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29 posts from January 2013

January 10, 2013

A Dolfan's warning to Joe Philbin

With his rookie season as an NFL head coach behind him, Joe Philbin probably has the trust of most Miami fans because, well, he didn't totally screw up.

He was fine.

The team was 7-9.

And like practically everyone else on the team, the coach needs to get better at his job.

So there's that. But I recently got a letter from a Dolphins fan in New England who doesn't compare what Philbin is to Cam Cameron any other Dolphins coach who failed. He compares him to Bill Belichick because that's the guy he's got to beat.

And right now, the comparison is not exactly kind.

The letter from Stephen Quigley of Massachusetts:


As a lifelong Dolphins fan living in New England I have a better feel for the Patriots than the Dolphins. It is clear that Tom Brady plays at a level that a Dolphin fan can only dream about.  I love Dan Marino but I would take Brady every day of the week and certainly twice on any Sunday that mattered.:

The problem I see for so many teams is conservative coaching.  Yesterday was a perfect example.  Miami is down two TD’s early in the game.  The second TD comes at the end of an all too easy 92-yd drive.  The Dolphins get the ball back and move down the field; the result of some nice plays and a questionable roughing the passer penalty.  Regardless they are faced with a 4th and 9 at the Patriots 24-yd line.  What do they do?  A 41-yd field goal attempt with a replacement kicker.  Why?  Even if Kaeding makes the kick it is still a two TD game.  The kick is missed and NE walks right down the field again and score a third TD.  The game was on the verge of getting out of hand (it did) so what is the benefit of getting 3pts closer when you are 7-8 playing against a superior team on the road?  Would Joe Philbin have been pleased with a 28-3 loss?

You cannot match TD’s with field goals.  That was Tony Sporano’s philosophy (see yesterdays Jets loss) and he is a bum. Belichick and Brady gamble all of the time.  They have talent and experience.  How can a team with less talent and less experience even consider playing any less aggressively?  The coaching staff must play to win the game and not play to keep their job.  In  Superbowl XXXVI, Belichick gambled on Brady against a superior team at the end of the game.  The result was a stunning upset of the high powered Rams.  Do you know why?  Because Belichick did not want to risk the Superbowl on a flip of the coin or wait for the other guy to screw it up.  He wanted to win it and was willing to deal with the fallout if they did not.  That decision took a lot of guts but that is how this game must be played.  Belichick was not a proven head coaching commodity at that time and neither was Brady a future Hall of Famer.  Not yet.

Joe Philbin did nothing this year that we have not seen for years.  Brady is going to be playing at a high level for at least three more seasons.  Will Joe Philbin be around still?  Not coaching the way he did yesterday.

I read your article today and I agree yesterday was a disaster.  My concern is that ownership might not see it that way.  It is not just the players in my opinion. 

In contrast the Miami Dolphins website notes that the Dolphins are clearly the second best team in the division.  Second best?

Thank you,


I think he makes a valid point. The Dolphins weren't going to beat the Patriots in New England in December by kicking field goals from the Pats' 24. Moreover, the team had nothing to lose and played as if this was some sort of battle for an AFC East title. I know that's history now, but it is something that merits consideration going forward.

So what do you think?


January 09, 2013

Growing consensus: Egnew won't make it

I was a guest on the Joe Rose Show this morning on local radio station WQAM when the conversation turned to the tight end position. And Rose, a former Dolphins tight end, said the Dolphins need to sign or draft someone to play the position this offseason because in part ...

"I don't believe Michael Egnew is going to make it," Rose said.

And I wasn't surprised he said it because, I'm hearing that a lot from folks I'm talking to lately.

I've talked to two players the past three weeks that told me they don't see Egnew, a rookie last year, making it out of training camp next year.

"He should have been cut this year," one told me.

That doesn't account for Egnew learning to block and learning his assignments better and getting stronger and faster this offseason. But another player I spoke with said none of that will ultimately matter with the former third round draft pick.

"He's a p---y," the second player said. "He's not a football player."

It does not end there. I talked to Former Dolphins OLB/DE Kim Bokamper about Egnew the week before the season ended. He also said he does not believe the kid will ever be a factor. He's seen enough.

"You look at his body, look at his hips, he's built strange," Bokamper said. "He's not built like an NFL tight end. I had to cover tight ends and deal with tight ends my entire career and I never saw one built like that."

All of that sits atop the fact that Egnew made offensive coordinator Mike Sherman so disgusted in training camp that he told the kid during one offense meeting, "If I were the general manager, I'd cut you."

Egnew was inactive the entire season, except for the final two weeks when injuries (specifically to Charles Clay and Davone Bess) opened up enough open spots on the gameday roster to allow him to be active.

He played some early on in the final home game against Buffalo, but didn't catch a pass. He played less in the season-finale against New England the following week, getting mostly garbage-time snaps late in the fourth quarter.

