Dolphins general manager Armando Salguero would not make Peyton Manning his No. 1 free agency priority in 2012. If this were 2002 and we were talking about 25-year-old Peyton Manning and not 35-year-old Peyton Manning, that would be different. But Dolphins GM Armando Salguero wants to build a team that can compete in the AFC East for the next decade rather than next year and then so he's not putting his money on any old, old, old players. He wants to use his elite free agent money on an elite free agent that isn't past his prime. Dolphins GM Armando Salguero spends his pennies (hundreds of millions of them) on someone who is more likely to rip a quarterback's arm off than a free agent whose throwing arm is already hanging by a thread.
GM Salguero wants Tom Brady to pay attention to his signing and think of the event as bad news.
He wants to strike fear into the heart of Mark Sanchez.
Dolphins GM Armando Salguero's chief priority in unrestricted free agency is .... Mario Williams.
Not Manning. Not Matt Flynn, although I have a serious sit-down with coach Joe Philbin and if Flynn is a guy the coach believes is a franchise QB in waiting, I also try to sign Flynn if I can.
But if you restrict me to one move, one addition, one big-time free agency signing?
Mario Williams, whose resume includes 48.5 sacks in the past 66 games, is my guy. That's the guy I team with Cameron Wake and turn the Miami pass-rush into a balanced nightmare.
But alas, Armando Salguero is but a know-nothing hack columnist. So I will sit and watch as the Dolphins weave their work starting March 13 when the free agency signing period begins. The Dolphins are expected to chase Peyton Manning, assuming he is an unrestricted free agent at the time.
So what other options other than Manning might the Dolphins pursue? It's hard to know now because last year the Dolphins went a little off the free agency reservation. They broke their own rules. They violated some time-honored Bill Parcells tenets.
To begin, they signed a starting running back in free agency, something I'd try not to do because I don't like paying running backs unless they are extremely special -- and Reggie Bush is good but not special.
They signed Jason Taylor, something I didn't think they would do because he was 36 years old at the time and previously the Dolphins had made the point of building with free agents that were about to hit their prime rather than free agents past their primes.
So the Dolphins did some things in free agency that were beyond the parameters of the approach they themselves had set down in previous years. That makes predicting what they do going forward more difficult.
If they sign Manning, it signals they're in win-now mode and will look at everyone and anyone as a possibility. The signings in that case won't be limited to younger players that can become cornerstones. The signings may take on an all-hands-on-deck approach, hitting young and older players alike -- in a rush to be good before Manning because really, really bad.
That is the likely approach the Dolphins will take if Manning is the guy. That's not how I'd do it. I want young guys. I want bargain guys, if I can get them. I want up-and-coming, not down-and-fading, I'm fine with less recognizeable names about to be bigtime over household names that no longer play up to their reputations.
The Dolphins need a quarterback. They must get a pass-rusher. They must get a right tackle or a guard, depending on their plans for John Jerry. Here are some possibilities:
Williams, DE/OLB Texans: He will not be franchised because that number is $22.9 million and the Texans have other issues to address, namely re-signing Arian Foster. So Williams will likely test the market and he will be expensive. What else do you expect of a player who has experience at both a 3-4 rush outside linebacker and a 4-3 DE and is elite?
Cliff Avril DE, Detroit Lions: He is not Mario Williams, but he fills the same need at a more reasonable price. He has 19 1/2 sacks the past two seasons, including 11 last season. He turns 26 in April, which suggests he's going to get better. Dominant? No. Very good? Yes.
Jared Gaither, OT, San Diego Chargers: I watched Gaither sign with the Chargers on a Thursday and start for them on a Sunday against the Oakland Raiders and Richard Seymour. And he got the better of Seymour. Sold! The Ravens gave up on this kid way too early. So did the Chiefs, who cut him ostensibly because he had a costly offside penalty in a game. He is not a break-the-bank guy. He is 25 years old.
Laurent Robinson, WR, Dallas: I know, I know, he's a Cowboy and we've done this before. But Robinson was actually productive with Dallas last year in scoring 11 TDs and he did this in replacing Miles Austin rather than in benefitting from coverage dedicated to Austin. This guy, a former third-round pick in Atlanta, seems ready to take the step toward being a full-time starter.
Pierre Garcon, WR, Indianapolis Colts: Well, if you cannot beat them, join them. I am in the minority arguing against signing Peyton Manning. But if you must sign the guy, give him a receiver he's familiar with ... And give him the young receiver he's familiar with, not 34-year-old Reggie Wayne. Garcon is big (6-foot and 210 pounds) and very fast. He's 25 years old. He is from West Palm Beach and his parent are from Haiti. So maybe he'll give the Dolphins some sort of discount?
Broderick Bunkley, DT, Denver Broncos: If Paul Soliai becomes too expensive, I think Bunkley would be a nice alternative and probably a cheaper one. He is coming off his best season, he's got playoff experience and he's actually younger than Soliai by several months.
Reggie Nelson, S, Cincinnati Bengals: The Dolphins just hired Kevin Coyle as their defensive coordinator after he served as the Bengals secondary coach fpr nearly a decade. That means he knows a little something about the Bengals secondary. And he somehow got Nelson, an early-round draft bust in Jacksonville, to play well in Cincinnati. Maybe Nelson might be the answer to getting some plays out of the Miami free safety spot.
Pat Sims DT, Cincinnati Bengals: Read the above and understand that Coyle saw Sims in practice every day. He has started 23 games in four seasons for the Bengals. He is mostly an anchor inside against the run. He is another, cheaper option to Paul Soliai. In fact, he's a cheaper option to both Soliai and Bunkley and he's only 26. Sims is from Fort Lauderdale so maybe he'd like to come home.