Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores can take pride in the culture he’s established in just two seasons with the team. During his first campaign in 2019, the Dolphins finished dead last in the NFL in sacks, bringing down the opposing quarterback only 23 times. In 2020, Miami was much more respectable and effective rushing the passer, registering 41 sacks through the season.
While the Miami Dolphins had a better statistical output creating pressure in 2020, they did not have one player who dominated in that department. Defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah led the team with 9 sacks, while linebackers Jerome Baker and Kyle Van Noy tallied 7 and 6 sacks respectively.
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Miami can continue to use a pressure by committee approach in 2021. But to qualify for the postseason next year, they need to bring in an individual difference-making talent that can harass the opposing quarterback. Which free agent pass rushers could fit with the Miami Dolphins?
#3 Justin Houston
There are few players in the NFL right now who have a better track record of pressuring the quarterback than Justin Houston. Houston spent the first 8 years of his career with the Kansas City Chiefs, and put up a 22 sack season back in 2014. He spent the most recent two years of his career with the Indianapolis Colts, compiling a total of 19 sacks in that time frame.
At 32 years of age, Houston is probably past his prime, but he is still one of the best situational pass rushers in the game. He is unlikely to see much work on first or second down, but could make a huge impact in third and long situations. The Miami Dolphins already had success with a former Chiefs defensive lineman in Ogbah, and could go that route again this offseason.
#2 Romeo Okwara
Okwara will be one of the more interesting cases in the pass rushing market this offseason. He’s been in the NFL for 5 seasons—the first two of which were with the New York Giants, and the last three with the Detroit Lions.
Over the first four seasons of his career, he posted a total of 10 sacks combined. In 2020 alone, Okwara doubled his career sack total, adding 10 more for a Lions defense that was not highly regarded.
So which player can teams expect to get in 2021? It’s unclear if he’s turned a corner as a player, but Okwara is not surrounded by as much fanfare as other pass rushers in this class (such as Houston, J.J. Watt or Yannick Ngakoue). If the Miami Dolphins don’t want to get into a bidding war for those greater known players, they could offer Okwara a lesser deal.
#1 Ryan Kerrigan
Unfortunately for Kerrigan, his very solid career has gone largely unnoticed playing for the Washington Football Team. Since coming into the league in 2011, he has accrued 95.5 sacks. For perspective, that is more than Warren Sapp had in his entire career, or the much more highly regarded Cameron Jordan has totaled to date in his time in the NFL.
While Kerrigan’s two lowest sack total seasons have come in 2019 and 2020, he could be a prime candidate for a statistical resurgence with a new team and coaching staff. Like Houston, Kerrigan would likely only be used as a situational player, which could keep him fresh and make him an important addition for the Miami Dolphins. He also won’t cost an arm and a leg, which Ngakoue, Trey Hendrickson, and J.J. Watt might.