[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?]