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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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Marco Colombo is #1 all time FA pick up!

...followed by C-Pepp.

...oh man, I gotta stop drinking in the afternoon.

77 yards kris

This is a very eye-opening list of Dolphins transactions over the last year....WOW is all I've got to say.


Thanks Dusty......

I actually have a new appreciation for what Ireland or any GM has to deal with on an annual basis.

There's got to be over 100 personnel changes on that list!

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

NHFINSFAN | February 14, 2013 at 05:40 PM

That Season is like a NIGHTMARE permanently embedded in my brain! I hated the Jackson/Ingram trade and had serious reservations regarding Emtman. About the only good thing we did was trade for Trace Armstrong but gave up a 2 and a 3 for a player who gave us 4 Seasons!

I'll never forget S.F. Exec. Dwight Clark saying publically that Off-Season that the Dolphins were trying to buy a S.B. which I thought FUNNY! Thinking you guys signed Norton, Dent Gary Plummer, Charles Mann, Tim McDonald ect...

Talk about the Pot calling the Kettle black!

greg, no matter how you want to put it,Hartline is a 4.45 40 guy, a who had a 14.6 yards/catch. No 1/2 of his yard did not come in 3 games, and he was injured in the last 2 games of the season. You want Matthews huh, are you an idiot, tell me what has made you think the he could be a thousand yard receiver. What have you seen.

Here's the Fins 2012 salary list: one glaring note: Egnew made more $$$ than Miller:


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

Kris | February 14, 2013 at 05:48 PM

It was 88 yards and yes he was a great player and heck of a 3rd down specialist. To me the thing about that play was that the Cowboys D had the angle on the sideline and Byars just ran past everybody, I thought WOW deceptive speed!

FA's or trades are our only chance while Ireland is the GM. The drafts are useless.

it was 77 yards

greg, If you consider a big play receptions those over 25 yards, Wallace had 5 last year, Harline had 8. That's big play capability, and you don't give does guys away.

Peyton Manning

only one team had the 20 million he wanted!

Jim Langer was as a street FA back in the day, he got cut by the Browns and we picked him up, he was elected to the Yello Jacket Club (HOF) in 1987, I'd have to say that Jim was probably the best FA pickup this team has ever had!!

Wannstedt made a great trade for Ricky Williams the best RB in Dolphin history.

close fin, he only caught one td

dusty bottoms | February 14, 2013 at 05:48 PM

Ahhhh! dusty I thought he caught 2 that day, I see you remember it as well given the pass was thrown to Clayton actually when Jackson cutting across the endzone went up and caught a beauty!

You remember Bills H.C. Levy after the game with the sour grapes B I T C H I N G about this new FA thing not being fair?? I LOVED IT!

I see Hartline's family posts here too :).

There is no comparison between Wallace and Hartline. Hartline can't create consistent separation unless he carries a machete w/ him. We want players who tilt the field in our direction, guys who give us an advantage in games and Wallace is that type of player. Regardless of stats it is obvious Wallace is clearly a greater threat. Just by his presence he will create opportunities, can't say that about Hartline. I hope we can keep Hartline but not if he is expensive. Thanks but no thanks.


For those of you on the Terrance McGee bandwagon! The Bills just released him.

man i cant stand levy, kelly,thomas,reed,tasker,smith,odomes, davis, metz,talley,lofton list goes on and on

Well since we beat them the entire decade of the 70's like a drum I would say they hate us more, in other words we started it :).


PLease, please, pretty please Armando, however you can do it, DO NOT ALLOW IRELAND TO SIGN JENNINGS. He is 30 and another one that comes with an injury history. Mike Wallace NEEDS to come to Miami! Maybe they can also go after Keller, a corner like Talib or so, and maybe a guard. Also was reading that in today's top defenses, the elite teams carry 2 very good safeties. We need someone better to pair up with R. Jones. Make it happen!





dolfandave, some team will pay him. I'm just giving facts, which many people don't like to hear because it goes against their perception. Oh and Wallace average 13.1 yards/reception and Hartline oh right 14.6. Call me what you want, but those are the facts, not perceptions.

dusty they were good...thats he problem. The whole calling Joe Robbie, Rich Stadium south boiled my blood.

i know u will probably not read this,but if u do and have any pull,tell ireland to sign db pat watkins from the toronto argos! a 6-5 210 corner with good mobility,cfl all-star as a rookie!very physical,rarely got beat deep!sign him before someonelse does!

Amen @ 6:17....

if frank reich doesnt have that huge comeback vs oilers, marino wins super bowl that year

it was 77 yards

dusty bottoms | February 14, 2013 at 06:03 PM

I thought it was around 80 but couldn't remember the exact number, by the way one of the last times a then loved loved OJ Simpson ran the sideline commentary on his own, what happened to that guy talk about letting jealousy destroy lives past and present as in the dead and his kids!


facts are not predictions....

that is YOUR PERCEPTION.....

somebody will pay him...that is true...how much...TBD....

