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41 posts from April 2009

April 30, 2009

Dolphins add undrafted players to the roster

The Dolphins are confirming the signing of nine undrafted free agents that will be present at this weekend's minicamp, which starts Friday.

The team has signed:

Stanford running back Anthony Kimble, New Mexico wide receiver Chris Williams, nose tackle Louis Ellis of Shaw College, Oregon guard Mark Lewis, Tulsa wide receiver Brennan Marion, Central Washington tight end Jared Bronson, Purdue defensive end Ryan Baker, Virginia Tech defensive end Orion Martin, Houston offensive lineman SirVincent Rogers.

Most of these guys will be forgotten by the end of the summer. One or two might make the roster or practice squad. Let's hope. The Dolphins will also bring tryout players to the camp that will be there without contracts, but with hopes of impressing and getting an offer.

Welcome to Miami, gentlemen.

Dolphins do more than preach competition

Some football teams preach competition. But come on, seriously, is there really competition in Atlanta for Tony Gonzalez today? Is there competition in Pittsburgh for Hines Ward or Ben Roethlisberger? Do you seriously believe Ray Lewis is being pushed for his starting job in Baltimore even though he's going on 34 years old?

Some teams want competition. The Dolphins live competition -- at least so far under Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano.

This offseason, the first full offseason the current regime has enjoyed in Miami, there exists competition throughout the roster. There is competition for unaccomplished and accomplished players alike. There is competition for youngsters and veterans. Practically everyone outside of kicker Dan Carpenter has competition for his job.

Don't believe it?

Chad Pennington was the Dolphins MVP last season. He is by far their most accomplished offensive player. Coach Tony Sparano named him the starter for 2009 at the end of the 2008 season. And yet he's working his tail off this offseason because he realizes that although he's already earned and been handed the starting job, he's got to compete to keep it.

Chad Henne is on Pennington's tail and is, by any account, the regime's fair-haired. He is the franchise quarterback in-waiting. He is the future. He is pushing Pennington.

And now he is being pushed by Pat White.

"Obviously I have a high regard for Pat [based on] where we selected him," Ireland said. "And I don’t know that you can have too many good players at that position, and there’s a little bit of an unknown about Chad (Henne) and there’s obviously an unknown about how we’re going to use Pat. But I don’t think you can have too many good players at that position. Your vision's going to be for the future. Heck, I don’t even know if Chad Pennington’s not going to be here so they’re going to be competing for playing time and I feel good about having three four really good players at that position.”

How sold are the Dolphins on competition? This week the team has talked with Jason Taylor's representative about the possibility Taylor might return to Miami. That addition, were it to happen, would immediately create a competition at the weakside linebacker spot Joey Porter manned so well last season. 

And it would create competition between Taylor, Porter, Cameron Wake, Quentin Moses, Erik Walden and William Kershaw for the right to be part of the four-man line in the nickel and dime packages. It's called competition.

Ronnie Brown competed with Ricky Williams last training camp and even lost his starting job (few remember this) at the beginning of the season when Williams started the first two games. Then Brown recovered and reclaimed his starting job. Then Williams regained it for a week against Oakland. And on it went.

Coaches didn't let either get comfortable or allow either to settle for being the backup.

This training camp, both will be competing for carries with Patrick Cobbs. Yes, the Dolphins love this kid. Cobbs is a relative unknown and Brown and Williams have both been Pro Bowl players, and that will mean absolutely nothing during the competition.

Brown will also have another competition on his hands. The unquestioned triggerman of the Dolphins 2008 Wildcat package has to hold off the charge of White, who seems like a natural for the spot. The outcome of that competition could have us renaming Miami's signature offensive package the WildPat if White is the better triggerman.

Cornerback Will Allen is the most experienced member of the secondary and it would be a huge upset if he doesn't start throughout the season. But the fact is he's unsigned for 2010 and the Dolphins drafted two cornerbacks in the first two rounds. So assuming the two rookies live up to their billing and draft status, and assuming they improve with time, they could be pushing Allen by the end of the season.

I'm not predicting that will happen. Both Vontae Davis and Sean Smith would have to be cornerback prodigies to make this come to pass. But the fact is competition does not end after training camp and with a handful of Pro Bowl caliber receivers on the schedule, anything can happen.

Jake Long has the left tackle job sown up for the next decade right? Probably. But the Dolphins will give sixth-round pick Andrew Gardner, who might be as able a pass-blocker as Long, the chance to compete and earn his backup role.

I've told you in the past Bill Parcells likes tight end Joey Haynos because he is 6-8 and 270 pounds and shows promise as a redzone threat. Haynos will try to push David Martin and Tony Fasano. So what do the Dolphins do? They draft John Nalbone to be a redzone threat that pushes Haynos.

The receiver position is loaded with competition. Nobody's job is secure there. Not Davone Bess, not Greg Camarillo, not Brandon London, obviously not Patrick Turner nor Brian Hartline, and not even Ted Ginn Jr.

Although Ginn has a skill none of the others have -- namely, scary speed -- he will have to work hard on making himself more readily available to the quarterback to remain the No. 1 option. 

The fact is both Bess and Camarillo have a way of finding open spots in the defense and Ginn needs to improve on that if he wants to continue being the team's leading receiver, which he was last season only because Camarillo got injured and Bess didn't start the entire season. (Ginn caught 56 passes to lead the team, Camarillo had 55 catches and Bess 54.) 

There are other solid competitions on the roster. They involve names such as Randy Starks and Phillip Merling, Reggie Torbor and Akin Ayodele, Brandon Fields and Jy Bond, Joe Berger and Donald Thomas and Andy Alleman and Ikechuku Ndukwe.

It's about competition on the Dolphins. More players than not are in one. And that's a good thing.