Not exactly improvement.

Obviously, the Dolphins likely will allow Egnew to come to the offseason conditioning program, offseason camps and training camp to see if he shows anything.

But the growing consensus of him being on the team when the 2013 opens?

Not likely. 

Saban finally admits messing up on Drew Brees

Nick Saban, basking in the glow of winning his third National Championship in three years and not sleeping very much Monday night, spent part of Tuesday discussing the possibility of returning to the NFL.

He's not doing it. His time with the Dolphins was apparently so terrible that it crystalized Saban's thinking about staying in college.

"I came to the Miami Dolphins, what, eight years ago, for the best owner, the best person that I’ve ever had the opportunity to work for,” Saban said, referring to Wayne Huizenga, who owned the Dolphins when Saban was coach and hired him away from LSU where Saban won another national title.

"In the two years that I was here I had a very, very difficult time thinking that I could impact the organization in the way that I wanted to or in the way that I am able to in college. And it was very difficult for me. Because there is a lot of parity in the NFL. There's a lot of rules in the NFL."

Saban said that taught him a lesson.

“I kind of learned from that experience that maybe [college] is where I belonged," he said. "And I’m really happy and at peace with all of that.”

There have been rumors Saban might be interested in one of the current NFL head coach vacancies because he's accomplished plenty at Alabama and wants to prove himself in the pro game. Well, Saban delivered an "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach" moment in speaking of that potential  jump.

“How many times do you think that I’ve been asked to put it to rest? And I’ve put it to rest. And you continue to ask it,” he said of the NFL rumors. “So I’m going to say it today that, I think somewhere along the line you've got to choose ... you learn lot from the experiences of what you’ve done in the past."

Saban acknowledges that his time with the Dolphins was not a good one. He was frustrated, particularly in his second year, with the way the NFL allows teams to be built. There's the draft rather than an open recruiting field.

Saban desperately wanted Haloti Ngata in the draft his second year and tried to trade up to get him, but didn't have the ammo to do so. He had to settle for Jason Allen. 

And the salary cap puts limits on a roster that the recruiting limit in college does not. 

“People say you can draft a player you want to draft," Saban said. "You can draft a player that's there when you pick. It might not be the player you need. It might not be the player that you want. You also have salary-cap issues. We had them here."

Of course, all those limits didn't keep Saban from signing Drew Brees instead of giving up a second-round pick for Daunte Culpepper. He screwed that up all by himself.

“You’ve got to have a quarterback," Saban said. "We had a chance to get one here -- sort of messed it up.

"So I didn’t feel like I could impact the team the same way that I can as a college coach in terms of affecting people's life personally, helping them develop careers by helping them develop careers by graduating from school. There's a lot of self-gratification in all that."

That's interesting. Saban has spent a long time blaming Huizenga or the medical staff or the weather for his choice of Culpepper over Brees. At least now he's including himself in the list of folks who messed up the decision.

Sort of, as he said.



January 08, 2013

My take on Ross, Wallace, Jennings, Bowe

As you know, Stephen Ross spoke on the state of the team Monday. And I came away from the talk absolutely certain that the Dolphins have some sort of plan for 2013 -- because the owner mentioned this plan half-a-dozen times.

But when I asked him what that plan is, I was disappointed to hear the answer Ross gave. 

No, as I write in my column in The Miami Herald today, I didn't intend to hear a blow-by-blow of what the Fins are about to do. I was, however, hoping for something beyond, "Win."

Frankly, I left Monday's talk not knowing if the Dolphins -- a team with approximately $46.8 million in salary cap space this offseason -- are expecting to be a big player in free agency or not.

In one breath, Ross said he'll pay whatever it takes to get a player. In the next breath he said free agency is not the answer. Sooo, the message was a little garbled.

I guess I'm just a poor immigrant that no understandy Inglich goot.

After writing my column Monday evening, I heard from a Dolphins employe in the know who told me the Dolphins will absolutely dive into free agency and happily pay top dollar for top-tier talent in free agency. He told me that is what Ross meant to say.

I hope that is true.

We'll see.

I hope the Dolphins pick the best deep-threat receiver in free agency and sign him. Yes, that to me would be Mike Wallace. (And yes, he drops some). But I like the idea of Miami not needing 14-play drives every time on offense to score touchdowns. This team needs a 50-, 60- and 75-yard bomb over the top of the defense every once in a while.

Explosive plays on offense make me write happy.

Most great teams have them.

The Dolphins have very few.

Mando unhappy with few.

Anyway, I suppose a guy like Greg Jennings is also a possibility, but while fans have a growing fascination with him, I'm not quite sure he's the deep threat Miami needs. Don't get me wrong, he's very good. If Miami cannot land Wallace, he's he next best answer.

If Miami lands Wallace and Jennings ... awesome.

