April 20, 2015

Cameron, Stills also present at Miami Dolphins offseason program

The big news today was always going to be whether Ndamukong Suh would show up for the start of the Miami Dolphins offseason conditioning program because of his history for not doing so with the Detroit Lions. And we have that answer.

Suh told the team's website he arrived for work at 5:45 a.m.

The new news is that Suh was joined today by two more recent and important additions to the roster: Tight end Jordan Cameron and wide receiver Kenny Stills.

I am told both Cameron and Stills showed up and worked during the voluntary program.

And that's a good start for the three biggest additions to the Miami roster so far this offseason. The last thing any team needs is drama about such a mundane thing as some prominent player skipping offseason conditioning.

These three new Dolphins definitely avoided that drama today.

Mike Pouncey, the team's newly minted $45 million center, also attended today.

Ndamukong Suh present for Miami Dolphins offseason program

One of the recurring frustrations for the Detroit Lions while Ndamukong Suh was with that team was his penchant for skipping the offseason program.

He preferred to stay home and work out with a personal trainer.

His preferences have changed, apparently.

I'm told Suh is present and accounted for on the first day of the Miami Dolphins offseason program on Monday. So not only is he attending, which he rarely did in Detroit, but he's in for Day One.

Joe Philbin was previously non-committal about Suh attending when the coach was asked about at the NFL owners meetings.

“Yeah, we talked. We’ll see how things go and we’ve talked," Philbin said at the time. "He knows how important the offseason program is. We’ve had great attendance at our offseason program every year. That being said, it’s voluntary and none of the players have to be at the offseason program until the mandatory minicamp."

Yeah, voluntary.

Philbin and the Dolphins obviously wanted Suh in their facility in Davie and working with his new teammates, at least in his first offseason after signing his six-year, $114 million contract. It simply is a better look when the team's highest-paid player seems enthusiastic about the assignment of the day.

The offseason program starts with strength work. Suh doesn't need that a lot. There is no onfield work from coaches for the first two weeks.

But the program is about building team chemistry as well as muscles and endurance. And In that regard, Suh is off to a good start.

He obviously understands that first impressions matter.

 

April 17, 2015

DeVante Parker may only be a dream for Dolphins

Projections, rumors, speculation, smokescreens, and yes, lies.

That's the NFL's draft season.

And so take this for what you deem it worth (no jokes, funny boys):

In talking to multiple NFL personnel department sources, the buttlescut I keep hearing is that Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker is clearly a top 10 talent in this draft.

And Parker will not be on the board when the Miami Dolphins pick at No. 14 in the first round.

I hear that St. Louis, drafting No. 10 and needing to add talent because, well, Kenny Britt ain't it, is a strong possibility. I hear Minnesota, whose quarterback is a former Parker teammate at Louisville where the two players had great chemistry, is also a strong possibility.

This, mind you, after Alabama's Amari Cooper and West Virginia's Kevin White are receivers picked ahead of Cooper in the first round.

So where would that leave the receiver-needy Dolphins?

Perhaps Breshard Perriman from UCF or Sammie Coates from Auburn become more serious options.

Or ...

Take a cornerback in the first round -- such as Trae Waynes if he's available -- and then a receiver in the second round is the way to go.

Or ...

Trade down for a lower-graded talent (Coates, Ohio State's Devin Smith) and an extra pick is an option.

Or ...

Trade up to be in position to grab Parker is the way to go. This, by the way, is hard to do for a team that already yielded its third-round to New Orleans for Kenny Stills.

Or ...

Go away from the obvious needs at wide receiver and cornerback and address the guard position because Dallas Thomas really shouldn't be penciled in as anyone's starter or BAP (best available player, such as running back Todd Gurley).

The possibilities are all over the board.

And the Dolphins will have to consider all of them if, indeed, Parker is gone by the time No. 14 overall rolls around in the NFL draft.

 

 

April 15, 2015

Cameron Wake: 'Work to do before we start crowning ourselves'

The Miami Dolphins defensive line this offseason made a leap to one of the most elite units in the NFL because, well, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh joined Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake, ascending youngster Olivier Vernon, and solid veteran defensive tackle Earl Mitchell.

So yes, everyone is assuming this foursome can be fearsome in 2015.

But excuse Wake if he's not making that assumption.

"One side of my brain is jumping up and down like a little girl," Wake said Wednesday while discussing the Miami defensive line's prospects and other topics. "The other side is thinking all that is down the line. We have to get on the same page and make sure it happens that way.

"You know me, whatever can help us improve and be better overall, I'm all for," Wake added in discussing Suh. "He's going to help us, no doubt about that. But I don't count my chickens. Words don't mean anything. Big contracts don't mean anything. It's all about chemistry and trust and confidence we have in one another and the results we get on the field. When we know what's going on out there, then we can talk about what team has the best defensive line or what player is the best addition this offseason."

Wake had dinner with Suh after he signed and he's excited about the addition. But he has a message for fans or media already saying Miami's defensive line is great and habitually will be trouble for AFC East quarterbacks.

