Just about everyone expected the 2019 season to be a disaster for the Miami Dolphins. There was more talk about Miami going 0-16 than there was about the team potentially exceeding expectations. Through the first four weeks of the season, the prognosticators looked dead on. Miami began the season by getting lambasted 59-10 by the Ravens, then 53-0 by the Patriots, 31-6 by the Cowboys, and 30-10 by the Chargers. Their average margin of defeat in those four contests was 36.8, which was more points than they themselves scored in those four games combined (26).
After the Dolphins returned from their bye, though, things got better. They lost much closer games to Washington, the Bills, and the Steelers, then actually won five times in their final nine games. Ryan Fitzpatrick helped establish a baseline of competence for the offense, and Brian Flores rounded a talent-deficient group of defenders into a respectable unit by the end of the year. The Dolphins finished 5-11, and ultimately didn’t come close to landing the No. 1 pick, let alone failing to win a game.
Instead, Miami enters the 2020 offseason with the No. 5 selection, plus Nos. 18 and 26, which were acquired in trades from the Steelers (Minkah Fitzpatrick) and Texans (Laremy Tunsil), respectively. The Dolphins are also armed with a league-high $93.7 million in cap space, per Spotrac, and don’t have any significant free agents of their own to re-sign. All that ammo makes the Dolphins arguably the most interesting team of the offseason, simply because there are so many different directions they can go.
The Dolphins are bringing Ryan Fitzpatrick back for another go-round, but it’s clear he’s not their quarterback of the future. They did not seem enamored with Josh Rosen last season, so what is the post-Fitzpatrick plan? Is it Tua Tagovailoa? If it is, will they be able to land him at No. 5 or will they have to trade up to No. 2 (Washington) or No. 3 (Detroit) in order to prevent a team like the Chargers (No. 6) or Panthers (No. 7) from jumping in front of them and landing their man?
If the Dolphins were not encouraged by Tagovailoa’s medical reports at last week’s NFL Scouting Combine, do they prefer Justin Herbert or Jordan Love? Do they like either enough to take them at No. 5? If not, will they pick someone else or will they trade down? And what if they don’t end up liking any of these quarterbacks and decide tanking for Trevor Lawrence is the answer? How does that affect things?
And in which direction do they want to go with their other two first-round picks? There are needs along both the offensive and defensive line, but also at running back, tight end, wide receiver, and in the defensive backfield. There’s plenty of depth at some of those positions, but not quite as much at others. What the Dolphins prioritize will tell us a lot about what kind of team they want to be under Flores’ stewardship over the next several years.
But even before we get to the draft, the Dolphins have the ability to be one of the offseason’s most active teams. All that cap space gives them the option of splashing the pot for priority free agents, and perhaps even front-loading contracts to give players money up front and not weigh down the books in the future. With so many other teams concentrated on the explosive quarterback market and Miami likely sitting that derby out, the Dolphins can move aggressively for players at other positions. Of course, they could also elect to largely sit out the free-agent derby for another year, rolling the cap space over to next offseason while continuing to stockpile picks and young players.
Tearing the roster down to the studs while hoarding cap space and picks ensured that the Dolphins have more player-acquisition capital than any team in the NFL. Nothing is off the table for them this offseason, which makes them the most interesting team in the league to watch over the next several weeks.
The Dolphins got off to a fast start in free agency (during the legal tampering period) and we have more information on that below.
Key upcoming dates
- March 18: The new league year officially begins at 4 p.m. ET. Teams can now officially sign free agents.
- March 29-April 1: The annual league meeting in Palm Beach, Florida.
- Mid-April: The release of the 2020 regular season schedule. But we already know which teams the Dolphins will face in 2020. In addition to their normal divisional slate of games (two each against the Bills, Jets, and Patriots), they’ll also face the Chiefs, Chargers, Rams, Seahawks, and Bengals (home), and the Broncos, Raiders, Cardinals, 49ers, and Jaguars (road).
- April 23-April 25: The NFL Draft in Las Vegas. Miami’s full slate of draft picks is listed below.
- May 1-4 OR May 8-10: Rookie minicamp.
- Late May-June: OTAs. Final dates to be determined.
- June: Mandatory minicamp. Final dates to be determined.
