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61 posts from March 2010

March 22, 2010

Joey Porter: No hard feelings against Dolphins

I learn something every day on this job and one thing I'm learning about today is human nature and how unpredictable it is.

My lesson today comes from Joey Porter, who was in full napalm mode after the 2009 season, torching every bridge he had to the Dolphins, talking of how unhappy he was with the team and how he'd like to flee Miami and play closer to his hometown of Bakersfield, Calif.

The Dolphins ultimately cut Porter -- twice to be precise.

And now Porter is an Arizona Cardinal and he's quite fine with the past three years he spent in Miami.

"What the Dolphins did, it was a business decision," Porter today told KTAR in Phoenix. "I'm not mad at them for anything they did. I had three good years out there. The first year was bad because we lost so many games, but the last two years were good.

"...I have no ill feelings toward Miami. I feel like I went out there and did what I was supposed to do. I didn't disappoint anyone there as far as playing football. But the chip on my shoulder now is hearing analysts saying, 'Does he still have it?' So that always motivated me and keeps me going."

Question: If Porter didn't disappoint anyone running the Dolphins, why did they get rid of him?

Answer: Oh, because Porter did disappoint the Dolphins and they cut ties with him.

So much for revisionist history.

Miami Dolphins trying to trade Justin Smiley

ORLANDO -- The Dolphins are in the process of breaking ties with guard Justin Smiley.

Team sources are telling The Miami Herald that Dolphins football czar Bill Parcells called the guard Saturday while he was on a hunting trip in Alabama. Smiley was told not to report to the club's offseason conditioning program that begins today in Davie.

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland deflected questions about Smiley today, saying coach Tony Sparano would be the team's spokesman on all matters during the owner's meetings.

"We're going to be one voice here, OK? That's going to be Tony tomorrow. That's the way our policy works. We'll be one voice tomorrow. He'll answer any questions you guys have about anything regarding the Dolphins world"

Pressed on the fact that Sparano isn't scheduled to address the media until Tuesday morning and the news on Smiley has already happened, Ireland still wouldn't discuss the issue.

"I'm not going to respond to it right now," he insisted. 

Smiley, who signed a five-year, $25 million contract as an unrestricted free agent in 2008, was told the Dolphins are in the process of attempting to trade him this offseason. The Dolphins hope to conclude a trade within the next couple of weeks but certainly before the NFL draft is over in April.

The intriguing part of this approach is that the team is apparently admitting Smiley was another in a growing list of unrestricted free agency misses -- a list that includes Gibril Wilson, Ernest Wilford, Josh McCown, Chris Crocker and others.

It is also interesting that the club was believed to have just filled a need for interior line help by signing Richie Incognito to a one-year deal worth $1.35 million and is now creating a new need at the spot. The deal with the tempermental Incognito comes with no guarantees that he'll even make the team. Incognito, who has been cut or not retained by two other NFL teams, got only $25,000 in guaranteed money from Miami.

Smiley got $9 million to sign with Miami in 2008 and has been a relatively good player when he's been healthy. His major problem is that he came to the Dolphins with a history of being injured and that history has held true in his two seasons with Miami.

Smiley played 12 games in 2008 before suffering a knee injury that ended his season. Last year he was nagged by a shoulder and other assorted ailments that kept him out of the starting lineup four games. Although Smiley still was active for 15 games, the emergence of Nate Garner kept him on the bench for three games as a starter.

It is unclear what price the Dolphins hope to exact for Smiley. League sources at the current NFL annual meetings are speculating the asking price is a third-round pick. The Bengals, Seahawks, Atlanta, and San Francisco are in the market for interior linemen.

If the Dolphins cannot trade Smiley, the could decide to cut him.

March 21, 2010

Dolphins watch Arrelious Benn's impressive Pro Day

The wide receiver hungry Dolphins were on the Illinois campus over the weekend looking at a possible draft pick in the same place they found last year's first round pick in cornerback Vontae Davis.

The Dolphins had wide receiver coach Karl Dorrell on hand as to time, test, and talk to Arrelious Benn.

It was a good Pro Day for Benn by all accounts, as he ran a 4.42 and 4.40 on some watches but was timed as low as 4.38 on some stopwatches.

Benn also had a 37-inch vertical leap at 6-1 and 218 pounds).

March 20, 2010

Dolphins do great work in the draft's shadows

The Dolphins are awesome in how they handle the NFL draft. No, I'm not saying they always pick the right players. We all know that is not the case. But they conduct the obfuscation part of the process like a maestro conducting a symphony.

At this point no one is sure what the Dolphins will do with their first overall selection -- No. 12 in the first round.

They could go free safety with Earl Thomas or Eric Berry (if he's there). They could go OLB with Derrick Morgan (if he's there). They could go nose tackle with Dan Williams, although I doubt that because he's not a value pick there. They could even go wide receiver with Dez Bryant.

Yeah, that's right. Dez Bryant.

Despite all that we know about the Dolphins and their philosophy about wide receivers -- that they typically don't want "problem children," that receivers aren't value picks that early because they rarely contribute as rookies, that investing so much money in a wide receiver with character concerns is a big gamble -- we might end up seeing the Dolphins go with Bryant in the first round.

I don't think they will, but it is possible.

Why?

Because the Dolphins have such a dire need at the position is one reason. That is not up for debate. And because none of us really know how troubled Bryant truly is. Not really. We're not detectives. We're not conducting an investigation on the guy's life. We don't know what about Bryant is a major character flaw and what is the mistakes of youth or environment.

The Dolphins, by saying nothing, are allowing the whisper machine to churn and let it feed on itself. And the machine has seemingly knocked Bryant from a Top 5 player to where the Dolphins will pick and perhaps beyond if Miami passes.

