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29 posts from January 2013

January 31, 2013

List of potential UFAs according to NFLPA

The National Football League Players Association annually releases the list of potential unrestricted and restricted free agents coming to market in March. That release comes during the Super Bowl.

Today, the NFLPA released the list. And I have it for you.

Remember this list can change as teams typically try to sign their own players they have targetted prior to the start of free agency. So some players on this list won't hit free agency. But most will.

By the way, many of you have asked for an update on the Brian Hartline negotiations because those talks with the Dolphins wide receiver affect what Miami does both in the draft and free agency at a position of utmost need. I'm told the talks continue. But nothing is imment.

So there's that.

The list by team:

2013 Potential Unrestricted Free Agents by Team

TEAM PLAYER NAME POSITION ACCRUED (includes 2012 season)

AC Adams, Michael CB 5

AC Batiste, D'Anthony OL 6

AC Eason, Nick DE 10

AC Groves, Quentin LB 5

AC Holliday, Vonnie DE 15

AC Hoyer, Brian QB 4

AC Johnson, Rashad S 4

AC Lenon, Paris LB 11

AC McQuistan, Pat OL 7

AC Ohrnberger, Rich OL 4

AC Sanders, James S 8

AC Stephens-Howling, LaRod RB 4

AC Toler, Greg CB 4

AF Baker, Sam OL 5

AF Cox, Mike RB 5

AF Gonzalez, Tony TE 16

AF Grimes, Brent CB 5

AF Hope, Chris S 11

AF McClure, Todd OL 14

AF McCown, Luke QB 9

AF Moore, William S 4

AF Owens, Christopher CB 4

AF Peterson, Mike LB 14

AF Reynolds, Garrett OL 4

AF Sidbury, Lawrence DE 4

AF Svitek, Will OL 7

AF Walker, Vance DT 4

BB Byrd, Jairus S 4

BB Choice, Tashard RB 5

BB Jackson, Tarvaris QB 7

BB Johnson, Spencer DE 9

BB Levitre, Andy OL 4

BB Martin, Ruvell WR 7

BB McIntyre, Corey RB 8

BB McKelvin, Leodis CB 5

BB Merriman, Shawne LB 8

BB Moore, Kyle DE 4

BB Morrison, Kirk LB 8

BB Rinehart, Chad OL 4

BB Scott, Bryan LB 10

BB Thigpen, Tyler QB 6

BR Bajema, Billy TE 8

BR Brown, Ricky LB 7

BR Considine, Sean S 8

BR Cundiff, Billy SF 7

BR Ellerbe, Dannell LB 4

BR Flacco, Joe QB 5

BR Ihedigbo, James S 6

BR Johnson, Chris CB 8

BR Kemoeatu, Ma'ake DT 10

BR Kruger, Paul DE 4

BR McBean, Ryan DE 4

BR McKinnie, Bryant OL 11

BR Reed, Ed S 11

BR Williams, Cary CB 4

CHB Bell, Kahlil RB 4

CHB Bowman, Zack CB 5

CHB Campbell, Jason QB 8

CHB Hayden, Kelvin CB 8

CHB Hayes, Geno LB 5

CHB Idonije, Israel DE 10

CHB Knox, Johnny WR 4

CHB Louis, Lance OL 4

CHB Mare, Olindo P/K 15

CHB McCown, Josh QB 10

CHB Melton, Henry DT 4

CHB Moore, D.J. CB 4

CHB Nolan, Troy S 4

CHB Okoye, Amobi DT 6

CHB Rachal, Chilo OL 5

CHB Roach, Nick LB 6

CHB Scott, Jonathan OL 6

CHB Spencer, Chris OL 8

CHB Urlacher, Brian LB 13

CLB Brown, Sheldon CB 11

CLB Cribbs, Joshua WR 8

CLB Dawson, Phil P/K 14

CLB Fujita, Scott LB 11

CLB Hodges, Reggie P/K 6

CLB Jackson, Brandon RB 6

CLB Johnson, Josh QB 4

CLB Maiava, Kaluka LB 4

CLB Massaquoi, Mohamed WR 4

CLB Parker, Juqua DE 12

CLB Smith, Alex TE 8

CLB Ventrone, Bubba S 5

CLB Watson, Benjamin TE 9

CNB Brown, Josh P/K 9

CNB Clements, Nate CB 12

CNB Crocker, Chris S 10

CNB Geathers, Robert DE 9

CNB Gilberry, Wallace DE 5

CNB Gradkowski, Bruce QB 6

CNB Harris, Clark OL 4

CNB Howard, Thomas LB 7

CNB Huber, Kevin P/K 4

CNB Johnson, Michael DE 4

CNB Jones, Pac-Man CB 6

CNB Lawson, Manny LB 7

CNB Leonard, Brian RB 6

CNB Maualuga, Rey LB 4

CNB Newman, Terence CB 10

CNB Nugent, Mike P/K 8

CNB Peerman, Cedric RB 4

CNB Roland, Dennis OL 5

CNB Scott, Bernard RB 4

CNB Sims, Pat DT 5

CNB Skuta, Dan LB 4

CNB Smith, Andre OL 4

CNB Tate, Brandon WR 4

CP Anderson, Derek QB 8

CP Applewhite, Antwan DE 5

CP Barnidge, Gary TE 5

CP Edwards, Dwan DT 9

CP Hartsock, Ben TE 9

CP Martin, Sherrod S 4

CP Munnerlyn, Captain CB 4

CP Murphy, Louis WR 4

CP Phillips, Jason LB 4

CP Pollak, Mike OL 5

CP Senn, Jordan LB 5

DB Bannan, Justin DT 11

DB Brooking, Keith LB 15

DB Bruton, David S 4

DB Clady, Ryan OL 5

DB Hunter, Jason LB 7

DB Koppen, Dan OL 10

DB Leonhard, Jim S 8

DB Porter, Tracy CB 5

DB Stokley, Brandon WR 13

DB Vickerson, Kevin DT 7

DB Warren, Ty DT 10

DB Willis, Matt WR 4

DC Butler, Victor DE 4

DC Coe, Michael CB 6

DC Coleman, Kenyon DE 11

DC Dockery, Derrick OL 10

DC Frampton, Eric S 6

DC Jenkins, Mike CB 5

DC Jones, Felix RB 5

DC Ladouceur, L.P. OL 8

DC Moorman, Brian P/K 12

DC Ogletree, Kevin WR 4

DC Peprah, Charlie S 7

DC Phillips, John TE 4

DC Poppinga, Brady LB 7

DC Sims, Ernie LB 7

DC Spencer, Anthony LB 6

DL Avril, Cliff DE 5

DL Cherilus, Gosder OL 5

DL Delmas, Louis S 4

DL Durant, Justin LB 6

DL Florence, Drayton CB 10

DL Fluellen, Andre DT 4

DL Gandy, Dylan OL 7

DL Hanson, Jason P/K 21

DL Harris, Nick P/K 12

DL Harrison, Jerome RB 7

DL Heller, Will TE 10

DL Hill, Sammie Lee DT 4

DL Hilliard, Corey OL 4

DL Houston, Chris CB 6

DL Jackson, Lawrence DE 5

DL Lacey, Jacob CB 4

DL Lee, Patrick CB 5

DL Levy, DeAndre LB 4

DL Logan, Stefan WR 4

DL Muhlbach, Don OL 9

DL Osgood, Kassim WR 10

DL Smith, Kevin RB 5

DL Williams, Corey DT 9

GBP Benson, Cedric RB 8

GBP Driver, Donald WR 14

GBP Grant, Ryan RB 6

GBP Jennings, Greg WR 7

GBP Jones, Brad LB 4

GBP Walden, Erik LB 5

HT Ball, Alan S 5

HT Barwin, Connor LB 4

HT Butler, Rashad OL 7

HT Caldwell, Antoine OL 4

HT Casey, James RB 4

HT Cody, Shaun DT 8

HT Demps, Quintin S 4

HT Dobbins, Tim LB 7

HT Forsett, Justin RB 5

HT Fox, Keyaron LB 9

HT Graham, Shayne P/K 11

HT Harris, Ryan OL 5

HT James, Bradie LB 10

HT Jones, Donnie P/K 9

HT McCain, Brice CB 4

HT Nading, Jesse DE 4

HT Quin, Glover S 4

HT Routt, Stanford CB 8

HT Ruud, Barrett LB 8

IC Avery, Donnie WR 5

IC Butler, Darius CB 4

IC Collie, Austin WR 4

IC Fokou, Moise LB 4

IC Freeney, Dwight LB 11

IC Hills, Tony OL 5

IC Johnson, Antonio DT 6

IC Justice, Winston OL 7

IC McAfee, Pat P/K 4

IC Moala, Fili DE 4

IC Moore, Mewelde RB 9

IC Powers, Jerraud CB 4

IC Stanton, Drew QB 6

IC Westerman, Jamaal DE 4

JJ Britton, Eben OL 4

JJ Cox, Derek CB 4

JJ Jennings, Rashad RB 4

JJ Jones, Greg RB 9

JJ Knighton, Terrance DT 4

JJ Mathis, Rashean CB 10

JJ Meester, Brad OL 13

JJ Middleton, William CB 4

JJ Molden, Antwaun CB 4

JJ Palmer, Jordan QB 4

JJ Parmele, Jalen RB 4

JJ Smith, Daryl LB 9

JJ Vallos, Steve OL 5

KCC Albert, Branden OL 5

KCC Bowe, Dwayne WR 6

KCC Colquitt, Dustin P/K 8

KCC Daniels, Travis CB 8

KCC Dorsey, Glenn DE 5

KCC Elam, Abram S 7

KCC Gafford, Thomas OL 5

KCC Hillis, Peyton RB 5

KCC Hochstein, Russ OL 12

KCC Jones, Edgar TE 6

KCC Lilja, Ryan OL 9

KCC O'Connell, Jake TE 4

KCC Pitoitua, Ropati DT 4

KCC Quinn, Brady QB 6

KCC Siler, Brandon LB 6

KCC Smith, Shaun DT 8

KCC Williams, Leon LB 4

MD Bush, Reggie RB 7

MD Clemons, Chris S 4

MD Fasano, Anthony TE 7

MD Garner, Nate OL 5

MD Hartline, Brian WR 4

MD Kaeding, Nate P/K 9

MD Long, Jake OL 5

MD McDaniel, Tony DT 7

MD Moore, Matt QB 6

MD Smith, Sean CB 4

MD Starks, Randy DT 9

MV Aromashodu, Devin WR 5

MV Berger, Joe OL 8

MV Brinkley, Jasper LB 4

MV Felton, Jerome RB 5

MV Henderson, Erin LB 5

MV Loadholt, Phil OL 4

MV Mitchell, Marvin LB 6

MV Sanford, Jamarca S 4

MV Schwartz, Geoff OL 4

MV Simpson, Jerome WR 5

NEP Allen, Will CB 12

NEP Arrington, Kyle CB 4

NEP Barrett, Josh S 5

NEP Brace, Ron DE 4

NEP Branch, Deion WR 11

NEP Chung, Patrick S 4

NEP Cole, Marquice CB 4

NEP Edelman, Julian WR 4

NEP Fiammetta, Tony RB 4

NEP Koutouvides, Niko LB 9

NEP Martin, Derrick S 7

NEP Pryor, Myron DT 4

NEP Richard, Jamey OL 5

NEP Scott, Trevor DE 5

NEP Talib, Aqib CB 5

NEP Thomas, Donald OL 5

NEP Vollmer, Sebastian OL 4

NEP Waters, Brian OL 13

NEP Welker, Wes WR 9

 NEP White, Tracy LB 10

NEP Woodhead, Danny RB 5

NOS Bushrod, Jermon OL 6

NOS Casillas, Jonathan LB 4

NOS Daniel, Chase QB 4

NOS Ellis, Sedrick DT 5

NOS Henderson, Devery WR 9

NOS Humber, Ramon LB 4

NOS Mack, Elbert CB 5

NOS McBride, Turk DE 6

NOS Robinson, William OL 4

NOS Roby, Courtney WR 7

NOS Shanle, Scott LB 10

NYG Barden, Ramses WR 4

NYG Beatty, William OL 4

NYG Beckum, Travis TE 4

NYG Bennett, Marty TE 5

NYG Bernard, Rocky DT 11

NYG Blackburn, Chase LB 7

NYG Boothe, Kevin OL 7

NYG Carr, David QB 11

NYG Hixon, Domenik WR 6

NYG Johnson, Bruce CB 4

NYG Locklear, Sean OL 9

NYG Lumpkin, Kregg RB 4

NYG Phillips, Kenny S 5

NYG Rivers, Keith LB 4

NYG Rogers, Shaun DT 12

NYG Tryon, Justin CB 5

NYG Tynes, Lawrence P/K 9

NYG Umenyiora, Osi DE 10

NYG Witherspoon, Brian CB 4

NYJ Bell, Yeremiah S 9

NYJ Devito, Mike DE 6

NYJ Edwards, Braylon WR 8

NYJ Folk, Nick P/K 6

NYJ Greene, Shonn RB 4

NYJ Hilliard, Lex RB 4

NYJ Keller, Dustin TE 5

NYJ Landry, LaRon S 6

NYJ Moore, Brandon OL 10

NYJ Schilens, Chaz WR 5

NYJ Slauson, Matt OL 4

NYJ Smith, Jason* OL 4

NYJ Thomas, Bryan LB 11

OR Barnes, Khalif OL 8

OR Bryant, Desmond DT 4

OR Carlisle, Cooper OL 13

OR Carter, Andre DE 12

OR Gaither, Omar LB 7

OR Giordano, Matt S 8

OR Goodson, Mike RB 4

OR Hagan, Derek WR 7

OR Hanson, Joselio CB 8

OR Lechler, Shane P/K 13

OR Leinart, Matt QB 7

OR Mitchell, Mike S 4

OR Myers, Brandon TE 4

OR Seymour, Richard DT 12

OR Shaughnessy, Matt DE 4

OR Spencer, Shawntae CB 9

OR Wheeler, Philip LB 5

PE Dorenbos, Jon OL 10

PE Dunlap, King OL 5

PE Jordan, Akeem LB 6

PE Landri, Derek DT 6

PE Rodgers-Cromartie, Dominique CB 5

PE Scott, Jake OL 9

PE Tapp, Darryl DE 7

PS Allen, Will S 9

PS Batch, Charlie QB 15

