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37 posts from March 2009

March 12, 2009

Kiper: No shutdown corners in this draft

The saving grace for Miami's inactivity in the unrestricted free agent cornerback market has been the thought Miami will simply reach into the draft and pluck one or two solid corners to supply its need -- doing so perhaps as early as the first round.

Well, that may yet happen. But anyone thinking there will be a ton of available excellent cornerbacks in this draft didn't watch the NFL combine when many corners ran disappointing times. And now the "draft gurus" are starting to chime in on the class.

Meet Mel Kiper, draft guru. This is what Kiper says about this year's available corners over at espn.com: "There isn't that one true shutdown cornerback available this year," Kiper says. "And after the subpar 40 times run by the defensive backs at the combine workout, this position isn't really as strong or as deep as originally anticipated."

Obviously this is an opinion and it's not necessarily shared by the Dolphins. And the 40-yard dash times in the draft have been called into question because of a possible clock malfunction. But I think we can all agree Kiper studies this stuff more than the average layman. So I'm sharing what Kiper has to say about some of the top-rated cornerbacks.

Understand the Dolphins have apparently taken a hankerin' to Utah's Sean Smith. They've interviewed him. They've poured over tape of him. They really like the kid. More on him in a minute, including a youtube video below. This is what Kiper says about the "top" cornerback prospects:

Michael Jenkins (Ohio State): "Jenkins is barely maintaining his spot as the No. 1 cornerback," Kiper says. Although Kiper points out that Jenkins "brings a ton of experience and sound technique to the position," he ran a 4.55 40-yard dash at the combine, which makes Kiper worry whether he's worthy of first-round consideration.

Vontae Davis (Illinois): Davis is on Jenkins' heels as the top cornerback in this class. But "he lacks the necessary consistency and is still a work in progress," Kiper says. "But physically, he has the awesome physical talent you look for to warrant a first-round grade."

D.J. Moore (Vanderbilt): Kiper says he has impressive cover skills, good return skills, smooth hips and good ball skills, but he lacks good recovery speed.

Alphonso Smith (Wake Forest): "The 5-9, 193-pounder would be a first-round lock if he were a few inches taller and a bit faster," Kiper says.

Darius Butler (UCONN): Butler is a multiskilled athlete with outstanding recovery speed, Kiper says. Butler also saw action on offense, with nine receptions, and is a solid kick returner.

Donald Washington (Ohio State): Washington left school early, a move that many people questioned, but Kiper says he is a solid second-rounder and will draw consideration in the latter portion of Round 1. "He has the physical skills you look for," Kiper says.

Kiper includes Smith among a group of other corners with "early-round potential." Looking at the guy you have to figure he's a bottom of the first round or top of the second round player. He has elite cornerback size (6-3), he had good production throughout his career, he stays healthy which the Dolphins love, and he has no off-field issues.

"He has excellent, excellent instincts," one college scout told me this morning.

The scout told me Smith has to, "improve his technique getting out of his backpedal because sometimes his steps are awkward and that hurts his recovery to the ball." But, this scout added, "From what I've seen, he's very coachable and will be eager to work on his technique when a good pro coach gets a hold of him."

One more thing: Smith, the scout said, "has excellent ball skills. If the ball is in the air and he's in good position, he's more likely to come down with it than the receiver."

The other corners Kiper mentions as having early-round potential are Jairus Byrd of Oregon, Keenan Lewis of Oregon State, Brandon Huges of Oregon State, Captain Munnerlyn of South Carolina, Jerraud Powers of Auburn, and tough-guy Asher Allen of Georgia, who my scout source sees as something of a sleeper with great potential despite limited production."

March 11, 2009

Philosophy difference with Miami, N.E. [Update]

[Update: The Dolphins announced they had no unrestricted free agents visit the team Wednesday.]

The accepted myth around some NFL circles is that Bill Parcells long-ago planted a philosophy in former assistant Bill Belichick that the New England coach has harvested religiously in bringing great success to the Patriots.

Well, that is not exactly true and watching the Dolphins and Patriots play defense highlights that difference as one 3-4 (New England's) is a hybrid of the other, more traditional (Miami's) 3-4. More evidence of the difference can be found in the approach to the offseason -- this one specifically.

The Patriots had a great need in their secondary and pass-rush last season as they were failed by both on third down. New England was the worst NFL defense in the third-and-10-or-more situations last season, which only means they lost on the game's most important plays, the get-off-the-field plays, more than any other team. Terrible.

With the 23rd pick in the first round and three picks in the second round, one would assume the Patriots would address this problem by picking up some pass-rush help and a cornerback or two. And they still might do that.

But in searching for cornerbacks the Patriots won't necessarily be banking on them being starters right away. The rookies might become starters, but if they aren't ready, Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs are already on the roster to serve as a transition to the younger players.

