NFL Free Agency: Ranking the 6 Players the Miami Dolphins Must Target

The Miami Dolphins hoped the decision to draft Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in 2020 would bring about good fortune and playoff appearances. Although the team went 19-17 over the last two years, the two-time Super Bowl champions failed to reach the postseason either year, and the jury is still out on whether or not Tagovailoa is the answer in Miami.

In hindsight, that’s about what we should have expected all along.

Now, former San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel is in to possibly salvage Tagovailoa’s career and bring about Miami’s first postseason victory since 2000. He’ll certainly have his work cut out for him.

On the eve of the new league year, now feels like the perfect time to analyze players who McDaniel and the Dolphins should pursue in free agency. For this list, we tried focusing on the Dolphins’ most significant needs and eyeing players who best fit those holes. This list only includes players who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in March; restricted free agents, cap casualties, and little-known draft prospects who are likely to go undrafted were all ineligible.

Based on consideration of the aforementioned prerequisites, the best potential free agents for the Dolphins rank as follows:

Honorable mentions: David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns, and Rasul Douglas, CB, Green Bay Packers

Although the Dolphins have the cap space to sign Douglas and Njoku, we’re listing them as honorable mentions because they’re not needed yet. Miami should only pursue Douglas if All-Pro cornerback Xavien Howard demands another trade. Similarly, the Dolphins shouldn’t turn their eyes to Njoku, a former Miami Hurricanes standout, unless Mike Gesicki walks in free agency.

If Gesicki doesn’t return, the Dolphins could also opt to sign another starting-caliber tight end, such as the Cincinnati Bengals’ C.J. Uzomah or the Dallas Cowboys’ Dalton Schultz. However, the Dolphins might be best suited to finding the Penn State product’s long-term replacement in the upcoming draft.

6. Zay Jones, WR, Las Vegas Raiders

Do you know what the Miami Dolphins need in free agency? Receivers. We could have easily devoted this entire list to six or 10 or 15 receivers the Dolphins should sign this offseason because, outside of the dynamic Jaylen Waddle, the current pickings are relatively slim. After only hauling in a combined 41 catches from 2019-20, Jones broke out for 47 catches, 546 yards, and a touchdown for the Raiders last season.

At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, the East Carolina product would bring needed size to a Dolphins offense desperately needing playmakers. Miami would be wise to pursue the veteran wideout if the Dolphins can get him cheap after his solid 2021 campaign. Jones will play the entire 2022 season at 27 years old and might still have plenty left in the tank.

5. Raheem Mostert, RB, San Francisco 49ers

Before we dive into Mostert, it is worth noting that two-time Pro Bowler James Conner makes extensive sense for the Dolphins. However, the Pittsburgh product will likely be a trendy name on the free-agent market, and Miami doesn’t need to get into a bidding war for the bruising power back.

Instead, Miami should consider a reunion with Mostert, who played for McDaniel on the 49ers from 2017-21. Even the most knowledgable Dolphins fans might forget the 5-foot-10, 205-pound back spent time with the team as an undrafted rookie in 2015.

Mostert will likely come extremely cheap after missing almost the entire 2021 season with a knee injury. Given his familiarity with McDaniel’s offense, the former Purdue standout is an excellent candidate for a one-year, prove-it deal in Miami. However, the Dolphins must devote one of their draft picks to finding a running back in April.

4. Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE, Cleveland Browns

Clowney quietly had an impressive bounceback season for the Browns, tallying nine sacks, 11 tackles for loss, and forcing two fumbles in 14 games. The three-time Pro Bowler will play the entire 2022 season at 29 years old and might be chasing one final significant contract.

Interestingly, Clowney was linked to the Dolphins in 2019 and 2020, but turned down playing for them both times. Could the third time be the charm? This will be a fascinating pairing if the veteran pass-rusher is willing to play for a team that isn’t guaranteed to compete for a playoff berth.

3. Laken Tomlinson, G, San Francisco 49ers

Unlike Mostert, Tomlinson could realistically return to the 49ers next season. However, until the Duke alumnus officially signs his new contract, let’s not rule out a reunion with McDaniel in Miami.

Tomlinson earned Pro Bowl honors for the first time in 2021 and has been a steady starting left guard since joining the 49ers in 2017. If Miami is serious about keeping Tagavolia on his feet, the Dolphins would be wise to invest in Tomlinson, who will turn 31 three days before Super Bowl 57. No word yet on if he’ll be playing in the Big Game next year.

2. Tre’Quan Smith, WR, New Orleans Saints

We won’t fault Dolphins fans for wanting a big-name receiver like Green Bay Packers star Davante Adams or Los Angeles Chargers standout Mike Williams in free agency. The problem is the Dolphins can’t sell those types of players on the current quarterback situation. Money talks for some but winning and stability win out for others.

Instead, McDaniel and friends might want to pivot towards the likes of Tre’Quan Smith, who grew up roughly an hour north of Hard Rock Stadium in Boynton Beach and played collegiately at UCF. The 26-year-old hauled in 112 catches for 1,486 yards and 17 touchdowns across 51 games and 29 starts with the Saints.

Smith isn’t the sexiest name, but he’s shown signs of being an explosive player and could be a welcome addition to the Dolphins’ offense. With all the talk of reunions, keep an eye on this potential homecoming.

1. Terron Armstead, LT, New Orleans Saints

New Orleans Saints left tackle Terron Armstead.
Should the Miami Dolphins sign left tackle Terron Armstead? | Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Remember when we emphasized the Dolphins’ need for receivers? Add offensive line to that list, and Saints left tackle Terron Armstead would be a perfect fit in Miami. Although the three-time Pro Bowler only played in eight games last year and turns 31 in July, he remains on track to earn a lofty contract in free agency.

The Dolphins could surround Tagovailoa with clones of Barry Sanders, Jerry Rice, and Rob Gronkowski. In fact, they could sign the real Gronkowski. But if Miami doesn’t devote significant resources to keeping Tagovailoa on his feet, neither he nor McDaniel will be around for too long.

Like Sportscasting on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter @sportscasting19.