Lawrence Timmons had a down year by his standards in 2017. His 84 tackles last season marked the first time in the past six seasons the 11-year veteran recorded fewer than 100 tackles.
Timmons, 31 clearly has at least three more years of good football left in him, but Miami would be wise to take a look at improving their athleticism at the second level of their defense.
If the Dolphins choose to part ways with Timmons, they could elect to fill the void via free agency, but there are also linebackers available in the draft that are fits for Miami at strongside linebacker:
Tremaine Edmonds, Virginia Tech
Edmonds is billed as a middle linebacker but he is one of the rare linebackers capable of playing all three spots. At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Edmonds flows effortlessly to the ball carrier and is well adept at dropping into coverage. He’s proven capable of mirroring running backs and he’s not afraid to engage offensive linemen and use his length to get off of blocks. While he needs to be more consistent reading his keys, he has athleticism that simply cannot be taught.
Malik Jefferson, Texas
Jefferson is another supremely athletic linebacker with speed to burn, but he matches athleticism with instincts. He’s always around the football and uses his speed to keep offensive linemen off of him. He plays strong at the point of attack and has the will to continue hunting the ball carrier — even when the play goes away from him. His 110 tackles and four sacks in 2017 are emblematic of his relentless motor.
Uchenna Nwosu, USC
Miami runs a great deal of fire-zone blitzes on obvious passing downs, which means that an outside linebacker rushes the passer and a defensive end likely drops into coverage. Nwosu is a pass-rusher who has the requisite athleticism to function as a strongside linebacker, making him an ideal fit for the Dolphins. Bringing in a linebacker who can cover and rush the passer gives Miami a wealth of options on third downs.
Lorenzo Carter, Georgia
At 6-foot-6, 242 pounds, Carter is another ideal fit for the Miami Dolphins. He was primarily used as a rush end for the Bulldogs, but he has the athleticism to drop into coverage and flow to the football against the run. While he was rarely asked to cover one-on-one, his length shrinks passing windows, and his ability to bring speed off the edge will stymie right tackles who lack foot speed to stay in front of him.
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
Okoronkwo is a very unique linebacker in the sense that he’s capable of rushing the passer, playing the run and covering tight ends vertically down the field. While rushing the passer, Okoronkwo has demonstrated the ability to execute a dazzling spin move, which has rendered plenty of Big XII offensive tackles incapable of stopping him. His quickness off the ball on passing downs, and ability to drop into coverage one-on-one makes him an ideal fit in Miami.