The Dolphins are also going to address the cornerback spot in the draft. That is clear because they need bodies, they need depth, and either Nate Jones or Jason Allen as your starting cornerback opposite Will Allen is like hanging a neon sign in the secondary flashing, "BURN ME, BURN ME."

The Dolphins have also tried to sign a veteran cornerback to fill their need. They tried to re-sign Andre' Goodman. They talked to Bodden's agent. They talked with Bryant McFadden's agent. They hosted a visit by Arizona's Eric Green, who remains unsigned and is still a possibility.

The difference is even if Miami signs Green, he hadly brings to the job the credentials Springs or Bodden take to New England. Green might be starting-caliber. And he might not. That has been his career history. Sometimes good. Sometimes not so good.

So where is the big disconnect between Miami's offseason philosophy and New England's? Mike Lombardi of the National Football Post sizes up New England's philosophy very well:

"The Patriots have a complete team ready to compete in the NFL before the draft. I always felt that you had to attempt to cover your team needs before the draft so that you could enter the draft with the intention of taking the best player. Having the ability to be flexible in the draft allows you to just pick players and not have to worry about waiting for a certain player. The best drafts normally come from having the best offseasons. You enter the draft room with a sense of peace and know that if the chips don’t fall your way, your team can still go out and compete."

Lombardi, a former NFL personnel man and general manager, says not all teams do this and, frankly, I can see the Dolphins as a team that doesn't, or hasn't so far. Last year, everyone knew the Dolphins had enormous holes at offensive tackle and defensive end.

The Dolphins had to fill those holes in the draft. It worked out well with Jake Long, Phillip Merling and Kendall Langford, but it was also an unusual year in that Miami had the first pick of the draft, and multiple high picks in the second round.

This year Miami is picking 25th in the first round. And although it has multiple picks in the second round, the picks are later this year -- 32nd and 57th overall last year compared to 44th and 56th overall this year.

Despite being sealed up like a (Big) Tuna can as an organization, everyone pretty much knows the Dolphins must draft a cornerback, must draft receiver help, and probably will add pass-rush help. We know this.

So this raises two questions:

Will the Dolphins use the latter part of free agency when bargains can be found, to augment positions of need with veterans so they are not forced draft for that need?

Or do the Dolphins decide they have no problem drafting for need and refuse to sign veterans that are good, but not that good. If that is the approach they will save cap space and not add bargain vets, but they also won't enjoy, as Lombardi said, the peace to select the best player at any position they want during the draft.

I find it fascinating. Let's see how it plays out.

[By the way, let's bring the level of comments up a couple of notches today. Spare us the, "I believe in Tuna under all circumstances," comments because everyone trusts in what the guy is doing, and that comment requires no thought, OK? The point is what do you think of the approach? Do you like it compared to New England's? Give me the holes in each approach. Tell me if you find it interesting Belichick and Parcells seem so different in their approach? And which approach would you prefer and why?] 

March 10, 2009

Age question cannot have one answer [Update 2]

[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.]

March 09, 2009

Free agent CB market looking thin [Update 4]

Whatever the Dolphins interest in signing free agent Bryant McFadden was, it apparently was not as high as the Cardinals' interest because McFadden on Sunday evening signed a two-year deal with Arizona, according to espn.com.

McFadden's contract is worth $10 million. The deal pays a guaranteed $4.75 million in 2009 with an extra $250,000 in a workout bonus. There is a $5 million in base salary in 2010 but that is not guaranteed. Sounds like a one-year deal to me unless McFadden plays well in 2009.

So where does that leave YOUR Miami Dolphins as they try to fill the cornerback void?

Eric Green, who included the Dolphins among his free agent vists that also saw him travel to Tennessee and San Francisco, is still available. Although the Dolphins didn't make Green a contract offer last week, he expected to begin fielding such offers this week and it would not surprise, considering Miami's situation at cornerback, that they make him an offer.

There are other cornerbacks on the market but the fact they are still available a full 11 days into the free agency signing period suggests they are not necessarily sure-fire starters. In fact, most are not.

Leigh Bodden, released by the Detroit Lions in early February, is a curious situation. Bodden didn't have to wait for free agency to begin to sign with another team yet no one pulled the trigger on him nor he on them. Either the guy is pricing himself too high or teams simply aren't that impressed with a guy who Chad Johnson once called the toughest cornerback to ever cover him. Of course, that was way back in 2005.

Dre' Bly is another former Pro Bowl cornerback that has remained on the market despite becoming available before the start of free agency -- again suggesting something is amiss with the player or his asking price, as no team has stepped forward to sign him.

