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Dolphins history with free agency? Not great

I did an impromptu live chat on twitter today during lunch. If you are not following me, please do so now to add to your Dolphins fan experience.

Anyway, during the chat someone asked me my opinion of the best unrestricted free agent the Dolphins ever signed.

So I went to my trusty media guide and looked at the names through the years starting in 1992 and was honestly saddened by how few truly impactful players this team has signed in free agency.

Now, there have been some good ones. There have been guys signed that started for several years. But great additions?


Far between.

Before running through the names, let me identify what an unrestricted free agent is. We're not counting street free agents because that's another category altogether. Cameron Wake would be classified as a street free agent because he was in the CFL and then made his services available to all NFL teams.

We're also not counting undrafted rookie free agents. Those are another classification separate from unrestricted veteran free agents.

I'm talking about players whose contracts expired with their NFL teams and now are free to shop their services with the remaining teams around the league -- a system that started in earnest in 1992.

Oddly, Miami's first dive into free agency was among its best. Tight end Keith Jackson signed in '92 and was a good player. But his time with Miami lasted a mere 42 games. Three seasons from October of 1992 through the '94 season made Jackson stay all too short. By the end of '94 he was talking about retiring and so Don Shula traded him in the offseason to Green Bay.

Granted, Jackson was better than any tight end Miami has had since that time. But his best season came in 1994 when he caught 59 passes for 673 yards and seven touchdowns. So he was very good, but his Miami time was shortlived.

He was replaced by another free agent tight end signing. Remember Eric Green? Yeah, terrible. He lasted one season in which he missed 39 practices. Yikes.

Keith Byars was solid, but again, he only lasted three full seasons.

Gene Atkins was a nightmare, Fred Barnett was a bust, as was Charles Jordan. Other WR busts in free agency? James McKnight, Derrius Thompson, Az-Zahir Hakeem (aka Az Hakeem), and Legedu Naanee.

Now, some good players did arrive. Don't think I'm saying free agency has been worthless.

Brock Marion and Kevin Donnalley were the only two signed in 1998 by Jimmy Johnson and both started and played well for a few years. Rich Owens came as an afterthought of sorts in 1999 and led the team with 8.5 sacks that year before falling off the map.

Jay Fiedler was a hard-nosed, hard-working, smart quarterback. But he was a game-manager. Can't say he was a bad addition. But you can't say he was the answer.

The 2008 free agent class brought Randy Starks and he's been excellent. But that class also included busts Keith Davis, Sean Ryan, Chris Crocker, and Justin Smiley. A pause here: I know many of you will say Smiley was not a bust. You'll contend he simply got hurt.

Well, the facts are Smiley signed a five-year contract and lasted only two. And he finished both those years on injured reserve. And he came to the Dolphins with an injury history and that history got longer in Miami. And I remind you, as I always do, that durability is a key critical factor in judging players.

So the Dolphins didn't get the length of years or durability they wanted out of Smiley. He didn't solve their problems for the time they expected. And the shoulder that was a problem in San Francisco was not surprisingly a problem in Miami.

Meanwhile, Jake Grove came in 2009. Same issue. Same result. Came with injury history from Oakland. Everyone pointed it out. Dolphins said it wasn't an issue. It became an issue.

Karlos Dansby and Richie Incognito came in 2010. Both good starters. Good job.

Kevin Burnett came in 2011. Another good starter signed for much cheaper than what Dansby got yet plays at about the same level. Very good job.

Then 2012 was worthless. Gary Guyton. Cut. Artis Hicks, Cut. Tyrell Jackson. Cut. Richard Marshall. Injured. Naanee. Cut. Jamal Westerman. Cut.

I can see why many of you are leery of free agency. I can see why many doubt this front office's ability to significantly improve the team in free agency. But ...

I remind you the players the club signed last year were basically stopgaps. None were expensive. So the Dolphins basically got what they paid for -- not much.

If the club dives into free agency this offseason, It'll be going into the deep end. That means Miami will be trying to add legitimate playmakers such as Mike Wallace. He won't be cheap. But his price won't be, either.