"We have a little work to do before we start crowning ourselves," Wake said.

Wake recognizes the Patriots won the Super Bowl, and the New York Jets got better this offseason, and the Buffalo Bills got better this offseason.

"For a long time, I've spoken about this [division] and how it's a bear -- which is a good word to use. We'll beat the Patriots, then Pats beat us, then we'll beat the Bills and Jets will beat us. Everybody is getting after everybody. It's always going to be a game in this division; it doesn't matter how good a team is or how bad a record it has.

"I didn't keep up with what happened in the offseason at first, but then I started looking at it and I think we've made some pretty strong moves, but you also see the other teams have signed former pro bowl players and improved as well.

"It's a strong, strong division. This season is going to be another one of those seasons where any game that is played within this division is going to be a hell of game."

It's good that Wake is looking ahead to 2015 because the finish to 2014, indeed the Dolphins finish the past two seasons, has disappointed him.

The Dolphins lost two of the final three games last season and lost their final two games in 2013. Two of those losses came against teams the Dolphins had beaten previously in the same season.

So why can't Miami finish strong ... in some games (such as Denver, Detroit and Green Bay last year) or in seasons (as in the past two)?

"If I had the answer to that question, my pay grade would be different," Wake said. "Whatever it is, not being able to pinpoint whether it happens in a game or a season or whatever, it is definitely frustrating," Wake said. "Very frustrating.

"You have the ability, you show you can do it for most of a game or a season and then you fall short. That is more frustrating to being completely out of it or not being able to compete. And then throughout the season it came down to one play or one missed tackle. To me it's always been my goal to improve upon what we've done. We have to improve on that."

Wake is 33 years old now. He is about to begin his seventh season in Miami. And that means he's feeling a good amount of urgency because he sees the window of opportunity closing eventually.

"Yeah, that would be an understatement," he said. "That feeling didn't start yesterday; it's something I felt my first few years of playing. The average NFL career is only three years and my life expectancy in the NFL is well beyond what the norm is.

"So I feel it."

The only way the Dolphins are going to be improve now that the meaty portion of free agency is over is through the draft or in an unexpected trade.

Wake is excited about the coming NFL draft and has been exchanging ideas with fans on his twitter handle (@Kold91) on the topic. He's doing this because he has teamed up with Publix and Procter and Gamble ahead of the draft to show how P&G products such as Tide, Downy and Charmin are the solution for all home needs. (If you want to participate check out the P&G Tackle Everything Sweepstakes).

For the Dolphins on-field needs, he is polling fans to see what position should be addressed at the 2015 NFL Draft.

So what does he want to see the Dolphins do in the draft?

"I'm one of those guys, to be honest, before the draft I don't pay too much attention what's going on," Wake said. "I don't count my chickens before they hatch. Whoever it is, they have to have that thing. They have to be able to jump in and make a splash, definitely work hard because we don't tolerate when a guy doesn't."

April 14, 2015

Melvin Gordon to visit Dolphins next week

Player visits make my eyes glaze over because sometimes they matter and often they don't. They are a way to fill space mostly and give you something to discuss.

But today's report from the Fort Worth Star Telegram that Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon is scheduled to visit the Dolphins April 22 (a Wednesday) opens eyes.

Firstly, the fact the Dolphins are looking at a running back and, obviously a first-rounder, speaks to the idea that the team that looked the other way on the running back position during free agency is thinking about upgrading that position in the draft.

That's good because this draft is considered a good one for running backs.

Secondly, it is clear that the team is doing intense study on Gordon, and likely other running backs, because maybe, just maybe, the idea of adding a wide receiver or cornerback in the first round is a good one -- but circumstance may not allow it.

What circumstance?

Everyone knows the Dolphins like Alabama's Amari Cooper, West Virginia's Kevin White and Louisville's DeVante Parker. Many also believe Cooper and White will be gone before the Dolphins pick and one scout told me this week he thinks Parker will be gone by No. 14 as well.

So what do the Dolphins do if the top three WR prospects are off the board at No. 14?

Cornerback. Maybe Michigan State's Trae Waynes. Maybe LSU's Jalen Collins.

Waynes is worthy of a No. 14 pick. The question is would Collins be worthy that high?

If he is, the Dolphins pick him. The team showed last draft with Ja'Wuan James that it has no issue picking a player in the first round most pundits don't believe is worthy of a first-round pick.

But to gauge that, to make that decision, the Dolphins would have to weigh a Collins versus other players equal or perhaps more worthy of that pick. They would have to weigh players at other positions worthy of that pick to see if they are more worthy, thus offering more value.

Thus ...

Melvin Gordon's visit.

 

 

Michael Crabtree to Oakland decision puzzles

Michael Crabtree has not been as explosive in the one-and-a-half seasons since tearing an Achilles' as he was before the injury but that didn't stop the Oakland Raiders from signing the unrestricted free agent wide receiver Monday evening.

Crabtree announced he's joining the Raiders on Twitter and ESPN reported the deal is for one year and $3 million with another $2 million in incentives.

