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7 posts from March 12, 2013

March 12, 2013

Ireland happy, cap in good shape, more moves coming

Jeff Ireland landed the one that could not get away. He landed Mike Wallace.

So how does the Dolphins general manager feel about that?

He's pleased.

"We are pleased to reach an agreement with Mike Wallace," Ireland said in a statement. "He has a unique skill set which we believe will be a welcomed addition to our offense. We are looking forward to his contributions to the team."

The Dolphins just announced the Wallace signing because it took a while to hammer out some final language on the deal and get it approved by the league. The team also had to wait for Wallace to take a physical.

The Dolphins also made official the one-year contract for safety Chris Clemons. The club did not make official the signing of Phillip Wheeler as he was flying across country to South Florida this evening or Dannell Ellerbe, who also was flying into town.

"We are also happy to announce an extension with Chris," Ireland added. "He has been a valuable contributor to the team the last four years, and we are glad he will remain a member of the Miami Dolphins."

Valuable but not invaluable. The Dolphins have shown that they're willing to stick with Clemons as the short-term answer at safety. But they are not ready to make a multi-year commitment. He needs to play better for that.

Meanwhile, all the day's activity will leave the Dolphins with approximately $20 million in salary cap space. That is not all available.

The team will budget approximately $6 million for the draft, another $3.2 million for the practice squad and another $2 million for emergency moves during the season. Obviously this is an in-season budget and not the Top 51 cap figure.

The Dolphins can create cap space by cutting players -- as they did today with Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett.

(Example: In replacing Burnett with Phillip Wheeler, the club saved $800,000 in cap space. That is, Burnett's cap savings of $3.2 million (including $2.5 million of dead money) minus the $2.4 million cap charge Wheeler will carry this year.)

Possible future cap casualties include Dimitri Patterson ($4.6 million savings), Richard Marshall ($4.6 million savings), Davone Bess ($2.6 million savings) and Dan Carpenter ($2.6 million savings).

I'm not saying the Dolphins will release those players for cap reasons tomorrow. I am saying they are all candidates to be cut if they do not perform or the team needs cap room. They should all tread lightly.

Dolphins reworking practically entire LB corps

The Dolphins have just come to contract agreement with free agent linebacker Phillip Wheeler, according to profootballtalk.com, on a five-year deal worth $26 million.

That is starter money.

And now Kevin Burnett's days with the Dolphins are numbered.

[Update: Burnett has been told he will be released according to Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated.]

First things first:

Wheeler is 28 years old and coming off his finest NFL season. He started 16 games with the Raiders and had 109 combined tackles with three sacks, and two forced fumbles. He had six passes defensed.

That playmaking, plus his reported $13 million in guaranteed money means the Dolphins' vision for the player is as a starter.

So, Burnett is at risk. Yes, he was the second-leading tackler on the team. But the Dolphins are cutting leading tackler Karlos Dansby so that doesn't mean anything.

This does:

The Dolphins want more game-defining play and quicker linebacker play on defense. Dannell Ellerbe, who agreed to a deal earlier today, brings that. The Dolphins seem to think Wheeler does also.

Burnett, signed in 2011 as an unrestricted free agent, contributed similar numbers for the Dolphins to what Wheeler gave the Raiders. But he's going to be 31 years old during next season. And he is scheduled to cost the Dolphins $5.7 million against the cap.

If the Dolphins decide that's too steep for a player on the wrong side of 30, they can cut him and save $3.2 million in cap space. Considering that Burnett will also cost $7 million against the cap next year, the signing of a younger player seems visionary.

There remains a chance the Dolphins simply want to add Wheeler, along with Ellerbe and keep Burnett. That thus replaces Koa Misi in the starting lineup. Misi could be headed to defensive end.

But the more likely scenario is that Burnett should be sweating.

Dolphins to cut Karlos Dansby

The Miami Dolphins are parting ways with middle linebacker Karlos Dansby, according to a club source.

The team informed agent Todd France that his client would be waived this afternoon. The move to sign younger, cheaper Dannell Ellerbe from the Baltimore Ravens led to this move.

I explained the salary cap ramifications of this move in the last post.

But what you have to know is te team saved $3.9 million in cap space by cutting Dansby. The Dolphins apparently gauged interest in Dansby on the trade market but there was none of note.

By the way, aside from being a cap move, the reason Dansby is gone is his play didn't produce the kind of game-changing plays the Dolphins wanted or expected when he came to the team in 2010 as an unrestricted free agent addition.

In addition, Dansby irked head coach Joe Philbin on a couple of occassions  by openly criticizing the team's handling of the Chad Johnson cut and also by announcing he was playing with a torn biceps muscle after the Dolphins asked him not to speak about the injury.

