Despite what many consider to have been an overachieving season for the Miami Dolphins, a very pressing need emerged which caused concern amongst the fan base as the week's progressed.
It's no secret that the biggest need that the team must address is at wide receiver. Impending free agent Brian Hartline had a breakout season in his fourth year in the league posting 1,083 yards however he only hauled in a single touchdown reception. Hartline is a reliable pass catcher and a player that many teams will covert but he does not possess the skill set to be a No.1 receiver in the NFL. Davone Bess is also a solid option in the passing game however he is better suited as a slot reciever as opposed to one who can stretch the field. The position of third wide receiver on the team was an ongoing carousel with not one player showing the ability to make a significant impact. Analyzing the Dolphins current core of receivers, its clear that the team lacks a deep threat.
The Dolphins top priority this offseason will be to surround Ryan Tannehill with weapons and put him in a position to succeed in 2013. In order to accomplish this, the Dolphins front office must decide which route they will take in attempts to bring an elite wideout to South Beach.
This year's draft is filled with many good but not great wide reciever prospects with tremendous value to be had in the second round or later. With this in mind, the Dolphins would be wise to address some of their other needs via the draft and dedicate free agency to improving the passing game. Three of the game's premiere pass catchers could be on the move this offseason, here's a look at the players that will likely be pursued by the Miami Dolphins.
Greg Jennings has been linked to the Dolphins for the majority of the regular season mainly due to his ties with head coach Joe Philbin who was Jennings offensive coordinator in Green Bay. From his experience under Philbin, Jennings is familiar with the west coast offense making him an instant fit in Miami. Considering the depth at wide receiver on the Packers roster and Jennings durability coming into question, they will likely let him walk. The former second round pick is a true playermaker. He has the quickness to gain seperation and the speed to make defenders miss when he has the ball. Jennings' ability to accumulate yards after the catch is exactly what the Dolphins lack in their offense. Although Jennings is currently contributing in the Packers playoff run, perhaps the only negative to this signing would be Jennings' health concerns and the fact that he will be 30 once the 2013 campaign begins. These factors working against Jennings will likely prevent him from getting paid top dollar.
If the Dolphins are unable to land Greg Jennings, they can turn their attention to another free agent prize in Mike Wallace. Although he is not as good a fit in Miami compared to Jennings' experience in a similar system, Wallace provides the Dolphins with the deep threat that they have been searching for. He possess rare straight-line speed giving him the opportunity to race past defenders while tracking the ball over his shoulder. Wallace's elite speed allows him to explode out of his cuts and he continually improved as a route runner over his career thus far. Wallace won't give Miami a red zone target therefore that will have to be adressed with another free agent signing or through the draft. Despite his known characteristc of occasionally dropping catchable passes, the fact that he is younger than Jennings and Bowe will entice many teams. A wide receiver of Wallace's calibre won't come cheap as he's already made it clear he will be looking for a huge pay day.
Midway through the season reports surfaced that the Dolphins were making a push to acquire Dwayne Bowe from the Chiefs however a trade never materialized. If the report was in fact true, Bowe could very well be at the top of the Dolphins offseason wish list. Unlike Jennings or Wallace, Bowe who turns 28 in September, uses strength to his advantage rather than speed. Few defensive backs in the league can matchup against the former first round pick and he can make plays in traffic that most receivers can't. Bowe's strength is also useful after the catch making him difficult to bring down. His most notable weakness is his inability to break away from corners due to his lack of speed. Dropped passes are also a cause for concern when signing Bowe. Coming off a down year Bowe's value has decreased but he will get an expensive contract nonetheless.