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7 posts from July 2009

July 30, 2009

Davis agrees, club close to signing draftees [Updated]

The Dolphins have locked up first round draft pick Vontae Davis. Sort of.

The cornerback selected No. 25 overall out of Illinois has agreed to a five-year deal, according to a team source. He is expected to sign the deal later today or Saturday morning. The Dolphins will announce the signing once Davis puts his John Hancock on the dotted line.

The Dolphins have been quietly confident for several days that their remaining unsigned draft picks would be signed before the coming weekend is out. That's good because training camp opens Sunday with a 2 p.m. practice.

And Thursday went a looong way toward helping the deals get done.

Even as the team and the agents for Davis and Pat White were negotiating, the players picked both just ahead and just behind the Miami rookies in their respective rounds agreed to deals with other teams.

What did that mean to Miami and it's rookies?


Whatever final language needs to be hashed out, whatever final i needs to be dotted or t needs to be crossed will likely be done in the next couple of days and perhaps as early as Friday. This, of course, barring a last-minute meltdown by some lawyer involved in reading the deals.

On Thursday, Peria Jerry, drafted No. 24 in the first round by Atlanta, agreed to a five-year deal. Linebacker Clay Matthews, drafted No. 26 overall by Green Bay, also agreed to a five-year deal. That led directly to the Davis deal late Thursday night.

Although exact contract details are not yet available, the Davis deal is believed worth between $10-$10.5 million before incentives and escalator clauses. The guaranteed money should be in the $7.2-$7.6 million neighborhood, which is a very nice neighborhood where folks smile and garbage pickup is always prompt.

[Update: The subject of leverage has come to my mind and, with Davis, the Dolphins hold much of the leverage should it come into play. The fact is the Dolphins have a starting cornerback spot open. The fact is three players are expected to compete for that job. The fact is Sean Smith and Eric Green, two of those candidates, are signed and will be at camp on Sunday. The fact is Davis needs to be there also if he doesn't want to fall behind the other two -- with the gap between them increasing with every practice Davis misses.

[Davis didn't want to fall behind.] 

Thursday also marked the signing of linebacker Clint Sintim with the New York Giants. Sintim, the 45th player taken overall, signed a four-year deal. Defensive end Everette Brown, selected 43rd overall by Carolina, has also signed a four-year deal. White was selected No. 44 overall.

How long do you think White's contract will run? Do I hear four years?

And it also should be done before Sunday's first practice and as early as Friday. The sides were haggling over language Friday morning but it is close to completion. That contract will come in at slightly above $4 million.

The Dolphins have one more unsigned player -- safety Chris Clemons, a fifth-round selection. Everyone else in the fifth round has signed and the two players picked before and behind Clemons signed four-year contracts. The Dolphins have had a four-year offer to Clemons on the table for days.

Educated guess here: He'll agree to a deal by Sunday and probably earlier than that.

The dignity and grace of Chad Pennington

There is nothing more divisive in a football locker room than a quarterback controversy. As crippling and pernicious plagues go, only a full-flown player mutiny is worse for a team than an uncertain balance between quarterbacks.

The friction a QB controversy causes affects the offense, defense and coaching staff. It divides fans. It corrodes loyalties at every level.

It's bad, folks.

Which is a reason you should be thrilled Chad Pennington is the Dolphins starting quarterback today.

Having watched Pennington from afar for years while he was with the Jets, it amazed me how he never let the quarterback controversy he operated under his final two seasons in New York affect him in the least. The guy was a pro's pro. 

Pennington never made any secret of the fact he wanted to be the starter. He competed hard but never stepped on anyone's toes, least of all his coaches or the other guys he was competing against. They have a word for that in my country: Classy.

Having escaped the New York drama, now Pennington finds himself in a strange situation in Miami. He is, by any account, the starting QB for the Dolphins as they get ready to begin training camp on Sunday. He is the undisputed leader of the offense. Pennington is the lone voice in any huddle he joins.

And being all those things he is also on the clock and about to be replaced.

The Dolphins plan to play Chad Henne in 2010 and possibly earlier. Those plans are not written in proverbial stone, as many things can happen in 12 months. But almost.

Let's just say the Henne name is scribbled in fast-drying cement for 2010. Team sources speak of a coming quarterback transition. Coach Tony Sparano has already said Henne will get a lot of playing time this preseason to make him as ready as possible, not just for 2010, but more precisely, in case he's needed in 2009.

