The Miami Dolphins offseason makeover is nearly complete.
The Dolphins entered 2022 with the most cap space in the NFL, and that kind of financial freedom allowed the team to have an active offseason.
Two of the team’s top free agents — defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah and and tight end Mike Gesicki — were retained, and Miami re-signed most of last year’s contributing defenders. Then the Dolphins extended the contract of the team’s best player (cornerback Xavien Howard) and potentially add six new starters, two of whom (receiver Tyreek Hill and left tackle Terron Amstead) are Pro Bowl-caliber talents.
While minor alterations will continue to be made before July’s start of training camp, let us look at the depth chart and break down each unit as the Dolphins enter phase two of the offseason workout program.
Tua Tagovailoa, Teddy Bridgewater, Skyar Thompson (R), Chris Streveler
Miami will spend a third season investing in Tagovailoa, the No. 5 pick in the 2020 NFL draft, to see if he can establish himself as a franchise quarterback. Tagovailoa, who owns a 13-8 record as an NFL starter the past two seasons, completed 67.8 percent of his passes last year, throwing for 2,653 yards with 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions (90.1 passer rating). He’ll likely improve now that the Dolphins have put better talent around him, and aim to be more committed to the run game. But if Tagovailoa struggles or gets injured, don’t be surprised if Bridgewater, who was signed to a one-year deal with a base salary of $6.5 million, leads the Dolphins. Bridgewater, a Miami native, holds a 33-30 record as an NFL starter and has a cumulative passer rating of 90.7. Streveler, a former CFL standout who spent the majority of the past two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, needs to prove he’s more than a camp arm. And Thompson, a 2022 seventh-round pick, needs to prove he’s worthy of an investment, either on the 53-man roster or practice squad.
Running back (6)
Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert, Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, Gerrid Doaks and ZaQuandre White (R)
Mostert has been a productive starter in the NFL and knows the run schemes new coach Mike McDaniel will attempt to install this offseason. He’s averaged 5.7 yards per carry, rushing for 1,610 yards on 284 attempts during his 49ers career. The problem is he’s rehabbing a knee injury and might not be completely recovered until midseason. Edmonds is a threat rushing and receiving, which means he could provide a Deebo Samuel-type presence in the backfield. Gaskin and Ahmed are decent backups who could blossom into respectable NFL starters with the right opportunity, and coaching. Doaks, a 2021 seventh-round pick, and White are realistically competing for a practice squad spot unless they ball out in camp and the preseason.
Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Cedrick Wilson Jr., Lynn Bowden Jr., Preston Williams, Erik Ezukanma (R), Trent Sherfield, Cody Core, DeVonte Dedmon and River Cracraft
The Dolphins traded for Hill, who has been a Pro Bowl selection all six of his NFL seasons, and his addition should benefit everyone on the team because he’s a threat to score every time he touches the football. The type of attention Hill demands keeps opposing defensive coordinators up at night. Waddle set NFL and franchise rookie records in 2021, establishing himself as one of the NFL’s brightest young stars last season, and he should be able to take his game to the next level if he can stay healthy and learn the offense quickly. Wilson set career highs with 45 receptions, which he turned into 602 receiving yards and six touchdowns for the Cowboys last season. He’s a blossoming slot receiver, one that has the skill set and size (6 feet 2) needed to play outside. Williams’ talent will likely tease his new coaches, but he must master the playbook to extend his stay in Miami. Bowden Jr. sat out all last season because of medical concerns, but he could make an impact if he can learn the offense at a respectable pace. Ezukanma’s status as the Dolphins’ 2022 fourth-round pick will provide him every opportunity to make the 53-man roster.
Tight end/fullback (7)
Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Adam Shaheen, Hunter Long, Cethan Carter and fullbacks Alec Ingold and John Lovett
Gesicki signed his franchise tag, which means he’ll likely spend his fifth season with the Dolphins, serving as a hybrid receiver-like weapon. Miami’s new coaches believe they can help Gesicki become a better blocker. Until that happens, the Dolphins must rely on Smythe, who has started 41 games in that role for the last four seasons, Shaheen and Long, a 2021 third-round pick, to serve as the in-line tight ends. The addition of two fullbacks proves the Dolphins are about to become a run-heavy offense. The Dolphins will probably only keep four players, maybe five in this group and develop a tight end and fullback on the practice squad.
Offensive line (15)
Terron Armstead, Connor Williams, Robert Hunt, Liam Eichenberg, Austin Jackson, Michael Deiter, Solomon Kindley, Robert Jones, Greg Little, Larnel Coleman, Adam Pankey, Kion Smith, Kellen Diesch (R), Ty Clary (R) and Andries Blaise (R).