"Dez Bryant is most likely not going to be a top-five pick and there’s a good chance he’s not going to go in the top 10, 11 spots," ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said earlier this week. "

"Does he lose focus every once in awhile catching the ball? Yes. Does he need a little work as a route-runner? Yes," McShay said. "But that has nothing to do with where he’s going to wind up going. Dez Bryant’s character is impacting where he goes. It is the biggest detractor."

The Dolphins see and hear all these media reports -- trust me, I know they react when something uncomplimentary is written. But on this topic they are watching all sorts of media reports on Bryant's character and issues and there is not one reaction, not one nod, nor wink from the team on the topic. Nothing.

It's wonderful!

So anyone that tells you they know what the Dolphins will do is merely speculating because those same people last year said the Dolphins wouldn't pick Vontae Davis because he had issues at Illinois. How'd that turn out?

Remember two years ago when this regime was new and they sent no one to Jake Long's Pro Day? I admit, that made me believe the Dolphins would not pick Long. I was wr, I was wro, I was mistaken.

It was perhaps a ruse. It was misdirection even if it was unintended.

It was great for the Dolphins and showed how well they handle this portion of the draft game.

March 19, 2010

Henne clarifies Tebow comment, talks WRs

It is a beautiful day in South Florida, a perfect golf day, and that's good because about a dozen Dolphins players are participating in the Athletes in Action charity tournament now.

Chad Henne is participating because he's a good community guy. He talked to reporters today -- The Herald's Jeff Darlington and David J. Neal were there because they love golf -- and they asked Henne about his controversial Tim Tebow comment Wednesday, in which the Dolphins quarterback said, "In my judgment he's not an NFL quarterback. So leave it at that."

Today Henne didn't want to leave it at that. Today Henne was surrounded by reporters that asked better questions. Today Henne backtracked a little bit.

"I didn't really say he wasn't wasn't able to be one," Henne said of Tebow. "We're all in this process, learning how to be an NFL quarterback. Obviously, he's taken the right steps to improve his game. His throwing motion actually looks a lot better with his release and everything. I think his Pro Day went really well and he was happy with it. I can't really say anything. My quarterback coach from college is coaching him in college. We're coming from the same people.

"He's obviously learned a from a lot of good people. And with Urban Meyere up there, he's learned from the best. Those [comments] were way out of proportion, he's not going to be an NFL quarterback. Wherever he goes, he's going to make that team better because he's such a competitor and a great person."

Henne was uncomfortable that the comments got national attention. He was more uncomfortable that his comment was perceived as coming from the Dolphins -- as an inside the Dolphins organization opinion.

"The thing about that is that dragging the Dolphins and our coaching staff into this when it's way out of proportion," Henne said. "I never talked to them about Tebow. They never mentioned anything. It was all what I was perceived to say. I have nothing against him. I really like him as a person. I met him last year up there at Florida working out their receivers and got an opportunity to play against him so he really is a wonderful person and I only wish him the best."

Henne claimed WQAM, where he made the original Tebow remark, cut him off before he could explain his comment. He said he would have liked the opportunity to add that Tebow is working on what he needs to and he liked what he saw.

On the football front, Henne has been consistent in saying he sees improvement from Miami's current WR corps. He believes in those guys. But ...

Henne admits he wouldn't mind the group being improved with a proven player.

"There's definitely guys out there, like you said," Henne said. "There's T.O. [Terrell Owens]. There's Brandon Marshall. There's guys in the draft. Where we're at, we have a bunch of young guys who are definitely learning and going to be explosive in the next coming year.

"But you need kind of a veteran guy that's really going to take hold of our young guys and teach them the right ways."

March 18, 2010

Todd McShay: Only 2 OLBs a value at No. 12

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay just got off a conference call and I asked him his thoughts on outside linebackers and specifically, 3-4 outside linebackers that fit the Dolphins prototype.

The good news?

McShay believes there are two such OLB candidates that would be value picks at No. 12.

The bad news?

McShay believes there are only two such OLB candidates that would be value picks at No. 12 and both were college defensive ends and are being looked at as NFL 4-3 defensive ends by several teams.

The two players are Derrick Morgan of Georgia Tech and Jason Pierre-Paul of South Florida.

"If Miami's targetting one of the top two guys I mentioned and believe they can play outside linebacker which wouldn't shock me, by the way, Derrick Morgan I do think he's a better fit as a traditional defensive end," McShay said. "But he's 6-4, 268. Jason Pierre-Paul is a little bigger -- 6-5, 263. If they're targetting one of those two, I think at No. 12 it would be a good spot for either of them. I like Morgan a little more than Pierre-Paul, but I can see either player being a pretty good value."

I asked McShay to give me his three top "pure 3-4" OLBs and he mentioned Michigan's Brandon Graham, Texas's Sergio Kindle and TCU's Jerry Hughes. But I pressed him whether it's accurate none of those three would be value at No. 12, McShay.

"Yes," he answered, "That would be accurate to say."

That doesn't mean McShay doesn't like those guys. 

"I would probably start with Brandon Graham and depending on the 3-4 you're running, his height is a little bit of a concern so factor that in. I do think Brandon Graham, if you're looking for a 3-4 outside linebacker is as good as you're going to get in this class,' McShay said. "I just don't classify Derrick Morgan or Jason Pierre-Paul as typical 3-4 outside linebackers. I think Brandon Graham you start with his motor, intensity, toughness. I go back and watch LaMarr Woodley as a senior coming out and compare him to Brandon Graham and there's not a big difference. And you see the big impact Woodley has made.

"Sergio Kindle would probably be the next guy after Graham. He was productive at Texas but not quite as productive as you would have liked to see," McShay continued. "And he's at his best when you turn him loose and let him get up the field. He has good athleticism but he needs to get stronger versus the run, I think that's going to be an issue for him and may keep him out of the top 20 picks.

"After that I'd go with Jerry Hughes of TCU," McShay said. "He's an explosive pass-rusher and can get after the quarterback."

