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Offseason with Cidolfus: Building the Offense

Building the Offense

Last week I detailed how I expect the Dolphins to easily clear $100 million in spendable salary cap space heading into free agency, even after considering the monumental effective cap cost of our rookie pool for the draft. This week, I’m going to examine free agency options at the positions addressed and who I expect our major targets to be. Unlike last year, I’m not going to focus very much on our own impending free agents this time around. I addressed the very few free agents I expect to return this year in last week’s segment, so this piece will be almost exclusively focused on free agent targets across positions of need.
Additionally, because we are still so far out from the draft and because I expect we will try to address as many holes as possible first through free agency so that we’re not pidgeon-holed into selecting specific positions in the draft, I’m not going to dive too far into the draft except in a few circumstances.
For those who haven’t been keeping up with the series and would like to catch up, see the links below:

Possible Free Agent Targets

Like we covered last week, our needs on offensive should be readily apparent to anyone even remotely following the Dolphins. Ignore the talking heads who bafflingly keep trying to speak the Dolphins drafting a wide receiver in the first round into existence. That won’t happen barring some stunning fall like how Laremy Tunsil fell into our laps a few years ago.
The Dolphins badly need to find a quarterback of the future, an offensive line to protect him, and a running back to share the load with him. That’s not necessarily the order I see those positions being prioritized in free agency, though. As mentioned in replies to last week’s post, I expect that our free agency efforts will be heavily focused on building in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Before I get into free agents I expect that our front office tries to prioritize, I’ll go through free agents, position by position. All rankings are from PFF, which, while not perfect, tend to be pretty accurate in the aggregate over a season.

Quarterback

2020 is shaping up to be a very strange year at quarterback. There’s a lot of big names potentially available here, and that’s going to cause talking heads to have a lot of controversial and “bold” takes, such as all the suggestions we’ve seen that Tom Brady will come to Miami.
It’s not going to happen. There’s very little reason to believe that we make any free agency moves at the quarterback position. Ryan Fitzpatrick is under contract for $8 million in 2020 and we only save $4 million by cutting him. However, as discussed, the signing of Chan Gailey as our offensive coordinator makes a commitment to Fitzpatrick abundantly clear. We also save no money by cutting Josh Rosen since, as a former first-round selection, his base salary is entirely guaranteed. I expect that we’ll add a third quarterback to the team in the draft, but I don’t see us being remotely active at the position in free agency.
Make no mistake, though. The quarterback landscape across the NFL looks to be very different in 2020. Free agents include Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater, Ryan Tannehill, Jameis Winston, and Marcus Mariota. Every single one of those players started multiple games for their current teams in 2019. Brees likely returns to New Orleans, Tannehill will almost certainly be tagged, and Winston may as well. I’d have to bet that Brady returns to the Patriots, especially now that they’re retaining McDaniels as offensive coordinator, but it’s unclear how that shakes out. Eli Manning probably retires unless a team stuns the world to give him the starting job somewhere.
That still leaves Rivers, Keenum, Bridgewater, and Mariota up in the air, and that’s before potential cuts or trades for guys like Cam Newton and Derek Carr who could shake up the market further. The biggest way that free agency at quarterback impacts the Dolphins is how it informs the decisions of other teams in the draft. Of particular concern are the Chargers (6), Panthers (7), Jaguars (9), Raiders (12, 19), and Colts (13). The Chargers, Panthers, and Raiders are in the best position to have the draft capital to leap the Dolphins.
The Raiders can cut or trade Derek Carr and save $16.5 million in 2020. In a trade, Carr would be on a three-year deal at $19 million, $19,625,000, and $19,777,519 over the next three years. That said, I’m not sure that the Raiders actually move on from Carr. Last year he had a career high 70.4% completion percentage, 21 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, a passer rating of 100.8, and an ANY/A of 7.25. Those are respectable numbers, and rather than using multiple mid-firsts to trade up to the top of the draft, I have to imagine Gruden likes his chances to use their two firsts and three thirds and $50 million in cap space to retool their roster rather than commit to starting over with a rookie quarterback in his third year as head coach. With a ten year contract, though, he has more security than most to make a dramatic move now.
The Panthers are almost certain to move on from Cam Newton in 2020 under their new head coach Matt Rhule. Reports are that they want to trade Newton, who would carry a $19.1 million cap charge for another team in 2020 and save the Panthers just as much. I don’t expect that the trade market for Newton will be robust. He’s in a very similar position to Joe Flacco last year, who only earned the Ravens a fourth, which doesn’t give the Panthers much more immediate ammunition to move up for a quarterback. With a new head coach and the departure of Luke Kuechly, the Panthers may see themselves in a true rebuild and instead look ahead to 2021 for their quarterback of the future rather than mortgaging firsts over multiple years to try to get their quarterback now. There’s a very good chance that they’re in the same position we were this time last year with Ryan Tannehill and a new head coach coming in.
That leaves the Chargers, who almost certainly aren’t looking to bring back Philip Rivers. As the clear second team in a market that’s already proven fickle on football teams not named the Raiders, it’s possible that the Chargers might view the 2020 draft as an opportunity to make a splash by drafting their quarterback of the future. Or they could be one of the teams trying to make a splash by grabbing one of the bigger names in free agency. Our best hope is that they like a guy like Herbert or Love that they think they can get by standing pat if nobody else is moving up. We won’t be the only team that the Lions or the Giants call if they’re fielding an offer to move up and they think they can get a higher bidder.
What’s really important, though, is that with five first round picks and four seconds in the next two drafts, nobody is in a position to outbid the Miami Dolphins to move up in the draft in April. As Grier signalled loudly on Thursday, the Dolphins have “more than enough” draft capital to trade up in the draft. In a season sure to be full of vacuous statements, smokescreens, and misdirection, that statement might be the most honest thing we hear out of Grier’s mouth regarding the draft for the next couple months. It’s a signal loud and clear to teams looking to trade up that we can outbid them, and an invitation to teams fielding offers to keep us in the loop. That might cause teams ahead of us to try and bluff to get us to move up ahead of another team “trying to move up”, but if we believe it’s credible and want to beat the bid, there’s little doubt that we can.

