The Miami Dolphins have added three veteran defensive players in the free agent period: Mario Williams, Byron Maxwell, and Kiko Alonso. This article discusses whether this is the beginning of a turnaround for the Miami Dolphins, or whether the Williams free agent signing and the Maxwell/Alonso trade are another example of the Dolphins spinning their wheels.
It’s no secret: Howie Roseman has been unloading Chip Kelly’s players from the Philadelphia Eagles. That talent unload allowed the Miami Dolphins to collect a couple of defenders, both of whom come with question marks. The signing of Mario Williams to a player-friendly contract should give the Dolphins Defense a better pass rush — something they definitely needed after Olivier Vernon signed a blockbuster deal with the New York Giants.
Let’s start with the more controversial or question-filled move of the two: the trade for Maxwell and Alonso. This move got a lot of criticism from NFL observers, but it has the potential to start changing the Dolphins’ locker room culture.
Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso Traded to Dolphins
The Philadelphia Eagles have traded Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso to the Miami Dolphins for the right to flip picks in the 1st round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Ultimately, the Eagles move up into the Top 10, while the Dolphins move down to the 13th overall pick, while adding two veteran defensive starters.
The early buzz is the Eagles pulled off a major coup, simply getting rid of the Maxwell and Alonso contracts. People believed Byron Maxwell to be overrated and inconsistent, while Kiko Alonso is unreliable, due to injuries and other off-field concerns. Both could be valuable players in the right situation, but it’s amazing a team would take their salaries and drawbacks in exchange for any alteration to their 1st round selection process.
Trade Nearly Didn’t Happen
The trade which would send cornerback Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso to the Miami Dolphins appears to be active again. If completed, the Dolphins would acquire Maxwell and Alonso from the Philadelphia Eagles. In exchange, the Eagles would move from the #13 pick to the 8th pick in the 1st round, while the Dolphins would correspondingly move down 5 spots in the 1st round.
Due to an injury to Eagles cornerback Byron Maxwell, the trade between the Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles was rumored to be a dead letter. The Dolphins were said to be “gathering information” on the Maxwell injury.
Shedding Byron Maxwell’s Contract
The Eagles appear to be out from under the weight of the six-year, $63 million contract Byron Maxwell contract. An injury to the former Seattle Seahawks cornerback might keep it from happening. NFL pundits are likely to think the injury is saving the Dolphins in this case.
Yesterday, the trade was said to be off, but Maxwell’s agent, Alvin Keels, said this morning it was once again going to happen. Whatever the concerns the Fins had, it no longer is an issue.
Former Super Bowl Defensive Back
Byron Maxwell was the cornerback on the other side of the field from Richard Marshall during the Seahawks’ two Super Bowl runs. Maxwell had good numbers in that time, because he was on a unit with 3 Pro Bowlers (Marshall, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas). Because he was opposite of Marshall, he often played the opposing team’s 2nd receiver and often received double-team help (from a Pro Bowl safety).
Under the circumstances, Maxwell flourished. But as one NFL media member said recently, Peter King said during Super Bowl LIX, “Someone’s going to overpay in free agency for Byron Maxwell.”
Sending away 2 Disastrous Chip Kelly Decisions
That team ended up being the Philadelphia Eagles, led by Chip Kelly at the time. The huge contract became an albatross last year, as Maxwell racked up 2 interceptions and 64 tackles in an inconsistent season.
Kiko Alonso had a second injury-prone, unsuccessful season in 2015. The 3-year veteran has a stellar rookie season in 2013, leading the Buffalo Bills in tackles and piling up huge IDP stats in fantasy. Then he tore an ACL in 2014, got traded straight-up for LeSean McCoy in 2015, and amassed only 44 tackles to justify that trade.
Mario Williams Free Agent Signing
Mario Williams signed a free agent contract with the Miami Dolphins for 2 years and $17 million. The deal was described by the Miami Herald as a “team-friendly contract”, because it allows the Dolphins to escape from its terms for $2 million in dead money, if they walk away from the deal in 2017.