Philbin discussed the issues with Dansby but it apparently left the coach at least wondering if Dansby was a fit.

If Dansby has been a better player, the issues with Philbin might have been forgotten. He wasn't so they were amplified.

Dansby, 31, led the Dolphins with 133 tackles. He had nine tackles for loss but he neither caused nor recovered any fumbles and did not intercept any passes.

This move takes into account the player Dansby is today, but also next year when he'll be 32 years old and costing $11.575 million against the cap.

Instead the Dolphins will carry $4.6 million in dead money for cutting Dansby this year and another $2.3 million in dead money next year.

 

Dolphins reach agreement with Dannell Ellerbe ... good-bye Karlos Dansby

The Dolphins have added up-and-coming linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to the fold, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun and that raises interesting questions for the Dolphins.

Terms of the deal have not been announced but it is unlikely Ellerbe agreed to a deal that would make him a backup.

[Update: I'm told the deal is for five years and $34.75 million. That is starter money.]

So yes, it is good the team is adding younger, faster, players with playmaking potential.

But ... The Dolphins have a solid linebacker corps in Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett and Koa Misi.

So is one of them on the outs?

Salguero answer: You betcha!

It won't be Misi. Even if the team moves him to defensive end he remains on the team.

The same would not be said if the Dolphins plan to play Ellerbe in the middle of their defense, which is where he made his mark with Baltimore.

Ellerbe had 92 tackles and 4.5 sacks for the Ravens in 2012. He's only 27 years old.

That seems to make Dansby expendable if the Dolphins wish to save money as well as cap space. Dansby is scheduled to cost Miami $8.575 million in cap space in 2013. If the club cuts him, it can save $6.05 million in cash and $3.925 million in cap space.

The club would also save $9 million in cash next year because that is what Dansby would be scheduled to make in base salary. Dansby's cap number in 2014 is scheduled to be $11.575 million.

The Dolphins might also ask Dansby to take a paycut, but that's also doubtful.

Yikes.

If Dansby, 31, is on the outs, it shows the dangers of unrestricted free agency. He came to the Dolphins in 2010 as the savior of the defense. He came the same year that Brandon Marshall came as the savior of the offense.

Marshall has since been traded. Dansby might be on the outs.

I suppose the Dolphins could decide Burnett is expendable in favor of Ellerbe. This is less likely because Ellerbe doesn't play strongside linebacker. But this also lead to a cap savings. If the Dolphins dump Burnett, they would save $3.2 million against the cap and $4.35 million in actual cash this year.

Again, this is the lesser likelihood.

It is possible the Dolphins are trying to get younger, cheaper and have someone that made plays for the Ravens last year when pressed into service.

 

Mike Wallace is a Miami Dolphin

MIke Wallace and the Dolphins have agreed to a five-year contract that will pay him between $60 and $65 million if he meets all its incentives.

The contract includes a substantial amount of guaranteed money. Although that figure is not yet known, it will be approximately $30 million.

Wallace will be the third-highest paid wide receiver in the NFL behind Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, according to a person familiar with the deal.

The contract is not yet signed. Indeed, the Dolphins are privately denying that it is done. But Wallace is in South Florida and taking a physical and could sign the deal if he passes, as expected. He will sign the deal this evening.

The Dolphins have been making press conference plans but that will likely happen Wednesday.

Wallace is the deep-threat receiver the Dolphins have lacked since Jeff Ireland became the general manager. Frankly, the Dolphins haven't had a similar deep-threat weapon since Irving Fryar played for the team in the mid 1990s.

The Dolphins are not finished revamping their offense, and specifically their passing game.

The club is deep into negotiation for bringing former Tennessee tight end Jared Cook to the team. Cook is the seam-threat player the team wanted but could get from Michael Egnew and Charles Clay.

Cook, however, is also negotiating with the St. Louis Rams.

Interestingly, Rams free agent wide receiver Brandon Gibson remains an option in Miami, particularly if Cook does not sign. The Herald's Adam Beasley is reporting Gibson will visit the New York Jets.

Free agency kicks off and Wallace has the ball

The so-called free agency War Room at the Dolphins training facility has been buzzing much of the day, according to a source who has seen the activity. And much of the buzz and anticipation has been surrounding the Dolphins making a fast and bold dive into free agency by landing you know who.

Mike Wallace.

Barring a major upset that the Dolphins are not expecting but still not 100 percent certain cannot happen at the last moment, the club expects to land the Pittsburgh Steelers free agent wide receiver by Wednesday the latest.

There has been contact between the Dolphins and Wallace for days.

That contact is supposed to be bear fruit starting now.

The Dolphins and Wallace's representative have been talking about a $5-year deal throughout that time. The deal will likely reach $60 million. Wallace wants more. Guaranteed money is an issue.