I know I've missed a couple so feel free to add those in the comments section. I also expect you have an opinion on how the competitions I've laid out will turn out. So give those predictions in the comments section also.

One last thing: You might argue the Dolphins have so much competition because they are still an incomplete team that hasn't found the right combination of players yet. Fair. The only way to find that right combo is to have them compete.

But what does that say about previous incomplete Miami teams that didn't have nearly this much competition? Hmmmm.

April 29, 2009

Which endangered Fin might become extinct?

In the summer of 1996, I remember a conversation with then-defensive end Trace Armstrong that applies to some Dolphins players today.

Armstrong came to the Dolphins in 1995 because Don Shula was eager to improve the team's pass rush. But then Shula blitzed toward retirement after '95 and Jimmy Johnson was hired within the span of two weeks.

And Jimmy Johnson brought his guys with him. Johnson signed defensive end Dan Stubbs, drafted Shane Burton and even made initial plans to use Daryl Gardener as a defensive end on some passing downs. Armstrong, Shula's hire, realized he was suddenly an endangered species -- the last coach's player.

"Things have changed around here for guys like me," Armstrong said of himself and other Shula holdovers. "And not for the better. We've got to be better than the new guy's boys just to stay even."

Armstrong did more than stay even. He led the team in sacks in 1996, and '97, and '98, and 2000. But his point about survival on a new coach's roster is relevant today, even as the players not drafted or signed by Big Tuna Bill Parcells and Tuna Helper Jeff Ireland continue to dwindle in numbers.

A couple of days ago the Dolphins released quarterback John Beck, the sixth player from Randy Mueller's 2007 draft class that was either cut or traded by the new regime. The survivors remaining players from that class are first-rounder Ted Ginn Jr., fourth-rounder Paul Soliai and punter Brandon Fields, a seventh-rounder.

The 2005 and 2006 draft classes, authored by Nick Saban, have been similarly decimated. Cameron banished Fred Evans and Kevin Vickerson, while the current regime has cut or traded Travis Daniels,  Derek Hagan, Anthony Alabi, and Joe Toledo. The survivors remaining players from those classes are Ronnie Brown, Matt Roth, Channing Crowder, Jason Allen and Rodrique Wright.

Guess what?

All those players, with the possible exception of Channing Crowder, are endangered in one regard or another.

I would tell you the guy who should be most worried about his spot on the roster between now and the start of training camp is Jason Allen. This coaching staff appreciates his special teams work -- some anyway.

But as a cornerback? Not so much. And as a safety? Not at all.

The Dolphins 2006 first-round draft pick has frustrated Miami coaches in that he is tutored and coached and told how to do things. And then in time of crisis and pressure, when he needs the techniques taught to him the most, he reverts to instincts and techniques he learned years ago. And those things do not serve him well, aside from the fact they frustrate the current regime.

Allen should notice the Dolphins drafted two cornerbacks -- Vontae Davis and Sean Smith -- last weekend. They also signed Eric Green before that. Those three are this regime's guys. Allen is not. He has a bull's eye on his back. He is endangered on this roster.

Matt Roth? The Dolphins signed Cameron Wake this offseason and are currently negotiating with Jason Taylor, as are at least two other teams. (Yes, that is breaking news but we kind of assumed that would be the case anyway). The point is Roth's job as a strongside OLB is not secure in the least.

Ronnie Brown? The Dolphins entertained trade talks for the running back prior to the draft. His wildcat package role will likely go to Pat White because White is expected to be a more accomplished thrower and the fact is teams stuffed the Wildcat last year with constant blitzes, which can only be stopped with passes over the top of the defense that forces the D to respect the back end. Brown will be on the team this year -- I expect -- but he's on notice he has to play well to be on the team beyond that.

Ted Ginn Jr.? It should not escape his attention the Dolphins counted wide receiver a need position this offseason and drafted two receivers that, if plans work out, will be in the mix for red zone snaps, because of their size and quickness (both of which Ginn lacks). Yes, he's fast, but I don't believe anyone would argue he's either big or quick. The point is 2009 must be Ginn's breakout year. If he doesn't do it in 2009, under the same offensive system, playing with a veteran quarterback he knows, and given the staff's creativity, he'll have no excuse for not succeeding.

Brandon Fields? Bill Parcells thought him to be a core player before last season. But then Fields was only middle-of-the-road in gross average at 43.9 yards and his net average of 35.5 was 25th of 32 -- which is, frankly, not good. So the Dolphins signed an Australian tryout Jy Bond, who has never played in any college. Fields has to watch his Ps and Qs and win a punting competition this summer whereas last summer the Dolphins had no punter in camp competing with him.

Paul Soliai? Size is this guy's saving grace. He is bigger and stronger than commercial refrigerators. But he must hold off the challenge of offseason acquisitions Tony McDaniel and Joe Cohen. His spot is not guaranteed by any means. He has to grow up and produce or, or, well, or else.

Rodrigue Wright? He had so much potential coming out of Texas. It has not yet translated to the NFL and Lionel Dotson, who the current regime drafted last year in the seventh round, has already passed him even before minicamps begin.

So you tell me ... of all these endangered players, which is most likely to become extinct in Miami?

[BLOG NOTE: I want to thank all of you who shared time with me on the live blogs Saturday and Sunday. This blog had 141,108 page views for those two days. You guys rock! Thank you.]

April 27, 2009

One positive aspect of cutting John Beck

Nobody apparently would give even a seventh-round pick for John Beck the past month or so and the Dolphins apparently weren't convinced anyone would change their minds in the coming months leading up to training camp.

So they released him Monday.

The move does have a saving grace in that it saves the Dolphins approximately $120,000 in cap space, although they will now carry the accelaration of Beck's original signing bonus on their books. That acceleration will be about $800,000. Beck's 2009 cap number was scheduled to be approximately $918,900 before he got cut.