And this beats the Miami offer to Crabtree how?

The taxes in California -- approximately 13 percent for someone in Crabtree's bracket -- will make the player's real money effectively a $2.64 million payday for the year.

The Dolphins, boosted by the fact Florida unlike California has no state tax, could not do better than $2.64 million on a one-year deal for the best receiver (according to pundits) left in a fading veteran wide receiver market?

They obviously could offer a better chance to win than the Raiders.

The Raiders, meanwhile, probably are offering a more explicit explanation of Crabtree's role. He will likely be the Raiders No. 2 wide receiver. In Miami, as I've explained multiple times in this space, he could be among the top three options or as low as No. 4, depending on what happens in the draft.

The point is Crabtree weighed his options and decided staying in the Bay Area, obviously another factor favoring Oakland, was the right way to go.

So where does that leave the Dolphins?

They still have not visited with Hakeem Nicks. They still have not visited with Reggie Wayne that we know of -- the team does not have to report visits with street free agents.

The visits with Greg Jennings and Wes Welker resulted in pleasantries but no deal.

It is likely the Dolphins have a one-year, $2 million offer sitting out there for some veteran receiver. That deal probably doesn't include a lot of guaranteed money.

Whomever raises his hand first probably gets the deal.

But so far, no one is rushing to put pen to contract paper.

April 13, 2015

Mike Pouncey gets emotional at press conference

It took one question before Mike Pouncey, the Miami Dolphins newly minted center, became emotional at his press conference today.

He choked up.

And then his eyes welled up with tears.

"When I look back at my career, I could have done so many things better," Pouncey said, burying his head in his hands. "So many things I put my family through.

"I never doubted my talent on the football field. But it takes more than that."

Pouncey has had his rough moments with the Dolphins the past four years. He wore that "Free Hernandez" cap in solidarity with former University of Florida teammate Aaron Hernandez, who is on trial for murder.

Pouncey was implicated in the 2013 harassment scandal and the very next offseason tweeted that rookie Ja'Wuan James had to get him gifts. Pouncey was ripped for that and had to delete his twitter account as a result.

He recently joined his brother in a TV sitdown that ripped former teammate Mike Wallace -- an interview that garnered national attention, caused Wallace to call Pouncey, and had Pouncey backtracking to the wide receiver.

"I've never really been in any trouble," Pouncey said. "But there were little stupid things that caused problems for my family.

"It wasn't just one situation, there's just stuff I wish I would have done better."

The little stuff caused the Dolphins to think long and hard about committing to Pouncey. They held him off a year ago when he wanted an extension at that time.

But ultimately the team recognized that Pouncey is a top tier player and he is apparently aware he must stop doing little dumb things.

"It is expected" that the slips stop now that the team had made such a significant commitment, Pouncey said.

Pouncey was impressive today. The fact he recognizes his missteps and talks of avoiding them in the future is a positive step toward avoiding future issues.

Now we shall see.

And the Dolphins have indeed made a big commitment. The extension is for five years and $45 million with $22 million in guaranteed money.

Pouncey deal with Miami Dolphins: Five years, $45 million

The Miami Dolphins have officially announced Mike Pouncey's five-year contract extension that makes him the team's property through the 2020 season.

Multiple sources tell me the deal is for $45 million with $22 million in guaranteed money.

That extension annual average of $9 million per season does indeed make Pouncey the highest paid center in the NFL, as was previously reported in this space -- slightly ahead of Oakland's Rodney Hudson.

Pouncey will sign the deal this afternoon sometime.

"We are excited that we were able to sign a contract extension with Mike,” said General Manager Dennis Hickey. “He is a two-time Pro Bowler, with a team-first approach as evident by moving to guard last season while still playing a high level. We are happy that he will stay in Miami and be a key member of our offense."

 

Miami Dolphins hosting CB Zack Bowman on UFA visit

The Miami Dolphins are not necessarily looking to replace Jamar Taylor or Will Davis this offseason. But reinforce the cornerback corps so as to not have to count on either third-year veteran in 2015?

Yes.

That's why the Dolphins today are hosting unrestricted free agent cornerback Zack Bowman.

That's why the team is looking at cornerbacks such as college luminaries Trae Waynes, Kevin Johnson, and Jalen Collins (first round possibilities). And Ronald Darby, D'Joun Smith and Byron Jones (second round or later types) are on the team's radar.

Simply, the Dolphins are uncertain about what they can get from either Taylor or Davis going forward because if you look backward, the results have been mixed at best. Both Taylor and Davis have been prone to injury. And when they've been healthy -- rare so far for Taylor -- neither has distinguished himself to any great degree.

Both, entering their third season, still need much honing. But, um, three years is about as much patience as most teams have for early-round picks to show something so the spotlight is on. And in the meantime, the Dolphins are hedging their bet.

Bowman is a solid if not spectacular bet hedge.

He is a 6-foot-1, 30-year-old, seven-year, three-team veteran.  

He has started 12 games for the Giants and Bears the past two years and had five interceptions in that time so he is capable of jumping up to the starting 11 in a pinch. He had a short stint with Minnesota also in 2012.

