My offseason plan for getting the Miami Dolphins to the playoffs in 2013? I'm glad you asked.
First of all, you have to understand I come at this from a multiple-pronged approach. I don't just think the Dolphins are broken on the field. I think they need mending off the field -- as in with their fans. The truth is going to a Miami home game has no special meaning down here anymore.
Sure, the true believers and lifers do it out of loyalty and love for the sport or team. But I want more than that. I want Dolphins home games to be a must-attend events because the team has swag and plays with moxie and life and, yes, has a chance to do something exciting every week.
So if I were the general manager, I would approach this offseason in which the team can have approximately $46.8 in cap space as the Miami Heat approached the 2010 offseason -- the one in which they signed Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.
It's an all-in offseason, folks.
If I make the playoffs, I get a contract extension. If not, I'm fired.
That kind of offseason, if crafted properly, is going to create buzz about the team and make for a winning roster. That means the team will look improved before it even plays a game, causing fans to buy tickets. And the team will indeed be improved on the field, causing more ticket-buyers when they actually see the product on the field.
And do not scoff at the need for ticket-buyers. This year the Dolphins had their worst home attendance since 1989. There was no significant homefield advantage at Sun Life Stadium. I want that to change. I want that place to shake -- both literally and figuratively.
So the Dolphins need to be audacious to get people to the game and then need to prove their strategy successful to keep them excited and coming back and part of a home field advantage.
Having said that, my offseason plan would be an all-of-the-above approach. I would look at spending big on quality free agents, I would look at re-signing my own quality free agents and letting the mediocre ones walk, I would look at trades, I would approach the draft with the desire to add playmakers not grunts.
That stuff the Dolphins did last year when they have us sitting on the edge of our seats come final roster cutdown time because of the three or four players they're going to add when those players get cut from other teams?
That's a loser's approach.
That approach means you are relying on other teams' trash to be your treasure. That is going into a sewer and hoping to find a blossoming rose.
The Dolphins not only did that, they expected players such as Anthony Armstrong, Jabar Gaffney and others to be significant contributors. Are you kidding me? That's telling me there was no plan in place and you're making it up as you go.
I want my team to be together after the draft. I want them together most of the offseason. I want them to work and sweat together in the offseason conditioning program. I want them to come together as a team during training camp. I want them winning together in the preseason -- and yes, I said winning. To me, the team must win the first quarter in the preseason when my starters are playing their starters. I don't much care about the final outcome of any game except the third when my starters play into the third quarter. But if you're not winning the first quarter of the other games, something is wrong.
Anyway, I don't want to be adding guys a couple of days before the season opener and hoping they somehow fit the program. That means you don't have a clue about team chemistry. That means your plans went awry. That means you're flying by the seat of your pants.
Winning NFL teams are not constructed by the seat of the GM's pants. Poop is constructed by the seat of the GM's pants. Not great teams.
So what is my audacious plan?
Start with the offense. It has to start there because Miami's offense is terrible.
First thing I do is re-sign wide receiver Brian Hartline. The guy finished with 1,083 receiving yards and a 14.6 yard per catch average. The yardage was 16th best in the NFL. The average was 25th best but ahead of Andre Johnson, A.J. Green, Anquan Boldin, Malcom Floyd, and Pierre Garcon.
He had only one TD catch, but I can think of at least four plays in which he was wide open down the field and was either underthrown or overthrown, killing a handful of TDs. So I see value in this guy. And he stays on my team.
I also want to re-sign Randy Starks because Miami's defensive line is a strength that need not be dismantled. I want to re-sign TE Anthony Fasano at a cheap price to be my blocking tight end because he is not a downfield threat in my offense.
I also want to re-sign Jake Long but he would have to take a cheaper, incentive-laden deal that pays him more if he stays healthy. The truth about Long is not only has his play been declining, but he's not finished either of the past two seasons. My Dolphins will be in the playoffs and if a player is likely to be on injured reserve at the end of the season and not available for the postseason, he's worthless to me.
So Long has to undertand that I want committed players and in his case that means, he'll have to agree to a hometown discount. If he wants to get paid the most he can and be something of a mercenary go elsewhere. Here, he was treated like a king as the first overall pick. He earned more money than any offensive lineman for years and years and years. Here, he didn't quite play up to his salary the last two years.
So if he wants to build on the roots he's laid in South Florida and wants to be part of something special and is truly committed to the Dolphins, he's going to have to play for less here.
Remember the Heat analogy? Wade, Bosh and James took less money in Miami than they might have elsewhere. If it's good enough for them, it has to be good enough for a guy like Jake Long.
If, however, Long is all about the money. He walks. I keep Jonathan Martin at left tackle and I draft the best available tackle sometime in the second or third round to play the right side.
By the way, the free agent tackle business is a two-way street. Sebastian Vollmer is slated to be a free agent. So are Ryan Clady, Branden Albert and others. Maybe, if Vollmer is on the market, I sign him, improve my team and put a hole in the New England Patriots offensive line.
What about the other free agents?
Reggie Bush is a good guy in a tough spot. He's likely to go into a free agent class that includes Steven Jackson, Shonn Greene, Rashard Mendenhall and others. And he plays a position that Miami is already strong in (with Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, and Jonas Gray on the roster). So if he wants to come back, it has to be on the cheap.
He's a great leader. He's a great worker. But he's a luxury. And, in the case of Miller, he's something of a progress-stopper.
So I want him on my team. But other teams may want him more. And I'm okay with that.
Sean Smith? Very interesting to me. He was nails when asked to play man-press against big receivers such as Larry Fitzgerald and A.J. Green early in the season. But then he kind of fell off the table in November and wasn't that much better in December.
He struggles with smaller, quicker receivers. He doesn't seem totally comfortable with the Dolphins system.
