While several online reports, including this one at the National Football Post, have backed into saying that possibly, could-be, maybe, we hear through unconfirmed and low-level sources, that Ronnie Brown is trade bait, no one has outright confirmed he is on the trading block.
I am not able to confirm that at this time, either.
I would not doubt that he is available if any team is eager to give up a low first- or second-round pick in this Saturday's draft (yeah, it's that close). But let's attack this from a different perspective, let's work the issue this way:
The Dolphins would require, at minimum, a mid second-round draft pick for Brown. To trade him for less is a risk given the team is expected to pick a running back in the coming draft anyway and trading Brown would raise the stakes to the point the Dolphins would have to pick a running back early in the draft, probably using that pick on a RB.
Having said that, I have serious doubts any team will give up a second-round pick for Brown.
Although he earned his first Pro Bowl selection this year and stayed injury-free for the first time in his career, Brown remains a good but not great player. He is signed for only two more seasons, according the NFL Players Association, and he would not come cheaply as he would probably have to be signed to a contract extension because no team (outside the Redskins) give up a second-round pick for a player they are only renting temporarily.
Finally, any team needing running back help -- such as Arizona, Buffalo, New Orleans, Houston, and Denver -- would rather draft a running back before trading for a running back who has gained 1,000 yards in a season only once, that in 2006 when he gained 1,008 yards.
The top running backs in the coming draft include Georgia's Knowshon Moreno, Ohio State's Chris Wells, and Connecticut's Donald Brown.
The only caveat I see to this scenario is if the Dolphins trade Brown for another veteran player. Would they trade him for Anquan Boldin? Would they trade him for any of the number of veteran players currently on the trading block?
Depends on the player, with Boldin being the most intriguing.
But draft picks? They become more valuable, not less valuable as the draft approaches. And that makes trading them away a difficult thing for some teams to do.
It was an interesting 30 minutes or so with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross Thursday.
Aside from the news I told you about first Thursday -- yes, check the previous post on this blog -- a couple of other highlights caught my attention most.
Tops on that list is that Ross obviously wants to win. Like, immediately, if not sooner. That's a good thing in that he's likely to do what is necessary to help Bill Parcells make that happen. But that also comes with high expectations on his part.
And so while some fans are thinking the Dolphins are still in rebuilding mode, Ross is thinking, well, he's thinking Super Bowl.
"I bought it because I want to see the team go to the Super Bowl," he said. "And win the Super Bowl, not go to it. You can go to it because it's going to be here. It's got to be us winning it."
Yes, the next Super Bowl will be played at MargaritavilleLandshark Dolphin Stadium and Ross is pumped about the idea his team might do more than be a passive host. He's hoping his team is in it.
"I think it really addresses South Florida with the spotlight," he said. "You become the spotlight of football. The whole area is turned on. We're a reflection of that. Everyone is still thinking of the Miami Dolphins and it's an extension of the season. And everybody is hoping we're going to be the home team. It hasn't happened yet in the NFL but I would like to think this year could be the first time the home team is the site of the Super Bowl."
It is encouraging that Ross, who paid $1.1 billion for the Dolphins, is eager to win while not thinking he should inject himself into the football side of the organization that would bring that about. He told a story of a recent phone conversation with another NFL owner that was cut short when that unnamed owner said he had to run to a draft meeting.
"The absolute wrong place an owner belongs," Ross said.
Ross confirmed what I have reported to you in the past about the Dolphins not changing or tweaking their uniforms in 2009.
"I haven't really looked at that," he said. "There's still tradition ..."
Ross did share the look he likes best is the aqua-green pants and white jersey so you shouldn't be surprised to see that once or twice during the season.
Ross also said he recognizes the Marlins need to play at Dolphin Stadium in 2011 because their new stadium will not be open by that season as earlier anticipated.
"What am I going to do, say all of a sudden they can't play there? We're not going to squeeze them or anything like that."
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has called a 4 p.m. "informal meeting" with the media at which he is expected to announce subtle but important changes to the way the Dolphins do business with their fans and media, according to a source close to Ross.
Ross, who has been searching for investors to become minority owners in the team, may unveil some of the names of the people involved on that front.
The source said Thursday afternoon that Ross has been speaking to several people in the entertainment industry. Singer Jimmy Buffett, a Key West resident, and Miami Sound Machine founder Emilio Estefan are among the entertainment people Ross has discussed including in his ownership group.
It is not known if Ross has signed letters of intent or has closed the sale of minority portions of the team with Buffett or Estefan.
Ross is expected to confirm he is getting advice from former U.S. Open chief and former United States Tennis Association CEO Arlen Kantarian. Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue also has advised Ross but not in any official capacity.
Kantarian, who serves on the board of directors at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, is said to be advising Ross on how to reach out to a broader range of fans on game days. Kantarian has been advising Ross to reach out to the "new media" and to turn the game day experience into one that entices more than hardcore Dolphins fans.
Kantarian, who was responsible for similar initiatives while running the U.S. Open, has advised Ross to expand the Dolphins fan reach to non-football fans and people visiting South Florida as well as living in the community. During Kantarian's tenure, the U.S. Open became the largest annually attended sporting event in the United States.
CBS News and Sports president Sean McManus told the New York Times that Kantarian has a "real promotional flair and flamboyance in presenting an event. The U.S. Open was always a big sporting event in New York, but now it's an 'in' entertainment and sports event."
Ross is said to want to take a similar step with Dolphins football games. He is expected to speak about that at the media gathering.
Ross will not touch the football operations side of the Dolphins. He understands football czar Bill Parcells does not need nor want the way the football side does business to be changed in any way.
But the new owner, who made his fortune as a commercial real estate developer, is expected to make the Dolphins game day experience and business side seem "glitzier," according to a source at HK Management, which represents Buffett.