But he would not be my priority. He'd be No. 2. He's older than Wallace by three years. He's going to be 30 next season. He's been injured. He's declined his last two years. And he'll be very expensive. So I see some red flags.

Yes, Wallace has some flags, too. But they blur to me as he's running a 4.3 past defenders. To me, he needs to be the UFA priority once free agency opens, assuming he's on the market.

Many of you also like Dwayne Bowe. Pass.

He's not a deep threat. He's also older than Wallace. He kind of reminds me of Brandon Marshall. And that didn't get the Dolphins in the playoffs.

January 07, 2013

Stephen Ross gives his state of the Dolphins

Stephen Ross just met with the media for about 25 minutes. The gathering was meant to have the team owner give you his opinion on the state of the Dolphins.

"I feel we're on the right track," Ross said. "We're moving in the right direction. I feel good about it, really, more so today than I have in the past."

Chief among the people Ross is most pleased with is rookie coach Joe Philbin.

"I was really impressed with coach Philbin," he said. "I think we can safely say, I heard it from so many people, and more importantly I feel it, we have a really solid head coach here -- a guy that I think will be here a long time and a guy I hope will bring  us those victories everyone wants."

Ross has obviously bought in on Philbin. He said later, "we have our coach," but on the subject of quarterback Ryan Tannehill he's more discerning. He said in the same breath, "I think we have our quarterback."

"The good outweighed a lot of the bad here," he said. "We have a coach that will be here and we have the makings of a quarterback that will be here a long time that has a lot of great potential. When you look at it from that standpoint, there's a lot to be positive. Certainly, I look at it from that standpoint today."

I asked Ross if he could tell fans, you, that after four losing seasons the Dolphins will do everything they can to win in 2013, starting with an aggressive offseason.

"First of all when I bought the team and I told everybody, all the resources we have, that I have, I want to build a winning team. That goes first," Ross said. "I think Jeff and the whole organization knows that. This isn't one of those organizations that just slaps it together to keep it together just for the sake of doing that. I'm willing to spend whatever it takes to build it. I think sometimes people look at spending as a way of winning. In business, it isn't money that solves problems, it's brains that solve problems. But certainly all my resources are there. If the right players are there, I don't care what it costs, we'll go after them."

I like that. But later Ross said he believes in building through the draft and then kind of dumped on free agency.

"As the coach stated, you want to build through the draft. You certainly want to see what's out there in free agency and you want to get the right player that will fit in the locker room and will bring the right kind of ingredients and is still hungry and isn't signing for the big contract. Free agency certainly isn't the answer. We've all seen that. You can talk more about the failures of free agency more than you can about the successes. And everybody gets all excited when you sign a player, my God we're going to win, but I can't think of a player you can say that really happened with. You know your players better than anybody else. And you know who you want to sign and keep as part of that. And often times there's a reason a guy is out there as a free agent."

Hmm. I can think of free agents that have helped. Drew Brees in New Orleans, Peyton Manning in Denver, Michael Turner in Atlanta, Reggie White and Charles Woodson in Green Bay, Plaxico Burress with the Giants, Wes Welker with New England. Jonathan Joseph in Houston.

Just off the top of my head.

Look, I believe in building through the draft. But I also think the Dolphins have been terrible at using free agency the past two offseasons. They've gotten basically no help. And that's not good.

General manager Jeff Ireland attended the gathering and frankly, several reporters seemed to not want to ask the question you want asked: Why is Ireland the GM? So there was this question about how certain Ross feels about those atop his organization?

"How in life are you ever certain?" he answered. "You take it one day, you look at it, and you deal with the people. Our people are pretty level, consistent people.That's one thing you can say about our organizaton. I believe they have the talent to deliver day in and day out. But this is a business that's measured like no other business in the world. It's measured in wins and losses. But you want to see the direction we're going and how it's moving. And it's important to have not a volatile situation. And I think the type of people we have are not volatile type people." 

Well, enough beating around the bush. I asked Ross to explain to fans why Jeff Ireland is the GM. Ross knew the question was coming. Ireland knew it was coming. Nothing personal.

"I think his football intelligence, his knowlege, his hard work," Ross said. "I think he has the respect of his peers. He's one of the youngest general managers around. I like dealing with youth and enthusiasm. I think he has the knowlege, the desire and is smart and he's committed. And he laid out a plan. We do have a young team. And if we're right on plan, we're going to be there a long time."

Ross confirmed the Dolphins will have a new logo for the 2013 season. He also confirmed what I reported Saturday, which is the logo will be unveiled in April. More news: The new logo is not the one that was leaked a few weeks ago. That is an early-generation version that has since evolved.

"We're looking at it, finalizing it," Ross said. "It's time for an update." 

 I asked Ross what the plan is for 2013?


Great, but I asked how that is different from last year or the year before. I mean, wasn't winning the plan last year?