PS Burress, Plaxico WR 11

PS Foote, Larry LB 11

PS Foster, Ramon OL 4

PS Hampton, Casey DT 12

PS Johnson, Brandon LB 7

PS Johnson, David TE 4

PS King, Justin CB 5

PS Leftwich, Byron QB 10

PS Legursky, Doug OL 4

PS Lewis, Keenan CB 4

PS Mendenhall, Rashard RB 5

PS Mundy, Ryan S 4

PS Pope, Leonard TE 7

PS Starks, Max OL 9

PS Wallace, Mike WR 4

PS Warren, Greg OL 8

SDC Barnes, Antwan LB 6

SDC Battle, Jackie RB 6

SDC Brown, Ronnie RB 8

SDC Carr, Chris CB 8

SDC Cason, Antoine CB 5

SDC Dombrowski, Brandyn OL 4

SDC Franklin, Aubrayo DT 10

SDC Green, Tyronne OL 4

SDC Guyton, Gary LB 4

SDC Hadnot, Rex OL 9

SDC Jammer, Quentin CB 11

SDC Lynch, Corey S 5

SDC Martin, Vaughn DE 4

SDC Novak, Nick P/K 5

SDC Phillips, Shaun LB 9

SDC Rosario, Dante TE 6

SDC Spurlock, Micheal WR 5

SDC Vasquez, Louis OL 4

SDC Wells, Reggie OL 10

SDC Williams, Demorrio LB 9

SF Davis, Leonard OL 12

SF Ginn, Ted WR 6

SF Goldson, Dashon S 6

SF Gooden, Tavares LB 5

SF Grant, Larry LB 4

SF Haggans, Clark LB 13

SF Jacobs, Brandon RB 8

SF Jean-Francois, Ricky DT 4

SF Moss, Randy WR 14

SF Sopoaga, Isaako DT 9

SF Walker, Delanie TE 7

SLR Amendola, Danny WR 4

SLR Clemens, Kellen QB 7

SLR Dahl, Craig S 6

SLR Fletcher, Bradley CB 4

SLR Gibson, Brandon WR 4

SLR Haggan, Mario LB 10

SLR Hayes, William DE 5

SLR Laws, Trevor DE 5

SLR McIntosh, Rocky LB 7

SLR Richardson, Barry OL 5

SLR Smith, Steve WR 6

SLR Turner, Robert OL 5

SLR Williams, Chris OL 5

SS Branch, Alan DT 6

SS Hauschka, Steven P/K 4

SS Hill, Leroy LB 8

SS Jones, Jason DE 5

SS Morrah, Cameron TE 4

SS Omiyale, Frank OL 8

SS Trufant, Marcus CB 10

TBB Barber, Ronde S 16

TBB Bennett, Michael DE 4

TBB Biggers, E.J. CB 4

TBB Clark, Dallas TE 10

TBB Economos, Andrew OL 7

TBB McDonald, Brandon CB 6

TBB Miller, Roy DT 4

TBB Parrish, Roscoe WR 8

TBB Stroughter, Sammie WR 4

TBB Trueblood, Jeremy OL 7

TT Adibi, Xavier LB 5

TT Ball, Dave DE 8

TT Bironas, Rob P/K 8

TT Cook, Jared TE 4

TT Dawson, Keyunta DT 5

TT DeVan, Kyle OL 4

TT Diles, Zac LB 6

TT Douzable, Leger DT 4

TT Harris, Leroy OL 6

TT Johnson, Quinn RB 4

TT Lutui, Deuce OL 7

TT Marks, Sen'Derrick DT 4

TT McRath, Gerald LB 4

TT Mouton, Ryan CB 4

TT Reynaud, Darius RB 4

TT Ringer, Javon RB 4

TT Witherspoon, Will LB 11

TT Wynn, Jarius DE 4

WR Alexander, Lorenzo DT 6

WR Balmer, Kentwan DT 5

WR Black, Jordan OL 8

WR Brown, Jammal OL 8

WR Cooley, Chris TE 9

WR Davis, Fred TE 5

WR Golston, Kedric DE 7

WR Griffin, Cedric CB 7

WR Grossman, Rex QB 10

WR Jackson, Tanard S 5

WR Kehl, Bryan LB 5

WR Lichtensteiger, Kory OL 4

WR Polumbus, Tyler OL 5

WR Rocca, Saverio P/K 6

WR Williams, Madieu S 9

WR Wilson, Chris DE 5

* Could potentially VOID at end of 2012 League Year

Another hero's reputation bites the dust

This has been quite the sour year for those involved in hero worship -- and we're not quite free of January yet.

We recently found out Lance Armstrong cheated. A lot. We found out Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o had a mythical girlfriend and, at the very least, lied about her even after he knew she was fictional. This week, media outlets, themselves not exactly pristine in their reputation, reported Ray Lewis cheated recently by using preformance enhancing drugs derived from deer antlers to help him recover from his triceps injury. (Lewis has denied the allegation). Then there was the link between Alex Rodriguez and a PED lab.

And now a Dan Marino affair and love child comes to light.

You read right.

Marino, the Dolphins legend, former NFL Man of the Year, and someone whose career enjoyed a squeeky clean image, apparently had an affair and fathered a child with a former CBS production assistant in 2005, according to this report in today's New York Post.

Marino has been working on the CBS Sunday afternoon pregame show since 2003 and is scheduled to be on that show this Sunday prior to Super Bowl 47.

The report is more than just an allegation.

Marino, married 28 years to Claire, released a statement to the newspaper admitting to the affair.

"I take full responsibility both personally and financially for my actions now as I did then," he said in the statement. "We mutually agreed to keep our arrangement private to protect all parties involved."

The paper reports Marino paid Donna Savattere "millions" to keep the affair private. She has since married someone else.

Marino has six children, including two adopted girls, with Claire. They are apparently still together. I saw them Sunday at the Dan Marino Foundation event at Sun Life Stadium.

There are ironies here: Chloe was born only a couple of months before Marino was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This story was confirmed by the Post on Wednesday, the day Marino and his wife celebrated their 28th anniversary.

It is unclear if Marino's bosses at CBS are aware he was having a relationship with Savattere. The network does have at several levels guidelines forbidding co-workers from becoming involved, according to a network source.

It is also unclear whether Marino's reputation will suffer once news of this affair spreads.

Tiger Woods, for example, lost sponsorships, his marriage and his sporting career was derailed when allegations of his habitual cheating became public. It is not known if Marino's dalliance is limited to one woman.

Things Marino did well is not deny what is apparently true. He also moved to take care of the kid financially. I assume he also made this known to Claire because one does not simply extract "millions" from the bank without the wife knowing.

The moral of this?

People are flawed. We make mistakes. We fall. All of us.

Hero worship is a bad idea.

January 30, 2013

Does the family side of Ireland change your perspective?

I saw a side of Jeff Ireland over the weekend that I wasn't familiar with. I saw him put his youngest girl Annie on his shoulders like dads put their kids on their shoulders to see parades. I saw his pride in his only boy Riley. I listened to Rachel Ireland, the Dolphins general manager's wife, talk of how they met and how Ireland cared for her when she was in an auto accident soon after they met.

He asked her to marry him three months after they met. As I write in my column today, she was in a wheelchair when he proposed.

My column is not about the relationship Ireland and his wife share, although it does touch on it. That relationship seems strong from the outside. It has to be.

Because my column is about the Ireland twins and the struggles and fight and fallout that caused by the autism that attacked them when they were two years old.

MandoMarinoIreland
I spent time with the Irelands (and Dan Marino as you can see in the photo) during this weekend's Dan Marino Foundation Walkabout for Autism at Sun Life Stadium. Ireland told me he's on the road for the Dolphins 150 to 175 days per year -- scouting, at bowls, at league meetings, at the combine, at player workouts. I've dealt with that side of Jeff Ireland. The General Manager side.

I hadn't dealt too often with the guy I saw over the weekend. The father. The husband. The guy who got a call when he was at the East-West Shrine game from his wife telling him to come home.

Three of the children had Influenza A. Annie had a fever of 105 and it wasn't coming down. Two others were throwing up. The nanny had gone home for the evening and Rachel couldn't get a hold of anyone to watch the other kids.

It was time to head to the hospital so Rachel called Ireland, who was in Tampa for the game. 

"I was taking them all the kids with me so I said by the time I get them all packed up and out the door, you need to be driving across Alligator Alley and come get the other kids so they don’t have to spend the night in the hospital with me," Rachel said. "And he came home.”

What else is a father to do, right?

“That doesn’t happen very often so when she makes that call, it’s a big deal," Ireland told me. "She can balance a lot. We sit there an argue for a second and then I realize it’s serious and I come."

We don't think of football players as people. They are guys on a TV screen that are chiseled and strong and fast. We don't often see their human side behind that helmet.

We don't think of coaches or general managers as people. They're the guys pacing the sideline or making trades from behind a curtain. And all we seem to care is if they get results. We don't much care if their children are sick, or their marriage is strong, or their twins twins have autism.

Or do we.

Look, many of you are very hard on Ireland. Your reasons for that, I assume, have to do with his work in bringing a winner to the Dolphins. But some of the criticism  is personal and cruel.

So now that you've gotten to know the Ireland family better are you as likely or less likely to take shots at the Miami GM?

Remember, professional accountability and criticism is inbounds. But can you agree with me, personal cracks are out of bounds?

January 29, 2013

Fine TEs important 20 years ago and today

At the dawn of NFL free agency, the Dolphins saw Keith Jackson dangling there, available and talented, and decided to be aggressive and chase him as their first unrestricted free agent addition.

Why, people wondered, would the Dolphins want to add a tight end -- especially an expensive one?

The Dolphins had Ferrell Edmunds on the roster and he was solid. And Mark Clayton and Mark Duper were still on the team and both were coming off 1,000-yard seasons in 1991.

