By Josh Baumgard
Rack up 2012 to another year of “rebuilding” for your Miami Dolphins. Through 13 weeks it’s apparent this team is not making the playoffs, despite a promising little push early on.
At least they’re not the Marlins and winning is an actual desire. As the season’s final month comes to a close, this offseason is going to be paramount to the franchise’s long term success.
At least Jeffrey Ireland will be making those decisions!
With five picks in the first three rounds and heaps of cash to spend in the range of $40 million, it’s going to be an impactful offseason. Which impending free agents will the I-thankfully-drafted-a-young-quarterback-to-buy-me-some-time general manager choose to bring back?
Reggie Bush (Running Back, Age 27)
Reggie’s status engenders some heavy questions. How high will his value be on the open market and are the Dolphins comfortable handing the reigns to Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller?
Bush has been solid in his two-year tenure in Miami. His 5.0 and 4.4 yards per carry the last two seasons rank second and third, respectively, in his seven year career. What’s disturbing is how he’s being utilized. His versatility is his greatest strength and they just haven’t taken advantage of his ability as a receiver. Why only 41 targets through 13 games on a team lacking weapons on the outside? We rarely, rarely see him split out wide, if ever.
Bush is a skilled runner in the open field but often doesn’t churn out the gritty three yards when the hole isn’t there. The Dolphins frequently find themselves in 3rd-and-forever situations this year, creating a heavier burden on their rookie quarterback.
Hit or Fold? Fold. Unless Reggie returns on a discount, it’s best to use their money elsewhere, like at wideout. While Daniel Thomas’ 3.5 career YPC is below comforting, Lamar Miller offers some explosion and upside. Productive backs can be found in various places at a low cost. See the Washington Redskins.
Chris Clemons (Safety, 27)
This four-year vet out of Clemson doesn’t get his name called often during the broadcast, but he’s been steady statistically. Pro Football Focus regards Clemsons as the 27th best overall safety in the league in 2012, allowing just a 45.0 quarterback rating when passes are thrown into his coverage.
Hit or Fold? Hit. Don’t let young, growing players go in an area of need. A quality corner or two would make his life easier.
Anthony Fasano (Tight End, 28)
The vanilla of NFL tight ends, Fasano rarely excites with the big play down field but has been reliable for most of his time in Miami.
Hit or Fold? Hit. They need more juice in the offense and the more versatile Charles Clay needs some growing room. But until they find or develop a a better option than Fasano, bringing him back wouldn’t be a terrible idea.
Brian Hartline (Receiver, 26)
This Ohio State product has already set career highs in receptions (62), targets (108), and yards (925) with three games to play. He still receives less credit than he should because he doesn’t look like the prototypical NFL receiver.
Hartline should make an ideal number two receiver on this team, in this offense. The question is how do they acquire the number one?
Hit or Fold? Hit. No brainer. Hartline has displayed strong hands and a knack for getting open down the field. At a position of weakness, letting him walk would be futile.
Jake Long (Offensive Tackle, 27)
The most perplexing free agent of this year’s crop. What to do with a still young (27), yet distinctly declining and injury riddled former top overall pick? Number one picks are supposed to be franchise guys, studs for a decade with the team that drafted them. But at what cost?
Hit or Fold? Hit. Partially. Bring Jake back with the franchise tag. Sure, it’s going to be a whopping figure, but how many big-money free agents is this team really prepared to bring in? And are they really ready to invest a long, loaded contract in this 300 pound enigma? The wise move is to rent him for another year, and see if the injuries subside while his productivity returns to previous form.
Matt Moore (Quarterback, 28)
Many feel for the kid who finished with a 6-3 record only to be smacked with clipboard-holding duties the very next year. When those same folks realize he made over $2 million holding said clipboard, the pity should evaporate in a hurry.
Hit or Fold. Hit for the right price. If he has a chance to compete for a starting job elsewhere, he’s gone, especially with the franchise’s future sewn into Ryan Tannehill. But if the offers are bleak, why not bring back one of the top two or three backups in football?
Sean Smith (Cornerback, 25)
He’s 6-3 and has shown glimpses of shutdown ability, but the problem has been consistency. He shows four-game lapses where his coverage is softer than a marshmellow left outside on a sticky Miami summer day. Then he makes sensational, acrobatic interceptions like one of his two picks in Arizona.
What’s troubling with Smith is how much pad he gives the opposing wideout. Each game we see Smith in pursuit, after the catch, when he should have been in better position to make a play on the ball.
Hit or Fold? Fold. He’s going to get paid because he’s young and has potential but he has allowed six touchdowns this year (2nd worst in NFL) and PFF grades him as the 79th best corner in the game. If he’s a productive corner, he would have shown it by now, his fourth year in the league. Still a tough call and I think Ireland ultimately brings him back for personal reasons after failing with Vontae Davis.
Randy Starks (Defensive Tackle, 28)
The big fella eats blocks, disrupts the running game, and provides some juice rushing the passer. He’s a complete defensive tackle and shines among one of the top defensive fronts in the league. Pure football player.
Hit or Fold? Hit. In the words of John Malkovich in Rounders: “Pay dat man his mahney”. The idea is to maintain your strengths, while chipping away at your weaknesses. Starks is one of the few true impact players on the roster.