• The Dolphins are expected to try to upgrade at right guard over Jermon Bushrod (Pro Football Focus’ worst run-blocking guard among 73 qualifiers).
But free-agent starting guard options are limited, a group headlined by include Cincinnati’s Kevin Zeitler, Green Bay’s TJ Lang, Detroit’s Larry Warford, Dallas’ Ronald Leary and Jacksonville’s Luke Joeckel.