The Miami Dolphins ended 2019 on a high note. They defeated the New England Patriots in Week 17, 27-24. It was the franchise’s first win in Foxboro, MA since 2008. The win knocked the Patriots from the 2-seed in the AFC playoffs. Despite that, Miami still has a number of offseason needs.
That win was the culmination of a stretch that demonstrated the team’s improvement. The Dolphins started 2019 0-7, including losing their first two games by a combined score of 102-10. Some pundits viewed Miami as the worst team in NFL history. Well, they proved doubters wrong in the second half of the season, finishing 5-4.
Despite all of the improvement though, the Dolphins still have a long way to go toward being a playoff team and Super Bowl contender.
Heading into the 2020 offseason, the rebuild is on in earnest.
Offseason Needs: Quarterback
The most glaring need for the Dolphins is to identify a franchise quarterback. For as good as Ryan Fitzpatrick played down the stretch, at 37-years old, he’s not the future.
Before 2019, Miami brought in Josh Rosen for a second-round pick. But the second-year quarterback did not look good in his time under center with the Dolphins, going 0-3 as a starter. He completed just 53 percent of his passes for 567 yards. He threw one touchdown but five interceptions.
Most people assume Miami will select a quarterback in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. That seems like a pretty safe bet, especially considered at No. 5 overall, the Dolphins should have their choice among all QB prospects beyond LSU’s Joe Burrow.
Options at No. 5 should include Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Utah State’s Jordan Love.
Needs: Offensive Line & Running Back
Beyond quarterback, Miami needs to improve the offensive line. With their two other first round picks, the Dolphins could select a new left tackle. The team surrendered the most sacks in the NFL last season, so the line certainly needs to be upgraded.
If they choose Tagovailoa with the No. 5 pick, they probably won’t be able to draft Georgia’s Andrew Thomas. But Louisville’s Mekhi Becton or Alabama’s Jedrick Wills should be available with either the No. 18 or No. 26 pick.
Miami could elect to fill the holes in the offensive line in free agency.
The Dolphins also have a glaring need at running back. Ryan Fitzpatrick led the team with 243 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns in 2019. The team traded Kenyan Drake away for a fifth-round pick and got little production from Kalen Ballage before the second-year back ended up on the injured reserve. Beyond those two, Miami saw little from the likes of Patrick Laird, Myles Gaskin and others.
The Dolphins could use one of their three first round picks on a running back, but that position is a deep one for the 2020 NFL Draft. Georgia’s D’Andre Swift and Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor are considered first rounders, but Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins and Florida State’s Cam Akers should be available in Day Two of the draft.
The only positions where Miami doesn’t seem to have needs offensively is Wide Receiver and Tight End.
Offseason Needs: Defense
Brian Flores is a defensive guy, and while his unit had its moments in 2019, they were one of the worst statistical units in the NFL.
One of the biggest weaknesses for the Dolphins defense was the pass rush. Miami was last in the league with only 23 sacks, so they definitely need to bring in an edge rusher. Using either the No. 18 or No. 26 pick, Miami should be able to draft a talented edge rusher like Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos or Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa.
The team could also turn to free agency to fill this need with someone like Jacksonville’s Yannick Ngakoue.
The team’s secondary needs some help as well. Xavien Howard will hopefully be part of the team’s future despite the knee injury and domestic violence arrest. Even if Howard is in place, Miami will still need another cornerback. Miami could select someone like Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah with the No. 5 pick. And cornerback is a deep position in the 2020 draft.
Veteran safety Rashad Jones missed much of the year with injuries and he might be cut for salary cap savings. The Dolphins extended corner-turned-safety Eric Rowe, but they’ll probably look to add a safety in the draft or free agency.
Miami has two solid linebackers in Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan. Vince Beigel also contributed throughout the season, and rookie Andrew Van Ginkel showed promise after returning from injury. But that might not stop the Dolphins from adding to this group.
Maybe they spend the No. 5 pick on Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons, who could play just about anywhere on defense.
The Dolphins have the most draft capital of any team for the 2020 NFL draft. They hold the No. 5, No. 18 (from Pittsburgh) and No. 26 (from Houston) picks in the first round. In the second round, the hold No. 39 and No. 56 (from New Orleans). In the third round, they hold No. 70.
Day Three of the draft will see Miami select seven more times, including with two fifth rounders, two sixth rounders and a seventh rounder. The other picks are pending, considering the league’s compensatory draft pick formula. It’s expected, though, that the Dolphins will gain a fourth-round pick for losing Ja’Wuan James to Denver in free agency.
Beyond all the draft picks, the Dolphins are projected to have the most cap space in 2020. Spotrac projects the team to have nearly $120 million available for player acquisition.
Dolphins’ general manager Chris Grier and head coach Brian Flores will have plenty of options to continue the team’s rebuild and fill those offseason needs.