Editor’s note: In the coming weeks our Patriots insiders will be speaking with beat writers from around the NFL to get an outside view on what the future holds for the Patriots. Today’s team: The Miami Dolphins with Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.
The Miami Dolphins have done a huge roster overhaul this offseason, both through free agency and the 2020 NFL Draft, but it remains to be seen whether these changes will result in immediate on-field success when the new season begins.
Miami started out 0-7 last season before winning five of its last nine games, including a surprising upset victory over the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium that prevented the defending Super Bowl champs from earning a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs.
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The Dolphins wasted no time revamping their roster and spent big when free agency opened in March. They gave huge contracts to Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy and Dallas Cowboys cornerback Bryon Jones in an effort to improve a lackluster defense. Miami also signed Patriots linebacker Elandon Roberts and center Ted Karras, Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Shaq Lawson and others.
The draft saw the Dolphins again take center stage. They gambled on Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who, despite having incredible talent, also has a long and somewhat concerning injury history. Miami took Tagovailoa with the No. 5 overall pick, and it made two other first-round picks as part of an 11-player 2020 draft class.
It's certainly fair to rank the Dolphins among the "winners" of the offseason, but they don't hand out trophies for winning in March and April. How much will Miami's busy offseason translate into wins come September? In a recent Zoom video conference with NBC Sports Boston's Phil Perry, Miami Herald columnist Armando Salguero talked about the Dolphins' many offseason moves.
"The Dolphins are no strangers to the offseason championship. They've claimed it many times in the past," Salguero said. "I'm thinking of all those times that the offseason championship resulted in a regular season championship -- yeah, none. Yes, they did a lot of things in the offseason. They spent $150 million in guaranteed money, they had the 11 draft picks, five of them in the first two rounds. We'll see what happens in the regular season because that could be another story, and it has typically been another story in Dolphins history."
The Dolphins could have slowplayed their rebuild, and perhaps waited on drafting a franchise quarterback. Instead, Miami cashed in a lot of its cap space and took a chance on Tagovailoa. Patience seems to be running out in South Florida after just two playoff appearances since 2001.
"It's been 20 years since (the Dolphins) were really very good, so I don't know if there's a lot of patience for, 'Let's wait another year to try to do something interesting,' especially not down here with what folks were used to in the past," Salguero said. "There was not going to be any sort of patience for another 5-11 season. That could not happen again. It better not happen again. This is going to be interesting in that they're job with their veterans is going to have to pay a big dividend immediately, even if their job with the rookies doesn't because of the fact that the rookies aren't getting the mini camp, aren't getting the OTAs, might not get a full training camp as usual. They might take a minute. The veterans have to be plug-and-play."
The Dolphins should be better in 2020 than they were in 2019, especially if Tagovailoa plays and is healthy. Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who's coming off his first season in Miami after being on the Patriots' coaching staff for many years, has built a solid foundation with this franchise.
Oddsmakers are not confident in the Dolphins' chances of winning the AFC East next season. Miami is a distant third (tied with the New York Jets) in the latest betting lines behind the Patriots and Buffalo Bills.
However, the Dolphins' impressive offseason -- highlighted by the addition of a potential star quarterback in Tagovailoa -- is an indication that the team is headed in the right direction, and that's a good sign for a fan base that hasn't enjoyed a ton of winning in the 21st century.