The Dolphins have not been quiet to start the 2023 NFL offseason. Besides exercising the fifth-year option for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Miami has double-dipped with blockbuster defensive additions, hiring former Broncos head coach Vic Fangio as the new defensive coordinator, then agreeing to acquire Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey via trade. And all of that happened before the official start of free agency, and just one year after the club spent big to land Tyreek Hill from the Chiefs.
So what's next for the AFC East's southernmost contender? Here's a look at what else they might prioritize in free agency:
Hailing from the run-heavy 49ers, coach Mike McDaniel collected backs in his first year on the job, signing both Raheem Mostert and Chase Edmonds before later trading for Jeff Wilson. Edmonds has since been dealt, while Mostert and Wilson are due to hit free agency, leaving only reserve Salvon Ahmed (532 career yards) under contract for 2023. Miami already has downfield star power in Hill and Jaylen Waddle, but a workhorse back to put behind Tagovailoa is arguably just as important, considering the physical toll the young QB has already taken. Basically any proven starter should appeal to them, but these few stand out:
- Derrick Henry (Titans): as Tennessee rebuilds, he's 29 with lots of wear and tear, but healthy and at his best, he's still an unmatched physical force at the position.
- Dalvin Cook (Vikings): A Miami native, he's also no stranger to lots of nicks and bruises, but with Minnesota shedding salary, he's likely available at a discount. At peak speed, he's still one of the best natural runners in the game.
- Devin Singletary (Bills): He's not necessarily a "special" specimen, but he did pretty much everything well for four years in Buffalo, and he also wouldn't require any trade compensation as an unrestricted free agent.
- Miles Sanders (Eagles): Like Singletary, he'll be available on the open market. His lack of recent third-down impact is a concern, but as a straightforward starter with underrated burst, he'd be worth a look.
After agreeing to send former third-rounder Hunter Long to the Rams as part of the Jalen Ramsey deal, the Dolphins figure to be in the market for a starting TE, with Mike Gesicki bound for free agency. Durham Smythe is still onboard, but with close to $12M in projected cap space even before potential additional salary cuts, it's not unreasonable to think the team will consider veterans like Hayden Hurst (Bengals), Foster Moreau (Raiders) and Austin Hooper (Titans) -- all of whom would profile as better all-around fits for McDaniel's offense, which requires TEs to contribute in the ground game.
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The Dolphins exercising Tagovailoa's fifth-year option is certainly an endorsement of the current QB, but the move also enables the team to table a potential lucrative long-term deal. And no matter what Tua's ceiling may be for 2023, Miami has reason to pursue an upgrade at the No. 2 spot, where pending free agent Teddy Bridgewater struggled to stay on the field himself. Jimmy Garoppolo, McDaniel's former accomplice in San Francisco, may be wooed by clearer paths to a starting gig, but he'd make all the sense in the world as a proven, system-trained backup. Assuming he's too pricey, and McDaniel isn't content with the scenario of Skylar Thompson starting during an extended Tagovailoa absence, former starters like Gardner Minshew and Sam Darnold could be intriguing low-risk, high-reward projects for the ex-49ers assistant.