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65 posts from March 2012

March 20, 2012

Jeff Ireland is not the devil

This post is not going to be popular. This post absolutely will not fit the current popular narrative surrounding the Dolphins the past week. And I don't take this undertaking lightly because I don't enjoy taking a bullet for someone who is not my family or close friend.

But ...

This Jeff Ireland hatred is getting more than a tad ridiculous.

To begin, I cannot say I agree with every single move Ireland makes. I don' agree with his approach with the media. I am aware agents talk behind his back (if they do it with me I'm assuming they do it with others) and complain of an arrogance that is baffling and approach that sometimes borders on bullying.

But I also do not agree he is a total screwup and gets everything wrong -- maybe that's because he doesn't.

I thought the David Garrard signing was a very good one, assuming the projected use for him is what I believe it will be and isn't followed by a crazy chase of Alex Smith or Tim Tebow. I thought the re-signing of Paul Soliai at a bargain price -- $6 million per year when he had a bigger deal on the table with Denver and for a price that is half of what the team paid last year -- was a coup that got whitewashed in the negative theme of the day.

I like the fact the Dolphins held to their guns in coming to a organizational value for Matt Flynn, remembering that coach Joe Philbin knows this guy as well as anyone. People are saying Flynn picked the Seahawks over the Dolphins. I think it's more accurate to say the Dolphins picked something else over Flynn because I don't believe they wanted to outbid Seattle. I like that Miami made a move to explore Alex Smith. I like that Miami won't be paying Smith $8 million a year because that's crazy money considering seven years of watching this guy has offered only one season of promising production.

I understand (I think) why the Dolphins traded Brandon Marshall. I like Marshall and think he's an engaging guy. He really is great if you speak with him. Guy's charming. But he is a trouble magnet. He is immature and the lack of a father figure in his life gives him no foundation on which to sometimes understand right from wrong and being an adult from being a kid. I believe unless that changes, he's going to be in trouble again eventually. So the move to jettison him is logical on several levels.

I also understand and cannot criticize Ireland for letting Kendall Langford go. Quick, what was the last game-changing play he made? What was his signature moment in Dolphins history? Correct, he didn't have one. He was a grunt, a role-player albeit a nice one. Certainly, he's not a guy worth $6 million per year and a $12 million guarantee, which is what he got from St. Louis.

And, because I am not a hypocrite, I also cannot rip the idea of cutting Yeremiah Bell. Bell is one of my favorite players. He's a tough blankety blank. He's a good locker room guy. But he's 34 years old and his play isn't likely to get better. And for years I've urged the Dolphins to be one of those teams that jettisons players before they totally break down and lose it rather than waiting an extra year and suffering the actual fast decline while the player is on the roster.

The Dolphins cut Bell on Monday before he completely fades out. I cannot rip them for that, considering he brings $4.3 million in cap relief. (Also, we don't know if Miami offered Bell a chance to cut his salary and he refused or not.)

So all these moves that Ireland is getting destroyed for ... tell me how they were terrible. Tell me what he should have done.

The Garrard signing, by the way, is being panned because David Garrard is not a franchise quarterback and Ireland has promised a reach for a franchise QB this offseason. "We need to add a quarterback that can get us over the hump," he's told The Miami Herald.

No kidding. That's been the case for a decade, including five offseasons during Ireland's employment in Miami. And Garrard is not that guy.

But Ireland hasn't said he is. Ireland hasn't said that's his signature QB move of the spring. Seems to me Garrard is a move to add a veteran backup presence who might get a shot to win a job in the short-term. Hello? Compeition is good.

Unless I miss my guess, the Dolphins aren't done adding at quarterback. I believe they will draft a kid on which the club's future hopes will rest. At least that is my sense.

Maybe that rookie will be a bust. Maybe he'll be a star. The point is to rip Ireland for a move not yet made in an offseason not yet complete is hating for hating's sake.

On that front, there's plenty headed in Ireland's direction now. I hear there is a fan protest scheduled for today to rip Ireland. On Sunday, Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark ripped Ireland on twitter and blamed him for Miami's ills and talked of how "the guy running things is not a good" person.

Then yesterday on NFL Network, former Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter blew up Ireland on national television. He blamed the Dolphins inability to close on, say, Peyton Manning and Flynn on Ireland.

"I think Jeff Ireland has a big part to do with it," Porter said. "I don't think when you come in being recruited by him, you totally believe things coming out of his mouth. I think he's a guy that's not trustworthy. He really doesn't hold up to what a GM's supposed to be."

Well, I really don't think Porter holds up to what a man is supposed to be. Porter is a great guy to have on a team when things are good. But as soon as things go bad, he becomes part of the problem. And as soon as he's no longer getting his way or is out of contract, he bites the hand that feeds him. He previously blew up Cam Cameron. He previously blew up Tony Sparano. He previously blew up Mike Tomlin.

The guy has a history for ripping people that either cut him, let him go in free agency, or stood up to him. So while you don't have to dismiss his criticism, at least understand where it originates.

By the way, this idea that Miami can't land anyone is getting on my nerves. No, they didn't get Harbaugh. No, they didn't land Fisher. No, they didn't get Manning. Which one of those was Ireland responsible for?

Manning, of course.

Well, the Dolphins didn't get Manning. And neither did San Francisco, Arizona, or Tennessee. The Jets, Kansas City, and Seattle all have good to outstanding GMs. None of them could even get a meeting with Manning. So Ireland is a bad guy because the Dolphins swung and missed on Peyton Manning?

Look, I do not agree with every move Ireland makes. To me, the Manning chase was a waste of time that I didn't agree with. I would have been in Mario Williams' jock and tried to sign him and I would have outbid Kansas City for Eric Winston. It would have been two blue chip additions to the team and my overall talent would have gone way up.

Instead the Dolphins are shopping at K-Mart with Artis Hicks and Jamaal Westersomebody.

I also would have gone to the wall (yes, even giving up FOUR first round picks) to land Robert Griffin III. I would have gotten my franchise QB one way or another. Ireland didn't.

But does that make the guy a loser? A man to revile?

Someon hacked into Ireland's Wikipedia page Tuesday and edited in some unkind things about him being born in a Denny's parking lot etc... Maybe that sounds funny to you. Maybe you're cheering the imagination of that move. I guess I'm not talking to you.

I am talking to the folks who are thinking for themselves. Break down the moves on their own merit. Tell me what you would have done. Tell me where you would depart from the current course.

Be fair.

Obviously, Ireland hasn't gotten all his moves right in the past. By the way, no one does. And the pressure is on him to land some, you know, actual stars this offseason because the Dolphins don't have any of those.

