The Dolphins will be in a tricky spot when free agency begins next week, without as much cap space as a bunch of other teams and needing help at linebacker, tight end, running back, offensive line and receiver if efforts to trade Jarvis Landry are successful.
Some buzz on some of the need positions:
▪ Tight end: The Dolphins need two, with Anthony Fasano a free agent and Julius Thomas set to be released. There might only be a half dozen free agents available who are worthy of starting.
Among free agents of interest to the Dolphins is Carolina’s Ed Dickson.
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Dickson, 30, had 30 catches for 437 yards for Carolina last season, making 12 starts and assuming a larger role while Greg Olsen was injured. Pro Football Focus rated him as the best pass blocking tight end in the league last season and he’s a capable run blocker, too.
We do not know if Dickson is Miami’s top choice at tight end, but we do know Miami likes his skill set.
We’re told the Dolphins also like Philadelphia’s Trey Burton, but it remains to be seen if Miami will have the cap space or the interest in bidding a sizable amount for the tight end likely to generate the most league wide interest in free agency.
Many would be surprised if the Dolphins make a run at Jimmy Graham, though he can’t be ruled out if the price drops.
Other starting options in free agency: the Jets’ Austin Seferian Jenkins and the Bengals’ Tyler Eifert, who missed most of last season with a third back surgery but says he’s healthy.
Virgil Green (who played for Adam Gase in Denver), Zach Miller (who played for Gase in Chicago) and Darren Fells would be other options who could conceivably share the position with a highly-regarded rookie. Here are some draft tight ends on Miami’s radar.
And don’t rule out Detroit’s Eric Ebron, who had 53 catches for 474 yards last season; the Lions were listening to trade offers for him in recent days, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Ebron’s $8.25 million salary becomes fully guaranteed March 14.
Though the Patriots released Martellus Bennett, the Dolphins and Gase have bypassed him in the past, even though Bennett played for Gase in Chicago. It would be surprising if that changed.
▪ Linebacker: One official who spoke to the Dolphins said they appear reluctant to sign a high-priced replacement for Lawrence Timmons, who is expected to be released.
That would make it challenging to sign the top outside linebackers available — Detroit’s Tahir Whiteside or Philadelphia’s Nigel Bradham — unless their price drops.
More modestly priced options include Tennessee’s Avery Williamson (92 tackles, three sacks), Buffalo’s Ramon Humber or Chicago’s Sam Acho. Washington’s Zach Brown wouldn’t be a fit unless he settles for less than what he sought when he met with Miami last spring.
The Dolphins could take their chances to wait to see if they get a top linebacker in the draft, such as Georgia’s Roquan Smith or Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch. That’s why the Dolphins could justify not spending a lot at that position in free agency, despite a need for a third starter.
▪ Offensive line: If the Dolphins move on from Ja’Wuan James instead of paying him $9.3 million next season, they could make a pitch for Pittsburgh’s Chris Hubbard. The Dolphins like Hubbard, according to a team source, and he’s able to play tackle or guard, though it’s unclear how much Miami would be willing to spend here if it cuts James.
Cameron Fleming and Justin Pugh are the other top right tackles available, though guard is considered Pugh’s best position.
One NFL official who spoke to the Dolphins in recent days said they would like to address the interior of their offensive line in the draft.
The Boston Herald reported Dolphins interest in Lions free agent center Travis Swanson, who would presumably be a guard if Miami signed him, allowing Jesse Davis to move to tackle. But Davis could also stay at guard.
▪ The Dolphins are weighing their options at running back before deciding whether to make an offer to Damien Williams. The sides will remain in touch.
Williams is coming off shoulder surgery but should be ready for offseason work. The Dolphins assuredly want to know if Denver will release running back C.J. Anderson.
▪ One NFL official who spoke to the Dolphins said they did not rule out releasing Ndamukong Suh, which jibes with Armando Salguero’s report last month. (The Dolphins, per the source, didn’t portray it as likely or unlikely but merely an option under consideration.)
At this point, the Dolphins are trying to determine whether a Suh restructuring (if Suh is willing) or a release is the better option. The least appealing option is keeping his cap hit at $26.1 million for next season.
If Suh is released, it likely would be before March 19, when $8.5 million of his $17 million base salary becomes guaranteed.
The Dolphins haven’t broached a restructuring with Cameron Wake, who is due $8 million in base salary for 2018 with an $8.6 million cap hit.
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