Dolphins fans have spent over a month thinking change was coming to the inside linebacker position -- be it because everyone saw Rolando McClain trading his Alabama Crimson for Dolphins aqua, or because Karlos Dansby rumors are flying everywhere, or because no one really liked the play of Akin Ayodele or Channing Crowder.
But on the same day Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland suggested Gibril Wilson will return as the free safety in 2010, he also seemed to confirm Ayodele and Crowder also will be back in 2010.
"Well, you know, I think we have to get more production from the inside linebacker position," Ireland said when asked his comfort level with Crowder and Ayodele.
"They know that. We know that. You guys know that. So that's something I think those two guys are going to bring to us next year, too."
Read that last sentence again. It predicts higher production from Crowder and Ayodele for next year.
Well, to make that prediction, one has to believe they will be on the team to play up to the prediction. And if that be the case, then the Dolphins might not necessarily be thinking McClain.
I still believe the Dolphins will do their homework with Dansby. I still believe they will be in the derby to a degree. But it is an expensive chase and there is no way Ireland could or would predict the Dolphins will absolutely get him.
So the GM cannot talk as if Dansby is definitely coming. He can, however, speak to Miami's intention to keep Crowder and Ayodele. And I think that is what he did.
Frankly, in conversations I had Thursday with two folks somewhat familiar with what Dolphins people are saying, it seems the team is focusing on addressing three positions as their "must haves" this offseason.
Outside linebacker. Wide receiver. Nose tackle.
Those seem to be surfacing as the priorities.
Outside linebacker is important because, as Ireland stated, Miami has "age" at the position. And no, Joey Porter is not returning to Miami under any circumstance despite this report that raises the possibility that the rift can be patched.
U.S. Special Forces troops will patch things up with coward Usama Bin Laden before Porter and the Dolphins reconcile.
Nose tackle is "a priority," Ireland said because there are only so many men on the planet that fill the size requirement for the position and you get those guys when you can.
And wide receiver is important because the Dolphins could not throw the football very well last season -- No. 20 in the NFL -- and have to provide quarterback Chad Henne more weapons to change that fact.
"Every offense needs big playmakers, Ireland said. "Every offense does. This offense is no different. We need big playamkers. We need players that make chunk yardage.We need players that score touchdowns. This offense is no different. We need chunk players."
"We do need a big-play playmaker in my mind .. We need to get more production out of the wide receiver position."
So that's important.
Well, as I've stated before, the Dolphins cannot also include ILB as a need. Perhaps the Dansby gambit works. Perhaps not.
But at least the Dolphins have to be thinking they have guys already on the roster capable of playing the position as starters. And those guys -- Crowder and Ayodele -- seem likely to be back in 2010.