He might do that. He might not. But I'm not ready to say this guy is the devil for blowing it when we're only one week into free agency and the draft is on the horizon. I don't judge a team's gameday performance in the second quarter.

I wait until the game's over.

[BROADCAST, PERSONAL NOTE: If you wish to discuss this or any other Dolphins topic with me, you can tune in to my radio show at 640-AM in South Florida or watch the show online at the Miami Herald. You can call the show toll free at 888-640-9385. Also, I will not be updating this blog until much later this afternoon because I have a doctor's appointment after the show. For the latest, check out the rest of The Miami Herald Dolphins page.]

March 19, 2012

David Garrard joins the Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins this evening added a 34-year-old veteran and prepared to cut a 34-year-old veteran.

David Garrard has agreed to a one-year contract with the Miami Dolphins various media outlets are reporting, led by Foxsports.com which broke the story on twitter.

Garrard, who played 10 seasons in Jacksonville and has been a solid performer, obviously brings veteran experience in a backup role, assuming he does not win the starting job. It is unclear if he's been told he will able compete for the starting job or simply be the backup.

This much seems clear: It makes sense for the Dolphins to add at least one more quarterback, with that player probably being a draftee that can be groomed as the club's future franchise quarterback. It is also possible the Dolphins are still talking to Alex Smith but this is much less likely -- indeed, unlikely -- as Smith seems to be a better fit back in San Francisco.

The Dolphins did for all intents and purposes clear $4.3 million of cap space this afternoon by outlining to agent Drew Rosenhaus its intent to cut strong safety Yeremiah Bell. Bell has led the Dolphins in tackles in recent years but was seen as declining last year. While widely expected, this move was a departure from two weeks ago when general manager Jeff Ireland told Rosenhaus the team did not intend to cut Bell.

Garrard undoubtedly takes up some of the cap space created by the Bell move.

The Dolphins did not announce any of these moves. In truth, the Dolphins declined to confirm the fact Garrard visited Monday because he is a street free agent and the club does not announce visit from street free agents -- players that hit the open market because they were cut by other teams.

Garrard last season declined a chance to join the Dolphins in October after he was waived in Jacksonville. Two weeks later, while waiting to join the Oakland Raiders, he learned that he had a bulging disc injury in his neck and required surgery.

One assumes the Dolphins both worked out and gave Garrard a full physical before offering a contract. I also further assume Garrard's head did not fall off his shoulders during the physical because that would mean the Dolphins signed a headless quarterback.

Kidding. I personally like the addition. Worst-case scenario, the Dolphins have a better, more experienced backup QB than anyone else in the AFC East.

Hold that thought ... Smith source now says QB serious

The Dolphins quarterback situation continues to convulse and now what seemed like a almost-certain move by Alex Smith back to San Francisco is not quite so certain if one believes people close to Smith.

In this yes-no-yes-no-yes-no offseason for Smith, he is telling sources that he would actually strongly consider playing for the Dolphins "under the right circumstances." This after sources close to Smith earlier said the quarterback would be going back to San Francisco if Peyton Manning didn't pick San Francisco.

To make the point that Smith is serious, I'm told agent Tom Condon has been in talks with the Dolphins today.

So where does that leave us?

Honesty here: I have no idea.

I do not know if the Smith source is serious about Smith being serious about Miami. I do not know if the Smith source is using the media, including me, to leverage a better contract for Smith by saying he's serious about the Dolphins and all the time putting pressure on the 49'ers.

The fact is if the Dolphins believe they have a chance at Smith, they may make their offer to Smith one that could push the 49'ers to increase their reported three-year, $24 million contract. That would serve as leverage for Smith. But it is also a fact Smith could be dealing earnestly with Miami because apparently he had a very good visit with Miami on Sunday. And given that, he might just want a better deal from Miami for the purpose of signing that deal.

Only he really knows for sure.

The Dolphins, of course, can bust through this smokescreen if this wish. All they seemingly have to do to see Smith's seriousness is offer him a better deal than the 49'ers offered and tell him the deal will be on the table for a short period of time and see what he says. If he signs, he was serious. If he takes the offer back to Frisco, he's a fraud.

Of course, this is assuming the Dolphins are serious about Smith to the tune of at least $8 million per year. (I would not pay that but I'm not Miami's general manager.)

It's a game folks. It's called chess.

And, by the way, the media is a pawn.

Manning decision to Denver still affects Dolphins

Several media outlets are reporting that Peyton Manning has picked the Denver Broncos as his new team and is in negotiations with the team to become the quarterback. That has created a domino effect that reaches the Dolphins.

Because Manning did not pick the San Francisco 49'ers, it seems to open up the possibility of a return to San Francisco for Alex Smith. And that would mean the player who visited the Dolphins on Sunday would be out of the running to continue his career in Miami.

This is not a 100 percent certainty as, frankly, Smith still is a free agent and has the right to negotiate with any team he wishes. But, as I reported this morning, Smith had told various NFL sources and had let the Dolphins know his first choice was to return to the Niners if Manning didn't pick that team.

We're not out of the wood yet, however.

As Manning is going to Denver, barring a snag in contract talks, that effectively ends Tim Tebow's time with that team. And, of course, that makes the Dolphins a possible landing spot for him.

Tebow, a University of Florida alumnus, has a huge following in South Florida. He did lead the Broncos to the playoffs and even a playoff victory over Pittsburgh. And he would definitely sell tickets for the Dolphins.

My guess is the football side of the organization would not be thrilled with the idea of Tebow because he is definitely not a classic West Coast offense quarterback. But ownership has recently been in charge of some football decision in Miami so I cannot discount it until, well, the Dolphins either say it isn't a possibility or show it isn't one.

Beyond that, where does this leave the Dolphins?

More and more it is looking like this team is going to be drafting a quarterback and rolling into training camp with Matt Moore as the presumed starter.

I suppose David Garrard is a veteran backup option that can be added to Moore plus a rookie draft pick as well.

As for a surprise bombshell ... we'll see.

Alex Smith also not all that into Dolphins

More bad news?

How about this: Multiple sources tell me that the only way Alex Smith is going to sign with the Dolphins is if Peyton Manning goes to San Francisco.

That's right, even the jilted 49'ers quarterback would prefer to return to the team that jilted him over the Dolphins organization that on Sunday tried to recruit him to Miami. Smith's camp has made this clear to the Dolphins.

I suppose that is one reason they are today scheduled to host former Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard -- a quarterback that obviously does not rise to "franchise quarterback" status but is, well, a body.

I posted previously that the Dolphins should be wise in handling Smith because, frankly, he has been a good-not-great player in seven previous seasons. So the Dolphins must resist the temptation to go overboard on this guy because making a splash for the sake of public relations may soothe feelings short-term but is a long-term road to unemployment.

