5 defensive free agents the Miami Dolphins should still consider

May 9, 2024

Will the Dolphins and Chris Grier target any of these players?

Atlanta Falcons v Arizona Cardinals

It has been a productive offseason for general manager Chris Grier and the Miami Dolphins. Now it’s just a matter of time to see if the fruits of their labor pay off. This is a team that has reached the playoffs two straight years under head coach Mike McDaniel. That’s something the franchise hadn’t done since its five-year run from 1997-2001.

One of the club’s issues in recent seasons has been their fades late in the campaign. Thanks mainly to a slew of quarterback changes, the Dolphins limped down the stretch in 2022. This past season, McDaniel’s team owned a 9-3 record with five games to play. There were home losses to the Titans and Bills, the latter with the AFC East title on the line. There was also an embarrassing 56-19 loss at Baltimore in Week 17.

Miami looked lifeless at frigid Arrowhead Stadium in the Wild Card Round. A 26-7 loss meant that the ‘Fins still haven’t won a playoff game since 2000.

Back to those slumps in the latter stages of a season. Injuries to the pass-rush were a big factor this past year, and Grier addressed that in free agency and in April’s draft. Then again, the defense in general wasn’t up to the task. Some experienced leadership could certainly pay off down the stretch in the postseason if Miami is able to get there again.

Hence, here are five defensive veterans that have still not been scooped up by other teams. Some or all of these performers could aid new defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver in a big way.

5. DE Carl Lawson

In today’s NFL, the passing attack is king. That means you can’t have enough defensive players that can chase down opposing quarterbacks. No one knows more about that than McDaniel. The 2023 Dolphins were hit hard in this area late in the season and it proved very costly.

Weaver was part of a Ravens’ team that led the NFL with 60 sacks in 2023. Former Jets’ defensive end Carl Lawson was limited to only six games in 2023 and missed all of 2021 with an Achilles’ injury. However, the edge-rusher started all 17 games in 2022 and totaled seven sacks. He would make a ton of sense for Miami.

4. DT Al Woods

Grier addressed the defensive line, most notably the interior, this offseason on multiple occasions. Of course, there was a good reason for that, as Christian Wilkins left for the Las Vegas Raiders. Miami’s run defense slumped late, and in the playoffs – allowing 125-plus yards in three straight games.

Grier drafted seven players last month, and none were defensive linemen. Why not add another big body up front and spend the next few months finding the right combination? Al Woods played in only six games for the Jets this past year. The 6-4, 305-pound pro is a veteran of 13 seasons and with six different teams. He knows what it takes to get the job done.

3. OLB Tyus Bowser

Now here is a player that Weaver is fairly familiar with, despite the fact that the former University of Houston standout missed all of 2023 with a knee injury. In any case, the Baltimore Ravens released outside linebacker Tyus Bowser (a second-round pick in 2017), a 17-game starter in 2021.

Before joining the Dolphins this offseason, Weaver spent the previous three seasons on the Ravens’ staff. In ’21, Bowser logged career highs with 56 defensive stops and seven sacks. In his six years with Baltimore, he totaled 19.5 QB traps. The versatile pro picked off three passes in 2020, and can aid the special teams.

2. FS Eddie Jackson

This is a player who was available even before free agency began on March 13, and it’s a bit mystifying that he hasn’t been scooped up by now. The Chicago Bears parted ways with play-making safety Eddie Jackson in order to free up some cap space.  The seven-year pro has had some injury issues the past two seasons.

Jackson has not been the ball-hawk that he was early in his career, although he did pick off four passes in 2022. In his first four seasons, he totaled 10 interceptions and recovered six fumbles. He returned six of those 16 takeaways for scores. Jackson was a two-time Pro Bowler and earned All-Pro honors in 2018.

1. DE Calais Campbell

Last season, this reliable defender wrapped up his 16th year in the National Football League. Defensive end Calais Campbell signed with the Atlanta Falcons in 2023 and certainly made his presence felt. He started all 17 games, finished with 56 tackles and tied for the team lead with 6.5 sacks. However, even his steady play wasn’t enough to prevent the team from finishing 7-10 for the third consecutive season.

There’s been talk that the six-time Pro Bowler could return for a second year in Atlanta, this time it would be under new head coach Raheem Morris. So far, that has been nothing but chatter. In some ways, Campbell has some unfinished business with the Falcons.

A second-round pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 2008, the former University of Miami product was part of that franchise’s only Super Bowl team. After nine years in the desert, he moved on to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017, and earned All-Pro honors that season. The club reached the AFC title game, only to fall to the New England Patriots. He was traded to the Ravens, where he spent three seasons before becoming a cap casualty in 2023.

Campbell’s 105.5 sacks, 17 forced fumbles and 16 takeaways (three returned for a score) are supplemented by the fact that he’s played in 15 postseason contests (including Super Bowl XLIII) with three different franchises. That’s the kind of experience this Dolphins franchise is in dire need of.