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54 posts from April 2012

April 24, 2012

Dolphins can now add 10 more players than expected

A different kind of free agency is about to hit the NFL in general and the Dolphins in particular.

The NFL on Monday suddenly expanded rosters for the offseason and preseason to 90 players. Previously, the limit was 80, but the league's Management Council voted to increase it Monday. The first cutdown, in late August, will be to 75, with the final cut after the last of four preseason games bringing rosters to 53.

So what does that mean to the Dolphins?

Well, suddenly players that might not have been signed could be on the radar and could get a chance to compete for a roster spot. That's good news for folks such as Ernie Sims or Omar Gaither, whom the Dolphins announced visited with the team on Monday.

Suddenly, there are extra roster spots for take-a-flyer players such as the two veterans.

The added roster spots might also encourage teams to trade down in the coming draft. Typically, a trade down involves a scenario where a team trades a pick for multiple picks. In other words, one player for two players or more players. The added camp roster spots might encourage this kind of trading by some teams wanting camp bodies later in the draft.

The added spots could also put a premium on getting the best available undrafted free agents. That might mean more money being handed out. That also might mean teams that traditionally do well getting undrafted free agents might have the ability to add more talent.

The Dolphins have been very good with undrafted free agents. Kicker Dan Carpenter, recievers Davone Bess and Roberto Wallace were among Miami's undrafted free agents who made the final rosters.

Only the 51 highest-paid players count toward the salary cap.

The 90 players will include all active, inactive, practice squad, exempt and reserve list players, plus unsigned draft choices and franchise-tagged free agents.

April 23, 2012

Ireland: No pressure to draft Tannehill from Ross

No one knows what the truth is when sources are involved in a report until something actually happens to support one side or another. This morning, for example, I reported the Dolphins are releasing Phillip Merling, citing an unnamed source.

Well, the Dolphins have released Phillip Merling today.

But sometimes it's impossible to know the truth no matter what happens. Such is the case with the respectful back and forth I've apparently walked into with both Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com and respected NFL beat writer Peter King.

Last night, Florio reported Dolphins owner Steve Ross is "pushing" the Dolphins to pick Ryan Tannehill. The report, important if accurate because it would mean a real estate developer is pushing the buttons on Miami's football decisions, prompted me to reach out to several sources.

I got word back from one of them who vehemently denied the report. The source is very, very, very high up in the Dolphins organization.

Anyway, this morning King also reported the same thing Florio reported. I was thus outnumbered on the anonymous source front!

Except that this afternoon, Florio hosted a segment with Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland on his PFT Live broadcast . And Florio asked him about his report verus my report, including my "very, very, very" description of my source.

"I would tell you Steve is very engaged but he's also very supportive of leaving the decision in the draft up to me and coach Philbin, our scouts and football staff," Ireland said. "I said in my opening press conference last week that I don't feel at all any pressure to draft a need position or anything like that. And I would segue this comment in there: I don't feel pressure from the owner. And he's not pressuring me for that matter. I don't know where that's coming from.

"He's allows me to make the football decisions. He's always allowed me to make the football decisions along with my head coach and our staff. So he understands the process. He understands the thought process. he stands by our draft analysis and he knows the kind of preparation that goes into it and he's fully supportive."

Thus I now outflank Florio and King with an actual on-the-record response. Yeah, just having some fun here because this is the truth:

We don't know the truth.

It is possible Florio and King are totally wrong, as my source and Ireland are saying. On the other hand, it is possible my source is trying to use me (bad idea because that would make me very angry and the Dolphins shouldn't want me writing angry because I'm good at it) and thus I would be wrong.

How will we know?

Well, if the Dolphins do not draft Tannehill, Florio and King were wrong. The fact is Ross is the owner and if he truly is "pushing" Ireland to pick Tannehill, I can pretty much assure you that will get done because Ross signs the checks. So if Tannehill isn't the pick, there's no way he was pushing Ireland toward Tannehill in the first place.

And what if Tannehill is the pick? I guess some of you would say that vindicates Florio and King. I say it only means that's the pick and we all figured that was the way it might go the entire time, dating back a month or more since Peyton Manning went to Denver.

Bottom line? We may never know for sure on this one.

Dolphins to release Phillip Merling

The Dolphins are expected to release defensive end Phillip Merling before the draft and perhaps as early as today, a source is telling me this morning.

The story was first reported by Jeff Darlington of NFL.com.

No exact reason for the release was given to me. The move does clear $1.26 million in cap space for Miami. It also sets up the team to possibly take a defensive end in the coming draft. I reported over the weekend that Mississippi State defensive lineman Fletcher Cox is on Miami's radar and could be the Dolphins first-round pick.

Merling can now go down in Dolphins history as a bust. He was a second-round pick in 2008 but because he was the No. 32 overall selection that year, he could have easily been considered as a first rounder.

Regardless of his status, Merling has been a disappointment. He missed most of 2010 after tearing his Achilles' while jogging on his own. He was always in the cross-hairs of coaches who complained he did not practice hard enough often enough. He has been missing the current offseason workouts.

And he didn't exactly produce on game days, either. Fact is Merling's rookie year was probably his most promising. collecting 26 tackles, an interception, a sack and a fumble recovery.

Last season Merling had a total of four tackles which was only one more tackle than the year before when he played only five games and collected three tackles.

Seven tackles in two seasons will get you cut every time.

 

 

April 22, 2012

Source: Ross is not pushing for anyone

Last week, Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland told the media he has pretty much made up his mind which player he wants to take in the first round of Thursday's NFL draft.

Well, if you believe this report in profootballtalk.com citing a league source, Ireland had better hope he picked Ryan Tannehill because otherwise he's going to be under a lot of pressure in the coming days. The report says "the man pushing hardest for Tannehill is owner Stephen Ross."

