Jeff Ireland has "a plan" for the offseason. He isn't giving details of what that plan is. He has no intention of unveiling it for public scrutiny to the point where he told Dolphins coaches not to even talk about quarterbacks or needs or free agency during their recent media availability.
But, let's face it, this isn't rocket science.
Miami's needs are easy to understand if you watched the team the last couple of years. The players that are or will likely become available are also public knowledge. And we know there is a finite amount of ways the Dolphins can actually add players -- through free agency first, the draft and, of course, trades.
So what does Ireland's plan likely look like?
Let's begin with the problems the plan must address:
The Dolphins need a starting QB first and foremost. They would love a franchise quarterback, of course, and that's the first order of business. But at the minimum they need a quarterback who will compete with Matt Moore for the starting job in training camp. That is known to everyone.
So how to address the QB question?
Peyton Manning, if relatively healthy, will be the team's top target if he's available. Simple. Ownership has sent this commandment down from the Dolphins version of Mount Sinai. I've written Manning is the QB priority if he's healthy and until Manning either stays in Indianapolis, or retires, or shows he is incapable of throwing the football (the latter of which will not happen), he will be the thing for Miami.
If Manning is out of the picture, I think the Dolphins go with Matt Flynn. The fact is Flynn will come with a starter's price tag and not a lot of certainty. But he comes with more certainty than any possible draft pick not named Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. Flynn in free agency seems to be more logical, given his history and connection to Joe Philbin, than say, using a first-round pick on Ryan Tannehill. Flynn is young and more experienced and probably more NFL starter ready than Tannehill. And if you pick up Flynn, you can free up use of the first-round pick for another major need while still having the option of drafting another QB -- perhaps Brandon Weeden -- later in the draft.
If the Dolphins cannot add either Flynn (who will have other options) or Manning (who is a huge wild card) in free agency, you can pretty much put the first-round card in right now for a QB.
Does that mean Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are out of the question? Nothing is out of the question, I suppose. But I don't see the Dolphins paying two first-round picks, plus more resources, such as a second and perhaps a third round pick, or perhaps even three first-round picks to go to the No. 2 overall spot where getting Luck or Griffin will be possible.
Using that many chips to go high enough for the two QBs could cripple the franchise for years if the QB it brings in return is not a franchise player. And as Bill Parcells said, they don't sell insurance for this stuff.
The club needs a right side to the offensive line -- with both right guard and right tackle a question mark. Marc Colombo is done. If he finds himself in a Dolphins uniform again in training camp, something went horribly wrong because he is simply not a starting-caliber NFL tackle any more. Assuming the club intends to fill one of the right side needs, either at guard or tackle, with an "on campus" solution -- such as John Jerry or Nate Garner or Lydon Murtha -- that still means the club needs to solve the other right-side problem by adding a body.
There are great free agency options such as Carl Nicks at guard. I love the prospect of Jared Gaither at tackle in free agency. But both will be very, very, very expensive. Nicks today said he's looking for a deal above $56.7 million that averages more than $8.1 million per season -- the deal signed by teammate Jahri Evans. No way the Dolphins pay that!
Despite their history for spending extravagantly on the offensive line in free agency, I think the Dolphins aren't going down that road. I think they'll try to solve their offensive line issue in the second wave of free agency or in the draft -- not the first round.
The club also needs a pass-rusher. The truth is I believe this is the top need and the only one that rivals quarterback. Simply, the Dolphins need to pressure the quarterback better, need to find a pass-rusher so good as to make Cameron Wake the complementary pass-rusher, and need to make sure this player is also a viable run-stopper on the edge. I know that Mario Williams will be available in free agency. Cliff Avril will also be on the free agent market.
But again, I don't see the Dolphins spending their money here. I see them spending draft picks here and an early pick at that -- probably their first pick assuming the quarterback issue is resolved in free agency.
There's a need at free safety. There's a need at tight end. There's probably a need at wide receiver because a high-priced or high draft pick QB needs as much help on the other end of his passes as possible.
These are all issues tackled in the second-wave of free agency or on the draft's second or third days. I assume the Dolphins still have very high hopes for Charles Clay as a hybrid tight end so they're not going to invest a high pick or a great deal of money there. They obviously didn't last year.
My big concern is that Miami will continue to be lulled into a sense of false security at WR. Davone Bess did not show well last year -- certainly not as well as he did the previous years. And while Brian Hartline had solid moments, he still hasn't proven he's a good No. 2 starting WR despite owning the job two seasons.
Me? I'd get the QB more help. I'd get Brandon Marshall some help. I'd get solid WR wherever I could find him. By the way, did I hear Green Bay may be parting ways with Donald Driver? I scoop him up. He'll be familiar with the system, he's an awesome locker room presence, he knows how to win, and he would make Flynn a nice security blanket.
Yes, he's 37 years old. I get that. But he was also Green Bay's best WR in the playoffs. I hope the Dolphins get that.