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3 posts from March 8, 2013

March 08, 2013

Moore, Hartline, Starks for Jake Long money

Money matters in the NFL.

Players want as much of it as possible -- and rightfully so. Teams want to horde as much of it as possible-- and rightfully so.

Interestingly, fans often side with players they like or follow and root for more than the teams and are upset when teams let good players walk. Last year, Texans fans were upset Mario Williams was allowed to leave via free agency and right tackle Eric Winston was cut.

In the coming days, many Pittsburgh Steelers fans will be unhappy if Mike Wallace leaves the team, as expected.

And I'm hearing many Dolphins fans, some on this very site, bemoaning the possibility Jake Long will be allowed to walk via free agency because he's been a good player.

Well, the reason let players you like walk is because they make priorities of other players. And sometimes quantity is just as important as quality.

Consider that Long initially considered himself "highest-paid NFL left tackle material" and wanted to maintain his $11 million per year salary he's enjoyed recently if not get a raise. That would have put Long in the $11-$12 million per year salary range.

Then consider what the Dolphins have done the past week on the contract front. They tied up Randy Starks with a one-year $8.45 million franchise tag. They tied up backup QB Matt Moore for a reported $8 million over two years. They re-signed No. 2 wide receiver Brian Hartline for $30.8 million over five years.

That's a total of $47.25 million.

If the Dolphins had met Long's intial contract desires, they would have paid him between $44-$48 million for four years or $55-$60 million for five years.

So the Dolphins got Hartline, Moore, and Starks tied up this year and in Hartline's and Moore's case, for multiple years, for the same money they might have gotten for Long alone.

Obviously, some fans will believe that would have been alright for the right to keep a starting albeit declining left tackle. Some fans will be upset if Long walks.

The Dolphins are happy with what they've done.

“I am excited that we have been able to reach an agreement with both Brian and Matt to keep them as members of the Miami Dolphins,” said Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland. “Brian is an ascending player that has steadily improved over his first four years with the organization. He has represented himself positively both on the field and throughout the South Florida community. Matt has been a valuable contributor to the Dolphins ever since he arrived two seasons ago. We are happy we were able to resign him, and we think he combines with Ryan Tannehill and Pat Devlin to give us an outstanding group of quarterbacks."

I believe it wise the Dolphins are likely to let Long test the market. I definitely don't think the guy is worth even $11 million per season. Not when you can get multiple good players for that price."

Report: Matt Moore to remain with Dolphins

Matt Moore wanted a chance to compete for a starting quarterback job so he intended to test free agency.

Well, so much for good intentions.

Moore is staying with the Dolphins, as their backup and with the understanding he will not be the starter barring bad circumstances after he agreed to a contract with Miami late Thursday evening, according to NFL.com.

No numbers for the deal have been reported by reporter Jeff Darlington, who broke the original story, or The Miami Herald. But it is believed the deal will include escalator clauses should Moore somehow rise to the role of starting quarterback -- either as a result of injury or poor play by starter Ryan Tannehill.

[Update: Darlington reports the deal is two years for $8 million. It'll be interesting to see if that is all real money without playtime incentives, etc. ]

Let's face it, Moore isn't on the team to start. He's a solid backup. He's great in the locker room. He's a great sounding board and advisor to the younger, less experienced Tannehill.

“He’s a valued member of the football team," coach Joe Philbin said of Moore late last season. "He’s an outstanding locker room guy. (He) played extremely well the game that he was called upon to play in. He’s a dependable guy and he’s been a joy to have on the team."

If the reported money is accurate (agents sometimes inflate contract values) then Moore is getting a good deal for a backup player.

But there is a feeling he might have been in line to compete for a starting job somewhere. Well, to that there is this:

I would assume one reason Moore is returning is he had no clear or obvious path to a starting job elsewhere. If his agent is any good, he spoke to multiple teams that might need quarterbacks about Moore. Had the response been enthusiastic about Moore getting a chance to compete, I'm sure the quarterback wouldn't have re-signed with Miami before free agency even began.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, have been busy. Free agency has not begun but they've already locked down a starting defensive tackle by franchising Randy Starks, a No. 2 wide receiver in Brian Hartline, and their backup quarterback in Moore.

The club still has holes or questions at the two tackle spots, both cornerback spots, No. 1 wide receiver, one safety spot, and tight end -- a point I make in the previous post.


