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31 posts from March 2011

March 12, 2011

Which is right side of NFL labor dispute? Our side

The NFL labor dispute is, to put it delicately, crap.

The sides are vying for your support of their cause now and I would advise you to do to them what both have done to you -- turn your back on them. Dismiss them both. Be disgusted by both. Disagree with both. In a tug-of-war over money, collapse the middle of the rope and make them both pay!

I know, most media have come down on the side of the players, while fewer have agreed with owners. I cannot find a tent in either camp.

Owners are crying the economic collapse that befell the country just over two years ago made the last Collective Bargaining Agreement, signed in 2006, obsolete. They argue they are in financial pain. Yet, they don't want a fully transparent review of their financials by their employees to prove what they're saying is completely true.

I suspect this is because the owners are crying poverty while still turning a profit. They're still flying their private jetliners, still collecting enormous sums from TV revenue, still enjoying overwhelming popularity at the turnstiles, still watching their franchises rise in value, and most notably, still making gobs money.

I present to you the last Super Bowl in Dallas. The same NFL which is asking players for a substantial give-back and rollback of shared revenues made a record amount of money from its latest championship game. It was a financial monster compared to other Super Bowls, a league source is telling me. That, and that alone, is the reason the Super Bowl will likely return to Dallas within a decade or so.

Money. Lots of it.

So how is a league that pays its commissioner $12 million annually hurting for money, again? How is a $9 billion business that is perpetually in the black strapped for cash?

The players, meanwhile, have tried to bind themselves to a bogus class-warfare argument that is specious at best, and an outright lie at worst. Their argument is that they are fine with the last agreement and all they want is the continued good of the game. Their argument is that it is the greedy owners who are asking for give-backs, thus it's the owners ruining things for the fans. They reject the notion that this fight pits millionaires versus billionaires because many of them don't make a million dollars. Their argument is they're just faithful employees trying to do good work at a fair wage.

And that is ridiculous.

First, the economy did tank in late 2008 and throughout 2009. It's not very much better now. The price of doing business is up. Business all around the country are cutting back. That affects workers. Some got laid off. Some got furloughed. Some got fired because their jobs disappeared. Business in America is hurting to some degree or another.

So what makes NFL players believe they should be immune from those truths affecting practically everyone else?

I also have a hard time buying the players' classic class-warfare approach when, indeed, they are paid more now, enjoy more power now, collect more benefits now, and have more opportunities outside the sport now than they've ever had in their history. I have a hard time buying these guys are just like you and me. These guys are at a level the average American cannot even begin to comprehend.

The union filed a lawsuit against the league on Friday. Among the faces of that suit were Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Let's see, last I saw Brady, he was vacationing in Rio De Janiero with his super model wife. Yeah, he's hurting. Last I saw Manning, he was a cartoon figure on a Reebok commercial that his multi-million-dollar endorsement contract allows him to do, thereby augmenting his multi-million-dollar NFL contract.

And what about the schlubs at the bottom of the salary totem pole, you ask? The NFL minimum salary in 2010 was $310,000.

Despite collecting more than that, New York Jets offensive lineman Matt Slauson felt compelled to move himself, his wife and his baby in with his mom recently because he was worried he wouldn't be able to make ends meet during a strike or lockout.

It was sobering that this grown man is so concerned about his family's immediate future. But I really wonder what he did with the $390,000 he made last year. Or the estimated $410,200 he collected in 2009 as a rookie -- signing bonus included, of course.

Think about this for a second: How long do you think you can live on $800,200? Suppose Slauson spent half of that the past two years. If he were to pay himself $200,000 per year -- a comfortable living by any standard -- he could wait out an NFL lockout or strike for two years.

Oh, and when this labor crap is over and everyone is earning again, Slauson still has $1 million left on the final two years of his contract.

Other players? They're not hurting, folks.

Go on twitter and search out 100 or so NFL players on the social media site. Their timelines show they're flying to the NBA All-Star weekend, they're traveling abroad, they're buying cars, they're going back and forth between their in-season and off-season homes.

