‘Shutdown Corner’ offseason TPS report: Miami Dolphins

Brian McIntyre
Shutdown Corner

Over the next few weeks, "Shutdown Corner" will pay homage to "Office Space" (TPS reports) as we take a quick look back at each team's 2012 season and a look at what lies ahead for the 2013 offseason. Our spin around the league stays in the AFC East with the Miami Dolphins.

[Michael Silver: Young stars found spotlight during NFL season]

2012 record: 7-9

What went wrong: The Dolphins appear to be on the right path under head coach Joe Philbin, the team took a step backwards on offense, ranking 27th in both total and scoring offense after ranking 22nd (total) and 20th (scoring) the season before. Part of that could be due to having rookie Ryan Tannehill make 16 starts at quarterback and not giving him a deep or dynamic group of weapons to work with in the passing game. The trade of Brandon Marshall left the Dolphins thin at a receiver position that scored just three touchdowns in 2012. (Marshall had 11 touchdowns for the Chicago Bears, including three against the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 4). Defensively, the Dolphins moved from a 3-4 to a 4-3 last season and were a little easier to run against. After ranking third against the run in 2011, Miami was 13th last season, allowing over 108 yards per game.

What went right: Tannehill now having 16 starts under his belt, nearly matching his college total, is a good step forward for the Dolphins, who remained in the AFC playoff picture until very late in the season. Miami could also enter 2013 with a lot of offensive line continuity as left guard Richie Incognito, center Mike Pouncey, right guard John Jerry and (right or left tackle) Jonathan Martin combined to miss only 19 offensive snaps last season. Running back Reggie Bush didn't reach 1,000 yards, and was 1,111 yards short of his stated goal of winning the NFL's rushing title, but he did have nearly 1,300 yards from scrimmage and scored a team-high eight touchdowns. Miami also led the NFL in red zone defense, which contributed to them possessing the league's seventh-ranked scoring defense. Safety Reshad Jones had a breakout season, emerging as a potential standout free safety. Jones led the team with four interceptions and accounted for three turnovers (one interception, two fumble recoveries) in a Week 16 win over the Buffalo Bills.

Coaching/front office changes: GM Jeff Ireland returns, as does assistant GM Brian Gaine, who was a candidate for the New York Jets' GM vacancy this offseason. Head coach Joe Philbin's staff remains nearly intact, though assistant special teams coach Dave Fipp left to take the special teams coordinator job on Chip Kelly's staff with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Estimated 2013 cap space: $44.57 million

Possible cap casualties: If the Dolphins use the franchise tag or are able to re-sign Sean Smith (see below), it's hard to see Dimitri Patterson sticking around and taking up $4.6 million in cash and cap space in 2013. Going younger at linebacker could result in the purging of a Karlos Dansby and/or Kevin Burnett, both of whom are over 30 and each would clear $3 million in cap space (Dansby - $3.925 million, Burnett - $3.2 million) in 2013.

Unrestricted free agents

Reggie Bush, RB
Chris Clemons, S
Tyrone Culver, S
Anthony Fasano, TE
Nate Garner, OL
Brian Hartline, WR
Nate Kaeding, K
Jake Long, LT
Tony McDaniel, DT
Matt Moore, QB
Sean Smith, CB
Randy Starks, DT

Restricted free agents

Jonathan Amaya, S
Jeron Mastrud, TE
Bryan McCann, CB
Marlon Moore, WR
Austin Spitler, LB

RFA tender amounts in 2013 are:

• $1.323 million for right of first refusal and/or original draft round compensation
• $2.023 for right of first refusal and second round draft selection
• $2.879 for right of first refusal and first round draft selection

Franchise Tag candidates: From a positional value standpoint, the first choice to receive the franchise tag would be left tackle Jake Long, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft who began his career with four consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl. Franchising Long makes little sense from a financial perspective, however, as the Dolphins would be required to offer a tender worth 120 percent of his 2012 cap number ($12.8 million), which is $15.36 million in base salary that would be fully guaranteed once Long signed the tender. Injuries have crept up on Long the last two seasons, which is something the Dolphins are justifiably concerned about and could hurt Long's value on the open market.

Cornerback is another premium position in today's NFL and the Dolphins risk losing Sean Smith to unrestricted free agency. The 2009 second-round pick out of Utah has the unique size (6-foot-3, 218 pounds) teams are beginning to look for in a cornerback. In 2012, Smith tied career-highs with two interceptions and 12 passes defensed and had a career-high three forced fumbles. Based on a league-wide cap number of $121 million, the franchise tag for a cornerback will be worth around $10.7 million in 2013.

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