Armando Salguero

Miami Dolphins to play one more card for improving roster before the draft

Defensive end Andre Branch is an obvious trade candidate because he currently costs the team $10 million in cap costs and projects as a backup for 2018.
Defensive end Andre Branch is an obvious trade candidate because he currently costs the team $10 million in cap costs and projects as a backup for 2018.

In an NFL offseason that has seen more significant trades than any in recent memory, one in which the Miami Dolphins have made three trades, the dealing might not be over.

The Dolphins are at the NFL annual meeting, and a club source said the team is shopping for help at several positions, and trading for players is the way the team is open to making the additions.

Free agency has not filled all of Miami’s needs and the draft might not resolve the issue, either. So the Dolphins are willing to part with talent from a part of their roster that seems overloaded with players, or perhaps even draft picks for the right addition.

Specifically, the Dolphins are looking for a tight end, a linebacker, maybe a running back and perhaps a defensive tackle that might be on the trade market.

The Dolphins have an abundance of defensive ends now with five players at the position. The team doesn’t need that many so it might be willing to part with a backup in trade.

As I look at it, Andre Branch is an obvious candidate because he currently costs the team $10 million in cap costs and projects as a backup.

It would be more beneficial to the Dolphins cap if they hang on to Branch until after June 1 because a trade after that date would save $8 million.

No trade is imminent, the source said.

The Dolphins are currently shopping. And they’re looking to play a long game rather than showing desperation because they don’t intend to overpay for any player.

But the team is looking at trades as a viable avenue for filling needs at those positions because no one can predict that the draft will serve in helping to fill all the needs while the crop of currently available free agents aren’t likely to win starting jobs.

And make no mistake the Dolphins are without starters.

At tight end, the team currently has A.J. Derby and MarQueis Gray as the only two experienced players at the position. Neither, however, has ever been a full-time NFL starter.

Interestingly, the Dolphins have not fully given up on the idea of convincing veteran Anthony Fasano to return for his 13th NFL season, but that isn’t necessarily Plan A, and even then the Dolphins might still need more help at the position.

At linebacker, the Dolphins feel comfortable with Kiko Alonso and are excited about finally getting Raekwon McMillan on the field as the team’s middle linebacker. (McMillan, the team’s second-round pick last year, missed all of 2017 with a knee injury).

But there’s the other linebacker spot where the Dolphins know they might have to draft but also would like to add a veteran with starter potential. Stephone Anthony is on the roster and will have a chance to compete for the job, but the Dolphins want further upgrade.

Defensive tackle is interesting because the Dolphins created their own need at the position by cutting Ndamukong Suh. The reason that was done was for salary cap reasons and to improve the team’s overall locker room.

The cap room won’t show up until after June 1, when the Dolphins get $17 million in new space. There is no actual upgrade in culture unless one counts the subtraction of a player who was an individualist.

So the Dolphins need to address the spot.

Although the team is looking at all avenues for that upgrade, including a trade, the most likely place Miami will find it is in the draft.

A point of interest: The Dolphins determined when Adam Gase became coach that paying $19 million per season for a defensive tackle was not the way to maximize resources. He didn’t love that contract in 2016 or 2017 before actually cutting Suh in 2018.

But a club source said this week that the Dolphins don’t see spending a first-round pick on a worthy defensive tackle as a waste of resources on par with overpaying. That’s important because that opens the possibility that the Dolphins might use their first-round pick on Vita Vea from the University of Washington.

Finally, at running back the Dolphins will have plenty of options in the draft. But there is a chance a running back, such as Denver’s C.J. Anderson, might become available before or during the draft as well. The Dolphins are not eliminating either possibility.

It’s interesting the Dolphins increasingly see trading for talent as an avenue worthy of pursuing because until this offseason NFL teams were not as likely to trade as they have been the past month.

The Dolphins have traded receiver Jarvis Landry while acquiring defensive end Robert Quinn and center Daniel Kilgore. The Quinn and Landry exchanges sort of canceled themselves out as one cost a fourth-round pick and the other delivered to the Dolphins a fourth-rounder.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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