One publication said the Dolphins are going to put the franchise tag on him. The Dolphins told me that's hogwash. He's solid but not a playmaker. My goal this offseason would be to upgrade at his position and that doesn't mean keeping Smith and paying him nearly 10 times more than he made in 2011 to do it.
I let him walk.
Chris Clemons? Solid but not spectacular. He can stay at a bargain. Jairus Byrd is a free agent and more of a playmaker than Clemons. The Bills are shaking things up so no idea if Byrd is in their plans or if he wants to get away from a team that hasn't made the playoffs in 12 years and is starting over. Just sayin'. Dashon Goldson is also scheduled for free agency but I doubt San Francisco lets him go.
Tony McDaniel? He can stay at the veteran minimum salary with no guaranteed money, otherwise, phfft.
Onto free agency outside the roster:
My goal, again, is improve the offense first and quickly. That means if Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings are available, I sign probably one of them. If all is wonderful and great and amazing and the dollars make sense and I have the opportunity to get both, then I get both.
A four-wide of Jennings, Hartline, Wallace and Davone Bess might be the best four-wide in the NFL.
A three-wide of Jennings, Hartline and Bess or Wallace, Hartline and Bess is pretty darn dangerous, too.
Wallace to me is the priority. The Dolphins need a deep threat. Yes, Wallace bascially only runs 9-routes. But he's the best in the NFL at it.
The reason I add at least one veteran wide receiver (in addition to Hartline) is because I need the offense to be immediately improved. Rookie wide receivers take a while to get it. I need a guy that already has gotten it and is ready to produce the second he hits the field.
GM Armando Salguero passes on Dwayne Bowe. He is not a deep threat. I don't love his target-to-catch ratio (almost 2-to-1) and I'm not sure he's a winner. Plus, the kid wants big, big, big money. No thank you.
I'm looking at cornerback Darius Butler in free agency. He's a former high-round draft pick. He's improving. He is very small. He's very young. He's an excellent person. I like him in nickel situations. He has something he wants to prove. He's from South Florida, so this is the place for him to do it. He also might come sort of cheaply.
Onto the draft:
Yes, yes, yes, the Dolphins should draft the best player available. They have the No. 12 overall selection. And, by the way, I do not trade down in the first round. Miami has enough picks already. I have five picks in the first 90 selections. That's more than enough.
This year is NOT about quantity. This draft has to be about quality.
So no trade down to acquire more picks. It's fools gold when you already have plenty of selections.
Miami's draft needs? It depends on how well I did in free agency. If I got the veteran star WR, then WR probably isn't the direction I'm going at No. 12 unless the quality of that WR is miles ahead of the CB or DE.
I'm going cornerback or defensive end in the first round. Let's face it, the Dolphins need to make more plays on offense and defense. Yes, they need to score more points. But they need to cause more turnovers and make more plays on defense against the opposing passing game.
The defense did a very poor job of giving the offense the football in opponent's territory after a turnover this year. That's one way to get more points, and I'm banking my defensive additions will help in that department.
That's why cornerback and defensive end is so important.
I want CBs that actually, you know, catch interceptions. I'm looking at Alabama's Dee Milliner ornMississippi State's Johnthan Banks (that's how he spells it) as cornerback possibilities.
I'm looking at Texas A&M's Demontre Moore as a pass-rusher, knowing Mike Sherman knows a thing or two about him. I'm looking at FSU's Bjoern Werner as a defensive end. I'm looking at LSU's Barkevious Mingo as a pass-rushing DE. I'm looking at Oregon's Dion Jordan, who at 6-6 and 239 is built like Jason Taylor, as a pass-rushing defensive end.
Look, Jared Odrick was drafted as a 3-4 DE. He's clearly not suited to be a 4-3 DE. He can move inside and the Dolphins can add a DE to compete with Olivier Vernon and probably beat out Vernon as a starting DE. More pressure is necessary from the side opposite Cameron Wake.
Moving Odrick inside might also help get more pressure from the inside.
By the way, New York defensive end Osi Umenyiora will be available in free agency. Pass. He's a 10-year veteran. He's slowing down. He wants to get paid. And the Giants pass rush let the team down significantly this year. Not the answer.
By draft's end, I want to have a couple of corners on my drafted board. I want an early-round wide receiver, assuming I landed a playmaker in free agency. If I sucked in free agency, I better have found a couple of wide receivers in the draft.
I need to find a couple of starting corners. I need a defensive end -- and there are plenty of options. And later on I want to add a tight end because Michael Egnew did zero to make me think he's the answer.
And, of course, I want to fill in later at right tackle (assuming Jake Long is gone and Jonathan Martin is my left tackle) because Nate Garner is a good backup, but I want to upgrade there.
By the way, I said previously that I'm for an all-of-the-above strategy. Well, that includes trades.
It has been reported that Jermichael Finley is on the outs in Green Bay. Apparently, he has maturity problems, his production is down and his work ethic isn't what it can be. So the Packers, according to the report, will either trade or release him this offseason.
Well, Salguero is open to trading for him because Salguero is sick and tired of mediocre tight end play by overachievers and perfers very good tight end play by an underachiever.
This year was a down year for Finley. He caught 61 passes for 667 yards. Fasano and Charles Clay caught 59 passes for 544 yards combined. So Finley has a bad year and he's still more productive than every tight end on the Miami roster because only Clay and Fasano caught passes for Miami.
And he's not worthy of getting? Are you kidding me?
The guy is 25 years old. He was more productive when Joe Philbin was the offensive coordinator -- with eight TDs in 2011. He is valuable in the red zone and he can work the middle of the field.
Give up one of Miami's third rounders for that guy? In a heartbeat.