The Dolphins are expected to become more celebrity friendly and more celebrities are expected to be invited to every home game. In that regard, Ross has enlisted the help of Bernie Yuman, who founded Say Entertainment Inc. (aka Bernie Yuman Management) in Henderson, Nev.
Yuman is best known for serving as the agent for the animal act Siegfried and Roy. He is also the manager for former boxer Muhammad Ali. Yuman (seen with Ross at a Dolphins home game last season) directed calls to his office back to the Dolphins public relations department, a clear indication he is connected to the team.
The Dolphins will soon unveil their marketing strategy for 2009, meant to push ticket sales and create buzz about the team. That could also happen as early as today.
Ross said in his last media availability that he is not raising ticket prices this coming season.
The Arizona Cardinals maintain they do not want to trade Anquan Boldin. But if another team is eager to make a deal for the Pro Bowl wide receiver from Florida State then the Cardinals are willing to consider a trade, according to head coach Ken Whisenhunt.
Whisenhunt confirmed teams have called the Cardinals about Boldin and his team is weighing its options.
As you know, I have told you for about seven months that Boldin would be an awesome addition for the Dolphins. But alas, I seriously doubt Miami will pay anywhere near the price it will take to bring Boldin to Miami.
The Cardinals are said to be wanting a first-round pick and perhaps other compensation (such as a third or fourth rounder) for Boldin. They might not get that, but there are teams willing to discuss the matter. The Eagles, Giants, Jets are among the teams that are expected to show interest.
The Dolphins? They will definitely make the call to Arizona. It's part of the job that Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland know exactly what it will take to add a talent like Boldin. So they'll investigate.
But given the importance Parcells is putting on draft picks, and adding rather than losing picks, it's hard to believe he would give up multiple choices for this player. Make no mistake, Parcells thinks Boldin is a stud because, well, Boldin is a stud.
But a stud worth at least one high draft pick and then requiring a multi-year, mega-dollar contract? That's a steep price to pay. The fact the Dolphins think they can add a receiver such as Brian Robiskie or Hakeem Nicks without giving up extra picks also will mitigate their desire to chase Boldin.
The one wildcard in this entire scenario is the fact Boldin is represented by agent Drew Rosenhaus, who works out of Miami Beach. Rosenhaus would love to get his client to the local team and will almost definitely call the Dolphins and pitch the trade.
Whether it will fall on deaf ears has yet to be seen.
It is tax day and that's quite depressing with all the government spending and mismanagement that's going on. It's enough to cause hundreds of thousands of citizens to take to the streets in grassroots tea parties throughout our nation. Meanwhile NFL fans are sizing up the potential potholes in their teams' recently released schedules while also measuring their teams' weaknesses in anticipation of the coming NFL draft.
It can all be a huge downer if you let it.
So today I offer a lift to you, the hardcore Dolphins fan. You have much to be thankful for because although I've made the point time and again that the Miami roster is flawed, the franchise is nonetheless pointed in the right direction.
So what follows is a list of positive facts about your Miami Dolphins that should take your mind off 1040s and turbo tax and all that schtuff.
1. Bill Parcells is running the show. The Big Tuna has brought to the Dolphins a credibility and respect that was lacking since Jimmy Johnson quit the first time, after the 1998 season. The Dolphins are no longer viewed as potential victims in trades because Parcells doesn't get taken to the cleaners. The Dolphins are being molded in the image of a champion that Parcells likes to establish, which is a big, strong, hard-working team that avoids drama. Parcells is so good at what he does he is already thinking of the 2010 season even as we're days from the 2009 draft. He is going into this draft understanding the possible holes in the 2010 roster -- due to free agency -- and he expects to make decisions in this draft, in part, with that season in mind. Pretty awesome for a team that simply tried to survive day-to-day under previous management regimes.
2. The quarterback situation is set. The Dolphins haven't had it this good at the quarterback spot since Dan Marino was in his prime. They have a veteran quarterback in Chad Pennington that doesn't make many mistakes, doesn't make a ton a money to eat up cap space, doesn't complain about his contract situation, is a great leader, and is a great team player. They have an heir to Pennington in Chad Henne, who has a very good arm, played for a long time at a bigtime university, doesn't seem overmatched by anything, and is such a competitor he's intent on displacing Pennington this year rather than waiting for 2010.
3. The coaching staff is set and productive. Yes, there were some hiccups early last season when Tony Sparano and his staff were still getting to know their players. But they figured out very quickly what those players could and could not do and they maximized that ability. The staff was good enough that Todd Bowles and Paul Pasqualoni were considered head coaching candidates elsewhere this offseason and Steve Hoffman was hired away by Kansas City. The good news is the staff only had the Hoffman defection and an offensive line assistant change when Mike Maser was fired. By any NFL standard, that means the Dolphins staff retains its cohesion and constancy.
4. Youth rules. The over-the-hill-gang they definitely aren't. The Dolphins were young last season and will be younger yet this year, believe it or not. They've lost or cut veterans such as Vonnie Holliday, Renaldo Hill and Andre' Goodman and will replace them with younger players. They are about to add a dozen rookies. They are building for tomorrow. “There is no doubt about it, you have to have younger players on your team," General Manager Jeff Ireland said. "You want to build through the draft. That’s a strategy and philosophy that this trio has felt real strongly about as many times as we have been together. Age does make a difference as well as longevity, how many more years a guy can play and if a player is ascending or descending.”
