Free Agency Review: Miami Dolphins

Key Additions: LB Lawrence Timmons ($6M), S Nate Allen ($3.4M), TE Anthony Fasano ($2.8M), G Ted Larsen ($1.8M), TE Julius Thomas (Trade), DE William Hayes (Trade)

Key Re-signings: WR Kenny Stills ($8M), DE Andre Branch ($8M), LB Kiko Alonso ($7.3M), G Jermon Bushrod ($3M)

Key Losses: S Isa Abdul-Quddus (FA), G Jermon Bushrod (FA), Branden Albert (Jaguars), TE Dion Sims (Bears), DE Jason Jones (FA), S Baccari Rambo (FA), DE Mario Williams (FA), LB Donald Butler (FA), DT Earl Mitchell (49ers), LB Jelani Jenkins (Raiders)

Estimated Cap Space: $20 million

Dead Money: $8.1 million

Estimated Salary Per Year: $163.1 million for 66 players

Snaps Gained/Lost in Free Agency:

Role2016 Snaps2017 SnapsChange

Player Signings

Kenny Stills- 4 years, $32M, $19M guaranteed

When rumors were being floated about how Stills was going to earn $12 million a year I was worried the Dolphins would so something crazy and sign him to that size contract, but to their credit they waited the market out and got a pretty reasonable deal. Stills is younger than Marvin Jones and has more upside and the Dolphins more or less negotiated a better contract. The only negative with this contract is that they went pretty heavy on the amount guaranteed at signing. Sometimes that can be overblown, but in this case it’s the only reason I wouldn’t give this an A. Grade: B+

Andre Branch- 3 years, $24M, $17.1M guaranteed

I’m not sure there is any logic that anyone could apply to this signing. At the worst they should have at least had a model to work off of with Mario Addison’s extension in Carolina which averaged $7.5 million and $11.25 million in guarantees. There was also William Gholston’s deal signed at the start of free agency or last years deal with Robert Ayers. This should have been a deal for $5M a season with around $7M guaranteed at signing. At best I can just assume this was an over-reaction to losing Olivier Vernon in free agency last year and it produced one of the worst contracts signed in free agency.  Grade: F

Kiko Alonso- 4 years, $28.9M, $18.5M guaranteed

This is a very ambitious deal for a player whose already been given up on by two teams, plays a position that is being devalued year by year, and has an injury history that could limit his effectiveness. Alonso is fine when he is healthy, but the Dolphins did not put a penny into per game roster bonuses of anything else that pays for playing. His amount fully guaranteed is fifth among all linebackers and Im not even sure if the Dolphins know where they want to play him.  Grade: C-

Lawrence Timmons- 2 years, $12M, $11M guaranteed

Timmons can still play and has been super reliable in Pittsburgh and should continue to be productive in Miami. I can see the guarantee being a little concern, but while the percentage is very high I look at this more that Miami was just realistic on the amount of years they expect him to play at a $6M level. They got a somewhat better deal than Kansas City got with Derrick Johnson and didn’t get tricked into doing the David Harris silliness either. Grade: B

Nate Allen- 1 year, $3.4M, $3.4M guaranteed

Miami could have found cheaper, younger, and better players than Allen had they just been a bit more patient. It’s hard to also see how they could have given Allen a raise over what Oakland agreed to pay him last season. I guess they figured a veteran was a more sure thing and wanted to make sure they did not lose him.  Grade: C-

Jermon Bushrod- 1 year, $3M, $2.25M guaranteed

Bushrod isn’t anything special at this stage of his career, but he’s still a professional that is capable of starting.  Having played with Miami last year it’s hard to imagine him signing for less and I think this is a pretty reasonable market rate. While the Dolphins did guarantee a big portion of the contract these type of players are usually not going to be cut prior to the season anyway and they tied a good portion of the deal to being active so if things do go badly they can save some money. Grade: C+

Anthony Fasano- 1 year, $2.75M, $1.25M guaranteed

For what Miami is looking for Fasano should be a good fit. He is still a very capable blocker and with the young players at tackle he definitely should provide a benefit. Fasano can also be a safety outlet in a few situations if the Dolphins use him at all in the passing game. I would have liked to have seen some per game bonuses in this contract given the age, but he has been pretty reliable for most of his career. Grade: B

Trade Acquisitions

Julius Thomas- 2 years, $12.2M, $3M guaranteed

Miami effectively gave up nothing for Thomas and then renegotiated his contract to pay him $5.6 million this year. I view this as no different than the Dwayne Allen trade in that it’s hard to imagine the players signing a comparable contract if they were released.  Thomas is an injury risk and has missed 11 games in the last two years so it’s surprising they did not try to protect themselves from that.  There is more upside here than the Allen trade but overall this is a similar deal.  Grade: C

William Hayes- 1 year, $4.8M, $4.7M guaranteed

Miami only moves down around 20 spots to bring in Hayes, who is a better player and value than Branch. I’m not really sure I understood the contract restructure they did in which they deleted the 2018 year, which only cost $5M, for just a $750,000 pay cut, especially in light of some of the veteran contracts they have handed out. I just think they could end up paying more if he has a good season, but maybe they considered this a motivational tactic.   Grade: B+

Overall Thoughts

There are two ways to judge the Dolphins offseason so far. One is just by taking each individual signing and looking and how you value each one. By that criteria it’s a C or a C+.  You can also look at the overall picture here and where the team is headed and I think that’s a D or an F.

Miami made the playoffs last season, but I am not sure of any efficiency system that looked at them as a real contender. Our efficiency ratings had them around 20 with a projected record of 7 wins, Football Outsiders had them ranked 17th in DVOA, and PFR pegged them as a 7.5 win team. The kind of moves they made were basically just opting into basically a similar team for the long haul and adding some older pieces to a team that should be looking to get younger. The Branch contract Is arguably one of the worst signed in free agency and they did a $48 million extension for Reshad Jones that may be the worst in all of the NFL.

It would seem that the Dolphins are setting up a pattern where they will over guarantee on contracts relative to the rest of the NFL to get the players they want. In the case of Stills that got them a reasonable contract, but for everyone else I haven’t seen the potential reward in up front cash flows or anything like that. They have probably set themselves up for a contract offer to Jarvis Landry that will really be impressive and could be a real boost for the wide receiver market prior to the Mike Evans and Odell Beckham signing new deals. Somewhat surprisingly Miami did not get involved in the chase for any big name free agents and I think that was a positive to the offseason.

Miami did not get worse in free agency but it is hard to see anything they did really making them much better and for the long term I think they hurt themselves both from a negotiating standpoint and on the field. We saw this play out with Mike Tannenbaum at the end of his Jets tenure. He is generally very bullish on the players he wants and that can sink a team.  I’d be worried about the long term set up in Miami.

Overall Grade: C