So why bunch talent at TE? Why take catches away from twin 1,000-yard receivers? (The last question was also asked by Clayton, but that's another story).

"Adding talent whenever you can ianywhere you can on the roster is something we're going to do," Don Shula said. "If there's someone out there that can help us and fits, we'll try to get them. And adding a tight end helps the passing game, helps the running game, helps the receivers get more one-on-one matchups and helps our quarterback. Those are things we like to do."

And so the Dolphins landed Keith Jackson and four days after arriving in Miami he caught a TD pass against the Bills in a 37-10 whipping of the defending AFC Champions.

Fast forward to today. I'm at the Super Bowl. I covered the AFC Championship game last week.

You know what I see?

Teams with pass-catching, seam-threatening tight ends.

The four conference finalists had good if not great tight end play this season.

The Falcons had Tony Gonzalez, who caught 93 passes for 930 yards and eight touchdowns.

The Patriots had both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, who combined for 106 receptions, over 1,200 yards and a whopping 16 touchdowns.

The Super Bowl teams also have excellent pass-catching tight ends.

Vernon Davis is a tight end that runs like some wide receivers. He runs a 4.4 in the 40 and can get deep. This year was a down season for him as the quarterback change from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick resulted in more passes going to Michael Crabtree.

But Davis still had 41 receptions for 548 yards. He averaged 13.4 yards per catch, which is a wide receiver-type average, and scored five touchdowns.

The Ravens, meanwhile, offer Dennis Pitta, who is really starting to emerge in his third year with the team. This year Pitta caught 61 passes for 669 yads and seven TDs. The Ravens have always recognized the need for outstanding tight end play as they drafted Todd Heap in the first round a decade ago and went to the Super Bowl with Shannon Sharpe.

The point?

Successful teams recognize the need for excellent tight end play and they find a way to add that to the roster. The Dolphins of yesterday tried free agency when it was in its infancy, the Falcons traded for Gonzalez, the Patriots drafted not one, but two outstanding tight ends and Gronkowski came with the 41st overall selection. The Ravens have a history of finding fine tight ends as their general manager Ozzie Newsome was a great tight end.

Today's Dolphins, meanwhile, have been chugging along with mediocre tight end play.

Oh, the club's coaches will speak about Anthony Fasano in glowing terms. He's a fine blocker. He doesn't make mistakes. He's got great hands (sometimes). He's like a coach on the field.

But the thing they can never say is that he's a seam threat that worries the defense and is a matchup nightmare. They don't say that because it is not true.

The Dolphins have used resources to improve their tight end corps. Charles Clay came in the draft in 2011. Michael Egnew came in the draft in 2012.

Neither has really contributed to any significant degree. Indeed, if the Dolphins handle this offseason as it should be handled, both should be very nervous about their job status in 2013.

If the Dolphins do what should be done -- namely address the tight end position with significant resources -- Clay and Egnew should come to camp worried. They should come to camp thinking that their scholarships have been revoked and they'll get cut unless they make plays and do it consistently in training camp and during the preseason.

Last season, neither Clay nor Egnew did anything worthy of making the team in camp. They just basically made the team because they were young and there was simply no one else around. In other words, they made the team on promise rather than production.

And Fasano?

He's not starting because he's great. He's starting because he's the best of a bad lot. He's the best Miami's got but he's typically a C-plus player.

And as I look around, teams with merely C-plus tight ends didn't get deep into the playoffs this year.

January 25, 2013

The cost of doing business ain't cheap

Let's put aside the fanciful talk of adding this guy and re-signing that guy for a moment and consider what all this stuff is going to cost, shall we?

Let me scare you right off the bat:

If the Dolphins want to add an elite wide receiver this offseason in free agency -- assuming one is even available -- it is going to cost around $9-$11 million per season. That's according to former NFL agent and salary cap expert Joel Corry,  who now writes about NFL contracts and the salary cap for the National Football Post.

"The high end UFA WRs will be looking at Vincent Jackson's 5-year, $55,555,555 deal ($26M GTD) as a benchmark," Corry tweeted to me on Thursday.

That is $11 million a year, folks.

Obviously, there are two things at play that must be stipulated.

That price is for a Vincent Jackson-type wide receiver. The player asking for that money must offer that enormous amount of talent. Jackson caught 72 passes for 1,384 yards (a whopping 19.2 yards per catch) and eight TDs in 2012. I'm not certain anyone on the market rises to that level of ability.

Jackson is a deep threat all day long and he also happens to be 6-5 and 230 pounds. (Yeah, amazing).

And the $11 million is the starting asking price. It is not necessarily the final price.

While any elite wide receiver on the market may want $11, I'm sure most will be talked off that skyscrapper ledge to a much lower floor. I'd say, and this is a conservative estimate, the elite wide receiver on the market this year will get around $10 million per season and it'll fall sharply from there. Remember, Wes Welker made $9.55 million under a franchise tag in 2012 and would cost $11.4 million if tagged in 2013 -- which is unlikely.

By the way, the cost of doing business in the wide receiver market won't be cheap for the Dolphins even if they stick with what they got. Pending free agent Brian Hartline, a No. 2 receiver, will be looking for $5-$6 million per year on the open market if he gets there.

Greg Jennings? He'll be hovering in the $8-$9 million annual range.

And the price at other positions won't be much cheaper.

Elite cornerbacks are expecting $10 million per season. Agents will be looking at Brandon Carr's five-year $50 million deal with Dallas and Jason McCourty's 5-year, $43 million deal to stay in Tennesee and see that as the numbers to shoot for.

So Carr is averaging $10 million a year while McCourty is averaging $8.6 million per year.

That's the zip code cornerback Sean Smith expects to inhabit at the start of free agency. And yes, he's likely going to free agency. I don't think the Dolphins will pay that kind of money for Smith. They see him as a good player who still has unmet potential. They do not see him as a game-changer or playmaker.

There are also questions about how Smith will react professionally once he gets paid. Will he cruise? Will he feel entitled? Will the work ethic suffer?

(Kindly post comments on whether you believe Sean Smith is worth $8.6 million per season in the appropriate section below).

That's the cost of doing business, folks.

The Dolphins will be lucky to re-sign Randy Starks for the $6 million a year Paul Soliai got in March of 2012. The Herald's Barry Jackson tells me the sides have opened talks but are not close.

I'll say.

I would imagine Starks will be the highest-paid DT on the team, seeing as he's the only one that's been to a couple of Pro Bowls. But I don't see how the Dolphins can pay him the $8 million per year that Vince Wilfork makes or certainly not the $12 million per year that Haloti Ngata makes.

So that might land him in the $7 million a year slot.

That might well be the cost of doing business.

January 24, 2013

Revis to the Dolphins!!!: Not

Late Wednesday afternoon, the reports about the Jets exploring the possibility of trading cornerback Darrelle Revis started to emerge. And by Wednesday evening my twitter timeline was punctuated by questions about Revis to the Dolphins.

After all, Revis has been the NFL's finest cornerback and will likely return near that perch when he recovers from his ACL knee injury.

After all, the Dolphins need help at cornerback because they traded away Vontae Davis, and Sean Smith is going to be a free agent, and Richard Marshall was a free agency bust in 2012 due to a back injury.

Sooo ....

Revis to the Dolphins, right?

No.

If the Jets are willing to trade Revis to a division rival, they are more than merely dysfunctional. They're crazy. The last time that kind of trade involving the Dolphins happened -- Wes Welker to New England -- the general manager that made the deal got fired within the year.

Teams hate trading within the division because it is frought with dangerous repercussions that nobody wants to absorb.

The Jets, by the way, are dodging the issue today. New GM John Idzik today dodged the issue of whether or not New York really is thinking of trading Revis.

"I think it’s way premature to say anything specific,” Idzik said. “I haven’t even had the chance to sit down and thoroughly vet through our roster with Rex [Ryan] and our personnel staff. So I think it would be presumptuous to say anything."

The Dolphins, meanwhile, could use someone of Revis's talent in the defensive backfield. It would be awesome. But it would be extraordinarily expensive in the form of compensation to the Jets and then compensation to the player.

Revis is out of contract after 2013. The number commonly associated with his looming contract demands is 16 -- as in million per year.

Moving on, folks.

Please follow me on twitter.

January 23, 2013

An honest look at Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley

If you've spent any time on this blog since the season ended you know that when the discussion has turned to free agency two names have dominated the conversation.

Mike Wallace.

Greg Jennings.

I shared with you some pertinent truths and myths about Mike Wallace earlier in the week. (As the post was at the top of the blog only a couple of hours you might want to check it out).

Now I'd like to share some Jennings knowledge from folks who know him more than me. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel recently graded every Packers offensive and defensive player. It is a major undertaking and, no, I'm not going to do it here because I don't think I could be fair to everyone. I have not studied enough tape to tell you exactly how Randy Starks compared to Paul Soliai.

Fair or not, right or wrong, the Journal-Sentinel did it with the Packers.

And what did the paper say about Greg Jennings and the season he had in 2012? Read:

"Will be 30 early next season, has missed 11 of the last 22 games due to injury and in all probability will be allowed to walk in March as an unrestricted free agent. Averaged merely 10.5 yards per catch, including 4.3 after the catch. Early in season as a slot, there were times it seemed he was just looking for a place to fall down. Just how strong his market value will be could hinge on how much stock scouts put on his superb performance at Minnesota in the regular-season finale. Gifted, precise runner still offers vertical stretch. There are just too many other capable players at his position and too many players at other positions that must be paid. Grade: C-plus."

And now we have a problem. I'm not ready to proclaim the paragraph above as the gospel on Jennings. But it says a lot when you consider his age, recent injury history, recent production and compare it to earlier in his career while using two critical factors:

Critical factor No. 1: The man has perhaps the best QB in the business throwing to him and he had a C-plus season and the team is ready to dump him.

Critical factor No. 2: He wants to get paid! A lot. We're talking no less than $7 million per year and likley way north of that.

That, of course, does not change the truth that Jennings is familiar with Dolphins coach Joe Philbin and vice versa. That doesn't change the fact Jennings has family members that want him to play in Miami.

But is he the right investment? Is he the best value for the buck?

Free agency is a crapshoot. We all know that. It misses more often than it hits. And it misses mostly when excellent personnel departments determine that a player isn't worth the money he's asking and let him go to another personnel department that doesn't know the player nearly as well but values him more.

The Packers have an excellent personnel department. They don't make a ton of mistakes. They let Matt Flynn walk as a free agent QB last offseason and while he got a big payday from Seattle, he couldn't beat out a rookie third-round pick name Russell Wilson. Now he's sort of a problem for the Seahawks because backup QBs should not be making $6.5 million per season.

The Dolphins wisely kicked the tires on Flynn and passed. They didn't want to pay that price. Jeff Ireland, who takes a ton of heat here, got that one absolutely right.

It didn't matter that Flynn and Philbin were boys. The Dolphins passed.

That is encouraging to me because it suggests familiarity will not blind the Dolphins with Jennings either. Let's face it, he's a good player. He would upgrade Miami. He's a great citizen.

But the price is the thing, folks. He's probably not worth what he'll be asking, particularly if there is another faster, younger, admittedly more expensive, but better fit on the market. Mike Wallace. 

And if the Dolphins are budgetting only one major expensive unrestricted free agent wide receiver signing, it should not be a player who had a C-plus contract season.

While I have you, let me also draw your attention to the tight end topic. The same Journal-Sentinel reported during the season that the Packers were going to part ways with tight end Jermichael Finley. The paper reported he'd be either traded or cut before a $3 million roster bonus hits this offseason.

Trading for him, something I initially advocated, would be a terrible approach. I was wrong in suggesting that before doing my homework.

My homework tells me getting Finley in trade would cost something like $10 million against the salary cap. No thanks.

If he's available after being cut, that is another story because then the team can work a new deal with him. But trading for that contract should be out.