I have just had an e-mail exhcange with a very, very, very highly placed source within the Dolphins organization. In very colorful language the source tells me the profootballtalk.com report is not true.

I suppose it is now up to you to figure out what to believe.

The pft report suggests the reason Ross wants Tannehill is because "Ross needs to find a way for his team to stand out as it otherwise fades into the South Florida sports landscape.  Tannehill will make a difference in 2012.  If he fails, they’ll be no worse off in 2013 and beyond than they otherwise would have been."

Let me say this:

I can totally see Ross giving his opinion on players. He has done it in the past. My source, meanwhile, tells me Ross has not had any conversation with Jeff Ireland telling him which player to pick and that conversation will not happen, either.

Secondly, it's simply wrong to suggest the Dolphins drafting Tannehill will improve ticket sales in 2012. It will definitely not do so during the current period. It probably won't do so in training camp, either because everyone, including fans, know Tannehill is probably not going to start for Miami in 2012 even if he gets drafted -- at least not coming out of the gate. The kid is simply too raw to beat out veterans Matt Moore or David Garrard. So there's that.

Finally, pft says there's no guarantee that if Ross is pressing for Tannehill he'll get his way. Really? If Ross says draft Armando Salguero in the first round, Ireland will do that and try to make the case I have an under-rated arm. Trust me, whatever the owner wants, he gets.

In this instance, however, my source tells me the owner isn't telling the football people what he wants.

By the way, I may have not used enough verys earlier. Just saying.

Cox, Gilmore possibilities if Tannehill is not the pick

Jeff Ireland says he already knows which player he would pick Thursday evening with the Dolphins top draft pick. He is not, however, telling us the name of that player.

Most experts believe Ryan Tannehill is that player. I agree that is likely the choice.

But my column today gives you the name of one player the Dolphins are considering and could be the pick if Tannehill isn't the guy. That guy is Mississippi State defensive lineman Fletcher Cox.

Cox is a monster. He is a defensive tackle. He is a five-technique defensive end with pass-rush ability. And in nickel and dime situations he can be both an end or the interior rusher. I remind you pass-pressure is something the Dolphins must address.

The column tells you why Cox is a better pick than Quinton Coples. And as for those of you suggesting Dontari Poe, forget about it. Poe is a great workout guy, but didn't play near the competition and didn't produce all that much, either.

I also give you the name of a second-round possibility for Miami in the column. Think right tackle.

One name I wanted to add but didn't have the room as a first-round pick possibility is Stephon Gilmore, the cornerback from South Carolina. Gilmore has steadily risen up draft boards and is now considered a legitimate top 10 pick.

April 20, 2012

Jeff Ireland in his words: All of them

By now you know Jeff Ireland talked to the media for 30 minutes Thursday. You've gotten bits and pieces of it from different venues.

Here's the whole enchilada:

Opening Statement - “Just a few opening remarks. I got a staff upstairs that is outstanding. I just wanted to thank them. It’s a job to them but they’re tireless workers. Between my scouts, Brian Gaine, Chase Leshin, Chris Grier in particular the last three months, in particular, these guys have been here a bunch. February meetings for two weeks, the combine for two weeks, on the road constantly during the Pro Days and chasing down players, in particular the last three weeks with two Miami Days. 7am – 9 pm meetings basically every single day the last three weeks. I need to thank Joe (Philbin) and his staff. We’ve had some great sessions. It’s been great to get to know his staff and we challenge each other. We’ve challenged the staff. We challenged the coaches for vision for the players to help us get a vision to help utilize the players we put on the board. I need to thank Steve (Ross) for giving us all the resources that we have to turn over every stone. That’s our policy and philosophy but a lot of guys upstairs I just wanted to thank and just wanted to start that with opening comments. But we just finished up the board. Basically yesterday and we’re ready draft. So just now strategy and more preparation.”

(On how different it’s been developing the board with a new coaching staff) -“Not too much different. My philosophy doesn’t change too much. Having Joe (Philbin), Joe’s been in a couple of draft rooms. He’s been around the Green Bay Packers, my philosophy’s not too much different then maybe Ted’s (Thompson). We grind out the draft. Believe in the draft. Believe in the development of young players. Believe in bringing young players onto the team every single year so you know it’s getting the staff. You know getting to use the same terminology more or less to what out scouts are using so an average comment to them is the same as an average comment to us. And it’s getting us all on the same terminology and making sure the coaches understand the division is what we’re looking for. How do you utilize the player? How does he utilize him on special teams? What kind of nickel role does he have on third down and things like that? Just having a clear vision for the player.”

((On how important the second and third round picks are) -“I think all the picks are extremely important but certainly second, third, fourth round picks, I mean those guys need to be either starters or significant role players. I’m a firm believer that you can find talent in the fifth, sixth and seventh and obviously free agency. So every pick, there’s a lot of thought that goes into each and every one of them. I’m maybe stubborn enough to think I can hit on every single one of them. So, we spent a lot of time this time of the year on fifth, sixth and seventh round and free agency. Those guys are up there right now grinding away at the free agent board as well.”

(On how he’s done on those rounds since he’s been here) -“I’ve got some good guys and some guys are still developing I would say (Charles) Clay and Reshad Jones and Chris Clemmons. Those guys are still here and they’re still developing. I think we drafted a kid last year in the seventh round, Jimmy Wilson, that I think is going to be a pretty good player.”

(On specifically how he’s done in the second and third round) -“Well, I mean time will tell with John Jerry and Koa (Misi). So Pat Turner’s still playing in the league. He’s not on our roster, he’s still playing in the league so we’ve got to do a pretty good job this year. I’m looking more in the future than in the past.”