How many of you have spent the past couple of months doing that?

These guys don't live in the real world but they want you to believe they're like you to gain your support and sympathy. The financial gap between them and you is as wide, in most cases, as the athletic gap between them and you. (And I know that's wide because I doubt any of you can run a 4.4 time in the 40-yard dash and bench press 225 pounds 20 times.)

I say all that to say this: This labor dispute will get resolved. It is ultimately about money and the only reason it is happening now is because this is the dead time for money in the league. Players aren't getting paid their base salaries now and owners aren't collecting game-day revunues.

To put this labor dispute in real-world terms, it would be like 9-to-5 workers striking and a factory owner locking the doors of the plant at around midnight and calling that a shutdown.

Me? I'll start worrying about this thing around 8:59 a.m., or about the time work is actually supposed to begin. That's when folks are actually going to start being invested in the situation because their money will then be at stake.

All the barking you hear about NFL lockout and union decertification has, frankly, no bite. It is a negotiation tactic between the parties. And when they turn to you for support, shouting that the game is at risk, it is basic, straight-up fear-mongering.

Me? I have a hard time being upset that the millionaires are upset about income in their post-career years. You know what? Live off the money you earned and hopefully saved during those God-gifted years you had in the league. Or, here's a real radical idea, do like the rest of us and get a job. A real job. One that pays less than $100,000 a year like the rest of us. Use that college education that your athletic skills got you for free.

Me? I also have a hard time feeling compassion for the owners. Are you kidding me? These guys were sooooo invested in these negotiations, a majority of them never attended a mediation session for whatever reason. These guys all own franchises worth between $700 million and $1.5 billion. Sell if you don't think the business is lucrative enough. Get out!

Me? I think I'll concern myself with things that actually matter right now. The Middle East is on fire. Significant portions of the Far East are under water and under threat of nuclear plant meltdowns. Politicans over here are crooks and liars. In South Florida, a little girl was found murdered in the back of pick up truck. Those are real problems, folks, not this NFL labor strife.

I'm more concerned with what's happening on FOX and CNN than on ESPN and NFL Network. I'll concern myself with my faith and my family. My football? It will not go away despite all the rhetoric and legal wrangling you'll be hearing in the coming weeks.

Football will be back in the Fall as surely as the seasons will change. That's when it'll be time to root for someone again. Now, during this ludicrous labor dispute? I refuse to back either side.

March 11, 2011

Jason Taylor loses man who was 'like a father to me'

One year ago, I got a phone call from a California area code. I picked up and agent Gary Wichard, in his unmistakable Brooklyn accent, was on the other end of the line getting ready to go into one of his classic schmooze sessions.

"What kind of trouble are you stirring down there, Armando," he told me with no anger in his voice. "You think if that (bleep) Bill Parcells doesn't want Jason Taylor, I'm going to have any trouble finding him a place to play? (Bleep) Bill Parcells! I can have Jason on three teams within a week if he gives me the go-ahead. The thing is he doesn't want to do that. So stop writing stuff that might make the Dolphins uncomfortable.

"Even if it's true."

That, in a nutshell, is my lasting impression of Gary Wichard. Cool. Collected. Tough. Succinct. Always came with a plan. Always planned a few moves ahead. He loved the truth as long as it suited him. And he didn't care what exactly the truth was when it came to Jason Taylor.

That's because Wichard didn't always see straight when it came to Jason Taylor.

Don't hold that against Gary Wichard. Most fathers find it hard seeing straight when it comes to their sons. And Wichard loved Taylor like a son. The man represented stars such as Dwight Freeney and Terrell Suggs and Antonio Cromartie, but the apple of Wichard's eye was always Jason Taylor.

On Friday, just one year since that conversation I just shared, Wichard passed away -- reportedly of diabetes and pancreatic cancer. He was 60. Only 60.

"Gary was far more than just an agent in my eyes," Taylor said in a statement released to me moments ago. "...he really and truly was like a father to me. He built my career, but it was so much more than that. Gary was by far the most positive person I've ever met and every person he came into contact with was touched in a positive way. I mean, the guy never had a bad day, or if he did, we certainly never knew it.

