Where do the Dolphins look now as a team that still possesses upward of $20 million in cap space?
They went into the draft without any glaring holes where they needed a starter after addressing most of their dire needs earlier in the offseason.
Miami added playmakers at receiver with Tyreek Hill and Cedrick Wilson Jr. and in the backfield with tailbacks Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert. The troublesome offensive line was partially fixed with prized left tackle Terron Armstead signed in free agency, along with guard Connor Williams. The defense, already stout, was kept intact.
But the draft came and went without the Dolphins using one of their mid-round selections, a pick at the end of the third round and another in the fourth, to bring in a rookie offensive lineman, specifically a center, in a class general manager Chris Grier deemed rich with linemen.
The Dolphins went inside linebacker with their first selectionsnagging Georgia’s Channing Tindall, which was an expectation if he was available at pick No. 102. They then kicked off Day 3 of the draft with somewhat of a surprise, opting for Texas Tech wide receiver Erik Ezukanma with the fourth-round selection instead of a lineman. Grier said it was the organization’s best-player-available philosophy that led to the decision, sticking to the team’s draft board.
Many valued, veteran free agents remain available around the league, as evidenced by Monday’s move by the New Orleans Saints to pick up former Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu. The Dolphins could still look for a center, edge defender or defensive lineman in that market with their cap space available.
“I think they’ll save some of that money to add players in case there’s some injuries, and they may even add some veterans,” South Florida-based agent Drew Rosenhaus told WSVN on Sunday night.
Rosenhaus linked a pair of players he represents to the Dolphins.
“They’re still looking for another pass rusher, and you can never have too many of those,” he said. “I’ve had some conversations with the Dolphins about Carlos Dunlap, the former Cincinnati Bengal and Seattle Seahawk. We’ve even talked to the Dolphins about Akiem Hicks, the dynamic defensive lineman from the Chicago Bears. There’s some great football players out there, and you can never have enough top players. And they’ve got the money to spend if they want to.”
Dunlap, the Florida alum, is 33-years-old with two Pro Bowls, 96 sacks and 12 NFL seasons to his name. He was still productive last season with 8 1/2 sacks for the Seahawks. Hicks, at 335 pounds, can line up in various spots on the defensive line at that size and was also a Pro Bowler in 2018.
The Dolphins picked up a potential pass-rush addition with one of their seventh-round picks, California outside linebacker Cameron Goode. They also added another arm in Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson with their final pick on Saturday.
Arizona State tackle Kellen Diesch was signed as a priority undrafted free agent following the draft, and the Dolphins clearly think highly of him, offering him $140,000 in total guaranteed money. That’s more than fellow lineman Robert Jones got from Miami last year, and he ended up making the 53-man regular season roster come training camp.
Center competition for returning starter Michael Deiter could come in another undrafted pickup, Arkansas’ Ty Clary, the one player among the group who has college experience at the position. The Dolphins still could look at that free agent market and find longtime Cleveland Browns starter JC Tretter there.
Rosenhaus said he believes Tindall will be the Dolphins’ fourth inside linebacker, adding depth in a rotation that behind last year’s leading tackler Jerome Baker, a starter last season in Elandon Roberts and Duke Riley.
Miami’s first pick didn’t come until the third round because its top two selections were sent to the Chiefs in the deal that brought Hill to the Dolphins.