And there is definitely pressure on the Dolphins, particularly general manager Jeff Ireland, to give a public relations answer to what is a business approach. Peter King of Sports Illustrated wrote in his Monday Morning quarterback column that Ireland needs to do something out of desperation.

These are King's words:

"In the history of NFL general managers, Ireland is on the coldest streak ever. He needs to do something right. He doesn't even need to hit a home run. A seeing-eye single would do. That may make him more aggressive on Smith today -- and it may make Smith more inclined to go somewhere I don't think he really wants to go.

"Miami looks like the worst team in the AFC East right now. Would Smith rather rub it in 49er GM Trent Baalke's face and run off to a bad team, and would he rather pray for Manning to pick Tennessee or Denver and go back to where he's got the best chance by far of making a Super Bowl run? Ireland may have to do what he loathes -- overspend for an OK player -- just to deodorize the stink of the last few years in Miami."

So the pressure is on Ireland to pay, probably more than Smith is worth. Of course, if Peyton Manning decides to play in Denver or Tennessee, it is now clear he won't get that chance. Because Alex Smith doesn't want to play here that much.

Overpaying Smith worse than missing on Flynn

My greatest concern is not that the Dolphins didn't land Matt Flynn, although it does raise flags, eyebrows and hackles. No, my biggest concern is that with Flynn gone to Seattle, with Peyton Manning not interested, and with the quarterback market thinning, the Dolphins will fall in love with mediocre Alex Smith.

And then pay mediocre Alex Smith like he's franchise quarterback Alex Smith.

My concern is that Miami will do for Smith more than San Francisco, the team that knows him best, was willing to do. My concern is that in knowing Matt Flynn as well as they did, in knowing Ryan Tannehill as well as they do, in knowing what Peyton Manning could be if healthy, in knowing inside information on Robert Griffin III, the Dolphins will go with the guy they know least about and pay him like they know he's really good.

Why is this an issue? Well, The Denver Post reported the Dolphins were in negotiations with Smith on what the newspaper said was an $8 million per year contract. If you put one plus one together and assume the report is true (same paper reported the Houston Texans were interested in Peyton Manning and they were not), then you're building a case for a tremendous overpayment of a solid game managing QB.

Let's face it, Smith is coming off his best season. It was his career year. He threw a modest 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. Nice work. Good work. Not franchise quarterback work. Assuming he repeats the best work of his seven NFL years, he is still not the "quarterback to get us over the top," that general manager Jeff Ireland said the team wanted to land this offseason.

And yet Miami is going to pay him $8 million per season?

What makes this seem odd is that Miami apparently didn't want to pay Flynn a relatively modest contract. The Seahawks got him for three years and $21.3 million with $10 million in guaranteed money. That's an average of $7.1 million per season.

I know, I know, you've heard the Flynn deal was for three years and $26 million. That figure is accurate only if Flynn meets practically every single incentive sewn into the fabric of the deal, which is a practical impossibility on most deals. It is done, nonetheless, because it motivates the player, makes him sound more expensive, makes the agent happy, and the team doesn't really mind.

Flynn's deal actually pays an average of $6.6 million per season the first two years and then kicks in $8.1 million in the final year. Only if Flynn meets a boatload of incentives can he inflate the average to $8 million per season those first two years, which is something both the player and the team want.

If Flynn's a great quarterback, he'll be around in 2014 to collect on what is, with all incentives kicking in, up to $10 million. In truth, if he's a great QB by 2014, the Seahawks would likely extend Flynn's deal to make it more cap friendly that backloaded year anyway.

But if he stinks, he's out. Gone. Finished. And the club will be on to the next quarterback and likely on its next coach because when the quarterback fails, pretty much everyone fails.

The point is Flynn's deal is really more like a two-year commitment. It does not average the $8.6 million per year that is being reported. It rises to that level only if the guy is a star. And if he's anything less, he'll be averaging more like $7 million per year, including that backloaded final year that he might or might not ever see. In the first couple of years he's not even averaging $7 which is modest for an NFL starting quarterback.

And the Dolphins didn't want to meet this price? But they're going to pay more than that Smith?

Smith has improved slowly and steadily each of the past three seasons. He had a solid 90.7 passer rating last season. And with all that improvement and all that good news, he's still a guy that completed only 46 percent of his passes in San Francisco's biggest game of the year, the NFC title game. He's a guy that got only one of his 12 completions that day to a wide receiver.

I tweeted that factoid on Sunday and some folks responded that was only because his receiver corps was not good in San Francisco. I left it at that on twitter, but won't do so here.

Let me ask you ... is Miami's receiver corps today any better than San Francisco's? Think on that.

[Personal note: A couple of months ago I wrote the Dolphins should draft a QB. I said they should draft two QBs if they had to. I am an advocate of finding your own, developing him and, succeed or fail, at least you did it with your guy rather than inheriting someone else's guy. I just wish the Dolphins would be more courageous and actually find a QB in the draft. Is it a guarantee of success? No. But obviously free agency quarterback searches the past two years haven't been the answer.]

March 18, 2012

Dolphins fail to land Matt Flynn too (he's on to Seattle)

I am learning to stop underestimating the Dolphins' inability to land a quarterback. Any quarterback.

After not getting a franchise QB last year, and not getting a player even they believed would compete for a starting job (Matt Moore was a surprise to them), and not drafting anyone, and pulling out of the Kyle Orton trade, and not getting Peyton Manning, now Miami is not getting Matt Flynn, either.

Flynn has agreed to a three-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks, according to Sports Illustrated and ESPN.

The Dolphins?

They're visiting with Alex Smith. They have another visit set up tomorrow with David Garrard.

How do you feel about that one?

I am not a big Flynn proponent. I'm not so sure he's going to be that good. I don't mind him going elsewhere. But the Dolphins do need somebody.

I'm sure the Dolphins will eventually portray this as having a plan (yeah, right) and sticking to that plan of not overspending for any player (including a QB). I'm sure they'll eventually get the message out that Flynn was a nice but not great option.

Sorry, but some facts simply get in the way. For example, someone else apparently believes Flynn is worth a good but not great contract. Seattle is paying approximately $8 million per season -- probably less when the actual numbers come in -- and that's not exactly breaking the bank for a starting QB. Even the $10 million signing bonus is modest for a QB. All indications are the Dolphins thought Flynn to be that potential starter but still couldn't pay him that?

Well then, why did the personnel and offensive staff spend nearly 40 hours of total tape time studying this guy, a figure I was told by a source was conservative? Otherwise, why would coach Joe Philbin be calling him throughout the free agency process to make sure Flynn knew he was a major Miami target? Otherwise why did the Dolphins immediately pivot to Flynn once they knew they'd been eliminated from the Manning derby? Otherwise why did they offer the kid a contract?