Anyway, this is what the newspaper said about Finley's 2012 season:

"Dropped five passes and lost one fumble in the first five games, just one drop and no fumbles after that. Preparation for games appeared far more professional down the stretch, wasn't fixated on his numbers and let game come to him. Caught an occasional seam pass but did best work in the flats. Possesses good, not great, speed and fine athleticism. Degree of stiffness hurts him after the catch and on some routes as a split receiver. Played 47.5% of his 769 snaps from a conventional TE position and 5.7% as extra blocker in the backfield. Regressed as a run blocker, allowing 9½ "bad" runs after having just six in first four seasons. Owed a $3 million roster bonus if on roster in March. Grade: C-plus."

Oh goodie, another player who had an average season! Doesn't sound great does it?

Look, I'm not kicking Finley to the curb. He's a good player. He's better than what Miami has. But he's not the best in the business. He's not elite. He's good.

So the operative term needs to be value. We've already established trading for Finley does not offer value given that he'll bring a big cap hit with him. The question is if he's on the market as a free agent after getting cut (assuming the newspaper was correct, you never know) is can he be landed at a value cap amount?

Interesting, isn't it?

Facts, opinion on Long's 'complicated' negotiation

The Dolphins and Jake Long have been talking about a new contract on and off for nearly five months now. And while the talks started out as a straight contract extension and morphed into a lull in talks, the sides now are seriously considering what a break from one another really means and whether that is truly what everyone wants.

For the Dolphins, keeping and losing Long is an impactful decision on various levels.

If the team keeps Long, it feels it must happen at a salary that addresses what Long is today rather than what he was as a rookie when he came to the team as the first overall draft pick of 2008. What he is today is a hard working, solid, experienced player, who also has been diminished by injuries and is no longer elite but is still a good player to have.

"I think Jake can still play in this league for sure," Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said Tuesday.

Ireland said this in response to a question whether Long is elite anymore. If Ireland thinks Long is elite, then the Dolphins are in trouble because the general manager isn't properly grading his own left tackle. (And if you can't grade your own players, how in the world can you evaluate players that you're scouting?)

My sense, however, is Ireland doesn't believe Long is elite. Thankfully. And that is what is making the negotiations difficult.

If Long was elite, the Dolphins would simply shrug shoulders and offer to pay him like he is elite. That would make Long one of the highest-paid left tackles in the business and probably the highest paid as he has been the past five seasons.

But Long is no longer the best LT in the business. He isn't the best LT in his conference. He's isn't the best LT in his division. He's like ... third in his division.

And what that means is if the Dolphins want to pay value for Long they cannot continue to pay the $11.2 million per season Long made in 2012, for example. Nope, that's way overpaying. That's highway robbery, actually, when one considers the top tackles are making around $8 million per season on average.

The Dolphins also have to understand that Long seems headed in the wrong direction devlopmentally. He's going to be 28 in May and should be right in the prime of his career, but instead he played worse last season than the season before. And again, he tore a triceps muscle (significant injury that often haunts) and finished the season on injured reserve. It was the second consecutive season he finished the season on injured reserve with an arm injury. And those injuries are numbered among the multiple injuries he's battled in recent years that have seemingly played a role in his decline.

So the team has to guard against paying a steep price for a player that is declining and showing signs of falling apart.

Balance that against the idea that Long, when healthy, is still solid. He's doesn't suck. He's good. He's not as great as he once was, but he's still good. And letting good players walk is painful, particularly when the team has so many other holes it needs to address.

Letting Long walk creates another hole. Maybe the hole isn't at left tackle where Jonathan Martin proved during the final month of the season he can play. But it definitely creates a void at right tackle, which is the position Martin manned before he moved to the left side.

So those are all issues the Dolphins are weighing.

Long's issues?

He'd love to stay in Miami. He'd love to be an all-timer who spends his entire career with one team. He and his wife love it in South Florida. But ...

He wants to get paid. His agent wants to get paid. Someone out there in free agency is likely to pay him.

And then there's ego.

Long, a stoic team guy publicly, apparently has a sizeable ego.

"He's one of those guys that likes the idea of being the best at what he does and one way he proves to everyone that he is is by being the highest paid at what he does," one Dolphins source told me recently. "Yeah, there's a considerable amount of professional ego there."

And that's where we encounter a problem because the truth of the matter is Long needs to take a pay cut to be a value to the Dolphins. He needs to take a pay cut to come into line with the current market for left tackles. But his ego might hinder him from accepting that cut in Miami. His ego might demand he go out on the market and test how much love he gets because, he's convinced, lots of teams want the best left tackle in football on their roster.

And even if those teams aren't going to pay tons more than the Dolphins, sometimes getting that warm embrace from a new team feels better than getting a warm embrace from the current team that also had misgivings about you in contract talks.

Oh yes, the Dolphins have their misgivings about Long. They made that clear, I'm told by a source, in that an offer they made to Long during the season was considered by the Long camp as something of a low-ball attempt to re-sign him.

So this ongoing negotiation is delictate. It's so delicate, Ireland doesn't even want to admit Long isn't elite anymore -- perhaps for fear that will offend or tip the balance of the talks in some way.

"Well I’m not going to tell you whether I think he is elite because I’m still in a contract negotiation," Ireland said. "We certainly take, and I’ve had a good conversation with Jake when he exited the building, in fact I’ve talked to him a lot because he has been in the training room, but Jake has a decision to make and we have a decision to make.

"It’s a very, very difficult decision and it’s a very complicated negotiation, so we’ll have to see how things go."

OK, so those are the facts. That's the anatomy of the delicate negotiation for your information. Store that.

Now ... you want my opinion? If not, you're done. Go to the comments section and discuss playmakers like we all like to do ad infinatum.

If you want my opinion read on:

***************************************

Jake Long needs to grow up. And the Dolphins need to grow a pair. That's the only way this is going to resolve itself for the good of the team. And that's all I care about -- the good of the team.

Long needs to check into reality. He's made nearly $60 million from the Dolphins the past five seasons and he hasn't exactly delivered $60 million worth of production. Oh, he was well worth it his first two or even three years. But the last two?

Overpaid.

So he needs to understand he is not worth $10 or $11 million a year. That simply is not the market. He's not even worth $8 million a year, frankly. He needs to understand that the team signing him to a four-year deal is risking a ton of money because he's lately shown few signs he might last to the end of that contract.

Tony Boselli -- the player I closely link with Long based on ability and career arc -- started breaking down in his fourth year with the Jacksonville Jaguars. By his seventh season he was effectly done. He played from 1995, when was the NFL's elite left tackle, to 2001. In 2002 the Jacksonville Jaguars, eager to get him off their books, offered him up in the expansion draft to Houston. Boselli retired instead.

I'm not sure Long will be playing four years from now -- not with his recent rate of injuries and decline.

Long has to understand the Dolphins must worry about that. So if he truly wants to stay in Miami and isn't, in fact, about the money, he needs to sign a realistic contract that addresses the concerns he raises.

Otherwise, walk my brother. But don't for one second consider yourself a team guy. You're a lot about money.

The Dolphins?

Yes, they have multiple holes. Yes, letting Long walk creates another hole. But signing a player that is headed toward a bad finish, knowing that he's headed toward that bad finish, is personnel department malpractice.

It's like signing Justin Smiley, who has suffered multiple shoulder injuries, to a big contract and then being surprised when he suffers more shoulder injuries and can't reach the end of his contract. It's like signing Jake Grove, who spent approximately one-third of his Oakland days on the sidelines injured, to a big free agent contract and then being surprised when Grove is injured in Miami and cannot play to the end of his contract.

The Dolphins made those predictable mistakes that were pointed out before those players played one down for Miami. So it wasn't second-guessing. And the Dolphins got bit in the behind by those signings exactly as predicted.

And now they're going to make exactly the same mistake? And worse, they're going to make it with a player they know intimately? And they're going to make it at a higher level because Long would be much more expensive than either Smiley or Grove?

Are they nuts?

Look, sometimes teams have to let good players walk. The Steelers are likely about to let Mike Wallace walk (hey, receivers talk!). The Indianapolis Colts let Pierre Garcon and Peyton Manning walk last year. The Arizona Cardinals let Karlos Dansby walk. The Texans did just fine after allowing Mario Williams to walk.

You know what? It's not the end of the world.

The Dolphins cannot afford -- or they should realize they cannot afford -- to continue paying offensive linemen as if they are game-changers. They are not. They do not score TDs. They do not win games. The Dolphins were mediocre with Long. They were mediocre after Long was injured. The team did not collapse.

Miami's record without Long as the starting LT? 

4-2. 

Yes, the team should try to re-sign Long. But it should be a deal that won't hamstring Miami's ability to add playmakers. It should be a deal that doesn't extend beyond four years for reasons stated above. It should be a deal that takes into account that the NFL's best LTs are making far less rather than more than what Long made last year.

And if they explain it that way to Long, hopefully he relents. And if he doesn't, you lost a player that was mostly thinking about money after making truckloads in his rookie deal. You lost a player that can be replaced.

Move on.

January 22, 2013

Everything Jeff Ireland told the media Tuesday

Yes, Jeff Ireland spoke to the media today.

He used over 4,000 words. Here are all of them:

(On the Senior Bowl being his favorite time of the year and what he’s looking for there) –“Well, you know it is. It really is my favorite time of the year. It’s obviously the offseason. It’s what’s our life blood for personnel people and it’s really the last opportunity where we’re going to see the draft class be in pads and actually playing football. From this point on, it’s Olympics in shorts from that standpoint. It’s really one of your first opportunities to be in a meeting room with the players and get to know them personally a little bit. You’ve heard a lot about them and this opportunity gives us a great perspective of what’s going to be in the draft this year. So it’s an exciting time for us."

(On how he would assess this year’s draft class) – “Well, we’re still assessing it to be honest with you. There’s some names on the junior class that I didn’t expect to see on there. We’re filtering through that, a lot of those things. We do a lot of junior work, but the draft class is what it is. We don’t sit around putting grades on the draft class. We evaluate them one-by-one and we’ll grind through it as efficiently as possible and look at the players that fit our system and fit our needs and fit the makeup that we’re looking for in the locker room.”

(On how much it benefits to have head coach Joe Philbin being there) – “It’s just more time that Joe and I get a chance to spend together. I that’s invaluable to the set the vision forward. Joe and I, we’re splitting a suite… so we’re spending a lot of time together talking about players. We’re watching free agents together and that’s important. The more time we get a chance to be with each other and talk football, the better off we’re going to be as a football team. So it’s great to have him here.”

(On what it feels like going into the draft with nine picks, especially all of the high ones) – “Yeah, it feels really good. You feel like you’re positioned well with draft picks. You have an opportunity to really do some good for the future of the franchise. I’m looking forward to it. We have five picks in the top three rounds and that’s important. It’s going to be a big day for us, big weekend.”

(On if he expects to stay at the 12th pick or if he’s open to moving) – “Yeah, we’re obviously open to anything. Today, you’re obviously you’re going to say you’re open to anything because you’re a couple months away from the draft, but we always go into it looking to move up and your scenarios to move up if the player that you’re looking for is there. And then you’re also looking to move back if you get shutout. I don’t think I’ve ever sat in a position where I’ve had, if you’re at 10 or 12, then I’ve had 12 guys. It’s usually you feel like there’s, if you’re at 12, there’s 10 guys. If you’re at eight, there’s six guys. If you’re 22, there’s 18 guys. You always have to have a plan, a contingency plan to move up, move back and so it’d be good to have picks to be able to do that.”

(On changing his scouting philosophy in comparison to coach Philbin’s scheme) –“In some aspects, it is (different). Certainly, defensively it’s changed. Probably more defensively than offensively, but you have a scouting philosophy that you get into. I’m a big firm believer of prototypical sized players, regardless of what scheme you’re going to play. If you’re going to play a 3-4, I want prototypical players in the front seven. I like big corners. Offensively, schematic-wise, again, I’m going to be prototypical and maybe looking for a little different offensive line type, maybe a little bit more athletic. Again, the draft and scouting philosophy is going to be high character, intelligent, passionate, competitive guys. That mixed with Joe’s schematic standpoint, that has to marry and I think it’s going to marry very well.”