Is he a long-term answer? No.

If the Dolphins offer him a contract, it will likely be a one-year deal. He's a stopgap. He's depth if all goes well and Taylor or Davis or a rookie develop into a starter opposite Brent Grimes.

But if all does not go well, he's a fallback guy.

April 10, 2015

Dolphins, Mike Pouncey agree to terms on contract extension

Mike Pouncey was never going anywhere because the Dolphins weren't letting a Pro Bowl player go.

He's definitely not going anywhere now as the team and center Mike Pouncey just agreed to a multi-year deal that makes him the highest paid center in the NFL, per multiple sources.

The numbers on the deal are not yet known.

But Alex Mack was previously the highest-paid center in the NFL at an average of $8.8 million and this year Rodney Hudson signed a deal that paid $8.9 million per season. Mack signed an offer sheet with Jacksonville last year which the Cleveland Browns matched.

Pouncey's deal surpasses both Mack and Hudson.

A club source confirmed this evening the team began negotiations with agent Joel Segal Thursday evening. Through the day Friday both sides exchanged offers resulting in an agreement moments ago.

Pouncey is a two-time Pro Bowl selection, including 2014 when he made the team as a guard.

April 09, 2015

Dolphins preseason schedule here (free)

The NFL today announced its preseason schedule for 2015. Sort of.

We have the games ...

The Dolphins play at Chicago the week of Aug. 13-17.

The Dolphins play at Carolina the week of Aug. 20-24.

The Dolphins host Atlanta the week of Aug. 27-30.

The Dolphins host Tampa Bay the week of Sept. 3-4.

The team will not be on national television during the preseason. The Jaguars, Bills, Raiders, Bucs, Rams and Browns will be on national TV in the preseason but not the Dolphins.

So why is this only a partial release? Well, notice neither dates nor game times are set yet. Those are still being worked out among some teams.

And so we have this.

The regular season schedule should come out in the next two weeks.

 

Miami Dolphins search for vet WR now a shot in the dark

The Miami Dolphins search for a veteran wide receiver is not over.

After Michael Crabtree, Greg Jennings and Wes Welker came and went on free agent visits the past three weeks, the team has not yet landed the player it wants for a, well, evolving role that it is offering.

So it only makes sense for that search to continue, no?

Why haven't the Dolphins visited with Reggie Wayne?

Why not Hakim Nicks?

Lance Moore?

How about Robert Meachem in a grand scheme to visit or trade for every former New Orleans Saints receiver on the market?

Look, the Dolphins are not getting an elite player now. Crabtree is considered to be the best of the bunch based on his age and prior production. But he views himself a No. 1 wide receiver worthy of No. 1 wide receiver money.

That's perhaps $5-$6 million annual average salary with multiple years of guaranteed money at this point. The Dolphins don't see it that way. They see him as a $2-$4 million annual average salary guy with perhaps one year of guaranteed money.

All the other names you've read in the previous paragraphs?

Regardless of what you think of their history, the best (Jennings) is no more than a $2 million a year guy and the others -- Welker, Wayne, Moore, Meachem -- might deserve minimum salary one-year deals with incentive packages in case they unexpectedly play a big role.

This should help you see why no one is rushing to sign. And why the Dolphins have not rushed to sign anyone.

Nicks is interesting. He's 27 years old. He is not as fast as he used to be. He has been brittle throughout his career. He has not been super productive lately, catching only 38 passes for 405 yards and four TDs last year.

But did I mention he's only 27? Maybe he surprises. Maybe.

Reggie Wayne is a wild card. I'm certain he's working to get healthy. He was not healthy last year but that's often the case when the NFL body reaches 36 years old. I'm certain he wants to play for a winner, which may mean the Dolphins don't qualify in his mind based on no playoffs since 2008.

But he did play at the University of Miami. And he was productive last year -- 64 catches for 779 yards and two TDs although he clearly ran out of gas toward the end of the season.

Hey, it's a shot in the dark.

That's where the Dolphins are right now in trying to fill their uncertain available role: In the dark.

 

April 08, 2015

Dolphins dip toe in the water on Wes Welker

I love Wes Welker.

I respect that he is a small man (5-foot-9) in a big man's game and has overcome that size disparity. I love that he plays with fire and passion. I love that when other people and teams told him he wasn't good enough, he fought on and proved he is good enough.

I also love that he is a good leader, excellent in the locker room, willing blocker, and that he conducted the most genius press conference I've ever seen by an NFL player.

(More on that press conference in a minute).

But ...

... What are the Dolphins thinking by hosting him as a free agent today?

What is the point?

Welker, 33, is a slot wide receiver. He was a slot wide receiver when he played for the Dolphins back in 2004-06. He was a slot wide receiver for the Patriots for six seasons. He was a slot wide receiver for the Denver Broncos the past two seasons.

In and out of his prime, Wes Welker is a slot wide receiver.

And the Dolphins have a very good slot wide receiver in Jarvis Landry, who is about to start his second NFL season.

