Barry Jackson

Examining the Dolphins depth chart on offense and looming roster battles

Brian Flores and GM Chris Grier talk about the Dolphins draft and Rosen trade

Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores and general manager Chris Grier respond to questions about quarterback Josh Rosen on day three of the NFL Draft on Saturday, April 27, 2019.
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Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores and general manager Chris Grier respond to questions about quarterback Josh Rosen on day three of the NFL Draft on Saturday, April 27, 2019.

The Dolphins are in the peculiar position of being close to the NFL’s 90-man offseason roster limit but without legitimate starters at three or four positions (the two defensive end spots, right tackle and perhaps left guard).

So expect Miami to add players in free agency and release a few of the bevy of fringe young veterans and journeymen that currently consume a chunk of its roster, a process that began Wednesday with the purging of Luke Falk, Dee Delaney and Jeremiah Valoaga.

That process is likely to continue to happen in the aftermath of the May 8 date after which signing unrestricted free agents do not affect the NFL’s compensatory draft formula.

For now, here’s where the Dolphins depth chart stands at each position on offense:

QUARTERBACK

With Luke Falk’s release, the Dolphins have the three that will likely come to training camp: Josh Rosen, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jake Rudock.

The Dolphins intend to add a quarterback for rookie mini-camp May 10-12 and that player could be invited to training camp as well.

Though Miami kept three quarterbacks on its 53-man roster last season (and four for the first month, before Luke Falk’s season-ending injury), the Dolphins would figure to do that this year only if there’s an injury issue with Rosen or Fitzpatrick, or if Rudock is so good in preseason that he becomes an asset worth retaining.

The Dolphins couldn’t be certain that Rosen would be available when they signed Fitzpatrick, but the decision to give Fitzpatrick a second year might prove mildly regrettable, considering he has $1.5 million guaranteed in 2020 whether he’s on the team or not.

And there is clearly a scenario in which Rosen and a first-round pick are the two quarterbacks in 2020.

RUNNING BACK

Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage are assured of roster spots and will compete to start. Auburn seventh-round pick Chandler Cox should make it as Miami’s fullback unless he’s unimpressive over the next four months; New England used a fullback on roughly one third of its offensive snaps last season.

That leaves seventh-rounder Myles Gaskin, undrafted Cal rookie Patrick Laird and former Chargers running Kenneth Farrow competing for the No. 3 job. A veteran could be added if none of these three impresses in May and June practices. But this should be Gaskin’s job to lose; he was highly productive at Washington.

WIDE RECEIVER

Four are assured of being on the team: DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant. Brice Butler and Ricardo Louis are front-runners for the final two spots if Miami keeps six.

Four others are under contract: undrafted rookies Preston Williams (Colorado State) and Trenton Irwin (Stanford), veteran Isaiah Ford (the former seventh-rounder who has appeared in one game) and former Alliance of American Football player Reece Horn.

Williams will be the most intriguing of the bubble receivers this summer because of his big numbers last year at Colorado State (96 catches, 1345 yards).

It’s difficult to envision a veteran addition at the position barring an injury to one of the top four.

TIGHT END

No need for additional signings here, with six under contract and five of them with NFL experience.

Dwayne Allen and Mike Gesicki will be on the team, and it would be surprising – though not entirely shocking – if the Dolphins moved on from Durham Smythe after a year.

Essentially, Smythe, Nick O’Leary and Clive Walford are battling for what could be two roster spots if Miami keeps four. The Patriots, as perspective, began last season with four, plus fullback James Develin, who some Boston writers included as the fifth player on the tight end depth chart because he served a hybrid fullback/tight end role.

O’Leary would seemingly have an edge over Walford, but don’t discount Walford in this battle, with this coaching staff giving everyone a clean slate.

Undrafted Temple rookie Chris Myarick is the longest of long shots.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Only four seem absolutely assured of roster spots: starting left tackle Laremy Tunsil, starting center Daniel Kilgore, Jesse Davis (who will start at right guard, or possibly, right tackle if Miami can find no suitable replacement for Denver’s Ja’Wuan James) and third-round pick Michael Deiter, a guard who could also play tackle or center.

Former Jaguars part-time starting guard Chris Reed and Ohio State sixth-round tackle Isaiah Prince also will likely stick. So that’s six. Zach Sterup could certainly stick as a backup tackle but will face competition. So that’s seven.

Expect a veteran free agent addition or two.

And besides the aforementioned seven players, eight others are under contract: veteran guard Isaac Asiata, developmental center Connor Hilland, two players from the defunct AAF (tackle Joey Jones-Smith and guard/tackle Michael Dunn) and four undrafted rookies: Mississippi State guard Deion Calhoun, Boston College tackle Aaron Monteiro and centers Ryan Anderson (Wake Forest) and Kirk Barron (Purdue).

Calhoun, rated one of Pro Football Focus’ 10 best post-draft NFL signings, has a legitimate chance to stick. And this is the year the Dolphins must decide whether Asiata – who was an effective run-blocker last preseason – can become a contributing piece.

Please check back later today for a look at the Dolphins’ defensive depth chart.

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