(On if he thinks the team had enough firepower last year and what the team’s primary needs are)– “Obviously, you finish the season 7-9 and no one’s satisfied with that. The object of going into a season is to win the division. I think there’s a gap between the one and two in our division. In terms of fire power, look, we had two guys that were over 60 catches. We’ve got to find guys that are scoring touchdowns and getting the ball in the end zone. We’ve got to find guys that are disrupting the passer on defense, disrupting the receiver getting into the route on defense as well. We’re not looking, going into this draft, that we’re looking at one primary area. We’re looking to upgrade in a lot of different areas.”

(On the team has to have more explosive players to get into the playoffs next season) – “I think this is the year that you’ve got to do something. We’re looking for playmakers on offense. That’s what we need to do and the players have to be available for you to, you can’t make that up. They’ve got to be available to you and they’ve got to be available in free agency and in trade situations and certainly the draft. All of those avenues are going to be available to us from a cap stand point and a draft pick stand point. We’ll take every single opportunity and avenue that we can to procure some better players on the football team.”

(On if it’s better for the team to find a veteran receiver for Ryan Tannehill because of the learning curve with young receivers)– “There’s a method to that madness for sure, but also, he’s a young player and part of our philosophy is going to build the bulk of the roster through the draft. I think 31 other GMs would say the same thing, but that’s going to be our philosophy is the bulk of our team’s going to be built through the draft. I think we have one of the youngest football teams in the National Football League and that’s all certainly by design. With nine draft picks, it’s going to be a young team next year. Again, we’re in a position, a very good position, to utilize some of our cap space to bring some veteran players on our football team and then we’re in a very good position to bring some young players on our team from the draft stand point. That’s got to be a good mix and we plan to mix it.”

(On the production of this past year’s rookie class)– “Yeah, I feel very good about the whole class. You sit back and you’re after the season and you wish you would have gotten some more play time out of this guy and some more reps out of this guy. But for the most part, they all got good reps obviously. I put a lot of onus on practice reps and participation in practice and for the most part we stayed healthy. I’m very optimistic about the draft class. I’m very optimistic about the 2011 draft class, some of those guys that have participated and played well. We’ve got some good young players that are really ascending fast, so I’m very optimistic about our young team.”

(On if he wishes Michael Egnew played more)– “You know, sure. Certainly, I wish he would have been out there more. Players develop in certain stages of a career. Some guys they skyrocket fast and some guys it takes them a little bit more time. We had some really good players at that position. I think (Anthony) Fasano’s a great pro. (Jeron) Mastrud does what he does. He’s very efficient at what he does. (Charles) Clay, you’re trying to get Clay reps too. Never really had an injury. We claimed another guy (Kyle Miller). So we had some flexibility in situations where we couldn’t get Michael active. But absolutely and I think the last part of his season, he was moving around really good. I’ve got a high regard for him. He’s going to have a good season this year. I feel real confident about.”

(On how he feels about the tight ends and if it’s as important to find a playmaker at that position as wide receiver) – “I like the tight end position, but we need playmakers on the football team, regardless of where we get them – at the tight end position, running back position, receiver position. We just need playmakers. That’s kind of the plan and it’s a clear vision of… At least Joe and I have a clear vision of what we need to do for this football team and whether it’s, again, tight end, receiver, slot receiver, outside receiver, running back, tight end. We feel like if we can get some more playmakers at those spots, we’ll be good.”

(On the team’s current free agents and if the franchise tag is possible for any of them) – “It’s one of those avenues that we have there available to us. To negotiate in the media right now, I’m not going to give you my plans and what I plan to do from a franchise stand point, but it’s certainly available to us and we’ll use those avenues to make those decisions moving forward. But to say who I’m bringing back and who we’re not bringing back, I would say this in a blanket statement that all of those guys have contributed to this football team in various of ways. A lot of those guys I’ve drafted, some of them(I) traded for, some we’ve signed off the street or signed as free agents. It’s a great group of character guys in the locker room. I wish you could have them all back, but we’ve got some tough decisions to make here moving forward and they’re not easy and you wish you could have them all back. We’ve got a clear vision of what we want to do (and) a good plan. We’re starting here quickly on trying to get some of those guys back on the team. So we’ll have to see how those things go.”

(On putting together a roster given the team’s lack of success in the last four seasons) – “You don’t look back. You look forward. With a new football coach, you have a very young team, you look back and you’re trying to build. You look at where your youth is and where your veterans are and you look at where your offense is and where your defense is. I think we have a great scheme on all three sides. I just think you just have to take it one step at a time. You have a building block with a couple of different pieces and you’re trying to keep some of the foundational pieces as you’ve had that have helped you have some success. But we’re going to move forward on a day-by-day basis and build this football team from the inside-out and go from there.”

(On Ryan Tannehill’s season and if he compares him to anyone) – “You’ve got to look at how he affects this football team. I try not to compare him to RGIII or Russell Wilson or Andrew (Luck) because we’re in a different place from a football team stand point. I was pleased with his progress. I think, right now, you can say, I think he’s played 35 or 36 games in his career now and I think that’s where those guys start to really make a big jump in their ascension of development. So I’m exciting about his development. He’s got a long way to go. He would be the first person to tell you that, but I think he showed some signs of promise and hope that he’s going to be a very good player in this league.”

(On what the next step is for Tannehill) – “It’s consistency. I think he can certainly… You can look at a lot of different things and say he can take a step better in accuracy, in ball placement, getting the ball out faster, tempo. There’s a lot of things that he can get better at, but he showed signs of moving the football team and getting the team in the end zone. We’re excited about his progress, but again, he’s got a long way to go. He’s got to keep working at it.”

(On the position strengths on this draft) – “Again, I don’t get into grading draft classes. I really don’t. I look at the positions that we’re looking at, where we need to upgrade our football team and we attack that. Scouts take it one player at time and putting the draft board together. The draft board right now has a bunch of names on it. Until you get to April and you really start carving that down to just what we want and what we need and what fits us, I don’t really put a value on draft classes and it’s hard to say that right now because we’ve got probably 250 more names on the board that won’t be there in April.”

(On how much he gets accomplished in pairing down the draft board between this week and the Combine) – “The pairing down comes really in March to be honest with you. We’re just gathering information. We’re still in such a heavy information gathering process and, again, this is really some of the first time you get a chance to talk some of these kids and so sometimes you have a preconceived notion of who they are and what they’re made up (of) until you really get a chance to visit with them and kind of break them down a little bit and see what their football knowledge is and their personality and their character. All of that information’s coming in and we’re not at a carving aspect with that stuff.”

(On how tough it is to evaluate Tyrann Mathieu) – “You’ve just got to gather it all in and, at the end of the day, you’re going to ask yourself, ‘Is he what you want on your football team or is he not what you want on your football team?’ That’s going to be a collective decision between really Joe and I and our staff. You have to keep an open mind. You’re going to gather the information. You’re going to talk to the young man and you’re going to find out there’s two different sides of the story. As you guys know, I don’t know if you know, that the media sometimes might elaborate certain things. So we’re going to sit down with every individual that we feel like has a great football talent and we’re going to try to find out what that kid’s made of.”

(On the depth of the wide receiver position) – “I like some of the… We haven’t seen some of them. There’s going to be some juniors that we haven’t really broken down yet. I’ve seen a lot of the junior receivers that are in the class, but there’s actually a few that I haven’t seen. I think it’s a good class. Again, you guys put a lot of stock into the grade of a position, but I don’t know what that means to be honest with you because sometimes I’m looking for a position that has great depth in the fourth, fifth and sixth round. I’m sure you guys are talking about the first rounder’s and I think there’s certainly some guys that belong in that round and we’ll see if they fit what we’re looking for."

(On the traits that he is looking for in a wide receiver in the West Coast offense) – “Well number one, you are looking for guys that catch it. You laugh, but that’s the number one critical factor of the wide receiver position in my opinion; guys that can catch the ball consistently and have a big range of catching radius. Speed is obviously a big aspect of that and in this business they pay the other guy covering them, so there is going to be some contact opportunities and you want guys that can catch in traffic and catch with contact. I think the fourth aspect, not in any order, would be run after the catch. We’re looking for guys that can make plays.”

(On how far away he thinks that Dolphins are from competing for a conference championship) – “Well you know there is a gap and we’ve got a long way to go. I mean I look at our division and I look at it like I am obsessed with our division. I don’t really look outside of our division right now. You know the New England Patriots had twelve wins and we had seven, so there is a five (win) gap difference between first and second place right now. So we’ve got a long way to go, but we’re going to do everything in our power to improve that football team. To put a timeline on that, I can’t do that right this second.”

(On the criticism that he has been conservative in his tenure as Dolphins GM) – “I don’t look at the criticism. You guys can criticize all you want, but I feel like I have been aggressive where I need to be aggressive. (As far as) conservative, I think there have been some decisions that have been smart, so I don’t really look at it that way to be honest with you. But they pay you guys to make those decisions. I think we’ve done a good job in what we’ve been asked to do and good job in making good decisions, and we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do this year. I think the decisions that we’ve made up to this point to get us where we’re at in terms of our cap space, in terms of our draft picks, that’s all by design. We’ve got a clear vision of how we are going to help this football team moving forward.”

(On whether this team is looking to make the playoffs next year) – “Well you hope so. That’s our goal; win the division, and ultimately put us in the playoffs. That’s our goal every year, that’s going to be our goal going into next season, is win the division. Again, we’ve got a gap to close, but I think a good offseason can certainly do that. Absolutely.”

(On what guys from smaller schools need to do in order to catch the eyes of NFL scouts and be drafted) – “Just belong. The players that have not consistently gone against the Michigan’s, the Alabama’s, the LSU’s, and you get a guy that’s from Missouri Southern, there is a kid out there, is to belong. Compete your butt off and belong in this group. This is the best group of seniors in college football, so when you belong, you start catching the eyes of personnel decision makers. That’s the first thing that you need to do, and then be consistent.”

(On his image among Miami Dolphins fans, and what his one message to them would be) – “Polarizing is a good word. The message is that Joe and I and this organization have a clear vision of how we need to help this football team. We are positioned with an opportunity to help this football team moving forward. This is a big offseason for us, we understand that. We plan to active in every aspect of the avenues that are available to us. We look forward to making some exciting news here before too long.”

(On whether he views the offseason mission as getting Ryan Tannehill help or just brining in offensive players) – “We talked about playmakers, and I think that is important that we have playmakers. You know Ryan is one eleventh of the offense. He is a big piece of it, there is no doubt about it, but we are a team. Ryan is, like I said, one eleventh of the offense, but we’ve got to get some offensive players that can help him. Being the quarterback, and let’s not be naïve to the fact that he is the quarterback, so we’ve got get him help. Maybe it’s offensive line help, but who knows. We’ve got to get some offensive playmakers that can help us score touchdowns, because what we didn’t do a good enough job of this year was score touchdowns.”

(On whether he feels comfortable with Pat Devlin as his backup or whether he would want to draft another quarterback to backup Tannehill) – “You know anything is possible. I think Pat Devlin has done an outstanding job. He is highly, highly intelligent. His development since we have gotten him has skyrocketed. He is great in the locker room, he is great in the room with Ryan and Matt (Moore). So anything is possible for sure. I think Pat is capable of being that. To say that he is ready right now, I’m not going to lend my hand and say whether he is the two or we are going to re-sign Matt or anything like that or draft a guy, but anything is possible. They’ve got decisions to make too.”

(On how having four players going to the Pro Bowl reflects on the season that the team had) – “It’s a team game, and I think that all four of the guys that were able to go would say it is a team game.  I’m glad that the guys are able to go. Certainly Cam (Wake) and Richie (Incognito), John (Denney) and now Randy (Starks) are all really good players. They deserve to be there. We’re proud of them, and I know they are going to represent the Miami Dolphins logo and the fan base with a lot of class and hopefully have a lot of fun too.”

(On how he finds players on defense that can help force turnovers) – “You know it’s the same thing on offense as it is on defense; you need playmakers. You need guys, and on defense a lot of things…it’s a team game like I said. A lot of things like disrupting the passer, create turnovers. Disrupting the timing of the receiver getting into the route creates turnovers. Coaching helps turnovers and taking advantage of opportunities that you have whether catching the ball or jumping on a fumble. I mean, I think we coach it pretty good, and I think there were some times where we were unlucky where the ball was on the ground for what seems like eternity, and we didn’t have the opportunity to jump on it, or we jump on it and it slides out the backside, or whatever reason. But I think it’s the same thing; you’re looking for playmakers. You’re looking for guys that can disrupt the play.”