Offensive Line

I’ll take a brief step back for a moment to remind everyone that I do not consider myself a great evaluator of talent and rely heavily on others who do this kind of stuff for a living. I know it can be a controversial metric, but one source I’ve always relied on for these posts is Pro Football Focus’s premium stats. Their grades are far from perfect, but it’s some of the best cumulative data available, and I find that while they’ve occasionally got some outliers, their grades usually align with the general consensus. Moreover, their advanced stats are some of their better material. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot on offer in that regard for offensive linemen. I believe what follows generally follows the eye test. I’m not going to come out here swinging with data that should really surprise anyone, and I’m not going to try to use PFF’s gradings to try to advocate for fringe players who are undervalued. I’m not trying to beat the system with this analysis.
This brings us to the first position group where I expect we will be active in 2020 free agency. Offensive line talent is at a premium right now, and as noted previously we have PFF and Football Outsider’s worst-ranked offensive line in the game. After letting Ja’Wuan James walk in free agency last year and trading Laremy Tunsil to the Texans, there’s a lot of pressure to rebuild this position group from a bunch of nobodies. Rookies Michael Deiter and Shaq Calhoun are the only two players on the line who played any amount of time, and both underwhelmed.

Deiter and Calhoun

Player Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
Deiter 42.5 37.8 45.5 996 708 287 6 15 23 44 5(1) 96.2
Calhoun 44.2 44.0 43.9 471 332 139 2 3 13 18 2(1) 96.8
For those of you unfamiliar with PFF’s grading system, plays are graded on a scale of +2 to -2 and then the cumulative scores are normalized to a score of 100 where 100 is the best score ever recorded for the position. Because they normalize the scores that way, that doesn’t mean that 50 is average and both Deiter and Calhoun were just above average. In fact, the median overall offensive grade among guards in 2019 was 59.6. Right about now, you should be getting the sense that neither Deiter nor Calhoun were particularly good last year.
Let’s hit the rapid fire on just how not good these guys were. In pass blocking, Deiter’s grade ranks 114th of 123 guards. Calhoun’s is 108th. Deiter’s Pass Blocking Efficiency (PBE), which is a score normalized to 100 of pressures allowed as a percentage of total pass blocking snaps with a weighting toward sacks, was tied for 92nd among 118 qualifying guards. Calhoun’s was tied for 76th. Deiter’s penalties were tied for 97th worst. Calhoun’s better here, but he also played half as many snaps and was on pace to be in a similar place as penalties as Calhoun. It doesn’t stop there, either! Deiter was PFF’s 115th ranked guard in run blocking; Calhoun was 117th.
That’s not to say that we should give up on either of them developing or playing better with better pieces around them, but we should not be complacent pursuing opportunities to upgrade over either of them.

Davenport, Webb, and Davis

If our guards were bad, our tackles weren’t much better. Julie’n Davenport, Jesse Davis, and J’Marcus Webb all played significant snaps for us at tackle throughout the season, and they were all pretty bad.
Player Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
J’Marcus Webb 34.4 32.0 37.1 543 372 171 7 6 26 39 8(3) 93.4
Julie’n Davenport 56.5 61.5 41.3 534 389 145 6 9 16 31 1(0) 94.9
Jesse Davis 58.9 59.6 53.6 975 696 279 4 5 33 42 4(1) 96.5
J’Marcus Webb is PFF’s worst tackle out of 120 total tackles, 117th in pass blocking, and 118th in run blocking. Davenport was 93rd overall, 82nd in pass blocking, and 114th in run blocking. Davis was 85th overall, 87th in pass blocking, and 91st in run blocking. In terms of pass blocking efficiency, Webb was 110th of 118, Davenport was 90th, and Jesse Davis was the only one in the bunch in the top half of tackles (barely) tied for 57th. You might have wondered why we didn’t try to maximize our running backs out in space and instead constantly rushed up the middle for small gains? Having tackles who were hot garbage blocking was certainly a big part of it.

Kilgore

Only center was acceptable through the season. Kilgore’s performance through thirteen games ranked him at 15th (of 49) in pass protection allowing three sacks, four hits, and 12 pressures with a pass-blocking efficiency good for tied for 23rd of 48 qualify centers. Even that’s not all that great, and given that none of his contract is guaranteed and he’s a free agent in 2021, if an upgrade was available we might pursue it. That said, given the dire need at guard and tackle, I imagine we keep Kilgore for another year.
I go over all of this now to make abundantly clear how dismal our offensive line is right now. Webb and Davenport are free agents who won’t be making a return. Davis, Kilgore, Deiter, and Calhoun are all under contract, but if more than two of them are still starting for the Dolphins in 2020, that will be a colossal failure by the front office.
Between free agency and the draft, we should be looking to add a minimum of three offensive linemen. Fortunately, we have the cap space and the draft capital to make this a reality.