(On if he keeps the Number 8 pick if that player has to make an impact this season) -“Not necessarily. I mean an impact. You like to be able to say that he’d be an impact player this year. But you also have to have a vision for the player whether or not he’s going to play this year or next year or the year after that. Certainly that would be the expectation of a top 10 pick is to have an impact on this team.”

(On his approach to free agency and how that had to marry with the draft) -“Well with free agency I think, again, it’s a process. You have to look at the free agency board and the dollars that you’re going to have commit to free agency versus what you might be able to get in the draft. Value’s important to me and again the draft is extremely important because I think that’s the best investment in professional sports to be honest with you is the draft. Getting young players that have upside and development, but the free agency I’m trying to build depth. I’m trying to bring depth to the football team, at least this year that’s my philosophy. I think free agency changes, depending on the situation that you’re in from year to year. But this year it was trying to provide some depth at certain positions and not have to feel like you’re pressured into making any need decisions in the draft.”

(On putting the emphasis on depth when developing the draft board) -“Well, it depends. You’re putting your first and second, third round, those are the ones you think that can come in right away and make an impact or start or have a significant role in the nickel. And your fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh are your developmental guys or role players. So you have to have a vision for the player. Not every fourth round is going to have the same exact vision. Some guys are fourth rounder’s maybe nickel players. Some fourth rounder’s may be developmental guys. There’s going to be some guys that you want on your team and you have to put them there because that’s where you think you’re going to have to get them.”

(On his philosophy of free agency and finding starter type guys) -“I would say that yeah, we need to get some starter types in the draft. I would certainly say that you certainly do. Moving forward I don’t know if I understood your question the move forward.”

(On free agency depth putting pressure to find draft starters) -“Well yeah sure. It puts a lot of emphasis on trying to find starters. That’s what we’re trying to do with every draft. You’re trying to find starters and impact players in every draft.”

(On what he’s learned about Ryan Tannehill) -“I spent a lot of time with a lot of players to be honest with you. I wouldn’t put a whole lot of stock into any one particular player. Almost 29, almost 30 guys into the building in the last couple of weeks and spent quite a bit of time on the road. But what I learned specific about Ryan (Tannehill) is he’s a great kid. Great kid. He’s smart. He’s tough. Got a good family background. A lot of good things about Ryan.”

(On his emotions this time of year) -“Excitement to be honest with you. I’m excited. This is my second favorite time of the year. First being the first day of training camp. I love that aspect of it. But I love this time of the year. I thoroughly enjoyed the Miami Day process a couple of days ago watching guys move around in shorts and do football drills with our coaching staff. That was exciting. But just excitement. I do wake up in the middle of night thinking, I have a notepad next to my bed, that I don’t want to forget about it. I’ll write it down or type it into my phone or something, but certainly excitement. Just excited to get this process going and wake up every morning excited about, we do pretty much a position a day. We take the entire day until, we start early and we end late regardless of when that positions over we’re going to stay here and get that position done so I wake up the next morning going, okay we got quarterbacks today or we got linebackers today or we got corners today so there’s certainly excitement there to try to attack that position that day.”

(On balancing best player available versus filling team needs) -“Everybody thinks that you draft like, well this players better than this player is better player. But that’s really not the way you do it. You do it horizontally. You have an expectation horizontally. That’s the way I look at it. I don’t look at vertically. I look at it horizontally. And you put an expectation on the round and when the best players marries to the need position and they’re in the same area then that’s probably when you probably take need over best player but usually they marry together. Usually they marry together and you kind of stack your board to the strength of the position. And you may attack certain positions earlier in the draft because there’s lack of depth in the draft.”

(On how often he feels a franchise should use a first round pick on a quarterback) -“When there’s one available. I mean that’s tough question. That’s kind of a loaded question to be honest with you.”

(On if a matter of course if a healthy franchise should do it (draft a quarterback in the first round) every few years) -“I can’t say for the years in the past or the other teams that are involved with selecting quarterbacks. Certainly I’m not going to get into the quarterback discussion here today from the strategy stand point but I think there are times that you should try to go after one but I certainly don’t feel like you should be pressured into doing that either.”

(On the strength of wide receiver group, especially the first few rounds) -“Well I think it’s a pretty good group. Receivers, you can look at, and we had this discussion in our draft room when we were doing receivers is that they come in all shape and sizes. There’s always an exception to the rule when it comes to receivers. You can find them in the first round. You can find them in free agency. You can find them anywhere and they come sometimes they’re 5’8” and sometimes they’re 6’5”. Sometimes they run 4.6 and sometimes they run 4.3. And there’s more of the receiver positions on your board them any other position just because there’s more of them. And so I think there’s strength if you’re picking in the first round. I’ll have a pretty good stack board at receiver throughout my board. I can tell you that. I think it’s a pretty good position this year to be honest with you.”

(On what other positions are strong this year and what are some positions not too strong) - “Well some guys, again I got this question the other day, some people would say that the strength means that there’s more first round caliber guys. My way of looking at is I got one pick in every round basically. Am I going to have an opportunity to take one if I miss him in the first, second or third. So I look at strength of the draft and basically how my board falls and where I might be able to find key target positions in the draft. So other positions that I think are strong I think it’s a pretty good defensive line. When we’re talking defensive line I’m talking about defensive end, three technique, one technique, five technique. I think it’s a pretty good group of guys. I think the offensive line groups are a fairly good group too. I don’t think center is the most deepest in the draft but I think the guard and tackle positions pretty good too.”

(On if he’s looking for different players due to the change in coaching staff) -“I think at some positions we’re looking for different types of skill sets. I’ve always been big, strong, fast. That’s what I’m looking for and big, strong, fast and intelligent. But now in some cases you’re looking for a little bit different player versus the run or a little different player in a nickel situation or coverage situation. Some guys would be protected by a three technique from the linebackers standpoint so I think there are some cases that we’re looking for different types of players but it’s not complete offensive ‘D’. We’re not looking for completely different types of players on offense and defense.”

