It's probably safe to declare that the first wave of NFL free agency has come and gone, and the Miami Dolphins ended up before far busier than it might look.
Just because they stayed away from the big-money acquisitions doesn't mean the Dolphins weren't active because they so far have signed eight unrestricted free agents, to go along with three players who were so-called street free agents and trade acquisition Benardrick McKinney — Isaiah Wilson also was acquired via trade but he's already been cut.
The 12 newcomers are QB Jacoby Brissett, RB Malcolm Brown, WR Will Fuller V, WR Robert Foster, FB/TE Cethan Carter, C Matt Skura, DT Adam Butler, LB Brennan Scarlett, LB Duke Riley, McKinney, CB Justin Coleman and P Michael Palardy.
It's fair to suggest that most — actually pretty much all of them — are depth signings with many of them slated to play key roles on special teams. But there are some players on this list who figure to become key contributors on offense and defense, such as Brown, Fuller, Skura, Butler and McKinney.
The bigger issue right now is to retake stock of the Dolphins roster and examine the biggest needs heading into the second wave of free agency — assuming Miami will even get involved in it — and the draft.
The addition of Brissett solves the need for a backup quarterback to make up for the departure of Ryan Fitzpatrick as a free agent. The Dolphins moving from third to sixth in the draft suggests they're all in on Tua Tagovailoa for 2021, though they'll be looking for him to take a big step forward. The Dolphins could use a developmental quarterback if they could land one, but it's way down the list of priorities. Degree of need: Moderate
This is an interesting spot. The Dolphins still do not have a bona fide star at running back, which has led for some to call for the team to draft Najee Harris with the 18th overall selection (and we'll address the pros and cons of that idea at a later time). But the Dolphins are kind of in a similar situation as they were in last offseason after they had picked up Jordan Howard (though they obviously hope the Brown signing works out better) and if they decide to go running back-by-committee they just might have three solid pieces in Brown, Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed. It says here the Dolphins would benefit from another quality running back, but it might not quite be the need many are making it out to be. Degree of need: Fairly significant
We posed the question before free agency started of just how big a need the Dolphins had at wide receiver and our conclusion was that the one element really missing was an outside speed guy. Enter Will Fuller. He is that guy. He now joins a wide receiver corps that includes DeVante Parker, Preston Williams, Jakeem Grant, Lynn Bowden Jr., Foster, Kirk Merritt, Malcolm Perry (though he's listed as RB/WR), and 2020 opt-outs Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns, both of whom plan on returning. If Parker can duplicate his 2019 performance when he stayed healthy the whole year and was maybe the best wide receiver in the AFC, the Dolphins would appear set at the position for 2021. But there's a lot of injury history in that group and there no sure-thing No. 1 receiver, which is why you hear so much about Ja'Marr Chase or Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith. In reality, though, it is NOT the team's top priority. Need: Fairly significant
The Dolphins could be set heading into training camp with Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Adam Shaheen and Carter, so this is perhaps the lowest-priority position. Having said that, if the Dolphins had the chance to land a truly special tight end in the draft — cough, cough, Kyle Pitts — that would be something to consider. Need: Minimal
The Dolphins addressed their center situation with the signing of Skura after Ted Karras decided to rejoin the New England Patriots and David Andrews then followed suit by decided to remain with New England. Skura, though, signed only a one-year contract, so Miami needs a long-term solution. Miami invested heavily into the offensive line last offseason with Karras, guard Ereck Flowers and draft picks Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt and Solomon Kindley, and the unit remains a work in progress. While there's certainly optimism that the 2020 rookies will continue to develop, let's not pretend the Dolphins couldn't use another big-time prospect to add more depth and competition. Need: Moderate
The acquisition of Adam Butler pretty much made up for the loss of Davon Godchaux in another Dolphins-Patriots swap, and there's pretty good depth there with 2020 rookie Raekwon Davis, Zach Sieler and 2019 first-round pick Christian Wilkins. This does not appear to be a high-priority position. Need: Minimal
The two most noteworthy offseason departures, with the possible exception of Fitzpatrick, were Kyle Van Noy and Shaq Lawson and that has left the Dolphins with perhaps their biggest need. Emmanuel Ogbah had a big 2020 season in Miami and Andrew Van Ginkel showed great promise, but there's not a lot of proven depth at this position. That's why so many mock drafts have projected an edge defender for Miami at number 18 (there's no prospect at the position deemed worthy of the sixth pick). Need: Significant
While the departure of Lawson created a need on the edge, it helped fill a void at linebacker by bringing in McKinney, who figures to team up with Jerome Baker. As with every position, this does not preclude adding an elite prospect at the position in the draft, though it does reduce the need. Need: Moderate
The only question mark at safety heading into the offseason was whether the Dolphins would make a move with either Bobby McCain or Eric Rowe to create additional cap space. That hasn't happened yet and as it stands the Dolphins are in good shape at this spot with those two and 2020 third-round pick Brandon Jones. Need: Minimal
The Dolphins went big at this position last offseason when they followed the big-money signing of Byron Jones by taking Noah Igbinoghene with their third of three first-round picks. With those two along with 2020 All-Pro Xavien Howard, nickel corner Nik Needham and offseason acquisition Justin Coleman, the Dolphins appear in pretty good shape at this spot — for the moment. And we also never should forget that teams can never have enough good cornerback. Need: Moderate
RANKING THE POSITIONS IN ORDER OF NEED:
1. Edge defender
2. Running back
3. Wide receiver
4. Offensive line
9. Tight end
10. Defensive line