Signing Armstead gives the Dolphins a pillar of granite at the left tackle spot, which will allow Miami to slide their protections to weaker areas. His athleticism shines in his run blocking, and should allow him to set the tone for the run-heavy offense McDaniel intends to build. Williams, who started 51 of 57 games during his four seasons with the Cowboys, will likely play next to Armstead at left guard, because that’s the spot he’s played most of his career. If Williams is used as a left guard, that means Eichenberg, Jackson, Hunt, Kindley, Jones and Little are battling to become the starting right guard and right tackle. Hunt, Miami’s top performer on last season’s offensive line, and Jackson, a 2020 first-round pick, seem like the front runners for the right guard and right tackle spot. But we’ll know more when pads go on. Adding a veteran center to compete with Deiter, who has had two inconsistent seasons as an NFL starter (2019 at left guard and 2021 as a center), would be ideal because he’s entering the final year of his rookie deal.
Edge players (8)
Emmanuel Ogbah, Jaelan Phillips, Andrew Van Ginkel, Darius Hodge, Daeshon Hall, Brennan Scarlett, Sam Eguavoen, Cameron Goode (R)
Re-signing Ogbah, who has 83 tackles, 45 quarterback hits, 18 sacks, forced four fumbles and 17 pass deflections in his two seasons with the Dolphins, was huge. That should allow the defensive front to pick up where it left off in 2021, as one of the NFL’s top sack and pressure producers, if injuries don’t come into play. Philips and Van Ginkel are youngsters who have a ton of potential, and they each could take another step forward as professionals. Most of Phillips’ eight sacks in his rookie season came in the second half of the year, when Miami stripped him of his linebacker responsibilities and made him a pass rushing specialist. It will be interesting to see how this 2021 first-round pick develops in year two. Hodge, Hall and Goode, a 2022 seventh-round pick, are developmental projects who must prove they bring value on special teams to extend their stay past training camp.
Defensive tackle (6)
Christian Wilkins, Raekwon Davis, Zach Sieler, Adam Butler, John Jenkins and Benito Jones
Wilkins is coming off a career-best season in all categories, and Miami picked up his fifth-year option as a reward. Sieler, who produced 62 tackles and two sacks, was one of the NFL’s best per-snap contributors in 2021. Davis is a force against the run, but needs to prove he can do more. Butler contributed 17 tackles and two sacks in the 591 defensive snaps he played in 2021 as a pass rushing specialist. Jenkins is a grizzled veteran who provides leadership, and Jones has spent the past two seasons developing on Miami’s practice squad.
Inside linebacker (5)
Jerome Baker, Elandon Roberts, Channing Tindall (R), Duke Riley and Calvin Munson
Baker led the Dolphins in tackles for a third straight season. It will be interesting to see if this coaching staff views him as an inside or outside linebacker. He’s played both in his previous four seasons, but it’s clear that he’s not the instinctive run-stuffer Miami needs in the middle of its defense. Roberts had a career season with the Dolphins (83 tackles, one interception, one sack and two forced fumbles), but he’s a two-down player who struggles in pass coverage. Tindall, Miami’s 2022 third-round pick, has the athleticism to thrive in Miami’s hybrid defense, but will likely spend his first season as a role player and special teams contributor. Riley played well in spurts, and could do more in a second season in the same defense. But he’s been a journeyman in the NFL for a reason.
Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Nik Needham, Noah Igbinoghene, Elijah Campbell, Keion Crossen, Trill Williams, Quincy Wilson, Javaris Davis, D’Angelo Ross and Kader Kohou (R)
Restructuring Howard’s contract, keeping him as one of the NFL’s highest-paid cornerbacks, was a wise move because it allows Miami to continue building its defense around Howard’s playmaking ability. The Dolphins got Byron Jones to restructure his contract, creating cap space to make some moves this offseason, and he should be at full strength following ankle surgery he underwent this spring. Placing a second-round tender on Needham just about ensures the versatile defensive back returns for another season, which is wise. Wilson is a 2017 second-round pick who has fallen on hard times the past few seasons. Ross has spent the past three seasons on New England’s injured reserve list or their practice squad. Campbell and Crossen should be viewed as core special teams contributors. Igbinoghene, a 2020 first-round pick, and Williams have talent, but are rough around the edges from a technique standpoint.
Jevon Holland, Brandon Jones, Eric Rowe, Clayton Fejedelem, Sheldrick Redwine and Verone McKinley (R)
Holland and Jones have the potential to become one of the NFL’s better young safety duos. The pair should be in position to take another step forward in 2022 if they can stay healthy and get proper coaching. Rowe had a decent season in 2021, contributing 71 tackles and forcing three fumbles, but he wasn’t nearly as impactful as he was in 2020, and that could encourage the Dolphins to release him, or re-structure the final year of a contract that will pay him 4.5 million in 2022. Fejedelem restructured his deal, creating $750,000 in cap saving for Miami. Re-signing Redwine, who has been an NFL starter during his brief career, could benefit Miami’s defense, and its special teams unit.
Special teams (3)
K Jason Sanders, P Thomas Morstead, LS Blake Ferguson
The Dolphins signed Morstead, a 13-year veteran who has averaged 41.7 net yards per punt, to replace Michael Palardy, who was a disappointment last season. Sanders missed 8 of 31 field goals last season, and must regain his consistency to justify the five-year, $22 million extension he got last offseason. The Dolphins also need to add a return specialist to the roster because having Hill, Waddle and Holland handle returns is a recipe for disaster considering how important their roles on offense and defense are.