Yes those are facts I agree Mike. It is also a fact that stats are deceiving. There is no way Hartline is better than Wallace. He is good and I like Hartline but there is a significant difference in talent. I have been a die hard since 1974, have seen em come and go. I also watched every play of every game probably since 1990. I know an average receiver when I see one. I see a team that can't create separation in the passing game consistently and that falls on both Bess and Hartline as well as Fasano so some degree.

oj throwing huge super bowl party in his cell is bs

So we need two corners, a safety, two wideouts one linebacker, a real tight end, a tackle and maybe likely another RB if Bush is gone.

That is 9 players. No more than 2 or 3 will be FA vetts, so with 6 rookie starters needed, g'bye 2013.

lol so basically your saying we need a whole new team

you forgot pass rusher unless you are counting the linebacker as one

Lamar Miller can replace Bush, I think he will be a star and may be better suited for our zone blocking

I think one corner actually, Marshall and Patterson can suffice at the other.

If Hartline's still on the teams as even a #2 wr, Im prepared to begin planning my 2014 mock draft before the 2013 seasons begins.

We should be picking at about 12-13 again in 2014. Mark your calenders.

Agree with Justin as well. Nothing wrong with free agents if you get the right one. I think the Pack got Reggie White through free agency.

Then theres the Haynesworth signing. Yikes. It's not guaranteed but if you think its going to upgrade the team you gotta try.

I also agree with tiredfinfan to a degree on Jennings age and last years injury. Although I wouldn't say an emphatic no I hope they really do their homework on it.

I think he keeps himself in good shape which is a plus.


After taking a dump, are you sure you are wiping the correct orafice?

ok yesterday then who do u suggest we start at wr next year

I have never liked FAs. If they are that good their Teams would sign them early at any price and not let them even test the Market. You want a particular Player real bad, try to engineer a trade for him. That's how we got Buonicanti and Warfield. That the other Team don't want to let him go? Well, except if you are named Brady or Peyton, everybody else playing in the NFL has its prize.

Can we please stop writing Dustin Keller on this blog!! The sucks!! Enough already.

lol yeah keller isnt anything exciting

It depends on how hungry they are. Were Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett good? I think they were/are.

dansby and burnett are ghosts, never make any impact plays

Shhh, did you hear that? The Cowboys just died.

We should be picking at about 12-13 again in 2014. Mark your calenders.

Yesterday's Gone 4Ever! | February 14, 2013 at 06:31 PM

I won't bother answering the Hartline/Wallace comparison given it's ridiculous and I am also somewhat pessimistic about Hartline as the #2 with Jennings one and Fasano back at T.E.

I get what Philbin wants when he says he wants 5 WR's he can play to go after a teams weaknesses given the 5 he had in G.B. but there was a few Yrs. invested in that group. I remember J.Nelson being primarily S.T.'s early in career and Jones dropped everything for a while when they rode what Driver had left in the tank and while Jennings makes a huge difference it really doesn't say much when looking at our group and while it probably isn't the plan I feel Wallace would bring the big play ability and speed we haven't seen in a couple of DECADES NOW!

FA signing are for immediate impact players. Wallace and Jenning both bring that. This team needs to get weapons around Tannehill now. You build the defence through the draft.

Forget any FA TE. You have good ones that will be available in the second round.

If they late Jake go fine. You draft a top 6:44:15 PM at 12 then. Hopefully Eric Fisher is there.

Remember, the most can't miss 1st round players are OL. They usually start and play well.


In the case of Wallace, I believe the Steelers want him but their already paying one WR $10 million a year and their over the cap.

If the Ravens are even able to resign Flacco someone else good like Cary Williams will to be let go because of their cap situation.

Not all free agents are another teams problem. To me it would just be bad business to totally rule out an avenue of upgrading your team.

agree rick

What do you guys think of the Saints WR's? Colston, Moore, Henderson and i can't remember the rest.

To me neiher one of them really scream playmaker other than Graham at Te but the Saints are a TD scoring machine.

It's scheme,precision,formation, and pace. I think thats what the Fins are are looking for here.

Thats why in my humble opinion I think Hartline can be a part of the equation here.

I wish Hartline would take less money to remain a Dolphin so we can sign a guy like Wallace. Hartline is more than just a possession receiver. On some of the occasions he was open deep the ball was either under or overthrown or thrown out of bounds or to the wrong shoulder. He was injured for most of training camp and didn't have the chance to work a full offseason with T-hill. Id like to see what he'd do opposite a Wallace type. One thing. We DO have a lot of holes to fill. Hope some get filled anyway. It'd be a start.

If they REALLY think Wallace is essential to their Team fortunes, they will do anything possible to keep him. If Pitt lets him go easy, Red Flag!

Not sure Hartline would even be a No 2 on many teams actually

dusty, Burnett and Dansby played well, not sure what you were watching

i was watching us lose more than win like always. dansby been nowhere near the player he was in zona

Recently we've done far better in FA then in the draft.

I still can't think of any Playmaker that would be worth a #12 overall in the upcoming Draft. Maybe Kenny Vaccaro? Not sure. I have to scope him.

Dansby had an allstar offense. It's a big difference when you play d with a big lead and are not on the field as much.

gross oscar

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