Something went wrong here. I was told three days ago Flynn was going to be Miami's guy. I was told it would take a significant screw up to fail to get him in a Dolphins uniform because the club believed he could win the starting job and Flynn liked the idea of playing for Philbin.

So what changed?

Obviously something.

Again, Matt Flynn is just a guy to me. He isn't guaranteed of doing anything great anywhere he goes. But the Dolphins continuing to pass on everybody is starting to raise eyebrows. It makes you wonder what's the problem.

Maybe it's Miami's inability to land a quarterback. Any quarterback.

Dolphins QB search now in spin mode

And now David Garrard is scheduled to visit the Dolphins on Monday, The Herald's Barry Jackson has confirmed.

Two things:

What is it with the Dolphins and quarterbacks with neck issues? First Peyton Manning and now the club is flirting with a player who had bulging disc surgery last year. First thing the team will do with this visit? Get him to a doctor to see what the deal is.

Another thought I have is that this a kick-the-tires visit, if it even happens because I'm still expectant on Matt Flynn making a decision either by this evening or tomorrow morning.

Beyond that, the Dolphins QB search after Peyton Manning can be described in two different ways. I will describe both ways and let you decide which to believe.

The positive spin: The Dolphins know no one left on the free agency market is a franchise quarterback. They believe Flynn might be a good player and are willing to pay him as such to compete with Matt Moore. But the contract offer they made Flynn's agent safeguards the team against Matt Flynn being a tremendous bust and playing like the seventh-round draft pick he was years ago. This is protecting oneself for the good of the franchise. So the Dolphins, so far unable to get Flynn to buy into the idea of coming to Miami and competing for a starting job, are kicking the tires on practically anyone else on the market. They are doing due diligence. They have a set price they're willing to pay and they're sticking by their convictions. They'll get somebody. But they'll not overpay for anybody.

The negative spin: The Dolphins couldn't close on Peyton Manning. The Dolphins couldn't close on Matt Flynn. They probably won't be able to close on Alex Smith because he's going to want to get paid and they're not going to overpay him -- at least until their desperation kicks in. And now they're in full-fledged grasp at straws mode by checking out Garrard, a guy who didn't want to play for them last year for the price Miami was willing to pay. On the Garrard thing, I was told by several team sources that money was not an issue in getting him that there was other factors. A source close to Garrard said the exact opposite. That Miami underwhelmed in their offer to him and he didn't want to come to South Florida for that small of a prorated deal. This was, you may recall, in October when the Dolphins were desperate after Chad Henne's season-ending injury. So what has changed? Well, Garrard is more desperate now. No one has been serious about him even visiting until the Dolphins did it. And the Dolphins are just kicking tires. And we're supposed to be enthusiastic about this?

Those are the two possible spins on what is happening in Davie. You decide.

 

Smith visit smells like leverage ... let's hope

Back from church this morning and the Internet is abuzz with football fans dissecting the Dolphins bringing San Francisco free agent quarterback Alex Smith to town overnight. (If you want to read the details, check out Barry Jackson's story on the Dolphins page of The Miami Herald.)

Let me help with this analysis. This is about a couple of things, including having a backup plan should Matt Flynn bolt. Call this the backup to the backup plan. But primarily tis is about leverage.

I haven't been told that. I haven't gotten a text about it. I am simply smelling leverage.

Why? Because ...

*Before the Dolphins ended their visit with Matt Flynn on Saturday they told him they wanted him as their quarterback.

*Miami locked onto Flynn before Smith. All things being equal, the Dolphins prefer Flynn to Smith simply because he's very familiar with most elements of the offense the Dolphins are likely to run. Smith would have to learn his fifth new offensive system in seven years. Not great.

*I know Miami is very comfortable paying Flynn the contract offer his agent got from the team but probably isn't too thrilled paying Smith the kind of deal he rejected from the San Francisco 49ers. Smith rejected a three-year offer from the 49ers that averaged approximately $7-$8 million per season but could rise to $9-$10 million if he continued to play as he did in 2011 based on incentives.

That is a lot of money on average to turn down. I've no idea where the guaranteed money was but I'm assuming it protected the team against Smith returning to Earth after a good season in 2011. Despite all that, Smith thinks the Dolphins are going to offer more? For their third choice QB?

They would be very unwise to do so.

*Smith wants to be treated and paid like a franchise quarterback. The team that knows him best, loves him most couldn't do it. Why would the Dolphins?

The Dolphins are more than willing to commit to a franchise quarterback when, you know, they are in the presence of a franchise QB. Smith is not a franchise quarterback. In his best season, he was a very good game manager. He threw 17 touchdowns and 5 interceptions last season. Nice. Combine it with the NFL's best defense and you have a trip to the NFC title game. But eye-popping? Outstanding? Championship caliber? No. Not in the AFC East.

Smith actually might come into camp against Matt Moore and lose a fair and equitable competition. His statistics were only slightly better than Moore's last season and over their careers, Moore actually has a higher QB rating -- 80.1 to 76.4. The Dolphins know this (I hope).

*The Dolphins aren't out of the Flynn chase. He will likely make a decision sometime today or tomorrow. He wants to play in Miami. He knows the money is probably not what his agent wanted. But the fact is if he plays well in a system he's familiar with, in two years the Dolphins will be extending his contract anyway. So it's not necessarily about getting the most money now but perhaps getting set up to make the most money down the road after, you know, something has been proven.

(As an aside, it is clear the Dolphins are not getting a proven franchise QB this offseason. They are adding talent to the position. The talent may eventually prove itself and rise to top 10 QB status. But get one of those from the first snap? Nope.)

March 16, 2012

Getting Flynn at right price as important as getting him

The question today is apparently not whether the Dolphins will try to sign Matt Flynn. It seems if the team gets a chance to sign the Green Bay free agent backup quarterback, that is exactly what will happen.

No, the question I believe more important is not whether the Dolphins will try to sign Flynn but how they'll try to sign Flynn. It's a completely different issue and definitely as important an issue.

Flynn, according to a reliable source, will be in town sometime late tonight. He'll be here, assuming he doesn't get blown away by the Seattle Seahawks and simply jumps at the opportunity. But once he arrives, then what?

What to do with Flynn?

Do the Dolphins commit to Flynn as their starter or do they commit to him as, ahem, a quarterback who will come to camp and compete with Matt Moore for the starting job. In other words, do the Dolphins commit starting quarterback money or do they commit the kind of money a player who has a chance to start but isn't certain of that typically gets?

