The NFL announced on Thursday that the Miami Dolphins were being stripped of their 2023 first-round pick as well as their 2024 third-round pick. Additionally, Owner Stephen Ross was suspended — kind of — for the first six weeks of the season and fined $1.5 million. All of this comes after Ross and the Dolphins were found to have illegally tampered. Ross attempted to lure Tom Brady away from Tampa Bay and Sean Payton from New Orleans while they were under contract. Miami still owns San Francisco’s first-round pick in 2023; however, the loss of those picks has the potential to be a more devastating loss than we think. Hint: Like everything else, it involves Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins QB plans in 2023.
The Potential Damage
Everyone seems to agree that this is Tua’s last chance to prove he can be a starter; at least in Miami. He has to show that he improved on his weaknesses and has the “it” factor. Specifically, he needs to prove he can be a quarterback who wins late-season games and make throws that he’s struggled to make in the past. His leash is short.
When Miami committed to Tagovailoa in the spring, Miami’s long-term plan seemed fairly clear. If Tagovailoa progresses like they expect him to, they have found their franchise quarterback. If he doesn’t, then the Dolphins have the fire-power to trade-up for a top-tier QB in the draft.
Ohio State QB CJ Stroud and Alabama QB Bryce Young are expected to enter the 2023 draft. Miami would likely have a great interest in both quarterbacks. The power of having two first-round picks was immeasurable in this QB class. Unfortunately, after yet another embarrassing blunder of the Stephen Ross era, that plan has probably gone out the window.
Ross’ mistake has cost the Dolphins a significant draft pick regardless of whether it’s used on a quarterback. Hopefully Tagovailoa proves he can be the Dolphins QB in 2023, and the potential long-term impact of losing the first-round pick is minimized.
The Miami Dolphins traded wide receiver Devante Parker. This does not come as a surprise to most; however, the team he was traded to was a bit of a shocker. GM Chris Grier made a deal with the AFC East rival New England Patriots to trade Devante Parker and a 5th-round pick to New England in exchange for a 3rd-round pick in next year’s draft.
Parker had been mentioned in trade rumors for a couple of years, but Miami never dealt him.
During his time in Miami, Parker was a key contributor when he was on the field. Unfortunately, hamstring injuries have plagued his career and he hasn’t been as consistent as many had hoped.
What the Devante Parker trade means for Miami:
This offseason, Miami signed wide receiver Cedrick Wilson and traded for star receiver Tyreek Hill. With 2nd-year wide-out Jaylen Waddle already on the roster, Parker quickly found himself in the fourth spot on the depth chart.
Parker was owed about $6 million in 2022. It is an unprecedented amount to pay for a fifth pass-catching option. According to Spotrac, the move frees up $6.25 million in cap space for Miami and they will take on no dead money.
By sending this year’s fifth-round pick to New England, Miami has just four picks in the 2022 NFL draft: a third and fourth-round pick, and two seventh-round picks. What goes unnoticed is the amount of cap space “created” by not having to sign an entire draft class this year.
The most exciting part of the trade, however, is not the money Miami saved. It’s what the Dolphins got in return.
New England sent Miami a third-round pick in next year’s draft. Miami now has a whopping five picks in the first three rounds of the 2023 draft. Currently, the Dolphins have two first and third-round picks as well as one second-round pick.
Who “won” this trade remains to be seen, but Dolphins fans should feel good about adding cap space while adding future draft capital.
It’s only been about seven weeks without Miami Dolphins football, but it feels like it’s been seven years. The good thing for Miami Dolphins fans is that NFL Free Agency is rapidly approaching. The Miami Dolphins holes and positional needs on this roster were made abundantly clear during the 9-8 campaign. Fortunately, many of these needs will be filled during free agency.
The Miami Dolphins will surely be in the market for a top-tier OL in free agency, maybe even two. Miami had a bottom-3 offensive line in 2021 and was a big part of the reason the offense struggled. The Dolphins offense finished 25th in yards per game and 24th in points per game. With new OL coach Matt Applebaum and a run-heavy offense with HC Mike McDaniel, expect GM Chris Grier to look for top-tier offensive linemen when FA opens.
For a second straight offseason, the Dolphins will likely be looking for wide receivers. Aside from Jaylen Waddle, no WR from the Dolphins 2021 roster is a guarantee to be back. In the Dolphins new offense, guys who can make plays in space with the ball in their hands will be valued.