Dez Bryant to work out for Cowboys

Hard to figure out where Dez Bryant lands in the coming draft but as this ESPN report suggests, at least one team thinks he might be available late in the first round.

ESPN is reporting the Cowboys, which own the No. 27 overall selection in the first round, will bring the Oklahoma State wide receiver to their Valley Ranch facility for a private workout on April 1. Bryant will conduct a workout for all NFL teams March 30 in his hometown of Lufkin, Tex.

It wasn't that long ago that Dolphins fans were hoping, praying that Bryant would be available at No. 12 when the Dolphins pick.

But Bryant's well-documented history, his suspension by the NCAA last year for lying, and the fact he hasn't worked out this offseason has caused his stock to tumble somewhat. Bryant has been nursing a hamstring injury and didn't work out at the Indianapolis Combine or at the Oklahoma State Pro Day.

Several draft "experts" now see Bryant going as low as 22nd to the Patriots or below that, which is where the Cowboys would start to factor.

[Update 6 p.m.: Count ESPN's Todd McShay among the experts saying Bryant is dropping.

"Dez Bryant is most likely not going to be a top five pick," McShay said on a national conference call, "and there's a good chance he's not going to go in the top 10, 11 spots."

Why?

"Does he lose focus every once in awhile catching the ball? Yes. Does he need a little work as a route-runner? Yes," McShay said. "But that has nothing to do with where he’s going to wind up going.

"Dez Bryant’s character is impacting where he goes. It is the biggest detractor."]

Of course that would mean he would be available when Miami picks. Should the Dolphins pull the trigger?

Chad Henne: Tebow isn't an NFL quarterback

Some things in life should not be and I'm about to share a couple with you.

On Wednesday, Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne did an interview on WQAM radio in South Florida and hosts Anita Marks and Curtis Stevenson asked Henne about Tim Tebow.

Thing that should not be No. 1:

"My judgment is that he's not an NFL quarterback," Henne said of Tebow. "So, I'll leave it at that."

Look, Henne has a right to his opinion. But let's be honest here. Chad Henne has started 14 NFL games and thrown 14 interceptions to 12 touchdowns. Henne himself has not yet proven he is an NFL quarterback, either.

Furthermore, if he thinks Tebow isn't an NFL quarterback, what would Henne say about teammate Pat White?

Tebow is a bigger, stronger, more accomplished Pat White. And if Tebow isn't an NFL quarterback doesn't that mean White isn't an NFL quarterback?

Just saying.

Thing that should not be No. 2:

The folks at QAM do a good job. As the former Dolphins flagship station they obviously have spent the past few years overlooking many of the team's flaws. Their ratings, meanwhile, have been on the decline. 

Somewhere along the line if you're going to run a professional sports radio station, you have show at least a tiny semblance of professional journalism, no?

Not at QAM, apparently. After Henne said he didn't think a former Heisman Trophy winner and a two-time National Championship winning QB wasn't NFL material, Marks and Stevenson simply ended the interview.

"OK, enough said," Marks said, abruptly ending the interview.

Actually, enough wasn't said. How about a follow-up question to allow Henne a chance to explain himself and perhaps even get himself off the hook? It doesn't have to be confrontational. How about:

"What are the reasons you have that opinion?"

And if the station needed to go to break, they could have easily held Henne over a segment and asked the follow-up after the break. The point is the show had interesting stuff on the hook but simply threw it back in the water for no good reason.

The prototype is important to the Dolphins

As I hope you know, I wrote a column for today's Miami Herald pointing out that it is a mistake to believe the Dolphins don't chase players with questionable characters or keep troubled players simply because of what Bill Parcells said in his one and only press conference with the team years ago.

Please read the column and see how the Richie Incognito acquisition thus makes sense to the Dolphins. For those that disagree with me and think the Dolphins should put a full-court press for acquiring a troubled type such as Brandon Marshall of the Denver Broncos, the column might give you hope that move is still possible.

My opinion is it would be a mistake but that's another matter.

Anyway, in doing the legwork for the column, I re-read the transcript of that long-ago Parcells press conference and came across something that we all should remember as the Dolphins go forward in selecting players this offseason:

"Traditionally, I've tried to set a prototypical standard for each position," Parcells said in that presser. "I try not to make too many exceptions in that regard."

What that means partly is that the people running the Dolphins have a certain standard they set for their OLBs, ILBs, CBs, QBs, NTs, every position. If a player meets that prototypical standard, he can be graded in the other areas these folks view as critical factors for playing the position and being on the team.

If a player cannot preliminarily meet the standards, he's unlikely to be considered much further.

That, I suppose, is one reason the Dolphins weren't really interested in keeping Zach Thomas around for the 2008 season. Sure his age and injury history played a role, but the fact the guy is 5-11 and 230 pounds simply doesn't fit the Dolphins prototype of an inside linebacker which is 6-3ish and 245-250 pounds.

I suppose this adherence to prototypes -- prototypes proven through the years on both offense and defense -- might be a reason the Dolphins aren't likely to pick Michigan's Brandon Graham with the No. 12 overall selection in the coming draft.

Simply said, Graham apparently doesn't meet the standard for a Dolphins outside linebacker. He's 6-1 rather than 6-3 or 6-4. That minor size deficit costs Graham in Miami's evaluation. He would have to have great agility, great hips, great ability to leverage his opponent, great change of direction, great speed, all manner of great attributes to make up for those two or three inches of height.

The Dolphins want monsterous offensive linemen. The 295-pound guys that helped the Denver Broncos win back-to-back Super Bowls years ago are not the types that interest Miami.

The Dolphins generally are looking for big receivers. They want receivers that are big targets for young quarterback Chad Henne.

The Dolphins need 300-plus-pound defensive ends. Jason Taylor, who broke into the NFL as a 242-pound defensive end in a 4-3 defense, has to move to OLB in Miami's 3-4 scheme.

