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Dolphins should consider both sides of character issue

The Dolphins passed on available wide receiver Titus Young Tuesday after he was waived by the Detroit Lions Monday. That's not extremely surprising despite the fact the team clearly could use a young (23), speedy (4.43)  pass-catcher with upside.

The reason Miami's pass on Young is no surprise here is because the player was, well, toxic.

Young wore out his welcome in Detroit by being late to meetings, complaining when the ball wasn't thrown his way and being borderline insubordinate with coaches at times. He could also be considered borderline delusional because he actually said he's just as good as Calvin Johnson -- who had twice as many yards this year as Young has had in his two-year career.

So the Dolphins were among the 31 NFL teams that did not put in a waiver claim for Young, as USA Today first reported. The St. Louis Rams were the only team to put in a claim for the troubled young man.

I can understand why the other teams passed.

I can even understand why the Dolphins passed although Young would have come extremely cheap ($800,000) and could be easily booted if he acts a fool before next season's start.

But the fact the Dolphins could have had and passed on Young -- they could have had him by claiming him because their claim came before St. Louis -- brings up a bigger, more important issue for me.

I use Titus Young merely as the jumping off point to ask the question, are the Dolphins under Joe Philbin willing to take risks on players with questionable backgrounds or character red flags?

I ask this question because Philbin showed little regard for keeping so-called troubed players on the team in his first NFL season. I don't mean he had issues with players with legal issues. Jonathan Amaya had a legal issue and Philbin ultimately kept him on the team.

He had issues keeping players that are, shall we say, high maintenance.

With Philbin as coach the Dolphins traded Brandon Marshall. With Philbin as coach the Dolphins cut Chad Johnson. With Philbin as coach the Dolphins traded Vontae Davis.

All of those moves were not necessarily good football moves as all subtracted talent from the roster. They were moves to clear the locker room of players Philbin wasn't extremely comfortable having around because they were all, in one way or another, high maintenance.

"In making these decisions we base our evaluations on a set of criteria that support our organizational goals and include a player’s performance both on and off the field," Philbin said after Johnson was cut. "Essentially, we take into account the overall body of evidence to determine whether an individual is the right fit for this organization, and more specifically this football team."

Obviously, Johnson and his act wore on Philbin. Obviously, the idea of Marshall giving him or his coaches lip like he did the previous staff or possibly acting out on the sideline as he did previously didn't thrill Philbin. These were not necessarily football decisions.

Same with Vontae Davis. The Dolphins actually gave up a talented player at a position of need because Davis came to camp out of shape, didn't exactly rush to get right, and was actually running with the second-team because coaches didn't like the way he was working. And yes, Davis has a history for drinking.

It wasn't about one thing with these guys -- not even Johnson who sealed his fate by being arrested for domestic violence.

It was about whether guys will fall in line quickly. It was about immediately meeting a criteria. It was about marching to the beat of the Dolphins band (if they had one).

“I don’t know about the moves themselves, but I think you have to have an idea for what you’re looking for in terms of a vision for the team," Philbin said soon after the Davis trade. "What type of team you want to have, what kind of men you want to have in the locker room, and clearly I think we have some good ideas of where we are heading in that direction. That’s not to suggest that Vontae… Vontae Davis and I never had any confrontations or real issues, and I appreciate all the efforts that he put forth while he was here.

"But yes, there are certain guys, and I can give you an example of when go to the combine sometimes and you sit there for 60 interviews and you interview guys.  You know there are some guys that aren’t going to fit. That doesn’t mean they’re bad guys or they’re not good players either, but when you’ve been doing it for a while, you get a sense of the people that you feel like you can work with, you can connect with, guys you can help reach their potential. Guys that you feel good about. But that’s part of it, that’s part of the whole process; figuring out who is a good fit and who isn’t."

Yes, it's about Philbin feeling comfortable with the players. And he's clearly not comfortable with certain types ... certain troubled types.

That leads me to this:

How much will that cost the Dolphins?

I ask because if Joe Philbin is going to need a choirboy roster, his team is never going to be very good. That's because the sad truth is a lot of NFL players have problems. Some drink. Some are perpetually late. Some have anger issues. Some are loose with their hands around their women. Some have sassy mouths. Some have nightmare families that haunt. Some smoke marijuana. Some have maturity problems. Some have checkered pasts. Some have checkered presents.

And a lot of those guys are or become outstanding players.

Cam Newton.

Vincent Jackson.

Ray Lewis.

Michael Vick.

Ben Roethlisberger.

Randy Moss.

Jason Peters.

Bryant McKinnie.

Aqib Talib.

Vernon Davis.

I could go on, but you surely get the drift. Troubled players often become very, very valuable because they are simply very good.

Look at the most recent Hall of Fame class: Warren Sapp will be inducted. Cris Carter will be inducted. Both were troubled at points in their careers. The Eagles actually cut Carter because of alcohol and drug use. The Hall also boasts Lawrence Taylor and Michael Irvin.

Would those guys have been a fit for Philbin? Can you imagine Philbin saying he wouldn't want LT on his team because although he was perhaps the most dominant defensive player of his generation he had issues with cocaine abuse?

My fear is not that the Dolphins will have too many of these troubled men on the roster. It's that they won't have any. My fear is that the Dolphins would look at Taylor at the Combine and not draft him because he's not pristine enough. My fear is that in searching for "a good fit" the Dolphins might opt not to draft or sign or be patient with a player that has flaws that require attention.

Let's face it, some guys are projects not necessarily because it takes them a while to get rolling on the field. It takes them a while to get rolling in life. Many of these guys eventually figure it out and, having pushed down their troubles, let their gifts rise to great heights.

Jimmy Johnson, who had no fear of drafting troubled guys, maneuvered the draft to make sure he could stay away from Moss. How'd that work out? This administration stayed away from Dez Bryant and although that story is still not fully written, it's not looking so great for Miami so far.

My point?

Hard and fast rules that all the players must be a good character fit right now at the expense of losing amazing talent is a safe way to operate. But it's also a way to miss out on some great players, too.

The Dolphins have to consider balancing that out a bit more because, so far, they haven't shown that's what they're willing to do.

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