5 returning Dolphins veterans on roster bubble ahead of training camp

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Competition is, in all phases, the name of the game in the NFL. Each franchise aspires to have a slew of competition at each position across the roster by the time training camp opens — with the objective being to allow the competition for starting jobs to help facilitate growth in the players and produce the best possible roster and combination of players.

This year’s Miami Dolphins training camp is going to be a little different than the past few years for this reason. The roster is still not a “finished product” but there has certainly been significant progress made on the collection of talent and a number of position groups are facing a ton of added competition in the coming months.

But which players who are returning off of last year’s squad have the most to lose? Here are five incumbents from the Dolphins’ 2020 roster who are facing stiff competition to make the team again in 2021.

Miami Dolphins punt returner Jakeem Grant (19) splits the Arizona Cardinals special teams during the second quarter in Glendale, Ariz. November 8, 2020.
Miami Dolphins Vs Arizona Cardinals

WR/KR Jakeem Grant

Grant has been one of the most scrutinized members of Miami’s underperforming wide receiver group last season. With a healthy salary cap figure and a frustrating combination of drops and inability to make a leap as an offensive weapon, Grant is someone who will need a flawless effort in camp to stave off a change — and with the additions of Will Fuller, Jaylen Waddle and Robert Foster, even then it might not be enough.

Nov 15, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins tight end Durham Smythe (81) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

TE Durham Smythe

Smythe is entering into a contract year as a former mid-round draft choice by the team in 2018. The best case scenario for Smythe this season feels like it would be him being one of four (or five?) tight ends to make the active roster between Mike Gesicki, Adam Shaheen, free agent signee Cethan Carter and draft pick Hunter Long. Smythe had a decent role as a blocking presence in 2020 but the team added two (Carter and Long) this offseason and signed Shaheen to a 2-year extension last October.

Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jesse Davis during an NFL preseason football game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017. (Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini)

OL Jesse Davis

Davis will likely make the team based on his versatility and the fact that he did receive an extension from this regime already. But the Dolphins have added OL Liam Eichenberg in the draft (trading up for him in the process) and also brought in center Cameron Tom and flex players in DJ Fluker and Jermaine Eluemunor to compete. The positional versatility of Fluker, Eluemunor, Eichenberg and presumably Robert Hunt and Michael Deiter leaves Miami with plenty of utility offensive line options.

The Dolphins could save $3.5M against the cap by cutting Davis.

Aug 16, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins linebacker Sam Eguavoen (49) reacts during the second quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

LB Sam Eguavoen

Eguavoen was a primary special teams player last season, credited with 281 snaps on teams. That’s a good role to have. But linebackers are rapidly seeing their value diminished in the modern NFL and Miami’s influx of defensive backs puts his role at risk. Add in the additions of Benardrick McKinney, Brennan Scarlett and Duke Riley to the return of Elandon Roberts in free agency and Eguavoen may have a tough time getting clear to the active roster.

Nov 17, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive back Clayton Fejedelem (42) stands on the field before the game against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

SAF Clayton Fejedelem

Fejedelem was a 2020 addition in free agency who played 15 defensive snaps on the season. And while he did command a fair amount of reps on special teams (over 300 snaps), his value as a player appears to be easily filled by other contenders. And Miami can save the full price he’s owed against the cap this season by parting ways with him before the start of the season ($2.5 million).