Though nobody would admit it, some Dolphins veterans will wake up Sunday morning more encouraged about their chances of making the team or the likelihood of having a more prominent role next season.
And some will wake up far less certain.
For example: If the Dolphins surprisingly don’t draft a linebacker in the first three rounds, Stephone Anthony should have every reason to feel that he will be given a legitimate look in the competition for a starting job, partly a byproduct of lack of better options.
The Dolphins would say that Anthony and Chase Allen would have that chance under any circumstances, but let’s be real here: If Miami drafts Georgia’s Roquan Smith or Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds at No. 11 — or Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch or Alabama's Rashaan Evans in a trade-down — it would be a shock if that player doesn’t start.
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And though there’s always a chance Miami could add a starting linebacker who becomes available sometime between May through August, the team does not believe any of the remaining free agent linebackers are sure-fire starters. And Miami privately has identified linebacker as its biggest need.
Which brings us to a player whose Dolphins future could hinge at least in part on next weekend: Brock Osweiler.
If the Dolphins draft a quarterback in the first three rounds — and that quarterback is as good as Miami believes he is — then veterans Osweiler and David Fales would be on notice: You better be really, really good this summer — or the rookie would need to be really bad in preseason — for you to have a legitimate chance to make our team.
When I asked Adam Gase if drafting a quarterback in the early to mid rounds would make it more or less likely for Miami to keep three quarterbacks, he said probably more likely but was non-committal, understandably pointing out that it’s too soon to know.
But if the Dolphins don’t draft a quarterback until day three, then Osweiler’s chances of sticking as Ryan Tannehill’s backup increase significantly, unless he’s dismal in preseason.
Osweiler doesn’t wish to think about any of that, presumably, but he does want to make clear how appreciative he is for this opportunity after his career went sideways the past two years with a failed and brief run in Houston, a short stint in Cleveland and an unremarkable return to Denver.
Osweiler believes reuniting with Gase — they were together earlier in Denver — will help him in his bid for the team’s backup quarterback job.
“It’s tremendous,” he told the team’s web site. “It means a lot to me for a lot of reasons — reuniting with coach Gase, [quarterback coach Bo] Hardegree, coach [running back coach Eric] Studesville and I grew up watching the Dolphins. It has always been my dad’s and my brother’s favorite team.
“I feel like I know a lot about this organization and it’s an honor to now be a part of it. Every coach has his system. When you can find yourself playing in the system for multiple years, your play starts elevating. This will be roughly my third year in coach Gase’s system.
"It’s a huge honor. This is very special to be part of such a first-class organization. I want to be part of a special culture. And from my visit here in Miami … something special is brewing here and the culture is right.”
Look: If a player is really good in training camp and preseason, he will give the Dolphins a reason to keep him. That said, beyond the aforementioned Osweiler and Anthony, several other Dolphins players could get indirect messages this weekend.
Among them: If the Dolphins draft a high-end cornerback — and they’ve brought in several — Cordrea Tankersley will be put on notice that he’s not the presumed starter.
Tankersley was targeted a lot in his first game (against the Saints in London) but not very much after that.
“I think he got better,” Gase said. “I think there were times where he wishes he could go back and do some things different; but that’s the rookie year.”
If FSU’s Derwin James is the pick at 11, it would send a clear message to T.J. McDonald and reinforce the doubts the Dolphins have expressed about how their starting safety combo played. (As Armando Salguero noted, moving McDonald to linebacker would be an option considered in this scenario and McDonald is unlikely to be cut because of cap consequences.)
If the Dolphins don’t address defensive tackle in the first few rounds, Vincent Taylor — who Miami likes — will have every reason to feel he will be given every chance for an expanded role. (Jordan Phillips and Davon Godchaux are expected to have expanded roles regardless of what happens in the draft.)
And finally, if the Dolphins wait until day three to add a tight end — something they really cannot afford to do, with the free agent class now bereft of established starters — then A.J. Derby, MarQueis Gray, Gavin Escobar and Thomas Duarte will have reason to feel this job is genuinely up for grabs. But if the Dolphins draft Dallas Goedert or Hayden Hurst or perhaps even Ian Thomas or Mark Andrews, that player would be the likely starter.
So a dozen or so Dolphins veterans should be watching closely next weekend, and it would certainly help Osweiler if none of the top four quarterbacks – a group for whom the Dolphins have high regards – slide to 11. Or if Lamar Jackson, Mason Rudolph or Luke Falk don’t end up here, either.