The Miami Dolphins head into next week’s NFL scouting combine armed with more than $90 million in salary-cap space and 14 draft picks, including three first-round selections. Talk about ammunition to rebuild a franchise.
NFL free-agency decisions will happen in mid-March and the NFL draft kicks off in late April, but the early imprints of the Dolphins’ moves will be made at the combine in Indianapolis. There, the smoke screens will be thick among NFL circles because many executives will attempt to hide their teams’ true draft intentions in an effort to ward off other teams’ interest in their targeted draft prospects.
Here are the most important questions lingering as the Dolphins soon head to Indianapolis:
What do Tagovailoa’s medicals look like?
This is the single most important question for the Dolphins between now and April 23. If Tua Tagovailoa‘s medicals check out, the Dolphins should be considered the favorites to land him as their franchise quarterback with their No. 5 pick or via a trade up. Oddsmakers already have Miami and Detroit (No. 3 pick) as co-favorites to land Tagovailoa.
There are early, positive reviews about Tagovailoa’s recovery from his hip injury, but the Dolphins’ doctors will be sure to evaluate further. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross visited Alabama last season to watch Tagovailoa play, and a few weeks ago he had this to say on the former Crimson Tide quarterback: “He’s a great player. I just worry about his health.”
Tagovailoa and the Dolphins are a perfect fit for one another — if his medicals check out. A big step toward finding the answer will come at the combine, where the quarterback isn’t expected to participate in on-field drills but will go through interviews as well as the medical evaluations.
Who are the Dolphins’ alternative picks at No. 5?
There has been a lot of speculation that if Tagovailoa’s medicals come up positive, then he could move up to become the No. 3 pick behind Burrow and Ohio State defensive end Chase Young. Whether it’s Detroit or a team outside of the top 5 trading up with the Lions, the Dolphins could have competition for Tagovailoa. So, Miami must prepare for a scenario in which it cannot get its intended prospect.
Finding a franchise quarterback is priority No. 1 for Miami, and the top alternative appears to be Oregon’s Justin Herbert. If for some reason the Dolphins pass on a quarterback at No. 5 and focus on an offensive tackle or a defender at No. 5, then Utah State quarterback Jordan Love could become an option at No. 18 or No. 26.
Which players should Miami target in its pursuit of starting offensive linemen?
There is no Dolphins unit that needs more of an overhaul than the offensive line, and the goal this offseason should be to find multiple long-term starters via free agency as well as the draft. Expect Miami to be aggressive in free agency by targeting offensive tackles and/or guards.
Tennessee Titans free agent Jack Conklin leads the offensive tackle market, and would be a plug-in right tackle for the next five years (potentially protecting Tagovailoa’s blind side). Quality offensive linemen always get paid, and Conklin is probably looking at the deals that Ja’Wuan James (four-year, $51 million deal) and Trent Brown (four-year, $66 million deal) received as comparable contracts. There are more starting guard options, but they won’t be had at discount prices with the Patriots’ Joe Thuney and Washington’s Brandon Scherff leading that class. Green Bay’s Bryan Bulaga, Detroit’s Graham Glasgow, Seattle’s Germain Ifedi and New England’s Ted Karras could be fits at more palatable prices.
There seem to be five offensive linemen who have separated themselves as first-round draft prospects at this point (Willis, Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, Louisville’s Mekhi Becton and Houston’s Josh Jones). An ideal Dolphins draft could be landing one of those O-linemen at No. 18 or No. 26.
Which top-tier defensive talent best fits in Miami?
Though Miami is flush with cap space, don’t expect a wild shopping spree this offseason. Instead, the Dolphins could make selective splashes for players who fit well in coach Brian Flores’ scheme.
Edge rusher is one of the Dolphins’ biggest needs, and it seems like a smart bet they will find at least one starter on the free-agent market. Jacksonville’s Yannick Ngakoue, Seattle’s Jadeveon Clowney, Tampa Bay’s Shaquil Barrett, Pittsburgh’s Bud Dupree and Baltimore’s Matthew Judon are expected to land massive deals. A few edge players will likely receive the franchise tag, but for now it’s a deep class that Miami should be very interested in.
