1. Byron Jones was one of the best corners in the league for Dallas, but he is not exactly the type of corner who hangs on an island with top receivers, rather thriving in Cover-3. Will Miami’s scheme allow Jones to continue excelling in a role he is well-suited for, or will the Dolphins be asking more of him than the Cowboys did?
I think the biggest benefit is Brian Flores’ system, where he likes to create mismatches, play players to their strengths, and does not as too much of a player. With Xavien Howard and Jones paired up, Miami should have a dynamic pair of cornerbacks. Flores’ defense is typically a man-to-man system, but he also does have help rotating over the top a lot. Some of that can change as Miami looks to improve on last year’s weak defensive performance, however, I think we will see Jones likely playing one side of the defense while Howard plays the other - not necessarily assigned a specific player but rather the left or the right of the defense. It will feel somewhat Cover 3, somewhat man.
2. Kyle Van Noy had a breakout 2019 season for New England after moving to the edge full-time. Will he be able to play a similar role as he reunites with Brian Flores?
I think that is exactly what Miami wants. The defense could not generate pass rush last year, and you saw a lot of focus - maybe not giant names but a clear focus - on getting players that can attack the edge, both from a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end type and from a 3-4 outside linebacker type. I think Van Noy is another one of those players who has the versatility to move around and create mismatches, and I think Flores will love having him as a chess piece in the defense.
3. Ereck Flowers saw a resurgence in his play after moving to guard in Washington, grading out as a relatively average player for the Redskins and pushing into the upper echelon over the latter portion of 2019. Where he will line up for the Dolphins, and do you think that his contract is a fair value?
Flowers gives Miami a starting-caliber guard to immediately plug into the line. He may not be the long-term solution, and he is probably not going to be the top guard in the league, but he should be solid to, as you said, bottom of the upper echelon. Miami needs that.
He signed a three-year, $30 million contract, with $19.95 million guaranteed. It really works out to a two-year deal, as the Dolphins would owe $1 million against the cap in 2022 and would have a savings of $10 million. It is not a cheap deal, with 14 guards in the league at the $10 million per year average, but it is a short-term deal to ensure Miami has at least solid play at the guard position. I think it is fair given Miami’s huge amount of salary cap space heading into the offseason and their need to fix the offensive line.
4. Shaq Lawson never quite fulfilled his first round potential, but he slowly progressed throughout his tenure in Buffalo and had a very efficient season as a situational rusher in 2019. How big of a role will he play for Miami’s defense?
I would imagine they are looking at him primarily as a pass-rush specialist, but I do not think it will only be in that role. Miami’s lack of pass rush last year - where in-season acquisition Taco Charlton led the team with five sacks - had to be addressed. I think an early-round pass rusher is a likely addition for Miami in the Draft, even with Van Noy and Lawson, but I think the addition of Lawson makes sense.
His three-year, $30 million contract is similar to Flowers’. The deal has $21 million guaranteed, but nearly all of that is in the first two years, giving Miami $9 million in savings in 2022 if they are ready to move on. It is another short-term deal to fill a role with a solid player as Miami rebuilds a torn-down roster.
5. It has long been assumed that the Dolphins will take Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth overall pick, but the rumors are beginning to fly all over the place regarding what the Dolphins are thinking. What do you think they will do in the first round, and what do you think they should do?
I think they will take Tagovailoa with the first pick, then either double down on offensive tackles with their other two picks on opening night, or add a safety or pass rusher along with one tackle. As for should, I think it is pretty much the same, assuming they trust the medical reports on Tagovailoa. I have to assume if they select him, they are not worried about the health issues, and if they pass, it is saying something about the health. If the medicals are a concern, I think they will look to Justin Herbert or Jordan Love as options.
6. How did Miami’s free agency period impact their needs/approach for the draft? What are the primary goals for the Dolphins on Days 2-3?
I think the free agency period was fantastic for the Dolphins, because they addressed needs with young players who still have upside and can develop to fulfill their potential - and after watching DeVante Parker break out last year in his fifth season in the league, I fully believe the coaches can find a way to develop some of these additions. They added players to positions of need, and they made it so they are free to do just about whatever they want in the Draft.
That all said, the Dolphins’ draft priorities probably did not change that much. It made it so maybe not grabbing the top player at any position will not hurt as badly, but it may not be that impactful on the actual needs. For example, if Miami does not add a top pass rusher, having Van Noy and Lawson makes it not as painful. The Dolphins need a quarterback, at least one offensive tackle, and pass rush at a minimum, while adding a safety, running back, defensive tackle and interior offensive line are also areas Miami could look. The good thing is, the team has 14 picks, six in the top 70, so there are plenty of answers to be had over the three days.