The Miami Dolphins surprised a lot of folks this season when they went 10-6 and made the playoffs. Ryan Tannehill’s knee injury was a bad break, but for the first time in years, there’s plenty of promise in South Beach.
Free agency is just two weeks away, which means improvements are bound to be made by the Dolphins. With about $42 million in projected cap space, they’ll have plenty of money to spend to bolster a defense that struggled for the most part last season. The Dolphins already have begun making moves to open up additional cap space – releasing Mario Williams and Earl Mitchell, and trading Branden Albert – which could be a sign of things to come.
Here are five players the Dolphins should target in free agency when it opens on March 9, including a notorious New York Giants pass rusher.
USA TODAY SportsEd Mulholland
WR Kenny Stills (Dolphins)
When all are healthy, the Dolphins have a good trio of receivers in Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Stills. Unfortunately, it’s been difficult for all three to stay on the field together. The Dolphins have to hope 2017 is the year that can happen, but it’s only possible if they re-sign Stills. He’s similar to DeSean Jackson, only younger and less polished. He’s a good complement to the bigger Parker and slot-specialist Landry.
LB Zach Brown (Bills)
The Bills found a gem in Brown, who was second in the NFL in tackles (149) last season. He would be a good addition to the Dolphins’ defense, which has one solid linebacker in Kiko Alonso – though he’s more of a cover ‘backer. Brown loves to play downhill and stuff running backs in the hole, something the Dolphins could use on a weekly basis. He would bring added physicality to the defense.
DT Brandon Williams (Ravens)
The Dolphins couldn’t stop anyone on the ground last year. They allowed the third-most rushing yards in the league (2,247), getting gashed week in and week out. Big Williams would help solve that problem. The run-stuffing defensive tackle struggled for the Ravens last season but he would fit nicely next to Ndamukong Suh as a run stopper who doesn’t have much ability to rush the passer. Perhaps his down year in 2016 will lower his cost.
DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Giants)
Mario Williams was a bust and Cameron Wake isn’t getting any younger. The Dolphins need reinforcements at defensive end to help rush the passer, which is something they struggled to do without Olivier Vernon last year. Pierre-Paul proved he can be very effective despite having one bad hand and will be paid accordingly. The Dolphins should be the ones to pay him to shore up the defense for many years to come.
William HauserUSA TODAY Sports
G Kevin Zeitler (Bengals)
The Dolphins need a lot of help at guard. Laremy Tunsil is poised to move to left guard, while Jermon Bushrod is in need of upgrading at the other spot. Zeitler is the top available player at the position, and the Dolphins should do everything they can to bring him in. He would be a huge upgrade for Miami and would not only help protect Ryan Tannehill, but also open up running lanes for their newfound stud at running back in Jay Ajayi. Larry Warford would be a good consolation prize.