If the Dolphins are committing to Flynn as their starter, they may have to spend between $7-$9 million per season. The deal would probably extend past two years and there would be a chunky bag of guaranteed money included.

The lesser commitment is obviously cheaper -- probably $4-$5 million per year with incentive clauses that would hike the deal's worth if Flynn wins the starting job, thus deserving more money. This kind of deal protects the team if he fails.

Me?

Flynn is worth one but definitely not the other. He is a value if signing a deal that protects the team in case he's more A.J. Feeley than Drew Brees. He still gets paid if he becomes a star. But he has to earn his money rather than getting it the minute he walks in the locker room.

Makes sense, right?

The problem is Flynn wants to maximize his earning. He will want the biggest deal he can get, certainly his agent will want that. And because he's got two quarterback-hungry teams talking to him, he might be able to leverage one versus the other to get what he wants.

(Personally, I don't see the Seahawks letting themselves be held up. They paid Travaris Jackson a two-year deal worth $8 million last season. I assume if they offer Flynn, it'll be a similar deal and ask him to fight for the starting job. I say this because you must remember Flynn was not Seattle's top QB choice this offseason. They actually scheduled Chad Henne to come to town before Flynn. Henne never made it because he signed with Jacksonville.)

Well, the Dolphins can similarly make the case that Flynn is not their top choice. At least I hope they make that case. Everyone knows they wanted Peyton Manning. And I assume they aren't going to use the money on Flynn that they would have used on Manning.

At least I hope not because that's just dumb.

I guess what I'm asking is for the Dolphins to hold their desperation in check. Getting Flynn simply isn't like getting Manning. We don't even know if he's any good.

With Flynn it's not just about getting him to come. As a relatively unproven player, he has to come at the right price -- for the team.

Follow me on twitter please.

March 15, 2012

Dolphins eliminated from Manning chase, Flynn visiting

Matt Flynn is scheduled to visit the Miami Dolphins in the next two days, a club source is saying at this hour.

Two things: This is the clearest and most obvious sign the Dolphins are done in the Peyton Manning chase. They will not get Manning.

And if you don't believe it, I point you to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, who has been the most accurate and timely reporter on the Peyton Manning story.

Mort, on NFL32 just now, said "at least three teams are still alive" in the chase for the free agent quarterback. He mentioned Arizona. He mentioned Denver. He mentioned Tennessee.

He did not mention Miami.

And as if to drive home the point, Mortensen added "you notice we did not mention the Miami Dolphins."

Yes, we noticed.

So if ESPN is reporting three teams are still alive and the Dolphins are obviously moving on with a Flynn visit, what we have here is a pivot from the team -- Manning and Plan A to Flynn and Plan B.

Surprised? I'm not. I've you've been reading the posts the past two days, the vibe you should have gotten is that Manning was inching steadily away from Miami based on his actions, recent visit, and uncovering of what he's most looking for -- relationship he is comfortable with.

What does this mean going forward? I'm not going to rip the team for missing out on Manning, assuming that is exactly as it plays out. Look, they took a shot. The got closer than say, Kansas City or Seattle.

The sun will rise in the east tomorrow.

The fact Miami couldn't close is, well, kind of become the norm around here. So whatev.

But it is imperative for Miami to land someone to compete for the starting QB job next year. And Flynn is as good a candidate as most, I guess.

Might he become another Kevin Kolb or A.J. Feeley? I suppose that is possible. I worry about that. I assume the Dolphins worry about that. But the fact is he will come to the Dolphins and get a chance to play under a familiar system, for a familiar head coach who was his offensive coordinator the past few years is a comfort.

Having said that, I am hoping the Dolphins protect themselves. It makes zero sense giving Flynn a big contract -- with big contract being defined as high starter money in the $9-$10 million a year range. The truth is the Dolphins balked at giving Kyle Orton this type of deal last year so why give it to someone who is less proven?

It doesn't.

I hope the Dolphins proceed wisely. But I hope they do so with alacrity. Time is wasting.

Dolphins answering other teams' moves ... not really

The Buffalo Bills just announced the signing of pass-rush machine Mario Williams, the biggest defensive prize in free agency. Oh yeah, the Dolphins can still answer that move because backup offensive lineman Artis Hicks is still being wooed by Miami!

Yeah, I'm sure the move makes Peyton Manning want to come to the Dolphins more. "I've been able to play against great quarterbacks," Williams said, "I'm looking forward to chasing down these [AFC East] quarterbacks."

Of course, better offensive lineman Eric Winston, who blocked Williams in practice every day for the Houston Texans, has left South Florida after a visit with Miami. He's looking to become the highest-paid right tackle in the NFL. And that is probably too rich for the Dolphins right now.

The Patriots are expected to soon start hosting visits, with LaRon Landry a likely target. No worries, the Dolphins don't worry about other teams' safeties because the word around the NFL is new Dolphins coach Joe Philbin doesn't like alpha wide receivers on his team. He likes his offense to have two or preferrably three good receivers rather than one supremely talented guy that demands the football.

So take that safeties! The Dolphins may not have better talent at receiver today than two days ago, but at least you can't gameplan for Miami's guys!

Plus the Dolphins just signed Steve Slaton to a one-year deal so they're ready to return kickoffs for touchdowns anyway ... and now they have a third running back in the mold of Reggie Bush.

The Jets are about to get a visit from safety Reggie Nelson, a former first-round pick and someone Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle knows well. No serious interest from the Dolphins so far.

On the Peyton Manning front, the Titans and Broncos are scheduling visits with reputed veteran pass-rusher John Abraham -- who in the previous games against the Dolphins has been a monster. The move suggests at least a couple of teams vying for Manning are not standing still on other fronts.

More proof of that is the Titans, hoping to upgrade the offensive line for Manning, just announced the signing of guard Steve Hutchinson -- a Fort Lauderdale native.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, have re-signed try-hard bottom of the roster defensive end Ryan Baker but are apparently ready to lose Kendall Langford, who today is visiting with the Bengals and could next go to St. Louis.

Why am I not all that impressed with Miami's first couple of days in free agency, you ask? Read the last few paragraphs again. Tell me what move impresses so far?

The Dolphins remain on Manning watch. But as details of his visit to Tennessee continue to leak out -- the latest is he got a call from the governor while he was there, a shoutout from the legislature, and an offer to work for the club for the rest of his life after his playing days -- the less I'm inclined to think he's going to end up with the Dolphins.

They remain hopeful. They remain in it according to several sources. But this is looking more and more like the Dolphins are a one-way elevator.

And we're about to get let down.

Is Manning really that into the Dolphins?

