Key Additions: Branden Albert ($9.4M per year), Cortland Finnegan($5.5M), Earl Mitchell($4M), Knowshon Moreno($3M), Shelly Smith($2.75M), Louis Delmas($2.25M)
Key Re-Signings: Randy Starks ($5M per year)
Key Losses: Paul Soliai (Falcons)
Major Cuts: Dimitri Patterson($5.4M cap savings)
Free Agency Thoughts:
For the second year in a row the Dolphins have been big spenders in free agency. The Dolphins more or less neglected any long term vision for a few years under Jeff Ireland before they began throwing money around last offseason, with the most notable acquisition being WR Mike Wallace, who signed a ridiculous contract he could almost never live up to. They did not bring in anyone as high priced this year, but certainly did make their share of noteworthy moves.
There were a lot of divided opinions on the signing of Branden Albert to a contract with $20 million fully guaranteed at the soon to be age of 30. His eventual future could be right tackle, which would make him the most expensive right tackle in the NFL on the backend of his contract by a wide margin. I take the other approach on this one and feel the Dolphins really had no choice. Their offensive line was a mess in 2013 and Ireland probably lost his job because he failed to pull the trigger last year on Albert via trade. While you can’t fix things in the future this was the best, most proven option they could find and it really is a move they had no choice to make and could not risk haggling over cost
On the other end of the spectrum was a two year deal for CB Cortland Finnegan for which there is no argument- it’s a terrible contract. Finnegan was awful with the Rams, who opted to pay him $3 million to go away in hopes another team would sign him and eat some of the cost. The Dolphins not just ate the cost but gave him a raise. The Dolphins are making the assumption that by pairing him with Brent Grimes, who was extended about a week before free agency began, that they will take the pressure off him that he had with the Rams.
The decision that will come under some scrutiny will be the signing of Earl Mitchell over the retention of Paul Soliai. Mitchell is cheaper and younger but he is not as consistent a player as Soliai has been. From the Dolphins perspective I think they assumed that Soliai does not play enough to warrant the extra money and retaining Randy Starks, who is very good, and pairing him with a lower cost talent made more sense.
Bringing in RB Knowshon Moreno at just $3 million for one season was a solid move. Moreno I think fell victim to overestimating his own worth and had no suitors remaining by the time he signed. There is almost no downside to this as even at his worst he is a talent upgrade for the team. I think it does bring into question why they just did not keep Reggie Bush last year at $4 million a season, however.
Overall Grade: B
I guess the grade for Miami comes down to how much you like the Albert signing. If you dislike it then it’s an average or worse grade. If you like it then I think you give them a B. Last years spending spree was far worse than this years. Last year they grossly overpaid for three players. This year they didn’t grossly overpay for anyone and many of the contracts are reasonable. In my opinion they improved greatly at left tackle and improved at running back and safety while likely remaining constant at defensive tackle. I don’t understand the Finnegan move and they should have targeted more players on the offensive line, but the Dolphins should get better provided their QB develops this season.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.