[Update 1: One name to keep in mind is Justin Miller of the Oakland Raiders. He remains unsigned and is a solid prospect. He is a depth guy, not a starter candidate. But when he was on waivers from the Jets last November, the Dolphins put in a claim for him. It likely had a lot to do with the fact he's a very good special teams player, but he has a future at CB. Tennessee's Chris Carr is a similar type of backup CB/return specialist. Anyway, what ever happened to improving special teams?]

Frankly, many of the other cornerbacks left on the market seem either too old or too stained for the Dolphins. Let me throw some names at you so you understand my point:

Karl Paymah, who the Dolphins burned repeatedly last year.

Sam Madison, who would be great if this was 1999 instead of 2009. 

Patrick Surtain, who has had injury issues of late.

Adam "Pacman" Jones, who is a very safe pick considering there are no strip clubs in South Florida.

Ralph Brown, who lost his starting job to Green who then lost his starting job to a rookie.

RW McQuarters, who belongs in a western with a name like that.

David Barrett, who was cut by the Jets.

Oh, and there's always Jamar Fletcher. Fill in your own line here.

All of a sudden, Eric Green is sounding more appealing. All of a sudden, one has to wonder if the Dolphins shouldn't have tried a little harder to re-sign Andre' Goodman.

[Update 2: I have received a crush of e-mails from you suggesting the Dolphins sign this guy or that guy and I appreciate the concern, as I'm sure the Dolphins do. But think about this the next time you believe the Dolphins can fill the void with numbers: Last year the team decided it needed a veteran quarterback in its midst. Free agency offered options but no solutions. The Dolphins went with one of those options anyway, signing Josh McCown even though his career had shown him to be a journeyman backup. When camp opened, amazing but true, McCown looked like a journeyman backup. The point is sometimes signing someone in free agency for the sake of having a body is not the answer. That is a fact the Dolphins no doubt are weighing now as they go through the thin list of talent left at the CB position.] 

[Update 3: No need for you guys to get too worked up about this, however. Bill Parcells is not. Tony Sparano is not. Both were at the New York Mets spring training complex Monday morning, hanging with Jeff Wilpon and Jerry Manuel. Sparano is a Mets fan. Trust me, they weren't there scouting Livan Hernandez as a CB prospect.]

[Update 4: The Dolphins are reporting no unrestricted free agent visits today. The team does not report street free agent visits so players such as Bodden and Bly wouldn't be included there.]

March 07, 2009

Sunday column: Get us a freakin' cornerback!

The Sunday Dolphins column will return to the pages of The Miami Herald Sunday and the signing of Terrell Owens by the Buffalo Bills highlights the point of the column.

The Dolphins desperately need a starting cornerback.

The column makes the point the Dolphins 2009 schedule will match the Miami secondary against Carolina's Steve Smith, Houston Andre Johnson, New England's Randy Moss and Wes Welker twice, Indy's Reggie Wayne, Tampa's Antonio Bryant, Pittsburgh's Hines Ward, and now Buffalo's Terrelll Owens and Lee Evans twice.

And the Dolphins will answer that challenge with a starting cornerback tadem of Will Allen and ...

... and ... and ...

Jason Allen? Will Billingsly? Joey Thomas? Nathan Jones? Scorpio Babers?


The Dolphins need to sign or draft a starting cornerback. Maybe they need to sign and draft a starting cornerback.

Bryant McFadden on Dolphins radar?

The Dolphins search for a starting caliber cornerback apparently includes the possibility of adding Pittsburgh unrestricted free agent Bryant McFadden, according to profootballtalk.com.

Assuming website boss Mike Florio didn't pick up this item from a comments section of some blog and post it as news -- as we have seen him do before, only to be duped by an imposter's skullduggery -- the report is believable for a couple of reasons.

Florio is stating he's getting the information, "per a league source," which translates to, "This from an agent buddy." Now, everyone in the NFL knows one of the handful of agents who regularly feeds Florio news is Drew Rosenhaus.

Rosenhaus happens to represent McFadden.

Connect the dots and voila.

Rosenhaus is obviously telling the website his client, who has been trying to land a new deal since free agency's start, has four teams interested in signing him, with the Dolphins being among those teams.

According to the item, the Steelers, Cardinals and Eagles are also interested. The Steelers have been trying to re-sign McFadden and he did visit the Cardinals early in the week.

McFadden, a South Florida native who played at Florida State, wants to compete for a starting job anywhere he lands because he started eight regular-season games for the Steelers in 2008. McFadden has seven interceptions in 51 career games.

This is what Scouts Inc. says about the 27-year-old:

"McFadden has a strong well-defined body and adequate height. He plays the run well, is physical near the line of scrimmage and doesn't back down from a physical challenge. McFadden has decent instincts, plays the ball well and is a quick learner. He sees plays develop well and shows excellent competitiveness.

"He is a good tackler and gets his hands on the ball quite a bit. His speed is just slightly above average and could be exposed against the faster wideouts in the league. His hip turn and change-of-direction skills are also just slightly above average, but he has very good body control and rarely takes false steps, which make up for some of his potential shortcomings.