Generally, the idea of bigger is better is a Dolphins staple now.

Sure there are positions where size doesn't eliminate a player from consideration. But there's a reason players such as 5-8 Jim Leonhard and 5-8 Bob Sanders play safety for other teams and not for Jeff Ireland and Bill Parcells.

Obviously the Dolphins braintrust believes in what it does because they've seen what has worked in the past. And, yes, while there is always a possible exception, sometimes when the these guys make an exception it backfires.

Take Pat White for example.

He doesn't have prototype quarterback at height at 6-feet tall. He's light for the position at 190 pounds. He doesn't have an exceedingly strong arm. He's not exceedingly accurate. In none of these regards does White meet the prototypical standard for his position.

Was he a winner in college? Yes. Was he a playmaker? Yes. Did he start a bunch of college games and gain a ton of experience? Yes.Is he bright? No doubt. Is he all about team and not very much about self? Yes. In these regards, he meets some critical factors for a Parcells-Ireland quarterback.

But before the duo got to those critical factors, maybe they should have gone back to the prototype. Because they seemingly made an exception with this player ... and the results aren't good so far.

March 17, 2010

Dolphins take the links Friday for good cause

The Athletes in Action Pro Sport Celebrity Invitational will be played Friday at the Inverrary Country Club in South Florida and will offer local hackers a chance to play with a wide range of NFL and former NFL players -- all for a very good cause.

Chad Henne, Davone Bess, Channing Crowder, Lousaka Polite, Tyrone Culver, Dan Carpenter, Tyler Thigpen, Pat Turner, Brandon Fields, John Denny, John Offerdahl, Keith Sims, Troy Drayton, Tony Nathan, Woody Bennet, and James McKnight are among the current and former players who are scheduled to play.

Herman Boone, the coach from the movie, "Remember the Titans" and Florida Panthers great, Bill Lindsay will also play. John Offerdahl will emcee the awards ceremony.

Athletes in Action has been impacting the lives of both male and female athletes on a professional and college level since 1969. Dolphins team chaplain Corwin Anthony put the event together.

Registration is at 10:30 a.m. on Friday with a noon shotgun start. The awards banquet will be at 5 p.m.

For a complete description of the sponsorships or to register for the event, you can visit www.MiamiPros.com or call 954-649-4820.

Richie Incognito agrees to 1-year deal with Dolphins

Richie Incognito is a Miami Dolphin.

The Dolphins and the player's representatives at this hour are finalizing a deal that was submitted last night. Jeff Darlington of The Miami Herald reports the deal is worth slightly over $1 million. When the final language is written, the deal likely will include approximately $250,000-$300,000 in incentives to cover the possibility Incognito starts for Miami.

[Update 2 p.m.: The contract is one year with a $725,000 base salary, a $25,000 signing bonus, and a $125,0000 bonus if he's on the team the first week of the season. The total deal can be worth $1.35 million.] 

That is bargain money. Good starting guards in the NFL average anywhere from $3-$5 million depending on experience and whether they have hit free agency or not.

Incognito has played three positions along the offensive line in his career -- RG, LG and C. But the Dolphins want him join the competition at both guard spots. Notice I said both guard spots. Yes, Justin Smiley has been something of a lock at left guard since joining the team in 2008, but he'll have to win his job during training camp -- regardless of whether he's the odds on favorite to do so or not.

The obvious area where the Dolphins most need solidifying is the right guard spot where Donald Thomas was the starter the first 12 games of 2009 but Nate Garner beat him out as the starter the final four games.

Incognito has had a checkered career and suffered maturity issues in college and with the St. Louis Rams. The Buffalo Bills, who claimed him on waivers last season, broke ties with him this offseason.

With this signing the Dolphins fill a "want."

They still have "needs" at OLB, FS, NT and WR in no particular order.

Nose tackle search might focus on Owens

The Dolphins' need at nose tackle is clear to anyone with eyes but while much of the attention has centered around bigger-name prospects such as Dan Williams and Cam Thomas, a source tells me the Dolphins are looking in a different direction.

Think Jeff Owens of Georgia.

The Dolphins' coaching staff liked him in the Senior Bowl, interviewed him during the Indianapolis Combine and has now scheduled a visit to Davie in the coming weeks, the source said.

Owens is a typical refrigerator-bodied nose tackle type -- 6-1 1/4 and 305 pounds -- with superhuman strength. He benched 225 pounds an impressive 44 times at the Combine with one witness saying he looked like an engine piston raising the weight fast and easy early on in the process.

During the University of Georgia Pro Day on Tuesday Owens ran a 4.83 in the 40-yard dash. 

Owens is not a first-round type. He's probably more a fifth-rounder type, maybe later.

That doesn't matter to Bill Parcells. In 1997 Parcells selected a little-known Georgia nose tackle in the seventh-round (229th overall) and has been very happy with him since. The draftee's name?

Jason Ferguson.

March 16, 2010

Void at free safety? Dolphins to look at Thomas

Gibril Wilson was a bust so he's gone. Antrel Rolle and Ryan Clark didn't feel enough love from Miami's bank vault. Restricted free agency hasn't been an answer for Miami's free safety issues and neither Tyrone Culver nor Chris Clemons are probably the answer, either.

No wonder the Dolphins have scheduled a visit with Texas free safety Earl Thomas for the first week of April.

Thomas, considered by some scouts to be the second-best safety prospect behind Tennessee's Eric Berry, should be available when the Dolphins are scheduled to pick at No. 12 but won't be around for their second-round selection. So the Dolphins are obviously impressed enough with this playmaker to consider him as a first-round selection.

This does not mean Thomas will be Miami's first-round selection. The club will meet with nearly three dozen players between now and the draft.

But Miami's obvious need at free safety combined with Thomas' resume suggests the pairing could work.

