Ranking Miami Dolphins free agents pending… with their likelihood of being back
With the Super Bowl a thing of the past, the focus around the NFL has shifted almost entirely to the offseason.
As usual, one of the big components of the offseason will be free agency, and which players will join the Miami Dolphins for the 2022 season and which players will leave.
The first order of business almost invariably involves self-scouting and determining which of their own players will be looking to bring back, so it’s in that spirit that we focus on the Dolphins’ pending free agents.
The Dolphins currently have 21 players in free agency as of March 16, including 17 UFAs (Unrestricted Free Agents) and four RFAs (Restricted).
We break them down here in order of importance, along with our best guess as to how likely they are to stay with the Dolphins.
Dolphins Unrestricted Free Agents Pending
BY EMMANUEL OGBAH — Ogbah proved to be a great free agent signing two offseasons ago and it’s safe to suggest the Dolphins wished they had signed him longer term. With Josh Boyer back as DC and several defensive assistants back as well, the Dolphins will be looking to run the same defense and they need Ogbah to make it work at full efficiency. This should be the top priority. Prospects: probable return
TE MIKE GESICKI — Gesicki has only improved since arriving as a second-round pick in 2018, and he just finished a season where he produced career highs in catches and receiving yards. But Gesicki is pretty much a one-dimensional player at this point in his career who might as well be a wide receiver. His receiving ability makes him a valuable commodity up to a point, but how much will the Dolphins be willing to spend on him, especially since their new plan calls for tight ends to block and they’ve selected another tight end Hunter Long in the third round last year and the Dolphins need to get him into the lineup. Outlook: Questionable return
RB DUKE JOHNSON — Yes, we rank Johnson third on our list despite playing less than half of the 2021 season after being signed to the practice squad in October. Johnson had the Dolphins’ two 100-yard rushing performances of the season despite his limited action. In doing so, Johnson showed his ability to maximize blocking up front that other running backs lacked. Johnson’s running style makes him a good fit for the 49ers style program we’ll likely see in Miami in 2022. Prospects: probable return
WR MACK HOLLINS — Perhaps the most colorful player on the roster, however, Hollins is more than just a big personality. Hollins is a very good special teams player, he was elected as one of the team captains last season and he took advantage of his opportunities at wide receiver with four touchdowns on only 14 receptions, including his score of 65 yards against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Prospects: probable return
TE DURHAM SMYTH — One of five tight ends on the active roster in 2021, Smythe has established himself as a very dependable pass catcher who can also contribute as a blocker and on special teams. Like Gesicki, he set career highs in 2021 for catches and receiving yards. Because he’s not a big-time catcher, he probably won’t win top dollar in the free agent market, but he’s a useful player to have. Prospects: probable return
LB ELANDON ROBERTS — Roberts has played the past two seasons after signing one-year contracts, which means he is expected to be a free agent for a third straight offseason. Roberts is a useful inside linebacker who’s better against the run than at coverage (his 85-yard pick against the Raiders aside), but it’s likely the Dolphins will want an upgrade at that position. Outlook: 50-50 comeback.
QB JACOBY BRISSETT — Brissett was considered a good fit as a substitute last year because he wasn’t a threat to Tua Tagovailoa, but became a bad fit because his inability to get the ball off the pocket quickly was a problem working behind an offensive line. who struggled for much of the season. Brissett had his moments in 2021, most notably in the overtime loss in Las Vegas, but his overall performance wasn’t particularly impressive. That said, he still fits what the Dolphins should want from a backup quarterback, provided the offensive line is improved. Outlook: 50-50 comeback.
WR ISAIAH FORD — The man who keeps coming back. We’ve lost track of how often Ford was re-signed after being fired, but there’s a reason the Dolphins always bring him back — he knows the offense, he knows his role and he’s reliable. But he also doesn’t make a difference, which is why he probably won’t be re-signed until the end of the offseason, if at all. Outlook: 50-50 comeback.
RB PHILLIP LINDSAY — The two-time 1,000-yard rusher just wasn’t able to make much of an impact after joining the Dolphins following his release from Houston, but a lot of that had to do with the offensive line. One thing Lindsay has in his favor is the fact that he knows the West Coast offense well and his style is conducive to that stratagem. Prospects: unlikely return.