So what is the point of Wes Welker?

The Dolphins need an outside receiver and unless they've definitely decided to go outside receiver in the NFL draft's first round -- likely with Louisville's DeVante Parker -- thus making Welker the slot backup to Landry, this one puzzles.

There is, I grant you, also the possibility the Dolphins believe Landry can transition to playing outside. That's a possibility but, um, Landry's (lack of) breakaway speed is not exactly best suited for that. In that instance, it would be Landry and Kenny Stills on the outside with Welker in the slot and a rookie (probably drafted later) vying for snaps as the season wears on.

It doesn't quite seem as solid an idea as having Greg Jennings -- younger, faster and last year more productive than Welker -- on the team. Alas, both Jennings and Michael Crabtree visited the Dolphins prior to Welker's visit.

Neither has signed with Miami or anyone else.

So this one kind of hangs out there with questions.

 Speaking of questions, Wes Welker took plenty during a 2011 press conference that was timed after a story about Rex Ryan and his connections to a foot fetish and certain "clubs" made national headlines. Yeah, google or bing it. Suffice to say it was unseemly.

And Welker decided to use his press conference to poke the bear. He made 11 references to feet during the presser. Eleven!

"Put best foot forward."

Be "on your toes."

He has "good feet."

Had "my foot up in the air."

It was ... a work of art. Understated. Well thought out. Excellently executed. Alas, no-fun-having Bill Belichick didn't appreciate it. He thought Welker stuck his foot in his mouth and Welker was disciplined.

The New England coach obviously didn't appreciate genius. I do.

Enjoy:

 

Wes Welker visiting the Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins are not messing around on this veteran wide receiver thing.

They are today hosting Wes Welker, the third veteran wide receiver to come to Miami in recent weeks.

Welker, who played for the Dolphins in 2004-2006, had great seasons in New England and Denver before a decline in statistics and importance in the Denver offense in 2014.

Welker, 33, is a five-time Pro Bowl player. Last year, however, he played in only nine games (seven starts) and managed only 34 catches for 282 yards. Those were his lowest marks since 2005, his first season with Miami.

Welker has had concussion issues the past one-two years and, at one point last season considered retirement, per a source. But ultimately he was given clearance to continue his career, which was his preference.

The Houston Texans showed mild interest in Welker prior to the start of free agency but this is believed to be his first free agent visit.

Welker was part of one of the worst transactions in Miami Dolphins history.

He was traded to the Patriots in 2007 for a second round pick. Former Dolphins coach Nick Saban advised his friend Bill Belichick to get Welker as a dependable slot receiver and the New England coach did just that.

The Dolphins used that pick to draft Samson Satele, who played two years in Miami before being traded to Oakland. Welker, meanwhile, went on to stardom in New England where he had five seasons of over 100 catches in his six years there.

Ironically, the Dolphins signed Satele as a street free agent last year and he started all 16 games at center. He is a free agent again this offseason.

Perhaps now the Dolphins will close that circle of life and re-sign Welker.

The question with Welker's visit is what role the Dolphins envision him fitting?

Welker is obviously a slot receiver. Second-year player Jarvis Landry was Miami's slot receiver last year.

Do the Dolphins believe Landry can play outside?

April 07, 2015

QB contracts say Matt Moore place on Dolphins secure

When the Miami Dolphins signed former first-round pick and Tampa Bay Bucs starter Josh Freeman last Thursday there were questions about what that meant for the team's overall quarterback picture.

I reported, per sources, the Dolphins simply wanted to upgrade the No. 3 spot in that Freeman might be a better practice player than say, a Seth Lobato or a Pat Devlin.

But there were lingering questions whether Freeman, who did have that excellent 2010 season with 25 TDs and six INTs, could displace second-stringer Matt Moore on the roster.

The answer is ...

No, barring unforeseen circumstances such as a trade.

Moore is here for the duration of 2015, folks, because, according to the NFLPA records that came out today, his one-year deal with the Dolphins says as much. Moore got a $2.6 million deal that includes a $1.6 million signing bonus.

That assures Moore a spot on the team because the Dolphins aren't going to just cut him after giving him $1.6 million guaranteed. No NFL team gives a player 61 percent of his salary and then cuts him.

Freeman, on the other hand, comes to Miami with zero guarantee of being on the team. That is both literal and figurative.

Because he's struggled so mightily since 2012, being cut by three teams and being out of the league all of the 2014 regular-season, Freeman is considered a project, The Dolphins are simply taking a shot he might regain something lost.

But they aren't gambling their cap space because the team gave Freeman a one-year deal worth the veteran minimum (for him) of $765,000 with zero guaranteed money.

So the Dolphins can keep Freeman if he plays and practices well in the preseason. Or they can cut him before the regular season if he doesn't and pay nothing.

The best-case scenario for Miami?

Both Moore and Freeman ball in the preseason. Another team needs a quarterback badly and offers the Dolphins a draft pick for one of their backups. The Dolphins convert their signing of two quarterbacks this offseason into the addition of a good backup and perhaps a draft pick or some other compensation.  

Wide receiver Jennings visiting Miami Dolphins today

The much anticipated visit with free agent wide receiver Greg Jennings?

It's happening today.

The Dolphins and Jennings were supposed to meet, at least informally, in Phoenix during the NFL annual meeting three weeks ago but that never happened.

Jennings is interesting to the Dolphins because head coach Joe Philbin is familiar with him from their time together with the Green Bay Packers.

The Dolphins want to add a veteran wide receiver presence to a room that has seen the trading of Mike Wallace, and the cutting of Brandon Gibson and Brian Hartline this offseason.

The role for that vet is unclear, however, because it's possible the Dolphins will draft a wide receiver in the first round. So that veteran may be the team's fourth receiver behind the rookie first-round pick, Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills ...

... Or the veteran may be more of a priority if the team fails to land a receiver it wants in the early round.

Landing Jennings -- or veteran Michael Crabtree, who also visited the Dolphins and turned down a contract offer -- would not preclude the Dolphins from drafting a receiver.

Jennings has drawn interest from Carolina, Oakland and Jacksonville after being cut by the Minnesota Vikings. Ironically, Jennings was cut because Minnesota wanted to make room for Wallace, whom they got from the Dolphins.

Jennings, 31, caught 59 passes for 742 yards and six touchdowns in 2014 for the Vikings.

Jennings is a three-time 1,000-yard receiver in the NFL, all of those coming with the Green Bay Packers, the last coming in 2010.

[Update: Jennings left South Florida without a contract].

 

April 06, 2015

Richie Incognito saying all the right things in Buffalo

Monday is the first day NFL teams with new head coaches can begin their offseason programs.

And the Buffalo Bills, sporting new head coach Rex Ryan, are underway in Western New York. And as part of that program the team is allowing media to meet and greet and interview players and Ryan. And one of those new players is left guard Richie Incognito, the one-time Miami Dolphins Pro Bowl offensive lineman.

And Incognito is saying all the right things at his media availability.

"At the end of the day, humbling is the best way to describe the past year for me," said Incognito, who missed the past season-and-a-half after being suspended by the Dolphins for half of the 2013 season and being unsigned all of 2014 ostensibly for his role in the harassment scandal that involved fellow lineman Jonathan Martin. Richiebuffalo

"I had a great experience meeting with [Buffalo owners Kim and Terry] Pegula and I have great respect for Rex and [offensive coordinator] Greg Roman," Incognito said via the Bills. "I'm really thankful."

So what are Incognito's goals with the Bills this year?

"I want to come in and help the guys around me play better,' he said, "and earn a starting spot."

Somehow Incognito starting at left guard for Buffalo and playing against the Dolphins and Ndamukong Suh should be interesting.

(Photo courtesy the Buffalo Bills).

April 03, 2015

Josh Freeman: Year away left me hungry

Josh Freeman was out of football in 2014 and that left him "hungry" to return to the game and succeed, the newest Miami Dolphins quarterback said Friday.

Freeman, 27, talked to the local media for about 10 minutes today.

So what is his take on a lost 2014 in which he was signed by the New York Giants in April, cut in May, and was out of football until Miami signed him to a one-year deal Thursday?

"Really it was a culmination of things<" Freeman said. "After Minnesota, I went to New York and after New York there was kind of a dead period because teams had their rosters set. I continued to work. Came back to Kansas City. Continued to work. Me personally, during the year, I felt it was better to let things cool down because it was a pretty rocky year the previous year."

The previous year, as is well chronicled, Freeman was cut by the Tampa Bay Bucs after being their first round pick in 2009 and starter since 2010. He went to Minnesota and started one game. He bombed that game and didn't play again that season.

"Things went down how they went down," Freeman said. "You can't change that. Obviously going forward I'm trying to learn from that and make things easier."

So what did all that teach him?

"I learned a lot," Freeman said. "I mean, how much time do you have? The NFL is constantly shifting with players, coaches, organizations. There's a lot that goes into the product you guys see on Sundays. I've spent time watching quarterbacks, watching the process, trying to formulate a plan that will allow me to be as good as possible.

"I learned that regardless of how things end up and turn out, if I give it everything I got, there are no questions, no doubts in my mind. It's not an uncommon thing for guys to get cut and be out of the league. But it's not how I see myself. It's not how I see myself in the future."

Later in the interview, Freeman was asked if he learned anything during his time away and said "there were no drastic revelations" but then added "not playing last year really left me hungry. Left me wanting to get back in the swing of things."

So what are his goals with the Dolphins?

"My goal is to just become the best player I can," Freeman said. "Talking to the coaches yesterday, they were all about everyone trying to get better at football. That's my goal. As far as spots on the depth chart, that's up to the coaches. Ryan Tannehill has had a lot of success. Matt has had a successful career. I'm coming with a very humble mentality. Coach [Bill] Lazor's offense I'm not really that experienced in. At the same time, playing quarterback is what I've always done. I have a lot of confidence in myself as a quarterback. I'm coming with the mentality to work my butt off."

Freeman dismissed his time in Tampa and his statistics falling off the table after 2010 to the changes made there. There was a coaching change and that brought a system change.

"There was a change and that's how it kind of went down," he said. "The thing a lot of people don't understand is when it comes to passing the football, there's a lot of different offensive systems you can be a part of. And the system [the Bucs] brought in put a real emphasis palced on throwing the ball down the field. It took a lot of shots on deep posts. It wanted to be very, very aggressive. And when you are aggressive. We were taking a lot of shots. You're risking things like the percentage not being as high. At the same time the reward is being explosive and scoring a lot of points."

 

April 02, 2015

Draft season here: Why tight end is darkhorse need

The Miami Dolphins have done some significant work to their tight end corps so far this offseason. More is needed.

The team walked away from Charles Clay, Miami's top tight end the past few years, after he signed a contract with the Buffalo Bills that made it difficult for the Dolphins to match despite their transition tag on him. Clay now plays for Buffalo.

The team had already signed free agent Jordan Cameron away from the Cleveland Browns on a two-year, $15 million deal that had fans dreaming of double-tight sets that included Cameron attacking the seam and Clay running his trademark crossers.

Oh well, there's always Cameron and Dion Sims, right?

Well, kind of.

The fact is the Dolphins would be wise to draft a tight end in 2015.

The fact is Cameron and Sims are surrounded by questions about their long-term viability for various reasons.

Those reasons?

Firstly, Sims is a functional tight end. He's been a solid blocker. He's been an improving pass-catcher. He's been an average route-runner. That is all he's been. To suggest a player who has caught 30 passes in his two seasons (24 last season) has been anything more is simply not founded in fact.

Obviously Sims may still be growing into his job and improving, but counting on growth and improvement to show up across the spectrum of necessary skills for the position in 2015 is putting a lot of Easter eggs in the projection basket.

So let's agree Sims is a solid if unspectacular backup.

Cameron, on the other hand, can be spectacular.

Cameron last season led all NFL tight ends with four catches of 40 yards or more. He had touchdown plays of 81 and 51 yards and also had catches of 47 and 42 yards.

Yes, dynamic.

No other tight end in the NFL had more than two catches of 40 or yards or more. So that made Cameron unique even in a year he struggled to stay healthy and had lingering concerns about multiple concussions (three in the past two seasons).

The point is if Cameron is healthy, he might be an upgrade at tight end.

But the health is a gamble.

And although Cameron says there is no concern and the Dolphins have publicly expressed their confidence in Cameron and his health, the contract the two sides agreed to shows there was definitely a worry that one side (Miami) had and the other side (Cameron) stipulated to.

That is why Cameron has a 2015 per game bonus of $156,250 in his deal. The total bonus adds up to $1.562 million but Cameron has to be healthy enough to earn that money on a week to week basis.

And as far as the 2016 portion of Cameron's contract ... mirage.

Yes, Cameron gets $15 million over two years but only $4.5 million of that counts on the cap this year while the other $9.5 million counts next year. A whopping $7.5 million of that second-year money is a base salary that becomes fully guaranteed on the second day of the 2016 league year.

Let me see ... what are the odds the Dolphins pay that money on the second day of the 2016 league year if Cameron has not delivered a completely amazing and concussion-free year in 2015? Oh, yes, very slim.

Cameron's deal is for intents and purposes a one-year prove-it contract.

So what does that say about the future long-term?

The Dolphins need to draft a tight end, folks.

Obviously they can wait until next offseason. Or they can address the issue in the upcoming draft (preferable) or free agency after the draft (not preferable because it will be more expensive and it won't be a long-term solution).

The past few weeks the team has been grinding on tight end film for players including Clive Walford of the University of Miami, Nick O'Leary of Florida State, Maxx Williams of Minnesota,  Jeff Heuerman of Ohio State, E.J. Bibbs (H-back type) of Iowa, 6-7 Jesse James of Penn State, and Tyler Kroft of Rutgers among others.

Walford, O'Leary and Heuerman are at least expected to visit with the Dolphins.

But it should be made clear here none of these fellows seems like a first-round pick, particularly not at No. 14 overall. Frankly, most are probably third-round or later picks.

But the point is the Dolphins would be wise to invest a second or fourth round pick for the position. It is important long-term. It becomes more important if Miami can't land a wide receiver in the first round. The Dolphins might even consider trading back into the third round if, for example, Walford is there in the round.

Personally, I like O'Leary late -- sixth round maybe. He is not fast. He is not prototypical. But he's a football player. He is quarterback friendly. He is smart. He reminds me of Bruce Hardy.

[Update: Many have reminded me the Dolphins have 2014 draft pick Arthur Lynch on the roster. I remind you Lynch spent all of last season on injured reserve. He never was able to get in a preseason game. When he practiced -- mostly on a limited basis -- he often struggled to catch the football. So he is a project.]

April 01, 2015

Draft season here: Possible Miami Dolphins trade moves

The Gregorian calendar turned to April today while at the same time the more important (for our purposes) NFL calendar turns to draft season.

