Chris Perkins: Thoughts on Dolphins’ offseason/free agency so far (yeah, they’re ballin’)
I like almost everything the Dolphins have done in this early part of the offseason.
The blockbuster acquisitions of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and All Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey are seismic activities. The Dolphins, led by general manager Chris Grier and coach Mike McDaniel, scored in a major way with both of those moves.
I’m not, however, a big fan of a couple of the Dolphins’ other offseason actions through this first week of free agency, specifically at backup quarterback and running back.
Still, right now, you’d have to say the Dolphins’ offseason has been a rousing success.
Much more work remains, most notably at offensive line.
But the starting lineups on both sides of the ball are nearly complete save for perhaps left guard, right tackle, one of the two safety positions, and punter, where they’re reportedly hosting New England All Pro Jake Bailey.
For the most part, the rest of the offseason is about accumulating quality depth.
And that brings us to quarterback.
I like Mike White, the backup quarterback and local kid (he attended University School). White is a gutty guy who played with broken ribs last season for the New York Jets.
I don’t like the fact the Dolphins’ quarterback room has very little experience, especially when it comes to December victories.
Starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa remains relatively inexperienced. And now there’s no significant experience in that quarterback room with White and Skylar Thompson, last year’s seventh-round pick, serving as backups. It’s tough to think either is prepared to guide a team with Super Bowl expectations.
OK, now that we’re off and running, here’s my view of the Dolphins’ offseason through the first few days of free agency.
Dolphins fans should be pumped about 2023. The outlook is bright. The Dolphins made the playoffs last year, and they’re aiming higher this year. Getting Fangio and Ramsey is enough to excite the fanbase, locker room, front office and coaching staff while putting the entire league on alert that the Dolphins plan to win now.
But let’s be objective and acknowledge more work must be done before the Dolphins can consider themselves Super Bowl contenders. Don’t freeze the season at 8-3 when evaluating the 2022 Dolphins. Look at the entire picture.
Yes, they made the playoffs. But they were 9-8, lost six of their last seven games, were winless in December, struggled to score late in the season, and had a 2-5 record against playoff teams. Also recall both Tagovailoa and McDaniel struggled in December. And recall the Dolphins relied too much on big plays last season while failing to do the required down-to-down grunt work. They were 24th on third-down conversions on offense and defense. Keep that in mind.
The defense appears as though it’ll be more workmanlike and possibly able to get off the field on third down. The offense, well, we’ll see.
Also keep in mind that traditionally only about half of free agent acquisitions turn out as hoped.
But, again, the outlook for 2023 is bright.
The Dolphins had a successful season in 2022. No doubt. This offseason is about taking big steps, big and small, toward building on that success, and so far that seems to be happening.
Offensively, the Dolphins might eventually end up being better on paper, but at this early point of the offseason there’s an equal chance they’ve taken a step backward. But don’t worry. There’s still time for additions.
The Dolphins re-signed running backs Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, Jr., Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed, signed White, re-signed reserve tackles Kendall Lamm and Geron Christian, signed tight end Eric Saubert, signed guard/center Dan Feeney, were awarded wide receiver Freddie Swain, re-signed wide receiver River Cracraft, and plan on signing wide receiver/return man Braxton Berrios, the former New York Jets and University of Miami player.
But the offense lost experience with the departure of reserve quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, and lost talent and experience with the departure of tight end Mike Gesicki. And the offensive line has the same problems as last season, and you could say the concerns are slightly more dire because Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead, who has missed an average of 5.5 games due to various injuries the last six seasons, is a year older.
I’d have preferred an upgrade at running back. Granted, the market was expensive but the quarterbacks and the offense could both use the help. With the top four running backs from last season returning, improvement largely rests with scheme and play-calling.
Offensive line needs starting competition for right tackle Austin Jackson, who protects Tagovailoa’s blind side, and starting competition for left guard Liam Eichenberg. The line also needs a reliable backup left tackle.
Most of the improvement on this side of the ball rests with McDaniel and Tagovailoa because the Dolphins are bringing back many of the same top players.
Fangio and Ramsey are title-contending acquisitions.
At this point it appears the Dolphins have made taking care of the defense their top priority. They got Ramsey, inside linebacker David Long, safety DeShon Elliott, re-signed reserve linebacker Duke Riley, re-signed cornerback Nik Needham, and released cornerback Byron Jones.
Defensively, the Dolphins are better. Whether it’s adding starters or reserves, this defense has improved so far.
Losing linebacker Elandon Roberts, a team captain and the leading tackler, will hurt. Releasing Jones won’t hurt because he didn’t play last season.
But the Fangio addition is the major move. Even without Ramsey, the defense would be significantly improved because it added Fangio.
It should now be capable of attacking from the front or the back. It should be capable of getting sacks, stopping the run, shutting down wide receivers and getting off the field on third down. And with Fangio, you could argue the defense has better coaching than the offense.
In fact, the defense has so much talent among its coordinator, starters and top reserves you could argue it could be better than the offense. Think about that for a second.
That’ll let you know how much success the Dolphins have had at this point of the offseason.