NFL Rumors: Dolphins pouncing on obvious Jaelan Phillips replacement

The Miami Dolphins' Jaelan Phillips replacement may have just hit the free agent market.

Miami Dolphins v New York Jets
Miami Dolphins v New York Jets / Rich Schultz/GettyImages

The Miami Dolphins extended their lead in the AFC East with a commanding 34-13 victory over the New York Jets on Black Friday. Unfortunately, there was little cause for a proper celebration as linebacker Jaelan Phillips went to the ground with a non-contact knee injury in the second half.

Upon replay, there was a visible shudder in Phillips' calf, which generally signals a ruptured Achilles. After the game, Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel expressed little optimism about Phillips' prognosis, saying it "doesn't look great." That was confirmed on Saturday.

The expectation is that Phillips will miss the remainder of the 2023 season, which leaves the Dolphins in need of reinforcements in the linebacker corps. Luckily, one name recently hit the open market — 2017 first-round pick Derek Barnett, whom the Philadelphia Eagles waived the day after Thanksgiving.

Now, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins have "some interest" in the 27-year-old free agent.

Dolphins could target Derek Barnett as Jaelan Phillips replacement

The Eagles cut ties with Barnett after eight 2023 appearances, in which he accrued only three tackles. Philadelphia's defensive depth was a significant obstacle for Barnett, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL he suffered on opening night. He was a full-time starter at defensive end from 2018 through 2021, but roster changes and a noticeable decline left Barnett without the reps a player of his stature is accustomed to.

While Barnett generally lines up as a defensive end, he has experience playing outside linebacker (Phillips' position) in 4-3 coverage and he spent the 2022 season under Vic Fangio, who is now the Dolphins' defensive coordinator. Barnett obviously didn't get to play much last season, but he was around the Eagles while Fangio operated as a consultant. That familiarity could help Barnett get up to speed with the Dolphins.

For his career, Barnett has 150 tackles, 76 QB hits, 21.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles in 73 games (45 starts). The No. 14 pick out of Tennessee back in 2017, Barnett has the résumé and reputation to back up an investment from the suddenly desperate Dolphins. He's probably not a one-for-one replacement for Phillips — 43 tackles, 11 QB hits, 6.5 sacks in eight games (six starts) this season — but Barnett is an experienced player with a track record of success.

Sometimes, all it takes is a change of scenery and a window of opportunity. The Dolphins' defensive front isn't nearly as deep as the Eagles.

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