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  Dissecting the Dolphins' Roster
    | Home | News Wire | Roster | Depth Chart | Schedule |  

by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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With the NFL Scouting Combine in progress this week, Free Agency beginning next week, and the NFL Draft two months away, now is a good time to dissect the Dolphin roster.


On offense, the Dolphins currently have only 4-5 starters that figure to be a part of a championship foundation. This is a sobering indication of the amount of work that Head Coach Cam Cameron and GM Randy Mueller have in getting this unit fixed.


Defensively, the news is considerably better with 8 starters in place. Once again, the defense figures to be the strength of the team and is good enough right now to take the Dolphins deep into the playoffs.


Figuring 22 starters plus a kicker and punter, the Dolphins have at best 15 (63%) of their first string talent in place. Overall, it is safe to presume that about half of the roster is Super Bowl ready. Again, most of the work is clearly on the offensive side of the ball.


What do the Dolphins have and what do they need to reach Super Bowl XLII? Hereís my take on this paramount question.





Offensive Tackle

Definite Keepers (1): RT Vernon Carey (starter)

Job Openings (2-3): LT, overall depth

Comment: 2006 was the year that Carey finally flashed the talent that has been expected of this first round pick. Today, the pressing matter is on the other side of the line at the premier left tackle spot. The Dolphins arenít likely to get much relief via free agency. And unless they reach for Levi Brown with their 9th overall selection (top ranked Joe Thomas figures to be long gone), donít be surprised if Damion McIntosh is resigned to retain his job by default. While it is possible that L.J. Shelton will return to left tackle, his impressive work at guard, as well as the lack of quality depth there, may preclude such a move. Third year man Anthony Alabi will be someone to watch.


Offensive Guard

Definite Keepers (1): RG L.J. Shelton (starter)

Job Openings (3-4): Possibly both starting jobs if Shelton returns to LT, overall depth

Comment: Offenses are built from the inside out and the Dolphins are in desperate need here. Aside from Shelton, no other Guard really distinguished himself in any way last season. Jeno James (estimated $4 million cap number) may be retained to play left guard but, on the whole, his work as a Dolphin has been very ordinary and his salary may no longer be palatable. If Shelton returns to left tackle, the Dolphins will likely look to free agency for a replacement or two, or Rex Hadnot could return to playing Guard. Joe Toledo will get a long look. Overall, 2007 doesnít appear to be a great year for college offensive guard talent.



Definite Keepers (1): Rex Hadnot (starter)

Job Openings (0-1): Depth

Comment: If Hadnot stays at Center, he and Seth McKinney may fight it out for the starting job. McKinney, fresh off of injured reserve, is an experienced starter but carries a considerable cap number (estimated to be $4 million). With so many other pressing needs, it may be that McKinney returns to his old job and the Dolphins slide Hadnot back to Guard. McKinney did play some Guard early in his career but was altogether unimpressive in the effort. If the Dolphins decide to cut McKinney, a new face is likely to join the mix.


Running Back

Definite Keepers (3): Ronnie Brown (starter), Ricky Williams, Sammy Morris

Job Openings (0-1): depth

Comment: No other team will have a better situation at RB than the Dolphins will, provided that Cameron welcomes Williams back to the team. Ronnie and Ricky will be key focal points in Cameronís offensive system, both playing the role that LaDainian Tomlinson does for the Chargers. It would be surprising if the Dolphins do not re-sign Morris; he is a key special teams contributor. Travis Minor has also been valuable on special teams but could get caught in a numbers game, although re-signing him is not out of the question.



Definite Keepers (0): none

Job Openings (1-2): starter, depth

Comment: Darian Barnes is unsigned. While Barnes possesses the blocking skills that Cameron looks for in a FB, he has not been tried as a runner or receiver. This may be a moot point given the depth at RB and the ability of Morris to play FB. If the Dolphins do re-sign Barnes and Morris, it is unlikely they will do anything further. Keep an eye on Kyle Eckel, a talented 245lb exclusive rights free agent who has a real chance to win a job.



Definite Keepers (2): Daunte Culpepper (starter), Cleo Lemon

Job Openings (1): depth

Comment: It may be that, when training camp opens, this corps of players looks decidedly different. This is Miamiís #1 need position. If Culpepper can regain his health and mobility, expect him to be under center on opening day. If he cannot fully re-gain his health in time, all bets are off. The Dolphins are likely to draft a young prospect to add to the mix, and speculation is high that it will be Notre Dameís Brady Quinn if he is available. It will be interesting to see what the Dolphins decide to do with Joey Harrington; he may be too expensive under his current contract. Lemon (unsigned, restricted free agent) is a Cameron favorite and will almost certainly be retained.


Wide Receiver

Definite Keepers (1): Wes Welker

Job Openings (3-4): starters, depth

Comment: Starters Chris Chambers and Marty Booker will account for an estimated $11 million in cap space in 2007, an exorbitant amount for two average players. Chambers in particular has been a disappointment, having yet to display the consistent playmaking ability the Dolphins were hoping for when they signed him to his current deal. Booker led the Dolphins in receiving yards and, once again, in average yards per catch. It is very easy to see how both men could retain their jobs in 2007, yet just as easy to see how they could be demoted, traded, or even released. Whatever Cameron and Mueller decide, one thing is crystal clear: the Dolphins must (must!) acquire a #1 receiver with gamebreaking ability if they are to win a championship. Aside from quarterback, no other priority on offense is higher. Welker is a restricted free agent that the Dolphins will tender; it would be unexpected if another team signs him away. Second year players Derek Hagan and Marcus Vick will be intriguing. It will be tough for the Dolphins to pass on Ohio Stateís Ted Ginn, Jr. if he is available.