LB DUKE RILEY — Riley has been a vital member of special teams all season, but also started three games as a linebacker. Riley joined the Dolphins on a one-year contract last offseason, but has enough to offer as a quality backup and special teams player to bring back. Prospects: probable.
WR ALBERT WILSON— Wilson was back on reduced pay after retiring in 2020 and he could never really carve out a role for himself last year, in part because so many short passes went to rookie Jaylen Waddle. Wilson made an impression in his first season in Miami before suffering a hip injury, but now it seems like it’s time for a change of scenery. Prospects: unlikely return.
LB BRENNAN SCARLETT — Like Riley, Scarlett signed a one-year contract last year to provide depth at linebacker and help special teams, but he had very little impact for the Dolphins – this after showing great potential for move on to training camp and pre-season. Prospects: unlikely return.
CB JUSTIN COLEMAN — Signed to a one-year deal after his release from Detroit, Coleman ended up having a pretty good season after a slow start with an opposing passer rating of 63.4 when targeted, according to Pro Football Reference, which was the best of all defensive backs on the team. However, Coleman only played 35% of snaps defensively and that was his lowest percentage since 2016 when he was with New England. He might be inclined to look for an opportunity elsewhere to get more playing time. Outlook: return less than 50-50.
LB VINCE BIEGEL — Biegel completed his long road back from his 2020 training camp injury when he joined the active roster last season after being injured in camp and then re-signed to the practice squad. Biegel has appeared in five games as a substitute, but virtually all of his snaps have come on special teams. The coaches have always spoken positively of Biegel’s work ethic and energy, so he could be brought back for another look, although he is not seen as a priority to re-sign. Outlook: 50-50 comeback.
P MICHEL PALARDY — After replacing fellow left-hander Matt Haack, Palardy is having a fairly uneven season for the Dolphins. Highs included winning AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors and one of the best punt ratios in 20 against touchbacks. But Palardy also had some tough games, including the Week 17 loss to Tennessee when his punting helped the Titans win the field position battle until they scored on the game’s fifth possession. Outlook: return less than 50-50.
OL GREG MANCZ — Acquired in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens in late August to provide depth on the offensive line, Mancz ended up starting four games during Michael Deiter’s absence. Mancz has positional flexibility and experience, and is one of those players who isn’t a priority to re-sign but could be back if he doesn’t find a new team in free agency. Outlook: 50-50 comeback.
DT JOHN JENKINS — The veteran defensive tackle became a forgotten man after signing as a free agent last offseason. He started two games when Raekwon Davis was sidelined with a knee injury, but ended up appearing in only seven games and was inactive for eight of the last 11. Prospects: unlikely return.
FRG Dolphins waiting
CB NIK NEEDHAM — Needham became a valuable high school member after leaving the practice squad as a rookie free agent in 2019. Needham started five games in 2021 and had his first career pick in Monday night’s game against the New Orleans Saints, but most importantly, he only had a 73.4 passer rating when targeted. It would be more surprising to see the Dolphins let me go than to see them re-sign him before free agency begins. Prospects: probable return
LB SAM EGUAVOEN — The former CFL player had a memorable four-sack performance in the preseason, but that didn’t translate to the regular season as his role was once again mostly on special teams. Eguavoen played in all 17 games, but only had significant defensive snaps in two of them – the opener in New England and the Week 7 game against the Atlanta Falcons. Logic says the Dolphins won’t make a takeover bid but would consider bringing him back. Outlook: 50-50 comeback.
WR PRESTON WILLIAMS — To say it was a disappointing season for Williams would be an understatement. After seeing his two previous campaigns ended with season-ending injuries, Williams was never able to start in 2021. He finished with just six receptions and that on 16 targets – his catch percentage of 37.5 would have ranked last in the NFL if he had enough qualifying receptions. Williams was also dropped for the game at Buffalo in Week 8 for a team rule violation and ended up out of action for seven games. This is a classic example where a change of scenery is probably better for both parties. Outlook: Doubtful return.
SHELDRICK REDWINE— The former University of Miami standout may have lived a dream when the Dolphins signed him to their practice squad, but he missed his first chance when he joined Williams being left behind for the Buffalo’s game due to a violation of team rules. Redwine got another chance and ended up appearing in four games, although his playing time was pretty much limited to special teams. It would be surprising to see the Dolphins make a qualifying bid here, although it’s not completely out of the question that he’s back. Outlook: Possible return.