Following a busy offseason in 2022, the Dolphins didn’t take nearly as many swings in 2023.
It’s hard to blame them. The front office didn’t have to make up for any mistakes from last spring, as the team’s major acquisitions (receiver Tyreek Hill and offensive tackle Terron Armstead) both proved to be worth the investment. The organization also seemed to make the right decision in Mike McDaniel, as the head coach helped guide the Dolphins to their first playoff appearance since the 2016 season.
The Dolphins are clearly hoping that they can take another step forward during McDaniel’s second season at the helm. Of course, much of the team’s success will depend on the health of Tua Tagovailoa, but the team made enough offseason moves to remain in the playoff conversation heading into the 2023 campaign.
- Acquired CB Jalen Ramsey from the Rams for a third-round pick and tight end Hunter Long
- Traded CB Noah Igbinoghene to the Cowboys for CB Kelvin Joseph
- Traded OL Dan Feeney to the Bears for a sixth-round pick
For the second-straight offseason, the Dolphins made their biggest splash via trade, as they acquired one of the league’s top cornerbacks. Jalen Ramsey was more than productive during his three-plus seasons with the Rams, earning Pro Bowl nods each season while also being named to a pair of first-team All-Pro squads.
He didn’t earn the same accolades in 2022, but it was still a standout season for the veteran. Ramsey didn’t miss a game for the first time since 2018 while establishing career highs in tackles (88), passes defended (18), and interceptions (four). The 28-year-old ended up grading out as Pro Football Focus’ third-overall cornerback (among 118 qualifiers), and he paced the position with his run defense score.
The Dolphins clearly identified cornerback as a need heading into the offseason. Miami’s defense struggled in 2022, particularly against the pass. Miami ranked 27th in passing yards allowed per game and 29th in interceptions. The Dolphins’ need was only magnified when it was revealed that Byron Jones was unlikely to play again, leading to his release.
Unfortunately for the Dolphins, the team won’t immediately get to see their new acquisition on the field. Ramsey suffered a torn meniscus during training camp, keeping him on the sideline for the first few months of the season. There was initial hope that Ramsey could be ready for the season opener, but his placement on injured reserve assures that he won’t see the field until Week 5 at the earliest.
Elsewhere on the trade front, the Dolphins swapped cornerbacks with the Cowboys before the roster deadline. The team gave up on former first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene, who appeared in 32 games for the Dolphins across three seasons. In exchange, they received Kelvin Joseph, a former second-rounder who played the majority of his snaps on special teams over the past two seasons in Dallas.
The Dolphins added Dan Feeney to their offensive line mix during the offseason, guaranteeing $3.13MM of his salary in the process. The veteran was ultimately squeezed off the roster, but the front office managed to find a taker in the Bears vs. cutting him for nothing.
Free agency additions:
- Eli Apple, CB: One year, $1.41MM ($500K guaranteed)
- Jake Bailey, P: One year, $1.23MM ($1.09MM guaranteed)
- Braxton Berrios, WR: One year, $3.5MM ($1.5MM guaranteed)
- DeShon Elliott, S: One year, $1.77MM ($1.08MM guaranteed)
- Tyler Kroft, TE: One year, $1.29MM ($1.16MM guaranteed)
- David Long, LB: Two years, $11MM ($6.5MM guaranteed)
- Mike White, QB: Two years, $8MM ($4.5MM guaranteed)
- Isaiah Wynn, OT: One year, $2.3MM ($1.96MM guaranteed)
Miami used free agency to fill some key backup spots on their roster. The team’s biggest acquisition was linebacker David Long, who was added to the linebackers room following four seasons with the Titans. The former sixth-round pick saw a larger role during each of his four seasons in Tennessee, culminating in a 2022 campaign where he compiled a career-high 86 tackles. Long has missed time in each of his four NFL seasons, but as long as he’s healthy, he’s expected to start at inside linebacker next to Jerome Baker.
Eli Apple was added as a depth piece while the Dolphins looked to rework their cornerback corps, but he’ll likely see a significant role with Jalen Ramsey sidelined to start the season. Fortunately, Apple brings plenty of starting experience, as the veteran has started 78 of his 88 appearances. The 28-year-old spent the past two seasons in Cincinnati, collecting 98 tackles and two interceptions in 31 games.
DeShon Elliott also brings some starting experience to Miami’s secondary, with the former sixth-round pick having 35 starts on his resume. After spending the first three seasons of his career with the Ravens, Elliott spent the 2022 season in Detroit, where the safety chipped in 96 tackles and one interception. He’ll likely be the top backup to safeties Brandon Jones and Jevon Holland.
