AC in the AM: An Important Stretch Begins With Combine

Posted Feb 27, 2018

The offseason pace is starting to pick up. The scouting combine begins today in Indianapolis. The start of free agency is right in front of us. The draft, still two months away, is already being dissected and devoured.

There is no need for a hurry-up offense just yet. But the Miami Dolphins have a lot to consider and many different paths in which to potentially travel. This is the urgency of the final week of February. Continue evaluating. Research every option. Try to figure out how each piece can fit and where it can fit amid the restraints of a league mandated salary cap.

So let's take a closer look at some of the things that have happened over the past few weeks and some things that figure to happen as we, well, march into March.

o The Scouting Combine presents a real opportunity to solidify existing opinions and to create new ones. This is an invaluable up-close encounter. There are physical exams and one-on-one meetings and all sorts of tests and agility drills that will hopefully help fill in the blanks. Sure, many of the players will still have pro days and the Dolphins will host some of them at their Davie training facility in the coming weeks. But the information gained over the next few days will prove invaluable and being able to scrutinize all of these players at the same time provides an important comparison and, in some cases, a lasting impression. Bottom Line: The Dolphins have a nice core of young players, an exciting core. Now they need to add to it.

o I've seen all the mock drafts, how some think it'll be a quarterback, others a linebacker, maybe even an offensive lineman. Truth is, there is no way to properly predict what the 10 teams in front of the Dolphins will do. I'll always remember the Laremy Tunsil story, how the Dolphins met with him late at night in Indianapolis, some figuring it was a waste of time because there's no way he'd be available when the Dolphins picked. "It just shows that you never know in this business," said Executive Vice President Mike Tannenbaum.

o Where are the needs? What are the priorities? Here is my own personal top five at this precise moment in time:

1. A versatile linebacker capable of both rushing the passer and covering a tight end. This is a unique blend of skills and that's why there aren't many of these types of players in the league. But there are several intriguing options in the draft. Press me for a name and I'll give you Georgia's Roquan Smith.

2. A game-breaking tight end. The Dolphins have tried the veteran route the past few seasons without much success. Look around the league. Almost every top team has at least one of these sure-handed, playmaking mismatches for a defense. A productive tight end is so important to the type of offense Adam Gase prefers to implement. It's time he had a player to fit that role.

3. More depth at quarterback: This has nothing to do with a lack of faith in quarterback Ryan Tannehill, though he is returning from a serious knee injury. Instead, this is simply a case of needing to fortify the most important position on the team with quality depth and perhaps long-term potential.

4. Another starting caliber offensive lineman: It can be either a guard or a tackle. The Dolphins have enough versatility among their returning players to do some position shuffling if necessary. There are certainly some unknowns. For instance, we don't know if guard Jermon Bushrod will return for a 12th season. What we do know is the line could certainly use an additional upgrade.

5. Another starting caliber running back: This can come through free agency or the draft because there figures to be some intriguing options on both fronts. I like Kenyan Drake. Think he has a chance to be special. But this league has taught us that, with only a few exceptions, you need two starting caliber backs to truly be effective.

o Free agency starts on March 14th and, as of today, the Dolphins have 16 players who are set to become unrestricted free agents. I know the team wants many of them back, and rightfully so. But there are dollars and common sense that come into play and if the Dolphins are going to be active in signing free agents from other teams - and you can be sure they will be - some gut-wrenching decisions await.

o The Dolphins made a wise move, applying the franchise tag to wide receiver Jarvis Landry. What it does most is keep all of their options open while not allowing Landry to test the open market. My gut feeling is that they want to work out a long-term deal that works for both parties. But the situation is very fluid. Will Landry come down from his asking price? Will the Dolphins go up? Will there be trade proposals to consider? I'm a big Jarvis Landry fan. Always have been. But there is so much to consider, especially in the wake of a disappointing 6-10 season.

o Finally, kudos to the Dolphins organization for their response to the terrible mass shoots in Parkland, Fla. Not only did the Dolphins donate $100,000 to the families of the deceased, but the coaching staff and other football personnel pooled together their own personal resources and came up with $17,500 for the family of an assistant football coach (Aaron Feis) who died while trying to protect his students. I realize that every NFL team gives back to its community. But you're not going to find a team that does more than the Dolphins. It's simply become who they are.

The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by our columnists and bloggers represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.

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