"I love him, and I miss him already."

I miss him, too. Obviously, I didn't know Wichard like Taylor did. But he was always professional with me. He always took my calls. He was often blunt. I like blunt. I relate to blunt. I understand blunt.

I got Gary Wichard.

No, he didn't like Parcells because he indentified Parcells as the man who ran Taylor out of Miami. He did like Jeff Ireland, Miami's general manager.

As Taylor's Dolphins days were winding down, Wichard got a call from Ireland one morning. The Miami GM had apparently just finished reading Dolphins In Depth and was apparently complaining about a post that included details of phone calls between Wichard and him that Ireland didn't want made public.

Ireland asked Wichard if he had told me those details. "Yeah, I told him," Wichard replied. And then Wichard hung up with Ireland and called me and told me Ireland was upset because he was starting to look bad.

I found that kind of funny, really. I also found it refreshing. Open. And downright gutsy.

I cannot vouch for Gary Wichard's business dealings. At his passing, he was serving an NFLPA suspension of his agent license. There were allegations -- unproven -- about his tactics for recruiting players being shady.

That is not my concern today. Today I feel rocked. I never would have believed if you had told me a year ago that within the year, Gary Wichard would be gone. It was, after all, only a year ago that this wiseguy agent was full of fight, full of nerve, full of life.

And now he's gone.

Rest in peace, Gary.

March 10, 2011

Dolphins to conduct private workout with Newton

Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton has a private workout scheduled with the Dolphins, a source is telling the NFL Network's Jason LaCanfora.

Newton, perhaps the most scrutinized and talked-about player in the draft, also has workouts scheduled with Carolina, Washington, Buffalo, Minnesota, Tennessee, Cincinnati and Cleveland, according to the report.

What does that all mean?

It means Newton is such a compelling and imposing quarterback talent that teams at the very top of the draft are going to give him serious consideration. And it also means there is no clear consensus on Newton as a franchise quarterback type because teams slated to select well into the first round are looking very closely because he might be around when they select.

The Dolphins?

General Manager Jeff Ireland has promised to do all his homework on quarterbacks. Thank God! The Dolphins need a game-changer at the position so they are apparently leaving no pebble unturned and dismissing no possibility in an effort to upgrade.

Picking Newton, assuming he is available when the Dolphins select at No. 15, isn't necessarily an instant upgrade. Wherever he is selected, the chances of him starting immediately are slim. The kid is a physical speciman at 6-foot-5 and 248 pounds. He runs like the wind. He has a bazooka for an arm.

And having said that, there are questions about his footwork, accuracy, technique, ability to adjust to a pro-style attack after playing in the spread offense at Auburn, and there are questions about how quickly he'll learn to recognize coverages and be able to manipulate safeties.

So there's a lot to investigate on Newton.

If you ask me, I am thrilled the Dolphins are doing the work.

And yes, despite all the questions, I'd love for Miami to take him if he's available at No. 15. I don't think he'll be there.

But I have a dream.

Salary and contract status to affect some Dolphins in 2011

I was looking through the NFL Players Association database on salaries recently and noticed a couple of interesting little nuggets that I want to share with you.

First of all, I would point out that several notable players on the team will be entering their final contract year in 2011 so, obviously, there will be a hyper-focus from the team on how they perform and they will be under a self-imposed desire to produce at their highest level in order to ensure a big payday following or inside their contract year. (The Dolphins typically try to stay ahead of the curve so they try to sign players they deem worthy before they actually hit free agency.)

In 2011, whenever the season begins given the current labor uncertainty, the Dolphins will be looking at Channing Crowder and Phillip Merling in the final seasons of their contracts.

Crowder is a starter and Merling is currently not, but I would tell you the pressure is much greater on Crowder to perform if he wants to stay in Miami.

Crowder, simply, has been a good but not great player for Miami.