This could very likely be a one-year deal, because the base salary in 2017 is $8 million+ with incentives for $20 million. While Mario Williams would have to be close to the Defensive Player of the Year to reach those numbers, he’s going to need to become a vital cog in the defense to justify the $8 million price tag next year.
Still, Mario Williams is still only 31 in a league when pass rushers can still get to the quarterback into their mid-thirties. Mario Williams has shown he can be a versatile defensive player, as he’s played both 4-3 defensive end and 3-4 outside linebacker in the last several seasons.
Defensive end in the Dolphins’ 4-3 Defense is his natural position. The team has to figure out what it’s going to do with Cameron Wake and former 1st round pick Dion Sims. After letting Olivier Vernon go in free agency — for a massive contract to the New York Giants — this is a good plug-and-play free agent deal.
Isa Abdul-Quddus Signs with the Miami Dolphins
In late-breaking news, 5-year veteran safety Isa Abdul-Quddus has signed a $12.75 million, three-year contract with the Dolphins. Isa Abdul-Quddus was a starter for the Detroit Lions, before his signing.
Outlook for the Philadelphia Eagles:
This is a recurring theme for the Philadelphia Eagles, but this represents a chance to sculpt their roster by simply purging it off Chip Kelly additions. One gets the idea there is a psychological component to Howie Roseman trading all the players Chip Kelly added last year. Howie Roseman was the Eagles GM who hired Chip Kelly, but he lost a power struggle in the 2015 offseason and the former Eagles coach became the GM. Chip Kelly even had Howie Roseman’s office moved from the Eagles’ training facility to some accounting center.
Now, Chip Kelly left town under a cloud and Jeffrey Lurie repented; Howie Roseman is now the Eagles’ GM once again. He wasted no time in getting rid of the 2015 additions. If the idea is to get rid of big contracts and ill-fitting pieces, then these moves should be lauded. The Byron Maxwell and Demarco Murray contracts were massive burdens on the Eagles’ salary cap.
At the same time, one has to realize that three starters were traded away and no player additions were made. The Eagles still have the same number of draft picks them had before the trades, though they did move up a bit in a couple of rounds.
Prediction for the Miami Dolphins:
The Dolphins have added 3 veteran defensive players in the first two days of free agency. These moves have bolstered all three units on the team. If Mario Williams and Kiko Alonso can stay healthy, they should be able to help the Dolphins improve their defense.
Now that Mario Williams is past 30, playing at his natural defensive end position is key to his health. It was always a little unstable that a 6’7″ lineman might be dropping back in pass coverage sometimes. It’s my feeling that playing outside linebacker has contributed to his injuries in his time with the Buffalo Bills. When he was healthy, the Bills were a very good defense the past couple of years.
Williams’ former Bills teammate sits at a crucial point in his career. Can Kiko Alonso prove that the 21 missed games in 2014 and 2015 were a fluke? Can he show that the breakout, stellar rookie season wasn’t a fluke? Or is he going to go down the road of Sean Lee: great for the four games a year he’s healthy? It should help having beefy defensive tackles like Ndamukong Suh in front of him.
Any one of these moves is not a difference-maker. That being said, if the Dolphins can keep adding solid veteran players and those players stay healthy, it should help create a more veteran and responsible team. I remember the year Bill Belichick first took the New England Patriots to the Super Bowl. In the offseason, the Patriots signed something like 17 veteran free agents.
Most of those players were not marquee names. They were solid veterans like Bryan Cox, Mike Vrabel, David Patten, Larry Izzo, Roman Phifer, Terrell Buckley, Marc Edwards, and Antowain Smith. While no one player turned the Patriots around, the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. A new culture was established in New England. Hopefully, the Dolphins can do the same with these trades and signings.