Miami Dolphins Free Agency Primer 2022

Happy new year!

The long wait from Week 18 to the start of the new league year is nearly over, and the always-exciting free agency period is set to open Wednesday at 4 PM. But you won't have to wait until Wednesday for all the action – the legal tampering period begins today at noon, at which time teams can begin to negotiate with unrestricted free agents with other clubs. It should be a busy and exciting week ahead as the free agent market opens for business.

The Dolphins are in a position to make moves on the open market, should they so choose. Both General Manager Chris Grier and Head Coach Mike McDaniel recently discussed, on Drive Time with Travis Wingfield, the delicate nature of cap space and a measured approach to roster-building.

"Knowing we have flexibility to do stuff is good, but at the end of the day we're going to build the team that's best for us," said Grier.

"It's not like Mom's allowance that she just gave you where you're like, 'Hey, we have some money let's go spend it,'" McDaniel said. "Flexibility, sure, that matters. But that doesn't always mean -- hey you have money, you should spend it. Which is why I rely on (Chris) so much…coaches can be short-sighted at times so you need proper balance when talking through anything, especially when you're talking about salary cap and spending limits."

The Dolphins enter the free agency period with the fourth-most projected available cap space and the eighth-least amount of dead money on the books.

In this primer, we'll take a look at NFL.com's Top 101 free agents of 2022 list with a focus on Miami's team needs, as provided by CBS Sports. Those needs are offensive line, wide receiver, running back and linebacker. Plus, interesting facts from the other position groups and a look beyond the top 101.

Offensive Line: 1. Terron Armstead, 10. Brandon Scherff, 14. Duane Brown, 22. James Daniels, 26. Joe Noteboom, 33. Bradley Bozeman, 35. Ben Jones, 37. Trent Brown, 43. Laken Tomlinson, 45. Eric Fisher, 46. Connor Williams, 50. Alex Cappa, 79. Morgan Moses, 82. Austin Corbet, 94. Riley Reiff, 97. Andrew Norwell

Armstead and Scherff -- the top tackle and guard available -- have a combined eight Pro Bowls and some of the best tape across the league year-in-year-out. The depth of the group is aided by increasing longevity at the position.

Andrew Whitworth, at age 36 in 2017, left Cincinnati for Los Angeles after an 11-year career with the Bengals. Capping his age 40 season with a Lombardi Trophy, Whitworth helped anchor a Rams line that produced some of the NFL's best offense and rushing attacks during his five-year run with the club. Among the linemen in the top 101, 11 will be age 30-or-older on opening day.

Other OL notables: James Daniels (24) is the youngest of the crop; he's one of three players on the list set to test the market fresh off their rookie contracts. Laken Tomlinson played under McDaniel each of the last five years in San Francisco while Armstead's career began in the same OL room as Dolphins OC Frank Smith.

Running Back: 41. Cordarrelle Patterson, 52. James Connor, 62. Leonard Fournette, 63. Melvin Gordon, 78. Chase Edmonds, 92. Raheem Mostert

Cordarrelle Patterson is an NFL enigma. Primarily a return specialist the first seven years of his career, and drafted as a wide receiver, Patterson rushed for over 600 yards and six touchdowns a season ago in Atlanta. His flexibility helped the Falcons offense create mismatches all over the field. James Connor tied for second in the league with 15 rushing touchdowns while Leonard Fournette recaptured his rookie form with the Buccaneers (1,266 yards from scrimmage, 10 touchdowns in 2021).

Other RB notables: Raheem Mostert arrived in San Francisco in 2016, his fifth NFL team. He led the 49ers with 772 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the ground in 2019.

Wide Receiver: 8. Allen Robinson, 11. Odell Beckham, 34. Russell Gage, 36. Juju Smith-Schuster, 39. Christian Kirk, 44. Will Fuller, 51. D.J. Chark, 55. Marquez Valdez-Scantling, 76. Jamison Crowder

The franchise tagged took the top two wide receivers off the board (DeVante Adams and Chris Godwin), but the there's still plenty to love about this group of free agents. Allen Robinson and Odell Beckham appear on the marquee while, Russell Gage and Christian Kirk continue to see their numbers trend upward.

Gage has produced 1,556 of his 2,065 career receiving yards the last two years while Kirk had a career-best 982 receiving yards in 2021.

Other WR notables: D.J. Chark looked like a surefire superstar with the Jaguars after a 1,008-yard, eight touchdown season in 2019. He's since battled injuries and could be a hidden gem this cycle.

Linebacker: 17. Bobby Wagner, 19. De'Vondre Campbell, 54 Anthony Barr, 67. Kyzir White, 77. Foye Oluokun, 98. Leighton Vander Esch, 100. Jayon Brown

Bobby Wagner's release last week gave the linebackers the same thing the other position groups all have -- a megastar. Wagner once went an entire season without a missed tackle (2019, Pro Football Focus) and went to eight-straight Pro Bowls. De'Vondre Campbell made the most of his lone year with the Packers making First Team All-Pro.

Other LB notables: Leighton Vander Esch comes equipped with a nice blend of size and speed. He was a Pro Bowler and Second team All-Pro as a rookie in 2018. While he hasn't recreated that production, he's made 349 tackles with 12 passes defensed and eight tackles for loss in four seasons.

Additional Top 101 FA Facts:

- Four of the top five players are cornerbacks and edge defenders. Separating the offensive line into tackles, guards and centers, no position has more players in the top 50 than the seven cornerbacks. In totality, edge (13 free agents) and cornerback (15 free agents) are the most represented position on the list.

- McDaniel spoke at his Combine presser about backup quarterback traits should the Dolphins need to replace 2021 backup Jacoby Brissett, who's contract is set to expire. There are 4 quarterbacks on the list (Jameis Winston, Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota and Andy Dalton) with a combined 349 starts among them.

- Free agency isn't the only medium a team can use to upgrade its roster this time of year. Trading draft picks has always been a common practice, but the veteran trade market remains robust. The number of trades has increased in the league, year-to-year, every year since 2015.

Beyond the 101

Successful free agent signings are not exclusive to the top 101 list. Every year, teams find bargain buys that pay major dividends, just like the Dolphins did in 2013 when they inked cornerback Brent Grimes to a one-year, $5.5 million deal. Grimes made the Pro Bowl that season.

We'll update you on all Dolphins activity across all platforms. Stay tuned here at MiamiDolphins.com, on all social channels, and on the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield, where you will hear each new addition talk ball, the decision to join the Fins, and a whole lot more!

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