A few other non-edge defenders who would be good fits in Miami include Titans cornerback Logan Ryan, Patriots defensive tackle Danny Shelton, Texans defensive tackle D.J. Reader and Broncos safety Justin Simmons.
Ex-Broncos DE Derek Wolfe, Ravens agree to 1-year deal, source says
The addition of Wolfe comes one day after the Ravens were unable to finalize a deal with Michael Brockers. There was an issue with Brockers’ injured ankle, and the sides couldn’t agree on a revised deal, a source said.
Baltimore has made it a priority to reshape its defensive front. The Ravens acquired defensive end Calais Campbell from the Jacksonville Jaguars, traded defensive end Chris Wormley to the Pittsburgh Steelers and watched defensive tackle Michael Pierce sign with the Minnesota Vikings in free agency.
Wolfe should help improve the pass rush for the Ravens. Baltimore’s defensive linemen totaled four sacks in 2019, the fewest by any team.
Wolfe finished his eighth season with the Broncos in 2019 and was one of the longest-tenured players on the team’s defense; only cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and linebacker Von Miller have played on the defense longer.
Coach Vic Fangio’s defensive scheme turned out to be perfect for Wolfe as he had one of his best all-around years in 2019 with 34 tackles and a career-best seven sacks. Wolfe has 33 sacks in his career.
Wolfe’s high-motor play has been a key part of the defensive front, and Miller credits Wolfe for many of his sacks “because of what Wolfe does next to me. He’s a beast.”
That intensity has come at a physical price at times, as Wolfe has battled through some injuries throughout his career, including neck surgery. He has played 16 games three times and went to injured reserve this past season after 12 games with a dislocated left elbow.
Wolfe, who turned 30 in February, was a second-round pick by the Broncos in 2012 — the team had traded out of the first round that year — and he immediately started 16 games as a rookie for a team that won the AFC West. He has started every game he played in for the Broncos — 108 in all — and while he hoped to re-sign with the Broncos at season’s end, he added “it’s a business.”
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley and Jeff Legwold contributed to this report.
Bobby Hebert Sr., father of former Saint and Falcon Bobby Hebert Jr., dies from COVID-19
Hebert Jr., a Southern Louisiana native, still works as an analyst for WWL Radio in New Orleans. He and his wife, Jojo, said in a statement that “our hearts are broken” and that Hebert Sr. was “the reason I made it” to the NFL.
Hebert Jr.’s son T-Bob, who played center at LSU, described his grandfather on Twitter as “the wisest, kindest, and most tactful person I have ever known.”
This is my namesake Bobby Hebert Sr
He is the wisest, kindest, and most tactful person I have ever known
He passed this morning and I love him and I will miss him
He loved LSU to his core and instilled that love in me
“Jolie l’lait d’vivre” pic.twitter.com/g484pHIyYz
— T-Bob Hebert (@TBob53) March 28, 2020
Hebert Jr. broke down crying in a recent appearance on WWL while describing his father’s battle with the virus. He described his father as a “fighter” who survived colon cancer, multiple strokes and a birth defect that required open heart surgery.
But, Hebert Jr. said, “You can be tough and the virus can still overwhelm you,” before insisting that people heed the advice of health officials because “it’s an unseen enemy.”
Hebert Jr. also wrote in his statement about the “magic twinkle” in his father’s eye and his lifelong passion for the LSU Tigers.
“I’m kinda numb and shocked,” Hebert Jr. said in the WWL interview. “You get numb and then sometimes you don’t want to accept reality and what you’re dealing with.”
Chiefs re-signing WR DeMarcus Robinson for one year, source says
The Kansas City Chiefs are re-signing wide receiver DeMarcus Robinson to a one-year contract, a source confirmed to ESPN.
Robinson’s production increased each season after cracking the Chiefs’ receiving rotation, going from 21 catches and 212 yards in 2017 to 32 and 449 in 2019. He started 23 games over three seasons, mostly when the Chiefs opened in three- or four-receiver formations.
Robinson, who turns 26 in September, was a fourth-round draft pick in 2016 and played mostly on special teams as a rookie.
His big game with the Chiefs came in Week 2 of last season. With Tyreek Hill out with an injury, Robinson made the most of the opportunity with six catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns in a win over the Raiders.
NFL Network first reported that Robinson was returning to the Chiefs.
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