SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Though much of the Dolphins’ heavy personnel lifting will come on defense, they intend to make a few changes to an offense that finished 26th in yards, 27th in points and 30th in third down efficiency. And those changes start with the offensive line.
Keep in mind that Mike Tannenbaum (with GM Chris Grier) remain in charge of offseason roster procurement. New coach Adam Gase will be consulted, then will have final say on who's on the team in September (though the front office assuredly will have considerable input).
What we’ve been told from inside the building:
### Guard: The Dolphins, who have been somewhat reluctant to spend much at guard in the past, now realize they will need to do what it takes to upgrade at one, if not both, guard spots.
They believe they need better guard play to compete with the formidable defensive tackles in the AFC East, and a bunch of other teams.
The Dolphins believe Dallas Thomas played a bit better than Billy Turner but thought both were inconsistent.
Pro Football Focus rated Turner 65th of 79 qualifying guards this season and Thomas 78th.
Thomas allowed 10 sacks, 10 hits and 34 hurries in 16 games; Turner relinquished eight sacks in 12 ½ games.
The Dolphins like Baltimore’s Kelechi Osemele --- the best of the impending free agent guards --- but whether they can land him depends on how high bidding goes. Osemele, one of the league’s better guards when healthy, is positioned to land a big contract after a late-season stint at left tackle.
Five other impending free agents who would be upgrades over Thomas or Turner: Denver’s Evan Mathis (rated fourth among guards by Pro Football Focus; Dolphins made him an offer in August); San Francisco’s Alex Boone (rated 39th among guards), Houston’s Brandon Brooks (35th among guards) and two veteran guards who played center this season: Houston’s Ben Jones and St. Louis’ Tim Barnes.
Though Mississippi tackle Laremy Tunsil, a projected top 10 draft pick, could play guard, it’s highly unusual to take a guard with a pick as high as Miami’s (eighth).
### Tackle: The team feels good about Branden Albert (rated 32nd among tackles by PFF) and Ja’Wuan James (rated 35th before his toe injury sidelined him nine games) but intends to find a new No. 3 tackle to replace Jason Fox (who was rated 76th).
### Running back: The Dolphins want to keep Lamar Miller, who finished tied with Adrian Peterson and DeAngelo Williams for 10th in the league in per carry average (4.5), but whether they re-sign him “depends on the economics,” according to a club official.
Translation: This comes down to his asking price and Miami won't overpay.
If Miller wants more than the Dolphins are comfortable paying, they’re prepared to move on and let Jay Ajayi compete for the starting job. They believe Ajayi (who had a 3.8 per carry average) has starter’s talent. The Dolphins don’t expect serious talks with Miller for several weeks.
If the Dolphins cannot strike a deal with Miller, free-agent options to pair with Ajayi include Doug Martin, Alfred Morris, Chris Ivory, Matt Forte, Chris Johnson, Ronnie Hillman, James Starks and LeGarrette Blount. But Miami doesn’t want to spend big here.
### Tight end: The front office still likes Jordan Cameron and will consider keeping him but with a lowering of his $7.5 million salary and $9.5 million cap hit, possibly through an extension.
But that decision won’t be made for a while, and Gase will have input on that and other offensive decisions after he reviews game tape (though Tannenbaum, with Grier's assistance, has final say).
Miami would save $7.5 million against the cap by cutting Cameron.
As one Dolphins official said: “There’s a lot to like about him, but we wish there was more production.”
Dion Sims remains an appealing backup because he’s cheap ($675,000 salary) and can block.
If the Dolphins move on from Cameron, several other tight ends with pass catching skills are prepared to hit the free-agent market: Antonio Gates, Zach Miller (played for Gase in Chicago), Coby Fleener, Ladarius Green, Jermaine Gresham, Vernon Davis and Marcedes Lewis.
### Receiver: Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills will be back, and free agent Rishard Matthews is expected to look for a prominent role elsewhere instead of settling for a potential No. 4 job here. It would be surprising if he returns.
Though he likes Miami and won't rule out a return, he said there's "a greater than lesser" chance that he will be elsewhere next season.
"I would have to be offered something I can't refuse" to stay, Matthews said.
Parker’s final six games (22-445-three touchdowns) “made me feel pretty good. Running routes is an area I want to work on. I want to get back to how it was during minicamp before my foot surgery.”
His yardage over the final six games would project to 1186 over a full season, which would have been in the top 12 in the NFL this season.