NFL.com draft analyst Mike Mayock has called Thomas "the most instinctive" defensive back in this draft. The knock on Thomas is that he's perhaps smallish and that he is, after all, coming out after his sophomore season so he is a puppy.

All that is well and fine as I'm trying to paint the full picture of the positives and negatives on the player, But consider Thomas is 5-10 1/2 and weighed in at 208 pounds at the combine so he's gained about 10 pounds since the season ended. And if you think that weight gain was done by eating Whoppers, you're wrong. Thomas ran a 4.45 at the combine. As for not being strong, he benched 225 pounds 21 times -- which was two more than top safety prospect Eric Berry.

"I'm physical, versatile, and like I said, I played corner and safety," Thomas said during the Indianapolis Combine last month. "[I'm a] hard- worker. I'm not looking to come in and just sit back and watch. I'm looking to make an impact right now as soon as I get there."

Thomas made an impact at Texas, recording 10 interceptions in 26 career starts. He returned two of those interceptions for touchdowns.

One thing the Dolphins would love about this kid is he's a fine player but also a fine person. He was on the honor roll in high school and is an active member of the Christian church in which his grandfather was the pastor. 
 

March 15, 2010

On Incognito Dolphins must weigh risk, reward

Since the topic of this blog is Richie Incognito, I must explain the idea of risk versus reward.

Incognito, whom the Miami Herald reported Saturday will visit the Dolphins this week, is undoubtedly a risky proposition for the team.

He is only 26 years old and already looking for his third team. Icognito joined the Rams in 2005 and after two years as a starter in 2007 and 2008 started being viewed as one of the dirtiest players in the league by a poll of his peers. During a terrible season for his team in 2008, Incognito taunted Rams fans after a home loss. Last year he got into a sideline argument with head coach Steve Spagnuolo after head-butting two opponents in a Rams game versus the Tennessee Titans.

The guy has been referred to as "immature" and a "tool" by St. Louis media.

And yet the Dolphins like Icognito.

They like the guy enough to bring him in for the visit and while that doesn't necessarily mean he's going to sign, it goes a step beyond last season when the team claimed Incognito on waivers. The Bills also claimed him -- getting him because they stunk more than Miami -- but promptely threw him back to the talent pool this offseason where the Dolphins have on the hook again.

So one supposes you see the risk in chasing Incognito. He could still be the same immature player he's proven himself to be. Perhaps he's not that good a player which is obviously Buffalo's opinion.

But ...

Assuming the Dolphins don't do anything crazy like offering major guaranteed money -- or any guaranteed money for that matter -- this risk could pay a dividend if Incognito signs and becomes a good player.

The risk could bring a big reward if Incognito solves Miami's festering right guard problem. The position has been a turnstile for five different starters the past two years. Donald Thomas and Nate Garner shared the job and starts last year.

So what if at 6-3 and 320 pounds, with strength that is unquestionable, Incognito becomes a staple on Miami's line?

Who will complain then?

I know there are questions out there why the Dolphins would flirt with Incognito but not show any interest in other troubled players such as Brandon Marshall?

There is a difference. A big difference. Marshall presents a much greater risk. I detailed what a high risk proposition Marshall is over the weekend.

Marshall would require a big contract, draft picks and a long-term commitment atop his troubled history. The Dolphins don't need to give Incognito a big contract, give up picks and show a lifetime commitment to the offensive lineman.

So if Incognito becomes a player, great. The gamble worked.

If Incognito signs and then disrespects coach Tony Sparano as he did Spagnuolo, if he costs the Dolphins yardage with personal foul penalties, if he's the same immature player he's been to this point, then the gamble failed.

It wouldn't be the first time the Dolphins blew it on a free agent.

Except this one hopefully comes with the appropriate amount of measuring risk versus reward.

March 12, 2010

Twelve Dolphins players get at least $100K in performance pay bonus for 2009

Donald Thomas, a sixth-round selection in 2008 who started 12 games at right guard last season, led all Dolphins players in the NFL's 2009 performance-based pay program.

Thomas  made $316,577 in addition to his base salary of $338,397, according to a league document obtained by The Miami Herald.

Cornerback Sean Smith, who started all 16 games, pocketed an extra $212,282 to place second on the team in performance pay while tight ends Joey Haynos and Anthony Fasano followed in third and fourth place, respectively, among the highest collecting players in the performance-based system.

Haynos collected $207,264 in addition to his regular salary of $390,980 while Fasano got $189,412 atop his salary of $535,850. Wide receiver Davone Bess, an undrafted free agent in 2008, rounded out Miami's top five earners in performance pay, adding $185,902 to his base salary of $394.480.

The league's performance-based pay system sets up a fund on each team to reward players based on how their playing time compares with their contractual financial compensation. The system won't exist in the 2010 season because the NFL collective bargaining agreement has moved into an uncapped year.

But in the final capped season of the current CBA, 12 Miami players added at least $100,000 to their base salaries.

Performance-based pay is meant to reward lower-paid players who outperform their contracts. The system does, however, also reward higher paid players based on play time.

And the system does not judge the quality of the play, but rather the quantity.

Maybe that's the reason safety Gibril Wilson, a high-priced free agent aquisition and a bust, collected an extra $31,764 in performance-based pay. Wilson was cut last week after one season with the team.

Tackle Andre Gardner, a sixth round pick in 2009, brought up the rear of the performance-based pay sheet, having collected $681.

In total, 61 Dolphins players collected $3,422,875 in performance-based pay.

A Pro Days update from around our great land

The first wave of free agency has come and gone and has left several players -- Julius Peppers, Dunta Robinson, and yes, Karlos Dansby -- awash in money.

Now the sprint turns into a marathon as teams jockey for good deals among the so-called bargain unrestricted players. We should also start to see some movement in the restricted market if there is going to be any. (Personally, with a fully stocked draft class, I don't see a lot of team giving up draft picks for restricted players.)

And having said all that, it seems like a good time to get back to the college players.