Beck will likely latch on with some other team. It will be interesting to me whether Baltimore (where Cam Cameron is the offensive coordinator) will show any interest whatsoever.

Obviously the Dolphins didn't want to carry Beck and subtract practice repetitions from Pat White or Chad Henne or Chad Pennington.

What a waste of a second round pick.

April 26, 2009

Ireland draft wrap: Dolphins looking for acorns

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said the Dolphins "got better today," when he met with the media to wrap the 2009 draft.

But he, like most GMs, is also about getting better tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.

And that is the reason the Dolphins will sign between eight and 10 undrafted college free agents in the coming days and also finalize a decision on unrestricted free agent OLB Jason Taylor. Herald colleague Jeff Darlington is reporting one undrafted player the Dolphins will sign is DE Ryan Baker of Purdue.

TE Jared Bronson (Central Washington) and OG Mark Lewis (Oregon) also are on Miami's undrafted list.

Ireland refers to the free agents as "acorns."

"We mentioned acors and [Taylor] is one sitting there on the ground right now," Ireland said. "We have to make a decision whether we're going to do that right now or not."

The timing is important. Taylor's camp expects to have a contract in place by this week sometime. Talks are expected to begin as early as Monday.

The Dolphins came out of this draft having accomplished a handful of assignments -- such as adding receiver and cornerback help. But they failed to add a nose tackle to groom behind veteran Jason Ferguson.

"It's a position we would have liked to address. But it didn't fall that way," Ireland said. "There's only so many nose tackles walking this Earth and we just didn't get our hands on one of them this year."

This is what Ireland said about the players the Dolphins took on the second day of the draft:

On Patrick Turner: "Runs excellent routes. He's a playmaker. Smart. I think he's got some versatility and has good hands. They know how develop receivers [at USC], they usually go on and get drafted."

Asked why Turner had 10 TDs his final season but only six the previous three, Ireland cited Turner's change in demeanor. "His confidence really grew. His production grew, too. He became a more confident player. They keyed on him more to be a playmaker. What he did at USC is very respectable. I like the player. We had him up there from Day One." 

On tight end John Nalbone: "He dominated at his level. He'll have to learn to play at the NFL level."

On safety Chris Clemons: "Good cover skills."

On LT Andrew Gardner: "He has left tackle feet. Good athlete. Good test score. He gives us much-needed depth at the left tackle position."

On linebacker J.D. Folsom: "A developmental candidate. Real good core special teams player. Sub down value as well." He will start out at the Moe linebacker which is the position Akin Ayodele currently plays. Channing Crowder plays the Mike.

Dolphins pick ILB J.D. Folsom in 7th round

J.D. Folsom was sitting around with his family today, pondering his future as a veterinarian, when the Dolphins called to tell him he'd been drafted in the seventh round.

"I really didn't think I was going to get drafted," Folsom, an inside linebacker said. "I've already been accepted to veterinary school at Oklahoma State and Washington State. I really did not expect to get drafted. I just thought I'd be picked up as a free agent."

The Dolphins had other plans. They want the Weber State linebacker to play in Miami. They want him to compete as an inside linebacker. They want him to play special teams.

"I do a little bit of everything. I played outside. I've played mostly inside. Mostly run stuff, I guess. They're looking for me to play in the middle," Folsom said. "I'm willing to do whatever the coaches are willing to do. Whatever they have planned for me is fine with me."

Folsom said he knew caught the Dolphins attention after his Pro Day. So what's special about him?

"I hustle a lot on the field," he said. "I try to make things happen. I have a lot of heart."

Folsom said J.D. stands for John David but only his mom calls him that when she's mad at him.

Dolphins select OT Andrew Gardner in 6th round

The Dolphins just made their sixth-round selection and it is offensive tackle Andrew Gardner of Georgia Tech, who obviously will compete to be a backup behind Jake Long and Vernon Carey.

"I think I'm really one of the best values in this draft at this position," Gardener said moments ago. "I think the Dolphins got a good player."

The good player may have been available with the 181st selection of the draft because he suffered a torn labrum in 2008. He had surgery to repair the injury in November, but he doesn't believe it will be a problem.

"They'll evaluate me in Miami and hopefully feel I'm good and ready to go," Gardener said. "That's how I feel."

Gardner was a four-year starter at Tech. He was a left tackle throughout his time there. He better be prepared to compete for a at right tackle. And he better be ready to sit and learn and provide depth -- at least initially.

Dolphins pick Nalbone, Clemons in the 5th round

The Dolphins have added two players in the fifth round of today's draft -- tight end Brian Nalbone of Monmouth and safety Chris Clemons -- who have high ambition for themselves based on what players they admire and try to pattern their games after.

Nalbone is a 6-3 and 260 pounder who is something of a pass-catching threat.

"I have the ability to both block and receive but people think of me as more a receiving tight end because of my stature. But I'm a hard-working guy," Nalbone said.

Nalbone, the 161st overall selection, said he admires future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez and he sees some of Gonzalez in himself.

"In a way, yes, watching him play, I saw him do things I could see myself doing, watching myself play on tape," Nalbone said. "I can envision myself behind that type of player."

Nalbone worked out for Philadelphia, New England, Miami, Jacksonville and Jets but he admitted he expected to go "later" in the draft.

Clemons, who ran a 4.33 at the Indy Combine, also sees a little of himself in some pretty good players. "I like to compare my game to Brian Dawkins or Ed Reed," Clemons said. "They're always around the ball. They're always making plays."

Clemons, the 165th overall selection, wasn't very highly regarded before the combine. One publication said he "doesn't play fast or physical." But the track speed opened some eyes.

"There was a noticeable change after the combine," the six-foot, 210-pound Clemons said.

