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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?

Few.

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.

 

Comments

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let them put more people on Wallace, then it opens up everything else underneath..

he doesn't have to be open every play to help the offense. he needs to be a deep threat to move the defense back from the line of scrimmage.

right now all 11 defenders are withing 10 yards of the line of scrimmage jamming us up, if thwe safties have to play 20 - 25 yards back, that gives Bess, hartline, and our TE and RB running space.

Bobby, I believe it was our LBs that got killed most of the season. They can't cover a TE or slot WR for their life. Even our terrible CBs held their own most of the time. They were the ones that ended up allowing that big play to happen but the teams that marched down the field did it thru our LBs I believe. Spitler and Trusnick could have done an equally as good (or bad) as Dansby and Burrnett for 1/4 of the money if not less.

Posted by: wallyfin | February 15, 2013 at 11:18 AM

Exactly!

That's why we need a deep threat. Good post

Nahh, they don't pay Millions for a decoy, anywhere. Sign a Megatron.

Da Beast always got double teamed opening up the rest of the offense. Very difficult to replace him.

decoy? he scores touchdowns!

i give up...

Bush, Wake, and Dansby are the best players on the team and none were acquired via the draft.

preach it bobby @ 11:14. been beating this drum forever. Turnovers is the most important stat in football ... it starts and ends with turnover ratio. I can tell you who the best teams are in football by looking at that stat and that stat alone.

"I agree that the defense is very good and young and one player away from being a legitimate top 5 defense. I would gladly spend a 1st rounder on a stud DE or CB if we addressed our offensive needs in FA (which seem much easier to do due to the talent available up and down the board compared to defense)"

What??? Very good??? The only thing that was very good about this defense was the ability to stop the run.

Other than Misi the LB's missed too many tackles (short routes that turned into big gainers) which is why Clemons led the team in that category. You can't be a 'very good' defense unless you can tackle well & force turnovers which is why letting Smith walk is a 'no-brainer' as far I'm concerned.

As I've said here before I hope that Dansby's tackling woes were more of a byproduct of his torn muscle in his arm than a decline as a football player.

preach it bobby @ 11:14. been beating this drum forever. Turnovers is the most important stat in football ... it starts and ends with turnover ratio. I can tell you who the best teams are in football by looking at that stat and that stat alone.

Mark,

That's EXACTLY why the Saints & GB were able to win SB's. As great as Drew Bress & Rodgers are--they couldn't have won SB's unless their defenses can make big plays.

Bush, Wake, and Dansby are the best players on the team and none were acquired via the draft.

I'd put Jones & Hartline (who were both drafted btw) ahead of Bush.

I REALLY don't get people's infatuation with Bush. He never lived up to his draft status. Right now, he's a 3rd down/change of pace back. In seven NFL seasons Bush had ONE season where he rushed for over 1000 yards & people go nuts over him. Come on...

Yes he had a nice season in 2011 but last year he disappeared for a span of 8 games after he got nicked up & he's just not a lead back. He's about to turn 28 & I view him as a 'poor man's C.J. Spiller'--not as quick, not as elusive, & not as young.

You forgot me and Ernst Wilford as busts too

D WINS GAMES?

THE BEST D WAS PIT.

THEY ALSO HAD WALLACE.

WHAT's YOUR ARGUMENTS ABOUT AGAIN?

WE NEED MORE WEAPONS.

WE NEED TO BE ABLE TO PUT UP 30+ EVERY GAME.

EVERY BODY UP HERE IS CORRECT TO SOME POINT.

YOU CAN't HAVE A TEAM OF ALL A PLAYERS WITH THE CAP IN PLACE SO YOU PICK AND CHOOSE WHO THOSE A PLAYERS ARE AND WHAT POSITION IS BEST FOR THE TEAM.

PHILLY HAD MAYBE THE BIGGEST CBs NAMES. THEY WERE ALL LOCK DOWN CBs BUT THEY WENT NO WHERE.

THEY ALSO HAVE GREAT WEAPONS BUT WENT NO WHERE.

THE BEST QBs?

WHERE WERE THEY?

