Futures of Teddy Bridgewater, Raheem Mostert among the Dolphins’ in-house decisions
MIAMI — The Miami Dolphins‘ Super Bowl window is open; at least, that’s how they’ve operated over the past 12 months.
It’s why they were one of the biggest movers in free agency last year, signing Terron Armstead and trading for Tyreek Hill. It’s also why they traded a first-round pick for Bradley Chubb and signed all three to deals worth a combined $305 million over the next five years.
After an early exit from their first playoff appearance since 2016, the Dolphins’ splashiest moves this offseason will likely come on the sideline after agreeing to terms with longtime NFL coach Vic Fangio to become their new defensive coordinator. Currently projected at $12 million over the salary-cap limit, Miami does have some in-house decisions to make before free agency begins:
Bridgewater joined the Dolphins on a one-year, $6.5 million deal last offseason to operate as Tua Tagovailoa‘s primary backup. He ended up filling in for the injured Tagovailoa on multiple occasions, although he himself was injured throughout the season as well.
With concerns still lingering about Tagovailoa’s availability over the course of a full season, the Dolphins still need a high-level, preferably veteran, backup for the 2023 season. Rookie Skylar Thompson started the team’s regular-season finale and wild-card loss to the Buffalo Bills but is not necessarily a lock for the backup job. Bridgewater is not likely to find a starting job elsewhere and might be the easiest option for Miami to fill a need without spending draft capital. This time around, however, Bridgewater’s deal may not be fully guaranteed.
Mostert was resurgent in 2022 with 891 rushing yards on 181 carries and 202 receiving yards on 31 catches — all career-highs.
A broken thumb kept him out of Miami’s playoff game, but he played in 16 games after playing just nine games in his previous two seasons. This should be an easy decision for the Dolphins, who struggled to run the ball efficiently in 2022. They have no running backs signed for the 2023 season.
Mostert turns 31 in April but is effective enough as a runner and invaluable enough as a leader to warrant being re-signed to at least another one-year deal. It’s possible the Dolphins draft a running back, but general manager Chris Grier has been hesitant to spend significant draft capital on the position since 2016, taking just one running back earlier than the fourth round.
This will be another critical decision looming for the Dolphins as the 27-year-old Wilson ran for 392 yards on 84 carries in eight games after being acquired in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers. Spotrac lists his market value at one-year, $2.9 million — it would make sense to bring him at least into training camp to compete with Mostert and a possible rookie throughout the offseason.
Wilson and Mostert proved they could be effective together, but the Dolphins rarely committed to the run, averaging the second-fewest attempts in the league last season.
The writing has been on the wall for a while now in regard to Gesicki, whose usage fell off a cliff in 2022.
After signing his franchise tag, he was replaced by Durham Smythe in the starting lineup late into training camp and finished with just 362 yards on 32 catches. It represented a significant dropoff considering he’d recorded at least 50 catches and 700 receiving yards in each of his previous two seasons. Gesicki played just 478 snaps after averaging 716 snaps over the previous three seasons.
It would be a surprise if Gesicki returns in 2023 — but whichever team signs him will get a professional who not once publicly complained about his diminished role. He’s more of a receiving tight end than a traditional blocker, and while he took moderate strides in blocking in 2022, he’s most effective operating out of the slot.
Other names to watch:
Byron Jones is not a free agent but represents an $18.3 million cap hit in 2023. The Dolphins can move on from his contract while saving $13.6 million by releasing him after June 1.
Cornerback Nik Needham is recovering from a torn Achilles but his return will be highly anticipated if the Dolphins do indeed move on from Jones. He and 2022 undrafted rookie Kader Kohou would give them a cost-effective duo at nickel corner and boundary corner opposite Pro Bowler Xavien Howard.
Linebacker Elandon Roberts is a two-time captain and could return, although Miami’s linebacker corps as a whole probably needs an overhaul this offseason.