AC In The AM: So Much Accomplished So Quickly

(Andy Cohen In the Morning – AC in the AM – will appear on during the offseason as events warrant. You can also follow AC in the AM by twitter at @acohenfins).

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It happened in a hurry. One move after another over a span of about 24 hours. The Miami Dolphins had a plan and went after it hard and fast. Prudent in their spending, decisive in their thinking. Before the end of the day last Friday, almost every glaring need had been addressed.

Now, a few days later, as we take a momentary deep breath and evaluate all that has transpired, it is apparent that things couldn’t have broken much better for the Dolphins. You look at the six new players acquired during that initial flurry and there is concrete evidence that all six will be major contributors to the 2017 team.

But there is more to it than that. The combination of re-signing their own players and taking care of so many needs early in free agency will afford the Dolphins the luxury and flexibility of going into the draft without the urgency of one or two positions dominating their decision-making. They can go for the best player on the board. They can be bold in their thinking knowing that free agency has taken care of some of their greatest concerns.

A physically gifted inside linebacker. A run-devouring defensive end. A veteran offensive guard also capable of playing center. A pair of tight ends, one a tenacious blocker, the other with big play credentials. An experienced free safety filling an important void next to Reshad Jones.

You can check each one off the “to do” list and move on to the rest of free agency knowing that, for the most part, the heavy lifting is complete.

No doubt there is more work to be done – especially on defense – and, while each of these six players arrive with a clear pedigree of success, there are no guarantees. There never is in this league. Nonetheless, if first impressions mean anything, it sure looks like the Dolphins are a whole lot better this Monday morning than they were only a few days ago.

How can you not be impressed with the work of Vice President Mike Tannenbaum, General Manager Chris Grier and Head Coach Adam Gase? How can you not appreciate the cohesiveness and the obvious trust they have in one another? With this kind of group effort, with the way Gase is embraced league-wide and with a 10-6 record as the best evidence of a franchise on the rise, selling these players on the Dolphins was no longer a formidable task.

Guess you could say they wanted here as much as here wanted them.

Or as one of the free agents put it, “you can feel the excitement in the building.”

Let’s take a closer look at these six new Dolphins, three on offense and three on defense, and what they could mean to this team:

• Linebacker Lawrence Timmons: Linebacker was perhaps the team’s biggest concern heading into free agency. Timmons appears to be exactly what they needed, a 9-year veteran who brings a physical presence, a stop-the-run mentality and a resume that includes at least 100 tackles in six of the last seven seasons, never missing a start during that time. I’m not sure how things will shake out position-wise since Timmons was playing in a 3-4 defense with the Steelers and now must adjust to a 4-3. But the guy can flat out play and provides an immediate upgrade to this defense.

• Defensive end William Hayes: The Dolphins struggled against the run last season and that happens to be where Hayes excels. Look at the numbers. There was no defensive end in the league last season more consistently productive against the run. Hayes should provide a nice compliment for Cameron Wake and Andre Branch, and is coming off a productive season with 43 tackles and five sacks. Between re-signing Branch and trading for Hayes, the Dolphins turned a concern into a positive at a position so important to this defense.

• Safety Nate Allen: With last year’s starter Isa Abdul-Quddus released after failing his physical, the Dolphins needed a starting free safety to play alongside Jones. Allen was clearly their target. His talent has never been an issue after the 37th pick in the 2010 draft started five seasons for the Eagles, producing 10 interceptions. He signed with Oakland for the 2015 season and probably wouldn’t have been available to the Dolphins if not for a knee injury suffered that season, though the concern was diminished after he put up solid numbers in 2016. A return to his pre-injury performance level would suit the Dolphins just fine.

• Tight end Julius Thomas: This had so much to do with Gase and the fact that he coached Thomas for two seasons in Denver, two Pro Bowl seasons, and the two of them share such a deep mutual respect. Thomas has the credentials to be exactly what this franchise has coveted for so long, a unique blend of size and speed capable of being as productive as any tight end in the league. I can almost see Gase’s mind already racing, thinking of ways of incorporating Thomas’ skill set into this offense. He knows him. He wanted him. That’s good enough for me.

• Tight end Anthony Fasano: As proficient as Thomas is running down the seam of a defense, Fasano is equally as proficient controlling the line of scrimmage, something we learned during his five previous seasons (2008-12) with the Dolphins. He is a relentless blocker with sure-hands and I’ve got a feeling we’re going to see plenty of Thomas and Fasano on the field together. From a major concern to what looks like a real strength, the Dolphins now appear set at tight end.

• Offensive guard Ted Larsen: Another example of exactly what the Dolphins needed to bring in, a veteran presence at guard who is flexible enough to play center. There are plenty of options with Larsen. He can play on the right side next to Ja’Wuan James or he can play on the left side next to Laremy Tunsil. He can also serve as insurance for center Mike Pouncey, who is returning after missing much of last season with a hip injury. This is a player who has started 65 games over the past seven seasons and should help give this line another important dose of stability.

Yes, it was a wild and very productive first few days of free agency. I’m not sure I can remember the last time the Dolphins acquired six players of this quality in such rapid sequence, already giving this offseason a real feeling of accomplishment even so early in the process.