When he's healthy, he's typically reliable. But he's never rarely a game-changer. Interceptions, forced fumbles, recovered fumbles, bigtime tackle for losses are curiously absent from Crowder's resume. Last season, Crowder was 10th on the team in tackles. He missed four starts at the beginning of the season and another late in the year due to injury.

So Crowder is under the microscope in 2011 if he wants to show the team he deserves a new deal. The fact A.J. Edds is coming back from the injury that ended his 2010 rookie season before it even began is another factor that could push Crowder.

Merling?

Similar story only, well, different.

Merling is in the final year of his contract in 2011 and like Crowder has been unspectacular after being selected with the 32nd overall selection in 2008. But the guy is a beast. The guy is young. The guy plays a more valuable position (yes, 3-4 DEs are harder to find than ILBs). So Merling probably is not playing for the right to stick around. No one typically dismisses a 6-foot-4, 300-pounder who can eat up snaps, even if they are played while coming off the bench.

Merling, however, will be playing for bigger money if he can win a starting job and finally, finally play up to his potential. So the player coaches in the past have worried isnt' always engaged or motivated in practice or training camp, has good reason to be exactly that in 2011. We'll see.

Lousaka Polite, Benny Sapp, Tyrone Culver and Lionel Dotson are others in the final year of their contracts.

OT Vernon Carey is facing a big season as well. Yes, he's signed through 2014. But I believe he needs to improve on what was an average 2010 because his salary grows substantially this season and is scheduled to continue rising for 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Carey, as you can see in the chart below, is scheduled to make $4.15 million in 2011. That is a sharp increase from the $950,000 base salary he made last year. Yes, the Dolphins are still on the hook for the prorated portion of the $12 million bonus he got after 2008 when he signed his new deal.

But as the deal and the player age, and the salary takes a hike, the room for mediocre seasons shrinks. Carey needs a better-than-solid season in 2011 to make sure the team doesn't think long and hard about cutting him after next season to avoid having to pay $5.05 million in 2012, $5.65 million in 2013 and $4.95 million in 2014.

Think about it: The Dolphins could easily weigh finding a cheaper option with higher upside at a cap cost differential of $1 million ($6 million hit minus $5 million savings) in 2012 if Carey once again fails to impress. That assumes the entire remaining proration accelerated to 2012. That also doesn't even account for the $5 million cap savings in 2013 and $4.95 million savings in 2014 if the Dolphins cut Carey.

So Carey has work to do to avoid the possibility altogether.

Finally, the numbers below represent handsome base salary raises to LT Jake Long ($475,000), C Joe Berger ($700,000), P Brandon Fields ($260,000), DE Kendall Langford ($845,000), and Polite ($100,000). All met play-time or other incentive clauses that kicked in escalators in their deals, affecting their 2011 base salaries.

 

Player Name Position Team Compensation
Alama-Francis, Ikaika DE MD 640000.00
Allen, Will CB MD 1500000.00
Amaya, Jonathon S MD 405000.00
Baker, Chris DT MD 480000.00
Baker, Ryan DE MD 480000.00
Barbre, Allen OL MD 640000.00
Bell, Yeremiah S MD 3700000.00
Berger, Joe OL MD 1500000.00
Bess, Davone WR MD 1013333.00
Brandstater, Tom QB MD 405000.00
Carey, Vernon OL MD 4150000.00
Carpenter, Dan P/K MD 1005000.00
Carroll, Nolan CB MD 405000.00
Carter, Patrick WR MD 330000.00
Clemons, Chris S MD 480000.00
Crowder, Channing LB MD 2500000.00
Culver, Tyrone S MD 1250000.00
Dansby, Karlos LB MD 2700000.00
Davis, Vontae CB MD 676250.00
Denney, John DE MD 700000.00
Dobbins, Tim LB MD 1700000.00
Dotson, Lionel DE MD 555000.00
Edds, A.J. LB MD 330000.00
Epps, Dedrick TE MD 405000.00
Fasano, Anthony TE MD 1900000.00
Feinga, Leimoni OL MD 405000.00
Fields, Brandon P/K MD 986000.00
Foster, Brooks WR MD 330000.00
Hartline, Brian WR MD 480000.00
Henne, Chad QB MD 555000.00
Incognito, Richie OL MD 1050000.00
Jerry, John OL MD 405000.00
Jones, Reshad S MD 405000.00
Kopa, Matt OL MD 405000.00
Langford, Kendall DE MD 1400000.00
Long, Jake OL MD 11200000.00
Marshall, Brandon WR MD 6500000.00
Marten, James OL MD 555000.00
Mastrud, Jeron TE MD 405000.00
Merling, Phillip DE MD 700000.00
Misi, Koa LB MD 405000.00
Moore, Marlon WR MD 405000.00
Ness, Nate S MD 405000.00
Odrick, Jared DE MD 405000.00
Polite, Lousaka RB MD 1350000.00
Pruitt, Julius WR MD 330000.00
Restelli, Mark LB MD 330000.00
Rivera, Mike LB MD 330000.00
Rose, Robert DE MD 405000.00
Sapp, Benny CB MD 1900000.00
Shuler, Mickey TE MD 405000.00
Smith, Sean CB MD 480000.00
Spitler, Austin LB MD 405000.00
Starks, Randy DT MD 3625000.00
Wake, Derek Cameron LB MD 480000.00
Wallace, Roberto WR MD 405000.00

