The Miami Dolphins are currently mired in a playoff push and hopeful in securing their first winning season since 2016. But this year’s team has a much different feel to it than the 2016 Dolphins, who went 10-6. The biggest reason why? The Dolphins of 2020 embraced the fact that they had to get worse before they could getter and endured a frustrating and challenging 2019 season to set the table for future successes — both in 2020 and beyond.
And while this year’s Dolphins team has already exceeded their 2019 win total by two with five additional games left to be played, some fans are already pondering what the ceiling of this team is. Admittedly, it isn’t as high as the ceiling of some of the league’s Super Bowl contenders in 2020. But that was always to be expected when you factor in Miami’s tear-down in 2020 and the team’s youth and inexperience at so many critical positions.
Miami’s defense has been a bright spot this season — but the offense seems to captivate everyone’s attention and demand their criticism despite Miami currently being on pace to log their 4th season in franchise history with over 400 points scored. Expectations are high with a young standout quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa and so much invested into the offensive line this past offseason.
Which raises the question of who might be a high-priced investment the Dolphins make for the unit in 2021?
Touchdown Wire has assembled the 2021 NFL All-Free Agent Team to spotlight the cream of the crop for the upcoming free agent class. And if you’re looking for targets for the Dolphins’ offense, good news! There are a couple of logical fits. Who stands out the most? Miami won’t sign all of these players, the ceiling would probably only be one out of the five. But the options offer plenty of intrigue.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) is hit by Chicago Bears inside linebacker Danny Trevathan (59) in the second quarter during their football game Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.
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Green Bay Packers RB Aaron Jones
The Dolphins were reportedly tied to Melvin Gordon this past offseason as a potential free agent back. And the Dolphins’ 2-year, $10M signing of Jordan Howard (about as bad of a flop as we’ve seen Miami make since 2019) proves that the team isn’t afraid to pony up cash for a running back. Jones is like a juiced up version of Myles Gaskin; he’s a better athlete, he’s a better receiver, he’s more experienced and more productive.
And, well, he’ll be more expensive, too. By a ton. Spotrac estimates his 2021 market value to be somewhere around $13M per season. That’s a pretty penny to pay. But Jones, who is 25-years old, accounted for 1,500+ yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns in 2019 as the Packers’ feature back. He’s been used less frequently in 2020 and missed time with a lower body injury; but his per-touch production is in line with that monster 2019 season.
This is a hard sell based on the financials and given the fact that Jones was drafted in the 5th-round only seems to reinforce the idea that Miami should invest in volume at running back and allow the universe to align itself. But there’s no denying this is a big fit.
Nov 29, 2020; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson II (12) rushes with the football between Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Christian Kirksey (58) and free safety Raven Greene (24) during the second quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Bears WR Allen Robinson
If Miami is looking for an upgrade over Preston Williams and wants to maintain their size at the wide receiver position, this will be the way to go. This fit isn’t super clean cut given that Robinson is 27 years old and will be seeking a big contract — this will probably be his last major payday in the NFL. Comparable contracts given out in recent years average somewhere around $19M per season, which again makes Robinson feel like a long shot to sign in Miami. But as proven by the signing of Byron Jones, the Dolphins aren’t afraid to “go big” if they have enough conviction in the player in question.
Parker and Robinson as a duo would be one hell of a duo for young Tua Tagovailoa to throw to on the boundary, no one could possibly argue that.
Nov 22, 2020; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Taylor Moton (72) with his traditional spike after the score against the Detroit Lions during the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Carolina Panthers OT Taylor Moton
Do the Dolphins feel convinced their offensive line answers are on the roster? If not, where is their conviction least firm? If their apprehension lies with Austin Jackson and Robert Hunt at tackle (many felt Hunt would be effective kicked inside to guard), Moton is a scheme fit for Miami with his power and strength. He’s young, too! At 26-years of age, there’s little reason to think Moton won’t offer a team a great return on investment.
But given the need for good offensive linemen everywhere, Moton is expected to command quite the dollar amount — Spotrac forecasts him at approximately $16.3M per season.
Oh, right. One more fun fact about Moton? He plays right tackle, which would put him on Tua Tagovailoa’s blind side.
Nov 1, 2020; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New England Patriots offensive guard Joe Thuney (62) blocks on a play in the third quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Bills Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots OG Joe Thuney
Duh. The Dolphins were tied to Thuney back in 2020 before the Patriots dropped the franchise tag on him in the midnight hour before the start of free agency. Miami’s pursuit of Thuney would have made a ton of sense had it materialized then and there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t still make a ton of sense if they committed to pursuing it again this season. Yes, Miami has Ereck Flowers on the books for two more years. But Thuney has shown positional versatility this season and Miami’s interior line does need more range.
Thuney would give it to them and there’s an obvious connection to draw thanks to the Patriots lineage. Thuney’s projected market value by Spotrac pegs him around $14M per season.
Nov 1, 2020; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (17) celebrates with center Corey Linsley (63) after scoring a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings during the second quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Green Bay Packers C Corey Linsley
The Dolphins have enjoyed some stretches of nice play with Ted Karras at the center position this year. There have been ups and downs, as you would expect for a player on a “prove it” deal in Miami to try his luck as an unquestioned starter. Has he done enough to command the job full time? Will the Dolphins ante up and sign him again?
If not, Packers center Corey Linsley is a standout who could make sense. He’s getting close to 30, which may disqualify him from consideration from Miami. But Linsley will likely be the cheapest option of any of the talents mentioned here and when he’s healthy he’s among the best interior OL in football.