ALL OF YOUR ARGUMENTS MAKE SINCE BUT AGAIN IT's A TEAM SPORT.

SCORE POINTS.

MORE POINTS THAN THE OTHER TEAM PERIOD.


"You forgot me and Ernst Wilford as busts too"

LOL@Gibril. We all tried to forget you guys.

WNP, it goes so much deeper than that too. Sure the deciding play in the Saints SB was a pick six but take NE from last year - everyone said their defense sucked. Really??? They produced a tonne of turnovers, Brady protected the ball on offense and they steamrolled a bunch of teams on route to a conference championship game and 13 wins. But people want to say it's all brady but make no mistake, that defense was a huge contributor.

SF, Bal, NE, Atl. All top ten in T/O ratio and in the conference champ games. I think you can go back years and see the same every year or just about ...

Man, what a disappointing dud Ernest Wilford was!

Odinseye, yes I agree w/ you IF Hartline will sign for a "reasonable" amount I am all for it. He is a great locker room guy and has connected w/ Tannehill. He is great between the 20's and I am fine w/ that. He and Bess along w/ Lamar Miller assuming Bush leaves and Tannehill of course will all greatly be aided by Wallace.

...and btw I know Wallace isn't the "answer to the equation of the universe" or anything but he can do what few in the NFL can do, blow the top off the defense. I always look for guys who can give us something most other teams don't have. I saw Jason Pierre-Paul that way as well as Melvin Ingram last year, both had superior explosion + flexibility. It may sound silly but JPP w/ his backflips and Ingram w/ his standing back flip told me those guys had explosive skills that separated them from the pack. Just an example. That is why I loved TE Keith Jackson when we had him. He was essentially an advantage we carried into every game.

you didn t mention our best free agent Irving Fryer,h

YOU are right greg, Hartline only scored one TD because Tannehill insisted on over throwing him. One home game tanne had Hartline three times for deep TDs and over threw him, sickening. Pay Hartline.

Wasn't Irving Fryar and Mark Ingram free agents as well? They were pretty solid. Gene Atkins was ok, he wasn't terrible, thats for sure.

When Cecil Collins's rape conviction expires, and if we re-sign him, does that count as a free agent?

Bring in Austin Collie

FINALLY IT SEEMS MY PLEADING FOR MIKE WALLACE IS FINALLY BEING HEARD. HE IS THE ANSWER AND WILL GIVE US WHAT WE NEED "SPEED OVER THE TOP. NOW IT WILL COME DOWN TO MAKING THE BEST PITCH FOR HIM. IF IT TAKES 10 MIL. GET HIM.I AGREE WE NEED TE,CB,DE,ETC,BUT WALLACE HAS TO BE TOP PRIORITY. JENNINGS IS OLDER AND INJURY PRONE AND THE DOLPHINS HAVE MADE THESE MISTAKES IN PAST WITH INJURY PRONE PLAYERS. WALLACE IS NOT. LOOK AT THE AFC EAST: IF THE DOLPHINS SIGN WALLACE IT CREATES MATCHUP PROBLEMS FOR JETS,NE AND PATS. WALLACE WILL MAKE THE OFFENSE AT LEAST 10-14 PTS BETTER, JENNINGS DOES NOT MAKE THE DOLPHINS BETTER. SO THIS HAS TO BE THE DOLPHINS CHOICE AND THEY MUST GO ALL OUT TO GET HIM (SKY IS THE LIMIT) IF THEY FAIL THEY MUST DRAFT A DEEP THREAT GAME CHANGER IN THE DRAFT. THERE IS NO ONE. SIGN WALLACE MAKE THE PLAYOFFS.

Twitter is for twits.
Miami has a new sustainable approach to Free Agency, reward our own players with the green. Drafting excellent players is the best route for the Dolphins. High priced FA just want to get paid for past performance and ride off in the sunset with a last fat pay day.

The Dolphins have not been serious about landing top free agents since Shula left. We keep witnessing the club bringing in mid-range players instead of top tier game changers. There's no reason to expect that to change now. We are the Miami DONGLES-the Bengals' southern extension.

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