Davis: Dolphins' taking different approach in rebuild; must hit on draft picks

Rebuilding Dolphins won't overpay for free agents as Ja’Wuan James departs; retaining DeVante Parker a surprise move.

Photo: The Dolphins reportedly are re-signing wide receiver DeVante Parker for two years, $13 million. (Steve Mitchell for USA Today)

This is the week that finally offers insight into what this Dolphins offseason is all about.

Even before NFL’s version of New Year’s Day begins Wednesday at 4 p.m., the blueprint new GM Chris Grier and coach Brian Flores are working with is becoming apparent.

The emphasis is on restocking with younger talent and not overpaying for veteran names.

After seeing their starting right tackle, Ja’Wuan James, depart for Denver and declining to enter a bidding war for former Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers, who is getting a big deal with Detroit, this is a departure from the recent past.

That may be a sobering reality to Dolphins fans, but let’s face it, the previous approach was a flop.

What did the Dolphins win in throwing big bucks at the likes of Ndamukong Suh, Mike Wallace, Karlos Dansby, Dannell Ellerbe, Lawrence Timmons and Mario Williams (and that’s just a sampling)?

Nothing tangible beyond the reputation as an easy mark for free agents and their representatives seeking bloated contracts.

What to expect from Dolphins in free agency

Grier has made it clear he’d rather invest in three solid players than one big-name star.

Sure, the Dolphins need a pass rusher like Flowers (7.5 sacks last season), who reportedly is getting $16 million to $17 million over five years, but they have more holes to fill to fortify a porous defense.

James will become the highest-paid right tackle in the NFL — four years, $51 million ($32 million guaranteed — despite never making the Pro Bowl.

The preference would have been to keep James, who they drafted in the first round in 2014, but he never reached elite status.

For what it’s worth, CBS Sports graded the Broncos’ signing of James a D+, calling it “great money for a good player.”

Meanwhile, there is not much for Dolfans to get excited about at the onset of the free agent signing period beyond the expected parting with quarterback Ryan Tannehill, whose time had clearly passed in Miami.

The move to retain wide receiver DeVante Parker, another polarizing former first-round draft pick, on a two-year contract reported Tuesday by the NFL Network, is somewhat surprising and not necessarily welcomed by the fan base.

Even home-grown Teddy Bridgewater, favored by many as a bridge quarterback, is reportedly staying in New Orleans as a back-up.

Rumors have the Dolphins filling that role with journeyman Tyrod Taylor, who couldn’t hold onto the starting job in Buffalo or Cleveland.

So far the only notable addition for Miami was adding depth at tight end in the low-profile signing of Dwayne Allen.

James won’t be the last of the subtractions. Along with Tannehill, an exodus of secondary players is expected in the coming days. Veteran running back Frank Gore wasn’t retained and is heading to Buffalo.

Turnover happens every year with every team in the league. A lot of it is driven by salary-cap concerns.

This Dolphins offseason is unlike and more enigmatic than most years with different guiding philosophies coming under a new GM and coach along with owner Steve Ross’ decree for a new approach.

One thing that is certain is the upcoming draft will be vital for getting the overhaul on a positive track. Grier and the personnel brain trust are on the spot and must deliver.

They will get a compensatory draft pick for James.

Despite the glaring need for a young quarterback to build around, my expectation is they go for a pass rusher in the first round. The departure of James opens the possibility of addressing the offensive line.

None of that makes for a sexy offseason, nor do the prospects for Sunday afternoons this fall appear bright.

Such is the current landscape in South Florida where every pro team is at different stages of building for the future and none are close to a championship run.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

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I agree with you guys, build up with the draft and then you add a veteran piece here and there as you're ready to win. The pressure is really on to get it right in the draft. They had some hits last year in Fitz, Baker, Ballage and Sanders (not high on Gesicki). Need to do even better the next two years.


We need a roster purge. I like the idea of a win now team trading up ( Chiefs ) like the Saints last year and giving up a 1 next year giving the Phins all the ammo with two 1st next year to move up and get the guy in the better 2020 QB class. then taking an OL in late round 1 with Chiefs pick. Should be still a couple solid OL late this year.


I agree trade back if possible for additional picks. Build both lines in this year's draft. Possibly trade Kiko Alonzo. Get another pick in first 3 rounds--Draft DE, OT, DT, OG with those picks. Then take a QB in 4th or 5th--I like McSorley. Draft your likely backup but start him this year and learn your system. Then take a stud QB next year. Use free agency to pick up a starting CB and LB. May need a ILB if you run a 3-4. Resign Tunsil. Possibly trade Jones if you can get value. Dump big contracts and you must hit on draft and get lucky on an undrafted player or two.


they need to build this team through the draft. unfortunately, they aren’t very good at scouting and drafting. ESPECIALLY offensive linemen. hitting on 2 players every draft isn’t going to cut it. they need to find gems in the later rounds to help find starters and build depth at DE, DT, CB and OL. THEN after 2 or 3 solid drafts they can supplement the roster with big time free agents. if I were the GM i would probably trade back in the 1st rd and acquire more picks.. possibly an extra 2nd rd pick or more. fortunately there are a ton of quality DE’s and DT’s in this draft that can be had at the back half of the 1st rd.