"This is really the first time I've really gotten involved. I was handed a situation that, one, I was kind of painted to the wall. If Parcells left that was my fault. If Miami loss that was my fault. And I have a lot of respect for Bill. But I didn't put together that organization. I also felt I should learn a little bit before making any moves. Sometimes making a move for the sake of making a move is sometimes the worst move you can make. So want to sit back and really assess the situation, which I was able to do. So it was good from that standpoint."

I don't know what that means. 

January 06, 2013

No. 1 Dolphins free agent must re-sign? Brian Hartline

The most important Dolphins free agent for the team this offseason? You could argue Randy Starks. Some believe it is Jake Long, although I totally disagree there. Other think Sean Smith, although I see him as very inconsistent and wonder how he'll react to getting paid.

Nope, I believe it's receiver Brian Hartline.

As I write in my column in Sunday's Miami Herald, the Dolphins cannot have a second consecutive season in which they lose wide receiver talent. They need to add at that position and, frankly, Hartline is a certainty while players such as Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings are not.

The fact is neither we nor the Dolphins know exactly what will become of Wallace and Jennings before free agency begins. Yes, they're slated to be UFAs. Yes, they would add talent to Miami's needy offense.

But we cannot be certain they'll be available because free agency doesn't begin until the middle of March. And teams have a window during which they can sign their own free agents. And most good teams don't lose their good players.

So no one knows if Wallace or Jennings will be availabe. The Dolphins do know Hartline is a good player and is available now. My column lets Hartline talk about his feelings on returning to Miami and how he'd feel if the Dolphins don't re-sign before the start of free agency.

Hartlne, by the way, agrees with me that Miami can't be losing WR talent and hoping to get better. 

“As a football guy, to get rid of your leading receiver in back-to-back years. I think that would be tough," he told me. "It’s tough to do. And I understand, they’re in a tough situation and I’m not in a position to say how to do it. I don’t do that. That’s not my job. But that’s hard to do as a franchise if you want to build something. If it costs a little more than you expected, well, that’s the nature of the NFL sometimes.”

A lot of fans often get caught up in the free agency trap of arguing about what a player is not. We all know Hartline is not a No. 1 receiver.

But good teams focus on what players are. Hartline is a good No. 2 wide receiver and if he's you're No. 3 you have a stellar WR corps.

What else is Hartline?

He can play any WR position because he knows them all. He's good in the locker room. He isn’t high-maintenance. Yes, he had one instance where he got frustrated with a coach who was asking him what he saw on the field and because he had already explained himself previously and still the ball wasn’t coming to him, Hartline shut down and simply didn’t talk.

But that was one passing moment this year. He doesn’t jack up the quarterback on the sideline. He doesn’t threaten to punch coaches if they don’t get him the ball, as one previous Dolphins receiver did in 2010.

“I was wrong but you have to let how to handle it,” Hartline said. “I understand now that  I was acting hard-headed because it was a game situation. I was frustrated. It happened once because it’s a passionate sport. But it won’t happen again. It was wrong because you need to learn how to handle it. I didn’t blow up on anybody but wasn’t helping anybody so I’ve learned from that.”

Hartline wants to be signed by the time free agency opens. The ball is in Miami's court. Once free agency begins the ball is in Hartline's court.

“You know, I tell you what, if I do go elsewhere, I’ll tell you what I told Jeff [Ireland]: If we get to free agency, as much as you guys interview me, I’m going to be interviewing you," Hartline said. "Like we’re 7-9. How do you see us getting better? I want to know, too. I want to win. I need to win. That’s what I’d do with other teams, too. I’m going to interview them as much as they want to interview me.

“I want to see myself buying into wherever I see myself at – here, there, wherever. Once I buy in, I’m all in. I want don’t want to be doubting people. I know there are trusts that build over time. But as much as they’re buying into me, I’m buying into you.”

Whatever happens -- whether Miami signs Hartline before free agency or not -- the receiver understands the next couple of months will be busy.

“It’s going to hectic," he said. 




January 05, 2013

What I want to hear from Stephen Ross

First off, let me start today by telling you that Dolphins In Depth just had its most successful year ever. Thank you. This blog logged nearly 6.5 million page views in 2012 and it was because you, Dolphins fans and others that apparently enjoy tweaking Dolfans, come here regularly to discuss, debate, and otherwise entertain yourselves with all things NFL and Miami Dolphins. My mission is to improve the product in 2013. My mission is to continue to earn your time on a daily basis. Thanks again.

Today is the start of the NFL postseason with two games on the schedule, two more Sunday, and obviously more next weekend and the one after.

Unfortunately for all of us, the Dolphins closed up shop on this season last week. For the fourth consecutive year and 10th time in 11 years, the team is not in the playoffs.



