Free agency is only two weeks away, which would suggest some last-second dealing between the Dolphins and their half-dozen important unrestricted free agents is still possible. Those talks might ordinarily occur face-to-face at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis next week.
Except that's not really how the Dolphins work anymore.
The days of an eleventh-hour move by the team to bring an important player on board are long gone. Miami's philosophy these days?
The Dolphins long ago set their internal value on their free agents and have made offers to the ones they are interested in retaining, which is to say all of them, with those values in mind. It is the first step of the free agency game plan and the Dolphins aren't likely to stray from the plan at the last minute.
A Dolphins source on Wednesday explained that once the team set a value for each player, it talked to agents, and in some cases the players themselves, to help that side understand the club's thinking.
"We want everybody back," the source said. "We don't want to lose anybody. But we have what we think is the right price for every player and that's what we're willing to pay. We've told each guy, 'It's not personal and it's not that we don't like you.' But we have a plan and a value and that's what we're willing to pay. Maybe some other team will pay more and if that's the case, good for them. But we're going to pay what we think the player is worth.
"Does that mean we might lose some players? That's possible. We've lost 20 players in the past we didn't want to lose."
This doesn't mean there might not be some wiggle room. There is always wiggle room. But it strongly suggests the Dolphins and players such as Yeremiah Bell, Andre' Goodman, Vernon Carey, Renaldo Hill, Al Johnson, and Channing Crowder will not suddenly have a joint epiphany and come to a last-second, pre-free agency deal.
Unless some of the agents representing the players suddenly see their clients as Miami sees them, many of these guys will hit free agency Feb. 27.
That certainly is true of Crowder. He and agent Joel Segal have scheduled no talks nor negotiations with the Dolphins between now and the start of free agency. [Negotiation fact: It's hard to get a deal if the sides ain't talking.]
Segal, a skilled dealmaker, has an offer from the Dolphins in hand, according to a source. He also has his price for Crowder's worth. And even as Crowder has been working out at the Dolphins facility as often as four days per weeks since the end of the season, there is a distinct difference of opinion on Crowder's value between the player side and the team side.
Agent Drew Rosenhaus represents Bell and Hill. He hopes to talk to the Dolphins before the start of free agency, but again, unless he lowers his asking price -- particularly for Bell -- the strong safety seems likely to test the market.
And it bears noting that once a player has waited this long, once he is only two weeks from the start of free agency, he becomes harder to sign because the open market lure can be quite inviting. It also bears stating that sometimes the team underestimates a player's worth.
The Dolphins may or may not be doing this with Carey, as he is one of the few starting caliber tackles on the market. But there is nothing that says the team won't have time to recover from any miscalculation. Most agents are more than happy to bring back an offer for their player in hopes of leveraging a better offer.
I doubt the Dolphins would go for that very often, but the possibility exists.
None of this is written to be divisive or pit team against players. It is just the reality of the situation between the Dolphins and their unrestricted free agents now.
One more thing: The start of free agency every year signals some of great fiction writing in journalism as agents and teams and other sources feed sportswriters contract numbers for the freshly minted free agents. Many times those numbers come with an agenda and are nowhere close to accurate. I know, I've made the mistake of trusting people's word only to be disappointed when the truth comes out.
One recent example of this is the contract signed by Derek Cameron Wake. It was widely reported in January he signed a four-year deal that could be worth $4.9 million. Nope.
Wake's salary is scheduled at $310,000 in 2009, $395,000 in 2010, $480,000 in 2011 and $565,000 in 2012. That adds up to $1.75 million. He got approximately $1 million in bonuses and guarantees which bring the deal to about $2.7 million and he has another $900,000 or so in incentives that bring the potential total of the deal to about $3.6 million.
But what's $1.3 million between friends?