What happens as far as landing him or not? Well, the club's history for getting the player it really wants needs a reversal. The Dolphins really wanted Peyton Manning. Didn't get him. The club wanted Ryan Clark. Didn't get him.

I'm told the Dolphins will try to land Wallace.

We'll see.



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Tracey I posted an answer for you but the Herald deleted it. I'll try again.

Bush and Hartline would cost about 9 million a piece to franchise. Obviously only one tag can be used per season so you would have to pick your poison.

Do you tag Hartline? Here are the top 5 at his position in salary.

Santonio Holmes
Andre Johnson
Brandon Marshall
Sydney Rice
D.H. Bey

So Hartline would have to be paid a one year salary that would pay him more than Rice and Bey. Ummm no thank you. Hartline is NOT a top 5 wr in this league.

Oh Lord, that will be deleted too. Okay here goes.

Yes the Dolphins suck in free agency. We've been talking about it for years. Why someone on your twitter feed would ask such an obvious question is funny to me. Maybe they're a new fan.

Jackson and Starks are the two that stand out. Wilford still angers me.

Brock Marion .. made the Pro Bowl as a Dolphin and was an intereption machine.

Top 5 running backs (pay)


Bush would have to be paid more than Jackson and Turner. And the franchise tag is a hold option, you get the player for a year while you figure out a long term contract. Bush won't be getting a long term contract in two years when he's an undersized 30 year old running back in a qb driven league. There's no way I would use the tag on either of these guys.


How is Calvin Johnson not on that list for highest paid WRs? What am I missing? No Fitzgerald either? Welker?

Wallace at $9 mil #1 WR
Hartline at $5-6 mil #2 WR
Finley or Keller at $6 mil #1 TE
Cason at $7-8m per #1 CB
Peprah at $4 mil Safety

That's 33 Mil and leaves plenty left over to sign rookies & a new LT or RT. Might even leave enough to bring back Mcdaniels and / or Bush.

Also frees up the team to draft just about ANY position in the draft since you would have just signed 5-7 starters at positions of need! You want to be able to draft the best player available.

If that's the offseason Ireland forsees, Miami is in the wildcard hunt & I'll be happy.

Im almost threw up n my mouth about the thought of franchising SS, the dude gets torched by guys left and right. Stevie Johnson tourched SS in the Bills game in and he just so happen to drop everything that game. Does anyone remember?

Brock Marion led the Dolphins in interceptions one time.


Mark I don't know if you remember but Marion made the pro bowl 3 times while here. 2000,2002,2003. He was released after the 2003 season and fans were pi$%ed. He had just been to the pro bowl. He signed in 98 and had no interceptions his first season. His interception totals since he signed in 98 were, 0,2,5,5,5,3. He started slow but really came on his last four seasons.

Mando said both started for a few years. Marion was here for 6 years and I don't remember him riding the bench at all so I think that statement is a bit off. Maybe that's for those twitter people who don't know their own team.

" What's your opinion of the best unrestricted free agent the Dolphins ever signed."

Really? It's a pretty short list guy.

The guy I'd be interested in when it comes to FA but I can't see how we'd be able to fit into our budget is Cliff Avril. This guy is EXACTLY the type of player I'd like to see opposite Wake. The problem is are we going to tie that kind of money up in Wake AND Avril and does it take away from some of the other things we'd like to do. But this guy would be a real force opposite of Wake. I know Ireland likes this guy and I know the team looked at trying to acquire him before a year or two ago via trade. I just don't see how we can make it fit into all the things we need to do.

Craig , these are base salaries that do not include bonuses. I don't think the bonuses are figured in when compiling the top 5 paid players (in terms of figuring out the franchise tag amount) but of course I could be wrong. If anyone thinks I'm wrong please let me know.

Nobody worth franchising this year. We use that cap space to get a proven WR (or 2) and maybe a solid DE in to fill in while Vernon matures.

We draft another LT or RT to line up across from Martin in the top 3 rds.
We draft 2 CB's and another WR in those top 3 rds also. We use that remaining top 3 pick to get someone who grades high but has fallen on draft day.

