The part of the Indianapolis Combine that often goes unnoticed and therefore unreported by the media -- particularly the younger, inexperienced reporters -- is what happens between agents and club personnel people in hotel lobbies, or restaurants, or in the stadium and convention center hallways.
Yes, the incoming class of rookies is working out and being interviewed.
But agents also are in Indianapolis for meetings and they use the trip to conduct face-to-face business with teams. Agents go to Indy to pitch their clients who are soon to become free agents. In some cases they go to Indy to try and bridge a gap in talks between their clients scheduled to become free agents and their current teams. Agents also go to Indy to get an idea what players they represent might be on the radar for certain teams -- as a way of testing the market before it opens.
As you know free agency begins Feb. 27 and agents and teams aren't supposed to discuss players that are not yet free agents until midnight on that date.
But the worst kept secret in the NFL is that agents and teams do discuss players prior to that time and, in extreme cases, even set up contract parameters prior to free agency's official start. Does anyone remember Justin Smiley agreed to his free agent contract with Miami about 20 minutes after midnight when free agency began last year?
Do you seriously believe that entire deal got negotiated and agreed to in 20 minutes? I remember years ago the Dolphins had safety Gene Atkins in town and signed the first day of free agency. You think Atkins just happened to be around?
Some of those talks and exchanges of information between teams and agents start in Indianapolis.
Now that you understand the situation on the ground, here are a couple of things the Dolphins will likely discuss and run into in the coming days.
The defensive end spot is likely to become a big point of interest for Miami in the coming days and weeks. In the coming days, agents Cary Fabrikant and Brian Levy and the Dolphins will discuss the future of defensive end Vonnie Holliday.
Those talks are necessary because, as I reported weeks ago, Holliday is due a $1.5 million roster bonus on March 3. And his cap number for 2009 is currently scheduled to be $5.75 million. So that's a lot of cap room to use on a player.
The Dolphins may be interested in reworking the deal to make it more cap friendly, despite the fact they have a whopping $28 million in cap space at their disposal already. Holliday is open to restructuring but probably not too keen about taking a pay cut. So the sides have to discuss the matter and those talks are likely to happen in Indianapolis.
But that is not where the defensive end spot's Indianapolis flavor ends. You see, two potential unrestricted free agent defensive ends are expected to approach the Dolphins, through their agents, to gauge Miami interest. They are San Diego's Igor Olshansky and Chris Canty of the Dallas Cowboys.
The connection between Canty and the Dolphins is obvious as he was drafted by Bill Parcells out of Virginia. Canty has started 48 consecutive games for the Cowboys and talked on Sirius NFL Radio a couple of weeks ago about his relationship with Parcells.
“He did draft me. He did draft me," Canty said. "You know, I like Bill. And I’ve always said, there’s a part of me that’s always [going to] be a Parcells guy. I’ve played under Al Groh in college and then coming in as a rookie under Bill. What they instill in the brand of football that they play, it’s been with me so that would be a place that would be a good fit. But, you know, we have to wait and see.”
Canty's agent, Bradley Blank, will likely soon have a pretty good idea exactly what Miami's interest will be. If that interest is not legitimate with Canty or if the Dolphins don't somehow retain Holliday, the Dolphins will almost certainly will be involved, at least initially, in the Olshansky sweepstakes.
Olshansky can opt out of his contract with the Chargers based on the fact he's met certain performance levels. The San Diego Union-Tribune has reported Olshansky will use his opt-out. The fact he has an opt-out alone means he's likeminded with Parcells. Couldn't resist.
In truth, the fact Olshansky is 6-6 and 309 pounds and productive and 26 years old will be tempting to the Dolphins because Holliday, who was as productive if not more productive than those other two players, is hindered by the fact he's 33 and will be 34 in December.
So keep these veteran defensive ends in mind even as you're thinking about the rookies and the vertical leap and the short shuttle times in Indianapolis.
Also, keep in mind Drew Rosenhaus will be approaching the Dolphins about Yeremiah Bell and Renaldo Hill. Keep in mind the Dolphins will be telling agent Ben Dogra whether they will put the franchise tag on his client Vernon Carey. Keep in mind agents will be pitching GM Jeff Ireland their free-agents-to-be.
It'll be a busy few days.