(On whether the Dolphins are changing the type of offensive lineman they're looking for based on changing of offensive system) - “Not necessarily. I think Jim (Turner) and Mike (Sherman) and Joe (Philbin) are still looking for big, strong, athletic type for offensive linemen.”

(On how do you measure heart) -“You know, that’s a tough one. You wish you could bottle up some of these guys and sometime you feel it. I always tell player you reach in your pocket for two cents because I’m going to give you my two cents of advice whether you like it or not. I always try to tell them a little bit about we have this thing called the makeup. Basically, I ask my scouts to grade the ability of the player and the make of the player. Pretty simple and I ask them grade their ability in a system. Let’s say 1 through 10, you’re a 9.5. You’re an 8.6. The makeup of the player I’m trying to grade whether he has it or not. It’s passion. It’s heart. It’s toughness. It’s competitiveness. It’s football intelligence. It’s integrity. It’s character. It’s a yes or no answer. Either you have them all or you don’t and some of those you can develop and some you can’t. And that’s the way my scouts answer that question. It’s a yes or no. Does he have all or he doesn’t? If he’s missing one of those, he doesn’t because that’s a margin of failure. And so that doesn’t answer your question, on how you rate heart, but it’s more than just heart. It’s the entire makeup of the person allows a player to be successful.”

(On having a philosophy of trading down in the draft) -“It’s hard. It depends on what you’re going to get in return. Everyone say they use this draft calculator or trade down sheet. I think that’s really ambiguous to be honest. You use it as a starting point. But it depends on the person that’s coming up. The team that’s coming up and what they’re willing to give up and how bad do they want it and how bad you want to keep it. So if you’re trading back you’re certainly looking for value. You’re looking to get more than what you think the pick is worth. Sometimes, it’s future. I traded back in Dallas for future first-round picks and things like that. I think it’s just the matter of the circumstance and it has to be the right circumstance.”

(On considering trading up in the first round this year) -“I think anything is possible. Sure, anything’s possible trading back, trading up.”

(On how important is it to have back-to-back picks in the third round) -“I think it’s extremely valuable. It gives us a little bit more time to make decisions. And it’s an extra pick and having them back-to-back somewhat high in the third round extremely valuable.”

(On what is the atmosphere like in the War Room) -“Anticipation. Again, excitement. Depends on the guy you think is going to be there. Obviously, there could be a scramble. I’ve been in a couple of scrambles before. It’s always interesting. You’re picking high in the draft and so every pick leading up to that is anticipation obviously.”

(On how do you evaluate your draft history in Miami) -“Well, it’s a team effort. Bill (Parcells) and I conducted a couple drafts together. I’ve conducted one here solely by myself with my team upstairs obviously. Certainly, I’m not responsible for all of it. When you look back and you made some good picks. Depends on how you look at it. If you look at the future or past of the draft and you say 50-55% and you say if you can be 50% in the draft over a period of time, you’ve done pretty good. I think where we were when we started to where we are now we’ve done a pretty good job of adding some talent to this football team. Certainly I’m not saying I hit on every single one because I haven’t. There’s no doubt about that. Some I have taken some risk on and hit. And some I have taken some risk on and didn’t work out so good, but that’s just part of the draft.”

(On drafting different types of player compared to what you’re accustom to drafting) -“Well, I think the first couple of years we were here I think trying to build the foundation, which would be offensive line, defensive line was a big hole for this franchise, for this team and so I think that was the main purpose of doing some of the things early was getting the offensive line and defensive line set and then as we matured our team adding skill to the football team was important last year in particular coming out of the 2010 season. I think we needed to add some speed on the football team, some playmakers. We had some really good possession type offensive skill set, but we needed some explosive playmakers. That was glaring to me last year. Certainly, I have some glaring things that hitting me in the face this year, which I won’t get into strategy and tell you what those things are, but I got some things I feel certainly confident about that we can probably approach here in the next week.

(On if his board is set now and he know what he wants to do) –“Yes.”

(On when did you finalize your draft board) -“Last night at 11:47, no (laughing).”

(On have you changed anything since you finalized your draft board) -“The board is set. The board is in its place. I wouldn’t say it’s completely set. Do I know what I want at eight? I have a pretty good feeling at what I want at eight. If the player is not there at eight I have got a pretty good idea of what I want if that player is not there. You have to have a contingency plan and a contingency plan to the contingency plan. So how many times have I changed my mind? Every time I see another good player that’s a consideration at eight, I’m like ‘woo’ that would be a good player to have. I think there’s some really good players in this year’s draft, especially in the top 10. I think some really impact players.”

(On knowing what you’re needs are this year) -“Yeah, absolutely. To me, I think they’re pretty glaring to me and so I haven’t really changed too much what I’m looking for in this year’s draft. I think you go into every draft looking for core position players. You’re looking for guys that can make an impact and certain guys that can block premier pass rushers and guys that can make big plays down the field. Create big plays on defense. You’re looking for those types of guys.”

(On a player not flourishing on college level, but flourishing in the professional level) -“Depends on what me and my staff upstairs feel. If we feel that’s the case, then we wouldn’t draft him. But I’m not going to worry about the gurus out there feel about a player. Depends on what we’re talking about. Are we talking about in the third round or the first round? (laughing) Certainly, if I feel like that and my staff feels like that, then he’s probably not a consideration at eight.”

(On whether he considers offensive linemen impact players) -“Do I consider offensive line impact player? Let’s see, it depends if it’s the right guy. Yeah certainly, I would consider him an impact player. A guy could start 16 games every single year and Pro Bowler, I think that’s a pretty impactful player, sure.”

