By Christian Peterson, Senior Editor Dolphins Offseason Needs We continue our team-by-team look at offseason needs with the Dolphins, who recovered from the loss of Nick Saban by turning to former Chargers offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, and extremely talented and well-respected offensive mind who will no doubt focus on turning around an offense that has been falling short of expectations for years.
Areas of Need: Cameron inherits an offense that has a handful of talented puzzle pieces that have yet to be put together correctly. In fact, the Fish have finished 28th or worse in points scored twice in the last three years and have cracked the top 10 in that category just once since Don Shula stepped down in 1995 (yes, that includes four seasons with that Marino guy at the helm).
His first and biggest task will be sorting out the quarterback situation. Is Daunte Culpepper healthy? Can he be effective even if he is? How is it that Joey Harrington is still drawing an NFL paycheck after five years of indisputable evidence that he was a colossal mistake as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2002 draft? Did something listed as "Cleo Lemon" on the team's quarterback depth chart seriously start a game for the Fins last year? Cameron is a renowned teacher of quarterbacks (Drew Brees and Philip Rivers both developed into very good NFL signal-callers on Cameron's watch), but he'll have his work cut out for him with this group. The favorite has to be Culpepper, and assuming he wins the job, the entire offense will have to be tailored to his "strengths."
The only need at running back is the need for clarity. The jury is still out on Ronnie Brown, who has yet to prove he can stand up to the rigors of a full season of workhorse duty, but who must be salivating at the opportunity to work for the guy who helped mold LaDainian Tomlinson into the best running back in the world. Ricky Williams has also stated a desire to return to the team assuming the NFL allows him to make a mockery of the league's drug policy again after serving a one-year suspension.
The Dolphins offensive line has been a work-in-progress for years. Last year's unit wasn't awful, but there really aren't any irreplaceable players in the starting lineup; with the possible exception of right tackle Vernon Carey. Carey made strides a year ago but still isn't the player the Dolphins envisioned when they grabbed him in the first round of the 2004 draft. The rest of the line is comprised of serviceable veterans who continue to be taught by one of the game's most noted offensive line gurus. Hudson Houck worked with Cameron for a few years in San Diego and you can bet he was one of the first calls Cameron made after taking the job. In any case, adding youth and talent to the offensive line should be a priority.
On the opposite side of the ball, the Fish continue to field one of the league's best units; and they'll be greatly aided by defensive coordinator Dom Capers, another holdover from Nick Saban's staff. An inexperienced and disappointing secondary is an obvious area of concern, as is getting younger at linebacker and along the defensive line, where Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor continue to dominate, but also continue to get older.
Help is on the Way? According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Dolphins are about $18 million under the projected $109 million salary cap in 2007. That number looks big, but it is not abnormally so in a market where numerous teams will have even more money to throw around.
An elite free agent cornerback like Nate Clements or Asante Samuel would be a huge upgrade for the Fish, but Miami's pockets are likely not deep enough to pull something like that off. After that, the pool of free agent d-backs is very shallow, so grabbing a guy like Michigan's Leon Hall with the No. 9 pick in the draft would make some sense (he was the pick in our first mock draft). The secondary could also get a boost internally if young corner Travis Daniels returns to form after a very disappointing sophomore campaign, and if 2006 first-rounder Jason Allen proves he can actually play safety in the NFL.
Upgrading at linebacker should also be at the top of the Dolphins' list. Thomas isn't getting any younger, Channing Crowder doesn't seem to be getting much better, and Donnie Spragan is, well, Donnie Spragan. A number of free agent linebackers will hit the pavement this offseason, but top available talents like Lance Briggs and Cato June are known for their success in cover-2 schemes, rather than the 3-4/4-3 hybrid run in Miami for the last couple of years.
While Hall is certainly an option with the No. 9 pick, this team has so many needs that handicapping their thought process is nearly impossible. A player like offensive lineman Levi Brown or defensive tackle Alan Branch, should he slide, would make a lot of sense. Dolphins rubes would probably prefer the team make a more exciting move by grabbing electric wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr., who would immediately make an already formidable corps of wideouts led by Chris Chambers and Marty Booker even more explosive. That may be a pipe dream, but Cameron's forte is offense, so you never know.
Wants and Needs: Wasn't it just one offseason ago the Dolphins were coming off a strong finish and one of the more popular sleeper teams? Now Cam Cameron inherits a squad with multiple areas in need of an upgrade. Cameron being an offensive guy, and a noted quarterback mentor, it wouldn't be surprising to see Miami try to find a way up the draft board to nab one of the elite quarterbacks. If that's not an option, one of two second-round picks could be devoted to a developmental signal-caller. Also expect the Dolphins to address their offensive line on Day One, perhaps as early as round one. The Fins would love to get younger along the defensive line and could stand to build some depth in the secondary as well, but those roles won't likely be filled until Cameron has a new quarterback and at least one big fella to protect him.
Potential Selections: Will two second-round picks (their own and New England's, courtesy of the Wes Welker deal) allow the Dolphins to move up and select Brady Quinn? You can bet Cameron will have his minions poised at the phone in case that scenario starts to play out. If Miami must wait on a quarterback, Cameron could be looking at Drew Stanton, Trent Edwards, or Kevin Kolb—perhaps as early as 40th overall. Alternatives with that top-10 pick in round one include LSU safety LaRon Landry and Penn State offensive tackle Levi Brown; if Brown isn't the pick there, expect the Dolphins to pursue Joe Staley or James Marten in round two. Safety isn't as deep a position, though if The U's Brandon Meriweather is still on the board later in Day One the Dolphins may find it easier to overlook concerns about his character. Notre Dame tackle Ryan Harris has seen his stock slide following a sub-par combine, but if he slips too far the Dolphins will gladly thwart his free fall. Expect mid-round picks to focus on defensive linemen with potential, like Michigan State tackle Clifton Ryan or Miami end Baraka Atkins. This is also the area Miami will attempt to shore up its secondary depth, perhaps turning to Alabama State's Michael Coe or Wyoming's John Wendling.
WOW! I can't really believe that with Quinn still on the board they took Ginn instead...I'm not sure if im happy or not..I DON'T think that Culpepper is the answer and I REALLY don't think that Trent Green is either...