If you haven't figured it out by now, that is where the Dolphins must look to reap the most improvement from 2009 to 2010. If the Dolphins are going to rise from third place in the AFC East, the drafted players are the ones that must help them do that.

(If anything happens in free agency -- such as interest in ILB Andra Davis or OT Adam Terry -- we'll swing back to that, but work with me here.)

As Pro Days are already underway throughout our land let me catch you up on some of those with the help of aspiring scout Chris Cordero.

Sixty-one schools were scheduled to have their Pro Days by now.

The most impressive Pro Day so far, in my humble, was at Alabama where every NFL team was represented and the freakin' New York Jets came with coach Rex Ryan, GM Mike Tannenbaum, and former Dolphin and current defensive line coach Bryan Cox among others.Fat Cody 

A source tells me the Jets were there to take a close look at Terrence Cody. And he didn't disappoint, weighing in at 349 pounds, which is lower than he weighed at the Combine. Interestingly, Cody lifted only 22 bench-press reps of 225 pounds. That's amazing for you and me.

For an NFL nose tackle? Merely OK.

I nonetheless get the feeling the Jets are sizing up the Mount for a possible late first-round selection.

Rolando McClain also worked and his speed ranged from 4.69-4.74 depending on which scout's spotwatch you believed.

At the Baylor Pro Day, the report I get is that wide receiver David Gettis opened some eyes. He ran a 4.39 inthe 40 on some watches and that's pretty impressive considering the guy is 6-3 and 218 pounds.

At the Kansas Pro Day, WR Dezmon Briscoe ran a 4.51 in the 40 at 6-2 and 208. I'm told he look good, but not great in position drills, whatever that means.

Weatherspoon I'm told perhaps the most impressive Pro Day so far has been turned in by Missouri LB Sean Weatherspoon. The 6-1, 239 pounder ran a 4.53 and 4.52 in the 40 which is blistering for an LB. And then he ripped off 35 reps on the bench press. Remember Cody had 22?

Weatherspoon, considered too small for a Bill Parcells prototype 3-4, is going to make someone a very good player as he's not just a workout warrior. He makes plays. I like this player. Noisey leader, to boot.

Quarterback Zac Robinson, another overachiever I like, was among 17 players to work at the Oklahoma State Pro Day. Robinson looked impressive in drills, I'm told. Russell Okung was obviously the star while WR Dez Bryant did not work, as I reported here two days ago.

Here is what Cordero says about Bryant: "No question he is the top WR talent in the draft - I think he is better than Michael Crabtree was last year. But being the best at your position shouldn't put you above working out and displaying your wares in front of decision-makers who will ultimately decide your fate and how much you will be paid. All I can say is, he'd better have an outstanding workout (and he'd better have a workout period) at the end of the month, or he could suffer a Randy Moss-like fall into the 20's despite having Top 5 talent."

The UAB Pro Day offered an interesting look at Joe Webb, a QB that is converting to WR for the pros.

"He appeared to be a very good athlete when I saw him at the Senior Bowl, but wow," Cordero said of the workout. "He is about 6-4 and 223 pounds and ran in the 4.5 range. He did 21 reps on the bench and 
posted a 42.5 inch vert, 11'6 broad jump, 6.55 3 cone, and 3.91 shuttle run - amazing numbers any way you slice them.

"He is very raw and for whatever reason reminds me of Matt Jones. He has great physical tools but will have to learn the nuances of the receiver position. He last played the position extensively in 2007. The Dolphins should have a good idea about him after coaching him in the Senior Bowl. I give him a 5th round grade."

From the Cincinnati Pro Day, Cordero reports:

Mardy "WR Mardy Gilyard improved his 40 time from the combine to the mid 4.4s. He also apparently looked more explosive in the other drills running in the 6.7s in the 3-cone and showing a 38.5 vertical leap. He has had great production throughout his career not just as a receiver but also as a return man. I give him a solid 3rd round grade.

"Potential 3-4 rush LB convert Alex Daniels showed off amazing athleticism with a 39-inch vertical and a 10'9 broad jump at 6-2 and 269 pounds. He is a late round sleeper who I give a 7th round grade. He had 8 sacks as a senior but will need to be coached up in his technique.

"Aaron Webster, a S, has also showed very well - running a 4.48, putting up 21 reps, and turning in a 10'3 broad jump at 6'1 1/2 and 207 pounds. He has played some CB but is mostly looked at as a SS right now. He had 6 ints throughout his career. I give him a 7th round grade and should be a ready-made special team standout."Brandon graham

Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh and Penn State are among the schools that conduct Pro Days next week. Michigan will conduct its Pro Day today. You think I'll have a midday update on what Brandon Graham did if he participates?

March 11, 2010

Thursday afternoon notes on the Dolphins

NFL.com's Pat Kirwan, a former NFL scout, released his second mock draft and he's got the Dolphins picking Penn State defensive lineman Jared Odrick.

Odrick, 6-5 and 305 pounds with a motor that does not quit, can probably fill the need at nose tackle but also could have the position flexibility to play the five technique as one of Miami's ends.

After the Senior Bowl, when Michigan DE/OLB Brandon Graham was asked which players impressed him most, he immediately mentioned Odrick. Players know who's good and who's not.

ESPN draftniks Mel Kiper and Todd McShay both have the Dolphins picking Tennessee defensive tackle/nose tackle Dan Williams.

The intriguing thing to me is that if this happens -- and it might -- we'll have the Dolphins still addressing the defensive line a full three years after the new administration came to town and started reworking the unit by picking three defensive linemen in their first draft, signing one defensive linemen in free agency, and trading for nose tackle Jason Ferguson.

In total, the Dolphins have made seven moves to assemble their current defensive line, drafting Phillip Merling, Kendall Lankford and Lionel Dotson, trading their sixth-round picks in 2008 and 2009 to Dallas for Jason Ferguson and Dallas'  2008 sixth-rounder, signing Randy Starks as a free agent, trading a seventh-rounder for Tony McDaniel, and most recently, re-signing Ferguson as a unrestricted free agent.