Tackles

There are a handful of tackles available in free agency who would be an immediate upgrade for the Dolphins, although I’ll admit that’s a pretty low bar. Given that the draft is looking pretty top-heavy in offensive tackle talent in particular (depending on who you ask, there’s at least four tackles projected to go in the first round and another two or three who could be anywhere from late firsts to seconds), I expect we’ll only target one tackle in free agency. We’ve got some options. For each of these guys, I’ll discuss how they finished relative to their peers in 2019 and then include (where available) PFF grades for the last three seasons.
Bryan Bulaga (RT)
While older than maybe we’d initially want--he’ll be 31 by the time we can sign him--Bulaga is still one of the best right tackles in the game. He finished just behind Jack Conklin seventh among all tackles in run blocking in 2019, and performed better in pass blocking, grading at 41st overall with a pass blocking efficiency score good for 32nd in the league. Bulaga allowed four sacks, four hits, and nineteen hurries on 612 pass blocking snaps.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 77.1 73.3 79.4 959 612 347 4 4 19 27 7(1) 97.2
2018 75.0 84.0 59.3 781 559 222 5 3 14 22 8(0) 97.4
2017 61.4 72.0 49.0 232 155 77 1 1 10 12 1(0) 95.5
Aside from age, another major knock on Bulaga will be his penalties. Unfortunately Bulaga’s 2017 season is the outlier across his career, as it’s the only time he’s had fewer than five penalties in a season. The final knock against Bulaga is his injury history. 2019 was the first season since 2016 in which Bulaga had played in all sixteen games.
The Packers aren’t flush with cap space and have several other free agents contributing significant snaps to the team who need replaced which might leave Bulaga hitting the market. Offensive linemen often have long careers well into their 30s, and Bulaga on a 3-4 year deal might be reasonable. He’s likely not our first choice, but for the past six seasons while healthy, Bulaga has consistently been one of the best pass blocking tackles in the game and would be a massive improvement for us on that front.
Jack Conklin (RT)
At 26, he’s one of the youngest tackles expected to hit the market this season. He’s also one of the surest bets not to be re-signed. Although he’s stated that he’d “love” to re-sign with the Titans, with both Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry as unrestricted free agents, the Titans are in a tough spot to keep together the team that took them from the wildcard round to the AFC Championship. Tannehill is likely to receive the franchise tag projected at a whopping $26,895,000 and Henry could receive the transition tag at $10,189,000. That alone accounts for more than half of all of the Titans’ cap space with Conklin, Logan Ryan and Termaine Brock all unrestricted free agents with over 60% of total snaps played this past season.
Conklin allowed five sacks, four hits, and 24 pressures on 617 pass-blocking snaps with the Titans this season. His pass blocking grade was 45th among tackles (T51st in pass blocking efficiency), but his run blocking grade was sixth.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 80.6 74.0 83.7 1108 617 491 5 4 24 33 9(1) 96.6
2018 66.8 69.2 66.2 498 317 181 4 1 14 19 7(3) 96.1
2017 72.4 73.8 69.0 1099 632 467 2 8 21 31 8(2) 97.4
Despite his age, Conklin’s performance has been consistent across his young career despite an injury-shorted season in 2018. Demand at the position, Conklin’s age, and his consistency aside from the short year last season is going to drive his price up, although likely not quite to the gaudy APY number that Lane Johnson signed this November (more on that later).
D.J. Humphries (LT)
Humphries checks a lot of boxes as the type of guy the Dolphins might target. He’s 27-years old and can be a long-term solution at left tackle where he’s played 2,694 snaps the past four seasons. Following a season-ending knee injury in 2018, he put up a solid season in pass protection in 2019, allowing only two sacks, one hit, and 27 hurries. His pass blocking efficiency was tied for 27th among all tackles. He was poor in run blocking (94th out of 120), but has performed much better in previous years.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 1046 677 369 64.5 76.3 52.3 2 1 27 30 13(1) 97.5
2018 522 342 180 68.8 62.9 72.2 4 8 16 28 2(0) 95.0
2017 204 104 100 81.7 66.0 86.1 0 0 5 5 0(0) 97.4
Humphries has been a mixed mag throughout his career with injuries and up-and-down performance that has rarely turned toward downright awful--although 14 penalties in 2019 is pretty nuts. But that’s exactly why he might be the kind of guy the Dolphins take a look at if the Cardinals decide to replace Humphries through the draft.
He won’t break the bank, and if we strike out on better options in free agency, he could be a cost-effective solution that’s still a major upgrade over any of our current tackles. His worst pass blocking grade of his career (61.8 his rookie season) is still better than any of our tackles this past season, and his worst run blocking grade of his career (52.3 in 2019) is barely worse than our best (Jesse Davis).
Greg Robinson (LT)
Likely a cheaper option, if he hits the market. This former second overall selection in the 2014 draft has had a pretty average career, but posted career-high grades last year in Cleveland. Last year, he allowed four sacks, five hits, and seventeen hurries on 535 pass blocking snaps. His pass blocking efficiency ranked him 42nd among all tackles and his overall pass blocking grade was 56th. He's marginally better in run blocking, ranking 49th among all tackles. He’s also 28-years-old.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 66.9 69.3 62.8 860 535 325 4 5 17 26 11(2) 96.9
2018 59.6 68.8 52.1 498 311 187 1 0 19 20 10(3) 96.3
2017 54.6 53.4 53.2 395 257 138 3 3 18 24 5(3) 94.4
That Robinson managed to rack up 13 penalties in 2018 while only playing half a season’s worth of snaps is downright impressive. Aside from him being the living definition of mediocrity on the offensive line, his penchant for penalties is the biggest knock on Robinson. But he’ll likely be even cheaper than Humphries. If we strike out on other free agents, or only want a short-term stop gap (Robinson has played for three teams in the past four seasons already), Robinson is an option and his most recent season would still be an improvement over our current tackles.
I can see a scenario where we either whiff on guys like Bulaga and Conklin or spend more on the offensive interior and instead pursue a guy like Robinson as a stopgap for the 2020 season so that we only need to draft a single tackle in 2020 and can instead punt until 2021 with one of our two first round selections then to find the bookend at the other side of the line.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai (RT)
Vaitai saw about 40% of the Eagles total snaps this season at right tackle, and while he was far from a stud in pass protection (45th overall and 72nd in pass blocking efficiency), he ranked 10th against the run. The Eagles could end up keeping him and starting him at right tackle and moving Lane Johnson over to left tackle to replace Jason Peters, but he might also hit the market in free agency.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 74.4 64.6 76.2 540 331 209 2 8 13 4(0) 95.8
2018 47.7 52.7 38.9 350 224 126 4 4 9 17 2(0) 94.7
2017 59.4 52.3 61.8 1031 600 431 9 14 28 51 6(0) 94.7
There’s risk in pursuing a guy like Vaitai, but he performed very well in his limited performance in 2019. If we’re investing in other positions on the line, we might bet that Vaitai will be able to repeat his 2019 performance with other good linemen around him. If the Eagles let him go, he’s the kind of guy I could see a tackle-needy team like the Dolphins thinks can take a decent stint as a back-up in 2019 and put together a good season as a starter. Given his up-and-down history (not listed above is his rookie season which was pretty similar to 2019), it’s riskier than most moves, but could provide good production at cost.