The Dolphins will also look to add front-seven starters/depth pieces on defense. The linebacking corp was a weakness last year on defense, and getting a key piece next to defensive play-caller Jerome Baker would be significant.
Potential Miami Dolphins Free Agency Signings
Wide Receiver, Amari Cooper
Cooper is still under contract with the Cowboys. Fortunately, Dallas is expected release the veteran due to cap concerns.
Amari Cooper would be an huge signing for Miami for obvious reasons. He is still a big-playmaking receiver who would become an instant threat in the Dolphins offense.
A huge part of what makes Cooper’s game so special is his route-running.
The Dolphins will have to spend more money on Cooper than other WRs I’ve listed, but they have the space.
If Miami can make a hometown reunion with for Cooper, Miami’s offense will instantly look more powerful.
Wide Receiver, Juju Smith-Schuster
Juju Smith-Schuster has been a key part of the Steelers offense for the last five seasons. He is set to hit free agency for the second offseason in a row.
In five years, he’s missed a combined 18 games(more than one season). That hasn’t stopped him front putting up nearly 4,000 yards and 26 touchdowns.
What doesn’t show up on the stat sheet though is his ability to block in the run game. In a offense that will place an emphasis on running the ball, receivers who can block downfield will be a great advantage.
Smith will also be a great addition in the passing game for Miami. He can stretch the field vertically as well as make guys miss in space.
Steelers GM Kevin Colbert implied that the Steelers will try and keep Juju in Pittsburgh, but if he makes it to FA, expect Miami to be mentioned as a potential landing spot.
Wide Receiver, Byron Pringle
Pringle just finished his fourth season with the Chiefs and is expected to hit the open market. Pringle, like Wilson, is the perfect fit for the Dolphins offense.
The way Pringle can move with the ball in his hands in traffic is incredible. In an offense that will feature quick passes to receivers in space, Pringle’s skill set would be perfect.
According to Hussam Patel on the Donna Daily podcast, the Dolphins are interested in Wilson Jr. and Pringle and view both as an “Albert Wilson type” player.
Similar to Wilson Jr., Miami should not have to break the bank for Pringle.
Center/Guard, James Daniels
The offensive line is clearly Miami’s biggest need. It was the downfall of the offense last year and will be key in Mike McDaniel’s run-heavy offense. Daniels, who spent his first four seasons in Chicago, has shown he can play multiple positions on the OL.
During his rookie campaign, Daniels started nine games at left guard and one game at right guard. In 2019, Daniels split time between guard and center.
The Dolphins OL struggled significantly against stunts last season.
While using his experience at three out of five OL positions, Daniels has become elite at picking up stunts.
In the video above, Daniels picks up a stunt and takes on Aaron Donald one-on-one.
Clearly, he can do similar things at left guard. In an offense that expects to run the ball a lot, linemen who can get to the next level are a necessity. Daniels’ ability to block upfield would be a huge addition for the Dolphins. Miami could likely get Daniels in the $10M/year range.
Guard, Brandon Scherff
Scherff will probably cost Miami more money. Scherff has spent seven seasons in the league, all in Washington. Almost all of his time has been spent at right guard. Scherff is clearly a top guard in the game and has the accolades to prove it. He’s a five-time Pro Bowler and was voted First-team All-Pro in 2020.
Although Scherff is a star guard who has established himself at the top of his position in this league, there are a few reasons Miami may shy away from him.
Scherff was moved to RG during his rookie offseason because of his strength and ability to handle bull rushes. Miami currently has Robert Hunt at right guard. Hunt played solid football down the stretch last season, and it would not be surprising to see him get a shot there this season. There will be movement along the OL this offseason, so it will depend on whether the Dolphins feel that Hunt or Scherff can play another position or whether Hunt is just not the answer at RG.
There’s also the money issue. Miami has a plethora of cap space, but Brandon Scherff will not be cheap. After playing last season on the franchise tag at over $18 million, Scherff is probably looking for one of his final big deals like Terron Armstead.
Whether or not he will be in South Florida next season will depend on numerous factors, but he is a name Dolphins fans should keep an eye on.
Linebacker, Rashaan Evans
The Dolphins were considered a landing spot for Evans in the 2018 NFL Draft, but they elected to select Evans’ Alabama teammate, Minkah Fitzpatrick. Evans has had a somewhat underwhelming career thus far in Tennessee but has significant potential.
