Miami Dolphins 1st round draft pick Minkah Fitzpatrick reflects on the season after their defeat to the Jaguars
With another Dolphins failed season a week from ending and major changes looming, a quick look at pertinent factoids heading into another offseason for those already thinking about such things:
▪ Draft position: The Dolphins likely will be picking in the mid teens; they currently stand 15th after Sunday’s results.
At the moment, players ranked 12 to 21 in Mel Kiper’s ESPN ranking of draft-eligible players are, in order, Alabama offensive tackle Jonah Williams, Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown, Mississippi offensive tackle Greg Little, Florida outside linebacker Jachai Polite, Oklahoma receiver Marquise Brown, Louisiana Tech defensive end Jaylon Ferguson, Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell, and Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins.
Defensive linemen Derrick Brown, Simmons and Ferguson and the three Clemson players would all fill clear needs.
So would Alabama offensive tackle Williams if the Dolphins move on from Ja’Wuan James but don’t sign a replacement in free agency.
No quarterback - at the moment - is projected for that range, with Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins assuredly going before that if either turns pro.
ESPN’s Todd McShay has Miami taking UF offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor in his most recent mock draft.
▪ Schedule for 2019: In addition to home games against AFC East rivals New England, the Jets and Buffalo, the Dolphins also will play host to Baltimore, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Washington and the AFC West team which finishes in a comparable position – which will likely be the Chargers.
Besides road games against the Patriots, Jets and Bills, the Dolphins also play 2019 road games at Pittsburgh, the Giants, Cleveland, Dallas and the AFC South team that finishes in a comparable position – either the Colts or Titans.
▪ Cap space: With a projected $190 million cap, the Dolphins have only $14 million in space, with another $6.6 million in carryover money.
But the Dolphins can clear out $9.4 million more if they release DeVante Parker, another $7 million if they release Andre Branch and another $12.9 million if they release Robert Quinn. So that brings the cap space to $51 million. All three moves are expected.
If they trade or release Ryan Tannehill, which is the likelihood at this point, Miami would clear out $13.2 million. It could be $18.7 million if he’s released as a post-June 1 designation, but that would come with another dead money hit in 2020. So let’s use the $13.2 million savings figure, which would bring likely cap space to nearly $65 million.
Dumping Akeem Spence ($2.5 million savings) and Ted Larsen ($1.9 million) would bring that total close to $70 million. Both are at risk.
That would be at least a good start to conduct offseason business, including signing a draft class, signing a quarterback (perhaps Teddy Bridgewater or a Joe Flacco-type as a stopgap while a draft pick develops), signing at least three defensive linemen (with Cam Wake a free agent), addressing right tackle by either re-signing James or signing someone else, acquiring a starting cornerback, potentially re-signing Frank Gore and adding depth at multiple positions, plus cap allocations for restricted and exclusive rights free agents (more on that in a minute).
That’s a ton of needs and because cap space can go quickly, some of those needs will need to be filled in the draft.
▪ What about other veterans: Cutting Reshad Jones would make no sense financially because it would save only $2 million against the 2019 cap and require a $15.2 million dead money hit in the scenario that would be friendliest to its 2019 cap.
Cutting T.J. McDonald would save only $1.4 million in cap space with $4.6 million in dead money – and $3.6 million of his $5 million salary is guaranteed - so there’s not much financial incentive to move on. But it’s something the Dolphins still might do because they believe Minkah Fitzpatrick is better at safety, and because that would allow Jones to move back to strong safety.
Among other veterans, release Danny Amendola, Kenny Stills or Kiko Alonso wouldn’t seem to make sense, but everything would be revisited if there’s a regime change.
With Stills - who has been underutilized all season and has just 34 receptions - Miami could save $6 million in cap space but have $3.7 million in dead money with a post-June 1 designation.
Cutting Alonso, with a post-June 1 designation, would save $6.5 million against the cap with a $1.8 million dead money charge. But though Alonso has struggled in pass coverage, he has been highly productive overall (fourth In the NFL in tackles entering Sunday).
Amendola, who’s highly valued internally, has a $6 million hit if he’s on the team, no hit if he’s not. He will likely be here if Adam Gase returns. If not, it’s a question.
Miami seemingly would have no reason to move on from guard Josh Sitton, though such a move would result in $5 million in savings and a $2 million dead-money charge. But again, everything is in question if there’s a regime change.
▪ Free agents: The Dolphins have 14 unrestricted free agents, headlined by Wake, William Hayes, James and Frank Gore. The expectation is that Wake and Gore will be offered new deals.
James is a tougher call; he has had some good moments but also has allowed seven sacks (tied for fifth most in the league) and the Minnesota loss was a step back for him. No matter who’s in charge of the roster, the Dolphins figure to consider other options before deciding what to do at right tackle. The Dolphins value Hayes, but durability is a huge concern.
Other impending unrestricted free agents: linebacker Stephone Anthony, long snapper John Denney, tight ends MarQueis Gray and A.J. Derby, offensive tackle Sam Young, quarterbacks Brock Osweiler and David Fales, running back Brandon Bolden, centers Travis Swanson and Wesley Johnson and defensive linemen Sylvester Williams and Ziggy Hood.
From that group, Bolden likely will be asked to return; the others are all questionable at best.
The Dolphins retain rights to keep restricted free agents Jake Brendel, Leonte Carroo and Sinorise Perry. Jesse Davis, Isaac Asiata, Jonathan Woodard, Isaiah Ford and Zach Sterup are exclusive rights free agents. Once tendered, they can only negotiate with their current teams.
▪ Non-player changes: Owner Stephen Ross didn’t speak to reporters Sunday but has been mulling significant changes, with decisions pending on Gase, Mike Tannenbaum and others.