The Big Game is over, a new champion has been crowned and South Florida can return to a sense of normalcy, which also means perhaps the most important offseason in the history of the Miami Dolphins can begin in earnest.
Granted, things are already happening. The Senior Bowl has been played, the Dolphins have named a new offensive and defensive coordinator as well as reportedly adding five others members to the coaching staff and initial scouting meetings and evaluations are in progress.
But the truth is it's not really the offseason until the final whistle blows on Super Sunday and now that that has happened, the focus can shift to the challenges that lie ahead and to decisions that could very well shape this organization for years to come.
There is no way to downplay its significance. The Dolphins have never before had the combination of this many draft choices and this much salary cap flexibility. They have 14 draft picks, three in the first round alone. They have enough money to be a major player in free agency if that is indeed the path they decide to take.
There are some important dates to circle on the offseason calendar, three in particular over the next three months:
- Feb. 24-March 2: The NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
- March 18: The NFL calendar year officially begins, meaning trades can be consummated and unrestricted free agents can be signed.
- April 23-25: The NFL Draft in Las Vegas.
So where do things stand at this precise moment? The next month or so before the combine is an essential part of the offseason for Dolphins General Manager Chris Grier, Coach Brian Flores and both of their staffs. They will conclude their evaluations of every player on the current roster, make determinations about the areas of greatest need and begin the process of evaluating both players eligible for the draft and all the available free agents.
It's safe to say Grier's plate is overflowing these days, but that's the way it's likely to remain for much of this offseason. Last season was about resetting priorities, accumulating resources, introducing a new football culture and conducting a massive talent search that often meant significant roster changes on a weekly basis.
That the Dolphins accomplished all of that and still put a respectable product on the field, winning five of their final nine games, tells you all you need to know about Flores and his long-range potential leading this team. But now, with a new Super Bowl champion crowned, it is time to move past all of that.
It is time to escalate the process of turning this franchise around.
Grier met with the South Florida media while in Mobile, Ala. for the Senior Bowl and though he didn't divulge much – playing it close to the vest is part of his job description – it is clear he is ready for and embracing the enormity of this challenge.
"I'm so focused on trying to build a winner here," he said.
The Senior Bowl and the practices and meetings that came with it were the first step. "I'm just beginning to figure out who these players are and what makes them tick," Grier said.
If the Senior Bowl was the appetizer, then The Scouting Combine is undoubtedly the main course. That's now less than a month away. That's when they get to spend in-depth quality time with these players, probing their minds, measuring their skills, combing their bodies with tests and scans and anything to make sure there are no medical concerns.
"There's so much to learn," Grier said.
What do we know right now for certain? Well, truthfully not very much. And that's the way it'll likely remain for a while.
For me personally, I can tell you that I expect the Dolphins to be active players in free agency, though instead of focusing on a group of thirty-something veterans as in the past, I anticipate an approach predicated on young players with some experience but more promising upsides. Even with as much money as they have to spend, I expect a very prudent approach.
As for the draft, there is a myriad of possibilities, which comes with having three first round and two second round picks. How can anybody offer an intelligent prediction when Grier is just beginning his evaluations? I mean think of the available options. Staying put. Moving up. Moving down. Packaging picks. Any way you look at it, the Dolphins are in a position of power and that's due to a massive restructuring plan that has now been in the works for just about an entire year.
So yes the Super Bowl is now history. It was a fun week, wasn't it? But it's time to move on. The Dolphins have a lot of work ahead of them over the next three months and the importance of that work simply can't be overstated.