"He can be overly aggressive at times going for the big play and will sometimes bite on double moves, although he has improved in this area. McFadden is effective in press or off-coverage and may be at his best playing in a Cover 2, where he can stay close to the line of scrimmage and mix it up. He also does a nice job in off-coverage and sees the play develop in front of him well. He is a valuable member of the secondary, but needs to step up all areas of his game to be considered a solid starter. He also contributes on special teams and is a young player with an ample amount of upside."

March 06, 2009

Draft order, what picks need to bring [Update]

The NFL has released its official draft order for the April 2009 draft and although the order might change slightly at the end of rounds 3-7 because of the addition of compensatory picks, you can pretty much bank on much of this remaining.

So here's the 411 on the Dolphins:

They have nine overall picks. They have at least one selection in every round, except the sixth when they have no pick. They have two picks in the second round. They have three picks in the seventh round.

The picks by round:

FIRST -- 25th (25th overall).

SECOND -- 12th (44th overall) from Washington and 24th (56th overall).

THIRD -- 23rd (87th overall).

FOURTH -- 26th (122nd overall).

FIFTH -- 25th (153rd overall).

SIXTH -- 24th (184th overall) to Dallas.

SEVENTH -- 5th (197th overall) from Cleveland, 23rd (215th overall), and 28th (220th overall) from Carolina.

Alrightie then. So what do the Dolphins do with those picks, those nine opportunities to improve the team?

Following the league-wide cooling off of free agency at the end of this week, I think it will be obvious to everyone the Dolphins are not about to sign a sure-fire, starting-caliber player the remainder of free agency. Oh, some unrestricted free agent might sign and have the chance to compete for a starting job. Some veteran might even be cut unexpectedly -- as Chad Pennington was -- and also fit in as the Dolphins look to get an answer at a questionable position.

But are the Dolphins going to find someone in what remains of free agency that will be anointed a starter from the moment he puts signature to contract as Gibril Wilson and Jake Grove were? Probably not.

So it is the draft that will offer Miami the next greatest opportunity -- outside of trades -- to find starters. And on a team with as many needs as the Dolphins still have, one would expect they could find at minimum one and perhaps even three rookies to start relatively quickly out of the coming draft.

And where does Miami need these starters?

Cornerback. Wide receiver. Outside linebacker/pass rusher. 

The cornerback spot as currently filled on the Miami roster shows what happens when a team invests a high draft pick on a position and the player flops. The loss of Andre' Goodman in free agency wouldn't be a big deal if Jason Allen, the first-round pick in 2006, were ready to step up and step in. Allen's not, at least coaches haven't thought so -- demoting him time after time after time, to the point he was mostly a special teams player at the end of last season.

So the Dolphins need a starting caliber cornerback and, at minimum, need someone with great promise to groom so he can step in when Will Allen is out of contact after the 2009 season. Cornerback, in my opinion, is currently the team's most glaring need.

Then there is the receiver position. The Dolphins need a No. 1 receiver. Can a rookie be a No. 1 receiver? Most cannot, but rookies can certainly make a difference as evidenced by the work Eddie Royal, DeSean Jackson and Donnie Avery did as rookies last season.

Hakeem Nicks screams "draft me" to Miami. He is polished. He is strong. He has experience in a pro offense. And Nicks is a great competitor as evidenced by the fact that when teammate Brandon Tate went down with an injury and teams rolled their coverages to Nicks, Nicks responded by improving his production. He was better when the pressure was on and teams paid closer attention to him. He would start on the Dolphins tomorrow.

But I doubt the Dolphins would be able to get him unless they get him in the first round and I don't know if that is the plan, given the relative value Bill Parcells places on wide receivers. We shall see. [Update: The youtube video I had up previously was of Nicks in 2007, his sophomore year. Thanks to N.C. fan Reggie Harrison for pointing it out. I've replaced it with a highlight look of 2008 action, including one of the sickest catches of the year at the 2:47 mark against West Virginia. Check out the concentration as Nicks brings the ball behind his back.]

The next highest priority is clearly improving the pass rush and the Dolphins will do this, in all probability, by picking an outside linebacker. Don't get hooked on strong side or weak side. As a rookie that player doesn't really have to start. He can be a situational pass rusher that plays in every passing situation as one of Miami's quarterback-chasing-front-four in the nickel and dime packages.

Eventually coaches will decide if that rookie rusher is Matt Roth's replacement in 2009 ... or Joey Porter's replacement beyond that. Again, don't get caught up in weak or strong side right away. The coaches will figure that out eventually. Concentrate on the need to get pressure on the quarterback from a source other than Porter, particularly in the nickel and dime packages. That's the key.