The interesting thing is that the defensive line -- which many, including me believe is a team strength -- is still not sufficiently solidified that we might say there is absolutely no need there.

Guess rebuilding is a slow slog, folks.

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Joey Porter's visit with the Arizona Cardinals just ended minutes ago. He was not offered a contract, according to a league source. But it is early in the process and that could change in the coming hours.

Porter clearly would like to play on the west coast as his family lives in Bakersfield, CA. Why, you might ask, doesn't the Porter family simply pack up and live wherever Porter's career leads?

Porter has two sons and two daughters and one of the girls, Jasmine has autism. Porter's wife Christy open a daycare center for special needs children in their hometown of Bakersfield, Calif. and attends to the center daily.

Porter would travel across country to see his wife and the kids several times per season. He wants to play closer to home now.

Different side of the big mouth linebacker we came to know with the Dolphins, no?

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Speaking of former Dolphins linebackers, Zach Thomas was on WQAM 560-AM Thursday.

He was asked what he'd say if Bill Parcells asked him whether or not to go after enigmatic Denver wide receiver Brandon Marshall, a restricted free agent. 

"Yes," Thomas said emphatically. "Do it now before anybody else changes their mind."

Marshall has issues, as you know if you read this blog. He has a history with domestic violence. He has been often unruly in Denver. On top of that, he would cost a first-round pick. He would also cost a contract that would likely average $9-$10 million per year.

No problem, Thomas said.

"With Brandon Marshall it’s about money," he said. "If you pay the guy well he’s gonna play hard. He even played hard last year. He’s got a lot of pride, and he can be a little selfish, but good players are selfish. Look at a guy like Terrell (Owens), guys can go to extremes. But Brandon Marshall is a proven player; he’s still young, and I tell you what, he’s best in the league right now.

"It’s not even a first and a third. Miles Austin is a first and third because (Dallas wants) to keep him. He’s a first round? It would make everybody better. It would make Ted Ginn better, it would make (Greg) Camarillo better, all of them better -- (Davone) Bess. That’s who they need. Because if you’re gonna take a chance on Dez Bryant – I don’t know much about college, I go by what I hear – but if you’re gonna take a chance, you don’t need that. You go with a guy that’s proven."

Thomas, whose final year with the Dolphins was 2007, said he still suffers from symptoms of concussions that plagued him during the latter part of his career. He is working the Players Association to help educate players about concussions.

Thomas is primarily a fan now. And like you, he's hopeful about the 2010 season.

"I expect big things," he said.

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Former Dolphins guard Andy Alleman, traded to the Chiefs last year, has signed with the Indianapolis Colts. Congratulations to him.

Contradictory stories surrounding Clark's visit

Over the weekend the Dolphins suffered a free agency setback when Pittsburgh free safety Ryan Clark was invited to town for a visit. Clark was offered a contract by the Dolphins and a chance to start in 2010 but he decided not to take the offer and headed back to Pittsburgh where he signed a four-year contract Tuesday with the Steelers.

Immediately, Dolphins fans cried foul, saying Clark had used their team to get a better offer from the Steelers.

Immediately, Clark's agent Joel Turner came to his client's defense claiming nothing of the sort had happened and telling The Miami Herald that, "honest to God, it wasn't about money."

Well, stuff happens, right?

Easy come, easy go, right? 

Case closed, right?

Wrong.

Seems Clark is talking about his visit to South Flordooda and his version of events throws his agent under the bus, because it apparently was about money. And his version of events also throws the Dolphins under the bus because it depicts them as team that didn't make him feel wanted.

In an interview with Denver TV station Fox 31, Clark said he came on the trip "with an open mind," but his mind closed somewhat when the Dolphins started talking numbers.

"What it came down to was the inability for us to agree on a deal. [The Dolphins] offered what they thought was fair, but in the end I didn’t agree," Clark said.

"They were definitely straight forward with me. I wouldn’t expect anything less from a Bill Parcells team. I thought that I was going to be paid like a starter, but unfortunately for me, the negotiations didn’t reflect that."

So it was about money. The Dolphins' offer was not starter money in Clark's mind.

"There just comes a time in negotiations where you have to give a player reasons as to why you won’t stretch yourself financially," Clark said. "In the way that they responded to me, I could tell that they were being honest so that’s why I can’t be insulted, but I just didn’t agree."

And now the part where Clark throws the Dolphins beneath the Greyhound. He says that in his talks with the team that was supposedly recruiting him, he got the distinct feeling the Dolphins didn't really love him all that much.

"They certainly showed [Karlos] Dansby how they felt about him with what they offered him," Clark said, "but I just felt like I would have to prove myself to [Dolphins head coach] Tony Sparano all over again; and in Pittsburgh I wouldn’t have to do that.

"They told my agent, 'Look, we just don’t know this guy. After we evaluate him more out there with us, maybe we’ll feel different about it.' But I just figured, if this is how they  feel, these things aren’t going to change about me overnight."

One question: If the Dolphins were willing to tell Clark's agent that they didn't really know Clark that well, why were they willing to bring him to town and offer him a deal to begin with?

Obviously the team found itself in a situation that it had a player it liked ... but didn't love. And they actually told him as much which I supposed is honest but also kind of tactless.

Ultimately, Clark signed a four-year deal worth $14 million with the Steelers. That is a bargain rate for a good free safety.

Consider Clark will make an average of $3.5 million a year. Consider that Miami paid free agent bust Gibril Wilson more than half of what Clark will make in four years -- $8 million -- for one year's poor service.

Obviously, having heard the contradictory versions from the agent and player, I'd love to know the Dolphins' version of the story. I will call the team in the morning and request an interview with Jeff Ireland or Bill Parcells on the topic.

