Season grade: Below average. Miami entered 2017 with high expectations following a 10-win season in 2016. The Dolphins had the playoffs in mind once again with several additions and another year in coach Adam Gase's system. But despite getting off to a 4-2 start, the Dolphins fell short for several reasons, including injuries, off-field distractions and a rotating door at quarterback.
Season in review: Miami's season had a dark cloud hanging over it from the beginning when franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first week of training camp. It was a noncontact, freak injury that set the table for a rash of unpredictable events that plagued the Dolphins. Jay Cutler turned out to be an inconsistent and injury-prone replacement that cost the team $10 million. In addition to Tannehill's injury, Miami had to deal with a series of wild events off the field that included outside linebacker Lawrence Timmons briefly going AWOL, former offensive line coach Chris Foerster resigning after a video surfaced on social media of him snorting a white substance, and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga getting arrested and then released by the team in November. The multiple hits on and off the field were too much for the Dolphins to overcome. They were never able to put it together.
Biggest play of the season: There was no singular play that defined Miami's season. But there was one quarter during its five-game losing streak that essentially marked the end of Miami's playoff hopes. In Week 11, the Dolphins were outscored 17-0 at home by Tampa Bay in the second quarter that led to their 30-20 loss. The ugly defeat to a bad Bucs team dropped Miami to 4-6 and was a watershed moment when even the Dolphins realized they weren't a good team.
He said it: "I feel like we've let a lot of things slip through our fingers and that's where we've got to understand, when you're a young player, sometimes you forget how valuable every game is. We do have a lot of young guys that have to learn how to prepare each week, because you never know when that's going to be the week that changes your season one way or the other." -- Dolphins coach Adam Gase
Key offseason questions
Biggest draft need: Miami needs help on the offensive line. The Dolphins might need as many as three new starters for 2018. Both guard positions are wide open, and starting right tackle Ja'Wuan James, who suffered a season-ending hamstring injury, is due approximately $9 million in a fifth-year option that is not guaranteed. It is questionable if Miami will honor that after another injury-plagued season.
Free-agency targets: Miami's biggest free-agent target is in-house. Two-time Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry is due to become an unrestricted free agent in March. The Dolphins couldn't reach an agreement with Landry last offseason and now must pay up or lose him. The Dolphins also could use free agency to address the offensive line. Some early potential targets include guards Gabe Jackson and Justin Pugh.
Miami's future at quarterback: The Dolphins invested approximately $30 million into their quarterback position this season. That is a lot of money for one position that underproduced. Cutler probably isn't coming back. Miami will probably keep Tannehill for next season, assuming his knee rehab remains on track. Tannehill is due approximately $17.5 million next season. He will be 30 next July and, health permitting, could still have some quality football left in him.
What about running back? The Dolphins made a bold move at the trade deadline to ship starting tailback Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles. That left Miami with unproven backs Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake for the rest of the season. The trade helped Drake find his footing as a starter. He rushed for 644 yards this season and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. Drake earned the confidence in Miami's coaching staff as a potential starter next season, but the team also will add help to the overall tailback group.