Talent acquisition is typically an ever-changing exercise because different NFL offseasons present both different problems and opportunities. Except the Miami Dolphins too often make this exercise a run on the treadmill ...
...Covering the same ground offseason after offseason.
Dolphins fans should be familiar with this. They’ve seen it. And chances are good they’ll continue to see it this offseason.
Consider that last year the team was supposed to have solved its quarterback problem by drafting Tua Tagovailoa in the first round.
We got our quarterback. We’re done.
Except if the Houston Texans relent and make disgruntled quarterback Deshaun Watson available, multiple sources have told the Miami Herald the Dolphins will be a player in the derby to acquire Watson.
So we’re not done.
And now you’re objecting because the Watson situation is unique. It’s atypical. It’s a chance to acquire a fully formed elite quarterback and that opportunity doesn’t come around very often.
But I point out the Los Angeles Chargers, who drafted Justin Herbert after the Dolphins selected Tagovailoa, are not going to be in the Watson derby. They believe, right or wrong, they have someone as good or better than Watson.
They believe they’re done at quarterback while the Dolphins might still be grinding on their treadmill.
And this wash, rinse and repeat isn’t just about the quarterback position. Let’s look at the Dolphins edge player positions. Last season the club signed starting defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, edge rusher Shaq Lawson, and outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy to fill needs at those spots.
Lawson’s deal was for three years and $30 million, Van Noy signed for four years and $51 million, while Ogbah signed for two years and $15 million. So $96 million in contract signings to address the need for starting edge players for at least a couple of years.
The team last year also drafted defensive end Jason Strowbridge and edge player Curtis Weaver.
Except the Dolphins released Weaver during training camp last year. And this offseason they’re going to release Van Noy, and they’re doing due diligence on the pass rushers in the coming draft because they might take one in the first or second round if the right opportunity presents.
So they’re covering ground that is already worn.
The Dolphins will also be spending much of this offseason trying to find top-caliber wide receivers. They might draft a couple. They might sign a veteran in free agency and select one in the draft.
The position is a big need.
And this need exists despite the fact DeVante Parker, Jakeem Grant, Allen Hurns and Albert Wilson all signed contract extensions or adjusted their contracts under general manager Chris Grier and Brian Flores the past two seasons.
This Dolphins administration made sure Parker and Grant were signed through 2023, Hurns through 2022 and Wilson through the end of this coming season after he opted out last year.
That speaks nothing of the acquisitions of youngsters Preston Williams, Lynn Bowden and Malcolm Perry.
So despite those attempts to stock the receiver room, the receiver room needs help. Still.
The Dolphins also need help at running back. That’s obvious.
So after signing Jordan Howard in free agency last year, trading for Matt Breida and DeAndre Washington last year, drafting Myles Gaskin in 2019, drafting Kalen Ballage in 2018, drafting Kenyan Drake in 2016, and signing Patrick Laird and Salvon Ahmed the past couple of years, the Dolphins are still hunting for a top running back.
(The Dolphins also signed Frank Gore as a free agent in 2018 but that was intended as a one-year rental because the need existed way back then, too).
So all that work and the issue at running back is not fully resolved.
The Dolphins may, perhaps, hopefully, have their act together with the offensive line.
Last year they drafted left tackle Austin Jackson, right tackle Robert Hunt, and right guard Solomon Kindley. They signed center Ted (Mando often mistakes him for Alex) Karras and left guard Ereck Flowers in free agency.
If Miami re-signs Karras, who is scheduled to be a free agent, the Dolphins have an opportunity to actually keep the entire line together for the first time since the 2002-03 season when Lamar Smith gained 987 followed by Ricky Williams’ 1,853 yards.
That would be a welcome departure from the hamster wheel. And departure is the right word because until now even the offensive line has been retracing steps.
Flowers was signed to start at left guard because 2019 third-round pick Michael Deiter wasn’t up to the job. Jackson was drafted because the team traded away Laremy Tunsil the year before. Karras was signed because, stay with me here, Mike Pouncey was traded for Daniel Kilgore who wasn’t the answer but was still better than Travis Swanson.
Round and round we go.
The amazing thing is some Dolphins fans have allowed themselves to start thinking like the team they love.
Proof: A number of staunch Dolphins fans have written suggesting I advocate the team draft Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell.
Sewell, by the way, is a wonderful prospect who deserves to be and will be selected in the first 5-10 selections of the April draft. But has everyone forgotten the Dolphins drafted a left tackle last year? In the first round?
And the quarterback, barring the team’s successful chase of Watson, is a left-hander whose blind side is on the right?
An NFL team is a living, breathing organism that ebbs and flows as people come and go.
But there’s a difference between that organism evolving through thoughtful roster succession and simply repeating the same exercise, at the same position, time and again, because the last attempt wasn’t successful.
One is building a team.
The other is perpetually rebuilding.