The Dolphins recently lost out on one tight end when veteran Irv Smith Jr. opted for Cincinnati over Miami.
But Miami plans to supplement its group of Durham Smythe, Eric Saubert and developmental prospect Tanner Conner.
Dolphins tight ends coach Jon Embree intends to go to various campuses to work out a handful tight ends in the weeks ahead, according to a source involved with one of those draft prospects. “They’re being active” at that position, the source said.
The Dolphins have the 51st overall pick in the second round and the 84th pick in the third round.
Tight ends projected to go in the second and third rounds include Utah’s Dalton Kincaid (projected 38th overall in ESPN analyst Jordan Reid’s mock draft), Georgia’s Darnell Washington (45th), Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave (54th), Iowa’s Sam LaPorta (60th), South Dakota State’s Tucker Kraft (72nd) and Michigan’s Luke Schoonmaker (84th).
Reid has Miami picking Shoonmaker in the third round, noting “the Dolphins lack a receiving threat at tight end after Mike Gesicki signed with the Patriots in free agency. Adding the 6-5 Schoonmaker would add competition to a group searching for a player to emerge.”
He caught 35 passes last season for 418 yards and three touchdowns.
Musgrave, 6-6, also would be a seam threat who could replace some of what Gesicki offered. He played in only two games last season but had 11 catches for 169 yards and a TD in those games, after catching 22 for 304 in 10 games the previous season.
Utah’s Kincaid isn’t expected to be available at 51, and many expect Washington to be gone by that point, too. Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer is projected as a first-round pick.
As for third-day prospects, Reid has Old Dominion’s Zack Kuntz’s 118th, Penn State’s Brenton Strange 129th and Alabama’s Cameron Latu 161st. Miami has studied all of them.
Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel spent time with Strange at Penn State’s Pro Day last week, and Chris Grier and McDaniel checked out Latu at Alabama’s Pro Day.
The Dolphins don’t have picks in the fourth or fifth rounds, and Strange or Latu at 81 would be higher than they’re projected.
Miami didn’t pursue many veteran tight ends, but made a run at Smith, who told Bengals.com that his finalists were the Dolphins and Bengals.
Though Smith played with Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama, he said: “I felt like Cincinnati had the best chance to win a Super Bowl.”
Smith caught 25 passes for 182 yards and two TDs in eight games for Minnesota last season.
All of the top tight ends are off the board in free agency.
The best available include Dan Arnold (9 catches for 135 yards for Jacksonville last season), Cameron Brate (20 for 174 for Tampa last season) and Tyler Kroft (105 receptions in eight years). Former Dolphins tight end Adam Shaheen also remains available, as does two-time Pro Bowler Kyle Rudolph, who is at the tail end of his career.
The Dolphins have less than $2 million in cap space but will get an additional $13.4 million after Byron Jones contract comes off their books June 1. Any veteran tight end signed at this point likely would be for a salary at or close to the league minimum.
McDANIEL ADDRESSES ISSUE
In a conversation with the South Florida Sun Sentinel and Palm Beach Post in Arizona, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said there are “constant conversations” ongoing with defensive lineman Christian Wilkins about a contract extension beyond 2023; ruled out a Dolphins pursuit of Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson and said offensive linemen Liam Eichenberg and Austin Jackson need another year to be judged.
“I know one thing about, specifically, those two players: The football they played last year will be the worst football we’ll see moving forward,” McDaniel said of Eichenberg and Jackson.
“I think you have to be fair. There’s a responsibility you have to the organization to not be short-sighted with athletes. And you have to go through their process and see, OK, what have they gone through?”
“If you talk to any offensive lineman, the major growth in their game within the system that they’re playing, 100-percent of the time, Year 2. So, what’s the best Year 2 that Austin or Liam have had thus far in their career that people are judging them on, Year 2 of a system? The answer is: It hasn’t happened.”
McDaniel added: “If you look at all the statistics in Year 1, Year 2 in this offensive system, every time we’ve gone to a place — you’re talking about Washington, Cleveland for one year, Atlanta year two. You’re talking San Francisco year two; historically the numbers go up because the linemen know more of what you’re doing and can understand it biomechanically.”
The Dolphins are expected to add a right tackle to compete with Jackson in the months ahead. Jackson played in only two games last season because of ankle injuries. They haven’t ruled out re-signing veteran Brandon Shell if nothing surfaces that they consider more appealing.
They’re deeper at left guard, with Eichenberg, Dan Feeney (who has more than 40 NFL starts at left guard) and Robert Jones.
“I think it would be irresponsible of us to not see it through and create competition,” McDaniel said. ”To have really good play at that position is a priority of ours.
“That position, specifically, offensive line, we aren’t done with that position group. What does that mean? Are we talking about draft picks? Free agents? Undrafteds? We’ll do the best that we can with the afforded opportunity, and get the best product, for sure.”