March 08, 2011

Williams thinks about playing in different uniform

It seems Ricky Williams, a free agent running back whenever a new labor agreement is signed between NFL players and owners, has been thinking about his future lately.

And his thoughts seem to center around the idea his days with the Dolphins are over.

Around 2:45 p.m. today Williams tweeted: "I wonder which teams (CQ) jersey I'll be wearing next season? It's exciting to finally be a free agent."

No mention of a possibility of a Dolphins return.

That obviously prompted followers, of which Williams has 47,000, to ask the player about the possibility of another go-around in Miami. And so Williams followed this way:

"In case you don't understand, free agency works two ways. The team has to want the player."

Well, it is true the Dolphins haven't exactly been banging down Williams' door. They didn't make any significant attempt to re-sign him following the season and up until recently, while the window was still open to them to do so.

This despite the fact the team talked to Williams' agent about a contract restructure for Will Allen, set up a physical for Jeremy Shockey and conducted other business with him as well. Conversation about Williams was a back-burner issue for the Dolphins.

This doesn't mean the Dolphins have totally closed the door to Williams. General Manager Jeff Ireland has said he's open to re-signing either Ronnie Brown or Williams at some point, assuming all things are to the club's liking.

My guess, however, is the Dolphins simply want to upgrade from both Brown and Williams. Brown has endured injuries to his knees and a foot and doesn't seem to have the explosion he had earlier in his career. Williams, after all, turns 34 years old in May. He didn't seem to make to many defenders miss on first contact last season.

I must share that Williams later tweeted, "I will always be a fin."

But that seems more a statement about his heart or mind. Clearly, he will not always be a fin. Clearly, if the Dolphins have given him the cold shoulder -- something they've been known to do with declining veterans -- the matter is out of his hands anyway.

One can understand the Dolphins, always looking for a younger, better player, would be looking elsewhere to upgrade at running back. And I get the feeling they are treating Williams pretty much the way they treated Jason Taylor last year. I believe the Dolphins will look to upgrade the position in the draft and free agency, and only if they fail there, they would consider bringing Williams back.

And if Williams goes to another team in the interim ... oh well, that's life.

And Williams, looking at his tweets, is apparently getting the message. And he's casting his gaze elsewhere as well.

Follow me on twitter. It's good for your cholesterol.

March 07, 2011

Q&A insights: The salary cut or layoffs

It has been widely reported by other media that the Dolphins plan no salary rollbacks to coaches or furloughs to staffers if the collective bargaining agreement is not resolved.

This is only partially correct.

During my Q&A session with Dolphins CEO Mike Dee, the only moment when I believed I was getting the politically correct answer was when I asked if anyone -- including coaches, personnel people and staffers -- would be furloughed, fired or have their salary cut.

And I got the definite no ... followed by the classic escape clause of "for now."