I wouldn't hold my breath LOL. That's a lot of players to sign for a coach that believes in building through the draft.

Plus, we were fighting for a wild card birth in week 15 last year. Are you thinking the team would get worse this season? Hypothetically, lets say they only sign their own free agents and go into next season with the same exact players (of course the bottom can be upgraded through the draft, hopefully). Are you saying no one will get better and the team will actually have a worse record?

Mando, fairly certain Incognito was street FA signed late in year after being cut by BUF. So he doesn't count in your formulation.

Bills just released Terrance Mcgee, he'll be an upgrade to Nolan Carrol

"I'm told the Dolphins will try to land Wallace."

Now that is encouraging.

No to Avril please. Check w/ Lions fans, he can't play the run to save his life. I am much more interested in Anthony Spencer.

Craig, I'm with you on Avril. As it stands there are a few good DE that would be more than serviceable. It just makes sense for Starks to walk and move Odrick inside. I'd like to think Vernon will be a Younger version of Wake but we need to let him develop.

Yeah, they will try. And so will a bunch of other teams that are looking to add a final piece for a championship run.

So we can offer Wallace what exactly? Money? So can everyone else who wants him.

Nice new stadium? Nope
Experienced staff? Nope
Veteran QB? Nope
Great running attack to take pressure off of him? Nope

I can't figure out why anyone thinks we have a shot at Wallace unless we pay more than others are willing to spend. And if it's about the money in the ned for him does he really have motivation to be the best he can be?

Slippery slope.

Wallace wants 10 million, it will be interesting to see if Ireland give him that contract

End, Ned, same difference.

I don't find it encouraging at all! lol We have tried to sign many great players only to fail in the end, that's the point of the new blog. ;)


Looking back on Keith Jackson's career, he was declining ever since his rookie year:

1988 89 recs
1989 63 recs
1990 50 recs
1991 48 recs
1992 48 recs *Miami

Jackson may have faired far better in this era of TE's.

As far as other former fins fa's none really stand out in my mind as exactly "all time greats" prior to coming to Miami. We havent really been a big player in fa the past 20+ years.

We've kind of dabbled at it as far as big names goes. Shula dabbled a little, so did JJ, but with this fo its been more miss than hit. Dansby's been thier most consistent fa, but we expected more.


The other guy that I really like is Michael Johnson in Cinci. Not sure what it would take to get him? The problem is that Cinci has over $50 mil in cap space and I think they will resign him AND Andre Smith, another guy I'd like to play LT on this team. I mentioned this morning that I think this is where ?Mike Wallace will end up in FA. Look for Cinci to be big players in FA this offseason and the team to beat in the AFC Noth next year.

none really stand out in my mind as exactly "all time greats" prior to coming to Miami."

That's the problem. Not many teams let go of all time greats so the chances of landing one in free agency are low. Interesting study, how many teams have been able to sign all time greats before or in their prime? The number has to be pretty darned low.

Okay, I'm all caffeinated up and the blog is moving too slow for me! Later guys.

I think the Fish will swing for the fences on FA and add a couple of 'stars'. A DE and WR. No role players, no cheapies (ie. bust guys from previous years) - they'll get their filler and developmental guys in the draft.

After that they will try and sign most of their FA's,probably not both Long and Smith, but one of them and only Reggie and Fasano if the price is right.

So next year you'll see a dominant D-Line, a functional O-Line, playmakers at TE and WR so a much better passing game, and an improved but not outstanding secondary (assuming Marshall is OK).

I expect the run game to be good and I would be surprised if they don't draft a RB mid to late.


I'm not signing Avril to play the run. I'm signing him to put pressure on the QB. Odrick and Soliai are all above playing the run. Avril is a 'full-motor' guy on every play, as evidenced by his consistency in the sack dept every year. He's 26 years old and he's EXACTLY what this team needs. The problem is the money he's going to want in FA and how to fit all that into the cap. I'm just not sure we can do it.