Guards

As previously established, our guards were bad this season. Our guards have been bad for years. The last time we had a good guard was when Laremy Tunsil played at left guard his rookie year. The last time before that was way back in Tannehill’s rookie season when we had Incognito. Adam Gase infamously dismissed our woes on the interior offensive line by insisting you don’t need to invest in guards, but NFL trends over the past several seasons have run counter to that logic.
Despite trotting out woeful ineptitude at the position for the past seven years, we’ve only drafted three guards in all that time: Jamil Douglas in the fourth, Isaac Asiata in the fifth, and Michael Deiter in the third. It’s time the Dolphins get serious about addressing the offensive interior, but this draft isn’t exactly stacked at guard (or the offensive interior line) the way it looks like it is at tackle. Fortunately, there are a handful of options who may be available in free agency.
Ereck Flowers (LG)
Flowers is young (only 26) and coming off of a decent season in Washington. He’s not the big prize available in free agency from Washington’s offensive line, but he’s still a significant upgrade over anyone we’re rostering right now.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 64.2 69.0 60.1 937 588 349 2 2 20 24 6(1) 97.6
2018 65.1 62.0 63.4 588 353 235 3 7 28 38 6(2) 93.8
2017 66.8 70.4 52.8 1001 653 348 6 8 27 41 9(3) 96.2
His pass blocking efficiency was good for 43rd. In 545 pass blocking snaps he allowed two sacks, two hits, and twenty hurries. He played his first four season primarily at left tackle, and he seems to have weathered the switch to left guard in Washington well. He’s far from a world-beater, but he’s competent and is another guy who won’t break the bank. His previous experience at tackle is also always useful in the event that injuries require he shift over.
Graham Glasgow (RG)
Speaking of players for whom a move to guard was agreeable, Graham Glasgow moved from center to right guard this year and did a pretty great job of it. He allowed zero sacks, five hits, and 20 hurries on 559 pass blocking snaps and put up a career-high 74.2 grade in run blocking.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 74.1 69.0 74.2 872 559 313 0 5 20 3(0) 97.6
2018 70.1 73.8 69.1 1076 673 403 1 5 15 21 9(6) 98.2
2017 71.1 71.8 67.0 1042 681 361 3 6 17 26 4(0) 97.7
Glasgow was already pretty solid as a center in 2017 and 2018, and he made the transition to guard pretty well. At 28-years-old, he could be a solid contributor who has the ability to play both guard and center, and that kind of flexibility has value, as noted with Flowers. It becomes even more valuable considering the time that Kilgore has missed over the past two seasons.
Andrus Peat (LG)
A couple of years ago, Peat was looking like a stud young guard, but he’s posted back-to-back horrendous seasons in 2018 and an injury-shortened 2019.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 48.7 56.5 47.0 628 388 240 3 3 13 19 3(0) 97.1
2018 39.8 47.3 40.4 879 494 385 3 4 17 24 8(0) 97.3
2017 68.3 66.4 63.7 932 524 408 4 6 18 28 6(1) 96.7
I mostly bring Peat up because his name is one that’s certain to come up in free agency discussions, and someone’s going to look at his first three seasons in the league and think he can return to that performance. He’s risky, but his recent performance is likely to affect his price, and he’s young so there’s upside there for him to turn it around and be a long-term piece on the line.
Brandon Scherff (RG)
Of the two guards out of Washington, Scherff, age 29, is obviously the bigger catch. He’s missed time due to injury and had a lot of penalties (9) this season, but when he was on the field he was still great, ranking as PFF’s seventh overall guard and allowing only 10 total pressures (one sack, nine hurries) in 394 pass blocking snaps. Moreover, Sherff has been stellar for years.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 75.0 72.0 76.3 643 394 249 1 0 9 10 9(1) 98.5
2018 70.8 84.0 62.3 506 301 205 1 1 7 9 2(0) 98.2
2017 79.9 72.3 79.3 867 524 343 3 4 15 22 2(1) 97.5
It may be worrisome to some that Scherff has ended the past two seasons on injured reserve (2018 for a pectoral tear and 2019 for shoulder and elbow injuries), but if the medicals look good, his performance on the field is good enough to justify the added risk, and he’d be a major get in free agency at a position of need.
Michael Schofield (RG)
Schofield’s a good pass blocking guard but won’t offer much of an improvement in the way of run blocking if his 2019 performance is anything to go on. He finished 17th in pass protection (allowing one sack, seven hits, and 18 hurries in 688 pass blocking snaps) but 97th in run blocking. He’s a cheaper option we may look to if we strike out on the premier names in this free agency class. At 30, he’s on the older end of players on this list as well.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 63.6 76.9 50.3 1057 688 369 1 7 18 26 1(0) 97.9
2018 62.7 71.7 53.1 1116 680 436 5 5 21 31 0(0) 97.2
2017 57.0 48.1 63.1 407 230 177 2 5 18 25 2(0) 93.6
He’s been pretty consistently that same guy the past two years with the Chargers at right guard: a good pass blocker, but a poor run blocker. He played almost all of his snaps as a back-up RT tackle in 2017 with the Chargers and fared much more poorly than he did at the same position with Denver in his rookie season.
Joe Thuney (LG)
The clear prize at guard in free agency. Especially if the Patriots bring back Tom Brady, it’s going to be hard for them to afford to bring back Thuney as well. The 2019 All Pro guard figures to see a big pay day, and we should be the ones to give it to him. Thuney was absolutely stellar in pass protection last year, allowing only 17 total pressures (one sack, four hits, and twelve hurries) on 732 pass blocking snaps. His run blocking brought him down, but he finished as PFF’s sixth-ranked guard regardless. Did I mention that in 1,201 snaps he had no penalties on top of everything else? That’s crazy.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 79.2 88.0 68.7 1201 732 469 1 4 12 17 0(0) 98.7
2018 75.5 85.3 68.0 1371 765 606 0 5 21 26 5(0) 98.1
2017 74.4 74.9 68.8 1354 835 519 5 10 31 46 3(0) 96.7
He’ll be sure to break the bank and may even reset the market at the position, but we badly need an infusion of talent on the interior offensive line, and Thuney’s a guy who can absolutely give it to us. He’s 28-years-old and can be a staple of our offensive unit for our quarterback of the future for years to come.
Thuney is the kind of guard you throw money at, and if he does reset the market, he’ll have earned it.
Greg Van Roten (LG)
Also one of the older guys on the list, Van Roten is similar to Schofield in that he offers solid pass blocking (24th among guards with one sack, three hits, and 13 hurries) with poor run blocking (63rd among guards).
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 65.6 74.3 57.3 704 446 258 1 3 13 17 2(1) 97.9
2018 59.8 68.8 53.6 1059 668 391 2 2 32 36 2(0) 97.0
2017 62.9 29.4 65.5 10 3 7 0 0 0 0 0(0) 100.0
Having only played ten snaps in 2017 (one at tight end and nine at center), you might as well disregard that season. Before that, he was in and out of the NFL and the Canadian Football League. He was the only offensive player to play all of the Panthers’ offensive snaps in 2018. In 2019 he dislocated his toe in week 12 and was placed on IR. He’s another, cheaper option we might consider if we whiff on bigger names.

