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Why the Miami Dolphins Should Make a Play for John Abraham

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 20:  Defensive end John Abraham #55 of the Atlanta Falcons is introduced before the Falcons take on the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on January 20, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Erik FrenzSenior Writer IMarch 1, 2013

If it seems like the Miami Dolphins haven't had a solid pass-rushing duo in a long time, it's because they haven't. In fact, the last time they had a duo with 10 or more sacks was 2003, when Jason Taylor and Adewale Ogunleye did it under defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt.

If the Dolphins were to make a run at recently released defensive end John Abraham (announced via the Atlanta Falcons' official Twitter), they may have their first pair of defensive ends with double-digit sacks in a decade.

At 34 years old, Abraham is obviously much closer to the end of his career than the beginning, but judging by his performance in 2012, he still has something left in the tank. He was released by the Falcons due to financial constraints, not poor performance.

They couldn't make a much better choice to help them address their need for a defensive end right now, though.

Abraham ranked fifth among 4-3 defensive ends in ProFootballFocus.com's pass-rushing productivity, which measures pressure created on a per-snap basis with weighting toward sacks. Pairing Abraham with defensive end Cameron Wake (finished No. 1 in pass-rushing productivity in 2012) is the kind of match defensive coordinators dream of and offensive coordinators have nightmares about.

That was certainly the case in 2003. The Dolphins sacked opposing quarterbacks on 7.7 percent of their dropbacks—the third highest rate in the NFL. Meanwhile, their defense finished No. 8 in defensive passer rating, yielding just a 70.8 rating to opposing passers. The Dolphins also gave up just 12 passing touchdowns—the second-fewest in the NFL.

They wouldn't jump right back to that level of excellence, but the Dolphins could certainly get closer to that by signing Abraham.

With the Brinks truck full of over $40 million in salary-cap space, they wouldn't have to worry much about making it work financially. Even if they did, the sheer volume of veteran defensive ends available on the open market could drive their value down.

That being said, if the Dolphins add him, it doesn't address their need for a defensive end long-term. They would be wise to take the opportunity to let defensive end Olivier Vernon develop into a potential starter. He played just 38.8 percent of the snaps in 2012 and could stand to strengthen up a bit before becoming an every-down player.

There's also the question of what this all means for former first-round pick Jared Odrick, who was miscast as a 4-3 defensive end last year. There's reason to believe the Dolphins should try to trade him, but if they're unable to find a suitor, one other option would be to move him inside. His skill set would make him a solid fit as a three- or four-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense. 

Such a move would create a logjam at defensive tackle, though, with Paul Soliai, Tony McDaniel and pending free agent Randy Starks. The Dolphins could move on from Starks, leaving Soliai, McDaniel and Odrick as the tackles.

There's another option, however: The Dolphins could trade or release Soliai instead, opening up $6.3 million in cap space (according to OverTheCap.com).

The Dolphins can't be crazy about spending $7.875 million this year on a defensive tackle in Soliai who played just 54.9 percent of the snaps in 2012. Releasing him would free up some money to keep Starks—who is the healthier of the two, and the more capable/versatile 4-3 defensive tackle—be it on the franchise tag or a long-term deal. 

But the first domino to fall would have to be a true 4-3 defensive end, and Abraham is one option who fits the bill.

 

Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.

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