I've dated in my life. I know what it looks like when someone is really into me ... and I know what it looks like when someone really isn't that into me. (Insert jokes in comments section).

Anyway, free agency is a little like dating. You wine. You dine. You spend money. You chase. It is a date minus the flowers or candy. And so far, Peyton Manning has been on four dates in the last week since his release from the Indianapolis Colts.

He dated Denver. He dated Arizona. He dated Miami. And he dated Tennessee.

My issue?

He dated Denver in Denver over a two-day span. He dated Arizona in Arizona over a two-day span. He dated Tennessee in Nashville over a 9-hour span.

The Dolphins? They had to go to him. They got only five hours.

Does that sound like the Dolphins got equal treatment? Does it sound like Manning, who I reported yesterday is very interested in finding a strong relationship with his next team, got an ample opportunity to bond with anyone representing Miami?

Obviously, I am on the outside looking in. The Dolphins continue to believe they are in the game. They continue to wait on a final nod of approval or dismissive hand gesture to know how to proceed next. And for all we know, details of their visit with Manning included the free agent quarterback hugging every Miami rep and promising to sign as soon as he dispensed with one last visit.

But I doubt it. And it just seems from my point of view that even if the Dolphins are in this horse race, they are aboard a nag trailing the field. That's how I see it. That is increasingly how fans that email me, call my radio show and follow me on twitter view it.

How is it the Dolphins apparently haven't seen this?

Today, by the way, feels like a big day to me on the Manning front. My gut is we'll see some sort of indication from the Manning camp by tonight which teams are seriously, seriously in the running for the player. ESPN has reported every team that has interviewed Manning is in the running.

But eventually this is going to begin getting whittled. Arizona's deadline for paying quarterback Kevin Kolb a $7 million bonus. The Dolphins cannot continue to sit idle while next QB possibility Matt Flynn visits with Seattle. And one assumes the Titans, talking to several other free agents, also need indication which way this will turn.

So the end of the great courting of Peyton Manning seems on the horizon.

By the way, on another topic, Kendall Langford is scheduled to visit the Cincinnati Bengals today.

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March 14, 2012

Dolphins agree to deal with CB Marshall

The Dolphins and cornerback Richard Marshall have agreed to a three-year contract.

The deal was confirmed by Marshall himself on his twiter feed.

"Just agreed with the dolphins on a 3 yr deal they made me stay in Miami lol," Marshall tweeted.

Marshall, 27, is a six-year veteran who played five seasons with Carolina and last season with Arizona. In 2011, he started six games, played in 16 and finished with three interceptions and 11 passes defensed.

The details of the deal are not yet available as it is not yet signed.

[Update: A source tells me the contract will be for three years and $15.975 million with $6 million in guaranteed money.]

The Dolphins have been searching for a cornerback that could compete with Sean Smith for a starting job. A likely scenario could be to have the so-called loser of that competition still play as the third corner in nickel and dime packages.

The role of the nickel corner has increased dramatically in recent years as passing has become an NFL staple. Third corners are really starters without getting the pregame introduction. They typcially play up to 60-65 percent of the plays.

Marshall has also spent time at safety. There is a chance he might get a shot at Miami's free safety position. The idea, ultimately, is to improve a secondary and defense that finished 21st in the NFL in percentage of passes intercepted.

Follow me on twitter. I often share thoughts or break news there first in short form before expanding here.

Late wrap: Soliai in, Laurent Robinson out, more stuff ...

The recap so far:

Paul Soliai was scheduled to board a late afternoon flight to Denver today. He never boarded and instead signed a two-year contract worth $12 million. The deal includes $6 million in guaranteed money. This is a fair deal forSoliai because he has now made $18 million in guaranteed money from the Dolphins in the last couple of years. He also gets another bite of free agency before he's 30 in 2014 so that will be good for him. It's fair for the team because the money by no means is onerous to the point the club cannot do other things in free agency -- INCLUDING SIGNING PEYTON MANNING IF THE QB DECIDES TO COME TO MIAMI.

The Dolphins, who earlier flirted with unrestricted free agent receiver Laurent Robinson and were trying to get him to visit have to keep looking elsewhere. Robinson has agreed to a five-year deal worth approximately $32 million with Jacksonville, the first team that hosted him on a free agent visit. So much for the next best young wide receiver on the market.

On another WR front, Mario Manningham is scheduling visits and not one is including Miami yet. He's visiting San Francisco and Seattle in the next two days.

The Dolphins today announced the visit by Arizona defensive back Richard Marshall. The club, which is only confirming visits from unrestricted free agents but not street free agents or restricted or untendered free agents, confirmed this visit first reported by The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson.

The club today also hosted Jets untendered free agent Jamaal Westerman and Cleveland street free agent Artis Hicks, an offensive lineman. Both visits were first reported by Jackson as well but the club would not confirm them. No contracts are signed or agreed to at this time. Westerman is a very good special teams player with some pass-rush potential. He is 6-3 and 255 pounds. Hicks is a backup type.

The club did not confirm the visit from Eric Winston, the former Houston Texans right tackle and current potential prize of the Miami free agency crop outside of Manning. No contract has been agreed to here.

Did I mention Peyton Manning? He's in Nashville today. It's reportedly crazy there. Media buzzing. Helicopters flying. Planes being tracked. I wonder if ESPN will report he's turned off by the whole thing?

I continue to chug along and report that Manning still has not made a decision and the Dolphins remain in the running. They believe they are in the running. When they are out of the running, I will report that. I'm not going to give you rankings from sources of where teams stand because those have been unreliable in this case.

Matt Flynn? He's flying to Seattle on Thursday. He's following Chad Henne's visit there. They are kicking the tires on him. He is not, contrary to previous reports in other places, in negotiations with the Dolphins or Cleveland Browns. He is trying to get a market going for himself. Right now the market is slim. Makes you wonder why, right?

Marshall trade ultimately means less talent at WR

Whatever you think of Brandon Marshal.l or the trade Tuesday to Chicago, or the current wide receiver market, or what is left of that market, or the amount of wide receiver talent in the draft, there is no denying one thing:

The Dolphins have wide receiver issues now.

And in this case we can define the word issues as problems.

To recap, the Dolphins rid themselves of Marshall pretty much because he got in trouble again and the team is obviously tired of his foolishness. Fine. But in getting rid of the foolishness the Dolphins also unfortunately had to part with their best WR.

And because the timing of the foolishness came just before the start of free agency, the Dolphins either didn't have time to plan or simply didn't plan well enough for replacing Marshall. So now the Dolphins are now diminished with few prospects of getting, um, minished.

(No, minished isn't a word. I mean the Dolphins have little chance of doing the opposite of what getting diminished is. Whatever. Work with me, here!)

