Dolphins bosses Jeff Ireland and Joe Philbin sent a message with the NFL draft to the 60 players they already have on the roster: No one is safe.
The Dolphins wrapped up the draft by taking five players in the fourth through seventh rounds Saturday, including three from the Florida Gators. The Dolphins selected a total of nine players in three days, and many of them play positions at which Miami presumably has starters.
“We’re going to have great competition for the 53 spots,” said Philbin, the Dolphins’ coach.
The Dolphins took defensive end Dion Jordan No. 3 overall even though they already have Cameron Wake, Jared Odrick and Olivier Vernon. They took three cornerbacks — Jamar Taylor (second round), Will Davis (third round) and Don Jones (seventh round) — even though they already have Richard Marshall, Brent Grimes and Nolan Carroll.
They took left guard Dallas Thomas in the third round, even though they already have Richie Incognito. They took tight end Dion Sims in the fourth round, even though they already have Dustin Keller, Charles Clay and Michael Egnew.
They took weak-side linebacker Jelani Jenkins, even though they already have Koa Misi.
They added a productive running back in Florida’s Mike Gillislee, even though they already have Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas. They even drafted a kicker for the first time since 1989, taking Caleb Sturgis in the fifth round even though they already have Dan Carpenter.
And the Dolphins traded one of their most consistent veterans from the past five seasons, receiver Davone Bess, to Cleveland.
“We’ve got some depth and we’ve got some competition,” said Ireland, the Dolphins’ general manager. “There’s no doubt I feel like we’re a better football team.”
Ireland and Philbin were careful to say that the rookies won’t automatically replace the veterans.
Jenkins, a former Gator selected in the fourth round, will likely just be a special-teams player in his first season. Even Sturgis, another ex-Gator and the second kicker chosen in the draft, won’t be handed a job, although the Dolphins would save $2.7 million by cutting Carpenter.
Ireland said he likes Sturgis’ big leg — he connected on 6 of 8 kicks from 50-plus yards the last two years at Florida and hit two over 55 yards in his college career. Carpenter, meanwhile, is just 4-for-9 from 50-plus yards the last two years, and he missed three field goals early last season that cost the Dolphins victories over the New York Jets and Arizona.
“I spoke to Caleb Sturgis (and said), ‘You‘re going to learn lesson No. 1 about the realities of the NFL, and that’s competition,’ ” Philbin said.
Sims, meanwhile, fills an important need for the Dolphins as their No. 2 tight end next to Keller. A former basketball player, Sims (6-foot-5) was considered the best blocking tight end in the draft and is the only one on the Dolphins’ roster who fills that role.
Sims pleaded guilty in 2010 for his role in a computer theft ring at Michigan State. Ireland said he and his staff investigated that incident thoroughly. Sims played his senior season at 285 pounds but is down to 262.
“That’s what intrigued us. He showed some discipline in that regard,” Ireland said.
Ireland was busy during this draft, entering it with 11 picks but finishing with nine after pulling off four trades. And he still might not be done tweaking the roster as the Dolphins could investigate the veteran offensive tackles who are still available — Eric Winston, Tyson Clabo and possibly Kansas City’s Branden Albert. The Dolphins decided not to trade for Albert during the draft but still could deal for him for a 2014 draft pick.
“We’ve reshaped (the team) in some different ways, and we’re not done yet,” Ireland said. “We don’t line up and play until mid-July.”
The Dolphins also signed a handful of undrafted free agents immediately after the draft.
Per the players’ tweets and various media reports, they are: quarterback Clay Belton (Findlay); receivers Taylor Stockemer (Arkansas State), Jasper Collins (Mount Union) and Chad Bumphis (Mississippi State); running back Cameron Marshall (Arizona State); safeties Jordan Kovacs (Michigan) and Keelan Johnson (Arizona State); linebackers Alonzo Highsmith (Arkansas), Rob McCabe (Georgetown), Mike Clay (Oregon) and Brandon Ogletree (BYU); defensive end Emeka Onyenekwu (Louisiana-Lafayette); and defensive tackles Chris Burnette (Old Dominion), A.J. Francis (Maryland).
Highsmith is the son of former University of Miami star Alonzo Highsmith.