The Miami Dolphins were one of the most entertaining teams in the league in 2022, thanks to their offensive explosion. In 2023, Miami looks to take the next step as Super Bowl contenders. We’re diving into how the Dolphins’ roster was built, including how they’ve used the draft, free agency, and trades.
How the Miami Dolphins Were Built Through the Draft
The Dolphins entered a rebuilding process after the 2018 season, hoping to revamp a roster that had relied primarily on free agent stars and draft busts. With only one season with 10+ wins from 2009 until 2020, the Dolphins had to change their ways. General manager Chris Grier, who has been with the franchise for more than 20 years, admitted in 2016 the team had “to build through the draft.”
Miami’s rebuild was hastened after hiring Brian Flores as the head coach, as Flores helped build a quality defense that allowed the Dolphins to be surprisingly competitive. But the roster wasn’t quite as good as its 10-6 record in 2020 or 9-8 record in 2021 due to its immense flaws along the offensive line and coaching issues on that side of the ball.
The Dolphins’ draft results have varied over the years, with the vast majority of their hits coming on defense.
Of their 11 starters and top backups at running back and wide receiver, only quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and wide receiver Jaylen Waddle are stars.
Left guard Liam Eichenberg, right tackle Austin Jackson, right guard Robert Hunt, and tight end Durham Smythe are each average to below-average starters. Tagovailoa, Waddle, and Jackson were first-round picks, while Hunt and Eichenberg were second-rounders. Third-string running back Devon Achane was a third-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
The defense has been built through the draft with more success. Star defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, cornerback Xavien Howard, safeties Jevon Holland and Brandon Jones, linebacker Jerome Baker, and edge rusher Jaelan Phillips headline an extremely talented unit. DT Raekwon Davis and EDGE Andrew Van Ginkel have proven to be useful role players as well.
Miami has almost exclusively found their contributors in the first two rounds of the draft. Waddle and Phillips were first-round picks in 2021 after Grier made several trades and proclaimed, “We’re not afraid to use our picks.” Wilkins was the team’s 2019 first-rounder.
Day 2 has brought a swarm of solid defenders. Howard is the longest-tenured Dolphin after joining the team as a second-rounder in 2016. Davis and Holland were also second-rounders, while Baker and Jones were third-round picks in 2018 and 2020, respectively.
How the Dolphins Were Built Through Free Agency/Waivers
The Dolphins are certainly no stranger to being aggressive in free agency. Their willingness to swing big under owner Stephen Ross began in 2013. Between then and 2020, Miami earned the title of free agent winners after signing big-ticket stars like wide receiver Mike Wallace, tackle Branden Albert, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and cornerback Byron Jones.
Each of those deals had varying levels of results, and the Dolphins have largely learned to steer clear of aging, expensive free agents. Miami’s been a hot spot for players to target due to their willingness to meet contract demands, the beautiful location, and the state’s lack of income tax. But this Dolphins’ roster hasn’t heavily relied on free agency.
The biggest free agent to join the Dolphins is left tackle Terron Armstead, who the team inked to a five-year, $75 million deal. They’ve also added center Connor Williams, slot receiver Cedrick Wilson Jr., edge rusher Emmanuel Ogbah, running back Raheem Mostert, and linebacker David Long Jr. from free agency. Slot CB Kader Kohou was an undrafted free agent, so he qualifies into being a free agent as well.
How the Miami Dolphins Were Built Through Trades
Grier has built a unique résumé that has become more trade-centric in recent years. As teams now look to trade their stars before they depart for nothing in free agency, Grier has shown no fear in moving premium draft equity for proven veterans. Like with free agents, it’s helped Miami that Tyreek Hill and Jalen Ramsey both wanted to join the franchise.
In 2022, Hill was acquired for five draft picks and a four-year, $120 million extension. Ramsey cost the Dolphins a third-round pick in 2023 and tight end Hunter Long, and Miami guaranteed two years on his three-year contract. Miami also traded its 2023 first-round pick and RB Chase Edmonds for EDGE Bradley Chubb, then signed him to a five-year, $110 million deal.
Grier was also quick to acquire backup RB Jeff Wilson Jr. from the San Francisco 49ers after the 49ers acquired Christian McCaffrey. We could potentially see another deal later this year, as Grier admitted the team has taken calls on Cedrick Wilson after he failed to make an impact in his first year with the team.