Actually, those are the three greatest keys to improving the Dolphins in 2009 now that free agency is about to slow to a trickle.

March 05, 2009

Green heads to Tennessee, elsewhere

You read here Wednesday that Eric Green visited with the Dolphins. The Dolphins have not brought players to South Florida this free agency period without having serious intentions to sign those players. In fact, the Dolphins signed all (two) players they brought to town before those guys left.

Except this time.

Green isout of South Florida and visiting the Titans today according to the Tennessean. He will visit the 49'ers Friday.

So if the Dolphins want to fill their vacant starting CB job opposite Will Allen with Green, they're going to have to overcome some competition.  

T.O.? Don't even think about it

Reasons the Miami Dolphins will not sign Terrell Owens following confirmation through the league news wire Thursday that the enigmatic wide receiver's contract in Dallas has been terminated:

Because Bill Parcells didn't want him in Dallas in 2006 when Owens was four years younger and had helped ruin the locker room harmony of two, rather than three clubs as it now stands.

Because T.O. is 35 years old.

Because T.O. will want a big fat contract.

Because some fool franchise will probably give it to him.

Because T.O. is selfish rather than selfless.

Because Parcells likes selfless rather than selfish.

Because there is no bellman the Dolphins can hire strong enough to carry all of T.O.'s baggage.

Because the Dolphins are going to draft their No. 1 receiver in the coming draft.

Because the Dolphins have seen veteran receivers Marvin Harrison, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Laveranues Coles come on the market this year and barely blinked at the idea of having interest.

Because T.O. is another veteran receiver on the market.

Because T.O. had run-ins with Jeff Garcia.

And Donovan McNabb.

And Jason Witten.

And coaches on the Philadelphia staff.

And Parcells protoge' Todd Haley.

Because T.O. had drama with Tony Romo.

And his female P.R. assistant.

And some pills.

And Parcells hates drama.

But the biggest reason the Dolphins will not sign Terrell Owens despite a glaring need and desire to upgrade the receiver corps? Because they are not stupid.

[BLOG NOTE: Check out the offering below on De'Cody Fagg's workout with the Dolphins earlier this week.]

Fagg's workout goes "exceptionally well" but ...

A lot of you have been asking how receiver De'Cody Fagg's workout with the Dolphins went earlier this week. Ask and ye shall receiver, I mean, receive.

"It went exceptionally well," agent Kevin Conner wrote in an email to me Wednesday night.

Of course, it didn't go so exceedingly well that the Dolphins offered Fagg a contract on the spot. And that strongly suggests the team is not interested.

"We have four more private workouts before his pro day at FSU [March 16]," Connor wrote. "The Dolphins didn't extend a contract at this particular time but will be in attendance for FSU's pro day to get another look and continue the evaluation of De'Cody.

"We're optimistic he will be signed by an NFL club."

Fagg's budding NFL career stopped before it got a chance to start on Feb. 25, 2008. During workouts at the NFL Combine, he suffered what some experts at the time called a "career-ending" injury.

Scout.com senior NFL analyst Ed Thompson witnessed the injury from a suite overlooking the RCA Dome floor. He described it thusly:

"Florida State's De'Cody Fagg stretched for a slightly errant throw on an out route, snagging it right at the sideline chalk, but then seemed to catch his toe on the turf as he came down. He rolled to the ground, curled up and grabbed at his knee in obvious pain. He he was carted off the field with an unmistakable and understandable 'What-in-the-world-just-happened-to-me' look on his face. He's going to have the knee examined to determine the severity of the injury."

The severity of the injury was such that Fagg shredded his ACL. But a visit to Dr. James Andrews gave him hope his career would not be left in tatters. Fagg underwent reconstructive surgery, was running by October, and received medical clearence from Andrews on January 16 of this year.

"I was in shock when it happened because I'm like, 'Dang. I just hurt my knee on something I've been doing my whole life,' " Fagg told the Tampa Tribune last month. But, he went on, "I never had any doubt because I knew I wasn't going to give up. I knew what I had to do to get it back right."

So Fagg will continue to show teams what he can do and how far he's come in private workouts as well as the pro day. He was a second-day draft prospect last year because he has good size (listed at 6-3 and 215 according to the exaggerating FSU media guide. He's more like 6-2 and 205.)  But Fagg's speed was never blazing.

Teams no doubt still wonder about the speed as well as Fagg's explosiveness following the injury. But if he can regain the level he had his senior season at FSU when he caught 54 passes for 758 yards and a team-leading five touchdowns, Fagg will find himself in an NFL camp this summer.

It probably will not be in Miami's camp. But someone will likely give him a chance to complete what so far has been an encouraging comeback.

March 04, 2009

Eric Green (not that one) visits as UFA

The Dolphins announced today at 4 p.m. that Arizona cornerback (not the tight end) Eric Green is in town for a free agent visit.