Wallace wants $30 million in guaranteed money per source familiar with the talks.

No, this is quite done yet.

Stay here for updates.

[UDPATE: Reggie Bush's departure from the Dolphins has begun with him setting up visits. First visit will be Detroit. I'd be surprised if it doesn't get done there, but there is also a chance he could visit Arizona. Bush already knows he will get somewhere north of $3 million per season.]

[UPDATE: The Dolphins are juggling as they are showing interest in Titans TE Jared Cook. The Titans have moved on from Cook as they are expecting to sign San Francisco's Delanie Walker. Cook will be expensive.]

[UPDATE: TE Anthony Fasano has agreed to a four-year contract in principle with the Kansas City Chiefs, according to ESPN. I'm happy for him because that'll be a good upgrade for the Chiefs and it means the Dolphins will be upgrading, or at least making moves to upgrade that position.]

[UPDATE: Chris Clemons is signing a one-year deal with the Dolphins, according to agent Drew Rosenhaus.]

[UPDATE: Left tackle Jake Long will visit the St. Louis Rams, according to ESPN and NFL.com]

[UPDATE: Dolphins showed interest in Rashard Mendenhall but that has cooled a bit. He's already setting up visits with other teams ahead of Miami.]

What Wallace brings and what that's worth

So what is Mike Wallace worth to the Dolphins?

That's a question the Dolphins have been trying to answer for weeks since they identified Wallace as first a possible, then a likely, then a full-fledged must-have addition to the team.

We'll have an answer within 24-48 hours as free agency kicks off at 4 p.m. this afternoon and that signals the mad dash to get Burnell Michael Wallace II to put his name on a Miami Dolphins contract.

The deal is not done, contrary to a report yesterday. Indeed, after that "report" reared its head, I texted multiple team sources to see if it was true. "LOL the media," is one answer I got, which made fun of the report and reporter.

But if (I emphasize if because nothing is done until it is done) the Dolphins do land Wallace, what are they likely to pay and what are they likely to get for the price?

Let's start with performance. Remember that Nick Saban was fond of saying that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. And the best predictor of future production is past production.

In the last two seasons, Mike Wallace has provided the Pittsburgh Steelers an average of 68 catches per season for 1,014 yards and eight touchdowns.

Unimpressed are you?

Well, consider that the Dolphins as a team threw 13 touchdowns passes in 2012 and suddenly those eight TDs per year from Wallace are looking mighty valuable.

Now, how did Wallace come by those numbers?

There is a theory afoot that Wallace benefitted greatly from the fact Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is a champion of keeping plays alive and thus giving Wallace more time to get deep, get open and get the ball for explosive scores.

There is, admittedly, something to that. There's no denying Roethlisberger had something to do with Wallace's success and if the wide receiver's next quarterback doesn't play as well as Roethlisberger has, Wallace's statistics are likely to decline.

But ...

Notice that Wallace averaged eight touchdowns the past two seasons and averaged eight touchdowns over his career, as well. The player is nothing if not consistent in that regard. And that must therefore take into account that Roethlisberger missed games last year and Wallace still produced.

I also must point out that the Steelers' offensive line has been leaking sacks and hurries the last couple of years. That team has been unable to produce either a consistent running game or been exceedingly good in pass protection. So yes, Roethlisberger is a magician keeping plays alive but that's because he has to be.

A less magical quarterback with a solid offensive line providing decent time to throw can accomplish the same results, assuming the QB has good vision downfield and is accurate.

So production is not, or should not be a question mark for this prospective free agent wide receiver.

That begs the question how high will the market allow Wallace's price to go?

Remember that Dwayne Bowe recently signed a five-year, $56 million deal with $20 million guaranteed. That averages $11.2 million per season and surpasses the five-year, $55 million deal Vincent Jackson signed last year with Tampa Bay on a yearly average basis. Jackson's deal averages out to $11 million per season.

But's it's not just the overall money and average that are important. Indeed, the guaranteed money is the key.

Jackson received $26 million in guaranteed money. I believe that is the figure Wallace wants to beat along with the per year average.

I would expect Mike Wallace will get a five-year deal from whatever team he signs with and he'll be shooting for $12 million per season, as I've reported before. Depending on whether there is competition or not for Wallace will determine if Wallace hits that $12 million per year but he will certainly reach at least $11.5 million per year.

And that $57.5 to $60 million contract must come with between $27 to $30 million in guaranteed money.

Whopping numbers, to be sure.

But, barring new factors being uncovered between now and 4 p.m., that's going to be the cost of adding 8 TDs and 1,014 yards to Miami's passing offense. That's going to be the vicinity for signing Mike Wallace.