### Quarterback: Miami remains committed to Ryan Tannehill for 2016, but he cannot flop next season and expect to stick around for the big money that comes due in 2017.
Tannehill finished eighth in completions, ninth in yards and 15th in touchdown passes among all quarterbacks, but was 21st in passer rating (88.7), 24th in fourth quarter passer rating (85.1) and 23rd in third down passer rating (75.7). His 12 interceptions, while not an awful number, was 22nd among starters.
Meanwhile, Logan Thomas said Mike Tannenbaum told him he will have a legitimate chance to compete for the No. 2 job next season, which seems to leave free agent Matt Moore in doubt.
Thomas spent most of the year on the practice squad before being promoted in December when Cincinnati tried to poach him. Moore said he has no idea if Miami wants to re-sign him.
### Receiver Stacy Coley announced on Instagram today that he's returning for his senior season, bypassing the NFL draft. Coley, Braxton Berrios, Lawrence Cager and Malcolm Lewis give UM a solid top-four receiver group.
### UM people expect a lot of blitzing under new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. Consider: Over the last four seasons as a coordinator (two with Texas before his September 2013 firing, 2014 with Louisiana Tech and 2015 with Mississippi State), Diaz’s defenses had 133 sacks. Miami’s defense, during those four years, had 93.
### Lake City two-star receiver Latrell Williams told Canesport's Matt Shodell that Miami offered him a scholarship on Friday night and UM has the "upper hand" against Virginia Tech in the battle for his services.
Ron Dugans, UM's new receivers coach, had been recruiting him when Dugans was at USF, where Williams was previously committed. Williams, 5-11, has excellent speed.
### Dwyane Wade, who said he was limited late in the Utah game with a shoulder injury sustained in the third quarter, is listed by the Heat as probable for Monday's game at Golden State.
### Among several new things Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has tried: Wade said this is the first time Spoelstra ever has held multiple meetings featuring only the starters and Spoelstra.
“It’s very interesting that coach decided to do that,” Wade said. “It helped us a lot. I thought it was cool. It gave us all a chance to have a voice and listen to each other talk about what our roles are and what we feel other guys' roles are, and coach did a great job of that.”
Chris Bosh said “guys were able to get things off their chest” and adjustments were specifically made for Goran Dragic (more pick and rolls) and Whiteside (“we made some adjustments with me standing back a little more and using my shot blocking abilities more).”
Whiteside said of the meetings: “It was just saying what we expect from each other.”
The starters were a plus-nine together entering the road trip but are now at minus 4 for the season. That starting group still isn't playing consistently enough together.... Please see the last post for details and reaction from the Heat's loss in Utah on Saturday night.
### The Heat's most daunting challenge of the season comes Monday, when Miami plays a Golden State team that's 35-2 and has won 35 in a row at home (nine short of the 1995-96 Bulls' record).
Eventually, history will judge how these Warriors --- coming off their first Finals appearance --- will compare to the Big Three Heat team that made four Finals and won two.
“With us, it was so different,” Chris Bosh said late Saturday night. “They were built different. We came together different. The story is still so much story to be told. They’re just now getting started, really.
“They’ve got a nemesis out there in San Antonio. That’s how it always happens. I’m sure there’s another team out there that’s going to give them a run, like L.A. or Dallas or something like that. It’s quite compelling.”
### Zac Taylor, who finished the season as the Dolphins' offensive play-caller, will become the offensive coordinator at the University of Cincinnati, according to footballscoop.com.
### The Marlins called to express interest in pitcher Yasiel Sierra, a 24-year-old Cuban defector with a fastball that reaches 96, according to an involved party.
The team's pursuit of pitching is still ongoing, with Fox noting continued interest in Baltimore free agent Wei-Yin Chen, who was 11-8 with a 3.34 ERA last season and is a No. 2 caliber starter.
### To increase offense on balls hit to “the Bermuda Triangle,” the Marlins say they are bringing in the center field wall from 418 feet to 407 and lowering the center field wall from 13.5 feet to 8.5.
### Though Panthers home attendance has increased from a league-worst 11,265 average last season to 14,033 (27th, 82.4 percent capacity), Panthers co-owner Doug Cifu said: “If we can expand to 17,000, that’s what we’re looking for. We have a hardcore 10,000 to 11,000 fans.
"We don’t need to be in the top five in attendance. It’s not a religion here. I get it. [But] we need to be somewhere in the middle of the pack.”