Family First: Dolphins Should Take Care of Homegrown Talent Before Free Agents in 2017
When putting together a roster in the NFL, there are two directions a team can go. Teams can decide to either build through the draft or build through free agency. Of course, every team wants to hit on all their players in both free agency and the draft.
There are only so many months before free agency starts and the NFL draft approaches quickly after. It is hard to invest time and resources into both. Especially if a team wants the right pieces, they need to study plenty of players all over the field to find the diamonds hidden throughout the player pool.
Taking a look at the successful teams in the playoffs gives us somewhat of an idea what route is better to take when building a team. The Falcons’ biggest free agent signing was a number two receiver while New England’s biggest free agent signing was… well… 30-year-old Chris Long to a one-year contract.
These teams are successful because of their foundation. When we bring Pittsburgh and Green Bay into the picture, the two other teams that made it to the championship games, we see that they follow the same trend. These teams don’t sign players to big contracts, other than their own.
Cleaning Up The Roster
The Dolphins currently have $29 million in cap space available once free agency rolls around. With that being said, about $5 million of that will go to rookie contracts. The Dolphins will likely clear up at least another $20 million by cutting players like Koa Misi, Dion Jordan, and Mario Williams. Needless to say, there are a handful of other roster cuts the Dolphins can make, but if the Dolphins want to clear up more money it means they will be adding more unnecessary holes to their roster.
So if the Dolphins want to continue to grow on a good first season under Adam Gase and if they want to continue their success it starts with re-signing their own players. First on the list is Kenny Stills. The Philadelphia Eagles have shown interest in Kenny Stills and it is starting to look more and more likely that Kenny Stills is going to attract a contract that is worth about $40 million over four years.
At 24 years young, Stills hasn’t even entered his prime yet. Coming off his best year of his career with nine touchdowns, Stills is a perfect cog in Miami’s offense. The offense and, more importantly, Ryan Tannehill had great success with Kenny Stills.
It wouldn’t make sense to let a player with known success inside an organization overpay another team’s players, who may or may not adjust in a new city with a new team. Getting another four great years with Kenny Stills is a better move plan than throwing money at the unknown of a free agent in the market.
The point of free agency is to overpay. It is near impossible to find value with teams willing to throw money at anyone. Instead, teams need to re-sign their players or extend them before they have the opportunity to hit the open market. That is why Kenny Stills is going to make more money than he would have if the Dolphins decided to sign him last offseason.
Naturally, it is hard to predict the future. No one expected Kenny Stills to have a breakout season. Building in-house and through the draft all has its risks, but it is often easier to predict player trends of a team’s own players. That brings us to Jarvis Landry and Reshad Jones.
Continuity is Key
Coming off of a season-ending injury is the perfect time to extend Jones long term. After having a down year in 2013, Jones has arguably been the best safety in the NFL. The down year can even be clarified because Jones was playing out of position all season.
Signing Jones to another long-term deal right now would be more than ideal. Of course, this isn’t the same front office that signed Jones to a new contract after the 2012 season, but Head Coach Adam Gase and Vance Joseph, Miami’s defensive coordinator throughout 2016, always mentioned how he was the centerpiece of the defense.
While some may question if Jones will bounce-back after his torn labrum shut him down for the season in mid October, it is important to remember that he played the entire 2015 season with that exact injury. If anything, Jones should be completely ready and hopefully more motivated with a new contract once the 2017 season rolls around.
Stepping back to the offensive side of the ball, the Dolphins have their first player that is almost always getting National Media attention in some time. Jarvis Landry is seen as the heart and soul of the offense and everyone around the league knows it. The national media has grown to love Jarvis because of his highlight-reel ability.
It can be argued that Landry has his limitations, but people other than Dolphins fans often look over this fact. With this in mind, the Dolphins need to extend Landry now. The worst thing the Dolphins can do is let Landry sniff free agency because his contract numbers will go through the roof.
Landry is great at what he does, but there are teams out there that will over-pay him as a potential number-one receiver, if only to help put fans in the seats. If the Dolphins want to keep Landry at their price, they need to sign him to an extension this offseason.
No Player is Bigger than the Team
If the Dolphins want to be better in 2017, it starts by not getting worse before the season begins. Two extremely underrated players that need to be re-signed are Michael Thomas and Damien Williams.
Not only are these two great on special teams, but Thomas is a locker-room leader and Williams also scored six touchdowns in 2016 while having only two touchdowns in the two previous seasons combined.
These two guys are restricted free agents, meaning the Dolphins can match any contract offered to them throughout the offseason. Neither of them will likely command big contracts, but the Dolphins need to make sure they stay in Miami long term.
The Dolphins are going to have close to $50 million in cap space by only making a few minor roster cuts and will likely try to clear up more space depending on the route they take in the draft and free agency. It would be unwise for the Dolphins to spend all that money on free agents from other teams around the league.
Miami needs to start by making sure their own players are locked up so they don’t create unnecessary holes throughout the roster. If the Dolphins take care of their own guys, they will send a positive message to the players in the locker room and show the importance of team chemistry.
With Miami’s own players taken care of, they will still have more than enough cap room to fill other holes on the roster like guard and the front seven on defense. There are a lot of different moves the Dolphins can make in the 2017 offseason, but it is important that they make the right ones.