Green, 27 on March 16, has been a starter much of his time with the Cardinals the past four years. He started nine of 13 games this season but the Cardinals have pretty much upgraded with the promotion of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to the starting lineup.

Green, meanwhile, seems to have fallen out of favor. He is listed third on the Arizona depth chart at the left cornerback spot. Green also accumulated zero stats during the postseason because he didn't play in any of the Cardinals' playoff games.

Green has two career interceptions in 51 career games.

This is what Scouts Inc. says about Green for the 2008 season:

"Green is a four-year veteran who the Cardinals drafted in the third round of the 2005 draft. He has excellent size, speed and athleticism for the position. He is smooth, explosive and can extend the cushion with his pedal and transition to close on the ball in front of him or to the sides. He has fluid hips which he can flip to turn and run with receivers deep and he has a burst to catch up when receivers get a step on him. His biggest issues are his lack of concentration and lapses of techniques.

"He tends to gamble and can get out of position, overestimating his ability to make the play. He has average ball skills when he can get in the area and has just one interception in his first three years, that coming his rookie season. He is not timid about getting involved, but could be more physical in run support. He pretty much needs to be 100 percent healthy to play effectively and could be tougher, mentally."

By the way, how many of you remember Eric Green, the tight end? He came to Miami in 1995 as an unrestricted free agent. This at a time the Dolphins were needing a pass-rusher, not a tight end. Anyway, he missed 39 practices that year and after Jimmy Johnson took over the next season, he immediately cut the guy. He went on to play five more seasons with Baltimore and the Jets. 

Holliday free agent tour starts Thurs. [Update]

Vonnie Holliday became a free agent Monday when the Dolphins terminated his contract, but it didn't take long for teams to begin showing interest in him. Holliday fielded calls from five teams Tuesday and has visits with two of them already scheduled.

The defensive end is scheduled to visit the Broncos on Thursday and the Detroit Lions early next week. The other three unnamed teams have yet to commit to visits but at least one of them is eventually expected to do just that.

The bad news for Miami is that team is in the AFC East.

The Broncos visit is intriguing because that team, under new coach Josh McDaniels, has already imported two former Dolphins defensive starters. The Broncos over the weekend signed cornerback Andre' Goodman and free safety Renaldo Hill.

It should not surprise that McDaniels is interested in the former Miami players. All three -- Hill, Goodman and Holliday -- came to Miami because Nick Saban brought them. McDaniels's first job as a coach came at Michigan State in 1999 under, who else, Saban.

So something about the type of player Saban likes obviously rubbed off on McDaniels. It also doesn't hurt, I'm sure, that McDaniels saw Hill and Goodman and, yes, Holliday, twice every season when he was an assistant at New England.

Holliday led all Miami defensive linemen in tackles and sacks last season despite playing only 56 percent of the downs.

[UPDATE: Speaking of defensive linemen, Bill Parcells talked to the Newark Star-Ledger about defensive end Chris Canty, a Parcells draftee in Dallas and a new Giants acquisition. In the interview he explained, in part, why the Dolphins didn't show the interest everyone expected Miami to have in Canty: "Well, we drafted three defensive linemen last year and signed two free-agent linemen," Parcells said. "We filled our needs then."

[The Dolphins, in fact, drafted Kenall Langford, Phillip Merling and Lionel Dotson. They also signed Randy Starks. And they traded for Jason Ferguson. The most interesting part of that statement to me is that Parcells claims the Dolphins have filled their needs on the unit, suggesting Miami is done along the defensive line. To me, nose tackle remains a position that needs attention. Disagree?]

March 03, 2009

Starting offensive line for 2009 is complete

Remember these names and in this order:

Jake Long, Justin Smiley, Jake Grove, Donald Thomas, Vernon Carey.

That is the look of the Dolphins 2009 offensive line now that Grove has signed a five-year deal worth $29 million with $14 million in guarantees. That is the look of the offensive line since the Dolphins retained Carey with a deal that is reportedly worth up to $42 million with $14 million in guarantees.

(By the way, Carey's six-year deal pays him a $12 million signing bonus, a $2 million roster bonus, $200,000 in workout bonuses and $800,000 in 2009 base salary. So Carey will make $15 million in 2009, making him the highest paid right tackle in the NFL. His base salaries beyond this season are scheduled as $950,000 in 2010, $4.15 million in 2011, $5.05 million in 2012, $5.65 million in 2013 and $4.95 million in 2014.)

But I digress.

That is the look of an offensive line with Smiley (leg, ankle, shoulder) and Thomas (foot) coming back from injuries. I am told neither player has suffered any setbacks in his rehabilitation following their injuries and surgeries so both are penciled in as starters, although Thomas will have to beat out recently acquired Joe Berger and Samson Satele.