Dolphins pick WR Brian Hartline in fourth round

The Dolphins have just drafted a very excited and engaging young man in the fourth round, taking Ohio State slot receiver Brian Hartline in the fourth round.

"I'm super competitive and hate to lose," Hartline just said. "No one is ever going to out-work me. I'll do anything for our team to win."

Hartline, who is 6-2 and 195, ran a 4.58 time in the 40-yard dash at the Indy Combine. He compares himself to former Ohio State and current Indianapolis Colts receiver Anthony Gonzalez, who is his mentor.

"I like what he does," Hartline said. "I like what he brings to the table. But I'm my own player. I don't know what Miami has in mind, but whatever they have in mind I'll get the job done."

Hartline will make the team -- just about every fourth-round pick does -- but to be active on game days he's going to have to play special teams. And he's apparently ready for that.

"I'm a big kickoff coverage guy," he said. "I love cracking heads."

Hartline is getting married May 23 to a young lady named Lindsay Smith. That isn't necessarily the first thought in his mind this hour.

"I can't wait to get down there and get to work," Hartline said. "My heart is beating out of my chest right now I'm so excited."

Dolphins go with USC's Patrick Turner in 3rd

The Dolphins have addressed their wide receiver needs by selecting USC receiver Patrick Turner.

Turner played at the Senior Bowl and just said the Dolphins were the first team he talked to. Turner did play in a pro style, west coast offense at USC.

"I felt that really prepared me to take the next step," Turner said. "I feel like I'm a pretty good red zone threat. To be on the other side of Ted Ginn and Ernest Wilford we can be a good threat."

Turner compares himself to a Marques Colston and Keyshawn Johnson. He is a big, big dude at 6-5 and 223 pounds.

Although Turner talks of coming to the Dolphins in addition to Wilford, the fact is he's probably going to replace Wilford on the roster. Wilford will be trade bait going into training camp.

Although he was one of the top-rated receivers coming out of high school, Turner under-achieved at USC. Oh brother.

"He's not a good player," ESPN's Mel Kiper said. "He didn't do it at USC."

Draft: Day two has begun and so has live blog

The second day has begun and we are live blogging throughout.

Players to think about today include Georgia Tech OLB Michael Johnson, Abilene wide receiver Johnny Knox of Abilene Christian, and Penn State's Derrick Williams.

Been thinking about the first day also.

Look, I'm not ripping the Vontae Davis selection. But the guy underachieved in college and he underachieved in high school. And his older brother Vernon Davis has been an underachiever with the San Francisco 49ers.

Hello? That doesn't raise red flags for any of you?

So I would not be surprised if he underachieves.

I actually like the second round more than the first.

As I wrote in my column in today's Miami Herald, I thought the Pat White selection rocked. He adds a new dimension to Wildcat that Ronnie Brown didn't bring. He can complete passes consistently and that prevents the safety from cheating up in the box and that opens things up for the running game out of that package.

The Sean Smith selection also offers the Dolphins a HUGE cornerback (6-3, 214 pounds) that will be a great matchup against bigger, more physical receivers such as Terrell Owens. Smith also projects as a safety down the road if the cornerback spot isn't home for him.

Smith is a former receiver and is still learning to be a cornerback. That's good because he has not yet developed hardened bad habits. The Miami coaching staff will build him as they wish and that's a good thing.

On to the second day!

April 25, 2009

Brown not on trade block, Beck another story

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland just got done talking to wrap up the day's draft festivities and this much is certain: Ronnie Brown should feel somewhat secure about being with the Dolphins.

John Beck? Not so much. The Dolphins will try to trade him today as they've been trying for weeks.

"We're not looking to trade Ronnie Brown so you can write that," Ireland said.

Then I asked him if Beck is on the block, which I know through sources he is, and Ireland hesitated. "I don't want to get into whether John Beck is on the block or not," he said. "He's on the team now. If he's on the team later on he'll get a chance to compete. If he's not ..."

Ireland's voice trailed off. Earlier he said the team had, "three good quarterbacks, uh, four good quarterbacks," on the roster.

Getting the drift? Beck will be traded or get cut soon, certainly before training camp.

More stuff from Ireland:

He said he views Pat White as someone who eventually will compete for the starting quarterback job. "He has an unusual set of skills," Ireland said. "He enhances our offense."

Ireland said he did extensive research on Vontae Davis and feels comfortable with him despite some attitude problems in his past. Ireland talked to Illinois coach Ron Zook, who apparently gave a good recommendation as well as other people.

I pressed him by asking why Davis, who has special skills and is a physical speciman, would last all the way to No. 25?

"He's a junior coming out early," Ireland said. "At the No. 25 pick in the draft, I feel like I'm picking a pretty good player. I think you guys are making too much out of nothing."

Ireland said third pick Sean Smith has "huge upside."

"His skill set is rare for his size," Ireland said. "I think he'll play. I think he'll play early."

The Dolphins need/must add receivers Sunday. And Ireland said that is a possibility. Let's hope.

[BLOG NOTE: We'll be right back at it starting around 10 a.m. Sunday morning. Please join me for another live blog then.]

Dolphins pick Sean Smith with third overall pick

The Dolphins traded their second pick of the second round (57th overall) for a lower second-round pick (61 overall) and a fifth-rounder (165 overall). With that lower second-rounder the Dolphins selected their second cornerback of the day, Sean Smith out of Utah.

Smith is one of the biggest cornerback corners in the draft at 6-3 and 214 pounds.

"I am a bigger so i can definitely get better at staying with smaller wide receivers," Smith said moments ago.

But the advantage of being bigger is one can be more aggressive and tough. So Smith a tough guy?

"Definitely," he said. "I'm going to come in and prove that to everybody."

Dolphins pick Pat White in the second round

It sounded like a strange pick with the 44th overall selection, but the Dolphins have drafted West Virginia's Pat White with their first pick of the second round.

