This Miami Dolphins offseason has been geared mostly toward releasing players rather than adding them. But with the NFL draft three weeks away, the focus for the team and its fans has finally shifted to adding players for 2019.
But as with all things this strange Miami offseason, even this adding will be done mostly in a manner most fans probably didn’t expect.
Fans may think the Dolphins will be doing most of their looming roster additions via the draft.
Some years the team even dove into into the late part of unrestricted free agency or even post June 1 additions when veterans were released because of their contracts or teams replaced them in the draft.
Well, the surprise is most of the rest of the players the Dolphins will add the remainder of this offseason will come neither through the draft nor by plucking veterans in the late stages of free agency.
Most of Miami’s additions the remainder of the 2019 offseason will come as undrafted free agents. And the Dolphins are going to need tons of them.
Perhaps more of them than at any time in recent memory.
And those undrafted free agents that will not be picked in the April 25-27 draft will make up the vast majority of team’s additions this offseason.
How do I know this?
Well, it really is a matter of simple math.
Today, you see, the Dolphins have 58 players on their roster, according to the team’s own website. That’s not a lot. That is actually the lowest number of any team in the AFC East.
The Buffalo Bills have 79 players on their roster as of this writing.
The New York Jets have 74 players on their roster as of this writing.
And the New England Patriots have 65 players on their roster, again, as of this writing.
That means the Dolphins have a lot of work to do to get to the 90-man roster limit all NFL teams can carry into training camp. The Dolphins need to add 32 more players before they open training camp in late July.
And how exactly are they going to do that?
Well, the draft isn’t going to do it for Miami. The Dolphins may be hoping for an epic draft, an all-time draft even. But the team currently has only seven picks scheduled for the entire draft.
So unless general manager Chris Grier goes absolutely bonkers trading back throughout the coming draft in an effort to increase his number of picks -- at the expense of the quality of the picks -- he’s going to struggle to come out of the process with more than 10-12 picks.
(But that’s speculation, and wishful speculation at that).
So dealing with the facts of the current picture, the Dolphins are scheduled to come out of the draft with 65 players on their roster -- or the 58 currently aboard augmented by the seven new picks.
That means after the draft is over, the Dolphins could be adding as many as 25 undrafted free agents.
Said another way, the Dolphins might go to training camp in July with 31 percent of their roster made up of rookie undrafted free agents.
So, you better believe owner Stephen Ross was not kidding when he said last week his 2019 team was going to favor youth.
“It’s going to be a young team and I want to see it grow,” he said. “You know, at the end of their season I’m sure it’ll be a better team than when it started. Because there’s going to be a lot of young ballplayers that are going to have meaningful positions. And then we’ll know what the following year we’ll have to bring in to replace them. Hopefully we make the right decisions up front.”
These percentages and numbers are stunning. Last year, by comparison, the Dolphins added 13 undrafted free agents after the draft. And that was a sizable number.
This year is could be almost double that number.
And Miami’s lot will be way more than the other AFC East teams will be adding.
Because those teams have more players on their rosters already and all except the New York Jets have more draft picks coming to them in this draft than Miami, no other AFC East team will have room enough to go shopping for undrafted guys after the draft.
The Bills, for example, have 10 draft picks in the coming draft. Add that to the 79 players already on the roster and the Bills will need to add a grand total of one more player to fill their 90-man roster.
The Jets, who are still rummaging through free agency, will be able to sign a maximum of 10 undrafted players after their six draft picks.
The New England Patriots, barring the retirement of more superstar players, will have room enough for 13 undrafted players. By the way, the Patriots have 12 picks in the coming draft, including six in the first three rounds.
Yes, the Patriots have almost as many picks in the first three rounds (6) as Miami has in the entire draft (7).
But I digress.
The point is the Dolphins will be bargain shopping after the draft. They will not have a choice.
They will be adding a ton of undrafted players. They will not have a choice.
And they will be, as Ross said, a very young team in 2019 -- a fact this offseason is clearly illustrating.