- Late-July: Training camp. Final dates to be determined.
Free Agent Scorecard
Unrestricted free agents
- CB Aqib Talib
- OG Evan Boehm
- FS Walt Aikens
- OT J’Marcus Webb
- DE John Jenkins
- TE Clive Walford
- WR Trevor Davis
Boehm and Webb played more than half the team’s offensive snaps last season, but the offensive line was a pretty glaring weakness for the Dolphins and it would not be a surprise if they looked to turn over the talent up front.
Restricted free agents
- OLB Vince Biegel
- OLB Deon Lacey
- OLB Chase Allen
- FS Adrian Colbert (ERFA)
- WR Isaias Ford (ERFA)
- DT Kendrick Norton (ERFA)
- DE Trent Harris (ERFA)
Biegel, Colbert, and Harris each had decent-sized roles for the Dolphins last season, but none stood out enough to be considered priority re-signs. Biegel makes sense as a rotational rusher, if they decide to stay inexpensive at that spot.
Free agent signings from other teams
In-house free agent signings
- WR Ricardo Louis (1 year, $660K)
2020 draft picks
- Round 1: Miami (5), Pittsburgh (18), Houston (26)
- Round 2: Miami (39), New Orleans (56)
- Round 3: Miami (70)
- Round 4: N/A
- Round 5: Miami, Pittsburgh, Baltimore
- Round 6: Miami, Dallas
- Round 7: Kansas City
With three first-round picks and five selections in the first two rounds, the Dolphins are in one of the catbird seats for the 2020 draft. They are widely considered the most likely team to trade up for a quarterback, whether that be Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert. Depending on how things shake out over the next several weeks, they also may be able to stick at No. 5 and land their preferred QB, then add talent elsewhere (presumably on the offensive and defensive lines, as well as wide receiver and the defensive backfield) with the remainder of their selections. Given the braintrust’s strategy of accumulating picks, they seem a likely candidate to trade down at some point as well, perhaps to acquire a pick in the fourth round, which right now is the only one in which they don’t have a selection.
Offseason updates, reports, and more
March 16: Miami will also reportedly sign former Bills pass rusher Shaq Lawson to a three-year, $30 million deal. The 19th overall pick in the 2016 draft, Lawson enjoyed a career year in 2019, with 6.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss.
March 16: Miami will reportedly sign former Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy to a four-year, $51 million deal with $30 million guaranteed. The 28-year-old now departs a Patriots franchise where he was a part of two Super Bowl-winning rosters.
March 16: Former Redskins offensive lineman Ereck Flowers will sign a three-year, $30 million deal with $19.5 million guaranteed. While there were some growing pains at the start of his first — and only — season with the Redskins, Flowers ended up starting all 16 games and improved as the 2019 season went on.
March 16: The Dolphins will reportedly sign former Bengals safety/special teams ace Clayton Fejedelum to a three-year, $8.55 million deal.
March 16: The Dolphins tendered restricted free agents linebacker Vince Biegel and punter Matt Haak at the original round level.
Feb. 24: Colorado hires ex-UCLA coach, Dolphins assistant Karl Dorrell to lead Buffaloes program
Feb. 19: Josh Rosen ‘likely to remain’ with Dolphins in 2020, even with Ryan Fitzpatrick returning, per report
Feb. 17: 2020 NFL Draft rumors: Dolphins remain frontrunners for Tua Tagovailoa, but Justin Herbert could rock the boat
Jan. 31: Ryan Fitzpatrick to return in 2020, plans to stay with the Miami Dolphins after an inspired 2019
Jan. 24: Dolphins GM looking for quarterbacks with ‘intangibles,’ talks Tua Tagovailoa’s potential
Jan. 23: Dolphins GM ‘fully expects’ Ryan Fitzpatrick back in 2020, not giving up on Josh Rosen
Jan. 12: Dolphins expected to promote Josh Boyer to replace Patrick Graham as defensive coordinator, per report
Dec. 31: Chan Gailey reportedly comes out of retirement to be Dolphins OC, bodes well for Fitzpatrick’s future in Miami
Dec. 30: Dolphins general manager Chris Grier explains why Miami’s 2019 season was a success
Dec. 30: Dolphins reportedly fire offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea after just one season