No, the Miami Dolphins are not going to win the NFL’s offseason championship this year.
They have zero intention — or the salary cap wherewithal, really — to follow the trail blazed by the Jacksonville Jaguars last season. You remember that approach to building a winner, right?
The Jaguars, 3-13 in 2016, signed Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye to huge free agent contracts. They also paid defensive back Barry Church. They went all in (and missed) with the trade for Branden Albert and the signing of guard Earl Watford, neither of whom played a down for the team.
But they were very, very aggressive.
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They even hired former Super Bowl winning coach Tom Coughlin as their executive vice president of football operations.
The Jaguars swung for the fences. And they hit a home run by winning the AFC South and winding up in the AFC Championship Game.
But that blueprint? It’s garbage as far as the Dolphins are concerned.
The Dolphins are going to make some moves during the free agency period that began Wednesday.
But perhaps their signature move is planned for today when they meet with guard Josh Sitton at the team facility and try to get him signed to a two- or three-year contract.
Ad if they’re successful, it looks as if signing a former Pro Bowl guard going to be the big free agency move this offseason, folks.
At least that’s how it’s going to feel until Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola start scoring touchdowns.
Sitton might get anywhere between $6 million and $7 million per year from the Dolphins.
And the Dolphins would be giddy about that. Because, again, this move is a biggie for them.
So what does this tell you? What’s the underlying message?
Well, if you expect the Dolphins to suddenly rise from the bottom of the AFC East where they and the New York Jets last season waged a fierce battle for the cellar, it’s not going to be done mostly because of what happens this free agency period.
Because the Dolphins aren’t winning any talent wars this free agency period.
Not against rivals around the league. Not against themselves.
Indeed, the Dolphins in some respects look weaker now than they did at the end of last season. That’s how it is when you trade Jarvis Landry and cut Ndamukong Suh, Lawrence Timmons and Julius Thomas.
The Dolphins trimmed salary cap space with those moves. They believe they’ve improved the locker room with those moves. But be aware they’ve also trimmed back significant talent.
So where does the talent deficit close if not with big, expensive, flashy free agency moves?
Look to the draft first.
The team just jettisoned Suh. Suddenly, Washington tackle Vita Vea, whom the Dolphins visited with recently, becomes a name to monitor.
Timmons is gone. So is Thomas. That means the Dolphins need a starting strong-side linebacker and a tight end.
Yes, Miami might bargain shop here and there for fill-ins. But pay premium dollars for a tight end or linebacker? That time has already come and gone in free agency.
This isn’t necessarily wrong, by the way. A lot of pundits spend much of their time telling you a team should be built through the draft, but when free agency opens and a team shows its intentions of building through the draft, they complain the team is bargain hunting.
That’s called pandering to the mob.
Let’s be honest: This Dolphins’ approach comes with a price because it requires patience. It’s hard to build through the draft while using free agency to fill in strategic gaps.
Look, I keep hearing the Dolphins will definitely be tighter as a team once this free agency period is done. They’ll fit better together, I’m told. They’ll answer adversity instead of shrink from it.
The wide room, still very talented, will be more detail-oriented now.
And the Dolphins see their offensive line coming together if/when Sitton is signed.
(Let me say right here the Dolphins have been targeting Sitton for weeks. And they are quite confident they’ll get him signed),
If that happens, the offensive line which has troubled for years will suddenly seem ... solid. The Dolphins starting line would be as follows:
Left tackle Laremy Tunsil.
Left guard Josh Sitton.
Center Mike Pouncey.
Right guard Ted Larsen or Jesse Davis.
Right tackle Ja’Wuan James.
If that line stays free of injuries, if the new practice regimen the Dolphins are planning for Pouncey pays dividends, if Sitton is the solidifying leader the Dolphins believe he will be, that’s a good offensive line.
I didn’t say perfect offensive line. Or young offensive line.
I said good offensive line.
And that will be important because quarterback Ryan Tannehill has had multiple ACL tears on his left knee. And the offensive line was a reason the team couldn’t throw very deep very often last year — because receivers need time to run longer patterns and the blocking simply didn’t hold up consistently.
(Another reason was Jay Cutler didn’t like getting hit so he got rid of the football, often too quickly).
If Miami’s 2018 line blossoms into a good unit and Tannehill comes back and is the guy the team thinks, and the receiver room rises up, this team could do damage.
You’ll notice the previous paragraph sounds optimistic almost to the point of feeling goopy. I’m relaying what the Dolphins believe. I’m letting that optimism occupy my column space because the logic is plausible.
I also see the team is putting action behind its plan. Restructuring Tannehill’s contract on Wednesday told everyone the Dolphins believe he’s worthy of a high commitment.
Adam Gase, Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier are betting their jobs on Tannehill right now. And with no viable starting candidate behind Tannehill to serve as a safety net, this is an act that truly does threaten everyone’s future if Tannehill crashes.
So will the Dolphins hedge their bet and get a quarterback in case Tannehill fails?
If they do, that good quarterback won’t come in free agency because there are no good ones left there -- least of all Chad Henne. That other quarterback will have to come from the place so many other Dolphins hopes are going to be pinned their offseason.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero