July 26, 2016

The 2016 Miami Dolphins: No one should feel entitled

The Miami Dolphins were 6-10 in 2015.

Let me repeat that. 6-10. They were last in the AFC East. They were 1-5 in their six division games. They were not what anyone expected or wanted.

And so as we head into this 2016 season with hope and a new coach, who I believe deserves your respect and a fair amount of time to prove his worth, I say we have to keep things in perspective.

I say we have to tell the Dolphins they are entitled to our attention.

And nothing more.

Why?

Because this team should not feel entitled on any front beyond that. FDR and modern day socialists would hate me, but no entitlements for the Dolphins. None. Zero.

Work for it.

Earn it.

Prove it.

But no entitlements.

This team has not earned our confidence yet. This team hasn't earned the respect of any other NFL team yet. This team hasn't earned anything yet.

You know why?

It hasn't done anything yet. It hasn't won anything yet.

You know why I feel this way? Because the Dolphins are going to open their 2016 training camp on Friday and they will feel this way. Players who report later this week will get the message from the coaching staff that they haven't earned squat.

The earning begins Friday morning with the first practice. That's the message I'm hearing coaches will deliver.

And this applies to the team as a whole. And to players individually.

First round draft pick Laremy Tunsil, for example, has earned nothing. He was the apple of the personnel department's eyes on draft day. The coaching staff loves his potential and possibilities. And he will be the team's starting left guard when the regular season begins if things go according to plans.

But between now and the start of that regular season, Tunsil is going to have to sweat and bleed and hurt and prove he is the best left guard on the team. He is going to have to earn his place. It will not be handed to him. He has not been anointed by anyone. In fact, coaches are going to try to make it a little tougher on him on purpose so there is no question when he starts.

So work for it, rookie.

Work!

Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones spent much of the offseason wanting a pay raise. He was uncomfortable that he has only moderate security beyond this year and if he gets injured this year he really has very little security. And I get it. He has a point. 

But the Dolphins, who love Jones, have told him in no uncertain terms that if he wants a big raise, he has to go earn it. He has to play so well as to get that defense in the Top 10 or Top 5 and get the team in the playoffs.

At least get them over .500.

Because no matter how good, safeties on 6-10 teams don't usually get a big pay increase two years before their contract expires.

That's the message. 

Arian Foster has been a bona fide Pro Bowl running back in the past and thinks he can be again. Well, prove it, sir. You are new to this team and this town. What happened in Houston stays in Houston. This team isn't about what happened in Houston. Time to make it work in Miami.

Mike Pouncey has been the leader of the Dolphins offensive line for 2-3 years now. But, um, this is a new year. This is a new line -- perhaps the best the Dolphins have had in a long time. Don't talk about leading this line. Be about leading this offensive line.

Ryan Tannehill, everyone has an opinion about you. Some think you're pretty good because you've thrown for 15,460 yards your first four seasons and that's a stone's throw from Peyton Manning (16,418) and Dan Marino (16,177).

But yards notwithstanding that doesn't put you in the same company as Manning and Marino. And you won't be in their company, no matter how many times you visit with them, until you get a team in the playoffs.

Indeed, Ryan Tannehill, get a team over .500.

Win. Do it.

Then people will stop looking at you sideways.

I don't know anyone on the Dolphins who can walk around feeling like they are entitled. The coaches haven't won a game together. The players haven't been to the playoffs together. The franchise is in one of its longest postseason droughts ever.

So if ever a team should embrace hard work and a lunch-pail approach to training camp, it is these Miami Dolphins.

By the way, anyone who believes this isn't the case or shouldn't be the case should speak to new coach Adam Gase. Someone recently asked him how it feels to have arrived as a hotshot 38-year-old NFL head coach.

"I haven't won anything yet," he said.

The 2016 Miami Dolphins.

No one feeling entitled. 

July 25, 2016

Congrats! Ryan Tannehill a new daddy

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill and his wife Lauren have welcomed their first child and perhaps a future quarterback into the family.

The couple had a boy on Sunday.

Mother and child are doing well.

And so congratulations to the couple for the arrival and their excellent timing.

The Dolphins open training camp on Friday, with their first practice in the morning. Tannehill, the team's starting quarterback, might be a little sleep deprived by then, but he is expected at practice.

Interestingly, young Tannehill's birthdate is July 24, dad's birthdate is July 27 and mom's birthdate is July 28.

Back at work: Miami Dolphins camp on the horizon

Miami Dolphins coaches report back to work Monday morning after getting vacation time the past few weeks.

(They ain't the only ones, if you know what I mean).

With this return to business and the beginning of training camp on Friday, I must announce that the preparation for the Dolphins' 51st season is upon us. And that's a good thing because, here comes my first prediction of 2016, this is going to be a much better season than 2015.

The 2015 season was supposed to be a grand celebration. It was supposed to be about a golden anniversary, a return to relevance and perhaps even a return to the playoffs. You'll remember there was talk of going for a championship at this time last year.

Didn't quite turn out that way.

The Dolphins stumbled out of the gate, played with no urgency, got their head coach fired, got their defensive coordinator fired, eventually got their offensive coordinator fired, and at the end of a lost year got a bunch of players fired.

So what about the new coaches, new players, and new team?

I like the possibilities.

I think Adam Gase, who comes with a reputation as an offense wiz, is going to prove to be a royal pain in the butt ... for the defensive minded coaches of the AFC East -- Buffalo's Rex Ryan, New York's Todd Bowles, and New England's Bill Belichick.

I've been told Gase is going to be aggressive. "Queasy" is not in his vocabulary. I've been told he wants to prove a point that the Dolphins are done being the division floor mats they were in '15. I've been told this supremely confident young coach is going to deliver a message to his players verbally and by his actions during training camp that everyone must sell out or they won't be part of this team.

That's good. That also sounds kind of like crazy stuff is about to ensue.

Of course, the Dolphins could use crazy stuff because fans have had their fill of the sometimes lifeless, urgency lacking Dolphins we've seen the past three or so years.

There are some pre-camp issues that face these Dolphins prior to Friday's camp opening. Among those:

Will Dion Jordan get his suspension lifted by the NFL in time for training camp?

The team hopes to hear something this week but has no concrete indication which direction that will go. This much is certain: Even if Jordan is activated and returns to the team for the start of camp, it will be hard for him to stick around. He must prove he is worthy of a spot on the team and must do so almost instantly because the Dolphins must pay him a $1,690,209 bonus if he is on the roster the fifth day of training camp.

Giving Jordan that bonus is not a slam dunk. And the only way the Dolphins avoid paying that bonus is by cutting or trading Jordan before the fifth day of camp. So those are distinct possibilities.

There is disagreement within the organization whether Jordan deserves that bonus after serving a one-year (so far) suspension for violating the NFL's substances of abuse policy.

There are those within the organization that see Jordan for his potential and athletic abilities if all goes well. But there are those who have taken a much more dim view of Jordan, seeing him as someone who has as many sacks (3) as drug suspensions (3) since he was drafted with the third overall selection in 2013.

And while the former group believes there's nothing to lose in paying Jordan, because he could almost certainly be a good special teams contributor, the latter group simply has not been convinced by anything Jordan put on tape during his time active that would merit giving him any money, much less a guaranteed bonus.

So a hard decision by the team is coming even if Jordan is activated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

(Note: The Dolphins did try to trade Jordan before, most notably to Chip Kelly in Philadelphia early in 2015. Kelly coached Jordan at Oregon and is now the San Francisco 49ers coach. Jordan worked out in San Francisco much of the past few months as he prepared for his NFL return. And 49ers CEO Jed York happened to work out at the same facility as Jordan. Not saying any dubious communications happened during Jordan's suspension but if a team were to be interested in Jordan, the 49ers could be atop the list.)

PUP players at the start of camp...

The Dolphins have several players whose health status merits scrutiny prior to the start of training camp.

Will running back Arian Foster and defensive end Cameron Wake be full go at the start of camp?

Wake worked in the offseason camps, mandatory camp and the conditioning program. But training camp practices once the pads come on are a different issue. So while he might not be on preseason PUP, the team will definitely be cautious with the defensive end.

Foster only recently was cleared to run and cut but doing that and being 100 percent ready for work in pads is another matter. He's a PUP possibility.

Defensive lineman Jason Jones and wide receiver DeVante Parker also missed significant portions of the offseason nursing assorted injuries so their status early on will be interesting to monitor.

Is everybody happy? 

The Dolphins cleared the contract issue cloud with Wake and Reshad Jones this offseason in different ways.

The team wanted to give Wake something of a contract haircut and did just that after trying several times to do so. Jones wanted a raise from the Dolphins and failed to get it after declining to be part of the voluntary offseason program and the first day of mandatory minicamp.

So Wake is good.

Is Jones?

He wanted more money. Will that linger?

There is also the idea that receiver Jarvis Landry, fresh off his first Pro Bowl, also will want a new contract before the start of the 2017 season -- the final year of his rookie deal. Will those talks begin in earnest this year or will both parties defer that until after 2016.

My guess is some work will begin on that sooner rather than later this season.

Chemistry

This is an interesting team, folks.

There are a lot of interesting personalities on it.

Arian Foster is ... interesting.

Ndamukong Suh is ... interesting.

Mario Williams is ... interesting.

Ryan Tannehill is ... interesting.

There is nothing wrong with interesting. But interesting can lead to uncomfortable situations when not properly managed.

Training camp is a time for individuals who are loners, who are eccentric, who are sensitive, who are more concerned with themselves, to be brought into the greater whole. Training camp is a time when new guys -- and the Dolphins have 46 of them -- must bond with the coaches and their new teammates.

It is not an easy assignment.

It all begins Friday.

June 19, 2016

'God was kind' to Miami Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso

Carlos and Monica Alonso are parents to three sons: Carlos, Kristian (who is better known as Kiko) and Lucas.

And all three are athletically gifted in their own ways -- with Carlos, the eldest, playing baseball, middle child Kiko mostly in football, and Lucas in football and baseball in youth league levels -- it was Kiko who was built for the NFL.

Carlos, the eldest, is 5-11.

Lucas, the youngest, is 5-8.

Kiko, the middle child, is 6-3.

"My eldest is all heart. I mean, he's an athlete but he is in Triple A for a reason," Carlos Alonso says of Carlos. "Lucas is very smart. He's a very smart kid. And he's gifted physically, too. But with him it's just the size, right?" Lucas wants to coach and I hope he follows that if that's what he wants.

"Kiko was a freak. You could tell he was different. God was kind to Kiko."

Well, I'm sure God has a plan for all three Alonso brothers. But Kiko's path has brought him to the Miami Dolphins, where he is the team's new starting linebacker. And you know the football story. Great rookie year in Buffalo. Tore his ACL his second season with the Bills. Traded to the Eagles last season. Traded to the Dolphins this offseason.

We shall see which Kiko Alonso the Dolphins get on the field. I know he's healthy. I know he's meticulous about nutrition. His mom Monica tells me Kiko is such a "workout addict," one of the main questions he had about going on vacation with her to her native Colombia was where would he be able to work out everyday.

Oh yeah, I'm not talking Columbia as in Missouri. I'm talking Colombia as in South America. That is where Monica was born. Carlos was born in Cuba.

(I was born in Cuba, in case you didn't pick up on my thick accent and terrible second-language grammar).

Anyway, the Alonso family story from Cuba and Colombia to Puerto Rico to New Orleans to New York to Massachusetts (where Kiko was born) to California (where Kiko first played football in ninth grade) to Oregon (where Kiko played in college) to Buffalo to Philadelphia to Miami is the subject of my column in Sunday's paper.

This is the column.. Please check it out.

It is intriguing how life seems to wind and weave through a family's history and Alonso winds up in the same place his grandfather landed when he first left Cuba in 1961. And for Kiko, unlike his grandfather, Miami seems a pretty great place so far.

One more thing ... about Kiko's name. It is indeed Kristian but as he tells me when he was a kid the other kids in school had trouble with it and teachers always expected him to be a girl because they thought it was Kristen.

So he pre-empted the issue by simply telling everyone to call him Kiko. Problem solved.

June 16, 2016

Dolphins minicamp over...Where the training camp competition looms

The Miami Dolphins have reached the end of their three-day minicamp and so the players and coaches are off for the next five weeks or so.

What does that mean?

Coach Adam Gase's message to the players before they go is "be smart."

That means stay in the playbook. Don't allow yourself to get sloppy physically. And this:

Gase wants these players to remember who they are -- they're professional football players. He wants them to remember who they represent -- they represent the Miami Dolphins. So stay out of jail. Stay out of trouble. Stay out of the glare of negative attention.

As the Dolphins leave for their break before training camp, it becomes clear that this coaching staff is hoping to have a team where competition is cornerstone of what will happen in training camp. I know, every coach says that.

And then you watch what is actually happening in camp and it isn't necessarily about competition but rather preparing pre-determined players for pre-determined roles at the start of the season.

Don't get me wrong, some players need that approach. Let's be honest, the starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins is going to be Ryan Tannehill no matter how poorly he plays in the preseason or how good the other QBs play. Let's face it, Ndamukong Suh could jump offsides 10 consecutive times in preseason games and he will still be the starting in the regular-season opener.

But there are other spots on this team that beg competition.

Those spots:

Cornerback: The team drafted Xavien Howard in the second round to be a starter. He's not there right now. Tony Lippett, in only his second year, has been the starter all of this offseason despite behind largely unproven. Those two will battle for a starting job opposite Byron Maxwell.

Nickel cornerback: Second-year player Bobby McCain has been largely unchallenged for the spot this offseason. The only real challenge I can imagine being mounted is Ifo Ekpre-Olomu uses the next five weeks to regain the kind of explosion and playmaking ability he displayed during his college days at Oregon -- before a serious knee injury that cost him his entire rookie season.

Ekpre-Olomu is back on the field now. He went through the entire minicamp. But he's not that guy yet.

"Being back on the field and doing what you love, you have to take it one day at a time and cherish every moment you're out there," Ekpre-Olomu said.

"I was cleared a couple of weeks ago and maybe a month ago now to actually do football and do drills and actually do seven-on-seven and teams. So I'm back to that and getting comfortable to doing football movements and going five days a week, six days a week."

Defensive tackle: Well, defensive tackle not named Suh. The fact is Earl Mitchell continues to be the starter at that spot if the reps during minicamp are to be believed. But the Dolphins expect (hope) second-year player Jordan Phillips makes a leap from his 2015 rookie season. If that happens, this could get interesting. Obviously, Mitchell has the experience and smarts and discipline advantage. Phillips has greater athletic ability -- he can reportedly dunk, folks. Neither was particularly stellar last season.

Backup QB: Like I said earlier, if Matt Moore or Logan Thomas are starting for this team in the regular-season opener, something went horribly, horribly, tragically wrong. No disrespect to them, but Ryan Tannehill is going to be the starter barring the Rapture happening prior to the regular season.

The real question at QB is who backs up. Moore seems to be that guy right now. He took the second-team snaps this camp. Gase made the point he has a winning record as a starter, which is rare among NFL backups. Thomas is behind him. The team paid $150,000 in a bonus to keep him from getting poached as a practice squad player in 2015 so the Dolphins like Thomas. But he's going to have to outplay Moore by a goodly margin to pass him on the depth chart. The other QBs in camp -- Zac Dysert and Brandon Doughty -- right now have the feel of practice squad possibilities.

[Update: Thomas has been cut. It happened following practice today. And so the backup quarterback job seems to be in Matt Moore's hands. Maybe Brandon Doughty can mount a challenge. He would have to improve a significant amount.]

Backup running back: Jay Ajayi is apparently the starter. Gase likes him, he's done nothing to suggest he shouldn't be counted on, and the Dolphins don't really have anybody else that screams, "Pick me!"

But behind Ajayi is murky.Kenyan Drake, who just signed his rookie contract, should be ready for the start of training camp, Gase said, despite suffering a right leg injury on Wednesday. Drake missed practice Thursday.

Drake would be the obvious candidate to be the backup and presumed third-down back. But the Herald's Barry Jackson detailed Drake's extensive injury history on his Buzz Blog. The point is counting on the rookie to stay healthy is a faith exercise. So what else does Miami have?

Isiah Pead stepped up and looked solid during minicamp. Daniel Thomas is back on the team and has experience. Damien Williams remains on the roster from the past couple of years. 

Frankly, this might be an area the Dolphins would be wise to continue looking around. Although that is an uncertain proposition, maybe Arian Foster is willing to sign for a bargain salary -- given he is also coming off a ruptured Achilles and has an extensive injury history. Maybe the team keeps eyes open during training camp. I guess I'm simply not sold on what is happening with the group, although the Dolphins seem to be comfortable with their prospects.

A new Dallas Thomas for the Miami Dolphins: 'So far so good'

When the 2015 NFL season ended, Dallas Thomas was the Miami Dolphins' starting left guard.

And, right or wrong, Dolphins fans hated that because Thomas embodied some of what was wrong with the offensive line. He had good moments in 2015, but not enough of them. He gave up sacks, part of an offensive line that has allowed more sacks of quarterbacy Ryan Tannehill the past four years than any other NFL offensive line has allowed of their quarterback.

He wasn't particularly strong. Or particularly physical. Or particularly good as a technician. Or particularly impressive in any one area -- run blocking or pass protection. Thomas was merely the best the Dolphins had of a group that wasn't good enough.

So fans expected a change at left guard.

Except that the first two day of mandatory minicamp -- a full six months, a draft and free agency period after the end of last season -- Dallas Thomas has remained the Dolphins starting left guard.

So where's the change fans seem to so desperately crave?

Dallas Thomas would tell you it is in Dallas Thomas.

Thomas says he's bigger, stronger, better now. He even says he has a different attitude now.

Stronger? The Dolphins new coaching staff demanded Thomas get in the weight room and improve his core, upper body and base strength.

"It wasn't just [the coaches]," Thomas said Wednesday. "It was for myself. I wanted to get stronger. I've gained a little bit of weight but mostly more muscle more than anything."

Attitude?

Thomas has been a quiet guy his first three seasons with the team. He's been quiet on the field as well. He hasn't been aggressive despite playing a violent position. He certainly hasn't been an Alpha type player. So what has changed in that regard?

"Attitude," Thomas said. "I have a totally different mindset in everything I do."

So, I ask, does that mean he's going to push people around this year?

"Yeah," he said.

Interesting. Thomas will be competing with first-round pick Laremy Tunsil for a starting job this year. I suppose you can say Tunsil, Thomas and Billy Turner -- the Three Ts -- will be vying for two spots.

So far, without pads, Thomas and Turner are holding serve on their spots while Tunsil is running mostly second team. (Tunsil has gotten first-team reps the past two days but not as many as the other two, which can change at any moment).

"Right now I'm learning the system and working on my technique," Thomas said. "There's not one single area where you have to get better. So far, so good. [Coaches] have been real positive with me, telling me I've been doing a good job."

June 15, 2016

Dolphins minicamp Day 2: Reshad Jones speaks, great WRs at practice, OL and Laremy Tunsil update

Second day of Miami Dolphins minicamp is in the books and here are some newsy nugglets:

Yes, Reshad Jones returned to practice today, having ended his offseason holdout, and apparently everything is at it was.

Jones returned to the starting lineup -- joining Michael Thomas as the starters on the back end -- coach Adam Gase confirmed. Jones seemed in good shape, Gase said.

And the drama of a possible long-term holdout during training camp was doused by Jones.

"Yeah, I'm here," Jones said when asked if he was back for good and would be at training camp. "Everything is behind me. I'm ready to play football."

Well, everything isn't behind him. I mean, he didn't get a new contract. But Jones said the sides continue to discuss the possibility of a new deal.

"I feel confident (that) my agent and the organization will work things out," Jones said. "I'm here to help this team win football games."

That settled ... on to football.

DeVante Parker returned to practice today. Mario Williams and Jason Jones -- both of whom are excused to miss the entire camp -- were not present.

Rookie unsigned running back Kenyan Drake had a tough day. He fumbled a kickoff early in practice and then suffered what appeared to be a hamstring injury during punt block drills midway through practice. Gase said he'd not been completely updated on the rookie's status during his press conference but Drake went in the trainer's room and did not return to practice after the injury.

It was interesting to see both former NFL stars Reggie Wayne and Wes Welker working with the wide receivers today in a coaching capacity.

Although Shawn Jefferson is unquestionably the WR coach, the Dolphins have ties to both Wayne and Welker and drawing on their knowledge is a good idea. Wayne has strong connections to offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen from his days in Indianapolis. Gase characterized his relationship with Welker as "friends" from their days in Denver together.

Gase also left the door open on Welker possibly joining the staff in some capacity if that is his mindset.

"I wouldn't put any kind of pressure on him," Gase said. "We're here to whenever he kind of wants to come around, he's welcome. Whether it goes any further than that, I mean, it's a day-by-day thing with Wes. Who knows. I'll always have his back on whatever he wants to do."

The offense apparently won practice today. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill said as much. Defensive players were doing push ups after practice today. So ...

But the offensive line remains in interesting area in that there is a lot of mixing and matching and rotating going on.

And in much of the rotating, the most snaps at guard this camp have gone to incumbents Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas -- the two starting guards most of last year.

Rookie Laremy Tunsil has also been rotating in at left guard with the starting unit but not as much as the other two. Tunsil is getting work at left tackle as well.

What does that mean?

Well, apparently this is going to be a competition that will continue in training camp when the pads go on. This is not a situation where Tunsil is so good so fast that he is clearly better than the veterans right now.

This is not a coronation of a first round pick. Or any pick.

"That's how we're rolling," Gase said. "You have to earn your spot. You haven't seen anybody really getting plugged in and anointed to anything. Everybody's battling. That's what we want. We want competition. We want guys to earn their spots."

You'll recall that Gase said in March that the team's first round pick would be a starter. Well, that only applies if the guy earns it. And if you think second-round pick Xavien Howard gets the nod at starting cornerback, that's also not the case.

Howard and Tony Lippett are competing for a starting cornerback job. So far, Lippett is the guy. And that's how it is going to be unless Howard plays better.

"If you're a veteran player, a lot of guys, they respect that because they know it's not going to be handed to anybody," Gase said. "It's like the corners, they're battling. I know Tony Lippett isn't just, 'yeah, you know what, just take it.' At least I hope not. I hope he battles this thing all the way out. And if he's the starter, great. We'll be happy. And then he'll have three really good players that at corner."

Reshad Jones reporting to second day of Dolphins minicamp (updated)

Reshad Jones is back at Miami Dolphins camp today.

A source close to the player tells me the safety who has been holding out of all offseason work because he is unhappy with his current contract and wants a pay raise and more guaranteed money for his security returned to the team for the second of a three-day mandatory minicamp.

The Monday Morning Quarterback was the first to report this.

The source declined to say if that meant a breakthrough in the talks between the player, his representative Joel Segal, and the Dolphins -- including owner Stephen Ross. Or perhaps Jones simply caved after being fined for missing the first day of the mandatory camp.

My sense is something is getting done -- if not now, eventually.

When the owner is talking directly to the player, that is a radical step. So expect radical things such as this sudden change to occur.

It would not surprise if Jones came back to camp as a show of good faith and now expects (hopes) the Dolphins to show some good faith (as in negotiate a new deal) in return.

Update: I do know this: No new contract is getting done today.

Reshad Jones making case about guaranteed money to Stephen Ross

If you believe the contract holdout of safety Reshad Jones is a staring contest with the two sides not budging or flinching, indeed not talking, in order to make a point, that is wrong.

I told you Tuesday, the sides are indeed talking, in hopes of resolving this contract issue with a minimum amount of drama.

But the extent of these talks is, frankly, amazing. Dolphins coach Adam Gase said Tuesday he's called and talked with Jones although he rightfully declined to be specific about the conversations. I'm told club owner Stephen Ross has also opened the lines of communication by speaking directly with Jones about the matter.

So, yes, this issue goes as far up the ladder as possible.

And what exactly is everyone discussing?

No one wants to say. Remember, everyone is being careful not to offend the other party because -- well, everyone understands Reshad Jones is almost certainly going to be a starting safety for the Miami Dolphins in 2016 and having him and the club mad at each other benefits no one.

But that doesn't change the fact that there are differences of opinion.

Some of those differences are obvious. Jones, fresh off a career 2015 season and an appearance in his first Pro Bowl, isn't happy with his current contract that pays him an average of about $7 million per year. The Dolphins, who gave Jones that deal two years ago, aren't thrilled about the idea of giving him another new deal with two more years remaining on this one.

Next year the Dolphins definitely planned to extend Jones. Not this year.

That is well known. OK, it wasn't well known, but I reported it so it is out there.

This is not known until now:

Beyond a pay bump to approximately $10 million per season on average (if not more), Jones wants guaranteed money to make him feel a sense of security.

 

According to a person familiar with the talks, Jones has told the Dolphins, including owner Ross, that he needs to feel security about his future. He has seen Dolphins players sign significant deals with the team the past few years -- Brian Hartline, Mike Wallace, Brent Grimes, Dannell Ellerbe, Phillip Wheeler. Cortland Finnegan, Brice McCain and Greg Jennings among them -- and never see the end of their deals because the Dolphins have felt comfortable swallowing whatever prorated portion of the guaranteed money that constitutes dead money to get rid of those players.

(This, by the way, is an instance of team business moves getting noticed by players in the locker room because they're not dumb and those moves affect the view of the players not necessarily involved in the negotiations).

So while the average fan sees that Jones is scheduled to make $7.225 million in base salary this year and $7.06 million next year -- and both are hefty amounts -- the total prorated portion of Jones's contract that remains is approximately $1.9 million.

And as the player sees it, as all players see it, if Reshad Jones suffers a catastrophic injury this year, the Dolphins can easily decide to break ties with him before the 2017 season. The team can cut Jones and it will never have to pay his $7.06 million base in 2017. And the salary cap penalty for breaking ties with Jones before the contract expires would be $953,000 in dead money -- a cap savings of $7.085 million to the team.

Meanwhile, an injured or significantly diminished Jones, who signed a four-year deal with the Dolphins, is out the door after three years.

So much for a contract is a contract is a contract.

Look, I'm not saying I think it is right for players to want to renegotiate their four-year contracts after two years. But if teams can cut players and break the contracts, then players can certainly make their case for seeking more certainty of income before deals are expired.

Whether the player making that case wins or loses is up to the value of the player and how entrenched the team is against re-doing a contract two years out from expiration.

But this isn't quite as black and white as it seems.

I see gray area and Jones is making the case he's in that gray area.

I also see the team's viewpoint. If you re-do a deal midway through for one player, other players may want the same treatment. Ah, in this case, the team buys into the thinking that players in the locker room are watching the personnel department's contract moves.

Anyway, it's a tough situation for all involved.

I see both sides. Both sides have a point, particularly when the player making his argument is ascending, coming off a career year and a cornerstone of the defense.

I think that is the reason this issue is so delicate. Both sides see the other's points. Jones, I assume, has been able to plead his case to Ross directly. The owner, I assume, has been able to explain the team's stance to Jones. Directly.

Fascinating.

June 14, 2016

Dolphins minicamp Day 1: Reshad Jones analysis, absences, DeVante Parker injury update

I'm baaaack (at least for this week).

The Dolphins just completed their first day of a three-day minicamp and here is what is going on:

Reshad Jones, Mario Williams and Jason Jones were not present. Jason Jones and Williams are coping with personal issues and were excused from camp. Reshad Jones obviously is holding out for a contract re-do.

And there is interesting stuff on that front:

Both sides -- the representatives for Jones and the Dolphins -- are treading very lightly around this topic even as they face off in what is effectively a contract holdout at this point. Neither side, it seems, wants to offend the other side.

Both sides are reticent about anything that might upset this process. And it is a process because both sides are actually working toward what eventually will be a contract adjustment. Yes, this might lead to a contract adjustment -- or at least the promise of a contract adjustment within the 2016 season.

That's two years before Jones's current deal expires.

And that is interesting because typically teams want to hold the line on re-doing contracts two years out so as to not set an uncomfortable precedence for all their players who might want new deals before their current ones are done.

But here's the thing: Jones is a cornerstone player for the Dolphins. Everyone believes that. The Dolphins, who fully intended to re-sign Jones when his contract expired, believe that. Jones, who wants to earn between $3-$5 million more per year than his current $7 million a year average annual salary, knows it also.

The two sides also know that Jones is not likely to turn this so contentious that he'll sit out the season.

The point neither side wants this to be about drama. Both sides are trying to work toward a solution. And, perhaps surprisingly, that might include a contract extension, re-do, whatever you want to call it.

The most obvious example of how the sides are tying to avoid the image that this is contentious or a controversy came today when head coach Adam Gase basically said Jones missing all offseason and not knowing what new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph is installing on defense is no big deal.

"When you're an NFL player, part of your job is to learn NFL playbooks," Gase said. "So when a guy isn't here -- whether it's Phase I, Phase II, OTAs or minicamp -- and they haven't been exposed, Cover 3 is still Cover 3.

"Maybe there's a different term for it. Guys like that that have experience, they understand defense. As far as him being able to learn the playbook, that would be zero concern to me."

The Dolphins don't want to make Reshad Jones angry.

Reshad Jones, out of the limelight, doesn't want to make the Dolphins angry.

Everybody wants to make this work because, at this point, both sides want to work toward an amicable end.

On the DeVante Parker front, he has been cleared to practice again, according to Gase.

The plan was to get him in individual drills today. And then let him participate in some team drills either Wednesday or Thursday. But Gase changed that plan out of caution.

The coach said he went "soft" and kept Parker sidelined so as to not risk a re-aggravation of whatever was ailing Parker -- which is still a mystery. Such a setback could potential cost Parker the next five weeks of training leading up to training camp.

Gase didn't want to risk that setback. Smart.

But the head coach apparently changed his mind after practice and said Parker will be out there Wednesday for at least individual drills.

Me? If you're missing one day, let him sit this camp out altogether and make it up over the next five weeks. But what do I know.

I just came back from vacation.

June 08, 2016

Dwight Stephenson: Laremy Tunsil has 'all the tools that you need' to be great

Dwight Stephenson knows good line play.

The Hall of Fame center was a five-time All-Pro and the cornerstone of the Dolphins' excellent offensive line in the 1980s. How good was that group? They led the league in fewest sacks allowed for six straight seasons.

Compare that with his old team's most recent showing: Ryan Tannehill has been sacked 184 times in the past four seasons, most of any quarterback since 2012.

"The quarterback needs to be able to set back there and have confidence in the offensive line," Stephenson said at his charity golf tournament Wednesday morning. "I do think it was part of the problem last year."

But Stephenson has reason for optimism. And his name is Laremy Tunsil, the Dolphins' first-round pick and future left tackle. (Tunsil is expected to play guard as a rookie.)

"I think [Tunsil] is going to turn out to be a good addition," Stephenson said. "He looks like an athlete. He looks like he can do a lot of things. Obviously, I feel like he can play left tackle. He looks like a guy that has all the physical tools that you need. He has good quickness, he has his size and everything. It looks like he's a very intelligent gentleman. I think he's going to be a good addition to the Dolphins."

Stephenson added: "They've got some pieces. They still need to gel and come together."

Stephenson, who has been retired for nearly three decades now, still follows the Dolphins with great interest. He's a season-ticket holder and goes to all the games.

He's also actively involved with United Cerebral Palsy of South Florida. Wednesday, Stephenson hosted the organization's 23rd annual golf classic at Parkland Golf and Country Club.

Safety Reshad Jones was scheduled to appear, but canceled because he wasn't feeling well.

June 07, 2016

NFL Twitter account hacked; Goodell very much alive

If you are a football fan and were on Twitter at 12:36 p.m. Tuesday, you got a shock.

The NFL tweeted out the following:

Image

Was Roger Goodell actually dead?

Nope. But he was probably peeved at his social media department.

Someone hacked the NFL's Twitter account. The post was quickly deleted.

And the league made clear immediately that Goodell was fine.

Carry on.

June 06, 2016

Wes Welker at Dolphins practice -- but a comeback not in the works

For many Dolphins fans, Wes Welker is the one that got away.

Welker spent two relatively non-descript seasons in Miami before the Dolphins traded him to the Patriots. In New England, he became one of the best slot receivers in NFL history, catching over 100 passes in five out of six seasons.

Welker later played two years in Denver -- with Adam Gase as his offensive coordinator.

The two men remained close when they went their separate ways -- Welker for a lost season in St. Louis, Gase as coordinator in Chicago before the Dolphins hired him for the top job.

The two friends reunited Tuesday, with Welker on the sidelines as the Dolphins practice.

Welker, who is currently a free agent, lives in the area.

"I love being around him," Gase said. "If our guys get one thing from him, it's a great thing to have."

Gase expects to see more of Welker in the weeks and months to come. However, don't expect Welker back in aqua and orange soon.

When asked Welker might again wear a Dolphins uniform, Gase said "No."

Jermon Bushrod (shoulder) practices, Mario Williams does not

Off the top, some great news for the Dolphins: Jermon Bushrod is practicing.

That's a big deal, because he's just a few months removed from significant shoulder surgery.

And it's a big deal because he's got a good chance of being the Dolphins' starting right guard.

Bushrod is a career tackle, but the Dolphins plan to move him inside. The hope was he'd be back on the field for the start of training camp. Monday's development is certainly a step in the right directions.

Meanwhile, Mario Williams is absent Monday for an undisclosed reason. Williams missed the voluntary veterans minicamp for personal reasons, but has been on the field regularly since.

Reshad Jones remains away from the team as he protests his contract situation.

Six Dolphins are working with trainers Monday: DeVante Parker, Jake Stoneburner, Damien Williams, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, AJ Cruz and Neville Hewitt.

UPDATE: Regarding Parker, who has missed the last two practices, I'm told that there is no reason to be alarmed. The Dolphins are being cautious, and Parker is running freely to the side.

Also, defensive end Jason Jones is not practicing, but instead working with trainers. Jones is wearing a chest protector.

June 02, 2016

Dolphins preseason schedule dates announced

We knew who and where for the Dolphins' preseason games. Now we know the when.

The league announced the full preseason schedule Thursday. Here are the dates to know:

Week 1

Dolphins at Giants, Friday, Aug. 12, 7 p.m.

Week 2

Dolphins at Cowboys, Friday, Aug. 19, 8 p.m.

Week 3

Dolphins vs. Falcons in Orlando, Thursday, Aug. 25, 8 p.m.

Week 4

Titans at Dolphins, Thursday, Sept. 1, 7 p.m.

All games will appear on CBS-4, except for Week 3, which will air on NBC-6.

June 01, 2016

Dolphins-Falcons preseason game moved to Orlando

The Dolphins-Falcons preseason game is being moved to Orlando -- but not for the reason most assumed.

Construction on the Dolphins' home stadium remains on track.

"The league asked us if we would move the game up there," Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel told the Herald. "As part of the Pro Bowl announcement, we agreed to do it."

Season-ticket holders will receive a full refund for the lost home game, scheduled for Aug. 25.

Some have reported that the Dolphins wanted to move the game because their half-billion dollar construction project won't be finished in time.

That was not the motivation, the Herald has learned, and construction is on schedule. Members of the South Florida media will get a chance to tour the currently unnamed stadium on Thursday.

Dolphins-Falcons will be held at the Camping World Stadium, formerly known as the Citrus Bowl, which has recently undergone a $207 million renovation of its own. The facility will also host the 2017 Pro Bowl, the league announced Wednesday.

Cameron Wake participates in team drills at Wednesday's OTAs

Adam Gase said recently that he anticipates Cameron Wake will be ready for the start of training camp.

It might not even take that long.

Wake, recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon he suffered last fall, was at his familiar spot -- left defensive end -- during team drills at Wednesday's OTA practice.

It was the first time this spring that reporters saw Wake do anything more than individual drills.

Meanwhile, just two Dolphins were absent from Wednesday's voluntary practice: Reshad Jones (contract) and Thomas Duarte (school on quarters session).

Five others were present but did not practice: Jermon Bushrod, Jelani Jenkins, DeVante Parker, Damien Williams and Jake Stoneburner.

May 31, 2016

Five takeaways from Dolphins availability

Dolphins organized team activities continued this week. Practice was closed to the media, but the team made four players available to reporters.

The biggest news:

1. Dion Jordan, who will reportedly apply for reinstatement Wednesday after serving a year-plus suspension, would "definitely" be welcomed back to the locker room, defensive tackle Earl Mitchell said. How the Dolphins, with their four top defensive ends locked in, would use him remains to be seen. Perhaps a move to linebacker?

2. Adam Gase is a trash talker. And, as Mitchell and Byron Maxwell acknowledged, he "picks sides." Spoiler alert: It's not in favor of the defense. Even wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson gets into the act.

3. Maxwell -- like the Dolphins -- is hoping that he regains his 2014 form, and proves that his disappointing 2015 was an anomaly. Maxwell was part of Seattle's famed Legion of Boom secondary, and hopes that the Dolphins' young group of corners -- including Xavien Howard and Tony Lippett -- can replicate that magic.

4. Branden Albert is in great shape -- the best since his time in Kansas City. Albert said he's down to 313 pounds, and finally feels 100 percent after his major 2014 knee injury.

5. Jay Ajayi doesn't just want to be a starting running back. He wants to be a great. 'For me, I know that I want to be up there, when it gets down to it at the end of the season."

Much more to come from today, over on the Miami Herald's Dolphins page and on Barry Jackson's excellent blog.

May 26, 2016

Gase: Cam Wake likely back by camp, first week of OTAs 'a little sloppy'

Three days of organized team activity practices are in the books. And, well, they went about how you'd expect May practices to go.

"Probably a little sloppy," Gase said. "Today we probably took a step back."

Ask Ryan Tannehill. He self-imposed a set of push-ups after missing a stationary target by a foot.

The defensive line won the day, with Mario Williams beating Billy Turner a handful of times. Williams looks fast. Like 2014 fast.

But a couple of caveats: 1. Yes, it was in shorts. And 2. It was against Turner, who was getting reps in place of Ja'Wuan James with the ones.

Laremy Tunsil took some lumps too, clapping in frustration after Chris Jones beat the No. 13 pick for a sack.

The D-line should be this good. It needs to be this good.

And it might be even better once Cam Wake returns fully from a torn Achilles. He missed practice Thursday, but the team remains very optimistic about his progress.

Gase said he has a "really high" level of confidence that Wake will be ready for the start of training camp. "It's probably us holding him back."

Early 5/26 practice report: Jones still away from Dolphins camp

Hey friends. Beasley here, making a guest appearance on the blog.

Quick early report from the Dolphins' first OTA open to reporters.

1. Reshad Jones apparently remains away from the team, boycotting the voluntary workouts and practices in hopes of getting a new contract. Jones has two years remaining on his current deal.

2. Three others were also missing at the beginning of practice: defensive end Cameron Wake (who is still just six months removed from Achilles surgery), tight end Thomas Duarte (UCLA is on the quarters system) and linebacker Spencer Paysinger.

3. Six Dolphins worked to the side with trainers instead of practicing: RB Damien Williams, WR A.J. Cruz, WR Leonte Carroo, TE MarQueis Gray, TE Jake Stoneburner, OG Jermon Bushrod.

More to come later ...