5. The Dolphins know the trenches are important. There is no NFL team that can win despite losing the battles along the line of scrimmage. It is simply impossible. Don Shula recognized this earlier in his career when he sent three offensive linemen to the Hall of Fame. He knew this when tough men such as Manny Fernandez anchored the defensive line. But he went away from that a bit when Dan Marino came on the scene. Yes, that lightning release was rarely sacked, but the Dolphins couldn't run the football to save their lives. And yes, the Dolphins applied pressure, but they struggled stopping the run. It was telling that in 1995, the Dolphins desperately needed to improve their pass rush ... so their signature free agent signing was Eric Green, a tight end. Jimmy Johnson believed offensive linemen weren't a priority, but rather afterthoughts he could find late in the draft or as undrafted free agents and that just wasn't true all the time. By contrast, the Dolphins today have a solid starting offensive line. Jake Long should get better. Justin Smiley is expected to be healthy by training camp. Jake Grove is an upgrade over Samson Satele as long as he stays healthy. Donald Thomas is 100 percent again and has much potential. And Vernon Carey is nothing if not dependable. Defensively, the Miami line is young and improving. Yes, Holliday is gone but he played only 53 percent of the snaps last season and was destined to play less than that this year because Phillip Merling or Randy Starks are going to start. The Dolphins have high, high hopes for Lionel Dotson, who got little attention in 2008. Keep your eyes on him because Parcells is.
6. The draft will not finish Miami's work. The Dolphins have worked out and studied a ton of little-known, little-valued players they believe might not be drafted. The reason for this is the team will sign about a dozen undrafted free agents in hopes that maybe two make the team and one or more can become practice squad players. Last season the Dolphins added K Dan Carpenter and WR Davone Bess as undrafted free agents. I think that speaks for itself.
7. There's more to Miami than meets the eye. While most of us are focused on the starters and the stars, the Dolphins staff and personnel dept. are wise enough to go beyond that. Guess what? They didn't give up on guard Shawn Murphy after he disappointed last season. He came in too fat heavy to be able to compete last training camp. Falling behind day after day, he was of no effect by the time the team needed guard help during the regular-season. That will not be the case now. He is in shape and getting stronger. The Dolphins haven't given up on him simply because he's not a star or starter. The same is true with Dotson, who I mentioned earlier. No, he didn't figure prominently. But this is a 6-4, 290-pound guy who is getting stronger this offseason. He is a project, I grant you, but the project is being improved as we speak. Safety Tyrone Culver is not a name you'll hear most anyplace else. But the Dolphins think he's going to be a stud in the nickel and dime packages. He has coverage and ball skills that allow him to compete at cornerback. And failing that, he's a reliable tackler in the back end. The Dolphins expect much from him. Then there is Joe Cohen. Who, you might ask? He's pushing Paul Soliai to be Miami's backup nose tackle. At 6-2 and 315, Cohen is probably a bit smaller than the Dolphins want anchoring the middle, but University of Florida fans know he's He-Man strong so watch for him. Finally, there is TE Joey Haynos. The fact of the matter is David Martin and Anthony Fasano are both unsigned beyond 2009. Both will not be re-signed. The Dolphins are projecting Haynos to be the next guy up in the rotation. He has great hands. He's 6-8 and 270 pounds, which makes him a HUGE target in the red zone. And the amazing thing is the kid is rather lanky and can run pretty well. He has potential the Dolphins believe will begin to shine in 2009.
So those are some good-news facts you should consider about your team today -- even as tax bills and life's other challenges try to get most of your attention.
The Dolphins will open defense of their AFC East division title on Sunday Sept. 13 against the Atlanta Falcons according to the NFL schedule released by the NFL moments ago.
The Dolphins schedule, the hardest in all the NFL according to 2008 records, will hit prime time the second week of the season when the Dolphins host the Colts at Dolphin Stadium on Monday Sept. 21 in their first prime time game since 2007.
That game will require the Florida Marlins to move their previously scheduled game against Philadelphia to be moved to July.
The Dolphins are scheduled for four prime time games. They also play the New York Jets Oct. 12 on ESPN, the Carolina Panthers Nov. 19 on NFL Network and the New England Patriots Dec. 6 in Miami on NBC.
The NFL schedule-making computer has been quite kind to the Dolphins as they play three games at home the first five weeks of the season, while the temperatures and humidity in Miami will still be quite high. Meanwhile, the Dolphins don't have a horrible cold weather game to speak of, barring a storm of some kind.
The team finishes the season with consecutive home games and the three December games prior to that will come at balmy Jacksonville, at home against New England and in Nashville against Tennessee where it might be cold, but it won't be anything like Buffalo.
2009 Regular Season Schedule
at Atlanta Falcons
at San Diego Chargers
NEW YORK JETS
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
at New York Jets
at New England Patriots
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
at Carolina Panthers
at Buffalo Bills#
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS#
at Jacksonville Jaguars#
at Tennessee Titans#
*All games are Eastern Time. #Games that can be potentially moved to Sunday at 8:15 p.m. on NBC-TV.
Join me in the comments section for the live blog starting at 7:30 p.m.
One year after falling out of prime time elite status, the Dolphins are returning to the NFL's regular-season signature game of the week when they play on Monday Sept. 21 at Dolphin Stadium according to an NFL source.
News of this prime time game the second week of the season is the first trickle of what will be a stream of NFL and Dolphins schedule news coming out in the next hour.
That prime time game will be possible because the Marlins game against Philadelphia, scheduled for 7:10 on Sept. 21, will be moved to another date.
Meanwhile, the New England Patriots have announced on their website their game against the Dolphins in Miami is scheduled as a prime time Sunday night game. The date of that game is not on the release. But that's two prime time games for Miami so far.
I'll have the season-opener as well as this prime time game opponent and other information for you in the coming minutes. Check back here for more updates.
In the wake of tonight's 7 p.m. release of the NFL schedule, I think it appropriate to have a live blog. I also want to do it because, frankly, I'm kind of bored and have nothing else to do this evening.
I will blog the schedule in a new post and then we'll do the live blog at 7:30 p.m. in the comments section of that post.
We can talk about the draft, including an exchange about my column in today's Herald, which makes the point the Dolphins want to turn their nine draft picks into a dozen picks. The column also makes the point the Dolphins need to find, at minimum, three starting players out of this draft to continue their rebuilding process in successful fashion.