White comes to the Dolphins with great position flexibility.

He obviously played QB in college. But his ability to escape and speed make him a threat if Miami continues using the wildcat package. He will compete with Ronnie Brown for that work.

And White is likely to get snaps as a wide receiver.

"I just want the opportunity to play," White said moments ago. "I had no expectations, I was just hoping someone would give me a chance. Someone has and now it's time to get to work."

White said he met with Dolphins quarterback coach David Lee during the Senior Bowl so obviously he will be asked to learn that position. People, this kid will be Miami's third-string quarterback next year and possibly the second-stringer if Chad Pennington doesn't sign an extension.

Oh yeah, this pick is not good news for backup quarterback John Beck, who has been on the trade block.

Dolphins pick Vontae Davis in the first round

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland called Illinois cornerback Vontae Davis moments ago and told him he'd be the Dolphins first round draft pick this year. And sure enough, the Dolphins selected him moments later.

The Davis addition immediately fills a major need for the Dolphins. The team had signed Eric Green as a free agent earlier this offseason, but Davis is expected to compete with Green and Jason Allen for that job.

"I had a workout with them and I knew they were one of the team interested in me," Davis said. "I'm a physical corner. I fit the style of their defense with my physical play and I can be aggressive."

There is no question Davis is a physical speciman. He is 5-11 and 203 pounds. But his ability to accept coaching has been questioned. And there are also rumors about whether he is something of a prima donna.

Davis doesn't think that is so. 

"I'm a great person," he just said. "They know what kind of person I really am. Everybody that knows Vontae knows what type of person I am."

Davis said his goal his rookie year is to be the "Player of the year in the Natonal Football League."

Live radio at 11 a.m., live blog at 4 p.m.

We are on the clock. Only hours until the draft starts and then, well, only hours until something happens in Miami. I'm pumped.

So let's have a radio show! And let's do a live blog!

Here's the deal:

I will be on the air today on 790-AM The Ticket in South Florida and will be talking Dolphins and draft from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. If you are not fortunate enough to live in paradise, you can listen online at 790theticket.com and call the show toll free from anywhere in the United States at 1-888-790-3776. I want to hear from you!

Then at 4 p.m. when the draft begins we will do a live blog until the Dolphins pick or something actually happens. I will be on here throughout the afternoon and into the evening.

This should be an interesting day. I am told the Dolphins have spent some time the past 24 hours thinking about Derrick Burgess. The OLB possibility is available in trade from the Oakland Raiders. Yes, I know I've been telling you the Dolphins want to add draft picks not trade them away. Yes, I know Burgess is turning 31 in August. But the guy has been a solid pass-rusher of the first order in his career, collecting 47 sacks in seven seasons. Coach Tony Sparano has a great deal of respect for Burgess from the player's days with the Philadelphia Eagles.

This doesn't mean the Dolphins will trade for Burgess. But obviously they have to study the possibility.

By the time it's over, we'll know the names of the three players -- the first-round and two second-round picks -- that had better turn into starters for the Dolphins before the 2009 season is over.

We'll have a pretty good idea where Jason Taylor will end up in 2009, with New England continuing to be the favorite.

And we'll see how well or poorly Miami's AFC East rivals do as they attempt to dethrone the AFC East champions.

By the way, if you can't call the radio show and cannot be here for the live blog, you can leave your comment or question below and I'll answer them first when the live blog begins. And please people, let's leave the monkey talk and the social chat room banter out today, OK?

Gotta go get find my Mel Kiper wig now.

April 24, 2009

Afternoon draft update from around the NFL

The Arizona Cardinals are blinking, if only slightly, in their attempt to trade wide receiver Anquan Boldin in that they have reduced their asking price, according to ESPN.com.

Originally asking for a first- and a third-round pick or a first-rounder and veteran player considerations, the Cardinals would now settle for a second-round pick and other considerations. ESPN.com is further reporting the Giants, Eagles and Jets are expressing interest in Boldin.

I am further reporting the Dolphins are showing no interest in a Boldin deal right now although I'm told, "We never say never," by a team source. It would have to be a dramatic turn for the Dolphins to come out of this sweepstakes with the best available receiver on the trade market.

So what do you think about that?

As I have repeatedly reported, the Dolphins are looking to add draft picks so look for them to trade back in this draft -- perhaps including in the first round.

Also from around the league, Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post Dispatch is reporting the Rams are likely to pick Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith.

David Elfin of the Washington Times is reporting the Redskins have a serious interest in USC quarterback Mark Sanchez and are working on trading to be in position to take him. That obviously means Jason Campbell could be on the move as well.

Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer is reporting the Bengals, picking sixth overall, are considering Aaron Curry, BJ Raji, Michael Crabtree, Beanie Wells, Knowshon Moreno, and the top three offensive tackles -- Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe and Andre Smith. Reedy says the Bengals have a higher grade on Jason Smith than Monroe.

Finally, Bob Glauber of Newsday is saying the Jets are not interested in quarterback Josh Freeman and he has plugged Florida receiver Percy Harvin into his mock draft as the most likely player New York will pick at No. 17.

[BLOG NOTE: Check back throughout the evening for further updates. I'll be on the radio Saturday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., anchoring the first leg of 790 The Ticket's draft coverage. If you're not in South Florida you can listen online at 790theticket.com.] 

What's right, wrong with draft predictions

Everbody's got an opinion about the NFL Draft, although for the Dolphins, the only opinion that truly matters is that of football lord Bill Parcells.

But since Parcells isn't sharing his opinion and some others are, I figured I'd share with you what people are thinking the Dolphins are thinking. And then I figured I'd share with you what is right and wrong about their opinion since I know more about the Dolphins than they do anyway.