Miami will be thin at linebacker this offseason with Vince Biegel and Elandon Roberts set to hit free agency and will need to add veteran pieces to the middle of the defense.
Evans is an aggressive linebacker who can make tackles in the open field, stuff run gaps, and play coverage when needed. A versatile linebacker will thrive in the Miami defense.
Evans will be a low-risk high-reward free agent and will likely generate lots of traction if his asking price is right.
Potential Miami Dolphins Free Agency Re-signings
Aside from the obvious potential re-signings like Emmanuel Ogbah or Mike Gesicki, there are a few other Miami Dolphins that Chris Grier should try and bring back in free agency for the 2022 season.
Wide Receiver, Mack Hollins
In 2020, Mack Hollins showed flashes of potential at the depleted WR position; however, he proved to be inconsistent and was not a reliable piece at the position. He was brought back last season and showed incredible improvement. He became a solid option in the passing game and was a dog on special teams.
Hollins is highly respected in the locker room. The leadership and passion he brings to the squad is second to none.
Bringing Hollins back on the right price tag is something the Dolphins seriously should and will consider.
Running Back, Duke Johnson
The Dolphins RB room has been a cause for concern for the past few years. The lack of run game can partially be attributed to a lackluster offensive line, but also due to a lack of experience and/or talent.
Johnson, who was drafted in 2015, joined the Dolphins in late October and got his first start in a home game in December. Johnson broke out for over 100-yards and two touchdowns.
He is a hard-runner and has the ability to hit holes and make guys miss in the open field.
He clearly also has the ability to be a threat in the passing game. Johnson will find himself a nice role in a Mike McDaniel offense should Miami decide to re-sign him.
Johnson’s asking price should not be unreasonable, and he may even take a hometown discount to stay in Miami, where he was born, raised, and attended college.
Editor’s Note: It’s been more than a year since this article first published, and today, February, 9 2023, Zach Thomas was finally announced as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Congrats Mr. Thomas, and Dolphins fans everywhere.
Every August, we see posts explaining why Zach Thomas should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and then the chatter ends. Then, the next year’s finalists are announced and everyone makes their case for Thomas again.
The same thing happens every year; but, hopefully, that changes next year.
Zach Thomas’ Hall Of Fame Endorsements
On Saturday night, now Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson made sure to let everyone know his thoughts on Thomas. Johnson said “Zach Thomas belongs up here” as he talked about his defense that led the Miami league.
Jimmy Johnson is now the 2nd Hall of Fame inductee to emphasize that Zach Thomas needs to be in the HOF. In 2019, former New York Jets OL, Kevin Mawae said Zach Thomas should be in the HOF.
Thomas was drafted in 1996 and spent 12 seasons with the Dolphins, before spending his last season with the Cowboys. He retired after his 13th season.
Thomas intercepted 17 passes and returned 4 of them for touchdowns. He also forced 16 fumbles. Although the turnover numbers aren’t eye-grabbing, offenses could never be too cautious with the ball around Thomas. With 33 forced turnovers, he is tied with LB Brian Urlacher, who has been in the HOF for 3 years.
Thomas racked up 1,100 solo tackles and 627 assists through his 13-year career. For comparison, Urlacher and Junior Seau had less tackles. Both are in the Hall of Fame. As a matter of fact, he led the Miami Dolphins in tackles 10 out of his 12 seasons in South Florida. The tackling machine ranks 5th all-time on the tackling list.
It is crucial to note that all 4 players ahead of Thomas on that list played significantly more games than Thomas.
Zach Thomas also had 5 first team all-pro selections and 2 second team all-pro selections. Additionally, he was voted into 7 Pro Bowls.
Clearly, Zach Thomas has the stats to be in the Hall of Fame. From tackles to forcing turnovers, Thomas wreaked havoc wherever he was on the field.
Aside from the numbers, Thomas was a hell of a leader and football mind. He took blame for every Dolphins loss. Thomas was often the first one in the facility and the last one out. During Kevin Mawae’s enshrinement speech, he said Thomas was “one of the smartest, if not the smartest” defender he had ever faced.
On Sunday, Peyton Manning was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Most people consider Manning a top-3 QB of all-time. Whenever Peyton Manning discusses players who posed the greatest challenge, he always mentioned Zach Thomas
According to Manning, Thomas was able to call out the Colts offensive plays.