Miami's first 2012 free agency move might have helped the team's chemistry and helped in keeping the team off the police blotter. But it also hindered in that it subtracted rather than added talent.

The Dolphins pulled the trigger on Marshall but by that time other No. 1 WRs were already spoken for because Vincent Jackson was already in Tampa talking to the Bucs, Pierre Garcon was already locked into Washington and other WRs were set up with visits elsewhere.

Fact is even Laurent Robinson, who the Dolphins view as an avenue for increasing the club's wide receiver talent, was already booked to Jacksonville. And although Robinson appreciates the attention from Miami and isn't eliminating Miami, he was not about to cancel his earlier Jacksonville plans. The way I understand the dynamic here is Robinson is only coming to visit the Dolphins if something goes wrong in Jacksonville.

Again, the Dolphins couldn't shoehorn themselves ahead of the Jaguars. It was apparently too late. And Robinson, it must be noted, was the Cowboys' third-best wide receiver and a luxury that team might not be able to afford keeping. He has never been a No. 1 WR.

With teams swallowing top flight WRs quickly, all that the market has left is No. 2 caliber talent. Mario Manningham is now on Miami's radar. He was the third best receiver for the Giants. Yet he's about as good as it gets on the remaining free agency market.

Indeed, the point here is Miami's wide receiver options are limited. They got rid of their No. 1 receiver and we should get used to the idea that they aren't getting one back in free agency.

So what does this mean?

First, it cannot help in the chase for Peyton Manning. That's right, the Dolphins are still hopeful of landing Peyton Manning even if signs point to him not coming here. The club is still in the sweepstakes and conducting financial business with an eye on not abdicating its opportunity to sign Manning unless he picks another team.

But it seems to me that when Manning finally sits down and weighs his options and looks at the Dolphins, the Marshall trade cannot possibly be considered a plus by him. He cannot believe that losing the best receiver talent on the team is good.

Oh, and please don't even suggest Manning will think better of the Dolphins because he sees one less troubled soul at wide receiver. To Manning, Marshall was an asset, a target, YAC (yards after catch) and touchdowns waiting to happen.

Unlike other QBs, Manning doesn't worry about prima donnas at WR. He eats prima donna WRs for lunch. Ask Marvin Harrison.

They fall in line.

I can see it now: Manning sits down and looks at Miami's current WR talent and sees Brian Hartline and Davone Bess and Marlon Moore and Roberto Wallace and Clyde Gates. Two of those guys are coming off injuries. One is coming off an unimpressive rookie season. With all due respect to these men, not impressive.

The Marshall trade and Miami's apparent late jump into the WR market also puts draft pressure on the team to add at least one receiver. Suddenly a receiver in the second, or perhaps even first round has to be considered an option where it probably wasn't before the trade.

Things have changed. Everything has changed.

And from a purely talent level ... not for the better.

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Flynn to visit Seattle hoping to increase market value

There's been a lot of information (and misinformation) about Matt Flynn and the market for him as a potential starting quarterback the past two days.

The truth?

He is scheduled to visit the Seattle Seahawks on Friday. It doesn't mean he's going to necessarily sign there. But this is clearly the most attention any team has shown the Green Bay Packers free agent.

I would say the team to show the next most amount of attention is the Dolphins. But even Miami has not offered Flynn a contract with an option for him to sign. That report was false. As I wrote yesterday, the Dolphins touched base with Flynn, sure. But contract offer? Nope.

That would defeat the purpose of getting Peyton Manning.

The Cleveland Browns apparently didn't offer any sort of contract, either, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Again, a report yesterday stated the Browns were trying to sign Flynn. That report was false, I have confirmed.

The Seattle attention of Flynn is understandable and expected. Seattle general manager John Schneider was with Green Bay when Flynn was drafted. Schneider knows and likes Flynn.

One thing: I do not believe Flynn is immediately going to get a huge contract offer from anyone. The truth is the Dolphins are still hoping to land Manning and they won't be in full blown desperation mode unless and until Manning goes elsewhere.

And until at least two teams are bidding for Flynn the full potential of his market won't be reached. His agent knows this. Or should.

The Seahawks are also scheduled to host a visit by Chad Henne. He is visiting tonight and tomorrow.

Brandon Marshall in another nightclub fracas

Something happened at the Chelsea nightclub that has Brandon Marshall again at the heart of a legal problem and perhaps in the sights of the NFL's personal conduct policy.

More details are necessary but if you trust the New York Post account, Marshall apparently punched a woman at 4 a.m. Monday after he was kicked out of the Marquee Club. The report says Marshall was involved in a fight with another football player who were thrown out.

Christin Myles then headed out of the club and allegedly got punched by Marshall who meant to to hit someone else.

Marshall's lawyer, Harvey Steinberg, released a statement that does not specifically address the allegation that Marshall hit anyone.

"On March 12, 2012 Brandon Marshall was the keynote speaker at a charitable event in New York. After the event was over he, his wife and close friends attended a function at a local club. While at the function a fight broke out NOT involving Mr. Marshall or his friends. While attempting to leave to avoid the melee Mrs. Marshall was struck in the face by a thrown bottle. She suffered serious injury.

While attempting to leave and take his wife to the hospital, the mayhem continued outside. Finally Mr. Marshall was able to take his wife to the hospital where she was treated for serious injuries. Mr. MArshall is hoping to assist authorities in regards to this matter."

Some thoughts:

1. Obviously there was a ton of criticism of the Dolphins Tuesday for trading Marshall to the Bears for two third-round picks considering he cost the team two second-round picks only two years ago. If, and I stress if, the Dolphins knew of Marshall's most recent trouble then it wasn't such a terrible trade. If the Dolphins were ignorant about the fight, then it is fair to say they gave Marshall away in desperation.

2. Conversely, if the Bears knew of Marshall's most recent trouble, they made a gamble move for what seems like a relatively fair price for an Alpha wide receiver that is troubled. If they made the move not knowing of the allegations, they must have thought they ripped off the Dolphins.

3. If the Bears did not know, the possibility of whether this trouble could cause the Bears to request a cancellation of the trade must be addressed. Doesn't mean the Bears will definitely want to cancel the trade, but until they say one way or another, it is an issue.

[Update: Bears GM Phil Emery released a statement on Brandon Marshall: "Both the Bears and Dolphins were aware of what occurred over the weekend. We decided to move forward with the trade. We have high expectations for Brandon as a Bear]

The trade stands.

4. That long-ago acquisition of Marshall? The one meant to "get the team over the top?" It failed to do what it was meant to accomplish. The move will go down in Dolphins history as a reach and a gamble and just another example of the team not being able to identify, draft and develop its own players, thus causing them to have to go outside for players with questionable histories (conduct) or situations (health).

