The Miami Dolphins mean well. They really do. Just like every other NFL Franchise, they want to put themselves in the best position year in and year out to win, so they draft well and sign free agents with the hope that it will call come together to form an at least playoff-bound team.
However, despite their best efforts, the team has simply not performed up to snuff. In the last thirteen years, the Miami Dolphins have only reached the NFL postseason once. However, they are hoping to change that with one swoop of a pen.
This year, the Dolphins have made the biggest splash so far in 2015 by signing the most feared defensive tackle in the game. It was announced Sunday that Miami has reportedly secured the services of Ndamukong Suh for approximately $114 million, with $60 million guaranteed, making him the highest paid defensive player in the NFL.
In need of a defensive tackle to anchor and shore up their pitiful defense against the run (ranked 24th in the NFL in rush yards allowed), Suh provides a dominating presence that commands constant double-teams from the offensive line. This prevents him from earning eye-popping numbers, but his impact is obvious in the game tape when he shuts down the inside gaps and frees up one-on-one matchups for other players.
By all appearances, the upcoming six-year marriage between the Miami Dolphins and Suh should work out with Will Smith-Jada Pinkett levels of happiness. However, a history of slam-dunk free agent signings that quickly turned sour leaves a lot of lingering doubt in Miami as to whether Suh will live up to his Suh-sized contract.
For his career, Suh has compiled 36.0 sacks and 181 tackles in five years. There is a nastiness to his game that puts a smile on coaches' faces wider than the Joker (but, you know, without killing them). However, it is that same nastiness that gets him into trouble with the NFL.
His career started off violently in 2010 when he attempted to decapitate Cleveland Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme in a preseason game. The hit would cost Suh $7,500 and become the origin of a pattern that Suh has shown.
Whether it is late hits on quarterbacks, his rendition of "Stomp" on two different Green Bay players, or kicking quarterbacks in the groin like it was America's Funniest Home Videos, Suh is always in the middle of some controversy, even being the labeled the Dirtiest NFL Player by his peers.
If his style of play continues, there is nearly a guarantee that he will miss at least a couple of games due to his antics on field. But even if he was on his best behavior and never missed a game, what can one man do on a team that needs so much help?
The Miami Dolphins got the help they needed at the defensive tackle position, but with Suh about to take approximately $19 million in 2015 and the team only having around $9.6 million in cap space available as of Sunday night, they have essentially ended their free agency period.
No longer can they seek out veteran help at the wide receiver position to improve their passing game, where they ranked 17th in the league in receiving yards gained. This will be especially difficult after cutting veteran wide receivers Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson.
The linebacker position will now be forgotten as a priority in free agency because they simply do not have the money be a legitimate force in free agency after signing Suh. The position was one of the more gaping holes in the Dolphins defense last season and contributed to the team giving up 4.3 yards per attempt (21st in the NFL).
The hopes of getting help at cornerback during free agency, where they have no names behind Brent Grimes, are basically gone. Those are positions that they will now need to build through the NFL Draft. Not that they have had much luck in turning the teams fortunes around through free agency anyway.
If there is such a thing as the Anti-Midas Touch during NFL free agency in recent years, the Miami Dolphins have it when using big money to sign players outside of the organization. Whenever large, Scrooge McDuck-type money amounts are being thrown around by the team to lure free agents to the tax-free land of Miami, the signing player always seems to fall flat on his face.
Linebacker Philip Wheeler was given a five-year, $26 million contract with $13 million guaranteed. Wheeler became a defensive liability on defense and was targeted in passing and running game by the opposition. He was cut on Saturday to make more cap room to sign Suh.
The Dolphins gave Pro Bowl offensive lineman Branden Albert a five-year, $47 million contract. Albert started nine games for Miami before missing the rest of the season after tearing his ACL and MCL.
The biggest disappointment has been Mike Wallace, who signed a five-year, $60 million contract in 2013. Wallace has been unable to really gel with quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and has not gained more than 1,000 yards receiving in the two years he has been on the team.
Now, the Miami Dolphins have acquired Ndamukong Suh -- their latest savior from future years of mediocrity. Suh may be a force on the defensive front, where he can help pass rushers like Cameron Wake get easier matchups on the outside and enhance a pass defense that ranked sixth in the league is passing yards allowed, but he won't be able to do everything.
He won't be able to improve the play at wide receiver for the offense. Suh won't be in position to make a play on the ball for the cornerbacks if the offensive line stonewalls him and a quarterback starts picking them apart from the pocket.
That's the blessing and the curse about football. No one man can win a football game. It is the collective effort of the team that brings victory.
Suh may be the best defensive tackle in the game today, but since the Miami Dolphins are now unable to adequately build the rest of the team to improve in other areas and even just support Suh with good defensive talent through free agency, they will find themselves right back to where they were hoping not to be: a warm January on the beach, instead of on the football field.
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