By: Tim Kephart
MIAMI (CBS4) – Now that the Miami Dolphins have been eliminated from the playoffs, the team must begin to transition to offseason mode. This means they have to begin evaluating who to re-sign, cut, and whether or not change is needed at the top.
The Dolphins have a bevy of free agents at the end of the 2010 season, most notably: Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Ricky has been lost in the offensive ineptitude in 2010, but is still a rock that can get the tough yards and stay remarkably healthy. He will probably keep playing and should re-sign with the Fins for 2011.
Ronnie Brown has been the catalyst for the Wildcat offense, which essentially disappeared after 2009. Without a pass threat, the Wildcat was figured out quickly by NFL defensive coordinators. But perhaps more problematic for Brown is that he’s only played a full season in the NFL once, in 2008.
Brown has rushed for an average of 816 yards and 6 touchdowns per season and his highest output in 2010 is 85 yards on the ground. Considering what he’s being paid, a cheaper alternative with equal output should be relatively easy to find through the NFL Draft.
Guard Richie Incognito was originally signed as a one-year experiment based on his questionable history. He’s proven to be a solid player who could really help solidify the offensive line through the next few years. He’ll likely be offered a contract extension at the end of the season.
Nose tackle is one of the key positions for the 3-4 defense, if not the key position. The Dolphins’ defense, which is built on the 3-4, has been stout in stopping the run thanks to the play of nose tackle Paul Soilai. He’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, but with such a premium on the position, the Fins will likely look to hold on to him if they are committed to the 3-4.
The Dolphins also have to answer the quarterback question. Starter Chad Henne has played poorly for most of the season, but it’s hard to know if that’s because of poor coaching or that Henne may have just been overrated. Backup Chad Pennington is undergoing yet another surgical procedure on his shoulder that may end his career. Finally, Tyler Thigpen is an unrestricted free agent and played poorly in his only start and could be gone.
With all that said, the draft is loaded this year, assuming of course the work stoppage doesn’t cancel the Draft. The Dolphins will be picking in the teens, we just don’t know where yet. So who might they target?
The Fins have several positions of need but none is greater than running back. One player who may declare himself eligible and could provide an immediate boost to the Dolphins backfield is Alabama running back Mark Ingram. He’s been coached by a former NFL coach who runs an NFL-type offense. He’s ready-made for the NFL with his size, speed, and toughness.
The Dolphins could also target another wide receiver to put opposite Brandon Marshall. Two names that will be likely be out there will be Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones and Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Both are similar to Marshall, but would really create matchup problems for Fins opponents and Jones can really block on the outside.
Another possibility will be the quarterback position. The Fins could package a couple of picks together and trade up to possibly select Ryan Mallet of Arkansas, Jake Locker of Washington, or Cam Newton if he comes out early.
Mallet would look very familiar to Dolphins fans. He’s a tall, statue-like quarterback with some mobility and a rifle for a right arm. He’s been coached up and can really spin the laces. He may not be Dan Marino, but he’d conjure up memories for Fins fans if they traded up to get him.