(On how impactful is a player’s stock increase or decrease prior to the draft) -“Tough. To me, that doesn’t change a whole lot. To my staff, that doesn’t change a whole lot. We start the process and it’s a good question because soon as my scouts get on the road in the middle of December without any time 40s or combine workouts. We sit there and watch the tape. We put a football grade on them. Put them on the board and then we’ll do it again in February after the bowl process so we watched these guys as a group, graded them as a group, evaluated them haven’t necessarily gone through the checks and balances of the character and some of that stuff. We’ll put a football grade on them. I would say very few, very few change drastically from December, February to April.”

(On how high can a player rise in the draft after the college season) -“We have a couple of guys like we had a fifth round grade on and jump to a third round. There’s some guys that maybe didn’t have some of the production in 2011 that they did in 2009 and 2010. So best time of the year from February to April gives us an opportunity to really search back and their Sophomore seasons and their Junior seasons to really to really kind of grind in on some of that stuff you’re going through, and the scouts on the road they really not getting the opportunity to sit down and grind the past years and so that’s when guys will start rising when you get the chance to really get deep into their production from years past.”

Ireland: The evaluator evaluates himself

 Jeff Ireland has been the Dolphins general manager since 2008. And next week, as the general manager, he'll put hs evaluaton skills to the test by picking a new set of players for the Dolphins in the annual NFL draft.

But how has the evaluator done? How would the evaluator evaluate himself?

“Well, it’s a team effort," Ireland said during the Dolphins annual pre-draft conference Thursday. "Bill (Parcells) and I conducted a couple drafts together. I’ve conducted one here solely by myself with my team upstairs obviously. Certainly, I’m not responsible for all of it. When you look back and you made some good picks. Depends on how you look at it. If you look at the future or past of the draft and you say 50-55% and you say if you can be 50% in the draft over a period of time, you’ve done pretty good.

"I think where we were when we started to where we are now we’ve done a pretty good job of adding some talent to this football team. Certainly I’m not saying I hit on every single one because I haven’t. There’s no doubt about that. Some I have taken some risk on and hit. And some I have taken some risk on and didn’t work out so good, but that’s just part of the draft.”

One looks at Ireland's first-round picks and they have not been bad. They have been good. He picked starting center Mike Pouncey in 2011 and he picked starting cornerback Vontae Davis in 2009. (Parcells has told me he did the draft in 2008 and 2010 and Ireland did it in 2009 while he was still there.)

The early round picks after No. 1? Probably early to decide.

Pat White was a disaster, although that was a total organizational failure. Sean Smith is a starter. Daniel Thomas is still an unknown quantity. 

“I think all the picks are extremely important but certainly second, third, fourth round picks, I mean those guys need to be either starters or significant role players," Ireland said. "I’m a firm believer that you can find talent in the fifth, sixth and seventh and obviously free agency. So every pick, there’s a lot of thought that goes into each and every one of them.

"I’m maybe stubborn enough to think I can hit on every single one of them. So, we spent a lot of time this time of the year on fifth, sixth and seventh round and free agency. Those guys are up there right now grinding away at the free agent board as well.”

Ireland believes he can hit on everyone. That is a good attitude because you don't want a loser who is expecting a disaster after the second or third round. But ... maybe that's not something you actually want to say publicly. Sets one up for critique.

“I’ve got some good guys and some guys are still developing I would say (Charles) Clay and Reshad Jones and Chris Clemmons," Ireland. "Those guys are still here and they’re still developing. I think we drafted a kid last year in the seventh round, Jimmy Wilson, that I think is going to be a pretty good player.

"Time will tell with John Jerry and Koa (Misi). So Pat Turner’s still playing in the league. He’s not on our roster, he’s still playing in the league so we’ve got to do a pretty good job this year. I’m looking more in the future than in the past.”

OK, so how do you evaluate the evaluator?

[RADIO NOTE: Ireland will be on my radio show, Armando and Perkins, at 7:30 this morning. You can listen in South Florida at 640-AM on your dial. Or you can watch the show by clicking here. If you miss the early-morning interview, we'll replay the interview at 9 a.m.]

April 19, 2012

Wake has rejoined Dolphins workout program

Consider the Dolphins and Cameron Wake to be on friendlier terms this week.

Last week the linebacker sat out the week of voluntary offseason conditioning to make the point he's none too thrilled with the idea he has not gotten a contract extension as he heads into the final year of his deal in 2012.

After some dialogue between the team and Wake's agents and Wake and Joe Philbin, that has changed this week as general manager Jeff Ireland told me today Wake is back working with the club in the conditioning program.

The mini holdout is over!

"Cameron felt like he had to go in to speak with Joe Philbin face to face, man to man, out of respect to him as a new coach," said agent Paul Sheehy, who represents Wake. "They spoke, and Cameron decided to work with his teammates during this voluntary period, while I work on the business side of things with the Dolphins."

The sides will continue to discuss an extension. Nothing is imminent on a deal front. Both sides want to get it done. Both sides obviously have a difference what the final numbers should be.

But it seems like good news that this is going forward out of the shadow of hard feelings.

Anyway, didn't we all know that Wake, a workout warrior, couldn't keep from doing everything he can to be ready for the 2012 season?

It will be interesting to monitor how things go during minicamp and then again for the start of training camp if the sides haven't agreed on a deal. We'll see.

Jeff Ireland on impact of offensive linemen

Remember when pundits were saying Reilly Reiff was Miami's likely pick at No. 8? Yeah, ain't happening.

But that doesn't mean the offensive line will be dismissed when the Dolphins dive into the draft next week. The Dolphins need help at right guard and right tackle. And they expect to get it.

But in the first round? God, I hope not.

As I've stated, the first round -- particularly the top part of the round -- should be set aside for impact players. I define impact players as those who make game-defining plays. They score touchdowns. They sack quarterbacks and end drives. They throw touchdowns. They come up with interceptions.