And then there is the most clear indication the Dolphins are planning that transition you just read about: Pennington, in the final year of his contract, can hit the free agent market in 2010 and the Dolphins so far have done little to change that fact because they don't plan to pay him as a starter.

Tell me what other team has a veteran Pro Bowl-caliber QB entering a contract year? It doesn't happen often in the NFL unless the team has other plans. And the Dolphins clearly have other plans.

That brings me back to Mr. Class. Pennington has not complained about his lame duck status. Given the opportunity to demand a new deal or complain about his status, he has quietly talked about understanding the business nature of the NFL.

He has done all he could in the offseason -- including a rigorous workout regimen -- to make himself the best player possible for 2009 so that Miami's decision to replace him would be a difficult one. Pennington knows if he plays well enough with the Dolphins, he can always jump to another team with a starting opportunity if the Dolphins stick with the Henne plan.

Pennington will be Miami's starter this year but only as long as he plays well and wins. If the Dolphins, saddled with the NFL's toughest schedule, find themselves somehow hopelessly out of the playoff race at some point this season, it's an even bet Henne gets snaps.

If that scenario plays out while Henne continues his improvement, the transition to the younger player might come earlier than anyone might imagine.

And what if it does? You won't hear Pennington complain. You won't hear him make excuses. He will not cause division nor friction within the team. He may not be Henne's best friend, which he is not, but neither will he be a foe.

Chad Pennington will handle the looming quarterback transition much like he has handled his seemingly uncertain contract situation: With dignity. With grace.

Mr. Class.

July 29, 2009

On HOF assistants, Vick, live blog

The passing of Jim Johnson, the Eagles defensive coordinator who succumbed to cancer at age 68 Tuesday, will bring a blitz of tears and condolences the next couple of days.

It should also beg the question why the NFL Hall of Fame doesn't have a wing for great assistants coaches or general managers.

Johnson, a man who believed in attacking, confusing defense, would be forever enshrined in that wing were it to exist. And that leads me to this on a Dolphins blog:

What current or former Dolphins assistant coach or general manager type would be worthy of being enshrined in that wing?

Off the top of my head I will give you two names and let you add others at your discretion. I think Joe Thomas would be in that wing for having put together the NFL's only perfect team, the 1972-73 Dolphins, and then the better-than-perfect team of 1973-74 that followed. (Yeah, I think the '73-'74 Dolphins were better than the team from the year before.)

Anyway, I think we should all agree Bill Arnsparger, who coached Miami defenders through much of the 1970s and into the early 1980s would also qualify for that HOF wing. Arnsparger was the innovator of the famed 53-defense. He was the man who turned a group of no-names into one of the most dominant units of its day. He was simply a genius for his work with defenders.

Now it's your turn. Give me names of Miami assistants or GM types that would belong in the Hall of Fame.

On another matter, at least one local columnist has written it would have been a good idea to have Michael Vick sign with the Dolphins. Um, wrong.

As I wrote on May 23 (check the blog archives) it wasn't going to happen because Vick represents everything the Dolphins are not. They are not about the circus atmosphere. They are not about drama. They are not about doing crazy, irresponsible, desperate things.

Signing Vick would have been all about those negative things. So not signing Vick was the smart and correct call. Period.

[Blog note: Remember there is a live chat on this blog at 3 p.m. Wednesday. We'll go as long as there are questions. If you cannot be here during the chat, leave your questions in the comments section and I'll answer them in order they appear. We did an hourlong chat on twitter.com Tuesday. You missed it if you aren't following me. So follow me, I implore you, at twitter.com/armandosalguero.]

July 28, 2009

Live Twitter chat at 2 p.m., here Wed. at 3 p.m.

My months-long vacation officially ends Wednesday.

But I'm getting some stuff together today so I figured I might get everyone in training camp mode with a live chat ... on Twitter. As you know you can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/armandosalguero. If you haven't already done so, please begin following me. Nine hundred folks are doing so already and they will get live updates to their phones of what is going on at Dolphins camp.

Do it today and we'll chat on twitter between 2-3 p.m.

For those of you that refuse to tweet or simply prefer the long format to a chat, there will be a live chat on this blog Wednesday (did I mention it's my first official day back at work?). We'll run that chat starting at 3 p.m.

On the table?

There is a veritble feast of subject to discuss -- chief among them whether the Dolphins helped themselves become a better team this offseason and to what degree?

There are questions about whether the team will get Vontae Davis signed by Saturday's first practice -- I vote he'll be signed by the time Saturday is complete -- and there are questions about whether veterans such as Chad Pennington and Joey Porter can not only match, but indeed improve on the career seasons they had last year.

