There can be no denying the correlation between the 2020 Miami Dolphins free agent class and the significant improvement the team showed in the standings.
It was a very large free agent class and, almost without exception, one that produced very impressive results.
But the reality is that almost half of the 11 unrestricted free agents the Dolphins signed last offseason could be gone after just one season in Miami.
One of them already is done, that obviously being running back Jordan Howard, mercifully released after five games played, three starts and a paltry 1.2-yard rushing average.
And then there are four who arrived on one-year deals, and therefore are unrestricted free agents again this year. Those are center Ted Karras, linebackers Kamu Grugier-Hill and Elandon Roberts, and safety Kavon Frazier.
Of those four, Karras and Roberts clearly made the biggest impact in 2020, but Roberts sustained a severe knee injury in the next-to-last game and now will enter 2021 as a health question mark and Karras might be allowed to leave if the Dolphins can find an upgrade in free agency.
The other two were special teams mainstays, but it's entirely possible they'll look elsewhere for bigger opportunities on defense.
Karras was the only one of the 11 unrestricted free agents the Dolphins brought in last offseason to start all 16 games, though guard Ereck Flowers (14), defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah (12), linebacker Kyle Van Noy (13), cornerback Byron Jones (14) and Roberts (11) all started more than 10 games. Edge defender Shaq Lawson started seven games and played 55 percent of the Dolphins' defensive snaps.
Of all the 11 unrestricted free agents the Dolphins signed, Ogbah clearly was the star last season as he finished with a team-high nine sacks and forced two fumbles that were returned for touchdowns, one by Andrew Van Ginkel against the Rams and the other by Lawson against the Arizona Cardinals.
The big question now with Ogbah is whether he'll follow kicker Jason Sanders in getting a new contract since he signed only a two-year deal last March and therefore could become a free agent again in 2022.
Ogbah also represented the best value for the Dolphins after signing a two-year, $15 million deal.
The biggest deal, though, was the one given to Jones, who at the time became the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL. Jones' deal, which was for five years and worth $82.5 million, brought a lot of scrutiny his way and his performance in 2020 will be viewed as disappointing by those who can't look away from his contract — sort of like what happened with Ndamukong Suh during his time in Miami.
The truth is Jones actually was pretty good in 2020, though he gave up two very long touchdowns — against the Bengals and Raiders — that really hurt his advanced stats.
It's most definitely noteworthy that opponents targeted Xavien Howard significantly more (6.3 times per game compared to 5.2 for Jones) despite Howard's obvious gift for coming up with interceptions.
Signing Jones to the big contract solidified the cornerback position for the Dolphins for years to come and served as great insurance in the event Howard hadn't been able to bounce back from his 2019 injury-shortened season, but it's also created a complication with Howard.
It was just two years ago that Howard himself became the highest-paid corner in the NFL, but he changed agents after the 2020 season and the expectation is that he'll be looking to rework a contract that still has four years left.
The second-biggest contract the Dolphins gave to an unrestricted free agent last offseason went to Van Noy, whose four-year deal averages $12.75 million a year.
Van Noy was a solid all-around contributor on defense, finishing third on the team in tackles and sacks. He's also a good veteran influence on a young defense.
The Dolphins didn't get quite as much impact from the other two free agents they signed to deals averaging at least $10 million a year, Flowers and Lawson.
While Flowers started all year, he didn't quite have the impact the Dolphins had hoped. He was graded as the 31st guard out of 80 by Pro Football Focus. Lawson had a modest four sacks, though he did finish second on the team behind Ogbah in quarterback hits with 18.
The 2020 free agent tied for largest in Dolphins history with the one from 2006, but they made out a lot better this time.
Back in 2006, five of the 11 unrestricted free agent pick-ups didn't even make the initial 53-man roster. The biggest names that year were cornerbacks Will Allen and Andre' Goodman.
They didn't make nearly as much of an impact as what the Dolphins got from Ogbah, Van Noy, Jones and company in 2020.
The question now is how much more the Class of 2020 will contribute moving forward.
THE 2020 DOLPHINS FREE AGENT CLASS
RB Jordan Howard, two-year, $9.75 million contract, 5 games, 3 starts (released)
C Ted Karras, one-year, $3 million contract, 16 games, 16 starts
G Ereck Flowers, three-year, $30 million contract, 14 games, 14 starts
Edge Shaq Lawson, three-year, $30 million contract, 14 games 7 starts
DE Emmanuel Ogbah, two-year, $15 million contract, 16 games, 12 starts
LB Kyle Van Noy, four-year, $51 million contract, 14 games, 13 starts
LB Elandon Roberts, one-year, $2 million contract, 13 games, 11 starts
LB Kamu Grugier-Hill, one-year, $3 million contract, 15 games, 1 start
CB Byron Jones, five-year, $82.5 million contract, 14 games, 14 starts
S Clayton Fejedelem, three-year, $8.6 million contract, 13 games, 0 starts
S Kavon Frazier, one-year, $1.05 million contract, 15 games, 0 starts
*-contract figures from overthecap.com