I've been down this road before. Years ago, the team's message was that Don Shula planned to coach in 1996 and that "nothing has changed for now." Shula was done days later. Previous to that, I'd been told by Tim Robbie he didn't plan to sell the team "for now" before Wayne Huizenga bought the team. Then I heard from Jimmy Johnson during the winter of 1998 that he planned on staying with the team "right now" only weeks before he quit the first time.

Those eventual misdirections were not on par with Nick Saban's definitive "I will not be the Alabama coach," but they nonetheless left a taste of misdirection on my palate.

So "right now" is a red flag to me. And that is why I followed up with a search for a categorical answer that could be written in stone. And of course, Dee was not able to provide it. The exchange:

Q. So you cannot state categorically that Dolphins employees, staffers, coaches or others won’t be furloughed, fired or asked to take pay cuts during a work stoppage?

A. “I can say that is our plan for the near term. We’ve communicated openly with our staff that we see it as being business as usual for the moment. We’re taking this one month at a time, one week at a time, even. Clearly, we’ve talked about all of the various scenarios that could play out, but we haven’t made any final plans to move forward with any changes related to the CBA at the present time.”

Dee was being honest. He was being forthright. And he was making it clear that while there are no plans now to cuts jobs or salaries in case of lockout or significant work stoppage -- which as of this writing remains possible despite hopeful signs to the contrary -- those plans can and probably would easily change going forward if labor peace is not achieved within a specified time.

The feeling I got was the Dolphins won't make any cuts until games are threatened. If there were to be a strike of some kind or lockout of some kind that threatened games, I believe the Dolphins would start to trim salaries for their coaches, personnel people and others.

It hopefully will not come to that.

But so much for those definitive reports.



March 06, 2011

Q&A insights: The fight song

I sat down with Dolphins CEO Mike Dee last week and discussed everything from how the NFL's uncertain labor situation has affected season ticket sales, to the team's uniform, to the club's uniform and fight song.

The full interview is here so please check it out.

As you know, print space is at a premium. So there are things I would have loved to say about the Q&A in print that simply didn't fit. As it is, I took up nearly three-quarters of a page in today's sports section. But cyberspace is free. Cyberspace has a way to go before it's full.

So today I will share insights on different topics handled within the Q&A that could not be addressed in print. This is the first installment of that:

Dee told me the club is very cognizant of what fans like and dislike. To that end, the club is actually seating focus groups to get opinions about fan likes and dislikes. The opinions, however, sometimes run afoul of what the Dolphins like or dislike.

And the club's fight song is one such example of that disagreement. I've been told in no uncertain terms that club owner Stephen Ross does not like the old fight song.

He tried to replace it altogether when he took over ownership of the team. And when there was a backlash to that, he brought back the old fight song but only coming off the bench as it is no longer played after every score but only once per game -- that at the end of the third quarter.

Dee refutes the idea Ross hates the fight song. He says the owner, ahem, simply likes it more in a different way.

But because the Dolphins conduct those focus groups on everything -- including the fight song -- they know the song is popular. "One man told us, it's a terrible song, but it's our terrible song," Dee told me.

And so Dee suggests there is a compromise coming on the use of the song. I expect that compromise will mean a greater use of that song -- even if the owner isn't a fan.

Come back later, and I'll give you more insight on topics covered within the Q&A with Dolphins CEO Mike Dee.

March 03, 2011

Dolphins re-sign OL Richie Incognito

The Dolphins weren't just sleepwalking Thursday as uncertainty about the NFL's labor issues caused teams to do last-minute business with free agents.

The club re-signed offensive lineman Richie Incognito to a three-year deal, according to a source. The source declined to specify the contract's worth.

Incognito thus completes a successful rehabilitation after he came to the Dolphins on a one-year deal for 2010 with the warning that if he stepped out of line -- as he had in St. Louis and in college previously -- he might not only find himself done with the Dolphins but out of the NFL altogether.