So check with me on twitter in a couple of hours ... or check with me on this blog Wednesday starting at 3 p.m.

As always, if you cannot be here for the live blog, you can post your questions or comments at any time and I'll answer those in order they appear.

July 14, 2009

Brian Hartline, Dolphins agree to contract

The Dolphins are slowly but surely working their way toward signing all of their draft picks this summer and today another rookie is in the house, as they say, because receiver Brian Hartline has agreed to terms with the team.

The coming signing, first reported by Brian McIntyre on Mac's Football Blog, brings the number of Dolphins rookies who have either agreed to or signed their first NFL contracts to five, including both wide receivers.

Hartline's four-year contract could be worth just under $4 million if he reaches all his incentives and escalator clauses. The actual worth of the deal is more along the lines of $2.25 million with a guaranteed bonus in the $500,000 neighborhood.

No further financial details are currently available. The Dolphins will announce the signing once Hartline actually puts his signature on the document, which could by the end of this week.

Patrick Turner, John Nalbone, Andrew Gardner and JD Folsom have signed previously. This is good news but not exactly man-bites-dog stuff as the Dolphins have had all of their rookies signed by the end of the first weekend of training camp in each of the past two years.

General Manager Jeff Ireland continues to work to make certain the streak is extended to three consecutive years. The Dolphins take the field for their first training camp practice Aug. 2.

First-rounder Vontae Davis, second-rounders Pat White and Sean Smith and fifth-round pick Chris Clemons have yet to agree to deals.

By the way, if you followed on twitter you would have gotten the heads up that I had posted this blog seconds after I did it. You could have gotten it on your phone or blackberry device. I'd be more a part of your life! 

OK, so maybe that's more than you want. But you get the idea. Follow me on twitter.  

July 09, 2009

Taylor: Parcells, Ireland step up from past

Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor is still enjoying a final respite before the Dolphins open training camp and practice Aug. 2. It will be the first camp for Taylor under the current triumvirate of Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano.

But according to collegue David Quinones, Taylor already recognizes the current hierarchy is better than previous ones he's played for.

``Obviously," Taylor said during a break at Zo's Summer Groove Classic golf outing Thursday, "[Bill] Parcells and [GM Jeff] Ireland and their front office is a big step up from what was here in the past."

Ya think?

The current Dolphins management team, headed by Parcells, is the sixth Taylor will play under while with the Dolphins.

Taylor was drafted by Jimmy Johnson, then survived played years during which the team's personnel side was headed by Dave Wannstedt, Rick Spielman, Nick Saban, and Randy Mueller.

All of those previous personnel regimes had their good moments (plural) and bad, except of course, for Wannstedt who had perhaps one good personnel moment (Adewale Ogunleye) but probably not two.

But if Taylor ranks Parcells already atop those six regimes, where do the others rank?

I would say Jimmy Johnson was second, Randy Mueller was third, Nick Saban was fourth, Wannstedt was fifth and Spielman was sixth.


Well, Johnson couldn't find offensive help to save his life (or his career), but he remade the Dolphins defense into a unit that represented the organization well for much of a decade with players such as Patrick Surtain, Taylor, Zach Thomas, Sam Madison, and others.

Mueller got one shot in 2007 and seemingly fired blanks as the team went 1-15. But was it his fault Joey Porter was terrible that year or was the OLB used poorly? You saw what Porter did last year under the right system. Porter was Mueller's signing.

A lot of folks, including me, ripped Mueller for not drafting Brady Quinn and going with Ted Ginn Jr. Except neither player has exactly turned into a star and Ginn seems closer to making an NFL mark than Quinn. The jury is still out on that as well as the John Beck selection. No, Beck couldn't make it in Miami, but what if he turns it around in Baltimore or somewhere else?

Saban blew it on Jason Allen and Manny Wright and took seemingly forever to insert Yeremiah Bell into the starting lineup. He also blew it by trading for Daunte Culpepper instead of signing Drew Brees. That last failure set the franchise back at least two seasons. It's the reason the Dolphins had to draft multiple corners this year and spent 2006, 2007 and the offseason of 2008 looking for a QB.

But Saban connected on Ronnie Brown and Will Allen and Renaldo Hill and Andre' Goodman and Matt Roth and others.

Wannstedt? He drafted Todd Wade so that worked out initially. And he signed Ogunleye as an undrafted free agent. Of course, he had some dismal decisions with Jamar Fletcher and Eddie Moore and a ton of others.