Posted by: Phins78 | February 14, 2013 at 04:26 PM

I guess this ios the roll the dice factor of fa. But off the top of my head I can think of two all time greats going to fa in thier primes:

Reggie White
Deon Sanders

Charles Woodson went to GB from OAK in his 8th season and has picked up 2 sb rings. He actually had more picks with GB than he was getting in OAK.

Trace Armstrong ? I don't know if that was a trade with Chicago, but Trace did really well on 3rd downs ..

Phins78, I brought up the Brock marion comparison here before. Imagine an in form Brock Marion paired up with Rashad??? Marion was big, strong, athletic - very good against the run (routinely piled up 90+ tackles on a team that had Zach Thomas eat up a bunch) and the pass - like Rashad. Not bad for an undrafted guy from Nevada.

In my opinion, he's one the top 25 Dolphins ever. What a secondary with him Patrick and Sam. Great Free Agent signing.

This franchise always f*** up in f.agency get Avril and Cox and the linebacker from the Ravens and you're good. You'll have plenty of capspace to go after a reciever like Wallace or Jennings. Then on draft night draft 2wr's fs. te cb in the 1.st 5 picks !!

T. Buckley was good, Louis Oliver (did he come back?)

More stupid shite YG says:

Charles Woodson picked up two super bowl rings??

Really? Did he steal one?? Buy one on e-bay?? Bought one off a former player down on his luck???

he only won ONE!

Sorry Craig, I know we are both avid fans, but he can't just come in and rush the passer. He needs to be more complete than that. It's great he is a great rusher but you can't be a liability in other areas. He will be taken advantage of.

YG I came back for a sec, read your post. Good call, they were two of the best. I'm racking my brain trying to think of others but like I said, I think the numbers are pretty low. But you never know, maybe this will be the year we can add a third to that list and hopefully if we do the player will be in Miami for a long time.

Yeah Mark I LOVED what Brock brought to the team. That guy was as tough as nails and yes, next to Jones we would be in a great situaton.

Phins78, what the heck are you talking about DH Bey 41 receptions, 606 yards, Sydney Rice 50 receptions, 740 yard, Hartline 74 receptions, 1083 yards. Looks like you're a really good judge of performance. Are you kidding me Rice and Bey are top 5 in salary, Harline looks like a bargain.

This is further proof, that this ISN'T how oyu build a team. It doesn't work in baseball, it doesn't work in hockey and it doesn't work in football. What we're doing is trying to make up for some of our shortfalls over the years in drafting. I think the answer should be to add 2-3 guys in FA, maybe keep 1-2 of our existing FAs and do the rest through the draft.


Why I say NO to Wallace and yes to Jennings

go finssssssssss

Oh no - it's dusty "my posts are worthless" bottoms.

Where my money be bleotch?


Why I say NO to Wallace and yes to Jennings

Posted by: O'darris D'haiti | February 14, 2013 at 05:03 PM

Give us the gist of it, please. The link is nice but drop us a line or two about what persuaded you.


I'll also second Brock Marion. One of my favorite all time Dolphins.

He always seemed like a Poor Mans Ronnie Lott. And I mean that in the best possible way.

marion was jj's man

Got a feeling all teams have a track record similar to this when you look at the big picture.

Free Agency is basically the leftovers and anyone that's going to let a good player walk is likely concerned about things that will happen once he's paid.

I look at FA as high risk, medium reward.

Was Ricky Williams a trade or FA pick up? Can't remember?

Anyway, Ricky was a rock solid, top 3 all time pick up


Your memory on the Keith Jackson situation seems a bit hazy at best. That was after the 94 Season when the Dolphins, Shula and Huzienga decided to go all in on a Championship run, the problem is the guy picking the talent was G.M. Shula!

He packaged WR Mark Ingram along with Keith Jackson to G.B. for lower Rd picks, I remember it well with Jackson on a vacation being reached I believe in Africa when he stated he had no intention of playing elsewhere and if traded would retire. Lucky for him Holgrem talked him out of it given he would win a S.B. with them in 96.

"free agency is basically the leftovers"

...dude, Free Agency applies to ALL players coming off their rookie contract. Flacco is technically a free agent, he's no 'leftover'(Superbowl MVP).