Incognito was Miami's best interior blocker, particularly on running plays, and his signing gives the Dolphins the versatility of keeping him at either right or left guard, where he played most of last season, or moving him to center in 2011. Incognito started 15 games at left guard despite the fact he's probably a more natural right guard. He started one game at center in place of Joe Berger who was injured and also was dealing with personal issues in Week 16.

The Dolphins also tendered Nate Garner, meaning the player who played all but one offensive line position in 2009 and was competing to start at left guard in 2010 when he got injured in training camp, will remain Miami property in 2011.

Jeremy Shockey tweets decision on free agency

Free agent tight end Jeremy Shockey was available to the Dolphins after he took and passed a physical with the team over the weekend. He lives in South Florida -- Miami Beach to be exact -- and I'm told he wanted to play for the Dolphins.

But the Carolina Panthers also were intrigued by the player who was recently cut by the New Orleans Saints.

Today Shockey decided where he will continue his NFL career.

Carolina.

"Looks like I'm signing with Carolina," Shockey tweeted moments ago. "Time for the Next chapter. This is a great opportunity for me, and I am excited to play football. Lets (cq) hope we all have the chance to play this season."

Look, I cannot guarantee Shockey was going to be healthy this year and that's important because to be effective, you have to on the field and he has never started 16 games in any of his 10 NFL seasons.

But I can tell you he would have been an upgrade over what the Dolphins have by way of pass-catching tight ends overall.

Shockey caught 41 passes for 408 yards with three TDs last season. It was arguably the worst season of his career and he played only 13 games. And that was still more catches than Miami starter Anthony Fasano had in 15 games last season. Fasano did account for more yards at 528.

All I'm thinking is this: Perhaps Shockey was not going to beat out Fasano. He obviously is no longer the player that averaged 62 catches per season from 2004-2008. But he would have brought competition to the spot. Isn't that what the Dolphins want?

He would have filled a need that the Dolphins now will probably have to consider filling in the draft -- again. He definitely would have been better than, say, Mickey Shuler.

The details of Shockey's pending deal are not in. Agent Drew Rosenhaus has not returned a text message.

If Carolina paid significant money, I can understand Miami pushing away from this. If Shockey signs, say, a one-year, minimum salary, incentive ladden deal, then I have to wonder what caused the Dolphins to shy away.

I remind you Shockey did pass his physical with Miami. I also remind you signing a player with relatively little signing bonus is a relatively safe thing to do because you can always cut the guy in training camp if things aren't working out.

So I suppose we'll have to reserve judgment on this one until all the facts are in.

But it would have been interesting to have Shockey.

March 02, 2011

History dictates teams must find QBs early

I shared with you recently that an NFL scout related to me his opinion that any team hoping for a good chance at finding a starting quarterback should think of accomplishing that goal early in the draft, certainly not much later than the first round.

Well, the folks at draftmetrics.com are putting statistical weight behind that opinion now.

In studying the NFL drafts of 1991-2010, draftmetrics has come up with the astonishing fact that over 48 percent of quarterbacks starts the past 20 years were made by players selected in the first round (selections 1-28), which is nearly twice as much as the average for all positions.

There have been 241 QBs selected by NFL clubs from 1991-2010 and a whopping 68.2 percent of the ones picked within the first 13 picks of the draft became five-year starters.

Let that marinate for a moment.

The NFL draft is, in my opinion, a 50-50 proposition. Bill Parcells famously said, "they don't sell insurance for this."

Yet nearly 7 of 10 QBs picked between No. 1-13 overall were good enough to be starting for their teams for a long time. That is impressive.

The draftmetrics folks also bust the myth that drafting a quarterback must necessarily be an exercise in patience because 30 QBs over the past 20 years of drafting have started at least eight games in their rookie seasons.

Why am I sharing this you?

Well, if you think the Dolphins can find a five-year starter with the No. 15 overall selection in the coming draft, this study suggests the chances are much better if Miami could trade up a couple of spots to get a higher rated player.

It tells you that if you are convinced the Dolphins cannot find a 2011 starting quarterback in this draft, you are not recognizing facts because 30 rookies did exactly that since 1991.

