[Update 1: Before reading this understand that at this hour the New England Patriots are wrapping up the signing of free agent cornerback Leigh Bodden, according to The Boston Globe. The contract is a one-year deal at the veteran minimum salary of $750,000. The Patriots have signed two veteran free agent corners in the last week, the other being Shawn Springs. By the way, if you read the item, notice which team led the NFL in touchdowns allowed last year. That would be Arizona. The Dolphins are interested in signing Arizona CB Eric Green.]
When is an upgrade not an upgrade? Well, for the Miami Dolphins the question has been answered over and over and over again the past two offseasons: When the potential player who might upgrade the roster is, ahem, older.
Bill Parcells and Tuna Helper Jeff Ireland came to Miami intent on remaking the roster with young players that were ascending and about to enter their primes. It was a smart, logical approach to improving a team that was 1-15 in 2007 and was two or three years from competing.
But something wonderful happened to Miami en route to 2010. The team went 11-6 in 2008, won the AFC East, got in the playoffs, and became an overnight contender. Except the Miami braintrust isn't exactly treating Miami like a contender this offseason.
The braintrust is still using this free agency period to bring in relatively young (25-29 years old) players that (one hopes) have their best games ahead of them. You have to applaud that approach for its patience and long-term vision. It truly is the wise way to build a team.
(So right now, at your computer, stand up and applaud. I will join you ...)
OK, now that I've said that, let me say this: I hope this hard-and-fast rule the Dolphins seem to be following about not even sniffing talent in its 30s isn't so hard-and-fast. That would not be wise.
It says here the Dolphins are a team that this offseason has lost three veteran leaders on defense. Vonnie Holliday was a team captain while Andre' Goodman and Renaldo Hill were quiet but steadying influences for the players around them.
The Dolphins will likely draft or promote much younger players to take their places on the roster and in the lineup. So the young Dolphins are about to get younger even as they seek new leadership in their locker room. But the Dolphins seem unwilling to deviate from the youth movement in the slightest to fill any void.
Yes, we know the team will draft a cornerback. We know the team will draft a receiver. There are linebackers and other players coming among Miami's nine draft picks.
But why not seriously consider a veteran talent also under the right conditions?
If a player is over 30 but still productive, why wouldn't the Dolphins consider him? If he can come at a bargain rate, why wouldn't the Dolphins take a chance at hitting a home run for a couple of years? Why would the Dolphins consider a player like Chris McAlister?
I realize there are problems with him. He has been injured a lot the past two seasons. But that shouldn't disqualify him because, guess what, it didn't disqualify Jake Grove from being signed after being injured a lot the past two seasons.
The disqualifying factor seems to be McAlister's age. He will be 32 years old in June. That seems to wipe him off the Dolphins radar like a stealth jet disappears over Iraqi airspace.
My point, my hope, is a player like McAlister, who has been a starter and a star, should get a full investigation and assessment, one every bit as thorough as a younger player such as Eric Green, a player who has age on his side but whose production has not been anywhere near a healthy McAlister.
Does it mean the Dolphins have to commit to McAlister for five years? No. Two years is plenty, thank you. But two years might be better than zero years in some cases.
The same holds true at other positions. Yes, the Dolphins have to improve the wide receiver spot and the hope is the team will draft a player prominently to fill that need. But why just dismiss some available vets based on the fact they're over 30?
Is Joey Galloway not worthy of an investigation? Of a visit? He's ancient, yes. But he's still faster than any Miami receiver save Ted Ginn Jr. He's still able to fill a role -- my guess would be he'd be Miami's No. 1 receiver the second he walked through the door. Galloway isn't what he was 10 years ago. But he's still good enough that the Super Bowl champion Steelers brought him to town for a free agent visit Monday and are trying to sign him.
The Jets, meanwhile, are said to be considering soon-to-be 33-year-old Torry Holt when he is cut from the Rams. The Seahawks addressed their receiver issues by signing 32-year-old T.J. Houshmandzadeh. I'm not saying the Dolphins should have signed these guys or should go get Holt. I'm saying they shouldn't simply turn their back on them based on age alone.
Too expensive? I understand. Too much of a locker room problem. I'm with you. Not a position of need? I totally agree. Over 30 years old? Let's discuss this one a second.
A lot of teams have used this offseason to add veterans who aren't what they once were, but are still excellent players. Brian Dawkins went to Denver. Matt Birk went to Baltimore. Shawn Springs went to New England. Kurt Warner went back to the Cardinals and Ray Lewis went back to Baltimore.
We're not talking about schlub teams here. The Patriots, Cardinals and Ravens have something of reputation for identifying good talent.
The point is there are guys beyond 30 that can still play at a very, very, very high level. And following their experience with 34-year-old Jason Ferguson and soon-to-be 33-year-old Chad Pennington, the Dolphins should know this firsthand.
Yes, the Dolphins should rightly continue to ask how they can build for tomorrow with young players. But Miami should not dismiss an important counter-balance to that question: What can veteran players do for us today?
[Update 2: The Dolphins announced they had no unrestricted free agent visits on Tuesday.]