Center

As mentioned earlier, I don’t think that center is a position we actively pursue, but given that Kilgore’s contract has no guarantees, if an upgrade is available it’s a possibility. Even if we wanted to address the center position in free agency, however, there’s not a major upgrade to be had, at least not someone who’s young enough to be a long-term contributor and to justify moving on from Kilgore.
Connor McGovern
As far as immediate upgrades go, McGovern comes to mind. McGovern had a career year in his contract year, allowing only one sack, three hits, and 11 hurries in 609 pass-blocking snaps and scored PFF’s fifth highest pass blocking grade for centers.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 71.9 82.5 64.0 1013 609 404 1 3 11 15 0(0) 98.6
2018 58.3 38.7 66.2 1056 667 389 2 5 36 43 6(0) 96.4
2017 49.2 58.8 49.5 418 247 171 1 3 12 16 3(0) 96.3
He’s been considerably less consistent the rest of his career, however, allowing two sacks, five hits, and a whopping 36 hurries on 667 pass-blocking snaps in his first full year starting in 2018, earning a dismal 38.7 pass blocking grade that season. He was a competent run blocker in both seasons. It’s also worth noting that more than half of his snaps came at right guard in 2018 and almost all his snaps came at right guard in 2017. McGovern looks like another player for whom the position change has yielded positive results.
If he can keep up his play from 2019, he’d be an improvement over Kilgore. That’s a big if, though. At 27 he’s far more a long-term solution to the position than Kilgore who is five years his senior. I’m far more gun shy about rewarding a player for a single year of elevated performance than injuries, however, and I’m not sure I’d pull the trigger here.