He was the quarterback of the Miami defense for 12 years, and caused opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators to lose sleep.
Why Zach Thomas isn’t in the HOF yet is, quite literally, unanswerable. He started all but 2 games in his career and has the numbers to compete with other HOF LBs. Thomas averaged almost 10 tackles per game, and was one of the smartest LBs to play the game. He’s been endorsed by two Hall of Famers during their enshrinement speeches and called on of the greats by Peyton Manning.
The difference for Thomas may be that the Dolphins didn’t have real success as a team during his time in Miami. Whatever the reason may be, we won’t ever know. However, at this point, it’s laughable that Zach Thomas doesn’t have his own gold jacket.
Thomas has been a finalist two years in a row now. He is bound to get in at some point, right? Dolphins Fans all over the world(literally) will have to wait and see if Thomas is on the stage unveiling his bust next August.
If you told me in August that the Miami Dolphins would start the season 1-7, I would’ve told you that you’re crazy. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. At 1-7, if you told me the Dolphins would win five straight, get to 6-7, and have a chance to win-out and make the playoffs, I would’ve called you a lot more things than just “crazy.”
However, that is exactly the point we have reached. The Dolphins have won five games in a row, the defense looks elite, and Tua and the offense are slowly finding a rhythm. Can the once 1-7 Miami Dolphins make the playoffs and what are the Miami Dolphins playoff chances?
Dolphins Remaining Schedule
After their Week 14 bye, the Dolphins will have four games remaining. They host the Jets, visit the Saints, visit the Titans and former QB Ryan Tannehill, and lastly host OROY favorite Mac Jones and the Patriots in Week 18. Clearly, every game is very likely a must win game.
New York Jets
The Dolphins have won four of their last five games versus the Jets, and most people expect them to make it five of six. Miami easily beat New York less than a month ago at MetLife Stadium and shouldn’t struggle too much with the 3-9 squad in a humid Hard Rock Stadium.
Of course Miami’s bye week is seen as a chance to get healthy and have extra time to prepare for the Jets. However, it is also coming at a point in which Miami has won five straight games and a bye week could put a dagger in Miami’s momentum.
If the defense continues to perform at an elite level, beating a Jets team lead by rookie QB Zach Wilson shouldn’t be a problem.
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints have lost five straight games. They have uncertainty in their QB room as Trevor Siemian and Taysom Hill are both playing below average football, the wide receiver(WR) room is depleted, and overall seem to be struggling in the post Drew Brees era.
The Saints will be a far tougher challenge than the Jets though. Compared to the Jets bottom tier defense, the Saints are a top-15 defense in the NFL. Miami’s offense, although performing a little better as of late, has been inconsistent.
Even though Miami upset Baltimore in their last primetime game, the narrative that they do not perform well in primetime is still overshadowing the team. Going into a packed Caesars Superdome on primetime will be a tough challenge for Brian Flores’ young squad, but there’s no reason to believe they can’t win this game.
The schedule gets harder by the week for Miami. In Week 17, Miami will travel to Tennessee to take on their former franchise QB, Ryan Tannehill. This game looks a lot less challenging now that RB Derrick Henry is dealing with a foot injury he suffered earlier in the year.
The Titans started out 8-2 but have dropped two straight games in embarrassing fashion. They lost to the two-win Texans and were blown out by the Patriots.
Regardless, they are still the No. 2 seed in the AFC, and a Mike Vrabel lead team can always pose a great challenge.
Fortunately for Miami, the Titans offense has struggled, and the defense is once again having issues.
The Titans have averaged just 16.3 points over their last three games, while Miami’s defense has returned to its elite form from 2020.
On the other side of the ball, the Titans defense has also struggled. Tennessee has allowed over 280 passing yards in two of their last three games to teams who haven’t had the most aggressive passing attacks in New England and New Orleans. In their last three games, they’ve allowed over 26 points per game.
A struggling Tennessee defense will help Miami immensely as the offense needs all the assistance they can get.
The weather will likely play a role in this game. For a team like Miami who is used to playing under the scorching sun year round, a game in Tennessee in the winter will not be easy.
If things continue the way they have for both teams, the Dolphins should have a good chance of winning and keeping their playoff hopes alive.
