As the eight remaining playoff teams get set for their weekend matchups, the Miami Dolphins front office and brain trust start their preparation for the 2023 season.
Following last Sunday’s playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills, head coach Mike McDaniel enters his first offseason process in ending a season and assessing players along with the people he hired or inherited on his staff.
This will be the first time in his career and, of course, with Miami, that McDaniel will work with the powers that be following a head-coaching performance and renovate the roster and staff while building at the same time.
On the player end of things, 31 Dolphins from this season will enter free agency. Of the big names in this group, tight end Mike Gesicki will likely have a number of suitors who’ll utilize him to the maximum of his ability and skill set. After posting a heartfelt message on social media, Gesicki, in a vague way, that while he loves Miami and is appreciative of the Dolphins, it appears the honeymoon is over.
Backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is also a free agent, and it’s not expected that he’ll be back in Miami Gardens next season following a year of injuries and underperformance. Staying on the offensive side of the ball, every single running back who recorded a carry for Miami in 2022, is now a free agent.
Raheem Mostert, Salvon Ahmed, Myles Gaskin and in-season addition Jeff Wilson, Jr. could all be on different teams next season, but it’s too early to speculate. With a loaded free agent running back class, the Dolphins could focus there, however, paying top dollar for a runner isn’t something that Chris Grier has proven to be in the market for in his tenure.
McDaniel brought a pair of San Fransisco wide receivers with him to Miami, River Cracraft and Trent Sherfield, and now they’re both free agents.
Defensively, the Dolphins have decisions to make regarding the homegrown talents of linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel and cornerback Nik Needham. Van Ginkel, a 2019 fifth-round draft pick out of Wisconsin is a valuable two-unit player for Miami, excelling on special teams and, more importantly, in the outside linebacker rotation for the Dolphins in a loaded room.
Needham was undrafted in that same year of 2019, and although initially cut, the Dolphins rewarded him a practice squad spot followed by an in-season promotion. Through trials by fire and social media, Needham worked to become a fixture in the Dolphins lineup as a second-year player in 2020, and, in 2021, he was one of the NFL’s top slot cornerbacks.
Needham suffered an Achilles injury in Week 6 against the Minnesota Vikings, and although a free agent now, and rehabbing ahead of schedule. He even told reporters that Miami has communicated that they have plans for him and are interested in bringing him back.
Both will have suitors beyond the Dolphins, as Needham was recently signed by Athletes First, a top-tier agency representing a long list of NFL talent. Van Ginkel is also being courted by heavy-hitting representation, so these are situations to track this offseason.
Veteran defenders such as captain Elandon Roberts, Melvin Ingram, Eric Rowe and Duke Riley enter free agency, so that makes four free-agent linebackers who saw significant snaps in 2022. You can add in a fifth in Sam Eguavoen as well.
The Dolphins inked punter Thomas Morstead to a one-year deal last offseason. He had a fine year on the field and became a fan favorite off of it. Miami would be wise to throw another one-year deal his way with his work ethic and leadership.
There are a number of other veteran free agents Miami has decisions to make on, as well as coaching. McDaniel brought in his offensive coaching staff upon being hired in Miami, but essentially inherited the defensive crew, led by coordinator Josh Boyer.
Boyer was originally hired by former head coach Brian Flores. While last season had a bit of controversy as to who exactly was running the show on defense regarding play-calling, Boyer was retained last offseason despite the firing of Flores.
This season, a talented Dolphins defense was underwhelming through the course of the season but did sustain a slew of significant injuries to key players. Emmanuel Ogbah, Brandon Jones, Needham and not to mention the Byron Jones saga, all led to Boyer playing with a limited deck.
Miami finished 2022 18th in total defense and 24th in scoring defense. The main issue was on third downs, as they were tied for the NFL’s 24th-ranked unit here, and, many times throughout the season, it was key conversions that plagued the Dolphins.
At the moment, it’s not confirmed one way or another if Boyer will be retained, and another coach where the speculation is flying is special teams coordinator Danny Crossman. The Dolphins ranked near the bottom of the league in special teams categories.
Now that 24 teams are looking to 2023, the coaching carousel is underway, but the timetables will be anybody’s guess on what, when, who and how this will play out from a staffing side.