Running Back

Running back is not a position with much of a shelf life, and outside of a few top backs in the league, rushing production is perhaps the most replaceable production on the field. Many fans bemoan the backs we’ve let leave in recent years, but history has largely vindicated the Dolphins’s reluctance to commit to backs beyond rookie deals.
The Texans surely regret paying Lamar Miller so much. Jay Ajayi can’t even find a spot on an NFL roster these days. While Drake has played well in Arizona, it remains to be seen whether he can actually sustain that. Even Damien Williams, who we’re watching be very successful in the playoffs now, only has 750 rushing yards and 350 receiving yards since he left the Dolphins. We haven’t let any world-beaters go.
So to say that I’m against spending money on running backs in free agency is an understatement, and frankly this year doesn’t look like a particularly good one to be pursuing anyone either. Has a holdout ever worked out more poorly for a player than it has for Melvin Gordon this year? Do we really want to go out and spend money on a guy like Jordan Howard? The only two running backs I’d really even consider trying to bring in right now might be Austin Ekeler or Gus Edwards, and the former will almost certainly be tendered (and he’s not worth giving up draft picks for) and the latter is an exclusive rights free agent.
Both, notably, are also undrafted free agents. While the recent draft has shown that premier running back talent is dominant in the league (the leading rusher in the NFL has been a former first round pick four of the past five years), there’s also plenty of evidence showing that middle-round selections for running back can return big dividends. Sorry guys, I’m not going to dive into rushing stats to demonstrate that like I did for quarterbacks. Maybe next year (but probably not).
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t improve at the position. Right now, Patrick Laird is our only running back worth half a damn on the roster, and we definitely need to bring more bodies into the group. We should probably target a running back in the middle rounds of the draft. Maybe the second if someone falls, but in general I’m against investing a lot of draft capital or cap space into the position.
It’s also worth noting that in moving to a spread offense under Gailey, rushing is unlikely to be the focal point of our attack. Versatile backs who are useful both as pass blockers and receivers are going to be very important, so a bruiser like Derrick Henry (who I doubt makes it to free agency) doesn’t seem like the type of player we should be targeting.

Tight End

As noted last week, Mike Gesicki stepping up for us in 2019 was a big get, and I expect that his role will increase even more in Gailey’s offense as he was very successful in college in a similar scheme. That said, one of the ways that we can continue to help out our offensive line in both pass blocking and run blocking is to run more sets with multiple tight ends. We brought in a lot of tight ends last off season to try and improve the group, but really only Gesicki has emerged as anything worthwhile. I don’t expect this position to be a major priority, but there’s a couple free agents who might be worth looking at if they become available.
Given the much lower likelihood that we’ll actually pursue one of these targets, I won’t go into as much depth as above for the offensive line. These are just some names to keep in mind that might not be completely out of left field.
Austin Hooper
Hooper’s a threat in the passing game, no doubt. In the past two seasons he’s caught 146 of 180 targets for 1,447 yards and ten touchdowns with only four drops. He has similar flaws to Gesicki, though, as he’s rarely used in pass protection and isn’t the stoutest run blocker (although he’s still an improvement over Gesicki in blocking). He’d be another big-bodied passing threat in what figures to be a passing-heavy offense, though.
Hunter Henry
Hunter Henry’s a very similar guy to Hooper. In his first two seasons he was much more effective in pass protection and run blocking, but he had a down year in 2019 after missing all of 2018, but he’s another guy who provides a big-bodied receiving threat that provides match-up problems for linebackers.
Tyler Eifert
He’s starting to get on the older side, but he’s probably the most well-rounded of the tight ends available in free agency. Eifert didn’t get a lot attention in the passing game this season, but he was solid in pass protection and decent in run blocking. He’s probably not a guy we target unless he’s really cheap.

Wide Receiver

We’re not going to sign a wide receiver in free agency. We’re probably not going to draft a wide receiver before the fifth round in April either. DeVante Parker and Preston Williams figure to be our two main targets in 2020, and last week I already discussed that I think we should drop both Jakeem Grant and Albert Wilson while keeping Allen Hurns and bringing back Isaiah Ford. That doesn’t leave much room for additional wide receivers who should expect to see much playing time.
I’ll readily admit, though, that it does skew towards a single skill set. Isaiah Ford is the smallest of the bunch listed at 6’2” and 189 pounds. The others are all 6’3” or taller and over 200 pounds. They all posted combine 40 times right around the average for wide receivers (4.48). In that group Hurns figures as our slot receiver (where he played 50% of his snaps last season). The group lacks lateral speed, shiftiness, and speedsters in general, but we’ve had both of those recently (Kenny Stills, Jakeem Grant, Albert Wilson) and except for Stills none of those players ever provided consistent production.
Regardless of what the team ultimately decides to do with Wilson and Grant, wide receiver is the last position any of us should expect to invest in this offseason, whether that’s in terms of cap space or draft picks. The only way I see us grabbing a wide receiver is if someone unexpected falls into our laps in April.
submitted by Cidolfus to miamidolphins [link] [comments]

The Super Bowl is here. And here is why I am not afraid. (Warning, it's a bit long.)

This took 5 days to write. And it is long. But this is why the Broncos can WIN tomorrow. If you have doubts, read this and be calm.
Many people within the media and within the fanbases of 31 other teams have been calling this game a sort of coronation for the New NFL that the Panthers represent.
And that's fine. That's perfectly okay. It's not disrespect, it's not bias. (Outside of the media and fans for the Pats, Raiders and Chiefs that is.) It is a group of people looking at a set of information and making the most educated decision they can about a game that is truly impossible to predict. but most of those people have not watched the Broncos grow and change and build over their 18 games this season. They haven't poured over the information on what this group of men goes through between Monday and Saturday.
And that's fine.
But I implore you to take the next 5-10 minutes of your night or morning to read this, and go through the rest of the hours until kickoff feeling better about our chances to win our third Lombardi trophy.