New England Patriots
If all things go according to plan, this game will be the final factor in deciding Miami’s fate.
The Patriots started 2-4 and are the only team hotter than the Dolphins right now. They’ve won seven straight games, lead the AFC East, and currently hold the first seed in the AFC.
The defense has turned it on and they look like a championship defense.
Offensively, they’ve looked very efficient and rookie Mac Jones has done what he’s been asked. The Patriots scored 36, 25, and 45 points in the three games before their Week 13 snow matchup versus Buffalo.
Miami will have a slight advantage as they always seem to have an edge versus the Patriots when playing at home. Miami is 6-2 in their last eight matchups versus New England in South Florida.
Expect this to be a heavily defensive matchup with two head coaches who are known for torturing young quarterbacks.
If Miami can methodically pick apart the New England defense one play at a time(as they did to the Panthers and Giants), and the defense continues their elite run, Miami should have a good chance to win this game.
Is there a chance Miami can lose a game and still make the postseason? Yes. However, that is very unlikely. Miami needs to win-out and hope for some help from other teams.
Teams Ahead Of Miami
If Miami wins out, it’s not guaranteed they make the postseason; but the odds are in their favor.
Chargers, 7-5: The Chargers have been inconsistent this season but hold the 5th seed. They have five games remaining and three of them are against potential playoff teams.
Cincinnati, 7-5: The Bengals currently hold the 6th seed. Their remaining five games are all against teams who currently hold a playoff spot or are firmly in the hunt. They were just dominated by the Chargers and have a tough slate of games to finish the season.
Buffalo, 7-5: Buffalo holds the last spot in the AFC playoff picture for now. Just a year removed from an AFC Championship game appearance, they find themselves facing slight uncertainty. Of their remaining five games, two are against current playoff teams(Tampa and New England). Two other teams are in the hunt.
Pittsburgh, 6-6-1: The Steelers were dominated last night versus the Vikings and it doesn’t get easier. They have arguably the hardest closing stretch of the teams in the hunt. They close the season against three division leaders and Cleveland.
Indianapolis, 7-6: The Colts have their bye week this week. After that, they have four games remaining. Two of those are against division leaders. Another is against Las Vegas who is still squarely in the hunt. It is important to note that the Colts own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Miami.
Las Vegas, 7-6: Like the Colts, the Raiders also own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Miami. Vegas ends their season with three divisional games, and every team they play is firmly in the hunt or currently holding a spot in the playoffs. They have a difficult schedule for a team that has been very inconsistent as of late.
Cleveland, 6-6: The Browns defense has been excellent this season, but their offense has held them back. The Browns finish their season with five straight potential playoff teams, similar to other teams in the hunt. If their offense continues to struggle, they may very well find themselves in a bad spot by Week 16.
Denver, 6-6: Denver hosts the one-win Lions in Week 14. Denver then faces three teams who are currently in the playoffs and Las Vegas, who is already ahead of them.
It seems very clear Miami has one of the more favorable closing schedules out of any team in the hunt. Most teams finish with four or five straight potential playoff teams. In Miami’s case, their schedule gets slightly harder each week, and they could be controlling their own destiny in Week 17.
Miami isn’t playing this week, but can make up serious ground on some of the teams above.
If Miami finishes with the same record as Buffalo, Buffalo will finish ahead of Miami as Buffalo owns the head-to-head tiebreaker this season 2-0.
Miami will also the head-to-head tiebreaker to Las Vegas due to their early season loss to the Raiders when Tua Tagovailoa was injured.
The Colts, currently one game ahead of Miami, also hold the head-to-head tiebreaker due to their win in Miami over Jacoby Brissett.
Miami does own the head-to-head breaker over Baltimore, but that won’t matter if the Ravens win the AFC North.
Miami will hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over New England assuming the Dolphins win out. However, like the Ravens, it won’t matter if New England wins the AFC East.
The Dolphins currently have a 4-5 record in the AFC. Winning out will give them a 7-5 record in the AFC and may play a role in tiebreakers in Week 18.
Will This Matter?
There’s a chance none of this will matter by 4:00 PM on December 19th. If they lose to New York, the Miami Dolphins playoffs chances will take a serious hit.
Miami has to take care of their business, go one week at a time, and win out. If they can do this, there’s a great chance they will be the first team to start 1-7 and make the postseason.