LOLB – Charles Harris, James Crawford
LILB – Jerome Baker, Deon Lacey
RILB – Raekwon McMillan, Vince Biegel
ROLB – Sam Eguavoen, Trent Harris, Andrew Van Ginkel
Yeah, it’s pretty obvious that we have some work to do here with this unit. Mike Hull is still on the roster but not expected to return. Chase Allen is not on the roster and I don’t expect him back either. Neither of the two have been able to stay healthy and on the field. Ironically, the highest paid player of this entire bunch is the one who did the least, Charles Harris. I think there’s a very good chance we cut the cord with Harris and maybe he finds himself somewhere else, but it’s clear it’s not happening here in Miami.
Now for the good and promising. Vince Biegel is a RFA, and Biegel wants to return to Miami. I’m pretty sure that gets done as the feelings are mutual. Jermome Baker has been great, if not not great than very good. He’s the real deal. Raekwon bounced back nicely in 2018 after missing almost all of 2017 as a 2nd RD pick. He played all 16 games in his return in ’18 and played well. Last year he played in only 13 games starting 12. His snap count went down from 76% to 46% in 2019. His lack of speed and coverage ability and the use of defensive backs limited his chances to be on the field. He’s not a 3 down LB, but not many are. For comparison, Jerome Baker was on the field for 97% of the plays on defense. Sam Eguavoen was in on 56% which further illustrates how limited Raekwon is. That doesn’t mean he’s not valuable, but he’s a 2 down player who really needs to make his hay on early and non passing downs.
What we need going forward is to find LB’s, most likely outside LB’s that can rush the passer. Last year the lack of pass rush was pathetic. It’s really a testament to the young guys that played in the secondary that we didn’t allow 40 PPG. We did allow 31, which is unacceptable. I think we will be active in FA and the draft and start forming a semblance of a defensive roster that can get to the QB. Here’s how we might be able to do that.
I’m not going to consider FA’s that older than 29, so keep that in mind.
Dante Fowler 6’3 255 – came up with the Jaguars in ’17 but was traded to the Rams in ’18 really found success this past season in LA. He had his best season by far totaling 58 tackles (40 solo) and 11.5 sacks. We have to find players that can bring us double digit sacks. He’s only 25 and he will be expensive and really has one strong season on his resume.
Bud Dupree 6’4 269 – Dupree was drafted by the Steelers in 2015 and has been increasing his workload every year since 2017. Last season was his best playing all 16 games and totaling 68 tackles (49 solo) and recording 11.5 sacks. He played 91% of the plays last year on defense.
Vic Beasley 6’3 246 – Beasley has played 5 seasons for the Atlanta Falcons and had his best season in 2016 where he totaled 15.5 sacks. He actually hasn’t achieved double digits since then, in fact last season was his best season with 8 sacks since ’16. Still, Beasley has 37.5 sacks on his resume. He played 73% of defensive snaps last season and his 12 QB hits was his highest since ’16.
Shaq Lawson 6’3 267 – Lawson played for our division rival Bills and he’ll be 26 by the time the ’20 season starts. He’s had a decent career with Buffalo he hasn’t been stellar. Last season he totaled 6.5 sacks and 32 tackles (21 solo), but he managed to lay 18 QB hits last season up 6 from ’18. That means he’s just missing a bunch of sacks and maybe someone needs to find a way to get him even closer and faster to the QB. He played only 47% of the defensive snaps last season.
Shaq Barrett 6’2 250 – Barrett was drafted by the Broncos in 2014 and spent 5 seasons with Denver. Last year playing for Tampa Bay in the NFC was an awakening. Barrett came into that season with 14 career sacks and he more than doubled his total with 19.5 sacks last season. Barrett totaled 58 tackles (45 solo) along with a ridiculous 37 QB hits. This guy is always around the QB!!! Barrett played in a career high 79% of the defensive plays last season.
Besides Free Agency, there will be the draft as well, and there are definitely prospects that can help our team. Here are a few that we might consider. Just like the free agents, some of these guys have played both DE and OLB. Isaiah Simmons will be the first LB off the board and we should have a shot at him at #5. I don’t expect that, but who knows? K’Lavon Chaisson is a hybrid guy who has potential and may be around for our 2nd pick at #18. I’m leaving out Chase Young because he would require a trade up. A.J. Epenesa is a big DE prospect at 6’6 280 but he could conceivably shed some weight to become a faster rusher from the outside. He’s a very strong player against the run. Zack Baun is another guy who has potential for us, and we should have a shot at him at #26, or possibly in the 2nd RD. He had 12.5 sacks last season for Wisconsin.
Feel free to add in some other prospects that you like . . .