We can also discuss the schedule. We can also discuss any question or comment you guys have about anything Dolphins related. No questions about monkeys or polar bears biting german school teachers in the butt!
So check back around 7ish for the schedule release and let's get together at 7:30 for a live blog. The thing will go about an hour or longer, depending on your feedback and interest.
The NFL will release its 2009 schedule on Tuesday and what that means for the Dolphins is we'll know the order in which they will take on the NFL's most difficult schedule.
As you will see on linked NFL.com chart, the Dolphins are scheduled to face opponents with a combined .594 winning percentage from a year ago. That combined record of 152-104 is the toughest any team will face.
Methinks the schedule is one reason so many Dolphins fans believe their team might take a step back in 2009 after posting an 11-6 record in 2008.
But take heart. There are reasons not to fear the difficulty of the schedule to come.
While the Dolphins may have the toughest schedule, the New England Patriots (.590 opponent winning percentage) have the third-toughest. The Buffalo Bills have the sixth-toughest (.570) and the New York Jets have the seventh-toughest (.568).
So some team might just have to limp to the AFC East title.
The Dolphins, meanwhile are scheduled to face 13 games in which the opponent had a .500 or better record in 2008 while New England and Buffalo face the same number. The Jets will have nine games against teams with a .500 or better record.
The Dolphins play only three games against teams that had a losing record in 2008 -- two of those against Buffalo and against Jacksonville.
Of course, all this can go out the window if the teams that played well in 2008 don't pose similar difficulties in 2009. It also would throw the difficulty of the schedule off if terrible 2008 teams play surprisingly well in 2009 -- as the terrible 2007 Dolphins played well in 2008.
But the fact Miami does have the toughest road back to the playoffs of any team -- for the moment at least -- is a steep mountain to climb.
[Update: The Dolphins are expecting to be on prime time at least once and perhaps more than that early in the season, before the string of late-season games that can be flexed on and off prime time kicks in. The Dolphins surprised a lot of people by winning the AFC East last year and team officials believe the networks will take note and give them some prime time (Sunday night, Monday night) coverage. The Dolphins had no prime time games last season.]
Miami's 2009 opponents:
HOME: Buffalo (7-9), Houston (8-8), Indianapolis (12-4), New England (11-5), New Orleans (8-8), Jets (9-7), Pittsburgh (12-4) and Tampa Bay (9-7).
ROAD: Atlanta (11-5), Buffalo (7-9), Carolina (12-4), Jacksonville (5-11), New England (11-5), Jets (9-7), San Diego (8-8), Tennessee (13-3).
[BLOG NOTE: Check in often Tuesday as I will post the schedule as soon as I have it, along with analysis an reaction.]
As you know the Dolphins hosted their "locals" players last Friday. Approximately 25 local players were at the Dolphins facility, going through a day of work as if they were already in the NFL and working for Miami.
University of Connecticut linebacker Cody Brown, who is from Coral Springs, was one of those players. What follows is Brown's account of his visit with the Dolphins.
7 a.m. : Eat breakfast and then head over to the facility.
7:30 - 7:45 a.m. : Arrive at the facility. "When I first walked into the building Bill Parcells was right there and I pretty much talked to him for a little bit but it wasn't anything serious," Brown said. "He just told me I'd done a good job at the Senior Bowl."
7:50 a.m. : Settle into the locker room. "They had chairs with your name on it where you can put your stuff at and get changed and all that. It was in the middle of the locker room," Brown said. "I wasn't star-struck by the names [on the lockers] because I've been in that locker room before. So I pretty much seen all that. It wasn't new to me."
At that point players, all of them with histories in South Florida, begin to recognize each other.
Brown obviously knew University of Connecticut teammate Darius Butler, a cornerback. He also recognized LSU defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois and LSU wide receiver Demetrius Byrd. He didn't know any of the fellow linebackers except for Wake Forest ILB Stanley Arnoux, who is from Belle Glade. Arnoux ran a 4.56 at the Indy Combine and has impressed scouts who initially were looking at teammate Aaron Curry.
One player who was supposed to attend but didn't due to flight delay issues is Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas, who played at North Miami Beach High. Western Michigan, by the way, has about a dozen players from South Florida on its roster.
University of Miami cornerback Bruce Johnson was also present. Having seen Johnson play a lot in 2008, I'm wondering why?
8 a.m.: Weigh-in. Brown, who is 6-2, weighs in at 250 pounds. "I lost a little weight during the season so I was at around 240 then," Brown said. "But I've been lifting and getting stronger. I eat a lot of hamburgers, but it's all muscle. You can't get fat when you're getting ready for the NFL draft"
9 a.m. : Players work out. "Some guys did the running drills and shuttles and all that around until around 10 or 10:30," said Brown.
11 a.m. to noon: Shower. Eat lunch. Meet with coaches. "When we were pretty much done with all that we showered and had lunch around 12 o'clock. And then individual guys went up to meet with coaches. I met with defensive coordinator (Paul Pasqauloni) and I met with him for about an hour-and-a-half and after that I left," Brown said.
"They went over pretty much the defense, what they call it. I guess they're trying to see whether or not I can pick up on the defense or not. I did pretty good. It's not that difficult. It was similar to what we do at U-Conn although not really."
Brown has also visited the New York Giants and Denver Broncos.
Let's face it, Beck is not the quarterback of today. He's not the quarterback of tomorrow. He's not young and yet he's inexperienced. He is, however, on the trade block.
The video below of Beck's first career NFL start shows a guy that was terribly unsure of himself. He had no poise nor confidence. Consequently he was inaccurate, as several easy throws were high or behind the receivers. Beck's footwork was also atrocious. You have to excuse part of that to inexperience and understanding his offensive line wasn't very good, but he seemed to bail out too quickly as if not wanting to get hit.
