After coming up short of the 2020-2021 NFL Playoffs, the Miami Dolphins and their fans should enter the 2021 free agency period optimistic of the future. On a team build around talent and youth, the Dolphins are in one of the best spots as a franchise in terms of cap space and a lack of critical players becoming free agents in 2021.
As a franchise, the Dolphins enter 2021 in a fantastic spot
When you look at successful franchises in the NFL, there are traits they all seem to possess. All the pieces of the puzzle come together to form one cohesive picture around a common goal. The Dolphins have a “common goal”/group identity under head coach Brian Flores. While the long-term success isn’t there yet, the Dolphins are knocking down the door as they have the critical factors.
First, they have stable ownership and direction. Second, they have a coach who has brought a new culture of excellence and heightened expectations. Few would argue that Brian Flores is not on the fast track to being one of the better coaches in the NFL if he isn’t there already. Third, they have youth, talent, and flexibility.
What is the cap space/draft capital situation for the Dolphins?
That is not to say the Dolphins don’t have holes on their roster — they certainly do. Every team does one way or another. They spent in the 2020 offseason and upgraded the defense with guys like Byron Jones, Kyle Van Noy, and Shaq Lawson (all of whom are 29 or younger). Miami also has a possible QB of the future in Tua Tagovailoa.
The team had a haul of draft picks in 2020 and have more this year. In 2021, they have four in the top 60, including the third pick overall from the Texans. And as mentioned, Miami has the flexibility to move and acquire players.
According to Over the Cap, the Miami Dolphins will hit the 2021 free agency period with a projected $25.726 million in cap space, ninth-most in the NFL.
The Dolphins will use that cap space to make a splash in the 2021 free agency period. Offensive line, running back, and wide receiver are all positions the team will investigate during the offseason.
The Dolphins will look to the future as well when negotiating contracts
I would not be surprised to see the Dolphins use some of this projected cap space to look towards the future and start to lock in 2022 free agents or restructure deals. TE Mike Gesicki and WR Preston Williams are on the last year of their deal in 2021.
Watch for a potential restructure of CB Xavien Howard as well. Howard led the NFL in interceptions (10) and has expressed a desire for a new deal. He does not hit free agency until 2025.
The Dolphins don’t have any critical players becoming 2021 free agents
Nearly every team in the NFL has 20 or more who will be a free agent in 2021, some of those being cornerstones of the franchise. The Dolphins are not one of those teams. In 2021, only 13 players will hit free agency.
The Dolphins need to decide on QB
The largest name of Dolphins’ players hitting free agency is QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Now 39 years old, Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins have a choice to make. He knows his years are numbered and wants to compete for a starting job.
Both he and the Dolphins know that he would be the backup again to Tua, so long as they aren’t benching him and he progresses in 2021. At the same time, having a QB who has a solid rapport with Flores and knows the playbook is a massive benefit. Whether they want to buy into the narrative of injuries or what-have-you, having a competent backup is crucial to success in the NFL.
Every team needs reliable depth at QB, and it is hard to find a better one than Fitzpatrick. Between the rumors of Deshaun Watson being available and having the third pick, the Dolphins’ QB position will be one of the more fascinating storylines of 2021.
C Ted Karras will also be a free agent in 2021
The offensive line, in general, will be a focus of the Dolphins’ organization in 2021. One player Miami will need to consider is C Ted Karras. The linemen around him may have flip-flopped throughout the season, but Karras was as dependable as it gets. Karras played all 1,068 snaps this season at center for Miami.
A starting center for $3 million a season is a bargain in the NFL, and a contract around the same range could bring him back for 2021. He’s not a top center in the NFL, and Miami shouldn’t break the bank to retain him. However, a steady veteran presence would go a long way at the right price, given the OL’s youth.
Miami Dolphins’ 2021 offensive free agents
RB Matt Breida, 26
T Julie’n Davenport, 26
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, 39
WR Isaiah Ford, 25
WR Mack Hollins, 28
C Ted Karras, 28
T Adam Pankey, 27
RB DeAndre Washington
Miami Dolphins’ 2021 defensive and special teams free agents
LB Vince Biegel, 28
S Kavon Frazier, 27
DT Davon Godchaux, 27
LB Kamu Grugier-Hill, 27
P Matt Haack, 27
LB Calvin Munson, 27
CB Nik Needham, 25
CB Jamal Perry, 27
LB Elandon Roberts, 27
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