The opinions today come from Mel Kiper of ESPN, Todd McShay of ESPN, Pat Kirwin of NFL.com, Don Banks of Sports Illustrated, Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com and Clark Judge of CBSSports.com.

So what players are they predicting will come to the Dolphins in the first round with the 25th overall selection?

Kiper says Malcolm Jenkins. What is right about this prediction: As I write in my column in the Miami Herald today, Jenkins could drop as far as Miami because there are serious concerns about his speed, which is not only the kiss of death for a cornerback, but the kiss, hug, date, marriage proposal and wedding of death for a cornerback. What is wrong about this prediction: Jenkins is too good despite his slow 40-yard times to last this long. He may run slow, but he doesn't play slow. Look for New Orleans (14) or Atlanta (24) or San Diego (16) to snatch him up before Miami. 

McShay says Vontae Davis. What is right about this prediction: Well, the Dolphins do certainly need a starting-caliber cornerback and Davis seems to fit that bill if you study his size, speed, and potential. He also could be available at No. 25. What is wrong about this prediction: If one studies Davis' production and demeanor, he doesn't seem to be a fit for the Dolphins. He was benched last season for not living up to his potential. He has a reputation for not getting along well with coaches. I'm not sure, but I don't think an underachieving problem child is high on the Dolphins list of critical factors they seek in a cornerback. 

Kirwin says Hakeem Nicks. What is right about this prediction: The Dolphins desperately need a wide receiver that can break tackles after catching the ball, turning a seven-yard catch into a 57-yard TD. Nicks can do that and I predict he will do that in the NFL. What is wrong about the prediction: He mysteriously gained some weight right after the combine -- 14 pounds by some accounts -- which is a red flag for Miami despite the fact he soon lost it. What was it, bloating? He's also a wide receiver, which Parcells has historically translated as "a player never to be selected in the first round of the draft." We'll see.

Banks says Kenny Britt. What is right about this prediction: The kid played in New Jersey and so Parcells loves him already because he's a homeboy. He's tall, he's athletic and he will probably be available. What is wrong about this prediction: He's a receiver, and at every critical factor -- vertical speed, ball skills, separation, hands, etc ... -- he's pretty average which suggests he's not really a first-rounder.

Gosselin says Clay Matthews. What is right about this prediction: Well, he plays defense. He has the genetics working as his dad was an NFL player. He's tough and won't accept failure as he walked on to USC, made his mark playing special teams and then blossomed. What is wrong about this prediction: He's only done it one year and the name will get you in the door, but not keep you in the room.

Prisco says Larry English. What is right about this prediction: Parcells loves to unearth little-known players on draft day and turn them into stars. Think DeMarcus Ware. The Dolphins also want pass-rush help. What is wrong about this prediction: This kid is extremely raw and his level of competition at Northern Illinois is questionable.

Judge says Davis. What is right about this prediction: See above. What is wrong about this prediction: See above.

By the way, Salguero says Rey Maualuga. What is right about this prediction: Already a great down hill linebacker who has excellent blitz skills from an inside LB spot. What is wrong about this prediction: He might not be there when Miami picks.

[BLOG NOTE: I'll be on 790 The Ticket from noon until 3 p.m. today. If you're not in South Florida you can listen on your computer at 790theticket.com and if you want to call its toll-free from anywhere in the U.S. at 1-888-790-3776.] 


April 23, 2009

Salary cap numbers from around the NFL

As most of you know football is a game ... and a business. And that's why so many of you have repeatedly asked for salary cap numbers, knowing Miami's cap room directly impacts what can happen in the coming days as far as trading picks and players.

I've been remiss in getting you that information. Until now.

The Dolphins today find themselves with $13 million of salary cap room. That means they are $13 million under the $127 million league salary cap ceiling.

Profootballtalk.com has done me one better, meanwhile, digging up the entire salary cap picture for all 32 NFL teams. According to this list, the Dolphins are $13.19 million under the cap -- but what's $190,000 between friends?

This means the Dolphins can draft, add undrafted free agents, budget for a practice squad, and even add veteran free agents such as Jason Taylor or trade for an Anquan Boldin (which would require a new contract), if they so desire. There's a million ways for them to do this.

Or, should I say, $13 million ways.  

April 22, 2009

The NFL (mock) draft as beat writers see it

Jimmy Johnson used to spend hours reading mock drafts as part of his draft-day preparations. He used to say that some of the most accurate tidbits of information he got on what other teams were likely to do came from the beat writers that covered those teams.

And that's the reason he used to go so far as to call certain beat writers or journalists in various cities to pick their brains about their teams.

What follows is an wealth of information and opinion Johnson would love to have were he still making picks in this draft. Below you will find a mock draft compiled with the cooperation of two dozen beat writers and columnists that cover the NFL in the 32 NFL cities.

Every team's information is compiled by that team's beat writer or columnist, most of whom got on a conference call Tuesday and conducted a draft as if it were happening in real time.

This is the result. Some interesting things come out of this. Notice Percy Harvin is not picked in the first round. Notice the Dolphins have their choice of several outstanding players with the selection, made by me, perhaps surprising based on how this mock played out.

Anyway, won't keep you any longer. Have at it. And in the comments section, you tell me if the Dolphins would actually pick the player I picked based on his, shall we say, interesting sense of humor as seen in this youtube video below.

1. DETROIT: (8 picks, 2 in first, 2 in third, 2 in sixth.) Needs: QB, DT, OT/G, entire defense. Comment: Leos were last in the league in defense, 30th in rushing. As of today, they have narrowed choice to three players - Matthew Stafford, Jason Smith and Aaron Curry. Scott McEwen, protege of Ron Hughes in Pittsburgh, runs the college operation as he has in the past. Pick: Everything points to Stafford. Lions have one Pro Bowl appearance in the last 51 years by a QB, that being Greg Landry in 1971.

