When long-time New England Patriots assistant Brian Flores took over as the Miami Dolphins’ new head coach in 2019, he immediately started to import some culture from his former team. He brought assistant coaches with him and also started signing players who previously worked with the Patriots.
The New England-South Beach pipeline was only getting set up during Flores’ first year at the job: defensive backs Eric Rowe, Aqib Talib and Ken Webster were the most prominent ex-Patriots brought in that season — all players who either had played a limited role as of late or, in Talib’s case, had not been with the organization for quite some time. Nonetheless, it was clear that Flores valued players he had worked with before.
It was therefore no surprise to see the Dolphins become far more aggressive one year later. During the 2020 free agency period, they managed to sign three former Patriots: linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts as well as center Ted Karras all decided to join the former New England assistant.
While all of their futures are uncertain heading into the 2021 league year — Van Noy was a surprise cut recently while both Roberts and Karras are unrestricted free agents again — the team is expected to stay on its current course: according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Miami will once again pursue multiple Patriots free agents once the NFL’s legal tampering period starts next Monday.
So, who could be the team’s targets this time around? While no player cannot be ruled out, the composition of the Dolphins’ current roster in combination with the team’s $33.5 million in salary cap space limits the options to a handful of players.
Expected to be among them are center David Andrews, defensive tackles Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler and Deatrich Wise Jr, and quarterback Brian Hoyer. All but Hoyer played prominent roles on the 2020 Patriots.
Andrews served as New England’s starting center after he sat out the 2019 season due to blood clots in his lungs. The long-time team captain started 12 of the team’s 16 games and was an integral member of one of the best offensive lines in the game. With fellow starting lineman Joe Thuney also headed towards free agency and projected to leave the Patriots, trying to keep Andrews should be a priority fo the team.
As for the three defensive linemen the Dolphins are expected to inquire about, they led the position group in snaps last year. Deatrich Wise Jr. (55.6% defensive playing time share) looked good as an interior pass rusher but was more inconsistent against the run; Lawrence Guy (49.5%) and Adam Butler (47.3%) were again productive but also slowed down at times due to injury. Still, they all were valuable members of the team’s defense in 2020.
Out of those five players, Butler will likely command the biggest contract in free agency. Still relatively young at 26 years old, the former undrafted free agent is just entering his prime after playing some strong football during his four seasons in New England. He therefore is a realistic candidate to price himself out of the Patriots’ comfort zone.
As for Andrews and Guy, the two team captains are slightly older than Butler — they will turn 28 and 31 later this year, respectively — but can still be foundational players for the Patriots due to their experience and roles. The Patriots will likely try to keep them even if they are allowed to test the market first.
From a financial perspective, the team should be able to do that. While New England had limited resources available when it lost Van Noy, Roberts and Karras to the Dolphins last year, the team is among the league leaders in salary cap space this offseason: the Patriots are currently $64.5 million under the cap, according to Miguel Benzan.