Wannstedt's personnel failures were so great that owner Wayne Huizenga stripped the coach of final say over those decisions and handed them to Spielman. And Spielman repaid the promotion by demonstrating terrible judgment.

He gave up a second-round pick for A.J. Feeley. He traded away a third-round pick for Lamar Gordon, who was injured in his first game with Miami and was placed on injured reserve, never to play for the Dolphins again. He traded Ogunleye, a blue-chip defensive end, for Marty Booker, a possession wide receiver. And don't even get me started on the draft day fiasco in which Spielman traded away a fourth-round draft pick to Minnesota to move up one spot and then bypassed Vince Wilfork to pick Vernon Carey.

Yes, Carey is a good player. But Wilfork is Pro Bowl quality.

Trying to remember a wise move that Spielman made on the Dolphins' behalf ... The Rex Hadnot draft choice is best I can come up with, which ain't saying much.

Anyway, you give me your rankings of the six personnel departments. Let me guess, Parcells will be the consensus No. 1. So give me the rest.

And give me the best and worst moves by each regime.

[RADIO NOTE: I'll be on the radio Friday morning 6-10 a.m. on 790 The Ticket. You can listen live on the web at www.790theticket.com. I'll give you the new numbers to call the show on air. Also, remember to sign up to follow me at twitter.com/armandosalguero]

July 05, 2009

The Sunday Dolphins column, well, sort of

There's no doubt Ernest Wilford was the biggest and most expensive mistake by the Dolphins personnel department a year ago. Even as the entire team was turning things around, even as the personnel people were basking in the glow of successfully remaking the roster, Wilford was a disappointing revelation at receiver.

Even on a team with plenty of open jobs at said receiver spot, Wilford was not only unable to crack the lineup, he couldn't get active on nine of 16 game days.

But with the new season comes new hopes that last year was last year and this year will bring new results. So today's Florida Sports Buzz column asks the question, can Wilford make the team in his jack-of-all-trades role as a receiver and H-back?

Today's Dolphins In Depth gives you the answer: Yes, but Wilford is going to need Providential intervention to help that happen.

What does that mean?

It means that all things being equal, all players currently on the roster being healthy, Wilford is going to find himself on the outside looking in when roster decisions are made. With everyone healthy, Wilford won't make the team as a tight end and definitely won't make it as a receiver. And he's not all that good at special teams, so his fate will be sealed.

He'll be offered in trade or simply released if no other team bites.

But, of course, it's not that simple. 

The fact is injuries and other variables do factor. The fact is David Martin's status could affect Wilford. If Martin is unable to return from his sports hernia, then Wilford's chances increase. If rookie John Nalbone continues to drop passes in training camp as he did in offseason camps, then Wilford's chances increase.

If Brian Hartline and Patrick Turner -- Miami's two rookie receiver additions -- fail in training camp, then Wilford's chances increase.

Do you know the odds of those things actually happening? Not great. Martin is expected to recover from his surgery to repair the hernia. That would give the Dolphins three more-experienced players at the tight end position -- Martin, Anthony Fasano and Joey Haynos. Add to that a rookie (Nalbone) the Dolphins have high hopes for at the position and one sees the numbers are against Wilford at TE.

Here's another factor against him making it as a tight end: Miami TEs are expected to be good blockers ... and Wilford has never really been a distinguished blocker at receiver. So now he's going to block linebackers better than he's blocked cornerbacks? Hard to believe.

The use of Wilford as a "jack-of-all-trades" also hurts Wilford at receiver. You see, the guy who seemed slow off the scrimmage line and unable to separate from coverage last year has added 15 pounds to his frame. So with the addition of Turner and Hartline and the expected improvement of the younger veterans, how is a heavier, less explosive Wilford supposed to pass the guys playing exclusively at receiver?

Think about that question. The logical answer seems grim.

The only way it could happen is if Miami suffers a plague of injuries at receiver. The only way, in fact, Wilford makes the team is if guys get hurt and the two rookies are simply not ready to perform.

So the use of Ernest Wilford as an H-back and receiver is interesting. But does it mean he's more likely to make the Dolphins when roster decisions are made?

You tell me.

[Twitter update: Approximately 700 of you have signed up to follow me on twitter. I know some of you are resisting the indefatigable march of technology, but I would tell you following me will serve you once training camp begins and I'm updating you on the latest happenings in real time. So sign up to follow me at twitter.com/armandosalguero]