Hopeful Dolphins fans believing the Dolphins could still find a starting-caliber nose tackle in Paul Soliai may have been dealt a two-fisted setback this week.
First and most discouraging is Soliai admitting he's gone from being a big dude to a fat big dude this offseason. In collegue Barry Jackson's buzz column, Soliai says he's weighing in at a whopping 360 pounds. The Dolphins want him at 345 pounds ASAP.
And they want him at that weight because his days as a nose tackle may be over. The fact is Soliai is expected to get repetitions during the coming minicamps as a defensive end as well as a nose tackle. And if the roster on the team's English language website (there will be two Miami Dolphins websites by training camp, one in Spanish) can be believed, Soliai is more a defensive end than a nose tackle or defensive tackle.
And none of that spells good news for the supremely gifted, but work ethic challenged youngster.
One thing Bill Parcells hates is overweight football players. One thing the Dolphins cannot condone is guys who go flabby even at the start of the offseason conditioning program. Understand that the program has been underway for several weeks now.
Can you imagine what Soliai was weighing when the program started, assuming he's lost some weight while working out and being back under team scrutiny?
The other thing is Miami's glut of defensive ends -- Phillip Merling, Kendall Langford, Randy Starks, Tony McDaniel, Lionel Dotson and Rodrique Wright -- suggests Soliai is in for a long day every day he's trying to make a spot for himself among that group.
Look, Soliai's make-or-break training camp is coming up. He's already had his youthful indiscretions with the last coaching staff and this one -- getting suspended by Tony Sparano for one game for breaking an undisclosed team rule. So there is very little margin for error.
And an expanding waistline shrinks that margin even more.
You've read different places that Jason Taylor has a "handshake agreement" with the Patriots. You've read the Dolphins have given up on 2009 because they are not actively pursuing Jason Taylor.
As one source close to the situation told me Tuesday night, "Don't believe what you read -- you know better."
The facts are Taylor has no agreement in place with anyone as of this writing. The fact is the Dolphins continue to weigh their options on Taylor and have not made a final decision on the matter, as of this writing.
The fact is the Dolphins definitely, positively have not thrown in the towel on 2009 for any reason, much less the fanciful one that they realize they're not a Super Bowl contender. Be serious. Does that sound like Tony Sparano or Bill Parcells to you?
I'm going so far as telling you the Dolphins are still monitoring the Anquan Boldin situation. Parcells thinks this kid is a monster! He recognizes there are problems with trading for him -- compensation to the Cardinals and compensation of $7-$8 million per year to the player. But the Dolphins have definitely not at this point completely dismissed the idea of being active on the matter if it ever hits the front burner.
Esteemed Sports Illustrated (bleeding money, by the way) and NBC football information man Peter King recently ranked all 32 NFL teams and didn't show the Dolphins a lot of love by slotting them at a non-playoffs-making No. 17.
Man's got a right to his opinion ... even when it's wrong.
Here's Salguero's 1-through-32:
1. Pittsburgh. Did I miss something? Did they lose a game this offseason? Did they graduate someone? And can you believe it, their schedule is fifth-easiest (.435 opponent winning percentage) in the NFL.
2. New York Giants. They faded late last season because they didn't have a receiver who could make plays. They've addressed that issue in the draft and might address it further. Gotham returns to normalcy atop the NFC East.
3. Philadelphia Eagles. Loved their draft. Love their quarterback. The offensive line puzzles, but the west coast offense can overcome some of those shortcomings. This is the final big push for Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb.
4. New England. They seem to be stacked. And they are stacked -- like a deck of cards that will come crashing down if Tom Brady gets hurt again or fails to reclaim his old form.
5. Tennessee. The nucleus from last year's 13-win team is still intact and outside the starting quarterback spot and maybe Keith Bulluck, this is a team coming into its prime.
6. Indianapolis. Coaching retirements and threatened retirements are an issue but Peyton's Manning's presence mitigates much of that. They're good, but no longer great.
7. Green Bay. They are just too talented and the schedule is too inviting (fourth-easiest in the NFL) to rank this team any lower. Greatest question mark remains at the quarterback position where Aaron Rodgers is good but will never be Brett Favre great.
8. Carolina. The assumption here is Julius Peppers will play for the Panthers and Jake Delhomme won't throw five interceptions per game as he did in that playoff meltdown against Arizona last year. The Panthers didn't make much of a splash this offseason, but a conservative approach might not be a bad thing for a 12-4 team.
9. Dallas. They hope getting rid of Terrell Owens is addition by subtraction. It more likely will be subtraction by subtraction. But this team promises a solid running game, a good quarterback and solid defensive front -- and that's hard to argue against.
10. Miami. The Dolphins have the toughest schedule in the NFL with opponents boasting a .594 winning percentage. And so don't be surprised if Miami is a better team and nonetheless cannot match last year's 11-5 record. But drop out of the playoffs? Out of contention? Out of sight? Don't think so.
11. San Diego. This team has superior talent that is augmented by the return of Shawne Merriman. But the problem here is not the talent, it's what Norv Turner does with that talent. The jury is still out on him as a head coach, even as he's in his 11th year and on his third team as the head man.
12. Atlanta. The offense is dangerous with the addition of the best tight end to play the game, Tony Gonzalez. But the defense that had no depth last year lost key contributors Keith Brookings, Dominique Foxworth, Rod Coleman and perhaps most notably Michael Boley. Ouch.
13. Minnesota. They have the talent to win a Super Bowl, where it not for that minor detail position known as the quarterback. The offseason flirtations with Brett Favre prove the team isn't sold on Sage Rosenfels or anyone else taking snaps from center.
14. Baltimore. That bus out of town carrying Rex Ryan and Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard and Jason Brown didn't exactly dismantle a playoff team. But it did damage. Matt Birk might actually be an upgrade at center over the short-term but losing Scott will leave a mark.