Offensive linemen do none of these.

And yet Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland considers offensive linemen impact players. I know because today I asked Ireland if he believes offensive linemen can be in that group of impact players with the receivers and quarterbacks and alike.

“It depends on if it’s the right guy, yeah, I consider him an impact player," Ireland said. "If a guy can start 16 games every single year and be a Pro Bowler, I think that’s a pretty impactful player.”

I respectfully disagree. An offensive lineman may be a foundational player. He might be a franchise cornerstone. But impactful?

Nope.

Quick, name the left tackle for the New York Giants. Or the New Orleans Saints.

No offensive lineman can lead his team to a playoff win. No offensive lineman makes a difference in a game unless he’s completely inept and is giving up sack after sack after sack.

Richmond Webb was as good as there was at left tackle and he shut down Bruce Smith year after year. And yet it was the Bills always advancing to the Super Bowl and typically doing it at Miami's expense.

With Miami's new-look offense, it has been speculated the Dolphins will be searching for a different kind of offensive lineman this year -- a smaller, quicker lineman. Ireland said that is not true.

"I think [offensive line coach] Jim [Turner] and [offensive coordinator] Mike [Sherman] and [coach] Joe [Philbin] are still looking for big, strong, athletic types for offensive linemen," Ireland said.

General Manager Jeff Ireland talks Dolphins draft

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland had his pre-draft press conference today. Some highlights:

The Dolphins have been meeting 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day for the last three weeks, Ireland said. As a result, the Dolphins draft board is complete.

"We're ready to draft," Ireland said.

Ireland said he used the free agency period this year to "build depth."

"This year that's my philosophy," he said. "free agency changes depending on the situation you're in year to year but this year it was to provide depth."

Obviously this means the Dolphins have to find starters in the draft. Starters. Not role players. Not busts.

Starters!

"I think all the picks are extremely important but second, third and fourth-round picks, those guys need to be starters or significant role players," Ireland said. "I'm maybe stubborn enough to think I can hit on every single one of them."

Of course, he cannot. No one can or has. In truth Ireland says if he hits 55 percent of the time, he's thinking he's successful. 

"I think where we were when we started to where we are now, we've done a pretty good job of adding some talent to this football team," Ireland said. "Certainly not hit on every single one, because I haven't. No doubt about that. Some I've taken some risks on and hit and some I've taken some risks on and it didn't work out so good."

 Ireland said he believes wide receiver is a strong position this year. “I think it’s a pretty good group," he said.

He said there are plenty of guards and tackles in the draft.

As the Dolphins will be running a different offense (West Coast) and defense (hybrid) this year, it stands to reason the club is looking for different type of players this year at different positions.

"I've always been big, strong fast, that's what I'm looking for," Ireland said. "In some cases you're now looking at a different player versus the run or a different player in a nickel situation or coverage situation. There are some cases we're looking for diferent types of players."

Ireland, however, said offensive line is not necessarily one of thos positions. "Mike and Joe are still looking for big, strong, athletic-type offensive linemen," he said.

Not surprisingly, Ireland would rule nothing out -- not trading up, down, sideways, across the street or up in the sky. Means nothing but I am required to share that with you. "Anything's possible," he said.

 

April 18, 2012

Reason Pats strength of schedule is easier than Miami's

When the schedule came out yesterday and even the day before when I posted the so-called strength of schedule chart, many of you wondered angrily how it is the NFL can possibly allow the New England Patriots to have the easiest schedule in the NFL.

I posed the question on my radio show -- Armando and Perkins on 640-AM in South Florida and streaming live right here every day 6-10 a.m -- to see if I could get an answer to your question.

Well, it didn't take my co-host Chris Perkins very long to have an answer.

"Look inward," he said.

What he meant is the Patriots get an easier schedule basically because they get to play the Dolphins twice a year. And the Dolphins are not a very good team.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, play a harder schedule despite finishing lower in the standings because they have to play the Patriots twice a year. And the Patriots are a very good team.

Simple as that.

Based on 2011 opponents' records, the Patriots will face teams that compiled a 116-140 record. Based on the same criteria, the Dolphins will face teams that compiled a 127-129 record in 2011.

That's an 11-game difference.

But the truth is in two of those games the Patriots line up against the 6-10 Dolphins. While in two of those games the Dolphins line up against the 13-3 Patriots.

So in those two games alone the Patriots are facing a team that adds 12 wins and 20 losses to their combined strength of schedule figure. The Dolphins in those two games face a team that adds 26 wins and only six losses to their strength of schedule figure.

So the Pats are plus-20 on Miami's strength of schedule. And the Dolphins are a minus-8 to New England's. The difference is HUGE -- a 28-game difference. That more than accounts for the 11-game gap between Miami's total opponents' records of 127-129 and New England's total opponents'' records of 226-140.

Confusing?

Think of it this way: The Patriots have an easier schedule because they play a poor Miami team. And the Dolphins have a harder schedule because they play the AFC Champion. And the teams play twice.

Simple.

Peter King's Top 10 at Sports Illustrated

Everyone has a mock draft. Kiper, McShay, Mayock, Brooks, Casserley, Florio.

Everybody.

The latest comes from Sports Illustrated's Peter King. This is his top 10 with a twist in that he gives you what player he believes the team will pick and what player he believes the team should pick. Obviously, King is convinced about what the Dolphins will and should do:

Team............................ Will Pick................ Should Pick

Indianapolis Colts............. Andrew Luck.......... Andrew Luck

Washington Redskins..........Robert Griffin III...... Robert Griffin III

Minnesota Vikings............. Matt Kalil.............. Morris Claiborne

Cleveland Browns............. Trent Richardson..... Justin Blackmon

Tampa Bay Buccaneers....... Morris Claiborne...... Morris Claiborne

St. Louis Rams................. Justin Blackmon...... Justin Blackmon

Jacksonville Jaguars.......... Stephon Gilmore......David DeCastro

Miami Dolphins................. Ryan Tannehill........Ryan Tannehill

Carolina Panthers.............. Fletcher Cox..........Fletcher Cox

Buffalo Bills...................... Michael Floyd........Mark Barron

Naanee looking for best year of career

Legedu Naanee has been a role player during his NFL career. He's looking for a breakout with the Dolphins.