So on a team eager to, as I first reported a month ago, add draft picks and come out of the April 25-26 selection process with about 12 drafted players, Beck is a trade waiting to happen. Maybe Cam Cameron, who loved Beck so much, should lobby for him to come to Baltimore, where the former coach is the offensive coordinator.
Maybe you folks see a future for Beck in Miami. I do not.
After you check out the column and read Tony Sparano's quotes on Beck, you tell me if you agree or disagree with me.
[Update: There was an ongoing debate in 2007 whether the Dolphins made a mistake in passing on Brady Quinn and eventually picking Beck in the second round. Obviously neither player has done very much his first two seasons. But Quinn seems to have held greater value despite his relative inactivity while Beck has not.
According to The National Football Post, the Browns have multiple offers to trade for Quinn and the asking price is already at a first-round pick and the Browns are looking to get even more. Beck meanwhile is nowhere close to being worth a first-rounder and isn't even returning the second-round pick the Dolphins invested in him on the trade market. Food for thought.]
Yesterday I presented to you the positions of need for the Dolphins.
Yesterday I asked you to give me what you believe to be Miami's priority in the coming April 25-26 draft.
Today I'll tell you I believe the priority for the Dolphins will be pass-rush, followed by cornerback, followed by wide receiver.
Why pass rush?
Because that's Bill Parcells running the draft and he believes in knocking down the quarterback and winning at the line of scrimmage. Because a great pass rush instantly improves your secondary. Because a great pass rush gets the defense off the field. Because a great pass rush can turn a promised field goal try into a punt. Because Joey Porter was Miami's sack leader in 2008 and he is 32 years old. Because Matt Roth was second on the team in sacks last year with only five. Because Jason Taylor is more likely to sign with New England after the draft. Because Cameron Wake has great pass-rush potential but has shown it only in the CFL.
None of this means the Dolphins won't add a cornerback. It doesn't mean they will turn their backs on a receiver. Fact is, they're probably going to pick the highest player on their board regardless of position.
But pass-rush is very important in my opinion. And that makes it the priority area the Dolphins cannot overlook.
[I will be on the air at 790 The Ticket from 3-7 p.m. Friday. You can listen live even if you're not in South Florida at 790theticket.com. You can also call the show toll free from anywhere in the U.S. at 1-888-790-3776. I'll be happy to talk Dolphins with you. Think of it as a live blog on radio! God bless you all on this Good Friday. And a prosperous and joyous Pesach to my Jewish brothers and sisters.]
The Dolphins will not say what their draft needs are. Tony Sparano and Jeff Ireland won't say they have holes at OLB and CB and WR that demand 2009 draft attention.
“We have needs at a lot of different positions," Ireland said cryptically. "To give you what those exact needs are goes into strategy which we are not going to talk about. Our greatest needs are players that fit our system. Our greatest needs are players that think the way we think; that want to be here and have high passion and high character. Those are the greatest needs that we have on the team.”
I find it interesting the Dolphins won't give you even a hint of what they think their needs are although everyone knows they need a starting CB because Will Allen cannot start at both LCB and RCB. They need a starting OLB that can improve the overall pass rush because Joey Porter cannot do it by himself. And they need a wide receiver that actually scares the defense because no one on Miami's receiver corps does that.
The Dolphins also need help at other positions like nose tackle and ILB, but those needs are not as dire and can be addressed in later rounds.
So even if Ireland and Sparano won't say what the Dolphins need, we pretty much know. But where they show brilliance in keeping internal information, well, internal is in refusing to to give even a hint what their priority is. We know what they need, even if they refuse to confirm it. But we don't know in what order they think they need those things.
Miami's priorities, rather than its needs, are the big secret.
In other words, no one outside the Dolphins knows if the team sees CB as a bigger need than WR. Or maybe OLB is a bigger need than the other two. I love that the Dolphins are able -- so far -- to keep this under wraps because that helps their cause in playing draft day poker against other teams.
But our purpose here is to break it down a little to get a better idea which of the three areas of need is the area of greatest need. So here goes ...
The case for OLB: The Dolphins had 40 sacks last season but 17.5 of those came from Porter. The team will not allow itself to rely on one player for 43 percent of its sacks. Yes, Cameron Wake was signed to address that problem and that might alleviate the level of need, but what has Wake proven? Is his presence enough to let the Dolphins go elsewhere with their top pick? Remember that a great pass rush is at the core of what Bill Parcells believes makes a great team. Remember that a great pass rush helps erase flaws in the secondary. And there are mathematical studies done by folks with, like, analytical minds, that state a sack is worth 3 1/2 points in an NFL game. Yes, the study shows a sack is more valuable than a field goal. So the case for finding a young, outstanding, pass-rushing OLB is strong.
The case for a WR: When Ireland was asked to name his No. 1 receiver last week he stumbled. "It is Teddy (Ted Ginn, Jr), it’s (Greg) Camarillo," he said. "Those are the receivers that are number one and number two, or number two and number one right now. We obviously need to upgrade a lot of positions and receiver is a position that we need some depth at for sure.” For sure. The Dolphins do not need a deep threat in the traditional sense. Ginn is capable of becoming that player that catches passes over the top of the defense. But Miami lacks a player that can turn a 7-yard slant into a 56-yard TD. Miami lacks a guy that can make the first defender miss, breaks the next guy's tackle, and is gone to the house. Miami lacks a guy that brings the YAC (Yards After Catch). Such an addition would open up the running game. Such an addition would slow a defense's desire to blitz. Such an addition would make any QB look a whole lot better.