15. New Orleans. What can I say, I love offense. And the Saints will absolutely lead the NFL in scoring (again) in 2009. On the defensive side of the ball, the team set in motion a plan -- that included the drafting of Malcolm Jenkins and signing of Jabari Greer -- to address its obvious shortcomings. The plan may fail, but at least it made sense.
16. Houston. They have the best wide receiver in the NFL in Andre Johnson, who happened to attend my alma maters Miami High and the University of Miami. So they're doing something right. The problem is Matt Schaub has proven to be somewhat unreliable in staying on the field and in playing well the times he's on the field. That makes the backup quarterback situation is a concern. Dan Orlovsky?
17. Arizona. Last season's improbable run to the Super Bowl doesn't change the fact the team's best running back (Edgerrin James) is gone while the team's best defensive lineman (Darnell Dockett) and second-best receiver (Anquan Boldin) want to be gone. Miracles do happen, but not in consecutive years.
18. Chicago. Peter King picked them fourth, I assume, because Jay Cutler is supposed to make everything better ... just like he did in Denver. Cutler is excellent, no doubt. But this team has begun to age and it still hasn't gotten Cutler enough weapons unless you think Juaquin Iglesias is the answer. Orlando Pace is the new left tackle but one has to wonder if he can last the season much less play well.
19. Kansas City. They're the reincarnation of the 2008 Dolphins story. They have a good QB in Matt Cassel. They have a favorable schedule in that it's the 15th easiest in the NFL. And they won't yield rushing yards in large plots of real estate like they did last year. Even without Tony Gonzalez, this offense should score a lot of points.
20. San Francisco. They played hard for Mike Singletary last year and will do so again or he'll threaten to stare at them. They have the best linebacker in the game in Patrick Willis. And they got lucky the best receiver in the draft, Michael Crabtree, fell right in their laps. But Alex Smith and Shaun Hill have yet to settle their competition and even when they do, the 49ers will still be lacking a consistent quarterback.
21. Buffalo. The boring, rust-belt team added Terrell Owens and is experimenting with the spread option offense. Amaaazing. Problem is the offensive line remains unsolved (although I love the Andy Levitre selection), there is no backup quarterback to speak of, and the secondary is leaky.
22. Jacksonville. The Jags have aggressively addressed their offseason needs the past two seasons by drafting multiple players at positions of needs -- pass-rushers in 2008 and offensive linemen in 2009. Last year's picks didn't come through as rookies. This year's picks -- tackles Eben Britton and Eugene Monroe -- must come through to protect David Garrard, or quarterback will be a need in the 2010 offseason.
23. Washington. The Redskins were players in the Jay Cutler sweepstakes. They coveted Mark Sanchez. If you're Jason Campbell you should be getting an uneasy feeling about your Redskins longevity. The offensive line, once a strength, continues to break down or retire or under-perform. And the defensive front isn't much better.
24. New York Jets. Mark Sanchez may be the quarterback of tomorrow, but this team has issues with finding a quarterback today. New Yawkas believe Sanchez can do the same thing Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco did last year as rookies. Wrong. The difference is Sanchez started 16 games in college. Ryan started 31 games at Boston College while Flacco started 26 games at Delaware -- so both were much more NFL-ready than Sanchez.
25. Seattle. There is nothing about the Mike Holmgren "retirement" that is good for the Seahawks. And it might not be too long before quarterback Matt Hasselbeck follows Holmgren to other pastures -- particularly if his back issues continue to flare up. On the bright side, the additions of Aaron Curry and Max Unger promise cornerstone players for years to come.
26. Cincinnati. This is a team with too many questionable character players and a fragile quarterback. That's not a good combination.
27. Cleveland. New coach Eric Mangini is hoping to relive 2006, when he stumbled upon a New York Jets team that still remembered how to win after posting a 10-6 record in 2004. The Browns were 10-6 in 2007 and slumped badly last year, but Mangini doesn't have the players to suit his style in Cleveland to work his Mangeniusness again. And his most trusted personnel man (himself) isn't helping. This, by the way, is the year Dolphins fans find out if their love affair with Brady Quinn was warranted.
28. Denver. So owner Pat Bowlen gets rid of Mike Shanahan, who won two Super Bowls, and replaces him with thirtysomething Josh McDaniels, who has won zero Super Bowls. Then McDaniels gets rid of quarterback Jay Cutler, who is a Pro Bowl player, and replaces him with Kyle Orton, who is now officially a journeyman. What's next, replacing Brandon Marshall with Derek Hagan?
29. Tampa Bay. Raheem Morris is a fine young coach in the mold of Mike Tomlin. Problem is he doesn't have Mike Tomlin's roster and will not get Mike Tomlin results during a rebuilding year.
30. Oakland. Starting quarterback JaMarcus Russell is not as proficient a professional as backup Jeff Garcia, which is kinda sorta a problem. Message to Al Davis: You haven't done anything right since 2001. Time to fade into the silver and black background just as your team has.
31. St. Louis. Quarterback Mark Bulger lost that "it" factor last year and seemed legitimately
afraid uncomfortable in the pocket at times. The Rams are tying to address this with the addition of first-round left tackle Jason Smith. But that addition still doesn't address the seven or so other gashes that are bleeding from this team's depth chart.
32. Detroit. They had the worst-to-first blueprint laid out for them by the Bill Parcells example in Miami and, with few exceptions, they did things exactly the opposite way as what Parcells would have done. And they'll get opposite results of what Parcells got.
Some of you have asked me to be more interactive every so often.
I'll be on here around 1 p.m. Wednesday to talk, debate, discuss and otherwise chat with you. I'll stick around as long as you'll have me.