Miami showcased a combination of youth and experience on defense last season, but the Dolphins are committed to a youth movement which could lead to the end of Joey Porter and Jason Taylor playing in Phins' uniforms.
The Phins are stacked at the defensive end position, with four potential starters under the age of 25. All are signed on for next season and this is an extremely solid group of young players with plenty of upside and potential. The elder of this crew, Randy Starks, 25, finished with 56 combined tackles and seven sacks. Kendall Langford, 23, and Phillip Merling, 24, produced 76 combined tackles and 5 sacks. Tony McDaniel, 24, saw some action as well and should see some more playing time next year, most likely as a defensive tackle.
If the Dolphins can see even more production from this position next season, which they should considering their ages, there is no reason to waste money on free agency or a high draft pick on DE. It's always difficult to pass on a talented defensive end with upside, but unless the perfect option presents itself, the Dolphins will remain focused on bringing in more offensive playmakers to the team.
Jason Ferguson, a free agent at 34, has most likely seen his last days in Miami, considering the Dolphins youth movement focus. Paul Soliai, 25, is a talented young player and will start at this position next season. Miami could go to free agency to sign a younger defensive tackle to the team, possibly Barry Cofield, but they will most likely look to the draft to acquire another big, young defensive tackle.
Miami will look to offense in the first couple rounds of the draft considering their youth on defense, but if Torrell Troup of Central Florida is still sitting there in round four, he will be hard to pass up. Miami is well aware of the local Florida talent, so Troup will definitely be on their radar. Coach Sparano got a good look at Geno Atkins from Georgia in the Senior Bowl, who dominated in the game, and he will be another target Miami could go after. Atkins is not as big as Troup, but he has better speed, which suits Miami's defense better.
Joey Porter, 32, will not return to Miami next season. Porter refuses to allow younger talent to take away from his playing time, especially if he feels that he is currently better than his competition. Porter had a very successful 2009 campaign, but he did miss two games with injury, always a concern of Parcells. With Porter not returning for next season, Charlie Anderson, 27, will step in to replace Porter. Anderson produced two sacks last season and has some upside.
Miami could look to the draft to find a better replacement for Porter, but most likely they will sign a high profile free agent. There are plenty of young options available this offseason, so depending on who doesn't get resigned by their current team will dictate Miami's move at this position. Considering that Jason Taylor is having offseason surgery and is also 35 years of age, Miami could look to bring in two new OLB's in free agency.
Cameron Wake, 27, can play both inside and outside linebacker, so depending on who Miami brings in will determine his role on this defense. The free agent pool of linebackers is very deep, young, and talented, so look for Parcells to bring in one, if not two of these high profile LB's.
Channing Crowder, 25, is a stud with a ton of potential. Next to him is Akin Ayodele, 29, who had a solid season as well. Reggie Torber, 28, is another solid option at this position, as all three players should see plenty of time in the 3-4. The more time Crowder has to develop, the better this Dolphins defense will be.
The Dolphins will most likely bring in another inside linebacker for depth reasons, but he will most likely be a younger player who obtains future potential. They could very well utilize a late draft pick to sure up youth at this position.
This was a bad offseason for Will Allen, 31, to have issues with the law, especially considering how well Sean Smith, 22, and Vontae Davis, 21, played this year. The Dolphins scored big with these two young corners and have both locked down for the next couple seasons. Parcells worked his draft magic with these two corners, both who were heavily relied on down the stretch, gaining vital experience as rookies this year.
Jason Allen, 26, could take over Will Allen's role on the team if Allen is released because of his recent DUI arrest. Parcells does not tolerate that type of behavior on his team, so considering how huge Davis and Smith stepped up, it could lead to Will Allen's release from the team. Nathan Jones is a free agent and could be let go this offseason.
Parcells will always be looking for a solid, young corner, but considering that the Phins wasted two high draft picks last year on this position, it most likely be ignored in this year's draft. If the right free agent presents himself, he could be signed on for depth reasons, especially if Will Allen is cut.
Yeremiah Bell, 31, and Gibril Wilson, 27, had great seasons for Miami last year, and both will return for next season. Considering the standout play of older safeties like Brian Dawkins and Darren Sharper, Bell's age shouldn't concern Miami. Tyrone Culver, 26, is available if either player goes down, but considering how well Bell and Wilson played last season, he shouldn't see too much time at safety.
Bell and Wilson both led the Phins in tackles last year, totaling 207 between the two of them. There is always a solid safety available later in the draft it seems, but Miami will most likely look to draft offense throughout. These two safeties, accompanied with Smith and Davis at cornerback, will have Miami return one of the best secondaries in the league come next season.
This Dolphins defense will return a ton of young talent for next season. Though Jason Taylor would like to finish his career in Miami, he does not fit into the picture of Miami's youth movement. Chances are, he will accompany Joey Porter out of Miami. If the Dolphins can land some high profile talent as their replacements, this defense could be not only very good next year, but very young as well. That's scary.
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Written by Josh Souder