On the offensive side of the ball, the team made their biggest addition on the offensive line. Isaiah Wynn was once a first-round pick by the Patriots, but he fell out of favor in New England. Following a 2022 season where he was limited to only nine games (seven starts), the lineman hit free agency with little fanfare. He eventually got a one-year contract from Miami, where he’ll provide an upside option on the offensive line. While Wynn only ranked 72nd among 81 qualifying OTs in 2022 (per Pro Football Focus), he graded as an above-average option in each of his first three seasons in the NFL, including a 2020 campaign where he ranked 11th at his position.
The rest of the team’s offensive additions are destined for backup roles. Mike White showed a little something while serving as the Jets backup/occasional starter over the past two seasons, and he’ll now be the team’s top insurance if (or when) Tua Tagovailoa is sidelined. Tyler Kroft projects as more of a backup/blocking tight end, but he’ll help soak up some of the snaps that were lost when Mike Gesicki left for the Patriots. Braxton Berrios only missed one game for the Jets over the past four seasons, and he’ll likely see a role as a key returner and as a WR option behind Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.
- Justin Bethel, CB: One year, $1.32MM ($1.17MM guaranteed)
- Raheem Mostert, RB: One year, $2.12MM ($1MM guaranteed)
- Nik Needham, CB: One year, $2MM ($750K guaranteed)
- Duke Riley, LB: Two years, $5MM ($2.25MM guaranteed)
- Andrew Van Ginkel, LB: One year, $2.65MM ($1.5MM guaranteed)
- Jeff Wilson Jr., RB: Two years, $6MM ($1.08MM guaranteed)
While the Dolphins did do some work to revamp their cornerbacks room, they also made sure to retain a pair of veterans at the position. Nik Needham was a part-time starter for the Dolphins over the past four years, but he was limited to only six games in 2022 before suffering a torn Achilles. He’s starting the season on the PUP as he works his way back from injury, but he’ll eventually rejoin what should be a deep CB room. Justin Bethel was also brought back following his first season in Miami. The special teams ace has appeared in at least 300 special teams snaps in each of his 11 NFL seasons.
The Dolphins also brought back a pair of depth pieces at linebacker. Andrew Van Ginkel was once a starter for the Dolphins, starting 25 of his 33 appearances between 2020 and 2021. He started only five of his 17 appearances last season, but he still chipped in 47 tackles while appearing in 29 percent of his team’s defensive snaps. Duke Riley has seen a similar role in Miami over the past two years, appearing in more than a fourth of his team’s defensive snaps while contributing 71 tackles.
While the Dolphins flirted with a number of potential running back upgrades (which we’ll get to below), the team will return a pair of veterans for the time being. Following five-plus seasons in San Francisco, Raheem Mostert joined Mike McDaniel in Miami for the 2022 season. The running back managed to stay mostly healthy for the first time in years, and he finished the season with a career-high 1,093 yards from scrimmage.
Jeff Wilson Jr. was also brought over from San Francisco midseason, with the veteran contributing 484 yards from scrimmage in eight games. The veteran will start the upcoming season on injured reserve, perhaps opening the door for some of the team’s younger options at the position to step up.
- Teddy Bridgewater, QB
- Myles Gaskin, RB (released)
- Mike Gesicki, TE
- Melvin Ingram, LB
- John Jenkins, DL
- Byron Jones, CB (released)
- Greg Little, OT
- Thomas Morstead, P
- Elandon Roberts, LB
- Eric Rowe, S
- Brandon Shell, OT
- Trent Sherfield, WR
The Dolphins didn’t let any crucial players leave this offseason, but they did watch some top-end depth walk out the door. Mike Gesicki appeared to be a foundational piece a few years ago, with the tight end combining for 126 catches, 1,483 yards, and eight touchdowns between the 2020 and 2021 seasons. With Tyreek Hill added to the offense and Jaylen Waddle commanding more targets, Gesicki saw a lesser role on offense in 2022, finishing with 32 catches for 362 yards and five touchdowns. The Dolphins will turn to Durham Smythe, Tyler Kroft, and UDFA Julian Hill to guide the TE room in 2023.
Trent Sherfield didn’t put up the biggest numbers in 2022, but he still appeared in more than half of Miami’s offensive snaps. The wideout got into all 17 games during his lone season in Miami, finishing with 30 catches for 417 yards and two touchdowns. Free agent addition Braxton Berrios will likely fill the departed receiver’s spot on the depth chart.