That is the look of the offensive line with a Pro Bowl left tackle that is one year wiser, more experienced, further along in his blocking technique, and ready to challenge as one of the better left tackles in the game -- we hope.

And if you don't think that is good enough consider that depth is much improved from a season ago. Consider that Berger is an upgrade from either Andy Alleman or Ikechuku Ndukwe, who started when injuries befell Thomas and Smiley. How do I know Berger is an upgrade over Alleman and Ndukwe?

I've watched Alleman and Ndukwe play. I've watched them all practice going back to when Berger was with the Dolphins. Berger is an upgrade. But even then, Alleman and Ndukwe should get better in 2009 because they have more experience now, they are going to be in the workout program this offseason, and they will go through training camp. So they are by no means discards. They have good value.

Also consider that Satele, the starting center the past two years, now becomes a swing guy, someone who can play either guard or center. He will compete for a starting job, no doubt about it. But I don't see him beating out a healthy Grove. He has a better chance of winning a starting job at right guard. And if he doesn't, he's still a valuable depth guy with a lot of game experience.

So step back and look at the entire panaroma that is the Miami offensive line. It has well-paid players at right tackle, left tackle, left guard and center. It has competition at right guard that includes a former starting center in Satele, a new acquisition in Berger, and a budding prospect in Thomas that coaches love. 

And it has depth along the interior of the line that will include three players with starting experience. It is an impressive picture.

I grant you the Dolphins could use some quality depth at the tackle spots. But in the salary cap age, you have to make concessions somewhere. I can tell you there will be competition for the backup tackle spots that might include Nate Garner and Brandon Frye.

But overall the picture is quite good. Quite good indeed. 

Taylor reunion in Miami not out of question

Jason Taylor is no longer part of the Washington Redskins organization, meaning he is an unrestricted free agent. So does that mean he could soon be reunited with the Dolphins, the team he played for 11 outstanding seasons before spending one forgettable year in Washington?

No. Not right now, anyway.

The Dolphins today have no intention of making overtures to Taylor or his agent. The team is eyebrows-deep in locking up new center Jake Grove to a five-year contract and making sure it has enough salary cap space to conduct other business throughout the offseason.

Adding a salary like Taylor's is not in the budget and therefore not in Miami's immediate plans, according to an informed team source. But ...

Are the Dolphins absolutely, positively shutting the door on Jason Taylor? Is there zero chance he returns to Miami? Did the JT express leave the station last year, with no chance of ever stopping back again?


There is indeed a scenario under which the Dolphins would welcome Jason Taylor back.

By the way, when I asked about Taylor late Monday, I expected the answer to be a quick and decisive, "No thanks," so we could all move on to the next order of business. But that wasn't the answer I got and these next few facts surprised me.

First, the idea that Taylor cannot be welcomed back to the Dolphins because he and football czar Bill Parcells had a falling out last year just prior to his trade to Washington is not correct. Taylor, in fact, has talked and spent time with Parcells a couple of times since the trade. Parcells has nothing against Taylor.

Secondly, the Dolphins don't dismiss the idea Taylor still has something substantial left in the tank. He had only 3.5 sacks last year, the fewest since 1999 when he had 2.5. But that might have been because Taylor was being used improperly, or he was playing injured the entire time, and he was never really in great football shape to begin with.

Thirdly, if Taylor were willing to play for decent, but not outrageous money, and if he were willing to make a full commitment to Miami this offseason as well as in training camp and during the preseason, the possibility of a reunion is not out of the question. This, of course, is all hypothetical right now.

And a lot of this rides on Taylor. The fact is he missed all of last offseason while on Dancing with the Stars and was cut by the Redskins, in part, because he didn't want to commit to attending 75 percent of the team's 2009 offseason workout days, gives pause. The Dolphins would demand a much greater commitment than that this offseason.

And, of course, there is the issue of money -- because there always is an issue of money. Taylor is not exactly unwanted by other teams. The Tampa Tribune has reported the Bucs, whose defensive coordinator is former Dolphins coordinator Jim Bates, intend to pursue Taylor. And Taylor has given zero indication he would be willing to play for less than market value in 2009. So this could all be moot because, again, the Dolphins cannot afford Jason Taylor at market value.

So the whole reunion idea is only a remote possibility.

But what if JT gets a wild hair about coming back? [Cue motivational Knute Rockne music] What if he wants to give it one last try to make the playoffs with his old team? What if he convinces himself that he indeed can commit to arigorous offseason workout and conditioning program with Miami? What if he decides he likes the idea of playing for the team that is about 10 miles from his home? What if the man who's made more money than he likely will ever need decides he can play one last season in Miami at a deep discount?

Then, if all those factors fall into place, the doors of possibility open. [Stop motivational Knute Rockne music here.]

Then, and only then, I would tell you the Dolphins would be open to Jason Taylor coming home.