 

5. I admit that after being vehemently against the Marshall acquisition in 2010 (check the archives) and even calling for his trade at least twice, I warmed to Marshall late last season. I felt sympathy for his Borderline Personality Disorder struggle. I also wanted to believe his recent commitment to attending church might be positive for him. Well, I was fooled.

6. If he is suspended, whatever team that has his rights -- the Bears if the trade sticks, the Dolphins if he returns -- will have the right to dock $6 million from his $9.3 million salary in 2012. That per the contract he signed with Miami in 2010.

7. This trade was obviously and clearly NOT a move meant as the first shoe dropping on the acquisition of Peyton Manning. Had NOTHING to do with potentially acquiring Manning. Zero. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

8. Yesterday I asked a source why this Marshall trade. "Be patient. You'll see," was the answer. Now we see.

 

March 13, 2012

Dolphins taking two-pronged approach to QB issue

The Dolphins are holding out hope, albeit slim at this point, that they can still land Peyton Manning. But they are not so naive as to do nothing else in case bad news comes.

That is why the club has today reached out to free agent quarterback Matt Flynn to discuss the basic parameters of a contract and seek permission to speak with the player himself. The club had coach Joe Philbin, who has coached Flynn in Green Bay, call his former pupil to express interest in him. The club obviously also talked to Flynn's agent.

And all this while everyone awaits a verdict from Manning.

Earlier today a Dolphins source described this as a "delicate" balance for handling the situation. No lie! The Dolphins don't want to offend Manning by making him believe they've moved on before they're actually told they are out. And they don't want to be so inactive as to lose out on Flynn who is now Plan B behind Manning.

It is obviously helping that Flynn wants to come to Miami. Yes, someone would like to come to Miami. It is also helping that the Flynn camp believes the Dolphins will help set the market for the free agent. And, of course, there's Flynn comfort level with Philbin and his system.

So we are waiting the final result of all this.

If you want me to speculate, I'd say the Dolphins end up with Flynn rather than Manning. Just a guess. Nothing more.

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Free agency has arrived! Bye-bye Brandon Marshall

The Dolphins have traded wide receiver Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears for two third-round selections, according to Jay Glazer of Foxsports.com.

[Update: The Herald has confirmed this move.]

The move clears salary cap room and could signal a precursor to the Dolphins landing Peyton Manning as well as several of his former Indianapolis Colts teammates, including Reggie Wayne. That is my hope.

The more likely scenario?

This move does not show intent to get Manning and is instead a move to protect the next quarterback the Dolphins bring to town -- anyone that is, including a lesser player such as Matt Flynn -- because Marshall has had a history of feuding with his QBs in Miami. This move is a way for the Dolphins to begin what will be a total revamp of the offense under new coach Joe Philbin.

[Update: Club source says this trade is independent of Manning chase. Manning didn't request it or anything such as being speculated. Been in the works since the NFL Combine in Feb. But, I'm told, if Manning comes it would mean other moves would be necessary.]

The trade reunites Marshall with former quarterback Jay Cutler which is great for the Bears. But does this make the Dolphins better?

Only if Manning and another player is coming or the Dolphins are somehow adding a bigtime playmaking wide receiver in free agency or the draftis this a net plus. This much is certain: If the Dolphins are not working on or ready to pull the trigger on a follow-up move, this shows the Marshall move two years ago to have been a bad move.

The Dolphins yielded two second-round picks to Denver for Marshall. They are not getting the same value in return. Yes, Marshall was a Pro Bowl player in 2011, but he was also often a problem in that he feuded with Chad Henne and made no bones of the fact he wanted a franchise quarterback.

Oh, by the way, NFL free agency arrives ... now!

It is 4:01 p.m. on March 13, 2012 and so bracketology schmacketology. The news at this hour?

Say good-bye to nose tackle Paul Soliai. The Dolphins do not expect to re-sign their 2011 Franchise player. Not only have the two sides failed to come to an agreement on a long-term contract the past two years but the Dolphins, apparently intent on making a quarterback splash in free agency and knowing Soliai won't come cheaply, haven't made the nose tackle any contract offers in recent weeks.

There has been no movement on this front whatever. Barring a major MAJOR change, Soliai is gone. So where is he going? Soliai will have suitors. The teams expected to show the most interest in Soliai include Kansas City, Denver, Atlanta, Indianiapolis and perhaps San Francisco.

[Update: The Dolphins have in the last hour reached out to Soliai and are talking. So there's still a chance he stays.]

The Dolphins have another starter on the open market in defensive end Kendall Langford. The sides have been in relatively frequent contact the past week or so. The Dolphins want Langford back. Langford wants to return. But Langford wants the most amount of money possible. The Dolphins want to re-sign Langford at a number that shows they like him very much but don't necessarily love him.

What a shocker: It's a money thing.

On the chase front, the Dolphins are obviously still hoping to land Peyton Manning. But, as I reported earlier today, they will move on to Matt Flynn if the Manning chase fails. A source tells The Herald's Barry Jackson that Flynn will be patient in free agency unless someone throws a huge offer on the table for him immediately.

Yes, Seattle and Cleveland could have interest. But the Flynn camp understands the Dolphins being in the chase would drive up interest and potentially drive up Flynn's price. And since money is the thing, patience will be something Flynn shows.

He's looking to go deep on this contract rather than get a check-down deal.

I am not certain the Dolphins will be major players in free agency -- at least not early on. The club is approximately $11-$12 million under the NFL's $120.6 million salary cap before the Marshall trade. Obviously that is more now, but I have to figure out the ramifications.

Miami's needs include pass-rusher, right tackle, and cornerback. Of all those, the cornerback market seems expecially rich this free agency period. Yes, right tackle Eric Winston and outside linebacker/defensive end Mario Williams are the prizes on the market, but they will be so expensive I cannot see Miami chasing or landing either. (Wrote about it anyway because I'm a dreamer and anything is possible.)

[Update: I have confirmed that Eric Winston will visit with the Dolphins. This doesn't mean he's signing. A lot of teams are interested -- up to a dozen -- and he is not going to sign a bargain contract. But he is scheduled to visit at this time.]

[Update: Eric Winston said on Sirius radio that he will fly to South Florida tonight and visit the Dolphins Wednesday.]

The Dolphins today did some minor contract laundry with their restricted and exclusive rights players. The club tendered RT Lydon Murtha with a second-round tender. The club tendered defensive end Phillip Merling to an original round tender. Both have signed their tenders, costing the Dolphins a total of $3.1 million.

The club did not tender either running back Lex Hilliard or defensive lineman Ryan Baker.