The Miami Dolphins were last year's big spender in free agency and like clockwork, their spending turned out to be ... less than worth it. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is a playmaker, of course, but he didn't live up to the massive deal he signed last offseason and even if he improves in 2016, he'll be hard-pressed to provide the kind of impact Miami envisioned when they had him put pen to paper.
Miami fired head coach Joe Philbin a couple games into the 2015-16 season and now will go into the year with Adam Gase, the once future head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. I don't think there's really a storyline to be had when it comes to Gase and the 49ers but I'm sure somebody cares that he was likely going to be the team's new head coach before Jim Tomsula became a deal-breaker.
This year, folks were wondering if we would see a restrained Dolphins team when it came to free agency. Entering an offseason with big needs at big positions, we now know that answer is simple: no. They didn't do any Suh-like deals, and even showed something not entirely unlike restraint at one point. But before we dive into that, let's take a look at their biggest free agents this offseason.
DE Olivier Vernon
RB Lamar Miller
DE Derrick Shelby
CB Brent Grimes
DE Quinton Coples
S Louis Delmas
WR Rishard Matthews
CB Brice McCain
Free agency recap
There were some other players, but none of particular note. Vernon is the biggest name on that list, and the Dolphins made what seems to be a questionable decision in rescinding his transition tag. Vernon wound up signing a five-year, $85 million deal with the New York Giants and honestly, I expect him to find success there. If the Dolphins had held on to him, he could have been huge and if not, they could have gotten some kind of compensation for him.
Then there are Shelby and Coples, a couple defensive ends who also signed elsewhere, leaving a big hole at defensive end. In addition to that hole, the Dolphins needed a couple interior offensive linemen, a couple cornerbacks, an inside linebacker and needed some offensive tackle depth.
The Dolphins, to their credit, didn't let any of those needs get out of hand. They managed to sign guard Kraig Urbik, who should be able to occupy one of the guard spots, and then made a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles and acquired both Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso. Providing Alonso can stay healthy -- a big if -- the Dolphins filled two huge needs right there. Jermon Bushrod and Sam Young were signed to bolster the tackle positions as well.
At defensive end, the Dolphins won the Mario Williams sweepstakes, and also signed veteran Andre Branch. It's more a lateral move at this point but if Williams is anything close to the player he was before Rex Ryan's defense completely went belly-up last season, the Dolphins will be getting a steal.
One big hole created by free agency is at the running back position. Miller signed a four-year deal with the Houston Texans, and though the Dolphins never quite figured out how to use him, it's a significant loss. Miller should do very well with Houston, while the Dolphins are still searching for somebody to work alongside Jay Ajayi, a promising young back who can't be counted on as the primary ball-carrier at this point.
Needs heading into the NFL Draft
With many needs covered in free agency, the Dolphins still need to improve in some key areas. They still need another starting interior offensive linemen, another starting cornerback and have very little to offer behind Suh at defensive tackle.
Ajayi is entering his second year so despite this being a strong draft class at running back, the Dolphins can hopefully figure something else out as another rookie probably isn't the answer.
Suh played well last season, even if he wasn't anywhere close to what the Dolphins expected. But the team needs another young defensive tackle to rotate in and that guy currently is not on the roster. In that same vein, another defensive end to learn behind Williams and Branch couldn't hurt.
Maxwell is an interesting addition but ultimately, a starting cornerback may be the Dolphins' most pressing need at this point. They should address it, and they should address it early. Also look for them to potentially be interested in a kicker late in the draft after Andrew Franks missed 19 percent of his field goals and three extra points.
Finally, it wouldn't surprise me if Gase's Dolphins invested a high draft pick on a quarterback. There are only two guys we hear about for the top of the first round in Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, but this draft is heavy on high-potential guys who may not be immediately ready to start. Ryan Tannehill isn't the quarterback the Dolphins want him to be and getting a young guy to pus