Teddy Bridgewater signed a one-year deal with Miami last offseason to serve as Tua Tagovailoa insurance. The veteran ended up getting into five games (two starts), tossing four touchdowns vs. four interceptions. The Dolphins lost both of his starts. Bridgewater joined the Lions this offseason while the Dolphins pivoted to a cheaper backup QB plan in Mike White. Myles Gaskin also saw his stint with the Dolphins come to an end. The running back had 1,818 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns between the 2020 and 2021 seasons, but he was limited to only four games and 14 touches in 2023.
Brandon Shell and Greg Little both played significant roles on Miami’s offensive line in 2022, with the veterans combining for 18 starts. Little remains a free agent while Shell announced his sudden retirement after joining the Bills this offseason.
On defense, Byron Jones‘ stint with the Dolphins ended after only three seasons. The cornerback inked a five-year, $82MM deal with the organization back in 2020, and while he didn’t earn the same accolades as he did during his Dallas tenure, he still started all 30 of his appearances for Miami between 2020 and 2021. Jones ended up missing the entire 2022 season while recovering from left Achilles surgery, with the cornerback later claiming on social media that he could no longer “run or jump.” Jones was later released after failing his physical, with the organization citing his cap hit as reasons for the move.
When it comes to 2022 production, Elandon Roberts was the biggest loss for the Dolphins defense. The linebacker started 43 of his 47 games since joining Miami in 2020. This included a career season for Roberts in 2022, with the former sixth-round pick compiling 107 tackles and 4.5 sacks. That performance likely priced the player out of the Dolphins’ plans, and he ended up getting a two-year deal from the Steelers.
Eric Rowe spent four seasons in Miami, but after starting 29 games through his first two seasons with the organization, he was limited to only 10 starts (in 31 games) between 2021 and 2022. The veteran served as a versatile weapon on Miami’s secondary, a role that will likely be filled by offseason addition DeShon Elliott.
After several underwhelming seasons, Melvin Ingram had a bounce-back year during his lone season in Miami. The pass rusher got into about half of his team’s defensive snaps while contributing six sacks, 10 QB hits, and seven tackles for loss. John Jenkins had a part-time role on the defensive line.
Extensions and restructures:
- Extended TE Durham Smythe on a two-year, $7.75MM deal ($5.5MM guaranteed)
- Extended DL Zach Sieler on a three-year, $38.65MM deal ($20MM guaranteed)
- Extended LS Blake Ferguson for three years
The Dolphins will have some important contract decisions to make next offseason, but the front office used this offseason to hold on to some important depth pieces on both sides of the ball. Zach Sieler has turned into an important depth piece on Miami’s defensive line, with the former Ravens sixth-round pick seeing a larger role in each of his three-plus seasons with the Dolphins. This culminated in a 2022 campaign where Sieler started 15 of his 17 appearances, compiling 70 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and a pair of forced fumbles.
Durham Smythe has spent all five seasons of his career in Miami, mostly serving as a blocker while starting 56 of his 79 appearances. Smythe showed some talent in the receiving game in 2020 and 2021, hauling in 60 receptions for 565 yards and two scores. He could be in line for more work in 2023 with Mike Gesicki no longer in the picture.
Blake Ferguson has served as the team’s long snapper for the past three seasons, appearing in all 50 games for the Dolphins.
- Round 2, No. 51: Cam Smith, CB (South Carolina) (signed)
- Round 3, No. 84: Devon Achane, RB (Texas A&M) (signed)
- Round 6, No. 197: Elijah Higgins, TE (Stanford) (signed)
- Round 7, No. 238: Ryan Hayes, OT (Michigan) (signed)
The Dolphins have been active in trades over the past few years, leaving the front office with few draft assets in 2023. The team ultimately emerged from the draft with four rookies, although three UDFAs ended up also making the roster.
Cam Smith was a major part of the team’s makeover at cornerback. The South Carolina product lived up to his four-star-recruit billing, totaling six interceptions and 18 pass breakups during his time with the Gamecocks. He primarily served as a nickel cornerback in college, a role that he could hold in the NFL. For the time being, the rookie looks like he’ll be the top backup to Xavien Howard and Eli Apple on the outside, at least until Jalen Ramsey is back on the field.
The Dolphins added some intrigue to their uninspiring RB room by selecting Texas A&M running back Devon Achane in the third round. Achane was productive during his final two years at college, compiling 2,469 yards from scrimmage and 21 touchdowns. With Jeff Wilson Jr. starting the season on injured reserve, the rookie could immediately see a role behind Raheem Mostert in Miami’s backfield.