The case for CB: Sparano has said he doesn't know that there are any lockdown corners anymore. The fact is the NFL game is made for offense and, except for the rescindment of the force-out rule, the fathers of the game are always trying to help open up the passing game. That does not change the fact Miami's best candidate for starting opposite Will Allen is Eric Green, who Sparano says, "has something to prove." Yeah, he's got to prove he can be a starter. Regardless of whether that happens or not, the Dolphins have three corners scheduled to become unrestricted free agents after 2009 assuming a collective bargaining agreement is reached. And even if it is not, Allen is scheduled to be unrestricted. So this position requires attention in this draft -- and perhapswith the selection of multiple players. Jimmy Johnson used to say you draft four positions in the first round. He wanted left tackles, pass-rushers, quarterbacks and cornerbacks. (Wish he had remembered his own rule relative to the Yatil Green selection). But the point is cornerback is a championship position. And the Dolphins are lacking there.
So there you have it. That's the case for each need. Which one is the Dolphins' priority?
No, further out here. Yeah, you see this big void over here where a starting cornerback should be getting ready to line up for the Miami Dolphins? This is what folks in the NFL call a major honkin' draft need.
I have covered the Dolphins for a good many years. I've covered Tim McKyer, who Don Shula hated. I've covered Vestee Jackson and J.B. Brown. I've also covered Troy Vincent and Patrick Surtain, the two best cornerbacks in team history.
So I think I know when the spot is well-manned. And when it is not.
The Dolphins cornerback spot opposite Will Allen is not well-manned today. Not even close. Of course, general manager Jeff Ireland isn't that blunt about the enormous gap at starting cornerback he must see when he looks at a current depth chart.
But even the word-cautious Ireland admits the spot needs addressing in the coming draft.
“We have three undrafted free agent corners there so it is a position we are going to have look at like every other position," Ireland said during his pre-draft press conference last week. "When you have three UFAs going into a position, you have to look at the draft and free agency. We have Eric [Green] and we didn’t get some of the other guys we looked at.
"There is Joey Thomas who I think has tremendous ability. Will Allen is here. He is a terrific player for us. Nate Jones did a terrific job for us. Jason Allen is going to have a chance to compete again. It is kind of like the receiver position. There are some young players there that have to come out of their shell a little bit. They need do show what they can do.”
I say Ireland needs to show what he can do relative to the gaping hole at this spot. He must, absolutely must, draft a cornerback or two in the coming draft. And that isn't all. Ireland and Bill Parcells must identify and select a cornerback they have confidence can compete for a starting job as a rookie.
That doesn't mean the rookie must start immediately. But he has to be a factor immediately because at least that makes other players at the position better as a result of the competition.
You see, just filling the spot with bodies that might develop in a year or so isn't good enough when the Dolphins are facing a 2009 schedule that threatens Terrell Owens twice, Lee Evans twice, Randy Moss twice, Andre Johnson, Hines Ward, Reggie Wayne, Steve Smith, Wes Welker twice, Antonio Bryant, and Roddy White. All those players, without exception, have played at a Pro Bowl level at some point in their careers.
The Dolphins need to draft a cornerback or two that will serve as an answer to the problem those players pose.
So, you ask, who is available and interesting?
The Dolphins, as you read here a month or so ago, have shown consistent interest in Utah cornerback Sean Smith, who is likely a second-round type of player.
The team on Friday will host University of Connecticut corner Darius Butler, who is a local player and will be among the two dozen or so locals visiting the Miami facility.
Everyone is enthusiastic about Illinois corner Vontae Davis (in the video) as a potential first-rounder. He has elite size, an excellent closing burst and very good ball skills. The guy rocks, which is one reason the Dolphins have spent countless hours studying him and meeting with him and working him out last week.
But ... well, he's not a sure-fire guy. And the Dolphins often pick sure-fire guys ahead of more talented players that aren't as safe.
This is what Scouts Inc. says in part about Davis: "Illinois head coach Ron Zook did not start him versus Iowa in 2008 because [the coach] reportedly felt [the player] wasn't playing as well as he could. Lack of visible improvement from sophomore to junior year is a concern. We've been told by multiple sources that he lacks proper respect for coaches and he only works hard when he's in the mood to do so. Vontae's brother is 49er TE Vernon Davis, who is currently underachieving in the NFL."
There are other cornerbacks the Dolphins have shown varying degrees of interest in so their names deserve mention: Jairus Byrd of Oregon, Mike Mickens of Cincinnati, Alphonso Smith of Wake Forest, Morgan Trent of Michigan and Jerraud Powers of Auburn.
Byrd is interesting. He's the son of former NFLer Gil Byrd. He also has elite ball skills and knows how to be a professional. But he lacks top-end speed.
Trent is lanky at 6-1 and 193 but the Dolphins always believe they can make players stronger in their workout programs. He's a second-day possibility.
Mickens had good production, which is always something the Dolphins study, but his left knee caused him to trouble at the end of the season and required arthroscopic surgery. That's a red flag.
Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins is expected to be gone by the time the Dolphins draft at No. 25 in the first round.
[BLOG NOTE: By the time the comments section on this post closes, you will have added the 50,000th comment to the blog since it moved to this format in April of last year. We currently stand at 49,951. I wish I could tell you alarms will go off and confetti will rain down on the person posting the 50,000th comment. But that won't happen. The Herald is cutting back on costs and this blog's special effects feature has fallen victim to that cutback.]
The Dolphins will be bringing dozens of players to their practice facility this week. They'll have their top non-local players visit and then they'll get with their local players who are either from South Florida, from a Florida college, or are now living locally.
USC linebacker Rey Maualuga is among the players meeting and greeting Team Miami today, according to his representation at Premier Sports & Entertainment. San Diego State linebacker Russell Allen is also scheduled to be among the players visiting today, according to his agent Steve Caric.
Maualuga is a beast of an inside linebacker and he is an early first-round pick waiting to happen. It's likely he would be gone by the time the Dolphins select at No. 25 in the first round as San Diego, Cleveland, Denver, Kansas City, Detroit and New England, among others, have had collective eyeballs on him.
