The Miami Dolphins concluded the season with a 30-12 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild-card round at Heinz Field. Now that the Miami Dolphins season is over, what’s next? The Dolphins surpassed everyone’s expectations this season by winning 10 games and advancing to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Most savants predicted Miami to win six to eight games this season, which was a reasonable evaluation of the roster, particularly after big injuries to key players such as center Mike Pouncey, safety Reshad Jones and quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Although coaching matters in the NFL, rookie head Coach Adam Gase and first-year defensive coordinator Vance Joseph did a magisterial job of making no excuses and getting the most out of what they had.
Adam Gase’s offensive scheme did oddities for Miami and helped fifth-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill take positive steps forward before his knee injury. Second-year running back Jay Ajayi also had a breakout year and confirmed he is the long-term solution at the position.
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The only thing that could have made the season grade better for Miami was a deep run in the playoffs. The Dolphins need two athletic outside linebackers. Miami finished ranked 29th in total defense in large part due to its tenuous linebacker play. Opponents frequently attacked this position such as the running and passing game.
The Dolphins opened the season with Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi, who were both injury prone. Jenkins is a pending free agent, and mice could be a salary-cap casualty this off-season as Miami looks to improve the position. The trade for middle linebacker Kiko Alonso demonstrated to be a great move. Alonso led the Dolphins with 115 tackles in addition to two interceptions and plugged one hole at the position, but he needs some help. Anticipate Miami to address this area, both in the draft and free agency.
Miami’s starting quarterback had one of his better seasons and played well before suffering a sprained ACL and MCL in his left knee against the Arizona Cardinals. Tannehill was 8-5 as a starter in 13 games and seems to have done enough to retain his $96 million contract for next season. However, here is the dilemma for Miami, Tannehill will get a significant raise in base salary from $9.34 million in 2016 to $18 million in 2017. Earlier, Tannehill was a bargain for his position with the Dolphins. Next season that is no longer the case.
Speaking of huge money, conceivably the most interesting contract situation for Miami next season will be with its leading receiver Jarvis Landry. Landry led Miami for the third straight season with 94 catches and has exceeded his rookie contract by a landslide. He’s opening the final year of his rookie agreement and does not want to play for his slotted $893,850 salary in 2017.
The Dolphins don’t plan to lose Landry, and the smart play would be to pay him before the start of next season. However, figuring out how much is complex. Landry does most of his work in the slot, which is paid scarcer than outside receivers, but his numbers match up well with many star receivers who get $10 million per year or more. Both sides may need to come to the middle.
Vance Joseph landed in Miami with the label of a “future head coach.” That time could come sooner than anticipated for the Dolphins, as Joseph already has been reached by numerous teams for head-coaching interviews, according to head coach Adam Gase. Joseph did a solid job with a patchwork Miami defense this year that was hit hard with distress.
Albeit some of the stats don’t show it, the Dolphins defense played winning football most weeks and kept the team in position to win games. Getting interviewed doesn’t insure Joseph will be a goner, but it does mean Miami must have a contingency plan. Dolphins linebacker coach Matt Burke is one feasibility if they stay in-house.