The Miami Dolphins hoped the decision to sign Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in 2020 would bring luck and playoff appearances. Although the team has gone 19-17 over the past two years, the two-time Super Bowl champions have failed to reach the playoffs every year, and the jury is still out on whether or not Tagovailoa is the answer. at Miami.
Looking back, that’s pretty much what we should have expected all along.
Now, former San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel is poised to save Tagovailoa’s career and earn Miami’s first playoff victory since 2000. He’s sure to have his work cut out for him.
On the eve of the league’s new year, now seems like the perfect time to analyze which players McDaniel and the Dolphins should pursue in free agency. For this list, we’ve tried to focus on the Dolphins’ most important needs and find the players who best fit those holes. This list only includes players who are due to become unrestricted free agents in March; restricted free agents, cap losses and little-known draft prospects who are unlikely to be drafted were all ineligible.
Based on the aforementioned prerequisites, the top potential free agents for the Dolphins rank as follows:
Honorable mentions: David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns, and Rasul Douglas, BC, Green Bay Packers
Although the Dolphins have the cap of space to sign Douglas and Njoku, we list them as honorable mentions because they are not needed yet. Miami is only expected to pursue Douglas if All-Pro cornerback Xavien Howard demands another trade. Similarly, the Dolphins shouldn’t turn their eyes to Njoku, a former Miami Hurricanes standout, unless Mike Gesicki is walking around in free agency.
If Gesicki doesn’t return, the Dolphins could also choose to sign another starting-caliber tight end, like CJ Uzomah from the Cincinnati Bengals or Dalton Schultz from the Dallas Cowboys. However, the Dolphins may be in the best position to find the Penn State product’s long-term replacement in the upcoming draft.
6. Zay Jones, WR, Las Vegas Raiders
Do you know what the Miami Dolphins need in free agency? Receivers. We could have easily devoted this entire list to six or 10 or 15 receivers the Dolphins should sign this offseason because, outside of the dynamic Jaylen Waddle, the current picks are relatively thin. After only having 41 catches combined from 2019-2020, Jones broke out for 47 catches, 546 yards and a touchdown for the Raiders last season.
At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, the East Carolina product would bring needed size to a Dolphins offense that desperately needs playmakers. Miami would be wise to pursue the veteran wide if the Dolphins can find him. cheap after his strong 2021 campaign. Jones will play the full 2022 season at 27 and could still have plenty in the tank.
5. Raheem Mostert, RB, San Francisco 49ers
Before we dive into Mostert, it’s worth noting that two-time Pro Bowler James Conner makes a lot of sense for the Dolphins. However, the Pittsburgh product will likely be a household name in the free agent market, and Miami doesn’t need to engage in a bidding war to reclaim deadly power.
Instead, Miami should consider a reunion with Mostert, who played for McDaniel on the 49ers from 2017-21. time with the team as an undrafted rookie in 2015.
Mostert will likely be extremely cheap after missing almost the entire 2021 season with a knee injury. Given his familiarity with McDaniel’s offense, the former Purdue player is an excellent candidate for a one-year contract in Miami. However, the Dolphins must dedicate one of their draft picks to finding a running back in April.
4. Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE, Cleveland Browns
Clowney has quietly had an impressive rebounding season for the Browns, totaling nine sacks, 11 tackles for loss and forcing two fumbles in 14 games. The three-time Pro Bowler will play the entire 2022 season at age 29 and could be looking for one last major contract.
Interestingly, Clowney was linked with the Dolphins in 2019 and 2020, but refused to play for them both times. Could the third time be the charm? It’ll be a fascinating pairing if the veteran passer is willing to play for a team that isn’t guaranteed to compete for a playoff spot.
3. Laken Tomlinson, G, San Francisco 49ers
Unlike Mostert, Tomlinson could realistically return to the 49ers next season. However, until the Duke alum officially signs his new contract, let’s not rule out a reunion with McDaniel in Miami.
Tomlinson won Pro Bowl honors for the first time in 2021 and has been a regular left guard since joining the 49ers in 2017. If Miami is serious about keeping Tagavolia on its feet, the Dolphins would be wise to invest in Tomlinson, who will turn 31 three days before Super Bowl 57. It is not yet known if he will play in the Big Game next year.
2. Tre’Quan Smith, WR, New Orleans Saints
We won’t blame Dolphins fans for wanting a marquee receiver like Green Bay Packers star Davante Adams or Los Angeles Chargers star Mike Williams in free agency. The problem is, the Dolphins can’t sell those types of players in the current quarterback situation. Money speaks for some, but victory and stability win out for others.
Instead, McDaniel and his friends might want to turn to Tre’Quan Smith, who grew up about an hour north of Boynton Beach’s Hard Rock Stadium and played collegiate for UCF. The 26-year-old had 112 catches for 1,486 yards and 17 touchdowns in 51 games and 29 starts with the Saints.
Smith isn’t the sexiest name, but he’s shown signs of being an explosive player and could be a welcome addition to the Dolphins’ offense. With all the talk of reunions, keep an eye out for this potential homecoming.
1. Terron Armstead, LT, New Orleans Saints
Remember when we talked about the Dolphins needing receivers? Add an offensive line to that list, and Saints left tackle Terron Armstead would be a perfect fit for Miami. Although the three-time Pro Bowler played just eight games last year and turned 31 in July, he remains on track to land a lofty free agency contract.
The Dolphins could surround Tagovailoa with clones of Barry Sanders, Jerry Rice and Rob Gronkowski. In fact, they could sign the real Gronkowski. But if Miami doesn’t devote significant resources to keeping Tagovailoa on its feet, neither he nor McDaniel will stick around for too long.
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