If you are advocating the Dolphins trade back -- rather than up -- to add a pick and take a lesser rated QB, history is saying you're making a bad deal. Consider that while 68.2 percent of QBs picked by the 13th overall pick become five-year starters, only 14.3 percent of QBs picked between selections 49 and 74 accomplished the feat and only 6.7 percent of QBs selected from 74-114 overall accomplished the feat.

Point is teams maximize their chances of success with QBs by getting them earlier. And the ones that come late are typically not going to solve your QB issues.

Yes, there are exceptions. Tom Brady was the 199th player selected. Tony Romo was an undrafted free agent.

But exceptions are rare.

The top quarterbacks, the quarterbacks that start right away and last for at least five years as starters go early in the first round, according to the 20-year study.

So what does this mean in today's real world?

Well, it means that Blaine Gabbert, likely the first quarterback off the board in 2010 and likely a Top 10 pick, has a very good chance of being a success according to the history.

It means that JaMarcus Russell's failure was the exception and not the rule.

It means that quarterbacks teams rate as later prospects are more likely to become Brady Quinn than Tom Brady.

All of this should give teams pause. And it does. I know for a fact teams conduct similar studies of past drafts to maximize their chances of success.

So say, for example, the Dolphins have Nevada's Colin Kaepernick on their board as the No. 49 rated player ... Well, the historical probability of him becoming a five-year starter for Miami?

14.3 percent.

Think about that.

March 01, 2011

Did Ingram kill himself by running slow? No Did it help? No

The Dolphins are in the market for a running back in the NFL draft.

The Dolphins are also in the market for speed on offense and the NFL draft is expected to deliver that as well.

So it stands to reason if general manager Jeff Ireland can find a running back who is fast, he can meet two needs for the price of one pick. That's the reason Alabama running back Mark Ingram was such a popular guess as the Dolphins first round pick (15th overall) according to many draft gurus with opinions. The marriage just seemed to fit.

And then Ingram ran the 40-yard dash as the NFL Combine on Sunday. And his time was a pedestrian 4.62 in one clocking, which raised some red flags and eyebrows because, well, it's never great news when a smallish back cannot run away from bigger defenders.

So is Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Tropy winner from Alabama, thus eliminated from Miami's list of possible draft day targets?

Former NFL defensive back Corey Chavous, a draft guru in his own right and founder of nfldraftnasty.com, doesn't think so. In fact, Chavous now thinks Ingram has joined some very good company.

"A lot of running backs that are the greatest of all time that haven't had the greatest of 40 times," Chavous said today on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo. "Emmitt Smith ran high 4.5s and low 4.6s. Walter Payton was also 4.5 type guy. And that's kind of what [Ingram] has got to be compared to now if you're saying he's going to be an elite running back. You look at some of the better running backs that have played with that same build and stature that haven't had great 40-yard dash times."

You can listen to the complete Armando and the Amigo interview yourself on the podcast right here. Chavous also discusses the quarterback that most impressed him during the combine.

One thing that Chavous did point out is that Ingram was not supposed to run slow. It was indeed a surprise -- obviously not a pleasant one.

"I was surprised because Ingram ran 10.7 in the 100 meters in high school so him running a 4.6 surprised me," Chavous said. "It seems he got into a stride too early and didn't stay in his explosion phase long enough."

That suggests Ingram can rehabilitate that time when he has a pro day at Alabama or a personal workout for various teams -- including the Dolphins. But even then, the 40-time is not a tolling bell of doom.

I do repeat, it is a red flag. Remember that Ingram spent parts of the 2010 season battling injury concerns. So teams will want to know if the 40 time is an outgrowth of lingering injury issues.

But will it erase him from Miami's radar? Probably not.

My take? I personally believe the Dolphins are in trade down mode already. I believe they want to add a second round pick and the only real way to accomplish that is trade out of No. 15 to lower in the first round and add a low second rounder to boot.

But you obviously need a partner to participate in that scenario. Barring that scenario presenting itself, the Dolphins will obviously still consider Ingram -- although it is hardly a certainty they will take him.