A smile came to my face Tuesday when I was driving around town and one of our so-called Dolphins experts on the radio started barking out the Dolphins needs for the coming draft.
Wide receiver, tight end, interior lineman, kick returner, quarterback and running back.
I don't know if the "expert" was doing these needs in the order his mind has concocted them. I do know that's not the order the Dolphins have their needs currently pegged, based on conversations, texts, and emails I've had or exchanged with several team and NFL sources.
(Disclaimer: No one that tells you he knows the exact order of Miami's needs is telling the truth, unless that person's name is Jeff Ireland or Tony Sparano, and even then you might have to consider they might be working a smoke screen.)
(Disclaimer II: Neither one of those guys is telling folks the order of their needs, something that is really mundane but they guard as a draft secret.)
But I can tell you neither wide receiver nor tight end is at the top of Miami's needs list. And I can tell you neither runnning back nor quarterback is at the back end of Miami's needs list.
I think the more accurate order of Miami needs is running back, quarterback, interior lineman, speedy returner (If he's a WR or a RB all the better) and then a WR and TE.
Here is my thinking:
Have you looked at the Dolphins coming RB situation? Ronnie Brown is scheduled to be a free agent. Ricky Williams is scheduled to be a free agent. Patrick Cobbs is scheduled to be a free agent. Lex Hilliard is unsigned, although the Dolphins should retain his contract rights based on the fact he's been in the league only three seasons.
So none of Miami's running backs is signed for 2011.
The last time the Dolphins faced this kind of situation at a position was 2009 when they had Will Allen as the only experienced cornerback tied to a contract. They drafted Vontae Davis in the first round that year. And then they drafted Sean Smith in the second round.
This year? Running back, people.
Think running backs.
Yes, perhaps either Brown or Williams could return for 2011. But that is only an option. That is not the plan written in concrete. The Dolphins might find a RB in the draft and then go into free agency and love the idea of someone available there. No one can predict.
But we can predict the Dolphins will be eyebrows deep in the running back market this offseason.
Well, Chad Henne is on campus. But Chad Pennington is a free agent and may or may not continue playing, depending on how his shoulder rehab goes. Either way, I do not think Pennington comes back to the Dolphins. Been there. Done that.
Love Pennington but if you re-sign a QB whose throwing shoulder has been surgically repaired three or four times and the last time you needed him, his shoulder dislocated without any contact, you are a candidate to buy land in the Everglades.
You go to that player in an emergency in the middle of a season if no one else is available. But to sign him as a backup? I think the Dolphins will try other avenues first. And second. And third.
Tyler Thigpen is an option. He's a free agent. He was the backup after Pennington got hurt. He's an option.
But the Dolphins need to add one and perhaps two more solid, more promising quarterback options if they can. They need a young guy they can groom, someone out of the draft probably. They need a vet that can challenge Henne for the starting job because, frankly, Henne needs the competition and isn't necessarily a sure-thing to win any competition anyway.
So quarterbacks. Big need.
Seems like a bit of a luxury. Yes, if a stud falls to the Dolphins, absolutely a speedy guy would be wonderful. Titus Young of Boise State comes to mind in the second round (assuming Miami acquires a pick in that round). But as the top priority?
Last year, in talking to a highly placed club decision-maker, I asked about Vincent Jackson. I was told the Dolphins were headed in another direction. And they went in another direction. They didn't think spending that much on another WR was the way to go.
I don't agree with that because you can never have too many playmakers. But that wasn't the internal thinking at the time.
That coupled with the fact Miami has promising young WRs on campus in Roberto Wallace and Marlon Moore, I think the team will view that position as something of a luxury and not the No. 1 priority. The situation may change between now and the draft in that, well, we cannot predict what will happen in the coming months.
Who knows? Maybe Brandon Marshall gets traded once trades are possible again. Yeah, I said it.
But right now, wide receiver isn't the top priority and probably not in the top two.
Interior lineman? Ab-so-lute-ly.
If and when free agency comes around, think Logan Mankins. That same conversation with the club official helped me break the story that Miami had contacted the Patriots about Mankins when he was in a contract dispute with New England.
Mankins is still unsigned.
Yes, it would be expensive. The Dolphins have proven they have no issue with spending money on the offensive line in the past. It makes sense in that Brian Daboll is now Miami's offensive coordinator and he saw Mankins early in his career when both were in New England. And adding Mankins would diminish New England so that's a plus.
So think of him as a free agent priority if he's available.
Otherwise, the Dolphins could add an interior lineman in the draft.
The Dolphins will try to find a speedy return man. It's been three seasons under the Parcells-Ireland-Sparano administration and finding that dynamic return man has been a failure. The Dolphins have been able to put no significant speed that scares the opposition back returning punts or kicks. They've tried. But they've failed.
So look at that as a priority. But again, the top priority? No.
Tight end has been a priority for the Dolphins for some time. Yes, Anthony Fasano got a new contract but the Dolphins understand an upgrade is in order. Last year they liked Tony Moeaki in the draft. Loved him. He went to Kansas City and is showing himself to be a promising player. Those are the breaks.
The Dolphins may try to identify a tight end in the draft. But will they do it high? I do not know for sure. But is that the priority going into the first day? I have a hard time believe that's the ticket to solving Miami's offensive problems given the level of talent already at that position on campus relative to the lower leve of talent available at other positions on campus.
Bottom line: Think running backs and quarterback.