How do I know?

He says as much below:

(On how his initial meetings were with Coach Philbin and what was the determining factor in signing with the Dolphins) - “First of all, they went great just walking around the facility. Seeing first of all, the history on the walls and from being a kid watching the Dolphins and then meeting with Coach (Joe) Philbin who had so much success in Green Bay and the enthusiasm and vision that they had there and kind of bring that same kind of program here. It was a no brainer to come.”

(On if he knew anyone on the team before signing and what did they say about the Dolphins) - “The only player I knew and played with was Kevin Burnett. We played together in San Diego. I haven’t talked to anybody on the team or anybody about the Dolphins before my visit. I just kind of came and let that be my first impression.”

(On how is your foot injury) - “The foot injury is healed. The biggest part is getting back to running and practicing every day, so as far as the recovery part I mean that will come with time and playing football, conditioning, and all that stuff so today was a great day my first day working out as a Dolphin. And I ready to build on that.”

(On what are your expectations) - “I’m ready to come in and have my best year. Seems like each year I’ve kind of built on what I’ve done before and in the last couple years I have had a kind of injury that kind of slowed down that production for me. This year, looking forward to staying healthy all 16 games and putting my best football on the field.”

(On what has held you back besides the injuries) - “I think that’s exactly it, the injury thing. Being in there for four games like 2010. I was in there for a few games and had injuries that set you back. You get back and get into the loop of everything. I think it’s important to be healthy 16 straight games and this year especially being able to join early with the offseason programs and getting that relationship with the quarterback. Stuff like that is huge. I’m excited about it.”

(On how do you see yourself in the offense) - “Well, I’m not exactly sure how I’ll fit in it. Today, was the first day of install, the first time being expose to the offensive team. The X’s and O’s of what they’re trying to get done so from the stand point right now I’m just trying to get down, learn it, and then play football. Stay in the role that they have for me initially and just grow within the offense. This is the first time I’ve played in this offense and right now I’m focusing on the details getting the X’s and O’s down.”

(On have you played in a West Coast offense before) - “No.”

(On what are the differences with the West Coast offense) - “Just from today, Day One, a lot of it was just terminology. Concepts are similar, but as far as the way that plays are called, the way every is going to be done. It’s different than how I’ve it done previously so that’s one thing I’m going through right now.”

April 17, 2012

Dolphins 2011 regular-season schedule is here

The Dolphins 2012 schedule is here. Actually, it is right below here:

9/9 at Houston 1 PM

9/16 OAKLAND 4:15 PM

9/23 N.Y. JETS 1 PM

9/30 at Arizona 4:05

10/7 at Cincinnati 1 PM

10/14 ST. LOUIS 1 PM

10/21 BYE

10/28 at N.Y. Jets 1 PM

11/4 at Indianapolis 1 PM

11/11 TENNESSEE 1 PM

11/15 at Buffalo 8:20 PM (Thurs.)

11/25 SEATTLE 1 PM

12/2 NEW ENGLAND 1 PM

12/9 at San Francisco 4:05 PM

12/16 JACKSONVILLE 1 PM

12/23 BUFFALO 1 PM

12/30 at New England 1 PM

Proof Dolphins are working these days

The Dolphins are in the middle of their offseason program and I know this because the pictures don't lie.

Below are Reggie Bush, a workout machine, on the bench; quarterback Matt Moore, who will be competing for a starting job, doing some heavy lifting; and cornerback Sean Smith is showing off his new look hair cut.

(All photos courtesy the Miami Dolphins)

Reggie bush weights

Mattmooreweights

Seansmithworks

Dolphins, Naanee agree on one-year deal

No, he's not a game-changer. No, he's not expected to replace Brandon Marshall.

But the Dolphins expect veteran experience and solid play out of Legedu Naanee after he signed a one-year deal with the club this morning. Naanee will compete for a roster spot.

So does this end Miami's need for wide receiver help in the draft? Probably not. But instead of drafting multiple receivers the Dolphins might now be in a position to not need to double down on the position as they previously have done at other positions such as cornerback.

To make that point, the Dolphins recently continued working out draft eligible receivers. The latest of these is University of Miami receiver Travis Benjamin, who worked out for the team.

Benjamin finished his career at UM with 2,146 receiving yards, one of only six players in school history to to eclipse 2,000 yards. He caught 41 passes for 609 yards in 2011. Benjamin also was an outstanding punt returner for Miami, avering 11 yards per return and served as the kick returner as well.

April 16, 2012

Dolphins host visit for Legedu Naanee

The Dolphins continue scouting out acorns and today that meant hosting a visit for free agent wide receiver Legedu Naanee, who has played for two teams the past two seasons.

Naanee, 28, is a typical former San Diego Chargers wideout. He's 6-2 and 220 pounds. And he's probably a better player when Phillip Rivers is throwing him the rock than when he's not.

Naanee played 2007-2010 for the Chargers and was primarily a No. 3 receiver and No. 4 option in the pattern. Last season he went to Carolina and posted modest numbers -- catching 44 passes for 467 yards (10.6 average) with one TD.

Naanee is not a cheap Brandon Marshall. He's more like Roberto Wallace with more experience. He played collegiately at Boise State.

The Dolphins are looking to create more competition at wide receiver but finding their best receiver will be a process as no one on the roster is a game-changer. That player may have to come in the draft.