(On whether this team needs another pass rusher opposite of Cam Wake) – “You never have enough of them. You never have enough of them. Again, disrupting the passer is a key element in your building of a defense. You need guys that disrupt the passer, you need guys that disrupt the timing of the receiver in their route. When you can do those two things, you’re going to play pretty good defense.”

(On whether philosophies have changed in the NFL from having elite tackles to having elite centers and guards) – “I think in some divisions, again I am a big proponent of playing to win the division, and defensive personnel in certain divisions and certain teams have put a heavy emphasis on pressure up the middle. The Justin Smiths of the world who can really pressure up the middle, you’ve got to have some good guards to lock that down and keep the depth of the pocket long. So, certain philosophies would look at that. I know our philosophy is we want to protect the pocket, we want to protect the blind side, and you just need to protect that guy however you can. So when you find a good guard, you should go after that guy, because it’s an important piece.”

(On how he would assess John Jerry’s play at guard this season and whether Jerry is athletic enough to stay there long term) – “I was proud of John. I think John actually played more plays than any offensive lineman this year. John can improve; he is still a young player in my opinion. He is certainly athletic enough. John didn’t have a great training camp, and so he was kind of working to catch up a little bit. If John comes back in good shape and I think start where he left off, he's got a real good opportunity. So I think John still has a big arrow and the arrow is up on his future.”

(On whether Jake Long is still an elite left tackle) – “I think Jake can still play in this league for sure.”

(On being able to play and him being elite are two different things) – “Well I’m not going to tell you whether I think he is elite because I’m still in a contract negotiation. We certainly view Jake, and I’ve had a good conversation with Jake when he exited the building, in fact I’ve talked to him a lot because he has been in the training room, but Jake has a decision to make and we have a decision to make. It’s a very, very difficult decision and it’s a very complicated negotiation, so we’ll have to see how things go.”

(On how tough it is for a GM letting go of good players because they do not fit a new scheme offensively or defensively) – “Well that’s difficult because, again like I said earlier, you have guys that you drafted that you believe in when you draft them, you signed them, you traded for them, but scheme’s do change. Personalities change. (When) you go from Tony Sparano to Joe Philbin, there is not only a schematic difference, but there is a personality difference. So I am marrying my philosophy to Joe’s philosophy, and those are difficult decisions. But it comes down to a draft philosophy and the draft and certainly a collective philosophy from a free agency standpoint. You wish you could keep them all, and we’ve got some tough decisions to make, but I thank all my guys that are free agents. I had a chance to talk to all of them as they exited the building and tried to be as transparent as I could with them in terms of where their future was. We’ll have to see how things go.”

(On his frustrations over having four consecutive losing seasons) –“Well I am frustrated only by the fact that I am directly responsible for the future of the franchise. We haven’t made the playoffs, so that is frustrating. I’m not satisfied, and so from a frustration standpoint and a not satisfied standpoint, it drives me even further. That’s just my makeup. I’m a pretty highly competitive guy, so that frustration turns to competitive spirit and drive to make this thing what we want to make it. So that’s where that’s at.”

(On how he expresses his emotions and how he deals with everything) – “I usually get on the treadmill at 4:30 (a.m.) and just run the heck out of it. Do I get (mad)? Sure. I get (mad) at a lot of things. I’m a pretty mild mannered guy, but I’ve got my moments, sure.”

(On his satisfaction with where the team is headed)– “I think that I’m very satisfied from that stand point, moving forward and where we are right now. You can’t change the past. You can only move forward. From that stand point, that’s our objective is to pick up where we left off and get better and drive towards winning a division and making this team better from all aspects. We’re looking at several different areas that we need to get better at. We need to coach better. We need to play better. We need scout better. All of those things. Those are all clichés, but we all believe that in this franchise. I think it would start with owner. He wants to be best in class and we want to be where the Patriots have been in the last 10 years and that’s just where we want to be. I’m satisfied right now where we’re at. We’re in a good position from a cap stand point. We’re in a good position from a draft choice stand point. We’ve got a lot of ammunition to go out there and do some things that can change the complexion of this football team moving forward. So I’m excited.”

(On if he expects the coaching staff to return intact) – “I expect our staff to be, for the most part, intact. I think there’s going to be a couple of different changes, but not wholesale changes. It’s one or two and it’s because someone has a greater opportunity and Joe has a great perspective of how he handles those things and he certainly is a developmental type person and when a young guy has an opportunity to develop his career, he’s going to let them do that and so I think you might see some of those things.”

Ireland all in this offseason and the reason why

There were, predictably, very few golden nuggets coming out of the Jeff Ireland meeting with the media this afternoon after the Senior Bowl's North squad morning practice in Mobile, Ala.

Ireland wants Jake Long back but it's a tough negotiation and he doesn't want to overpay. We knew that already. He would take Reggie Bush back but the Dolphins have depth at RB and he doesn't want to overpay. We knew that already. He said tight end Michael Egnew will have a good season in 2013, but that's exactly what anyone would expect him to say of a player he picked but didn't produce as a rookie. (Remember Gibril Wilson?)

None of that is news. None of that is all that interesting to me.

This is:

Ireland seemed to acknowledge for the first time that he better do extraordinary things that improve the Dolphins in extraordinary ways this offseason because the mircoscope is on him.

"I think this is the year you've got to do something," Ireland said at one point. "We look forward to making some big news before too long."

"This is a big offseason for us. We understand that," he said later.

He said he's going to be looking for playmakers on offense this year and that the draft, free agency and trades are on the table. He said the Dolphins would explore "revery single opportunity and avenue" for getting better.

So Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland is seemingly all in this offseason.

It's good that Ireland will apparently adopt that approach because I've complained the Dolphins have been all too passive and, in some cases, inactive the past two offseasons when it came to free agency and trades and alike.

But I believe the reason Ireland may take this new route this offseason has to do on some level with his own status. Ireland admitted he is a "polarizing" figure in South Florida. That's his way of acknowledging that fans hate dislike him.

But Ireland has had the favor of Stephen Ross despite the negative public sentiment because he's been able to convince the Dolphins owner that the franchise is headed in the right direction and has been making wise, long-lasting personnel choices. I suppose to some degree, Ireland has also made the case that he wasn't in charge under Bill Parcells although he's been the general manager since 2008.

But that argument can be made for only so long. And that window is now closed.

It says here Ireland has to emerge from this offseason a winner by making the Dolphins a winner. His moves have to significantly improve the team because A.) He's got so many draft picks and so much salary cap space at his disposal and B.) The argument that building a team takes time and he wasn't responsible for what happened in 2008 and 2009 and 2010 fades considering he was undeniably responsible for all the personnel decisions of 2011, 2012 and this offseason.

Ireland knows (or should know) that if we're sitting here a year from now, in January of 2014, discussing how far the Dolphins continue to be from being a winner, the responsibility for that gap still existing will fall squarely on him and no one else.

It won't be on Joe Philbin, whom the owner respects.

It won't be on assistant coaches, whom Philbin respects.

It won't be on circumstances, because that excuse was exhausted during the Parcells departure and Tony Sparano firing.

It'll be on Ireland, folks.

The bullseye is on him.

And Ireland knows it and is accepting that.

That is why I think Ireland will be aggressive this offseason. That is why I think he will spend money. That is why I think he will consider trades he might not have considered in past years.

The man needs to hit a home run. And to do that, you have to actually take some big swings.

It might be argued that is a sign of Ireland desperation. Maybe. I think it's more an understanding that his time is running short. And unless he posts significant and obvious results that directly translate to the win-loss column, this might be the last chance he gets to work the offseason for the Miami Dolphins.

Truth about a couple of Mike Wallace myths

Getting my feet back under me after returning from the AFC Championship game, I will be very busy today. Let's start with a little free agency chatter.

In talking to various NFL people the last few days, including some Pittsburgh Steelers folks, I obviously asked about players the Dolphins might be interested in going forward in free agency. This is what I learned about likely free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace and how that lines up with myths we've all heard about him and some of you have posted on this blog:

Myth No. 1 -- Mike Wallace was so disappointing this past season he was benched by coach Mike Tomlin: False. During the week prior to the Dec. 12 game against Baltimore, Tomlin was clearly unhappy with his team's course and the production of some players. And so that week he announced that Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders would be listed as "co-starters" on the depth chart rather than Wallace being the guy. Wallace was coming off a disappointing game against Cleveland and Sanders was in the midst of good season so much was written about the changing of the guard, so to speak. Well on game day, do you know what happened? Wallace started against Baltimore. He was not benched. Wallace actually missed one start during the year -- that in the final week when he played only sparingly against Cleveland. The reason? He was troubled throughout the week with a hip injury and it prevented him from practicing and starting.

[Update: Looked at it further and Wallace actually missed the season-finale because of the injury. But, again, he was not benched.]

Myth No. 2 -- Mike Wallace runs only go-routes: False. While Wallace is primarily a deep threat and has not been used very often in routes across the field, his routes repertoire was expanded this season to allow him to use his world-class speed in other ways. He ran in-cuts and outs. Is he an expert at those routes? No, he probably needs improvement. But is that the best use of one of the NFL's best deep threat receivers? Fair question. Look, Mark Duper didn't run crossing routes. He was a deep threat, down the sideline guy. He averaged a whopping 17.4 yards per catch and 7.7 touchdowns per season over his career. Pretty good right? Wallace has averaged 17.2 yards per catch and 8 touchdowns per season so far. Any questions?

Myth No. 3 -- Mike Wallace drops passes: True. The guy dropped more passes this year than in past years. He dropped four passes in a game against Cincinnati. He blamed the issue on losing focus because the new offense instituted by offensive coordinator Todd Haley didn't always find him early on in games. Wallace said it was tough to play sometimes two or three quarters without a target and suddenly have the ball come to him. Excuse? I think so. On the other hand, name me a receiver that doesn't drop the ball sometimes.

Myth No. 4 -- Mike Wallace only cares about money and will disappear once he gets paid: Hard to be unequivocal here because this involves predicting the future. But I was told the guy is a hard-worker. I was told he is a good guy in the locker room. I was told he "cares about winning." I was told he is "a pleasure to work with." Does that guarantee he won't cruise once he gets paid? No. But he doesn't sound like someone who would be inclined to do that.

BLOG NOTE: Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland is talking to the media at the Senior Bowl today. I will get you an update on what he says later. So make sure to refresh often or come back for the update.

January 20, 2013

Incognito on his way to Pro Bowl

The concern about the well-being of the Dolphins offensive line has been an on-going thing but at least the Dolphins got some measure of positive news on that front late Sunday when The Herald learned guard Richie Incognito has been added to the Pro Bowl roster.

Incognito will be replacing Baltimore guard Marshal Yanda who will be indisposed. Yanda will be preparing for and playing in the Super Bowl instead.

Incognito, who started every game at left guard, is not generally considered the best Miami offensive lineman. That is probably center Mike Pouncey.

But Incognito's obviously in the right place at the right time.

Incognito confirmed the news on his twitter account. He tweeted, "Aloha ... 1st Pro Bowl," Sunday evening.

"I want to thank my mom and dad for supporting me in everything I've ever done," he later said. "With them this is not possible. Aloha."

Championship Sunday: Brady, Lewis, Jake Long

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- I'm covering the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game today.

It has become something of an annual rite that these two teams meet in the playoffs. They met last year in the title game. They have played six times since 2007 and this will be the third playoff meeting between the teams.

And all that time, the rest of the AFC East that is charged with knocking the Patriots down in the regular season has not been able to do it. The Dolphins did sneak in to win a division title in 2008 in what now seems like a mirage. And believe it or not, the Jets have had the most success unseeding the Pats from their playoff perch.

And still that hasn't been enough.

The primary reason? Let's face it, it's the quarterback. Tom Brady.

I believe as long as Brady is playing for the Patriots, the rest of the AFC East teams will be playing for a wildcard slot because Brady and the Pats are simply too dominant. So when will Brady, 35, go away? When will the door open for the other AFC East teams?

