The Miami Dolphins got off to a good start to the offseason with the signing of cornerback Brent Grimes to a 4 year, $32 million deal. The structure of the contract also allows the Dolphins to cut ties with Grimes if his production diminishes after the second year, when he will be 33 years of age.
While locking up Grimes was an important first move, GM Dennis Hickey will be busy improving a roster that has several different holes at key positions. The offensive line is the most notable weakness and it is certainly possible that it will consist of four new starters in 2014, with the only returning starter being center Mike Pouncey. Considering that Chris Clemons, Paul Soliai and Randy Starks will be given the chance to test the market, Miami will likely need to find replacements at safety and defensive tackle, respectively. The Dolphins can also look to improve the run game by signing a power back, something they desperately lacked last season.
Miami enters the March 11 start of free agency with just over $36 million in cap space. Here's a look at how they can effectively spend that money:
1. Sign Eugene Monroe
If the Dolphins want an accurate representation on if Ryan Tannehill can be a franchise quarterback, they will need to protect his blindside. At 26, Monroe is a young and durable left tackle who provides Miami with a long term solution at the position. Despite demanding an annual salary of over $10 million, Monroe is and should be the Dolphins top target in free agency. In the event they are not able to sign their Plan A left tackle, Miami can turn its attention to Jared Veldheer, Branden Albert or Anthony Collins.
2. Sign Jarius Byrd
Although the 27-year old safetly will come with a steep price tag, the Dolphins would be wise to strongly consider making a run at Byrd. In addition to being an upgrade in the secondary over Chris Clemons, the signing of Byrd would weaken the division rival Bills. With four interceptions and one forced fumble in only 11 games last season, Byrd is sure to garner interest from several other teams. Miami can also set its sights on former Lion Louis Delmas who already visited the team and would a solid addition if he can stay healthy.
3. Sign Roger Saffold
Assuming the Dolphins sign both of the players mentioned above, they would prefer not to take on another large cap hit in their search for a guard. Fromer Ram Roger Saffold may be able to fly under the radar and be had for a reasonable price considering the depth in the offensive line market this year. At 25, the young and versatile Saffold would be a nice fit for a Dolphins offensive line that is in need of a major rebuild.
4. Sign a power running back
One thing the Dolphins learned in 2013 is that Daniel Thomas is not the answer as the team's power running back. On too many occasions, Miami failed to move the chains on third and short which caused many promising drives to stall. Lamar Miller on the otherhand still has a lot of potential, however he could use a veteran presence in the backfield. This year's free agenct class has several talented backs for the Dolphins to choose from including Maurice-Jones Drew, Darren McFadden, LeGarrette Blount, Knowshon Moreno and Ben Tate. Each player has question marks, mainly age and durabilty, therefore Miami can play the waiting game and see which option could be signed for the lowest price. The recently released Darren Sproles could also be a good fit if Joe Philbin was able to use him correctly.
The one major position of need not addressed in my free agency plan is defensive tackle where the Dolphins have Jared Odrick as a replacement for Starks and can draft a replacement for Soliai. I also expect Miami to draft at least two offensive lineman in May and at least one in the first two rounds. Also, keep in mind that the team can't possibly fill all its holes in one offseason.
Be sure to share your Dolphins free agency plan in the comments or on twitter @Phins_Phocus.