1. The Denver Defensive Backfield.

Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, Jr and Bradley Roby are the best trio of DB's that the Panthers have faced all season, and it's not close.
You can make the claim that Arizona is stacked, but in the NFCCG they started Justin Bethel at nickel and Jerraud Powers at RCB. Neither player would start ahead of Roby if he were on the team. You can also bring up Seattle, but the Legion of Boom is mostly all about Kam and Earl. Their starting CB opposite of Sherman (after they cut Cary Williams) was Jeremy Lane, and their nickel corner is either Marcus Burley or DeShawn Shead depending on the formation (and Shead is a strong safety).
With this group of cornerbacks, Wade Phillips will likely play an aggressive man coverage with Harris on Ginn, Talib on Funchess and Roby on Brown when they go three wide, or with Talib sliding inside onto Olson when they go 2 wide with either 2RB/1TE or 1RB/2TE sets.
Then you have the safeties, TJ Ward and Darian Stewart. Again, very hard to see a duo that Carolina played better than this. Here, the LoB does have the lead with Thomas and Chancellor, but even then they were the 5th rated pair by PFF this season, with Ward and Stewart being 7th, even though both missed time with injuries. Beyond them, however? The next best duo resides in... I dunno, New Orleans (Byrd/Vacarro)? Arizona would have been right up there if Tyrann Mathieu was healthy in the NFCCG, but Tony Jefferson is a replacement level player in his place.
Stewart is a very underrated QB in the defensive backfield, reading the formations and setting his team mates in the best position to win their individual battles, and Ward is a punishing hitter like Chancellor who can also help with inside-out seam coverage or be an over the top umbrella on Olson.
Now folks will undoubtedly point to the game Gronkowski had against us in the AFCCG. But I implore them to look at when the bulk of his numbers came. Before the final 5 minutes, he was held to 4 grabs for 67 yards and no scores. In the final 5 minutes, 4 catches and 77 yards on their final two drives. After both Ward and Stewart went out, replaced by Shiloh Keo and an out-of-position Chris Harris who gives up about 8 inches and 70 pounds to Gronk.

2. The Denver Linebacker Corps

You know two of these guys by heart already, OLB Von Miller and OLB DeMarcus Ware. This is, repeat after me, a duo of players that Carolina has not played an equal to at the position, counting either rush ends in a 4-3 or OLBs in a 3-4. Avril and Bennett in Seattle are the closest pairing and Bennett is a BEAST, but seriously, for one game, which pair you gonna pick? Now, top that off with their backups being Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett who both saw extensive playing time throughout the season, especially in the middle when Ware missed 6 games in the middle of the season, and we can keep fresh outside rushers on the field.
beyond this, people forget that Miller and Ware are very good run defenders. Both players can set the edge and hold contain extremely well against the weakness of the Panthers line (Oher and Remmers); they're both athletic enough to keep outside rushes from turning the corner within the numbers. And when it comes to Cam, people love to say, "how do you bring him down. He's so big and fast!" remember this. Cam is 6'6"/260 and ran a 4.59. Von is 6'4"/250 and ran... 4.49.
Now we go inside, where there are two players that are well known across the AFC West, but nationally they're overlooked; Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan. This pair complements each other beautifully in Wade's 3-4. Trevathan is the side-to-side run stuffer who has the speed to makes plays anywhere between the numbers, and will likely be the spy on Netwon in Wade decides to use one. Marshall is the coverage backer who will likely see the lion's share of time watching Olson's short routes when the Panthers go 3 wide, with an assist from Ward over the top.

3. The Denver Defensive Line

Say hello to Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson. Both men can play the 3 or the 5 technique in Wade's defense and play it well. Wolfe is a dominant run stopper who has turned up his pass-rush in the second half of the season (7 1/2 sacks in 9 games including the playoffs). Jackson has a pass-rush motor that won't quit, collapsing the pocket from the inside and swatting passes are a near league leading rate (second to Watt), and he quietly turned in a solid run stopping grade this season, with only 3 negative games according to PFF.
sitting in the middle of them is the only really "weak point" of our defense out defensive tackles, Sly Williams and Vance Walker. And even then, both are strong run defenders who cycle in and out to stay fresh.
Oh, and the coach that has turned these guys into a quietly scary group? Bill Kollar. if you don't know the name, you should look him up. He's the guy that turned JJ Watt into JJ Watt after his rookie year.

4. The Carolina Offense Is Not a Juggernaut

While the Panthers offense is good, they are far from dominant when you look at the numbers.
Yes, they were second in rushing yards and first in attempts. But their Y/A was 4.3, good for only 10th in the league. They bludgeon you with short yardage volume to control the clock.
Yes, Cam threw for 35 TD's (tied for 2nd in the league). But he only threw for 3800 yards, (tied for 16th). He had a 59.8% completion rate (tied for 27th with Peyton). He was sacked 33 times (12th, and against some "meh" pass rushing from the NFCS for 6 games).
Now, while you may point to Cam's receivers as a possible source for his low completion percentage, just remember that while Ginn did have 10 drops in 96 targets (and before you say anything, by the metric used, Thomas had the same number of drops with 80 more targets and 61 more receptions), the rest of the team COMBINED for 11. Add in that Cam still has a tendency to throw off of his back foot even with a clean pocket, and he sails a shocking number of throws.