While folks with nothing else to do and Greg Jennings are busy playing April Fools jokes, NFL folks are thinking draft needs, and draft picks, and draft visits, and Pro Days and draft day trades.

On the draft visits, the Dolphins have set up visits, as I reported two weeks ago, with wide receiver DeVante Parker, while USC's George Famer and Auburn's Sammy Coates are also on the visit schedule, as Barry Jackson noted. UM's Phillip Dorsett and FSU's Reshad Greene are also visiting during local visits, as expected.

Check out Barry's blog for other lesser scheduled visits.

Today we cover the draft day trades issue.

Two issues that continually arise in my text exchanges and conversations with NFL sources is the possibility of a Dolphins trade to acquire either a veteran guard or cornerback or both right before or during the draft.

Yes, the Dolphins are likely to draft a cornerback. But what if the cornerback they covet in the first or second round are gone?

That's where the shopping for a veteran CB would be happening.

The Eagles, who one source tells me are willing to trade just about anybody for the right compensation, are said to be willing to trade cornerback Brandon Boykin. I cannot independently confirm Boykin is on the market, but other "reports" say he is.

Boykin has been a more than functional nickel cornerback for the Eagles since being drafted in 2012 but he was picked by former coach Andy Reid. Current coach Chip Kelly inherited him. And no player Kelly inherited should feel comfortable about their long-term status in Philly.

So Boykin's on the radar as a possibility.

And what might the Dolphins give in return?

Well, forget Dion Jordan for the time being. A source told me during the NFL owners meetings that trading Jordan was "highly unlikely," because of the salary cap issue involved, the idea that no one would give enough compensation to get him based on his limited contribution, and the idea that the kid does have something of a future in Miami's vision.

What does that mean?

For cap purposes it would actually cost the Dolphins more against the cap for them to trade Jordan than keep him. That's right. Having Jordan on the roster is cheaper than moving him -- a difference of $5.61 million if Miami keeps him versus $6.67 million if they trade him.

So while the Dolphins would not necessarily be unable to carry the extra $1 million in cap charge to move Jordan, you must consider it would mean carrying that extra charge for moving him added to the $5.6 million it costs to keep him, added to the charge a new player or draft pick the Dolphins would be getting also brings.

It adds up.

Jordan has done practically nothing in Miami the past two seasons considering he was he No. 3 overall selection in 2013. He's been suspended not once but twice by the NFL -- once for performance enhancing drugs, once for recreational drugs. He was injured much of his rookie season.

Dion Jordan has, frankly, been a disappointment.

But the potential continues to titillate fascinate.

Jordan can run step for step with New England tight end Rob Gronkowski. Indeed, he covered Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson near the end of the game in key situations last season. He is a pass rush threat. He can be great in the right environment and if he gets his act together.

There is also this: The Dolphins' situation at defensive end seems solid now. Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon are the starters. Jordan and Derrick Shelby are the backups along with Terrence Fede and others.

But ...

Wake is 33 years old. He has two more years, including 2015, left on his contract. Despite his continued production, he is no longer the long-term answer at defensive end for the Dolphins.

Olivier Vernon, meanwhile, is in the final year of his contract. He plans on having a big season. Then he plans on getting at least $10 million a season on his next deal either from Miami or someone else. And that may be conservative.

Shelby is also on a one-year restricted free agent tender. He expects to hit free agency after this season as well.

There is no way the Dolphins will have all three players -- Wake, Vernon, Shelby -- on the roster for 2016.

But Jordan, all of 25 now, will be in the final year of his rookie contract in 2016. His role then could be as the primary backup behind Wake and Vernon. Or he could be a starter.

So keeping him and having him learn to be a fine defensive end has some value to the Dolphins.

That and the dead money significance of trading Jordan makes moving him an iffy proposition. The Dolphins would have to be seriously motivated by the proposed compensation to trade Jordan.

There is, obviously, a possibility the Eagles may want to move up from their No. 20 draft spot to get to Miami's No. 14. There is, obviously, the possibility giving up No. 14 for No. 20 in the first round plus Boykin makes sense if the receiver or cornerback the Dolphins covet at No. 14 is gone. Keep that in mind.

Finally, the Dolphins have been linked, erroneously according to the Dolphins, to guard Evan Mathis of the Eagles. (Yeah, that team again).

The Eagles want to move Mathis. He's been on the trade block.

But no one has so far made a move for a player that hasn't been able to reach his 2012 heights the past two seasons but would cost $4.5 million on the salary cap under his current contract. And, of course, trading for him means trading for his contract as well.

So the Dolphins, and everyone else, have passed so far.

Instead the Dolphins campaigned (hard) during the NFL owners meetings that Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner are penciled in as their starting guards for now.

Please, Lord Jesus, not Dallas Thomas. 

Anyway, the Eagles may continue to try to trade Mathis. Or they may eventually relent and cut him, thus saving $4.5 million against their cap this season.

A free agent Evan Mathis might have value for the Dolphins that a trade for Mathis so far has not. Keep that in mind.