There is PLENTY of talent in FA...can we lure them to Miami is the question.

ricky was a trade, we gave up a lot

The entire 95 attempt at a Title was ONE HUGE disaster!

He blew up the Safety pos. (Jarvis Williams was always out of position) but Oliver was at the peak of his career and while he did freelance he also made huge plays in the Sec. still I believe to this day holding the longest Int. return of about 105 Yards Vs. Buffalo in around 92. Oliver walked for a 3Yr/9Mil. deal to the Bengals proclaiming the Mercedes Benz was heading North, Shula counters by giving Gene Atkins almost the same deal he refused Oliver (huge mistake and the cancer that destroyed that Locker room) Signing Micheal Stewart to replace Williams (one good player that escaped you as well in FA players Mando)

We also jettisoned steady DT Chuck Klingbeil and replaced him with Steve Emtmen who was a great player who unfortunately blew out both knees in Indy when knee surgery was a killer. The Eric Green deal was about him being a superior blocker to Jackson while also a threat in the pass game (big mistake!) We replaced Ingram with the over the hill bunch from Wash. in Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders. We even made a serious play for Deion Sanders offering up a 4Yr./20Mil. deal which he declined to go to S.F. and win it all with a team doing the same that Yr. but building with the right players ( his S.F. deal was a 1Yr./1.2Mil. deal.

These moves destroyed team chemistry and stripped Marino of 2 vital pieces on O with Ingram and Jackson, in order to put together a 17 First Rd pick team that fell flat and essentially got Shula canned with the we want JJ signs out in force for a Monday Night game that Yr. Vs. S.F. at home ( billed as a S.B. preview) were they ran us out of the building and ending in the infamous 300 plus rushing yard Playoff loss in Buffalo.

agree with 5:20 posting....

The ONLY true game changing FA in my memory is Deion Sanders.....this dude was what Free Agency is all about.....

switching teams...winning SBs with different teams....

Deion Sanders is what EVERY GM envisions when they sign they're PRIZE DAY 1 FAs......to bad more often than not...you get a Gibril Wilson...instead of a Deion Sanders....or even a Reggie White.....

imo...the FINS have doe adequate in FA.....and if we hadn't dumped Marshall....I would say we have done well....imagine if Ireland had the fore-thought to have Marshall and Chad Johnson....instead of ONE or the OTHER...and eventually wind up with NEITHER.....

fin4life....very impressive memory...as painful as it was to relive, I'm still impressed.


what do you have as FA pick 1 and 2...all-time...

I'm torn....Wallace has the game changing, playmaker ability that can win games...but seems to possess those 'Diva' qualities that Philbin hates.
Jennings has good not great talent, but has a positive attitude and will be a huge asset in both the locker room & huddle.

Life's full of tough choices.

i can remember like it was yesterday. bills always had our number

Keith Jackson was the 1st player during the Reggie White Anti-trust Lawsuit to switch teams Mid-Season and wanted to play in Miami. His 1st game in a Fins Uniform was one for the ages Vs. Buffalo were he caught a couple of TD's!

if we sign brian hartline for 5-6 million per ill fukin throw up. WE NEED PLAYMAKERS! HE IS NOT ONE! I'm going to keep saying it until he signs with another team. He scored one fukin touchdown last year guys. 1. If he was a difference maker then we would have put more points on the board this year. Half of his yards came in 3 games. His ONLY touchdown came on blown coverage, nobody was within 30 yards and he still barely got in. I want someone more athletic who can create separation. There are plenty of guys out there who are more athletic and cheaper. hell, i'd rather have Rishard Mathews as our number 2 WR. If you have abad season with a subpar offense, you cant bring back the same players that prevented you from scoring points the year before. I cant believe they are thinking about re-signing him for that much money. It blows my mind. Hes just not a playmaker, plain and simple.

close fin, he only caught one td

Loved Keith Jackson.....

But one of my favorite FINS from that era was Keith Byars.....

short choppy steps.....tip-toeing down the snowy side line in Dallas.....92 yards I believe,.....

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