After an offseason that included a free agent spending spree that made the Miami Dolphins the most popular name in all of football in the past few months, most people have concluded that Ireland is going all in for the 2013 season.
Ireland’s expenditure itinerary included Dannell Ellerbe, Philip Wheeler, Brent Grimes, Lance Louis, Dustin Keller, Brandon Gibson, and Mike Wallace – who was arguably this free agent class’ top player. Ireland also focused on retaining his own talent by resigning wide receiver Bian Hartline, back up quarterback Matt Moore, utility lineman Nate Garner, and safety Chris Clemons.
After aggressively attacking free agency, he still had many holes to fill on this talented but incomplete roster – particularly at left tackle. Ireland did not think franchise left tackle Jake Long was worth the $8.5 million annually he received from the Rams, which is why Ireland let the player he selected first overall in the 2008 NFL Draft walk away from the only team he has ever known.
Going into the 2013 draft class, the Dolphins’ primary needs were at left tackle, cornerback, defensive end, and tight end. The question was: which one was Ireland going to prioritize with this class? With just seconds left on the clock, the Dolphins made a move up to the third overall pick to select what many pundits predicted would be a franchise left tackle. However, when push came to shove, Ireland pulled the trigger on the player he claims to have scouted since the tail end of 2011: Oregon defensive end/linebacker Dion Jordan.
The addition of Dion Jordan, who was universally seen as a “special player” and the best defender in this draft, not only adds to an already vicious pass rush, but also fills a huge need across All-Pro defensive end/linebacker Cameron Wake. Jordan isn’t just a pass rusher. He’s very fluid in space, and his 4.5 wheels help him excel in coverage. He’s going to be a building block for the Dolphins to focus on for at least the next decade, which they paid peanuts for in terms of draft pick compensation.
With the additions of cornerbacks Jamar Taylor, Will Davis, Don Jones, and safety Keelan Johnson, Ireland clearly made upgrading his secondary another top priority on draft weekend. He also addressed his tight end situation by adding Michigan State tight end Dion Sims, who some draftniks called this draft class’ best blocking tight end, which will be a huge asset considering it’s an area where Dustin Keller struggles.
Lastly, Ireland addressed his left tackle situation to by adding Tennessee offensive lineman Dallas Thomas. Thomas was incredibly versatile at Tennessee, playing at various parts of the line. Experts say he’s best suited for an interior role, which is fine considering Richie Incognito will be 30 in July, is a poor fit for the Dolphins’ zone scheme, and is in a contract year. However, there’s nothing wrong with giving Thomas a look at left tackle in his rookie year. He’d at the very least be a quality reserve man.
To answer my previous question: which need would Ireland prioritize with this draft? All of them. He filled a ton of holes with a ton of quality players. The fact that he didn’t come away with a franchise left tackle is perfectly fine. Ireland needed to address the left tackle position simply because the Dolphins have absolutely zero depth there. In 2012, aside from the 49ers game, Jonathan Martin was actually a respectable starter at left tackle. However, in the event of a Martin injury, it would thrust Nate Garner, who’s better suited for the right side, into the starting lineup. The Dolphins can’t rule the jury out on Martin, and they have been in “steady dialogue” with Eric Winston, whose addition would solidify the right side. In fact, Ireland himself has admitted that he can’t rule out the acquisition of Kansas City Chiefs left tackle Branden Albert. Another realistic option could be signing 33-year old left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who played admirably during the Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl run.
So to those of you that think Ireland messed up another draft because he didn’t get the player that was so heavily mocked to the Dolphins in the weeks coming up to the draft: fear not. The offseason is not over, they got a “special player” for pennies on the dollar, and if they don’t get a “new” left tackle, it’ll be okay. We promise.