Smart Dolphins Free Agent Additions Can Positively Sway Bookmakers

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) scrambles with the ball against the Green Bay Packers during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) scrambles with the ball against the Green Bay Packers during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium.

USA TODAY Sports

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The Miami Dolphins’ collapse in the final third of the regular season was astonishing and a near-miss loss to Buffalo in the Wild-Card round of the NFL playoffs meant someone had to take the fall.

Overall, the Dolphins were 9-9, including that first-round playoff loss.

After going 1-6 in the last seven games, including a 34-31 postseason elimination at the hands of the Bills, coach Mike McDaniel needed someone to blame, and it turned out to be the defensive coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Josh Boyer and defensive assistants Steve Gregory (safeties), Ty McKenzie (outside linebackers) and Steve Ferentz (linebackers) were all let go at about the same time.

The stats indicated it wasn’t that hard of a decision. Miami was 24th in the NFL in average points allowed (23.5 points per game). It’s also worth mentioning that three of those guys, including Boyer, had been holdovers from the Brian Flores regime.

The new defensive coordinator is a familiar name, Vic Fangio, an upstate Pennsylvania guy and well-regarded NFL coaching traveler. Fangio also was being wooed by new Denver Broncos coach Sean Payton to run that team’s defense. Let’s take a look at how the Dolphins can improve in the offseason and how they are viewed by NFL betting sites well ahead of the 2023 season.

Key Offseason Issues for Dolphins

As Miami tries to get back on track, the biggest question is, of course, can they keep quarterback Tua Tagovailoa out of concussion protocols? That is not meant to be glib or insensitive. Tagovailoa’s injuries last year were downright frightening.

Despite the injuries, the gutsy quarterback had a great season, completing almost 65% of his passes for 25 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. But the man’s health must come first and any further injuries like the ones he suffered last season must be taken extremely seriously. Tua’s playoff fill-in, Skylar Thompson, was so-so in the Wild Card game (18-for-45, 220 yards, 1 TD, 2 interceptions).

Given all that, it’s not likely the Dolphins go quarterback hunting in the NFL Draft. Miami is a little short in the draft picks department. The Dolphins have no first-round selection. They do have one No. 2 (51st overall), a third rounder (No. 84) and two late picks.

A name to ponder in the draft is University of Miami defensive back Tyrique Stevenson. He’s a local player from Miami Southridge High School and, of course, he played for the Hurricanes (started 20 games). Stevenson ran a time of 4.45 seconds in the NFL Combine last week.

As far as free agency is concerned, Miami has two potential skill-position losses to consider: tight end Mike Gesicki and running back Raheem Mostert, the team’s leading rusher. With wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle combining for 194 receptions, Gesicki is expendable, and he won’t be worth as much to the Dolphins (in salary) as he will be to another team that has greater pass-catching needs.

All the above means the Miami shopping list probably will include less-glamorous positions such as offensive line and defensive backfield. Miami was 27th in the NFL in passing yards allowed. The Dolphins made a bold move over the weekend in trading with the Los Angeles Rams for top-notch cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

An attractive free-agent name who helped the Philadelphia Eagles get to the Super Bowl and would be a solid addition to the Miami secondary is safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson. The Eagles have a bunch of top free agents going on the market and they can’t keep them all, so their roster is ripe for poaching.

NFL free agency officially begins March 15 at 4 p.m. The negotiating window started on March 13 at noon.

How Do Oddsmakers Look at 2023 Dolphins?

Sports betting apps are lukewarm on the Dolphins for next season. DraftKings lists them at +3000 to win the Super Bowl (tied for 12th overall) and +1500 to win the AFC. Over at BetMGM in Massachusetts, they also have Miami at +3000 to win the Super Bowl but the sportsbook has them at +1800 to win the conference.

Looking at AFC East rivals, despite chronic playoff shortcomings, Buffalo is still among the Super Bowl favorites at BetMGM at +850 (+450 to win the AFC). That places the Bills second only to the NFL champion Kansas City Chiefs (+500, +275 in AFC) in the preseason futures derby.

Digging deeper into the NFL odds, the New York Jets are +1800 to win the Super Bowl and +1200 to win the conference, proof that hope springs eternal among New York fans.

And the once-mighty New England Patriots are believed to have the toughest time of it in the AFC East. BetMGM has New England at +6000 in Super Bowl odds and +3500 to win the conference.

Responsible Gambling

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Bill Ordine, an award-winning gambling writer, Bill Ordine was a reporter and editor in news and sports for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore Sun for 25 years.

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