2. ST. LOUIS: (7 picks) Needs: OT, WR. Comment: Cut two seven-time Pro Bowlers in Orlando Pace and Torry Holt for cap reasons. Have lost 27 of last 32 games. No. 2 overall for second year in a row. It's down to 4 players: Matt Sanchez, Eugene Monroe, Jason Smith and Curry. They have just one bona fide OT on roster in Alex Barron. Donnie Avery is their most experienced WR on the roster (53 career catches). It won’t be Sanchez. If they have a higher grade on Curry, they’ll take him. PICK: Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia.

3. KANSAS CITY: (7 picks; no second, 2 in seventh) Needs: Pass rusher, LB, Speed WR, OT. Comment: The Chiefs had just 10 sacks last year, will be going to some 3-4 so there’s a LB need. They added Zach Thomas, Mike Vrabel and Monty Beisel to get them through this year at LB. PICK: OT Jason Smith, Baylor. If St. Louis goes Smith, they go Monroe.

4. SEATTLE: (10 picks, 4 in seventh) Needs: OLB, OT, QB, WR depth, S. Comment: LT Walter Jones is coming off microfracture surgery. QB Matt Hasselbeck missed nine games last year with a back injury. PICK: Aaron Curry, LB, Georgia Tech. Crabtree is an outside shot. 'Hawks like Jason Smith a bit better than Monroe.

5. CLEVELAND: (5 picks, 2 in 2nd, no 3rd, no 5th, no 7th) Needs: Pass rusher, 3-4 OLB, S, WR, RB. Comment: Mangini wants to overhaul the roster. He wants to trade and collect picks. We believe the Braylon Edwards trade will happen when they go on the clock on draft day. They will trade QB Brady Quinn if they can. The Browns are interested in Matt Sanchez, but the suspicion is they would trade down instead. The PICK: Mark Sanchez, QB, USC. The suspicion is they’ll take the WR with the pick they get from the Edwards deal. But guessing Crabtree would not be crazy.

6. CINCINNATI: (11 picks, 2 3rds, 2 in 6th, 3 in 7th) Needs: OT, C, WR, RB depth, pass rusher. Comment: At OT, Levi Jones has been injury prone, Stacy Andrews lost in free agency. They are happy with Anthony Collins at OT. If both top tackles are gone, the PICK: Andre Smith, OT, Alabama. They had him in for a meeting a week ago. Brian Orakpo is a possibility. Michael Crabtree is possible.

7. OAKLAND: (5 picks; no fifth, no sixth) Needs: WR, OT, S. It’s always about speed with the Raiders. They have nobody for Russell to throw to. They’re happy with run game. PICK: Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri. Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech. They may like Maclin and Hayward-Bey. Michael Huff is on the trade block, we think.

8. JACKSONVILLE: (9 picks; 3 in seventh). Needs: WR, DT, S, OT, 3rd CB. Comment: They got Torry Holt, but they’re still hurting at WR. Dennis Northcutt and Mike Walker are their other two WRs. DT is a need since they dealt Marcus Stroud. Haven’t been able to play the type of D they like – clog the middle. The plan is to take the best player available. PICK: B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College.

9. GREEN BAY: (9 picks; 2 in third, 2 in sixth). Needs: Going 3-4. Could use DE, LB, OT, RB, S, DB. Comment: GM Ted Thompson has traded down 13 times in his first four drafts. In this scenario, they would trade down. PICK: Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech. Their current D-line is: Jolley-Pickett-Jenkins. So Raji or Tyson Jackson are perfect fits. Not sure how they feel about Oher. The other 3 tackles would fit. Malcolm Jenkins would be an outside shot.

10. SAN FRANCISCO: (9 picks, 2 in fifth, 2 in seventh). Needs: OT, edge rusher, WR. Comment: They’re content to go with the QBs they have instead of taking one in the first round. They could use a RT. Singletary wants to go strictly to a 3-4 defense. PICK: Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi.

11. BUFFALO: (9 picks, 2 in first, 2 in fourth). Needs: DE, T, TE, LB. Comment:They can get a TE in the second round, and I can’t see them taking Pettigrew this early. A wild card would be Cushing. PICK: Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas. If he’s gone, take Robert Ayers or Aaron Maybin.

12. DENVER: (10 picks; 2 in first, 2 in third, 1 in fifth, 2 in seventh). Needs: Going 3-4 so NT, OLB, ILB, DE, WR. Comment: We’re suspecting defense in the first round for sure. QB is the riddle. If they pick a QB, they’ve basically admitted they screwed up in trading Cutler. Can’t see that. There might be some interest in Quinn. PICK: Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU.  Shanahan ran 14 drafts, they have 3 No. 1s from those drafts and only 2 are starters – DJ Williams and Ryan Clady.

13. WASHINGTON: (5 picks; no second, no fourth). Needs: pass rusher, OLB, RT. Comment: After this, they don’t pick again until No. 80. They traded second for Jason Taylor. Jason Campbell’s contract is up after this year. They would want Sanchez. The would have taken Orakpo or Tyson Jackson. They like the So. Cal linebackers. They have a tendency to take big-school players from SEC. Larry English is possible, but he’s from a small school. PICK: Larry English, DE, Northern Illinois. They’re not big on Maybin. They would consider a trade-down here.

14. NEW ORLEANS: (4 picks; 1st, 2 fourths, 7th). Needs: S, DE, CB, RB. Comment: They run a standard 4-3, Maybin or E. Brown are outside candidates. PICK: Malcolm Jenkins, FS, Ohio State. If he fits at safety, that’s fine with them.

15. HOUSTON: (8 picks; 2 in fourth) Needs: OLB, RB, FS are top three needs. Comment: They will try like crazy to trade back and take Matthews a bit later. PICK: Brian Cushing, LB, Southern Cal. It’s Cushing or Matthews unless Jenkins were to fall.