As I write in my column today Tom Brady is not declining. And in comparing him to Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas and others, Brady isn't suffering the ravages of time. Check out which QB I believe he is comparable to as he ages.

If my comparison is correct, it might be 2018 before we're done seeing Brady in New England, folks.

Scary.

One legend that will be leaving the NFL after this season is Ray Lewis. I appreciate that dude. He is a great player. He is a great leader. However you feel about that long-ago murder charger (later dropped) is not the topic today.

The topic today is whether Lewis gets a chance to go out on top by advancing to the Super Bowl. Or whether he will bow out after this game.

On another matter, I want to share with you a good example of how uncertain things are for the Dolphins these days.

On Saturday, Jackie Long, the wife of Jake Long, tweeted what is a clear statement of how little certainty the Dolphins have given the Dolphins offensive lineman.

"Getting a little tired of not knowing where we'll be next year!" she tweeted. "I don't wanna move but if we have to leave I better start organizing!"

This seems like a sign that the Dolphins are quite willing to let Long walk this offseason if the price is not right on a new deal.

January 18, 2013

The cost and savings of cutting some players

On Dec. 29 I shared with you a rundown of the Dolphins 2013 cap situation.. That post explained how the Dolphins have tons of cap room this year by showing you the cap number for every Dolphins player under contract plus some dead money and other machinations.

When all was said and done, we came to the conclusion the Dolphins could have as much as $46 million in cap space in 2013 if they carry over $5 million that went unused this year, which most teams do anyway. The updated number now is $46,066,759, again assuming the Dolphins carry over their space from this season. The number will vary but you can give or take $2 million to be safe.

It was a highly popular post but it also opened the flood gates to more questions on other cap issues, and the most frequently asked of those was, "What players are likely to get cut to save cap room?"

My answer is I do not know. Look, when I know, I tell you. When I know, I write it hard.

When I don't know, I tell you that also. I have no hard information which player, if any, the Dolphins might cut for cap purposes this year. But I can show you the candidates and the ramifications.

That means I can tell you the potential cap savings and dead money whacking certain players would create.

I'm not picking these names out of a hat. I'm telling you the guys that are even remote candidates for this exercise. Doesn't mean they will get cut. But obviously, the team studies this situation. Now, you can also:

Player                   Cap cost    Cap savings     Dead money

Karlos Dansby       $8.575M      $3.925M         $4.65M

Paul Soliai             $7.875M     $6.3M             $1.575M

Richard Marshall    $5.766M     $5.35M           $2.33M

Kevin Burnett       $5.7M         $3.2M              $2.5M

Richie Incognito    $5.38M       $4.3M              $1.08M

Dimitri Patterson  $4.6M          $4.6M             $0

Davone Bess          $3.43M        $2.68M           $750K

Dan Carpenter       $3.012M      $2.7M             $312,500

Michael Egnew      $652,239      $210,522        $441,717

Nolan Carroll        $622,939      $575,000         $47,939

Remember that dead money is a cost that remains on the team's books after a player to which the team was invested is cut or traded. The Dolphins, for exampled, don't have Vontae Davis on the roster anymore. But he's still costing them $1.1 million in dead money on their salary cap.

If cutting or trading a player leaves a lot of dead money on the books, the move is less likely.

Obviously the list above does not include every player under contact. But let's face it, every player should not be here because some simply do not make any sense whatever to consider for cutting or salary cuts.

Cameron Wake is not here, for example.

Even some of the players on the list above are a stretch to even look at. Let's face it, the Dolphins will not cut Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett and neither is going to take a paycut because they could find work elsewhere pretty quickly.

But some players on here should be wary of what's going to happen this offseason and even into training camp.

Patterson, for example, will never see $4.6 million in cap cost from the Dolphins next year. He played well in exactly one game before getting injured. That doesn't earn you that kind of money the following year. And the fact cutting his pay or simply whacking him would cost the team zero in dead money means this is glowing in neon to happen.

Richard Marshall should be worried, too. He's coming off back surgery. The club will probably take him to training camp as long as he heals as scheduled and shows that he can return to being a contributor in 2013. But if he doesn't show bigtime in training camp and the Dolphins have other options, Marshall should be looking around corners. In fact, he should be monitoring what Miami does in the draft in free agency at the cornerback spot because he's not guaranteed anything at this point. Yes, that would be a lot of dead money spent on him. But the savings might be worth it to the team.

Same with Dan Carpenter. He's in the final year of his contract. He is coming off a season in which he missed pressure kicks that might have won two games. And then he couldn't finish out the season.

The Dolphins have not brought a kicker to camp to compete with Carpenter in years. I believe they will do that next training camp. Just in case. 

And if Carpenter loses the battle, the club saves $2.7 million.

 

 

January 16, 2013

Steelers will probably let Wallace test free agency

Part of the converstion about free agency on this site has involved Mike Wallace. And that conversation has assumed that Wallace will actually be available despite the fact the Pittsburgh Steelers can use the franchise tag on him or re-sign him between now and the March 12 opening of free agency.

Well, today there is some clarity on that assumption straight from the horse's mouth.

Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert met with the local media today and cleared up several questions. He said it was "very doubtful" the club would use the franchise tag on anyone.

So there's that.

And he made the point that the Steelers are not worried about their free agents going out into the market to test the free agency waters.

"We won't know what an individual player costs until he gets out there," Colbert said.

That means Wallace will be on the market in all probability.

Colbert also made the point that the Steelers "are not married" to any player. Actually, he piggybacked on that by adding that Pittsburgh must change the roster from the one that got them to 8-8 because to be different you have to, well, be different.

Change is coming to the Steelers. It looks as if Wallace might be part of that change.

And at the very least, he'll get a chance to test free agency.

Why the wide receivers need to come from free agency

On Tuesday, NFL.com's Albert Breer released his first mock draft of the offseason (of which I suppose there will be many) and had California wide receiver Keenan Allen going to the Dolphins with the No. 12 overall selection.

Today, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper will conduct a conference call with media from around the country. On Sunday and Monday, NFL personnel people and coaches will begin their trek to Mobile, Alabama for the annual practices leading up to the Senior Bowl.

Yes, draft season has begun.

And I will be as excited as always to see what the every team does. This will be a seminal draft for the Dolphins as they have five picks in the first three rounds and those will determine the direction of the franchise for years to come. So this draft needs to be a home run for Miami.

But ...

This draft is only part of a strategy I believe the Dolphins must use. I continue to advocate and indeed demand that the Dolphins be major players in free agency, particularly as it applies to the wide receiver position.

Draft Keenan Allen if you like, Jeff Ireland. Draft Jason Allen or Armando Allen for all I care. But when you get to draft day, you better have a playmaking wide receiver or two or three (three is best) that was signed via free agency on the roster already.

Why?

  1. The Dolphins have sucked at drafting wide receivers under Bill Parcells/Jeff Ireland. Patrick Turner. Bust. Clyde Gates. Bust. B.J. Cunningham. Bust. Rishard Matthews. No idea but not a star. Brian Hartline. Good player coming off a breakout year. So one drafted wide receiver out of five has found success in Miami. Not a good percentage.
  2. Rookie wide receivers take a while to develop. And for a team that has failed to even identify good receivers, it is a leap of faith to believe this year's crop will not only buck the trend but develop instantly.
  3. I'm tired of covering a loser. You're tired of cheering for a loser. The Dolphins are on a losing skid, having four consecutive seasons in which they have lost more than they won -- 7-9, 7-9, 6-10, 7-9. That represents the four worst years in franchise history. I know you've read that last line before. I intend to write it over, and over, and over again, until it sinks in because it is unacceptable. And yet, not addressing the biggest position of need until the draft where I've already shown you this team apparently has trouble identifying talent, and furthermore doing it for a position that takes time to develop anyway, is a message that 2013 will likely be another year of waiting for better days. That is a loser approach. Not acceptable.

The winner approach is the one proven over time by multiple teams. The approach to take is if you have a young quarterback, you are better off giving him experienced, talented receivers to ease the sting of his growth.

This season, three rookie quarterbacks had greater success than Miami rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. You can argue they were simply better. Part of that is correct. But they also had experienced receivers that helped them. And not just experienced receivers but outstanding experienced receivers.

Andrew Luck did very well in directing seven last minute comeback victories for the Colts. He has Reggie Wayne he can throw to and Wayne is nothing less than a future Hall of Fame candidate.

Robert Griffin III took the Redskins to the playoffs. And he had experienced and outstanding Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss, another experienced and very solid playmaker to throw to. Moss is a former Pro Bowl player.

Russell Wilson is another rookie who was also better than Tannehill. He had Sidney Rice, a former Pro Bowl and 1,000-yard receiver and Golden Tate, who is in his third year and coming into his own. Rice and Tate combined for 14 touchdown catches. That's one more TD through the air than the entire Dolphins team managed in 2012. They also both averaged over 15 yards per catch, which is better than any Dolphins receiver had in 2012.

The point is young quarterbacks have a difficult job. But successful teams try to make that job easier by giving those QBs very good, experienced receivers.

This is not a new approach.

When Peyton Manning came into the league, he had Marvin Harrison as a three-year veteran. When Matt Ryan came into the league, the Falcons went out and got him future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez to throw to. Phillip Rivers had more receiver talent around him than he knew what to do with and that included Antonio Gates. Ben Roethlisberger had Hines Ward, another borderline Hall of Fame candidate. Tom Brady's first-year as a starter he had Terry Glenn and Troy Brown. The Giants got Plaxico Burress in free agency for Eli Manning's first full year as a starter.

Sure, there are examples of quarterbacks and receivers coming up together bursting on the scene like a lightning bolt. Dan Marino, Mark Duper and Mark Clayton. But that is the exception rather than the rule. That is a once-a-generation thing.

You have a young QB and you expect him to succeed, get him a wide receiver who is very good and very experienced.

That is the reason I say adding the wide receiver in free agency is vital. If the Dolphins do it, they'll have a young QB but he'll be throwing to ready-made guys such as Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings and Brian Hartline -- hopefully all three! -- and have a choice of open, reliable, proven, big-time receivers.

Go through the draft and Tannehill will be throwing to guys who aren't sure about the speed of the game, are learning NFL defenses for the first time, are cross-eyed about playing 16 games and might hit the wall, and are unschoold about the veteran tricks of the trade. Worst of all, he may be throwing to guys that we eventually identify as busts.

Are the proven vets going to cost a lot? Heck yes. But it will cost less than 2009 when Miami put an offensive line on the field that cost $154 million in total contracts and that group scored, let's see, zero touchdowns.

The built from the inside out approach failed. NFL teams today don't pay the grunts. They pay the playmakers.

The Dolphins need playmakers. Wide receivers are playmakers. Wide receivers make their biggest impact when they have experience. The Dolphins have failed to identify receivers in the draft. Young quarterbacks are usually more apt to succeed if they have experienced wide receivers. The Dolphins have a young quarterback.

Is the puzzle coming together for you?

The Dolphins need to address the wide receiver position in free agency to maximize their chances of success. Period.

January 15, 2013

Stream of consciouness about ... everything

After yesterday's press conference to announce the modernization of Sun Life, I was talking to a some Dolphins officials when one of them brought up the point that the push to get the public funding portion of this deal would have been much, much easier if the team on the field was better.

No doubt about that.

The 49ers won an ballot measure for funding of their new stadium right after going to the NFC championship game last year. The Heat got their new arena on the heels Pat Riley coming to Miami, promising a parade down Biscayne Boulevard, and trading for Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway. Yeah, the team was in the middle of a 61-win season when the measure was approved so nice timing.

The Jets and Giants got their new digs amid multiple AFC Championship game appearances by one and a Super Bowl title by the other.

The Atlanta Falcons, by the way, are really good these days so they're going to get a new stadium.

Good things happen off the field when good things happen on the field, folks. Politicians are more prone to jump on bandwagons. Fans are more apt to accept team requests for, say, a bed tax increase that doesn't really affect them anyway.

Unfortunately, the Dolphins are making this request right smack in the middle of the team's worst four years. Ever.