- Fired defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, hired Vic Fangio to take his place
- Picked up QB Tua Tagovailoa‘s fifth-year option
- Tabled extensions talks with Tua Tagovailoa, Christian Wilkins
- Declined fifth-year options on OT Austin Jackson and CB Noah Igbinoghene
- Connected to a number of running backs, including former free agent Dalvin Cook
The Dolphins made a significant change to their coaching staff, although it wasn’t all that surprising. Josh Boyer was a holdover from Brian Flores‘ Miami staff, but Mike McDaniel was quick to move off of him following an underwhelming 2022 season. Miami’s defense dropped from 16th to 24th in points allowed last season, and they fell from 10th to 15th in DVOA. Boyer wasn’t the only defensive coach to get canned; the Dolphins also let go of outside linebackers coach Ty McKenzie, safeties coach Steve Gregory, and assistant linebackers coach Steve Ferentz.
The Dolphins ultimately added Vic Fangio to their staff to take over the defense. The veteran coach was considered the premier defensive play-caller available, and the Dolphins got him to Miami by making him the highest-paid coordinator in the NFL. Fangio last roamed an NFL sideline during his three-year stint as the Broncos’ head coach. That resulted in an underwhelming 19-30 record, and Fangio ultimately spent the 2022 season as a consultant with the Eagles.
The Dolphins had some interesting financial decisions to make this offseason, starting with their franchise quarterback. The Dolphins committed to Tua Tagovailoa at least through the 2024 season when they picked up the quarterback’s fifth-year option, but the two sides couldn’t agree to a long-term deal before the start of the season. Miami is likely wary of committing to Tagovailoa considering his injury history, especially a troubling run of concussions during the 2022 campaign. However, the former first-round pick took a clear step forward in 2022, and the Dolphins could be ready to open the wallet next offseason if Tagovailoa has a repeat performance.
The Dolphins didn’t pick up the fifth-year options on a pair of disappointing former first-round picks. Austin Jackson started 28 of his 30 appearances through his first two seasons in the NFL, but the lineman was limited to only a pair of games in 2022 while spending two stints on injured reserve. The 24-year-old is expected to slide back into the starting lineup for the 2023 campaign, but the Dolphins front office were confident making this upcoming season a prove-it year for the offensive tackle. Noah Igbinoghene found himself in and out of the lineup during his three seasons in Miami. The cornerback was limited to only two starts in nine games last season, and he was eventually traded to the Cowboys before the roster deadline.
Tagovailoa wasn’t the only notable extension-eligible player to go without a long-term deal. Christian Wilkins pushed hard for a new contract with the Dolphins, with the defensive tackle stageing a hold-in as he looked to get a bump on his $10.75MM salary in 2023. With some of the league’s top DTs earning twice that amount, Wilkins was holding out for a significant pay day. The Dolphins were hoping to retain the defensive tackle via an extension but couldn’t agree to terms, leading the team to announce that they were tabling contract talks until after the season.
The Dolphins’ offseason headlines were also as much about what they didn’t do as what they did do. The team was seemingly connected to every running back, available or not, with the team rumored to be interested in the likes of Dalvin Cook, D’Andre Swift, Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, and Jonathan Taylor. The team was most connected to Cook, but the free agent RB ended up linking up with the team’s division rival in New York. The Dolphins will enter the season having not added a significant name to the running backs room, but there’s a good chance the organization will be connected to any big names that become available between now and the trade deadline.
Top 10 cap charges for 2023:
- Emmanuel Ogbah, DE: $17.18MM
- Tyreek Hill, WR: $12.82MM
- Jerome Baker, LB: $12.51MM
- Christian Wilkins, DT: $10.75MM
- Xavien Howard, CB: $10.07MM
- Tua Tagovailoa, QB: $9.63MM
- Terron Armstead, OT: $9.23MM
- Connor Williams, G: $8.37MM
- Bradley Chubb, LB: $7.54MM
- Jaylen Waddle, WR: $7.38MM
The Dolphins have spent the past three seasons hovering around nine or 10 wins. With the team appearing to take a cultural and foundational step forward under Mike McDaniel in 2022, they’ll be expected to make more progress in 2023.
The team’s two biggest moves (acquiring Jalen Ramsey and hiring Vic Fangio) will likely have the biggest impact on Miami’s postseason hopes this season. However, many of the team’s secondary transactions helped maintain some sense of continuity, and that should be enough for the Dolphins to compete for a playoff spot in a crowded AFC.