The Miami Dolphins head into next week’s NFL scouting combine armed with more than $90 million in salary-cap space and 14 draft picks, including three first-round selections. Talk about ammunition to rebuild a franchise.
NFL free-agency decisions will happen in mid-March and the NFL draft kicks off in late April, but the early imprints of the Dolphins’ moves will be made at the combine in Indianapolis. There, the smoke screens will be thick among NFL circles because many executives will attempt to hide their teams’ true draft intentions in an effort to ward off other teams’ interest in their targeted draft prospects.
Here are the most important questions lingering as the Dolphins soon head to Indianapolis:
What do Tagovailoa’s medicals look like?
This is the single most important question for the Dolphins between now and April 23. If Tua Tagovailoa‘s medicals check out, the Dolphins should be considered the favorites to land him as their franchise quarterback with their No. 5 pick or via a trade up. Oddsmakers already have Miami and Detroit (No. 3 pick) as co-favorites to land Tagovailoa.
There are early, positive reviews about Tagovailoa’s recovery from his hip injury, but the Dolphins’ doctors will be sure to evaluate further. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross visited Alabama last season to watch Tagovailoa play, and a few weeks ago he had this to say on the former Crimson Tide quarterback: “He’s a great player. I just worry about his health.”
Tagovailoa and the Dolphins are a perfect fit for one another — if his medicals check out. A big step toward finding the answer will come at the combine, where the quarterback isn’t expected to participate in on-field drills but will go through interviews as well as the medical evaluations.
Who are the Dolphins’ alternative picks at No. 5?
There has been a lot of speculation that if Tagovailoa’s medicals come up positive, then he could move up to become the No. 3 pick behind Burrow and Ohio State defensive end Chase Young. Whether it’s Detroit or a team outside of the top 5 trading up with the Lions, the Dolphins could have competition for Tagovailoa. So, Miami must prepare for a scenario in which it cannot get its intended prospect.
Finding a franchise quarterback is priority No. 1 for Miami, and the top alternative appears to be Oregon’s Justin Herbert. If for some reason the Dolphins pass on a quarterback at No. 5 and focus on an offensive tackle or a defender at No. 5, then Utah State quarterback Jordan Love could become an option at No. 18 or No. 26.
Which players should Miami target in its pursuit of starting offensive linemen?
There is no Dolphins unit that needs more of an overhaul than the offensive line, and the goal this offseason should be to find multiple long-term starters via free agency as well as the draft. Expect Miami to be aggressive in free agency by targeting offensive tackles and/or guards.
Tennessee Titans free agent Jack Conklin leads the offensive tackle market, and would be a plug-in right tackle for the next five years (potentially protecting Tagovailoa’s blind side). Quality offensive linemen always get paid, and Conklin is probably looking at the deals that Ja’Wuan James (four-year, $51 million deal) and Trent Brown (four-year, $66 million deal) received as comparable contracts. There are more starting guard options, but they won’t be had at discount prices with the Patriots’ Joe Thuney and Washington’s Brandon Scherff leading that class. Green Bay’s Bryan Bulaga, Detroit’s Graham Glasgow, Seattle’s Germain Ifedi and New England’s Ted Karras could be fits at more palatable prices.
There seem to be five offensive linemen who have separated themselves as first-round draft prospects at this point (Willis, Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, Louisville’s Mekhi Becton and Houston’s Josh Jones). An ideal Dolphins draft could be landing one of those O-linemen at No. 18 or No. 26.
Which top-tier defensive talent best fits in Miami?
Though Miami is flush with cap space, don’t expect a wild shopping spree this offseason. Instead, the Dolphins could make selective splashes for players who fit well in coach Brian Flores’ scheme.
Edge rusher is one of the Dolphins’ biggest needs, and it seems like a smart bet they will find at least one starter on the free-agent market. Jacksonville’s Yannick Ngakoue, Seattle’s Jadeveon Clowney, Tampa Bay’s Shaquil Barrett, Pittsburgh’s Bud Dupree and Baltimore’s Matthew Judon are expected to land massive deals. A few edge players will likely receive the franchise tag, but for now it’s a deep class that Miami should be very interested in.
A few other non-edge defenders who would be good fits in Miami include Titans cornerback Logan Ryan, Patriots defensive tackle Danny Shelton, Texans defensive tackle D.J. Reader and Broncos safety Justin Simmons.
Source — Broncos DE Shelby Harris back on 1-year deal
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — After checking what the market had to offer, defensive end Shelby Harris has agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Denver Broncos.
The deal is for a guaranteed $2.5 million with the potential for $750,000 of additional incentives, a source confirmed to ESPN. As the 2019 season drew to a close, Harris said he had hoped to find a multi-year deal in free agency, but that deal didn’t materialize.