I've lived it. I've covered every moment. And frankly, I cannot believe the level of ineptitude it takes to fall to such depths. I mean, tradtiional disasters such as Arizona and Cincinnati have been more successful getting to or advancing in the playoffs than Miami the past decade. The Houston Texans joined the NFL in 2002 and in the span that Miami made only one mirage appearance in the postseason, the Lone Star team became an NFL powerhouse -- which also hasn't ever lost to Miami, by the way.

So even an expansion team that started from scratch passed the Dolphins like a Corvette passes a VW Bug.


Anyway, we all know 2013 must be a big year for the Dolphins. I know it. You know it. We know it because we're tried of perpetually building something or preparing for something or taking time getting to someting and the something is always an air sandwich to chew on. We're borderline ready for a revolt against this team, some of us are.

I wonder if the Dolphins know it? We'll find out Monday because owner Stephen Ross is scheduled to meet with the South Florida media around lunchtime for a little informal chat.

This is what I must hear from Ross:

*That he recognizes the Dolphins are in a playoff drought and he intends to end the thirst in 2013. Or else he'll change direction.

*That he knows the Dolphins have approximately $46.8 million in salary cap space available (give or take a million) and that he will allow the Dolphins to spend to the cap. (Wayne Huizenga used to do let his football people spend to the cap every year. It doesn't guarantee success, but it does guarantee flexibility).

*That the logo and uniform change that is coming and tentatively scheduled for an April reveal (Yeah, just broke news here) won't embarrass a team with so much tradition. Remember, Ross is the guy who doesn't much like the tradional fight song and tried to replace it with a T-Pain version that bombed. I know the Dolphins have high expectations for the new logo and uni. I trust club CEO Mike Dee's wisdom and he's heading the project. I know the Dolphins expect folks will love the changes. I guess I have lower expectations. I'm just hoping it doesn't suck, thus making the team look like a modern circus version of the 1980s Houston Astros (research their unis and you'll understand). I've covered some bad Dolphins teams down through the years. I guess I just don't want to cover a team that dresses like a joke, too.

*Finally, I want from Ross an explanation of what he believes went wrong in 2012 and what he expects will be done to turn those wrongs to rights. I want this because if one can identify a problem, it increases the chances of solving the problem. I've seen too many coaches, general managers and even players fail to identify the problems that plague then thus not be able to solve those issues. Recognition is the first step toward finding a solution.

[BLOG NOTE: Come back Sunday as we'll discuss a column I'm writing on the player I believe is Miami's most important priority to re-sign this offseason. I'll explain why and link to the column. And one final thing: The Herald, through me, is going to have a no-impersonator policy starting now. A handful of people have already been banned before the New Year began. It's going to get more strict now. You do it once, you will be banned. Post whatever you like under your own name. But don't steal someone else's name to try and ruin their reputation. Please.]

January 04, 2013

Failing on in-season extensions sometimes a win, sometimes a loss

The Dolphins are on the clock between now and mid March when free agency kicks off because they have between 15-17 players that are unrestricted free agents that they can sign before the free agency market opens.

And I'm told the club hopes to get some deals done before the deadline, which is wise.

Of course, the club tried to get some deals done during the season and didn't exactly succeed there. As you read here last week, the only in-season contract the Dolphins signed in 2012 was locking up special teams and backup Jason Trusnik to a two-year extension.

I was told by one club official that in-season extensions are overrated. I was told the club is convinced players do not become more expensive.

Well sometimes that is true. And sometimes that is false.

Before the 2010 season, Paul Soliai asked his agent if he (the agent) thought he could get Soliai a $2 million-a-year contract. The agent, David Canter, said he'd try. Canter and the Dolphins danced around all season on a contract extension even as Soliai worked himself into the starting unit and then started playing well.

Miami's contract offers were consistently behind the curve of how their player was performing. And that hurt the team in the wallet because after the season the Dolphins ended up putting the franchise tag on Soliai to keep him from going into free agency. That cost Miami a $12 million cap hit.

And before the 2011 season Soliai ended up signing a deal that pays him $6 million per season. So, yes, a $2 million-a-year deal would have saved the team a ton of money and cap space over a three-season span -- $6 million over which Soliai would have initially been happy to get, compared to the $24 million he's actually costing. 

This season the results of Miami doing only one extension are mixed.

The club offered in-season extensions to Matt Moore, to Jake Long and to Brian Hartline. All were what agents would consider "low-ball" offers.

On Matt Moore, the team tried to lock him into a backup quarterback deal. Although no numbers were exchanged because the Dolphins were coy about that, the Moore camp decided it would be better off waiting until after the season because Moore is hoping to compete for a starting job somewhere.

So no deal resulted in this: Moore will hit free agency with the hope someone gives him a chance to compete for a starting job. The Dolphins could not offer that.

But Moore might have been convinced to sign a Miami extension if he'd gotten assuranes (incentives) that if he somehow took over the starting job -- through injury or other circumstance -- he'd be paid like a starting QB.