And then I'll sit by the phone today and wait for it to ring.

[Update 11 a.m.: The Dolphins say they saw today's blog and are passing on the opportunity to set the record straight. "There will be an opportunity to ask those questions, and others, at Coach Sparano's appearance at the AFC Coaches breakfast at the NFL annual meetings in Orlando later this month and at Jeff Ireland's pre-draft press availability which will be scheduled shortly after that," the team said.]

 

March 10, 2010

Dez Bryant 'a kid that really needs guidance'

Oklahoma State's Pro Day is today and Dez Bryant is not participating, according to published reports.

Apparently Bryant is still not ready to run for the scouts after he skipped the workout portion of the Indianapolis Combine last month. Bryant cited a lingering hamstring problem at the Combine and apparently it is still not 100 percent. Remember also that Bryant has not played football since September of 2009 because he was suspended by the NCAA for lying to them.

Bryant's "handlers" are telling people the wide receiver will run at a private Pro Day later this month in his hometowm of Lufkin, Tex.

And I can hear the hand-wringing already from the skeptics: Oh my God, he's not working out again! He will surely be a bust!

Look, the same folks worried that Bryant will be a bust because he didn't work out at the Combine or at his Pro Day have zero criticism of the fact Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford didn't work out at the Combine and skipped Oklahoma's Pro Day on Tuesday.

Bradford will work out for team later this month and no one is ripping him about it, so spare me the drama.

But ...

There are a myriad other reasons to be seriously concerned about Bryant as a draft pick, and more specifically as a possible No. 12 pick in the first round to the Miami Dolphins.

And teams are definitely weighing those concerns as this report in the National Football Post shows. There are teams wondering about Bryant to the point that I spoke to one scout last week that wondered aloud if Bryant might not eventually be taken off the board of some teams, although not his own.

"One of the things I know we've done already is go beyond the field on this kid," the scout told me. "If you don't do that with him, you have no idea what you're getting and how to manage it. He's a kid that had trouble with his grades. He struggled to get eligible. But if you dig you find out it is not because he's stupid but partly because he lived in like three different homes growing up. He was sleeping on the floor some nights. He wasn't exactly nurtured, know what I mean? I can see how grades can suffer."

Anyone that does digging on Bryant will find out his mother had three children by the time she was 18 years old. At the age of 23, she had to give her kids up because she was busted for selling crack cocaine. She served 18 months.

Bryant's father?

No sign of him.

"He's a kid that really needs guidance," the scout told me. "Whatever team takes him is getting a player that has all the tools on the field. But whatever team takes him will have to do a lot of work to make sure he get on the field.

"He would be a good fit for a team that has a strong veteran receiver already on the roster that can take him under his wing. Frankly, it might also be smart to hire somebody to make sure he gets to practice and meetings on time. You might need someone to help him with the playbook. You'll have to watch him early on to teach him how to become a professional. He's nowhere near ready to be a professional right now. He might get there and there might be bumps along with the way. But if you're asking right now, he's not ready to be trusted off the bat in my opinion." 

That will not deter one team. Someone will invest a pick on Dez Bryant. His physical skills and potential are vast. Are the Miami Dolphins that team?

At No. 12?

[Update 2:15 p.m.: Information from Alabama's Pro Day coming in: NT Terrence Cody weighed in at 348-349 depending on whom you believe and did 32 reps of 225 pounds. Linebacker Rolando McClain ran a 4.74 time on some stopwatches in the 40-yard dash.]

[Update 4:15: Dolphins hosted no free agents on Wednesday.]

Perspective: Mandich wages a battle for his life

Football is a game. It is only a game.

It's easy to forget that sometimes when your team loses and your spirit feels defeated. It's easy to forget that when your team wins and you feel unbeatable for days.

Football is a game that lacks perspective unless and until life intervenes. And then when life does what life does -- throws curves, some of them vicious and biting -- we remember that how our team performs on Sunday or in free agency, or on the draft's first day, matters not one wit in the grand scheme of things.

Football is a game. It is not a battle or a war as many players and even some coaches often suggest in passing reference. Wars are happening in Iraq and Afghanistan every day without relent. Not in Pittsburgh or New England or Buffalo for 16 weeks in the fall.

Football is a game. It is not a life and death struggle between two teams. True life and death struggles play out every day on our streets and in our hospitals and nursing homes.

I remind you of all this to tell you that football as life is a lie.

Life is life and it is filled with more drama and more bitterness and more boundless joy than any 60-minute game could ever hope to offer.

I remind you of all this because I am touched and saddened but also heartened in hearing that ex-Dolphins and current broadcaster Jim Mandich is battling cancer. 

I want to publicly say that I pray Jim recovers completely. I want to say publicly that I hope he recovers a million times more than I hope the Dolphins win a Super Bowl next year.

The Super Bowl, you see, would be an important accomplishment. It would be great for us all. But no one will live or die if the Dolphins succeed or fail in chasing a Lombardi Trophy. Mandich is indeed fighting for his life.

And all of us would be lessened if he doesn't win the fight.

Perspective. 

This is not an obituary. Jim Mandich shall live and not die.

So I'm not going to tell you what a great guy Jim is. I'm not going to share stories of his career both on the field and in the radio booth. The time for those nostaligic tales is not yet. Hopefully it will not be for a very long time.

We believe Jim will recover. We trust that when the 2010 season dawns, he will be there to witness it, to describe it on the Dolphins radio network, to take us via his commentary to all the games we cannot witness in person or on television.

Today we celebrate the fact that around here we understand what's truly important.

Today we celebrate and toast Jim Mandich with a "Green lizard."

Get well soon, Jim.

Get well soon.

[Update 11:30: There is a fan facebook page for anyone wishing to sign a petition to get Jim Mandich's name on the Dolphin Honor Roll. Here is the page if you wish to sign the petition.]