16. SAN DIEGO: (8 picks, no 2nd, three in fourth). Needs: DE, ILB, ROLB, S. Comment: They would like to take Tyson Jackson, DE. If Jackson gone, PICK: Beanie Wells, RB, Ohio State. If Wells gone, take Rey Maualuga. If all three gone, pass. Just kidding. Knowshon Moreno. (Running back is more of a future need that could be addressed now if the right guy is there.)

17. N.Y. JETS: (6 picks; no fifth) Needs: WR, QB, DE, RB. Comment:  Kellen Clemens and Brett Ratliff, are the current QBs. The value here is QB Josh Freeman of Kansas State. Pick: Freeman. Illinois CB Vontae Davis is possible.

18. DENVER: (from Chicago) (see picks above). Comment: They need defense. PICK: Clay MATTHEWS, OLB. Other option is Peria Jerry.

19. TAMPA BAY: (8 picks, no second, 3 sevenths) Needs: D-line, CB, WR. Comment: In total overhaul mode, new head coach, new GM, new coordinators, new QB, no Derrick Brooks. Jim Bates is veering from Tampa 2. PICK: Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi.

20. DETROIT: (from Dallas) (See picks above). Needs: Defense. Comment:  The Lions would take Jerry. Lions worst in NFL in rushing defense. Saints converted 11 straight third downs vs. them late last season. Horrible. PICK: Ziggy Hood, DT, Missouri.

21. PHILADELPHIA: (10 picks; no 4th. four in fifth, two in sixth). Needs: RB, Interior OL, TE, WR, DE. Comment: Already traded away a pick for Jason Peters of Buffalo. PICK: Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia. Brian Westrbook about to turn 30 has balky knee.

22. MINNESOTA: (6 picks; no 4th, no 6th, 2 in seventh). Needs: RT, WR, CB, DT, C. Comment: RT is Ryan Cook, second round in 2006. WR need a second guy. Winfield is over 30 at corner. Need more bodies there. QB – they seem to be content with Rosenfels and Travaris Jackson. They like all the OTs. PICK: Eben Britton, OT, Arizona, Also: Harvin or Haywood-Bey are possible.

23. NEW ENGLAND: (11 picks; 3 in second, 2 in third; 2 in sixth). Needs: More pass rush, S, CB, LB. Comments: Six picks in the first 97 as rich get richer. Belichick said it’s the most flexibility he’s ever had. Expect them to move up and down. Defense was 26th on third down. PICK: Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee. Belichick loves the height weight guys. He also likes the UConn cornerback Darius Butler.

24. ATLANTA: (7 picks, 2 in fifth, no 7th). Needs: OLB, SS, TE, CB. The PICK: Brandon Pettigrew, TE Oklahoma State. They like Larry English. However, in this scenario, Aaron Maybin would be a strong consideration.

25. MIAMI: (9 picks; 2 in second, 2 in seventh). Needs: Starting CB, No. 1 WR, pass rushers. Comment: The Dolphins won’t be afraid to take the best player available. CB Will Allen is one starter. They signed mediocre CB Eric Green; They do not have a No. 1 WR in their popgun offense. They want more pass-rush help for 32-year-old Joey Porter, who had 43 percent of their sacks. Everybody’s talking about Virginia’s LB Clint Sintim because he played with Al Groh, but he’s a second-round pick. (If somebody real good falls - Clay Matthews, Rey Maualuga or even Moreno, they'll pick him based on value. Pick: Rey Maualuga, LB, USC. Second choice: Darius Butler, CB, UConn. Third choice: WR Hakeem Nicks. Fourth choice: WR Kenny Britt.

26. BALTIMORE: (6 picks, no 7th). Needs: TE, OT, WR, Comment: Must help young QB Joe Flacco and Cam Cameron will be crying for more help on offense. The PICK: Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State. Visited them. They could use Pettigrew. Feel free to flip-flop Maybin to Atlanta and Pettigrew to Baltimore in this mock draft.

27. INDIANAPOLIS: (8 picks; 2 in fourth). Needs: WR, DT, OLB, RB, OT. Comment: Marvin Harrison is gone but may still be re-signed if Colts don't find a replacement in the draft. Oh, too bad, they do find a replacement. PICK: Darrius Hayward-Bey, WR, Maryland. A fallback pick would be: Brian Robiskie, WR, Ohio State.

28. BUFFALO: (from Carolina & Philly) (picks see above). PICK: Phil Loadholt, OT, Oklahoma. Fills need for a starting right tackle.

29. N.Y. GIANTS: (10 picks; 2 in second, 2 in third, 2 in fifth). Needs: WR, OT, MLB. Comment: Toomer cut, Plaxico Burress is gone. In this scenario, the PICK: Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina. They checked out Kenny Britt, but he didn’t have a great workout.

30. TENNESSEE: (10 picks, 2 in fourth, 2 in sixth, 2 in seventh). Needs: WR, CB, OLB, OT. Comment: Best player available is in play here. Pick: Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers. A very good option for them would be CB Alphonso Smith. They would pass on Harvin due to off the field issues.

31. ARIZONA: (8 picks, 2 in 7th). Needs: RB, OLB, TE. Comment: Expected to release Edgerrin James, three of their OLBs are over 30 and have had injuries. They’ve been searching for a TE for 2 decades. PICK: Donald Brown, RB UConn. They’re high on Larry English, think he’s a great kid and a hard worker.

32. PITTSBURGH: (9 picks, 2 in fifth, 2 in seventh). Needs: OL depth, DL depth, CB depth. Comments: Steelers love picking here and would love to do it every year. PICK: DL Fili Moala, USC. Options are C Alex Mack or C Eric Wood.