NFL schedule coming, Dolphins have 18th toughest

The NFL is expected to release its 2012 regular-seasons schedule this week, likely as early as Tuesday.

There are no secrets here as far as what opponents will be on the grid, just what order the games will come and what teams will get prime time dates on Monday nights, Sunday nights, Thursday nights and Holidays.

I wouldn't bet the Dolphins get too many prime time games simply because the NFL doesn't consider them a sexy team right now. I would say the Dolphins might get one prime time outing but we'll see this week.

The opponents?

The Dolphins will play the Bills, New England and Jets in a home-and-home series as they always do with their AFC East rivals.

At home, Miami will also play Jacksonville, Tennessee, Oakland, St. Louis and Seattle.

On the road the Dolphins will play Houston, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Arizona, and San Francisco.

The Texans, Bengals, and 49ers made the playoffs last year so, combined with two games versus New England, the Dolphins are scheduled to play five games against teams that made the playoffs in 2011.

Despite the relative lack of playoff caliber opponents, the Dolphins do seem to have a cakewalk if one believes the teams' records. Miami has the 18th toughest scheduled depending on 2011 won-loss records.

One thing that must be pointed out: Look at the home schedule. Yikes! No wonder the club is having trouble selling tickets (aside from their own problems). Seattle is about as far from Miami as one NFL team can get from another. The Jaguars and Titans excite absolutely no one. Oakland does have some following but the Raiders are hardly a marquee team anymore. And the Jeff Fisher revenge bowl simply does not stoke too many flames that I can muster.

The W-L records for opponents for every team is below. The astericks denotes 2011 playoff teams.

By the way, let me warn you before you scan the chart. The easiest schedule belongs to New England. The Patriots were in the Super Bowl last year. Crazy, right?

Rank Team Combined W-L Record Winning Pct.
1 N.Y. Giants* 140-116 .547
2 Denver* 139-117 .543
3 Cleveland 135-121 .527
4 St. Louis 134-122 .523
4 Baltimore* 134-122 .523
6 San Diego 133-123 .520
7 Philadelphia 132-124 .516
8 Minnesota 131-125 .512
8 Arizona 131-125 .512
10 Carolina 130-126 .508
11 Seattle 129-127 .504
11 Dallas 129-127 .504
11 New Orleans* 129-127 .504
14 Jacksonville 128-128 .500
14 Cincinnati* 128-128 .500
14 Pittsburgh* 128-128 .500
14 Indianapolis 128-128 .500
18 Oakland 127-129 .496
18 Miami 127-129 .496
20 N.Y. Jets 126-130 .492
20 Kansas City 126-130 .492
20 Chicago 126-130 .492
20 Detroit* 126-130 .492
24 Washington 125-131 .488
24 Atlanta* 125-131 .488
24 San Francisco* 125-131 .488
27 Tampa Bay 124-132 .484
28 Tennessee 123-133 .480
29 Houston* 121-135 .473
29 Buffalo 121-135 .473
31 Green Bay* 120-136 .469
32 New England* 116-140 .453

Another week for Wake to skip begins today

Workouts continue today across the NFL and several prominent players will be nowhere in sight when their clubs begin or continue the organized team workouts. Drew Brees will be absent in New Orleans. Matt Forte won't be showing up in Chicago. Wes Welker won't be working in New England.

And in Miami ... Cameron Wake has a decision to make.

He missed last week's start to the offseason conditioning program as a mild statement protesting the fact he has not gotten an expected contract extension beyond the deal that expires after the 2012 season. So the club would be pleasantly surprised if Wake shows up today.

But, seriously, who are we kidding here? I believe Cameron Wake will carry his protest to training camp like I believe in unicorns -- which is to say, I don't think it will happen.

Simply, Wake doesn't have the leverage here. And while his agent is leaking statistics about his client's stats beyond sacks, he recognizes he's tilting at windmills (Don Quixote, look it up). Wake is under contract. If he sits out the conditioning program and OTAs he doesn't collect his workout bonus.

If he skips the mandatory minicamp, he's subject to fine. And if he holds out during training camp, the fines will be steeper and the issue will become more contentious.

There is no doubt Wake deserves a new contract -- eventually. But is he wise in making the point by sitting out meaningless workouts? Is the team ultimately more likely to give him a new contract because he's skipping the work? Are the Dolphins more likely to quake at the thought Wake isn't around or are they more likely to be annoyed?

I say the truth is closer to the latter than the former.

By the way, I can understand why this deal isn't done yet. First, Wake is under contract. Second, the Dolphins can hold Wake beyond the coming season with a franchise tag. Third, the club has got to be aware Wake had a very good season in 2010, but came back to Earth in 2011, his sacks going from 14.5 to 8.5 while his forced fumbles going from 3 in 2010 to none last year.

So is Wake closer to the dominant player that we saw in 2010? Or is he more like the player we saw in 2011? And how much better is he going to get now that he's reached 30 years old?

All these questions cloud and affect the Wake contract negotiation. No wonder there's an issue.

April 13, 2012

Gary Guyton agrees to terms with Dolphins

Free agent linebacker Gary Guyton has agreed to term on a one-year contract with the Dolphins, The Herald's Barry Jackson is reporting.

Guyton, 26 , played for the New England Patriots since 2008 after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent. He started 32 games in his four years with the Patriots, with 16 of those coming in 2009 when he had 85 total tackles.

Guyton started six games in 2011. He will be expected to compete for a starting linebacker job but also figures as a backup and special teams contributor if he's unable to earn a starting spot.

Guyton is a 4-3 outside linebacker type. He is 6-4 and 245 pounds. He will compete with Koa Misi for the starting job.

Big deal? No.

He's an acorn. That is the tale of this 2012 free agency period for the Dolphins.