5. Manning Finally "Gets" the Kubiak Offense and Kubiak Finally "Gets" the Manning Offense

In his first 9 games, there was an obvious struggle of offensive philosophy between Manning and Kubiak. Manning was having issues playing under center (which we later found out was due to the foot injury sustained before the season and exacerbated against Indy) and Kubak was having a hard time getting a working running game when Peyton played out of the shotgun or pistol. but the 7 games under Osweiler gave the team a more lunch pail, grinding mentality, and when Peyton was re-inserted during the final game of the season, he had acquiesced to the fact that the Kubiak system was installed.
Now at the same time, Kubiak learned that when a fast pace is needed, the Manning system would click with this group of receivers. Sanders and Thomas thrive on quick plays, quick throws, and the occasional deep strike to stab at the defense. We saw this in the second half of the first Patriots game, and the second half of the Bengals game, as well as in the first half of the first Steelers game.

6. The Broncos Offensive Line is No Longer Offensive

Panthers fans have been salivating at the thought of Charles Johnson, Star Lotulelei, Kawann Short and Jared Allen going against Ryan Harris, Evan Mathis, Matt Paradis, Louis Vazquez and Michael Schofield.
But they are picturing the offensive line in bits and pieces. They see the Schofield who gave up 4 sacks to Khalil Mack in one half as who he is all season. They see the Ryan Harris that struggled adjusting to LT after our first and second stringers went on IR. They see the injured Mathis and Vazquez that had to shuttle in and out of games mid-season due to ankle and knee injuries. And they have NO idea who Matt Paradis is.
But take out the second half of the Raiders game and the first half of the Bengals game, and Schofield has been a very strong run blocker since inserted into the lineup. And after being benched in the finale against San Diego, he has been a good pass blocker in both post-season games (no sacks, 4 pressures). Harris has resolved his comfort issues at LT, Mathis and Vazquez are as healthy as they've been since the start of the season (and backup max Garcia is a fucking road-grader) while Paridis is the only player on the team to play every single snap, and Manning has compared his mental preparation and feel for the game with his longtime center, Jeff Saturday. And that is a huge compliment.

7. This is (Probably) Manning's Last Game

This has a few things going for it, mostly mental.
This team loves Peyton Manning. From the front office down, everyone knows what he has meant to the team over the last 4 seasons, and what winning this game would mean to him and his legacy. They will be playing hard nosed, focused football, with that extra "oomf" you see from teams like the 2012 Ravens, or the 1998 Broncos.
Peyton will play like there is no tomorrow, and we saw that against NE in the AFCCG. His 13 yard run on 3rd and 10? He doesn't make that run last season, or even earlier this season. We know the play against Indy last year in the playoffs, a 3rd and 4. Manning had more than enough room to run, and he had a semi-open Sanders. He chose the throw and missed. This year, he could have tried to hit Sanders or Daniels who were both breaking free of the coverage, but instead he tucked it and ran for the first down, invigorating the team like a mini-Elwaycopter.

8. The Intangibles

Denver has been here before recently, Carolina has not, and it shows. You could see it all week in the media sessions. The Broncos were loose, comfortable, open. The Panthers were just tight. Multiple times Cam made off-hand remarks about getting bored or annoyed or uncomfortable with the repeated questions. During the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday media availability their answers were clipped and cliche. Those who watched Panthers practices say that there were some easy miscues each day, and that they were playing around a little bit. Those who watched the Broncos watched a team clicking.
Carolina is the clear betting favorite among the public, and while they say they are going into this thinking they are the underdog, I just can't see that happening. All week, all the media has been saying is that this game should be a walkover for them. That Denver's offense was a sham, and that the defense was going to be outmatched by the league MVP. There has been so much smoke blown up their asses in the last 13 days, you would think they were glass pipes.
Most of this is coming from how they played in the first half against the Seahawks (people seem to forget the second half where they gave up 24 straight and almost blew the game) and how they played against the Cardinals who had an imploding Carson Palmer gift them the ball 6 times (7 turnovers overall). And really only the Kuechley pick was a great play. Two other picks were gifts, and both Palmer fumbles were just straight up poor ball handling.
And the Panthers have so much riding on this, I'm not sure they can handle it. Win, and they are only the 4th team in NFL history to win a Super Bowl with 0 or 1 losses. Win, and they can shed the label of "Worst 15-1 team in history". But lose? Then they lost to a team that shouldn't have even had a first round bye, let alone the AFC's #1 seed, let alone play in the Super Bowl. Lose, and aaaaaallll of their critics will spend 6 months saying, "See, we told you so." That pressure has got to get to them, even just a smidge.
All in all, while I am not willing to say that I am 100% supremely confident in a Broncos upset, I am more than willing to say that those who are predicting a Panthers blowout along the lines of Super Bowl XLVIII are going to be sadly... sadly mistaken.
submitted by Mister_Jay_Peg to DenverBroncos [link] [comments]

News and analysis on legal developments including litigation filings, case settlements, verdicts, regulation, enforcement, legislation, corporate deals, and business of law. Phillip Schofield was slammed by This Morning viewers for his behaviour during Wednesday's show. The TV host, 58, and his co-presenter Holly Willoughby, 39, were interviewing a zoopkeeper called Hot Tub Time Machine (2010) cast and crew credits, including actors, actresses, directors, writers and more. The Pools - Footie5 - Play it, win it. It's free to signup and play! Simply predict the scores of 5 football games for your chance to win £25,000 each week. Man Utd have flown their groundsman to China to check over the pitch in Shanghai (Image: GETTY) Manchester United take on Spurs next Wednesday and want the pitch to be checked over by their own staff. United were due to play rivals Manchester City back in the summer 2016 in an eagerly anticipated first meeting between Jose Mourinho and Pep

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