Miami Dolphins' Top Remaining Offseason Priorities

Andrew Tornetta@AndrewTornettaCorrespondent IIApril 3, 2014

Miami Dolphins' Top Remaining Offseason Priorities

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    Lynne Sladky

    Heading into the offseason, the Miami Dolphins had a laundry list of priorities that they needed to take care of.

    New general manager Dennis Hickey has done an admirable job of filling in most of the team's holes while also upgrading at a few key positions as well.

    He signed Louis Delmas to replace Chris Clemons, Earl Mitchell to replace Paul Soliai, and Cortland Finnegan to replace Dimitri Patterson.

    He also brought back Brent Grimes and Randy Starks, signed Knowshon Moreno and upgraded the offensive line by adding Branden Albert, Shelley Smith and most recently Jason Fox, according to Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post

    With about half of the work in the offseason done, it's time to take a look at the five biggest priorities remaining for the Miami Dolphins.

5. Sign Charles Clay to an Extension

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    According to Spotrac, the Dolphins have just more than $16.4 million in cap space available.

    The team needs to save about $5 million for the incoming rookie draft class, and the Dolphins are likely done with most of their spending on outside players. 

    That means it's probably a good time to look into trying to sign their own key players to contract extensions.

    When looking at the team's impending free agents in 2015, there two names that really stand out—Mike Pouncey and Charles Clay.

    In the case of Pouncey, the Dolphins will likely pick up their fifth-year option to retain him for next season. 

    However, after the season Clay had in 2013, he looks like he's going to be in line for a big payday if he hits the open market next offseason. For the Dolphins' sake, they need to do whatever they can to make sure that doesn't happen.

    He's coming off a 69-catch, 759-yard season with six touchdowns, is one of Ryan Tannehill's most reliable targets and should only get better over the next few years.

    Resigning the 25-year-old Clay to a long-term deal is just smart business.

4. Evaluate the Tight End Position

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    Wilfredo Lee

    As mentioned in the last slide, the Dolphins should be confident with Charles Clay as their starting tight end heading into next year.

    However, it will be critical for them to evaluate and make a decision on what to do with the rest of the depth chart.

    There are a few different ways in which they can approach the situation.

    They can go for a big splash and draft one of the top tight ends this year, whether it be Eric Ebron, Jace Amaro or Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

    They could also look toward the middle of the draft and grab one of the big, strong, blocking tight ends like Iowa's C.J. Fiedorowicz or Georgia's Arthur Lynch.

    A third option would be to not draft a tight end at all and instead keep a keen eye on the progress of Dustin Keller in his rehab.

    Miami signed Keller last offseason to a one-year, $4.25 million deal, but he didn't play in a single regular-season game thanks to tearing his ACL, MCL and PCL during a preseason contest. 

    This year, the team can offer him another one-year prove-it deal to see if he can stay healthy and return back to form.

    Of course, the other choice is that the Dolphins could decide to do nothing and hope for improvement from the young tight ends on the roster.

    As of right now, they still have both Dion Sims and Michael Egnew under contract, so Miami could opt to choose to stick with them and hope they can develop like Clay did last year.

3. Succeed in the Draft

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    This is the most obvious priority but still needs to be mentioned after what happened last season.

    Despite having a surplus of picks and trading up for one of the top young players in Dion Jordan, Jeff Ireland's 2013 draft class tallied the lowest amount of playing time out of any class in the entire league.

    In fact, the Dolphins' rookies totaled just 866 snaps among nine players last year. Miami is the only team in the league that didn't get at least 1,000 snaps from its first-year players.

    Dennis Hickey can't afford to have a repeat of that. 

    Of course, the most interesting pick the Dolphins have is in the first round, where the team can go in a variety of ways.

    They could do what I predicted and choose Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley.

    They could also go in the direction that most of the national pundits expect them to go by drafting Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin. 

    A trade is certainly a possibility as well, and the team could always go in a completely different direction and surprise everyone.

    Regardless of which direction Hickey chooses, he has to bring in players who can make an impact right away.

    He is likely on a short leash as the general manager, so missing on players in such a stacked draft class could mean an early exit from Miami for Hickey.

2. Finish Rebuilding the Offensive Line

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    As I previously mentioned, Dennis Hickey has done a good job thus far of quickly rebuilding an offensive line that allowed a franchise-record 58 sacks in 2013.

    He signed two new starters in Branden Albert and Shelley Smith and added quality depth with Jason Fox.

    Even though solid players are still available in free agency, it seems more likely that the final two starters on the offensive line will come either in the draft or from a player who is already on the roster.

    If that is truly the case, then the Dolphins will need to spend at least two of their top four picks on the offensive line if they expect to bring in reliable players who can start from Day 1. 

    However, they could also choose to draft just one lineman and allow Sam Brenner, Dallas Thomas, Nate Garner and Fox to battle for the final starting spot in training camp.

    Either way, you can expect at least one more addition to the offensive line when the draft rolls around. The team is well-aware of the type of damage a poor line can do to the productivity of an offense.

1. Develop Ryan Tannehill

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    As it does in most cases in the NFL, it all eventually comes back to the quarterback.

    Whether fans like it or not, nothing the Dolphins do over the course of the offseason will end up mattering if Ryan Tannehill turns out to be Chad Henne 2.0.

    Tannehill had an up-and-down season last year but still improved in nearly every way from where he was in 2012. If you would like to read a full breakdown of his performance in 2013, you can take a look at the article I wrote following the season.

    The simple fact is that the success of the 2014 Miami Dolphins will live and die on Tannehill's shoulders.

    That is why the No. 1 job of the organization for the rest of the offseason is to do everything it can to put him into the best possible position to succeed in 2014.

    Up to this point, the Dolphins have already done quite a bit. 

    The offensive line and running backs should be much better, and on top of that, they released him from the chains of the Mike Sherman offense.

    Combine all of that together, and the Dolphins have every reason to expect Tannehill to make that proverbial leap next year. 

    After all, the success of the franchise depends on it.