There’s an old adage in the NFL that a team is only as good as its talent up the middle. Whether it’s on offense with the center and quarterback, or the defensive line, if teams aren’t able to fortify the areas where plays literally begin, it could cause problems elsewhere. Luckily for the Miami Dolphins, they have slowly been able to build their defensive line back up through some key acquisitions.
They drafted Christian Wilkins out of Clemson in the 2019 NFL Draft, and he’s done a solid job in his first two years in the league. Raekwon Davis, who the Miami Dolphins drafted in 2020, had a solid rookie season and will be looking to improve in Year 2.
Three Interior Defensive Lineman options for the Miami Dolphins
While the Miami Dolphins no longer needs an overhaul on the defensive line, Miami will likely try to add talented players at reasonable contracts in that unit to mix in with their solid foundation. Let’s examine which players general manager Chris Grier and head coach Brian Flores might take a closer look at.
Rankins is going to be an intriguing player to value come free agency. He’s a talented interior lineman, as evidenced by his first round draft pedigree in 2016, and a couple of solid seasons he was able to put together in his five-year career. In 2018 for example, he registered eight sacks from the defensive tackle position. His toughness up front could help the Miami Dolphins in the run game, and provide a boost in the pass rushing department as well.
Unfortunately for Rankins, his past two seasons have not been his healthiest ones. He’s only played an average of 35% of total snaps for the New Orleans Saints in the past two seasons, which might make him more of a rotational player in the eyes of many franchises including the Miami Dolphins.
Butler profiles as more of a middle ground option, in contrast to Rankins’ high ceiling, low floor outlook. Butler is another New England Patriot that the Miami Dolphins could look to recruit to South Florida to help add depth to their team.
Butler does not figure to be a superstar at any point in his career, but has been a reliable player for a few years. He’s only missed one game in his four-year NFL career. In addition to being an asset on the defensive line, he has also played special teams in his tenure with New England as well.
As far as reliable veterans go, Steve McLendon might be one of the most steady names available in the defensive interior. He’s been a block-absorbing, run-stopping player for 11 years, and just won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Before this year, McLendon spent six seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and four seasons with the New York Jets. He had a great campaign in 2019, tallying ten tackles for losses with the Jets. He would be a welcome veteran addition to a largely youthful Miami Dolphins defensive front.