Thursday, February 28, 2008

Free Agency Preview: Defense

This is Part VI of an ongoing look at Miami's options in free agency. Due to the fact that free agency starts at midnight tonight, I won't have time to provide a full write-up for every defensive position like I did for the offensive side of the ball. Instead, I'm just going to highlight a handful of guys at each position that Miami should target (or avoid). For the previous installments, see:

Part I: Quarterbacks

Part II: Running backs

Part III: Wide Receivers

Part IV: Tight Ends

Part V: Offensive line

The Current Situation

After finishing as a top-5 unit in 2006, the Dolphins defense absolutely collapsed in '07. The main reason for such a monumental sea change was the defense's complete inability to stop the run. Add in the fact that the unit seemed to get old overnight and the new Dolphins' personnel evaluators have a load of work in front of them. With Miami's likely transition to more of a full-time 3-4 scheme, the team must look to add a nose tackle and some bigger linebackers. An upgrade at safety and corner can also be used.

Free Agents

Defensive Line

1. DE Marques Douglas

Douglas isn't a big sack guy, but he is built to play DE in a 3-4 alignment and he is excellent against the run - Miami's biggest weakness last season. He is a little older than I'd like, at 30 years old, but there isn't much to choose from in this free agent pool.

2. Antwan Odom

Odom had a solid season as a pass rusher, notching 8 sacks, but he wasn't a big presence in the run-stopping game. I have to wonder how much his successes last season were a result of playing next to the disruptive force of Albert Haynesworth.


1. Mark Simoneau

Miami needs another interior linebacker after cutting ties with Zach Thomas. There's been some speculation that they will target Simoneau to fill that hole. The only problem is that Simoneau really isn't that great. Sure, he's a solid player who is starting material, but he's not a playmaker and is a liability in pass coverage. I'd rather see Derrick Pope, who is six years younger, get the chance to step up and start, rather than handing a big contract to what is essentially "just another guy."

2. Landon Johnson

Johnson has put up two good seasons in a row for the Bengals and he is still just 26 years old. He may be a little on the small side for Parcells' taste, but I think his upside is worth giving him a look.


1. Asante Samuel

Samuel is probably the best player available in free agency this year. He's a young, shutdown corner who makes big plays and that is quite a rare combination to come by. Unfortunately, acquiring that kind of a skill set requires a monster investment that I don't think Miami should be looking to pay (even though they have plenty of available cap space to pull it off).

2. Jacques Reeves

Reeves, 25, had the most extensive playing time of his career last season. He held up pretty well in coverage, tallying 12 passes defensed and one interception. Of course, the reason that I list Reeves in place of other free agent CBs is that he played for Dallas last season, and Miami's new secondary coach worked with Reeves in Dallas. If the team wants to bring in players who they are familiar with, I expect them to go after Reeves. The thing that scares me about Reeves is that he was clearly not good enough to make teams stop throwing his way. He was targeted more than any other defensive back in the NFL last season (21% of the time). That's not a good sign, and it raises a red flag in my mind about how good Reeves really is. Then again, Miami's own Will Allen was targeted 20% of the time despite the fact the he had the tenth best success rate (62%) of any defensive back in the leageue.


1. Gibril Wilson

Miami needs a new starting safety and Wilson is probably the best option. He's only 26 years old, has good size, and averages 3.5 INTs per 16 starts.

2. Yeremiah Bell

Bell has so much potential, but he simply cannot stay on the field. He really showed what he can do during the second half of 2006, and then he promptly tore his achille's in the first game on '07, thus distinguishing all the built up hope surrounding his upside. All the injuries throughout Bell's career have essentially sabotaged his prime playing years. Once the 2008 season begins, Bell will be 30 years old. I'd like to have Bell back on the team as a backup, but it's not a good move at this point to pay him any kind of big contract to stay on as a starter. If that's what he has his mind set on, then it is time to wish him well and start looking for a replacement in the defensive backfield.

No comments: