2024 NFL Offseason Primer: Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins

Projected Cap Space: -$37.6 million

Draft Picks: 6*

*the Dolphins forfeited their third-round pick that would have been No. 86 overall for tampering

  • 1st (No. 21)
  • 2nd (No. 55)
  • 5th (No. 157)
  • 6th (No. 186, CHI)
  • 6th (No. 200)
  • 7th (No. 239)

Notable Free Agents: 

Top Three Needs

1 – Interior OL

Miami’s offensive line has come a long way over the past two seasons, but more work is needed to ensure it doesn’t go back to being among the league’s worst. Right now all three starting interior players are on expiring contracts, plus Jones who ended up starting five games. Hunt could cash in on a major deal given he’s 27 and should be in his prime for a couple more seasons, and it’s notable that the Dolphins extended RT Austin Jackson during the season and not Hunt. 

Williams was one of the league’s best centers last season but a late-season ACL tear complicates his outlook. Based on the standard nine to 12-month recovery timeline, Williams could be back during training camp or miss time to start the season. It’s also worth noting a return to play does not mean a return to performance, especially for ACL injuries. It’s a tough break but it also could potentially help the Dolphins retain him on a more affordable contract. The Dolphins should still invest in a true backup center, as they had to move Liam Eichenberg there in 2023 and the results were bad at times. 

Wynn didn’t play nearly as well as Williams or Hunt but he has left tackle experience which is important given Dolphins LT Terron Armstead‘s lengthy injury history. He played seven games before a serious quad injury shut him down for the year. If Miami wanted to bring him back, it likely wouldn’t cost a whole lot. But they could also be looking to do better. 

Even if the Dolphins re-sign one or two of these players, they still will need to make multiple moves to address both the starting lineup and the depth behind them. 

2 – Cornerback

The Dolphins still have CB Jalen Ramsey to help shadow opposing No. 1 wideouts, but the rest of the depth chart behind him needs a ton of work. Miami will cut veteran CB Xavien Howard with a post-June 1 designation. Needham is on an expiring deal, and while he’s started both in the slot and outside, his best fit is probably as a backup. The Dolphins took CB Cam Smith in the second round last year but he didn’t see the field much as a rookie as former Dolphins DC Vic Fangio seemed to trust Apple more. Former UDFA Kader Kohou was exposed more often in 2024 after a solid rookie season. 

Miami’s need here depends on their plan in 2024. Ramsey will start, it’s just a question of how much he’ll move around the defensive formation. If he spends a lot of time in the slot, the Dolphins need two starting outside corners. Smith could be one but he’s a wildcard at this point based on his lack of experience. If Ramsey sticks outside, Miami at minimum needs competition for Kohou in the slot. 

This is an area where it would make a lot of sense for the Dolphins to add in both the draft and free agency. A veteran could start either alongside Smith and Ramsey or ahead of Smith if he’s not ready for a bigger role. A rookie would be another shot at upgrading the overall talent of the group and to prepare for a post-Ramsey world. 

3 – Edge Rusher

In a perfect world, the Dolphins would be in great shape here with a starting duo of Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips that’s among the better pairs in football, with the tenacious Van Ginkel coming off the bench. 

Instead, Van Ginkel is a free agent and both Chubb and Phillips went down with major injuries. Chubb tore his ACL and Phillips tore his Achilles, both in about a one-month span at the end of the season. It’s the second torn ACL for Chubb and he has a long road back, one that might not have him ready for the start of the season. The recovery for an Achilles is usually six months instead of the nine to 12 for ACLs, but it’s no less grueling. There are also return-to-performance questions for a position like edge rusher that’s so reliant on explosiveness. 

With Van Ginkel and others set for free agency and OLB Emmanuel Ogbah released for cap savings, Miami currently does not have any contingencies in case Chubb and Phillips either aren’t ready for Week 1 or aren’t ready to step back into full-time starting roles. The Dolphins have already invested a ton into Chubb and Phillips, so using their first-round pick on another edge rusher isn’t necessarily the best move here, but the position is too important to leave to chance. There are usually some veteran pass rushers left after the first wave of free agency who could fit what Miami is looking for as an insurance policy. 

One Big Question

Can the Dolphins adapt? 

The script for the Dolphins has followed the same theme over the past two seasons since HC Mike McDaniel took over, even if the details have been a little different. In the first month or two of the season, the Dolphins look like a force. McDaniel looks like a mad offensive genius and QB Tua Tagovailoa piles up yards by quickly getting the ball out to the NFL’s fastest 4×100 team of skill players, including WRs Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. The Dolphins win a bunch of games and get off to a fast start. 

Then adversity hits. Someone gets hurt, either Tagovailoa or some key members of his supporting cast. The scheme doesn’t catch defenses by surprise as much as it used to. The weather gets colder. McDaniel and Tagovailoa don’t seem to have as many answers, and losses start to pile up. 

By the end of the year, the Dolphins aren’t a well-oiled machine anymore, and while they still make the playoffs, they don’t stay long. 

Breaking this pattern is imperative for the Dolphins, but this year the adversity will start before October. Miami is facing a ton of roster attrition with several key role players up for free agency and limited picks and cap space to replace them. Tagovailoa is eligible for a new deal, and landing on a value that makes sense for everyone will be a challenge. McDaniel has designed the perfect ecosystem for Tagovailoa to thrive, but he can’t make it last the whole year. At some point, Tagovailoa has to put the team on his shoulders and make a play, and so far in those moments he’s largely come up small.

It’s hard to see things getting much easier if the Dolphins have to pay him $50 million a year, as it will affect their ability to also build a strong defense, strong offensive line and surround Tagovailoa with a wealth of weapons. But all indications appear to say that’s what the Dolphins are going to try to do. 

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