Didn't happen. So no deal.

I call the failure to do an extension here a push. It neither helped nor hurt the team.

The team also offered Long an extension well before he broke down (again) and finished the season on injured reserve. The offer, I'm told, was a handsome deal for most left tackles but for Long, who has been used to being the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL, it looked like a step backward.

He didn't take it.

Well, Long didn't play all that well in 2012 when he was healthy. The guy is diminished, no doubt about it. He used to do conditioning drills to start the season with linebackers. He can't do that anymore. He doesn't move like that anymore.

And, of course, Long eventually ended up on injured reserve for the second consecutive year.

So now the Dolphins have a better body of evidence of what their player is, rather than what he was. Early in the year, the team could convince itself that Long was irreplaceable and valuable and that his recent injury history was happenstance.

But Long added another injury to that history, making it seem more like a trend, and when he went out, the Dolphins replaced him with relatively no problem. Rookie Jonathan Martin did not play at a Pro Bowl level taking over at left tackle. But neither did the offensive line fall apart without Long.

(By the way, Long wasn't playing at a Pro Bowl level before he got hurt).

And going forward, the club has a solid idea that Martin can get much better through offseason weight-training and conditioning, experience, and a full training camp at LT. So Long, who still wants to be paid like an elite left tackle is a luxury.

I call the failure to do an in-season extension with Long a blessing. He's not as good as he believes he is anymore. He's not worth the kind of contract he was holding out for, given that I don't see him getting better and more healthy as the injuries stack up. This one was a win that offers the team wiggle room to either retain Long at its price (unlikely) or let him walk to a team that needs a left tackle and is willing to pay handsomely for Long's reputation (more likely).

The team offered Hartline an extension early in the season. The receiver, through his agent Drew Rosenhaus, has been trying to get an extension since 2011. The Dolphins rebuffed those overtures and I understand why: Hartline was a complementary player and could seemingly be replaced cheaply in the draft.

But this year, given a greater opportunity, Hartline posted a breakout year. He was probably the most consistent and best weapon for the Miami offense. (Yes, Reggie Bush started well and finished strong but he was absent the middle part of the season).

Last year when Hartline wanted an extension, he could have cost the Dolphins between $2 million a year. Earlier this year, he could have been signed for $3 million a year.

The price is much higher than that now.

Hartline performed despite missing all of the offseason camps and training camp. He had a breakout year with a new offense and rookie quarterback. He's 26 years old and entering his prime. He's likely going to get better but certainly isn't going to decline.

The Dolphins cannot replace him easily in the draft anymore. Frankly, no rookie receiver is going to walk in and be able to play all three WR positions, show good hands, go for 1,000 yards and have a 14.6 yard per catch average. Just doesn't happen unless the rookie's a freak.

In this case, the failure to do an extension with Hartline will cost the team more money and cap space assuming Miami opts to re-sign him.

So three players. Three in-season contract extension offers. The Dolphins won big on not signing Long, lost big on not signing Hartline and pushed on Moore.


January 02, 2013

GM Salguero's outline offseason plan

My offseason plan for getting the Miami Dolphins to the playoffs in 2013? I'm glad you asked.

First of all, you have to understand I come at this from a multiple-pronged approach. I don't just think the Dolphins are broken on the field. I think they need mending off the field -- as in with their fans. The truth is going to a Miami home game has no special meaning down here anymore.

Sure, the true believers and lifers do it out of loyalty and love for the sport or team. But I want more than that. I want Dolphins home games to be a must-attend events because the team has swag and plays with moxie and life and, yes, has a chance to do something exciting every week.

So if I were the general manager, I would approach this offseason in which the team can have approximately $46.8 in cap space as the Miami Heat approached the 2010 offseason -- the one in which they signed Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.

It's an all-in offseason, folks.

If I make the playoffs, I get a contract extension. If not, I'm fired.

That kind of offseason, if crafted properly, is going to create buzz about the team and make for a winning roster. That means the team will look improved before it even plays a game, causing fans to buy tickets. And the team will indeed be improved on the field, causing more ticket-buyers when they actually see the product on the field.

And do not scoff at the need for ticket-buyers. This year the Dolphins had their worst home attendance since 1989. There was no significant homefield advantage at Sun Life Stadium. I want that to change. I want that place to shake -- both literally and figuratively.

So the Dolphins need to be audacious to get people to the game and then need to prove their strategy successful to keep them excited and coming back and part of a home field advantage.

Having said that, my offseason plan would be an all-of-the-above approach. I would look at spending big on quality free agents, I would look at re-signing my own quality free agents and letting the mediocre ones walk, I would look at trades, I would approach the draft with the desire to add playmakers not grunts.

That stuff the Dolphins did last year when they have us sitting on the edge of our seats come final roster cutdown time because of the three or four players they're going to add when those players get cut from other teams?