Russell, 6-3 and 230 pounds, is more of a darkhorse guy because his college team didn't get much national play. But that hasn't stopped San Diego and Chicago from conducting meetings with him already. Meetings with Oakland and Jacksonville are scheduled for next week.
Anyway, out of sheer happenstance that Maualuga is available when Miami picks -- keep in mind that could include a potential trade-up scenario -- it's good to know a little something about this guy.
First of all he is 6-2 and 250 pounds. He ran a 4.6 at his Pro Day after having hamstring issues at the Indy Combine. Maualuga is unquestionably one of the leaders of the USC defense, if not the leader. That says a lot considering the team also has Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing on its linebacker corps.
Unlike Cushing, Maualuga was on the field all three downs. Cushing is a fine player but he typically came off the field on passing downs, which makes me think he's not necessarily a first-round guy because he has not proven he's a three-down linebacker.
But I digress.
"I want to become the player that the offense gameplans around, that the offense fears coming into the game," Maualuga says in his USC bio.
Maualuga had run-in with the law in 2005 but I suppose he's matured since then as he hasn't had any known trouble lately. I'm sure that will come up during his meeting with the Dolphins if it hasn't already in previous discussions with the team.
Several things work in Maualuga's favor as a potential pick if he's on the board at No. 25 (a big assumption). He plays a position that allows players to compete and start immediately. The inside linebacker spot is one where players traditionally make a very quick transition from college to pros -- think Zach Thomas, Jerrod Mayo, Channing Crowder (although he played outside initially, then inside). If a player is talented, he can get on the field immediately.
The Dolphins love that as opposed to picking a receiver who might need to grow into starting because he's got to learn zone principles and get in synch with the QB and other things. The return at ILB is usually faster assuming the player can, well, play.
Allen has played 48 games since arriving at SDSU in 2005 and the Dolphins love that kind of experience. Remember Bill Parcells often advises players to stay in school through their senior seasons because he thinks that makes them better and more likely to succeed in the NFL.
Anyway, Allen has played in both the 3-4 and 4-3 system and has played all the LB positions. He is versatility defined. He's also pretty athletic, having run a 4.58 40-yard dash time at his Pro Day. Allen seems to have the Parcells "makeup." He was a team captain so his leadership is solid, he led the team in tackles in 2007 and 2008 so his production is apparent.
He's a guy to keep your eyes on.
And while you're at it, keep your eyes on the following Maualuga video:
I remember covering Dolphins games that had Bill Parcells on the other sideline, and in some of those games, Parcells trotted out players such as Keith Byars and Bryan Cox and Drew Bledsoe and got excellent production out of them.
Those players were older veterans. So it didn't seem to me Parcells had a problem with older players back then. In fact, in some cases, it seemed he preferred the older guys.
So it continues to be a point of inquiry for me that now Parcells is running the Dolphins and he seems to have an aversion to older players. He'd rather sign a younger, unproven cornerback named Eric Green than an older and more proven Shawn Springs or Chris McAlister or Ken Lucas.
He'd rather pay a younger but oft-injured Jake Grove $29.5 million over five years than show interest in a older but more reliable Matt Birk, who ends up signing for three years and $12 million.
“It depends on the health of the player," general manager Jeff Ireland said, no doubt forgetting both Grove and Green have not exactly been pictures of health recently. "There is no doubt about it; you have to have younger players on your team. You want to build through the draft. That’s a strategy and philosophy that this trio has felt real strongly about as many times as we have been together. Age does make a difference as well as longevity, how many more years a guy can play and if a player is ascending or descending.”
I totally buy it if the team is drawing the line between filling a need through the draft verus free agency. In that comparison, the drafted player will always be younger, always have his best days ahead if he turns out to be good, and will usually be less expensive.
It makes sense.
The Dolphins need, must continue to fill in talent through the draft. They need, must continue to stay young and keep their salary cap structure manageable.
But if the comparison is one free agent versus another, the strategy needs some gray area between the extreme black and white of youth versus age.
The fact of the matter is some younger free agents get hurt a lot also, be it by happenstance or bad luck or something else. Grove, all of 29, has been hurt a lot in his career. Justin Smiley, 27, came to the Dolphins having been hurt in San Francisco. He got hurt and missed the end of the season last year.
Meanwhile, some older players such as Kurt Warner play and play and play with relatively few injuries.
And sometimes the younger players, despite their injury history, still draw bigger paychecks in free agency while the older players often come at a bargain. Age doesn't always work against a team when one is comparing free agents.
Bottom line: The age question is important for the Dolphins. They are a team still trying to get better for tomorrow. They need younger players. And it makes sense for them to draft those younger players.
But once they start looking at free agents, where injury history, performance history, and price tag need to matter, I'm thinking youth is a variable that cannot always be considered most important above all others.
Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland just finished his draft press conference moments ago. Some highlights:
Ireland said the Dolphins are "looking at," the possibility of returning Jason Taylor to Miami. But in his lukewarm response to the idea, Ireland said the team had to measure several factors.
"I think you have to look at every possible situation at this time of year," Ireland said. "Our level of interest, I'm not going to tell you where it's at right now. But I would say you have to look at all these things, but with players like Jason, he's going to be 35 in September.
"You have have to look at whether veteran players are progress-stoppers for younger players. You have to look at that. There’s a lot of other things you have to look at. Economics have something to do with it. And being so close to the draft, so you have to look at what’s available in the draft. So I always say, you never know what’s falling off the tree and if there’s an acorn down there. We’re looking at I’m not going to say that we’re not. But the interest level, I’m not going to comment on it."
I reported in an earlier blog today the Dolphins are the only AFC East team that has not shown significant interest in Taylor. Buffalo, the Jets and the New England have all either called Taylor's agent or had their owner (Robert Kraft) show interest in signing Taylor.
