The Dolphins have a problem, which is no secret to anyone who was paying attention in 2008 and, thankfully, is no secret to them. The Dolphins need more offensive firepower.
And they need it most at the wide receiver spot.
The question is how do the Dolphins address the problem? Well, the next three months or so will offer Big Tuna Bill Parcells and Tuna Helper Jeff Ireland the opportunity to address this, and their other personnel issues.
As it pertains to receivers the Dolphins are considering a three-pronged possibility for adding talent. They can draft a receiver, they can sign a free agent receiver, or they can trade for a receiver. I'm giving you their options in the order the team would most prefer to solve the issue -- through the draft is always the preference with this group.
So let's break down the possibilities and what is available:
The draft -- There will be 31 wide receivers at the NFL scouting combine, which begins Wednesday. The Dolphins would love the best-case scenario to play out and find a star among this group or among the list of draft-eligible receivers that will not be at the combine. That's because these players are the youngest, the cheapest and, in most cases, the ones most easily molded to Miami's culture.
But this is also the hardest area in which to find that star because it's a crapshoot with unproven players and, unlike last season when Miami had high picks in practically every round, Parcells and Ireland don't have more ammunition than everybody else.
Despite that truth, the Dolphins should be able to land a solid receiver among their first three picks if they wish. Miami has nine overall picks but two-second round selections in addition to their first-rounder. By the end of the second round the Dolphins will have had the opportunity to select players they are already tracking, with some of these being North Carolina's Hakeem Nicks, Georgia's Mohamed Massaquoi, Cal Poly's Ramses Barden, Kenny Britt of Rutgers, and Ohio State's Brian Robiskie.
All have excellent size. Barden is something of a freak at 6-6 and 227 pounds. All will be trying to run well either at the combine or at their pro days to show they have speed or quickness to go along with their size. As you read in my previous blog post, draft guru Mel Kiper has the Dolphins taking Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey in the first round.
Mel admits he will likely change that in his next mock draft, which will come after the combine. He believes the Dolphins might also take outside linebacker Clay Matthews of USC. Maybe, but I don't see Miami going to OLB in the first round unless a great player falls. The Dolphins did invest in Derek Cameron Wake for that position.
But I digress.
Some darkhorse, later-round receivers the Dolphins are studying include Marko Mitchell of Nevada, Dominique Edison of Stephen F. Austin, and North Carolina's Brandon Tate, who is a likely a second-day project based on the fact he tore his ACL and MCL in October and didn't really flash bigtime as a WR until that injury-shortened senior season.
Free agency -- The Dolphins like restricted free agent Miles Austin of the Cowboys but if he is tagged with a second-round tender as has been reported, that Miami interest is likely to wane.
New Orleans receiver Lance Moore, another restricted free agent, is a possibility as the Saints must tag him higher than his draft round because he went undrafted out of Toledo. Moore caught 79 passes for 928 yards with 10 touchdowns last season so, again, depending on his tender, he could be an option.
The group of unrestricted free agents, unlike the restricted players, isn't very good. T.J. Houshmandzadeh ... (gotta rest the fingers a second after typing that name) ... is probably the best of the group but, geez, the guy is soon to be 32 years old and he's a possession guy. He's also going to be expensive. So he doesn't make a lot of sense to me.
Amani Toomer, 34, should be available but he'd be a great fit if this was 1999 rather than 2009.
Parcells has kept his eye on Tampa Bay's Antonio Bryant despite a previous fallout between the two men, but I don't see the Bucs letting Bryant walk. There are also legitimate questions whether the sometimes troubled Byrant has matured enough to produce after signing a big contract.
Pittsburgh's Nate Washington is not a No. 1 guy today but could develop into something special. San Francisco's Bryant Johnson is an underachiever and not a playmaker. One other guy to keep in mind is Devery Henderson of New Orleans. He has good speed and his agent is Jimmy Sexton, who is also the agent for Parcells and coach Tony Sparano
So the pickings are slim here.
Trade -- The players available include or may eventually include Anquan Boldin, Chad Johnson, Terrell Owens, and Plaxico Burress.
Let us not mince words here: There is no chance the Dolphins acquire Johnson, Owens or Burress. The Second Coming happening Wednesday is more likely than Miami spending picks and new contract money for Johnson, Burress or Owens.
Boldin? That's a different story.
Boldin is out there and the Dolphins know it as they received the same letter agent Drew Rosenhaus sent the 31 other teams about Boldin being available. And although the Cardinals are publicly saying they will not trade Boldin, I dismiss that because that is what they must say now to drive up the price on him. That decision is not final and the proof is no one in the Arizona organization has definitively said Boldin will not be traded. They may eventually arrive at that stance, but not yet, not even close.
So it remains a possibility. I asked a Miami team source recently if there was a possibility the Dolphins might try to land Boldin through trade if he becomes officially available. His reaction surprised me. He didn't say, "No." He didn't say, "That's ridiculous."
He said, "Anquan Boldin is a very good player under contract with another team and I'm not at liberty to discuss him because that would be tampering." At which point I reminded the person I'm not publishing his name, and he said, "That's all I'm saying on that."
The point is my question was not dismissed. It was dodged. And knowing this source, he dismisses questions that have no roots in facts or serious possibility. And he dodges or double-speaks on some legitimate ones he doesn't want to address.
Am I saying the Dolphins will be the team Boldin ends up playing for in 2009? No. But am I saying you should definitely excuse them from an interested group of suitors that might include Philadelphia, the Giants, Bears, and Raiders? Absolutely not.
So those are the scenarios. The Dolphins have a receiver problem. They know it. They are going to try to solve it. How do you think they should do it? How do you think they will do it?