Lots of people play fantasy football. I play fantasy February with the Dolphins. I fantasize each offseason how they could do something they haven’t consistently done for two decades: Improve.
Eight years ago, I wanted Russell Wilson. Two years ago, I wanted Lamar Jackson. Last year I wanted, uh, Nick Foles? (Hey, you don’t make fun of my misses, I won’t make fun of yours.)
This is the best Dolphins offseason to play general manager, too. You have 14 draft picks — more than anyone. You have $90 million to spend — more than anyone. You have holes across the roster — yes, more than anyone, too.
So here are the annual 10 Simple Steps To Lead the Dolphins From The Wilderness:
1. Offer your three, first-round picks to Cincinnati and have Russian hackers start a Facebook campaign detailing how LSU quarterback Joe Burrow hates being the Bengals No. 1 pick. If that somehow fails …
2. Fall in love with Utah State quarterback Jordan Love or (sigh) draft Tua Tagovailoa. Yes, even if that means trading up for him. This is what all last season was about, and it’s the work of this offseason. The only thing worse than taking an injury-prone Tagovailoa would be watching him become a star elsewhere. The fear with Tua is the Dolphins Principle is in full force: Whatever this franchise does, the opposite will work out. He’s talented, smart and a walking health hazard. It’s not just the hips that have been surgically repaired. It’s the ankles that have been surgically worked on. It’s how he’s played with the best coaching and supporting cast you can have. Bottom-line: Unless you love Love, drafting Tua is the safest, risky pick ever. It means he can’t haunt you somewhere else.
3. Use at least eight draft picks on linemen. Yeah, that’s more than half the draft. So what? The Dolphins were the worst rushing and most-sacked offense. They had fewest sacks and ranked 26th against the rush defensively. To understand the problem, consider these eight projected picks would be one more than the Dolphins have used on linemen over the last four drafts combined. The big, shiny objects in the draft don’t mean anything if you can’t get some big uglies to support them.
4. Overpay for a veteran pass rusher. That’s the easy part. The hard part is convincing one to sign with you. But you’ve collected $90 million to spend — now spend some. Overspend, actually. You have no choice. The first call would be 24-year-old Yannick Ngakoue, the best edge rusher on the market. A more realistic option might be New England hybrid linebacker/rusher Kyle Van Noy who Flores coached to great success in New England. Van Noy, 28, had 6 1/2 sacks and forced three fumbles last year. Each would have led the Dolphins and he gives you a veteran to build around.
5. Use the first-round picks on anything but running back. You can find running backs easily lower in the draft if you know what you’re doing. They’ll need to draft and/or sign at least two backs, too. GM Chris Grier has found running backs on the cheap — the Super Bowl backs, Kansas City’s Damien Williams and San Francisco’s Raheem Mostert, were both undrafted pickups by the Dolphins. Throw in fifth-rounder Jay Ajayi and on a roster that needs everything, backs need to be found on the cheap.
6. Don’t think going 5-4 to end last season means anything. The Dolphins have had some good seasons in the last 15 years and the mistake was thinking the future was automatically onward and upward. Flores doesn’t look to be falling in that trap, as he boldly changed much of his coaching staff. But big changes or investments were made, too, by Nick Saban after winning the final six games in 2005 and by Bill Parcells after making the playoffs in 2008 and by Mike Tannenbaum/Adam Gase after making the playoffs in 2016. They went nowhere. So this 2019 finish, while notable, doesn’t mean anything. Meaning …
7. Don’t overvalue quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Love him. Admire him. Fitzmagic breathed oxygen into a lifeless season. He was the star in four of the Dolphins’ five wins (the outlier being the 16-12 win in Indianapolis). He revived the careers of DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki, too. But can we admire who he is and not overplay this hand, too? Fifteen previous years suggest the prince is equal pumpkin. He was, as he said, the perfect quarterback for last year. But don’t overvalue what that means.
8. Do some simple book-keeping maneuvers. Release receiver Albert Wilson, who has been injury-riddled the past two years, and save $9.5 million. Release safety Reshad Jones and save $7 million in cap money. Don’t sign Charles Harris to a fifth-year option that would lock up his 2021 season, considering, well, he’s got work to do just to make the 2020 team. In other years, the money would matter for free agency. This year, not so much.
9. Say no more home games will be sent international to gain a Super Bowl. Steve Ross isn’t doing this for money. He makes more money with a home game than he does the Super Bowl. He’s doing this so the greater community makes money. Enough of the greater good. It’s time the NFL got on a rotational basis for divvying up international games. The loss of a home game, at some point, could affect the home-field playoff advantage (you can dream, right?)
10. If you don’t get value for some first- or second-round picks, trade back to the 2021 draft. This keeps options open for next year’s draft. You already have two first-round picks. Add a couple of more and … well, no one’s suggesting Lose for (Trevor) Lawrence. Or Tank for Trevor. Not after Tank for Tua didn’t work. But, well, options are valuable. The Clemson quarterback wouldn’t be a bad Plan B.
©2020 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)