The Miami Dolphins had a tough task ahead of them during the first wave of NFL free agency, which began at 4 p.m. on March 18. In the age of social distancing, players are not allowed to visit other teams. But those facility visits are a way for teams to truly get to know the players to whom they are about to offer millions of dollars.
One move can improve a team, its culture and let’s be real, its profit.
So far the Dolphins have taken advantage of the situation and come away with both steals and surprises during this first wave. Free agency never truly ends, but it’s safe to say these will be the most major moves the team makes before the season begins.
The players the Dolphins grabbed aren’t the mediocre sort Dolphins fans have come to expect. Instead, they’re actual improvements at positions of need. The team also signed the numbers three and four players on our defensive wishlist posted just a month ago: Byron Jones and Kyle Van Noy. Jones, in fact, was the surprise signing of the bunch. Let’s dive into the players and explore their added value to a now competitive Dolphins team.
Byron Jones: 5 years — $82.5 million with $54.3 million guaranteed
The first on our list is one that I didn’t think would happen. The Dolphins looked to be the leading contenders for New England Patriots starting guard Joe Thuney until the Patriots pulled a fast one and tagged Thuney before free agency officially began.
The Dolphins had Joe Thuney. Patriots tag him, not allowing division rival to get him.
— Neal Driscoll (@NealDriscoll) March 16, 2020
The deal for Thuney was pretty much done, according to Neal Driscoll of the Pro Football Network. But his tagging opened the door for the Dolphins to splurge on a different high-priced free agent. Before free agency began, the signs pointed towards the Dolphins landing Thuney — and Jones heading to either the Las Vegas Raiders or the Philadelphia Eagles. At the end of the day, the Raiders got outbid by the Dolphins and will now look elsewhere for cornerback help.
NO SHOCK AND NO HUGE LOSS: Byron Jones leaves Dallas for Dolphins, who’ll make him the highest paid CB. He’s a freakish athlete but flawed defensive back bc HE HAS NO NOSE FOR THE BALL. 2 CAREER INTS. I will not miss him. Good luck, Miami.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) March 16, 2020
Before we get into why this signing is huge for the Fins, I must address this tweet from FS1 “Undisputed” co-host Skip Bayless. The easiest way to tackle it is with a tweet from Pro Football Network writer and host of “The Finsiders” podcast, Joshua Houtz.
in week 4, byron jones went one on one with arguably the best WR in football, michael thomas. thomas caught 3/4 targets for 29 yards.
watching byron jones vs michael thomas, was like watching peter pan try to escape his shadow.
— josh houtz (@houtz) March 18, 2020
I encourage all Dolphins fans to take a look at the play of Jones and the versatility he provides for the defense rather than “two career interceptions.” Bayless calls Jones a flawed defensive back due to his lack of a “NOSE FOR THE BALL.” Even in all caps that hurts to see. But Pro Football Reference, which I trust for quick and accurate stats, shows that Jones was targeted 64 times and allowed 34 completions in 15 total games in the 2019 NFL season. This was a 53.1 completion percentage and only three total touchdowns allowed. Jones is a lockdown corner and a steal for the Dolphins.
Kyle Van Noy: 4 years — $51 million with $30 million guaranteed
Kyle Van Noy is one of my favorite pickups during wave one. It seemed like it was cemented all the way back in January. Truthfully I fell in love with Van Noy as a person when he appeared frequently as a guest on the “Pat McAfee Show” on YouTube during the 2019 NFL season. He spoke like a true leader, and his play on the field showed exactly what he brings to the defense.
Leadership is one of the main things that Coach Flo and his staff were looking for during free agency. Van Noy will bring a veteran presence to the defense and will teach Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker how to lead a locker room. He is also a top-notch player, which shows clearly on tape.
— Mike Dixon Sports (@dixon_sports) March 17, 2020
In this tweet you see Van Noy jump the snap and get to quarterback Cam Newton instantly. Newton has no chance to even look down the field and progress through his reads. This is exactly what the Dolphins were lacking in the 2019 NFL season.
BREAKING- The Dolphins have signed former Patriot Kyle Van Noy.
Brian Flores is stealing Bill Belichick’s defense. pic.twitter.com/BQyKVa2XEZ
— Jordan Moore (@iJordanMoore) March 17, 2020
Van Noy will also bring a great presence for the team outside of the locker room. While on the West Coast, the star linebacker has been interacting with his teammates on Twitter and fans while playing Call of Duty’s new battle royale game mode, Warzone, on Twitch. Plus the change of the twitter avi is quite beautiful.
Grinding my real job while dreaming about my secondary job at the hard rock! – Watch me at https://t.co/ZcTw8nMPRC
— Kyle Van Noy (@KVN_03) March 24, 2020
Hey @KVN_03 if you wanna run some Call of Duty Warzone, let me know! Im on twitch too. Quarantine team bonding or something like that
— Taybor Pepper (@TayborSnapping) March 21, 2020
Ereck Flowers: 3 years — $30 million with $19.9 million guaranteed
For most Dolphins fans this one came off poorly. If you went onto Twitter when the notification came through from Adam Schefter, then you were a little upset. The plan was for the team to splurge on Thuney. So fans weren’t so happy with Flowers’ signing. Even rival fans took a laugh at the team.
Best signing: Byron Jones
Worst signing: Ereck Flowers (i have hope but he was only good 1 year)
Underrated signing: Emmanuel Ogbah
— Ñ (@06NotRigged) March 21, 2020
EXHIBIT G: Why you don’t trust the Miami Dolphins to do anything good with their cap space.
They throw money at everything.
Ereck Flowers? At $10 million per year? Really?
I know he was okay as a guard, but $10 million per year? https://t.co/IbXCJOluP4
— You Should’ve Fired Bill O’Brien, Houston (@UrinatingTree) March 16, 2020
Admittedly I wish I had favorited more negative thoughts about Flowers when this was announced, but the reactions have turned slightly positive. Flowers is a University of Miami graduate and is happy to be coming home. He will immediately be an upgrade for the team at the guard position and had a MUCH improved year with the Washington Redskins last season. Even a Redskins fan chimed in on Twitter with something that made me laugh myself back to quarantine.
Ereck Flowers went to the Dolphins.
— Chris Bryant (@HogfarmerChris) March 16, 2020
Shaq Lawson: 3 years — $30 million with $20.8 million guaranteed
Lawson was a low-risk/high-reward pickup for the Dolphins and will be a huge addition to the defense. The Dolphins lacked pass rushers and true run-stoppers last season. Lawson can set the edge and is my pick for the Dolphins breakout player of the year. He will make a huge impact and is better right now than Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney has been a target for the team for a year now, and he reportedly turned down a $17 million deal during the start of free agency.
jadeveon CLOWNey https://t.co/mJkYIbQwcj
— josh houtz (@houtz) March 23, 2020
The Dolphins dodged a bullet if this is true. Clowney provides more to a defense than just sacks, but Lawson is a better value and will contribute in all forms this season.
Emmanuel Ogbah, Elandon Roberts, Jordan Howard, Ted Karras and Kamu Grugier-Hill
It’s impossible to give fully detailed descriptions for each player but these are other underrated players the team acquired during the first wave. Ogbah had a good season last year with the Chiefs. Roberts is another signing from the Patriots who should prove solid. Jordan Howard is an efficient runner. Ted Karras is an up-and-coming center. And Kamu Grugier-Hill will provide great depth.