That's a loser's approach.

That approach means you are relying on other teams' trash to be your treasure. That is going into a sewer and hoping to find a blossoming rose.

The Dolphins not only did that, they expected players such as Anthony Armstrong, Jabar Gaffney and others to be significant contributors. Are you kidding me? That's telling me there was no plan in place and you're making it up as you go.

I want my team to be together after the draft. I want them together most of the offseason. I want them to work and sweat together in the offseason conditioning program. I want them to come together as a team during training camp. I want them winning together in the preseason -- and yes, I said winning. To me, the team must win the first quarter in the preseason when my starters are playing their starters. I don't much care about the final outcome of any game except the third when my starters play into the third quarter. But if you're not winning the first quarter of the other games, something is wrong.

Anyway, I don't want to be adding guys a couple of days before the season opener and hoping they somehow fit the program. That means you don't have a clue about team chemistry. That means your plans went awry. That means you're flying by the seat of your pants.

Winning NFL teams are not constructed by the seat of the GM's pants. Poop is constructed by the seat of the GM's pants. Not great teams.

So what is my audacious plan?

Start with the offense. It has to start there because Miami's offense is terrible.

First thing I do is re-sign wide receiver Brian Hartline. The guy finished with 1,083 receiving yards and a 14.6 yard per catch average. The yardage was 16th best in the NFL. The average was 25th best but ahead of Andre Johnson, A.J. Green, Anquan Boldin, Malcom Floyd, and Pierre Garcon.

He had only one TD catch, but I can think of at least four plays in which he was wide open down the field and was either underthrown or overthrown, killing a handful of TDs. So I see value in this guy. And he stays on my team.

I also want to re-sign Randy Starks because Miami's defensive line is a strength that need not be dismantled. I want to re-sign TE Anthony Fasano at a cheap price to be my blocking tight end because he is not a downfield threat in my offense.

I also want to re-sign Jake Long but he would have to take a cheaper, incentive-laden deal that pays him more if he stays healthy. The truth about Long is not only has his play been declining, but he's not finished either of the past two seasons. My Dolphins will be in the playoffs and if a player is likely to be on injured reserve at the end of the season and not available for the postseason, he's worthless to me.

So Long has to undertand that I want committed players and in his case that means, he'll have to agree to a hometown discount. If he wants to get paid the most he can and be something of a mercenary go elsewhere. Here, he was treated like a king as the first overall pick. He earned more money than any offensive lineman for years and years and years. Here, he didn't quite play up to his salary the last two years.

So if he wants to build on the roots he's laid in South Florida and wants to be part of something special and is truly committed to the Dolphins, he's going to have to play for less here.

Remember the Heat analogy? Wade, Bosh and James took less money in Miami than they might have elsewhere. If it's good enough for them, it has to be good enough for a guy like Jake Long.

If, however, Long is all about the money. He walks. I keep Jonathan Martin at left tackle and I draft the best available tackle sometime in the second or third round to play the right side.

By the way, the free agent tackle business is a two-way street. Sebastian Vollmer is slated to be a free agent. So are Ryan Clady, Branden Albert and others. Maybe, if Vollmer is on the market, I sign him, improve my team and put a hole in the New England Patriots offensive line.

What about the other free agents?

Reggie Bush is a good guy in a tough spot. He's likely to go into a free agent class that includes Steven Jackson, Shonn Greene, Rashard Mendenhall and others. And he plays a position that Miami is already strong in (with Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, and Jonas Gray on the roster). So if he wants to come back, it has to be on the cheap.

He's a great leader. He's a great worker. But he's a luxury. And, in the case of Miller, he's something of a progress-stopper.

So I want him on my team. But other teams may want him more. And I'm okay with that.

Sean Smith? Very interesting to me. He was nails when asked to play man-press against big receivers such as Larry Fitzgerald and A.J. Green early in the season. But then he kind of fell off the table in November and wasn't that much better in December.

He struggles with smaller, quicker receivers. He doesn't seem totally comfortable with the Dolphins system.

One publication said the Dolphins are going to put the franchise tag on him. The Dolphins told me that's hogwash. He's solid but not a playmaker. My goal this offseason would be to upgrade at his position and that doesn't mean keeping Smith and paying him nearly 10 times more than he made in 2011 to do it.

I let him walk.

Chris Clemons? Solid but not spectacular. He can stay at a bargain. Jairus Byrd is a free agent and more of a playmaker than Clemons. The Bills are shaking things up so no idea if Byrd is in their plans or if he wants to get away from a team that hasn't made the playoffs in 12 years and is starting over. Just sayin'. Dashon Goldson is also scheduled for free agency but I doubt San Francisco lets him go.

Tony McDaniel? He can stay at the veteran minimum salary with no guaranteed money, otherwise, phfft.

