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Free-agency review: Dolphins

3/16/2015

Most significant signing: Is there any question of the Miami Dolphins’ biggest acquisition this offseason? The Dolphins spent $114 million to land Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Miami needed to spend a record amount for a defensive player but landed the game-changer they've lacked for many years. Suh provides an anchor in the middle of a Miami run defense that was ranked 24th in the NFL last season. He is an elite talent at an important position and should make all the defensive players around him better. Miami now has one of the NFL’s top defensive lines with Suh, Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake, defensive tackle Earl Mitchell and defensive end Olivier Vernon.

Most significant loss: The Dolphins traded No. 1 receiver Mike Wallace and a seventh-round draft pick to the Minnesota Vikings for a fifth-round pick. It was a move essentially to dump salary and get Wallace’s strong personality out of the locker room. The beginning of the end happened in Week 17 when a sideline altercation led to Wallace being benched in the second half against the New York Jets. Wallace has been a lightning rod for opinions in South Florida. Some Dolphins fans didn't like the way Wallace expressed his unhappiness about not getting the football and his eventual benching. Others believe the coaching staff must be able to deal with some strong personalities for the sake of talent. I agree with the latter. Wallace led the Dolphins in receiving yards (862) and touchdowns (10) last season. That production needs to be replaced next season.

Biggest surprise: The Dolphins were able to find a trade partner for former starting linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and his $8.45 million salary. Not only that, Miami got tremendous value in return by acquiring wide receiver Kenny Stills from the New Orleans Saints. The Dolphins most likely planned to release Ellerbe before the trade. He played in just one game last year before suffering a season-ending hip injury. Backup linebacker Jelani Jenkins, who led Miami with 110 tackles, also shined as Ellerbe’s replacement. The Dolphins also threw in a third-round pick, which I didn’t like, but they gained extra cap room and got rid of a dispensable player. They had to take the hit somewhere.

What’s next: The current priority is figuring out what to do with tight end Charles Clay. The Dolphins placed the transition tag on Clay, which allows them to match any offers in free agency. The rival Buffalo Bills have shown plenty of interest. But there is a cat-and-mouse game going on between the two teams. The Dolphins want to see what kind of offer the Bills may put on the table, while Buffalo wants to see if Miami takes away the transition tag. It doesn't appear Miami will remove the tag anytime soon, which means Buffalo most likely must make the first move. The Dolphins also made a wise decision by signing former Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron to a two-year, $15 million contract. This is solid insurance in case Buffalo or another team overspends for Clay and provides an offer Miami isn't willing to match.