Harris, who was third on team with six sacks, finished the season with career-bests in sacks, tackles (49) and passes defensed (nine). He was also one of three defensive linemen who started games last season — Derek Wolfe and Adam Gotsis were the others — who were unrestricted free agents.
Wolfe and Gotsis still remain unsigned.
Harris flourished in Vic Fango’s defense and had discussions with Fangio this week about what his role would be moving forward. He is the second move the Broncos have made in the defensive front after they traded for defensive tackle Jurrell Casey last week.
At the scouting combine last month Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway said Harris was one of the players the team would allow to hit the open market, but Elway had also left open the possibility of bringing Harris back.
“Ultimately, it’s up to the player and what they want to do,” Elway said. “We’ll see where they fit in the plan. Obviously, you always want guys back like that, but you never know how it’s going to happen.”
In 2019, Harris had signed a one-year, $3.095 million deal last year to return to the team. After he had been waived six times in his first three years in the league, Harris found his defensive niche with the Broncos.
Former coach Vance Joseph said Harris had been close to being released at one point, but Harris went on to play in 48 games over the last three seasons in Denver with 22 starts.
Before he landed with the Broncos in 2017, when he was signed a futures contract in January of that year, Harris had spent time with the Raiders, Jets and Cowboys.
Harris, who turns 29 in August, has 136 tackles and 14 sacks in his career.
Terms of his new deal with the Broncos were first reported by The Athletic.
Packers’ Aaron Rodgers details frenzied departure from Peru
Aaron Rodgers and his travel party that included three other people got out of Peru nine days ago, within minutes of the airport closing due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Green Bay Packers quarterback revealed Friday on a radio show.
Rodgers told Pat McAfee and former Packers teammate A.J. Hawk, who co-hosted the show, that it was “quite the ordeal.”
“Have you seen the movie, ‘Argo’?” Rodgers asked. “The scene at the end where they’re racing to the airport. Nobody was chasing us thankfully or holding us. We didn’t have to speak Farsi to get back into the country, but there were some moments where we worried we were not going to get out. It was absolute pandemonium at the airport.”
Rodgers returned to his home in Malibu, California, and has followed stay-at-home guidelines along with girlfriend Danica Patrick. He said of the four people on the trip, none had any symptoms at the time or in the days since.
“So I think we’re in the clear,” he said.
He said there were other parts of his trip planned to South America, but they cut it short. The group flew via private plane, which Rodgers said helped them get out of the country so quickly. Had they flown commercial, he did not think they would have gotten out when they did.
“Probably not, not right away,” Rodgers said. “I know there’s been some planes and some folks who were down there who’ve gotten brought back [since then]. … When we rolled up to the airport at like 7 in the morning, it was wall-to-wall people and you couldn’t move. I was thinking, ‘This isn’t very safe.’ Not many masks on, and there was definitely a panic in the air. But somehow [we] made it down and then they shut the airport down because it was really bad weather. They had a drop-dead time where they were going to shut the entire airport down. We made it by about 15 minutes.”
Rodgers said his group was in remote areas near Cusco, where there were not any reported cases of the virus.
Source — Cowboys, kicker Greg Zuerlein reach 3-year deal
Having had 10 missed field goals in 2019, the Dallas Cowboys and veteran kicker Greg Zuerlein have agreed to a three-year, $7.5 million deal with $3.5 million guaranteed, sources confirmed to ESPN’s Todd Archer on Friday.
The move reunites Zuerlein, 32, with John Fassel, his special teams coach from the Los Angeles Rams.
NFL Network was the first to report the agreement.
The Cowboys had already re-signed Kai Forbath to a one-year deal this offseason. Forbath started the final three games last season, going 10-for-10 on his attempts after the Cowboys cut Brett Maher, who missed 10 attempts in 13 games.
Zuerlein has converted 201 of 245 field goal attempts in the regular season (82%) and is 264 of 270 on extra point attempts since being selected by the Rams in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL draft.
In that time, Zuerlein has booted 33 field goals of 50 yards or more, which is tied with Adam Vinatieri for fourth in the NFL over that span — behind Matt Prater (41), Justin Tucker (39) and Matt Bryant (34). His reliability over his eight NFL seasons has earned him the nicknames “Greg the Leg” and “Legatron” among teammates and fans.
He experienced a dip in production last season, however, converting 24 of 33 field goal attempts for a 73% conversion rate — his lowest since 2015, when he made 67% of his kicks.
In three playoff appearances, Zuerlein converted 8 of 10 field goal attempts, including a 57-yarder in overtime to win the NFC Championship Game over the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome in 2018, which sent the Rams to Super Bowl LIII.
ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry contributed to this report.
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