Tight End

Definite Keepers (0): none

Job Openings (3): starter, depth

Comment: As an offensive playmaking threat, Randy McMichael has been a bust. He has not lived up to the lucrative contract that the Dolphins gave him (with an estimated $5.4 million cap number in 2007). Depending on what Cameron and Mueller decide, he could remain as the starter, play a reserve role, be traded away, or even cut. If Cameron is looking for an Antonio Gates encore, heíll have to go shopping. Depth-wise, the Dolphins have some decent options.




Defensive Tackle

Definite Keepers (1): Vonnie Holliday (starter)

Job Openings (2-3): depth

Comment: Holliday was recently re-signed, a wise move as Holliday was a likely early free agent target. Keith ďTruckĒ Traylor (37) could also be re-signed but his inability to last a full season is a problem. Traylorís asking price will likely determine his future as a Dolphin. Jeff Zgonina is another free agent who has age (36) working against him; he could get caught up in a surging youth movement with the promising Fred Evans and Kevin Vickerson (exclusive rights free agent) waiting in the wings. Add in Manny Wright if he can get himself mentally right. But the best of the young bunch may be Rodrique Wright, whom the Dolphins stole in the 7th round of last yearís draft as teams were concerned about a shoulder injury. Wright spent the season on IR to address the problem which, hopefully, is now resolved. At Texas, his combination of size and speed made him one of the top defensive tackles in the college game. Watch this guy. Also, watch the draft as Michiganís Alan Branch could be on the board when Miami picks. If the top offensive prospects are taken in the first eight picks, could the Dolphins go the value route and select the dominant Branch?


Defensive End

Definite Keepers (3): Jason Taylor (starter), Kevin Carter (starter), Matt Roth,

Job Openings (2): depth

Comment: Taylor, the greatest defender in team history, is well on his way to the Hall of Fame. He is the consummate warrior. Roth has finally started showing signs that he can play, though he still has a ways to go to justify the Patrick Surtain trade. Carter is a definite keeper but his estimated $6.48 million cap number vis-ŗ-vis his production is somewhat troubling. David Bowens, a solid special teamer as well as a decent pass rusher (5 sacks), is unsigned. The Dolphins would like to keep him but only at the right price. It will be interesting to see what the Dolphins will do if one of the top DE prospects, Clemsonís Gaines Adams or Arkansasís Jamaal Anderson, slides to them.


Inside Linebacker

Definite Keepers (2): Zach Thomas (starter), Derrick Pope

Job Openings (0): none

Comment: Perhaps the only sticking point in declaring Thomas the greatest LB in team history would be that Nick Buoniconti is in the Hall of Fame. If Thomas is ever elected, the argument is over. Pope has proven that he can get the job done when called upon. With Channing Crowderís ability to move inside when the defense shows 3-4 alignments, the Dolphins are in excellent shape at ILB.


Outside Linebacker

Definite Keepers (1): Channing Crowder (starter)

Job Openings (3): none

Comment: Crowder, the starter at weak side OLB, had a terrific second season with 104 tackles (second-best on the team). Donnie Spragan, the strong side starter, is a free agent who may not be retained. The Dolphins could really use a talented pass rushing OLB to complement Jason Taylor when he moves to OLB in 3-4 alignments. FSUís Lawrence Timmons is a terrific talent that would fit the bill, though drafting him 9th overall would be too high.



Definite Keepers (3): Will Allen (starter), Travis Daniels, Andre Goodman

Job Openings (2): starter, depth

Comment: Will Allen proved to be a better fit for the 3-4 than was Sam Madison. Daniels was never really 100% during the season and will look to break out in 2007. Goodman played better as the season progressed, although one wonders about his true upside. This group did a poor job of creating turnovers (only 2 interceptions amongst them) and really suffered from a lack of quality depth when injuries struck. Michael Lehan and Eddie Jackson (free agents) may not return. The Dolphins could really use an elite shutdown corner to handle divisional Dolphin killers like Laveranues Coles and Lee Evans. Overall, this is not a good year to draft an elite CB. If Buffaloís Nate Clements makes it to unrestricted free agency, will the Dolphins make a play for him?



Definite Keepers (3): Renaldo Hill (starter), Yeremiah Bell (starter), Jason Allen

Job Openings (1-2): depth

Comment: Hill and Bell (restricted free agent) should enter training camp as the starters, with 2006 first round pick Jason Allen pushing to unseat one of them. Jason Allen was late to sign and, as such, his rookie season was a total loss; he must do better next season to prove himself worthy. Travares Tillman is unsigned and is not likely to be brought back. LSUís LaRon Landry should be available when the Dolphins pick. While it would be surprising for them to draft a safety in the first round in consecutive seasons, the Dolphins could go with Landry if the coaches are of the mindset that Jason Allen is better off as a cornerback.


Kicker/Punter/Long Snapper

Definite Keepers (3): K Olindo Mare (starter), P Donnie Jones (starter), LS John Denney (starter)

Job Openings (0): none

Comment: Mare had a tough season with his FG accuracy overall, though he made 25 of 30 from under 50 yards (83.3%). His leg is still plenty strong (#1 in NFL in touchbacks). Jones is a restricted free agent who is likely to be retained at the right price. Denney has made people forget about the loss of Ed Perry.



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