Onto free agency outside the roster:

My goal, again, is improve the offense first and quickly. That means if Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings are available, I sign probably one of them. If all is wonderful and great and amazing and the dollars make sense and I have the opportunity to get both, then I get both.

A four-wide of Jennings, Hartline, Wallace and Davone Bess might be the best four-wide in the NFL.

A three-wide of Jennings, Hartline and Bess or Wallace, Hartline and Bess is pretty darn dangerous, too.

Wallace to me is the priority. The Dolphins need a deep threat. Yes, Wallace bascially only runs 9-routes. But he's the best in the NFL at it.

The reason I add at least one veteran wide receiver (in addition to Hartline) is because I need the offense to be immediately improved. Rookie wide receivers take a while to get it. I need a guy that already has gotten it and is ready to produce the second he hits the field.

GM Armando Salguero passes on Dwayne Bowe. He is not a deep threat. I don't love his target-to-catch ratio (almost 2-to-1) and I'm not sure he's a winner. Plus, the kid wants big, big, big money. No thank you.

I'm looking at cornerback Darius Butler in free agency. He's a former high-round draft pick. He's improving. He is very small. He's very young. He's an excellent person. I like him in nickel situations. He has something he wants to prove. He's from South Florida, so this is the place for him to do it. He also might come sort of cheaply.

Onto the draft:

Yes, yes, yes, the Dolphins should draft the best player available. They have the No. 12 overall selection. And, by the way, I do not trade down in the first round. Miami has enough picks already. I have five picks in the first 90 selections. That's more than enough.

This year is NOT about quantity. This draft has to be about quality.

So no trade down to acquire more picks. It's fools gold when you already have plenty of selections.

Miami's draft needs? It depends on how well I did in free agency. If I got the veteran star WR, then WR probably isn't the direction I'm going at No. 12 unless the quality of that WR is miles ahead of the CB or DE.

I'm going cornerback or defensive end in the first round. Let's face it, the Dolphins need to make more plays on offense and defense. Yes, they need to score more points. But they need to cause more turnovers and make more plays on defense against the opposing passing game.

The defense did a very poor job of giving the offense the football in opponent's territory after a turnover this year. That's one way to get more points, and I'm banking my defensive additions will help in that department.

That's why cornerback and defensive end is so important.

I want CBs that actually, you know, catch interceptions. I'm looking at Alabama's Dee Milliner ornMississippi State's Johnthan Banks (that's how he spells it) as cornerback possibilities.

I'm looking at Texas A&M's Demontre Moore as a pass-rusher, knowing Mike Sherman knows a thing or two about him. I'm looking at FSU's Bjoern Werner as a defensive end. I'm looking at LSU's Barkevious Mingo as a pass-rushing DE. I'm looking at Oregon's Dion Jordan, who at 6-6 and 239 is built like Jason Taylor, as a pass-rushing defensive end.

Look, Jared Odrick was drafted as a 3-4 DE. He's clearly not suited to be a 4-3 DE. He can move inside and the Dolphins can add a DE to compete with Olivier Vernon and probably beat out Vernon as a starting DE. More pressure is necessary from the side opposite Cameron Wake.

Moving Odrick inside might also help get more pressure from the inside.

By the way, New York defensive end Osi Umenyiora will be available in free agency. Pass. He's a 10-year veteran. He's slowing down. He wants to get paid. And the Giants pass rush let the team down significantly this year. Not the answer.

By draft's end, I want to have a couple of corners on my drafted board. I want an early-round wide receiver, assuming I landed a playmaker in free agency. If I sucked in free agency, I better have found a couple of wide receivers in the draft.

I need to find a couple of starting corners. I need a defensive end -- and there are plenty of options. And later on I want to add a tight end because Michael Egnew did zero to make me think he's the answer.

And, of course, I want to fill in later at right tackle (assuming Jake Long is gone and Jonathan Martin is my left tackle) because Nate Garner is a good backup, but I want to upgrade there.

By the way, I said previously that I'm for an all-of-the-above strategy. Well, that includes trades.

It has been reported that Jermichael Finley is on the outs in Green Bay. Apparently, he has maturity problems, his production is down and his work ethic isn't what it can be. So the Packers, according to the report, will either trade or release him this offseason.

Well, Salguero is open to trading for him because Salguero is sick and tired of mediocre tight end play by overachievers and perfers very good tight end play by an underachiever.

This year was a down year for Finley. He caught 61 passes for 667 yards. Fasano and Charles Clay caught 59 passes for 544 yards combined. So Finley has a bad year and he's still more productive than every tight end on the Miami roster because only Clay and Fasano caught passes for Miami.

And he's not worthy of getting? Are you kidding me?

The guy is 25 years old. He was more productive when Joe Philbin was the offensive coordinator -- with eight TDs in 2011. He is valuable in the red zone and he can work the middle of the field.

Give up one of Miami's third rounders for that guy? In a heartbeat.