The team's current four-year string of losing seasons and failure to make the playoffs is the worst in club history.

And that brings me to this:

I just found another reason the Dolphins should be aggressive, big players in free agency and alike this offseason.

Look, I know it's bad policy to make football moves for the sake of helping the business side of the organization. But the truth is the Dolphins football moves have been hindering the business side for years now.

Why do you think the stands haven't been full and owner Stephen Ross has had to swallow hard and pay for his own tickets the last few years?

This offseason, which starts in mid-March, is an opportunity to help both the football side and the business side. If, unlike the past two years, the Dolphins can identify two, perhaps three bigtime free agents that are worthy of rich contracts instead of shopping for bargain basement dolts that end up cut or on the roster's margins, that might also help the effort to get the stadium modernized.

I grant you the tether between both issues is frail. The Dolphins need action from the Florida legislature and Miami-Dade government before the South Florida Super Bowl bid goes to an NFL vote in 18 weeks.

But free agency begins in nine weeks.

If Miami can play big and play to win the first few days of free agency when the prized players go anyway, that might sway some elected officials while also, you know, improving a roster that sorely needs the upgrade.

Understand me. My priority is the roster. That was proven Monday when I didn't ask any questions at the stadium presser. Even Ross kidded me about how quiet I was. I was quiet because I'm more a football and big picture guy than a micro stadium question guy.

I care about the product on the field more than the field itself.

But I've also seen how the stadium doesn't help deliver any sort of homefield advantage. I've seen how uncomfortable the place can be. I travel around the NFL and understand Sun Life is aging compared to other facilities that have come on line.

So I make room for the idea that success on the field can lead to success off as well.

By the way, Ross also busted my, um, chops about telling him which free agents I want signed. He apparently read my GM Salguero plan and wanted names.

I told him I would get him names of guys I want.

(Yeah, that will get tossed in the garbage).

Names not withstanding, I want to remind you of the philosophy I believe the Dolphins should follow this offseason: Go big!

Don't shop at K-Mart. You get marginal guys looking for bargains. The past couple of seasons have proven that. And the last thing the Dolphins need to do is add more marginal talent to a 7-9 team. The club would be better served not adding free agents than signing cheap, broken ones that will be competing to play special teams.

The Dolphins need difference-makers, folks. Yes, find them in the draft, by all means. That should be the nucleus to the team. But please, please, please don't avoid them like the plague in free agency or if they become available in trades.

Premium players cost premium money or picks. Anthony Gonzalez did. Robert Griffin III did. Peyton Manning did. Pierre Garcon did. Brandon Carr did. Aqib Talib did. And that was just last season. The NFL is filled with players acquired through free agency or trades that made a difference for their new teams, contrary to what the Dolphins said last week.

Wes Welker, Anquan Bolden (which I advocated for over Brandon Marshall in 2010), Jared Allen, Julius Peppers, John Abraham, Drew Brees, Vincent Jackson (another one I advocated for), Greg Olsen (another one I advocated for), on and on. All went to new teams as free agents or via trade and made an impact.

The Dolphins need to identify two or three such guys this offseason and do work.

Hint, Mr. Ross: WR Mike Wallace. DE Paul Kruger. TE Martellus Bennett (yeah, how about signing a former Cowboy that can make some plays). This off the top of my head. And assuming they're available, which is still to be seen.

I say identify two bigtime signings. And go get them. And then add somebody else that maybe thought himself a big-money guy but whose market has come back to earth. I believe Greg Jennings may find himself in that market.

January 14, 2013

The possibilities for a modernized Sun Life

These are the renderings of the new Sun Life Stadium, assuming state and local politicians agree with the Dolphins that an update is needed and are willing to pay some of the costs in the form of tax rebates or a bed tax increase:

Rendering 1

And this:

Rendering 2

And this:

Rendering 3 (Dolphins Side View)

So ... what do you think?

Dolphins to make stadium upgrade case Monday

The Dolphins Monday plan their grand unveiling of a plan to make between $350-$400 million worth of upgrades to Sun Life Stadium to, as the team claims, make the facility a first-class place for the next 30 years.

The Dolphins are calling this "a modernization" of the facility that opened in 1987.

And here's an unexpected kicker: Ross is prepared to pay for "substantially all" of the freight of this modernization as long as his government partners begin helping him with the cost of running the facility. This according to a source familiar with the Dolphins' thinking.

That's a big deal.

But despite this, the team faces an uphill battle. Local sentiment runs very much against using tax dollars to upgade or update private sports facilities -- particularly in the wake of the Marlins deal with Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami, which proved to be frought with broken promises and misdirection.

The Dolphins privately claim they are not the Marlins. Not even close.

Today, in fact, they will call themselves "a different kind of fish," while not publicly naming the Marlins.

Privately, they make the point they are going to put up a significant portion of the price tag themselves. Even  If Ross doesn't get the lease concessions from the politicians, he's willing to pay between $150-$175 million, although that pricetag would have to be negotiated out. In that scenario, the club believes that with owner Stephen Ross is putting up approximately 40-50 percent of the cost to improve the facility, local politicians will still see this as a palatable partnership.

There's also this: The tax dollars aren't coming out of the pockets of local taxpayers. The public side of the funding in the deal is expected to come from a hotel bed tax. The Dolphins will ask local politicians to raise the tax tourists pay for staying at local hotels.

The Dolphins will argue that none of these funds take money out of city or county coffers that are used to pay for teachers or schools or cops or firemen. Hotel bed tax money is slated exclusively for the improvement of local facilities such as the Miami Beach Convention Center and, yes, Sun Life Stadium among others.

So what's the trade-off?

The Dolphins say making this modernization to Sun Life will help attract events such as Super Bowl 50 and the BCS national title game to town. That, they say, is a boon to the local economy. Although the team will continue to back local Super Bowl bids regardless of whether this project goes through or not, the fact is the NFL has recently reserved Super Bowl awards to communities that have either built new stadiums (Indy, Houston, New York) or upgraded their current stadium (New Orleans).

(South Florida is in the running with a new stadium going up in Santa Clara for the 49ers for the rights to Super Bowl 50).

The Dolphins also believe upgrades will give their facility more of a homefield advantage for them as well as the University of Miami football team, which also plays its home games at Sun Life. Part of the proposed upgrades include bringing seats closer to the field to improve sight lines and increase crowd noise. Sun Life currently has the highest percentage of fans sitting in the upper deck of practically any other facility in the NFL. The team wants to cut that number while adding seats closer to the field.

The upgrades would also include a newer version to the old canopy roof proposal the team made previously.

There will be pushback among some locals. Those folks are still stung by the Marlins deal that basically funded 75-80 percent of the new Marlins Park at the old Orange Bowl site. The Marlins are on the hook for only 15-20 percent of that project.

The Marlins got that deal, in part, by saying they were losing money. They nonetheless refused to show officials their books and it was later learned the club was making money.

The Marlins got that deal, in part, by promising to put a top-flight lineup on the field after spending years cutting salaries, even at the expense of trading great talents for inferior, younger, cheaper talent. They did that for one year. And this offseason they've gone back to cutting salaries.

The Dolphins obviously will counter this by showing that Ross will be highly invested in this venture, and indeed, nearly fully invested if he gets lease concessions. And the club can make the point that unlike a professional baseball team, the NFL's collective bargaining agreement calls for a salary cap.

That salary cap contains both a ceiling as everyone knows, but also has a floor which prevents teams from conducting talent fire sales to cut costs.

And then there is the giant elephant in the room. Ready?

If the Dolphins do not get the modernization they're hoping for, they will continue to play at Sun Life as is. And they will continue to do so as long as Stephen Ross is the owner.

But ...

Ross is 72 years old now. He eventually will sell the team. And although he would like to sell it to someone who will keep the team in South Florida, the truth is there is no guarantee he will do that.

He may sell to someone who wishes to move the team. Yes, the NFL would frown upon this but NFL teams do move. (St. Louis, Cleveland, Oakland, Arizona among them).

And the Dolphins, unlike practically all other NFL teams, currently have no lease holding them to their home stadium and thus their hometown. So basically, nothing is tying the Dolphins to South Florida other than tradition and ownership.

Therefore, it might be wise for South Florida politicos that if they do this deal to indeed let Ross pay for, again, "practically all" of the project and also tie the Dolphins to the region and the stadium that is being upgraded. I'd suggest a 30-year tie, which is approximately the length of time the club is saying the upgrades will keep Sun Life contemporary.

Would that cost local government in having to help run the facility? Yes. Will that require funds? Yes. Might that require tax dollars for operating subsidies? Yes.

The Miami Heat have a similar arrangement.

This is a big deal for the team and it comes on a big date: Today is January 14, 2013. It is the 40-year anniversary to the day of Miami winning Super Bowl VII and completing a perfect season.

January 10, 2013

Cameron Wake is All NFL

The postseason awards are starting to filter in now and at least one Dolphins player is being recognized for a great season:

Cameron Wake.

Wake was today voted to the 2012 All NFL team by Pro Football Weekly and the Professional Football Writers of America. This is deserved as Wake had a career-high 15 sacks in 2012. I am assuming the big award, the All Pro awards by the Associated Press, will also recognize Wake in the coming weeks.

I am one of the 50 people that vote for All Pro and I voted for Wake. So we'll see. Meanwhile, the PFF/PFWA All NFL team and awards are below:

QB Peyton Manning / Broncos
RB Adrian Peterson / Vikings
RB Marshawn Lynch / Seahawks
WR Calvin Johnson / Lions
WR Brandon Marshall / Bears
TE Rob Gronkowski / Patriots
C John Sullivan / Vikings
OG Mike Iupati / 49ers
OG Marshal Yanda / Ravens
OT Duane Brown / Texans
OT Ryan Clady / Broncos
 
Defense
DE J.J. Watt / Texans
DE Cameron Wake / Dolphins
DT Geno Atkins / Bengals
DT Vince Wilfork / Patriots
OLB Von Miller / Broncos
OLB Aldon Smith / 49ers
MLB Patrick Willis / 49ers
CB Richard Sherman / Seahawks
CB Charles Tillman / Bears
S Earl Thomas / Seahawks
S Eric Weddle / Chargers
 
Specialists
PK Blair Walsh / Vikings
P Andy Lee / 49ers
KR Jacoby Jones / Ravens
PR Leodis McKelvin / Bills
ST Matthew Slater / Patriots
 
MVP/Offensive MVP — Vikings RB Adrian Peterson
Defensive MVP— Texans DE J.J. Watt
Coach of the Year — Colts offensive coordinator/interim head coach Bruce Arians
Comeback Player of the Year — Adrian Peterson
Rookie of the Year/Offensive Rookie — Redskins QB Robert Griffin III
Defensive Rookie of the Year — Panthers LB Luke Kuechly
Most Improved Player — Cowboys WR Dez Bryant
Executive of the Year — Colts GM Ryan Grigson
Assistant Coach of the Year — Bruce Arians
Golden Toe (Best Placekicker or Punter)  — Vikings PK Blair Walsh
 
 
Pro Football Weekly/Professional Football Writers of America All-Rookie team

Offense
QB Robert Griffin III / Redskins
RB Alfred Morris / Redskins
RB Doug Martin / Buccaneers
WR T.Y. Hilton / Colts
WR Justin Blackmon / Jaguars
TE Dwayne Allen / Colts
C NONE
OG Kevin Zeitler / Bengals
OG Amini Silatolu / Panthers
OT Matt Kalil / Vikings
OT Mitchell Schwartz / Browns
 
Defense
DL Fletcher Cox / Eagles
DL Chandler Jones / Patriots
DL Bruce Irvin / Seahawks
DL Michael Brockers / Rams
LB Bobby Wagner / Seahawks
LB Luke Kuechly / Panthers
LB Lavonte David / Buccaneers
CB Casey Hayward / Packers
CB Janoris Jenkins / Rams
S Harrison Smith / Vikings
S Mark Barron / Buccaneers
 
Specialists
PK Blair Walsh / Vikings
P Bryan Anger / Jaguars
KR David Wilson / Giants
PR T.Y. Hilton / Colts
ST Johnson Bademosi / Browns