Less than 24 hours from the start of the NFL's new league year and Dolphins fans have cast their sights primarily on one place: Arizona.
It is in Arizona that linebacker Karlos Dansby is about to become an unrestricted free agent. It is in Arizona where safety Antrel Rolle is about to be released, barring an unlikely last-second agreement on a contract restructure. It is in Arizona that wide receiver Anquan Boldin is on the trade block and apparently can be had relatively reasonably.
For Dolphins fans, and to some accurate degree for the Dolphins themselves, what happens with the trio from Arizona will determine how successful Miami's dip into free agency and trades this new league year will seem once it begins at midnight March 5.
So allow me to address the issues of The Three Cards Studs:
Dansby: The Dolphins are interested. There is no doubt about that. Too many NFL people are saying it for it not to be true. The latest to make the point is Andrew Brandt, the former VP of the Green Bay Packers who now writes the business of football column for National Football Post. He direct messaged me on my twitter Wednesday to stress he keeps hearing from his sources that the Dolphins are onto Dansby.
The NFL Network's Steve Wyche reported that three teams are onto Dansby, although he did not know the teams. I also don't know the other teams. But I can tell you Dansby expects something of an auction for his services and he will go to the highest bidder.
By auction, I'm talking Rembrandt type stuff here. Agent sources tell me Dansby will be "asking" $30 million in guaranteed money on a five-year contract that would expire when he's 33 years old.
He wants to set the market's new ceiling for a linebacker so he's going to start out somewhere in orbit. And understand the $30 mil is not the entire deal. The total cost of the deal Dansby will be asking will average at least $8 million annually. Do the math. The guy wants a deal of approximately $40 million with 75 percent of that guaranteed.
Of course, asking and getting are two different universes. But the fact more than two teams are apparently interested is a good sign for the former Auburn standout.
I would tell you Dansby would be the prize of unrestricted free agency for the Dolphins should they land him. But landing him will be neither easy nor cheap.
Rolle: As you know, The Miami Herald broke the story about Rolle wanting to play for the Dolphins. The former University of Miami standout hasn't changed his mind and he will get a chance to hit free agency because his agent Drew Rosenhaus and the Cardinals have been unable to agree on what Rolle is worth.
It is clear he's not worth the $4 million roster bonus due him March 9 plus the $8 million salary he's scheduled to earn from Arizona in 2010. Thus, the Cardinals will cut Rolle as early as Friday. They will allow him to test the market and see what he can find, while obviously believing they have a good enough sense of his worth that their offer to him will stand up with whatever the market is offering.
I regard this a case of more Rolle wanting to play for the Dolphins than the Dolphins wanting Rolle to play for them. He's a good player. He's a playmaker. But he, too, wants big bucks. (Shocking ain't it?)
The Chicago Tribune is reporting Rolle wants a contract that averages $8 million. The Dolphins will absolutely not come anywhere close to that. You might argue Miami paid an average of $5.5 million to Gibril Wilson to be a resounding bust, and that would be true.
But $8 million per year is more than game-changers Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu make on an annual average.
The interest the Dolphins show in Rolle will be the first test of Jeff Ireland's credibility when he suggested the team was expecting Wilson to play better in 2010. If Rolle is added, there would be no room for Wilson on the roster at all.
I believe Ireland to be honorable. I believe the Dolphins won't be making a strong bid on Rolle. We'll see.
Boldin: As The Miami Herald reported last week, Arizona is ready and willing to trade the former Florida State standout. On Wednesday, the NFL Network's Michael Lombardi reported the Cardinals want "only a third-round pick" for Boldin.
The question is whether that is what they are asking or if that is what it will actually take to move Boldin. I've reported in the past that Dolphins football czar Bill Parcells has a healthy respect for Boldin. Many NFL people do.
Parcells likes Boldin's toughness. Likes his production. Likes his size. Likes his game. Yes, there are questions about Boldin's age. There are also questions about his recent rash of nagging injuries. And then there's the contract -- more on that in a moment.
Given the variables, and deciphering sometimes painful conversations with sometimes reluctant sources, I reported on my twitter that Miami definitely would not give up a second round pick for Boldin but might possibly give up a fourth-rounder under perfect circumstances.
So the question is, again, are the Cardinals absolutely stuck on getting a third for Boldin? Or is the third their initial negotiating stance that they'd be willing to come down from?
Now, about that contract. The contract is the primary reason Boldin is on the market. He's been unhappy with his current deal for two years and would be unhappy again in 2010 in what is the deal's final year. So he wants a new deal that pays north of $7 million per season and probably closer to $9 million per season.
That is a ton of money even in an uncapped year and it could raise eyebrows because teams aren't absolutely certain what the financial realities will be beyond this coming year.
So anyone, including the Dolphins, that considers a trade for Boldin must weigh whether they can find a younger, cheaper receiver in the third or fourth round and accept the risk of that player never panning out. And the teams must also weigh whether adding a proven 29-year-old Boldin is worth a draft pick plus a big contract.
It's all measuring risk versus reward.
That's how it is when you make a play for The Three Cards Studs.