You may look at the Miami Dolphins and see a team reeling. They had a losing record last season and looked hopelessly outclassed in many of their games with an inexperienced and ineffective roster. But there’s a method to the Dolphins’ madness, and there’s evidence that they have all the pieces in place for a huge offseason in 2020.
The Miami Dolphins rebuilding plan
Last offseason, the Dolphins hired former New England Patriots’ defensive assistant Brian Flores as their head coach. The team made it clear that they were in it for the long haul of a rebuilding process. Their plan was to cut salary and add draft picks in an attempt to restock their talent pool.
What made it difficult is that from the perspective of free-agent players, they weren’t sure the Dolphins would have the same coaching staff coming back in 2020 or 2021. The team rebuilds so much and experienced so much turnover that it’s difficult for players to find stability. One agent put it best:
“It’s not just about who is paying the most money…Yes, the contract is important, but I seriously think about whether I’m sending my guys into a situation where the floor could collapse under them in a year…
They did it in last year. They signed a bunch of free agents then changed course and fired the coach. So those free agents were left dealing with a different coaching staff that didn’t want them. How’d that work out for the players?”
The team signed veteran journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and traded for Arizona Cardinals’ castoff Josh Rosen to compete for the starting job. The 2019 season began unsurprisingly poorly. In week one, the Baltimore Ravens demolished the Dolphins, 59-10.
A surprising 2019 season
Things got worse as the season progressed for the Miami Dolphins. Week two saw them losing to New England, 31-0. They then lost to Dallas and the Los Angeles Chargers by scores of 31-6 and 30-10, respectively. If the Dolphins plan was to lose all their games, the plan was going swimmingly so far.
But something strange happened over the course of the 2019 season. The Dolphins never flipped a switch to become playoff contenders. But they actually became competitive. After starting the season 0-6, they finished the season 5-5. While that’s not a goal any team would hold heading into the season, the Dolphins’ pathetic roster finishing 5-11 represented nothing short of a miracle.
The season culminated with a week 17 victory over the New England Patriots. The loss knocked the Patriots out of a top-two seed in the AFC, forcing them to play wild card weekend when the playoffs began.
Why the Miami Dolphins have all the pieces in place for a huge offseason
The Dolphins rebuilding plan is going better than expected. The team probably didn’t expect to win more than two or three games last season and ended up with five victories. Now they enter the offseason poised to start to rebuilding their roster.
The Dolphins are loaded with first and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021. They also have a high pick in the first round this season, selecting third overall. That puts them in prime position to grab an elite player.
If they’d like to start over at quarterback, they can do so. Oregon’s Justin Herbert or Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa will both be available there. With Fitzpatrick’s age and Rosen’s inability to play well consistently, it’s likely that Miami may look for a franchise quarterback this offseason. If not, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence waits for them in 2021.
The Dolphins won’t be good next year. But they’re beginning to lay the foundation for a brighter future. If the team can restock their roster with talent over the next two years — inexpensive talent in the draft, at that — they’ll be poised to add some other pieces in free agency with all the cap room they have available.
Will the long-term rebuilding play work? Only time will tell. But the Miami Dolphins’ future is in their hands, and the trades they’ve made have put them in a position to build a contender from the ground up.