March 02, 2009

The new starting center: Jake Grove? [Update]

The Herald's Jeff Darlington is reporting Oakland offensive lineman Jake Grove is in town for a free agency visit that will officially begin Tuesday. I am reporting that barring a last-minute snag in negotiations, Grove will be signed by tomorrow.

That will signal the Dolphins successfully finding the starting center they've been searching for since the end of the 2008 season. Although Grove and Samson Satele would be competing for the starting job, once you see the numbers on the Grove contract, you will understand Miami expects him to be the starter.

The Dolphins, I am told, were quite impressed by Grove's work as they prepared for their 17-15 victory over Oakland last season. [UPDATE: Grove did not play in that game because of a calf injury and, in fact missed four games in 2008. Previously I wrote Grove had played against Miami.]  

Grove, 29, is a free agent because he met playing time incentives in his contract and the final year of his deal was voided. The Raiders have been trying to re-sign him, obviously with no luck so far.

"We want him back, obviously," Raiders coach Tom Cable said Feb. 19 when asked if he was comfortable with the player's status. "So if he's not there or until it's resolved I'm not comfortable at all."

Cable's discomfort could grow substantially in the next 24 hours.

If the Dolphins are able to lock up the 6-4 and 300 pound Grove, consider him your starting center for the 2009 season. The Grove signing will not come cheaply which is the reason the Dolphins needed to save every penny of the $3.25 million they added in cap space with the termination of Vonnie Holliday's contract.

The Dolphins hated to see Holliday leave. But they couldn't see themselves paying a $1.5 million roster bonus to a player that played 56 percent of the snaps in 2008 and was probably going to play a lower percentage in 2009.

And now they use that added space for a center who could be in on 100 percent of the offensive snaps in 2009 if he stays healthy. It is a good trade-off if you ask me.

Dolphins to release Vonnie Holliday [Update 2]

The Miami Dolphins will release defensive end Vonnie Holliday today, his agent Brian Levy is telling me.

"He enjoyed his time here," Levy said. "He did everything asked of him and he can leave with his head held high. This is a business. Players leave teams and teams leave players. It's an amicable split. He's happy to have left the Dolphins on a winning note."

The Dolphins are taking this step because they were due to pay Holliday a $1.5 million roster bonus Tuesday and another $500,000 workout bonus later this offseason.

The team offered Holliday, 33, an opportunity to renegotiate his contract but it was obviously at a pay cut and not one the player or his agent wanted to accept.

Holliday would have cost the Dolphins $5.75 million against the cap had he collected the bonus and his base salary in 2009. The team saves $3.25 million by cutting Holliday but he still will be on the books as a $2.5 million cap hit.

Holliday was a team captain for the defense and one of its leaders. He led all defensive linemen with 46 tackles and 3.5 sacks.

The Dolphins are obviously expecting second-year player Phillip Merling or 2008 acquisition Randy Starks to step into the starting job, with Kendall Langford handling the starting job at the other defensive end spot. The club also has second-year player Lionel Dotson on the roster.

The defensive end spot does not immediately become a need with the termination of Holliday's contract, but it is diminished by the loss of experience and leadership. The Dolphins will likely add another defensive lineman sometime this offseason.

[UPDATE: The Dolphins have confirmed my report and released the following statement from general manager Jeff Ireland: "These types of decisions are always difficult ones, especially with someone like Vonnie, who has been a role model both on the field and off it. He was one of our captains last year and was a proven leader, not just in his tenure with the Dolphins, bit throughout his 11-year career. We are grateful for all his contributions to the Miami Dolphins organization and we want to wish him and his family the best of luck in the future."]

[UPDATE 2: The Dolphins had no unrestricted free agents visit on Monday.]

March 01, 2009

Dolphins put coals in Laveranues's stocking

A couple of days ago I shared with you how Laveranues Coles didn't make sense for the Dolphins, especially at his $6 million asking price that I now suggest to you is dropping like lead in water.

Well, ESPN's Chris Mortensen is reporting the Dolphins have no interest in Coles at $6 million. Or at $5 million. Or at $3 million. Or at $1.85 and a box of popcorn.

Citing a team source, Mortensen is reporting the Dolphins spoke to Coles' agent only to say they weren't interested. So this should put an extinguisher on the hot stove Coles talk  ...

... unless the Dolphins are orchestrating all this to seriously, seriously, seriously drive down the price for Coles just before becoming, you know, suddenly interested. It would not mark the first time the team changes its collective mind on an issue as fluid situations change (remember Bill Parcells saying, "We will not trade Jason Taylor?").

Of course, the Dolphins might be putting out accurate information this time. In which case we should all applaud the team resisting the temptation to add a 31-year-old receiver who, as you read in my previous blog post, is on the descent rather than the ascent.