Several times last season I had Dolphins sources complain that the team was not spending enough money and certainly not as much as it could to be more competitive. Following one such column, I had a Dolphins official call me a "(bleep)-stirrer" for giving the sources a forum to complain the Dolphins were being cheap frugal.
I was between and betwixt because the Dolphins didn't offer to open their books to me.
Well, according to figures acquired from NFLPA sources, the folks complaining the club wasn't spending had a good point. According to the NFL Players Association, the Dolphins were one of the bottom five cash spending teams in the NFL. Miami joined the company of Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Cleveland and Chicago as the lowest spending teams.
And what does that mean? It means that while the club was spending effusively to buy up tickets so that fans could see home games on local television, it didn't exactly put too much cash on the table for actual talent that, you know, might want to make the fans go to the stadium to see.
Said another way, the Dolphins were very conservative with their cash in free agency.
Now, this is not meant to point the finger at ownership. I really cannot point the finger for this approach at anyone because I don't know exactly where the decision to be cheap frugal originated. I don't know if it came from owner Stephen Ross as a means of saving money or if general manager Jeff Ireland decided the talent available on the open market wasn't worth the price of Dolphins involvement.
But I do know this: The Dolphins kept their pennies.
And that leads me to this question: What will the team do this offseason?
Obviously, the idea that abounds is that Miami will be a major player in free agency because Peyton Manning is a major move that will not come cheaply, regardless of how many folks keep suggesting he's going to sign a small, cap-friendly, incentive laden deal with little or no guaranteed money. The truth is Manning is going to be the focus of a bidding war between several teams and the healthier he seems, the higher his price will be if he's a free agent. You must remember that Manning's agent is Tom Condon and he doesn't sell off his players cheaply.
So if the Dolphins are going to chase Manning as we expect, they will be spending money. But beyond that, I would urge caution in expecting the Dolphins to be major free agency spenders.
I've been told the Dolphins will approach free agency with a budget and a plan that does not include a "sell the farm" approach. If you expect Miami to get Manning, and add a receiver, and a pass-rusher and a tackle in free agency, you are kidding yourself.
Miami has neither the cap space nor the desire to spend that much cash to solve so many issues in free agency. I would expect a measured approach. Maybe they add Manning. They will try to re-sign a defensive lineman, either Paul Soliai or more likely Kendall Langford, maybe they sign another starter after Manning if the price is a bargain.
But Vincent Jackson? Or Mario Williams? Or anyone that would be considered a free agency treasure?
Not expecting that.
I believe most of Miami's wants and needs beyond Manning will come from the draft.
I think that is probably a fair-minded approach. But if the Dolphins don't do much in free agency beyond a Manning attempt, then that should raise eyebrows. That would suggest the team is being cheap rather than frugal.
Adding Manning is supposed to change things. It's supposed to put the Dolphins in win-now mode because Manning is getting no younger. They need players to put them over the top beyond Manning.
That will present Miami with a bit of a dilemma if they wish to be frugal. Again.