Ireland did comment on Michael Vick who is expected to become available to NFL teams by September. It has been speculated that Vick would make a good wildcat package triggerman.
So are the Dolphins interested?
"We don't think so right now," Ireland said. "We're not really interested in going after Michael."
Ireland also said that right guard Donald Thomas, who was injured in the first game of 2008 and missed the entire season, is "100 percent" healthy.
"He's doing really good," Ireland said.
Ireland said left guard Justin Smiley's condition is also looking up, although he obviously isn't as advanced in his rehabilitation as Thomas. "He's doing well," Ireland said.
The general manager made the point that if a player were struggling with injury or rehabilitation from an injury, it would affect the Dolphins draft plans, but that isn't the case with any player, strongly suggesting Greg Camarillo is recovering from his knee injury and surgery.
Ireland even said Miami's No. 1 receivers are Ted Ginn Jr. and Camarillo.
On the draft front, Ireland confirmed the team worked out receivers last week. But that was only part of the story.
"We looked at 35 different players last week," he said. "We looked at offensive linemen, safeties, cornerbacks, receivers. We looked at a lot of players."
Ireland admits the cornerback spot is a focus in the draft.
"We have three UFA corners next year," he said. "So that was a position we looked at in free agency. We got some guys there and we missed on some guys we looked at. We have to look at that position in the draft."
Will Allen is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) next year. Joey Thomas and Nathan Jones are also scheduled to be UFAs after this coming season.
Clearing out the notebook as we head to today's interview session with Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland:
Occassionally my job is to play fireman, putting out fires started by rumor-mongers or amateur bloggers posing as reporters with sources that are neither accurate nor credible.
One such continual fire fanned by various blog sites includes the seemingly annual rumor the Dolphins are about to change, tweak, adjust or altogether scrap their uniforms. The latest such rumor appeared on uniwatchblog.com.
I'm not even going to repeat what the blog "reported." But I will tell you it is not true.
Dolphins president and chief operating officer Bryan Wiedmeier tells me that nothing about the Miami uniform is changing for the 2009 season. Regardless what unnamed uniform sources may be saying, the president of the team is saying otherwise.
So Miami's current white, aqua and orange continues unchanged in 2009.
Not long after Jason Taylor became a free agent, nearly a dozen teams started calling to express interest in the possible future Hall of Famer.
The Bills called. The Packers called. The New York Jets called. Tampa Bay is interested as is New Orleans. The New England Patriots have shown interest through owner Robert Kraft, who has been quoted as saying if Taylor wants to play for the Pats, he (Kraft) can see that happening.
The Dolphins have not called or talked to the Taylor camp but remain are a darkhorse possibility because they would be interested under the right circumstances and they have home field advantage because Taylor lives in South Florida.
I draw two interesting points from this: Every single team in the AFC East has shown interest before the Dolphins have. Despite all this, the leading candidate to get Taylor remains the New England Patriots.
Nothing is likely to be done anytime soon. The timetable for getting this thing ironed out is around draft time, if not immediately afterward. Stay tuned.
The Dolphins did some fine work in finding undrafted college free agents last season. Davone Bess was one such find. Dan Carpenter was another.
The Dolphins are looking for more after this draft. A team source tells me the club would like to sign two or three college free agents that are more than just training camp bodies, but would actually have legitimate chances of making the team.
The club is looking high and low for such players.
And that's where the names Vincent and Victor Anderson come into play. Both are under-the-radar safeties who have the feel of college free agents with the chance to make a team. Both worked out in front of six teams at the Missouri Western Pro Day.
The Dolphins were one of the six teams.
Agent Jeffrey Wolf says Victor ran a 4.40 in the 40 and bench pressed 225 pounds 25 times -- impressive numbers for a 6-2 and 215-pound man. Vincent, also 6-2 and 215, ran a 4.42 and did the bench 23 times.
Anyway, file the names and keep them in mind.
After he conducts his NFL-mandated pre-draft press conference with the media today, Ireland will head to an online chat with Dolphins fans at the team's website, miamidolphins.com.
Ireland's decision to make himself available to fans is not the norm among NFL types so the Dolphins are breaking some ground here. He will be online starting around 10:45 a.m. and will stay for about 30 minutes. That means he'll answer maybe 20-25 questions.
The club will filter the crazy questions and comments so that means many of you are eliminated. But you should return here for the press conference update and to post your zaniness because, well, I've grown fond of you.
Arizona (for now) receiver Anquan Boldin still wants out of the Cardinals organization. And he believes if the Dolphins trade for him and make that escape possible, he'd absolutely welcome the idea.
“I would love to," Boldin said of playing for Miami on ESPN Radio 760 in Palm Beach. "You know, I’m a Florida guy, always will be a Florida guy at heart. If it happens, I’ll definitely be grateful.”
But the Cardinals have been playing coy about whether Boldin will be available in trade soon or at all. They also, by the way, haven't given Boldin a new contract, which is the reason the receiver wants out of Arizona in the first place.
The situation has left Boldin uncertain where he'll play in 2009.
“Honestly, I don’t know," he told the radio station. "It’s at a point right now where there’s not any discussion between myself and the team. When something does happen, I’ll let my agent take care it. I guess he’ll converse with the GM or management ... It’s a tough situation and you definitely don’t want this hanging over your head going into another season, especially it being a couple of years past due…”
Make no mistake: The Dolphins earlier this offseason would have had interest in Boldin had he been on the trade block. Now? I'm getting the feeling the interest has diminished greatly based on the team's greater knowledge of receivers about to be available in the draft and the fact those rookies would only cost a draft pick.
If Boldin becomes available, any team interested would have to give up draft compensation and then sign Boldin to a big contract -- the double whammy. Don't see it happening, but as GM Jeff Ireland said in yesterday's post, "never say never."
By the way, I present the following video in case you've forgotten what Boldin can do.