David Drucker/ Staff Writer
Lost in the rare frenzy of South Florida playoff games is the upcoming NFL Draft. The Miami Dolphins will either draft for need and miss out on some of the best players available or vice versa.
Why is it that the Dolphins are playing catch-up at the NFL draft every year? Can they do something different in 2016 to change their fortune?
Part of the circus that is the Dolphins’ roster is that they are consistently over-aggressive in the offseason. As every Dolphins fans should know, “winning free agency” can mean a lot of things.
Sometimes, it translates to reeling in a prize like defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh at a tremendous cost. Although one huge free agent signing probably won’t lift up your entire team.
A large contract can hinder a roster, however, like Suh’s did before the Dolphins restructured his astounding $28.6 million against the salary cap this season.
If you’ve followed the Dolphins for a few years now, you are probably familiar with how one big-name free agent affects everyone else.
Miami cannot hand out quality contracts to reliable starters because they don’t have the cap flexibility. Instead, they must rely on rookies and stopgap options to hold down important positions.
Many of these NFL newcomers struggle through their transitions and are the weakest links on the roster. Whose fault is it though, the rookies for performing poorly or the Dolphins for not giving them a fair chance to succeed?
Miami may draft a couple busts every year, but every team takes chances on high-risk, high-rewards players in the NFL draft. After a few of these projects blossom into starters, however, most teams like to retain them because they can trust them.
The Dolphins aren’t terrible at drafting, but at retaining their talent. Since the 2010 draft, Miami has landed defensive end Olivier Vernon, strong safety Reshad Jones, tight end Charles Clay and halfback Lamar Miller all in the third round or later.
Jones is the only one who will be reporting to practice in Davie this offseason. In fact, Rishard Matthews, a productive wide receiver drafted in the seventh round, is already trying to devise a way out of Miami.
I believe Miami lets this happen because of inconsistency in management and coaching. This year’s regime is always here to correct the mistakes of last year’s and install their own football philosophy.
Therefore, the Dolphins clear house of their own talent – players they might be able to get at a discount if they were on good terms with them – and become a farm for the rest of the NFL.
Before talent gets fixed, continuity in general manager and head coach will need to exist first. Ross believes that Head Coach Adam Gase will be the man to usher in a new era of stability in Miami.
As Miami takes players off the board this year, I ask fans to not over-analyze them based on their past experience. Instead, pay more attention to how this upcoming draft class is coached under Gase.
See how much Tannenbaum invests in them and how they are treated as they approach their contract years.
The Dolphins need to start treating rookies like investments. If I have learned anything from spring after spring of “winning” free agency, it’s that the Dolphins are not.
If they can win the draft, however, and then continue to invest in these players, maybe I’ll be able to write a different story next year.