A look at the available unrestricted tight ends

First the news: The Miami  Herald learned late Thursday that Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline will remain Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline as he has agreed to a five-year, $30.8 million contract with the Dolphins. The deal has $12.5 million in guaranteed money. So one wide receiver down but the Dolphins need more help for their passing game this offseason. Speaking of which:

The Dolphins need to upgrade their tight end position. Have I mentioned that a few thousand times in this space? Have I said it enough to get my point across?

Good tight end play is a quarterback-savior. Good tight end play is a red zone headache for the defense and a helpmate to the offense. Good tight end play is a matchup problem all over the field. Good tight end play is no longer a luxury in today's NFL.

It is a necessity.

And the Dolphins have had mostly average tight end play for way too long.

Don't misunderstand. Anthony Fasano is a smart, hard-nosed, try-hard player. He's a good blocker and able pass receiver. But he's not an elite player. He's not even a player New England coach Bill Belichick worries about stopping when he's forging a game plan to play Miami. Indeed, Fasano is the guy Belichick wants the ball to go to in the Dolphins pass offense because it means the weapons are being erased from the game.

Fasano is an unrestricted free agent. I assume the Dolphins will re-sign him or try. Why re-sign a merely solid player at a position that needs upgrade?

Well, the guys behind Fasano haven't been good enough to take his job and the folks the Dolphins might consider signing come with significant questions.

First consider Miami's history at adding tight end behind Fasano:

Charles Clay. He has little production but at least he's got unmet potential.

Jeron Mastrud. He tries hard.

Will Yeatman. His best career move was becoming an offensive lineman.

Mickey Shuler. Not his dad, unfortunately.

Joey Haynos. Tall. That's all.

Kory Sperry. One-TD wonder.

John Nalbone. Bust.

Michael Egnew. Not holding my breath.

Let's face it, the Dolphins haven't had a whole lot of luck finding great tight ends of late. But as unrestricted free agency is about to dawn over the weekend with the chance for teams to speak with agents representing all the league's available players, this is a good time to discuss the possibility that Miami's luck changes.

This coming free agency period actually offers a possible fit or two for the Dolphins that might deliver modest upgrade. (Honestly, I'd look more to the draft if I were the Dolphins, but one cannot discount the possibility Miami may dive into free agency to address the position.)

There are a dozen or so unrestricted free agents about to come to market barring them signing last-minute deals with their current teams. Here are some followed by my thoughts on them:

Tony Gonzalez: He's retiring and if he doesn't he's returning to the Falcons. Simple as that.

Ben Watson: Might have made mild sense five years ago but not now.

Martellus Bennett: Very, very intriguing. He has all the measurables -- 6-6, 270 pounds, runs well, strong. And he had a good season with the Giants. But his 55 catches for 626 yards was also his best NFL season. And he wants to get paid. I don't mind players wanting to be paid for their historic production and potential ahead. But when a player that has one good year wants to get paid, that worries me. The Titans might be suitors. I cannot say I'm sold if the price is going to be the $6-$7 million per year I've heard tossed around.

Dustin Keller: He's almost exclusively a pass-catcher. He's 6-2 and 250 pounds and has been something of a security blanket for Mark Sanchez. The Jets would like to keep him, but they're not moving heaven and earth to do it right now. They're letting him test the market. He's coming off an injury-riddled season so that raises questions. He's going to be 29 so that's not an issue. Yes, adding him subtracts from the Jets. But I'm not sure how significant that is in the grand scheme of things.

Delanie Walker: I don't like him. He drops way too many passes. He's only 6-foot. He is a product of a great system, great coaching and great complementary talent, in my view. Put him on the Dolphins and he does not beat out Fasano. He would be better than Charles Clay, but that's not the goal, I don't believe.

Dallas Clark: Only if Peyton Manning comes with. And he's not.

Jared Cook: He fancies himself a receiver and wanted to be franchise tagged as such by the Titans because he often lined up in the slot. The Titans decided not to wage that fight and so they didn't tag him and he's likely going to hit the market. Oh, and he also wants to get paid. The rumored orbit is $8-$10 million per year. The Rams, where former coach Jeff Fisher now works, are said to be interested. Dolphins fans are also interested. I'd be interested too if the price wasn't so sky high.

Fake GM Salguero advice: Draft a tight end. Or pray Green Bay's Jermichael Finley is released.