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4 posts from March 13, 2013

March 13, 2013

Update on TE Dustin Keller

The Dolphins "missed" on tight end Jared Cook on Tuesday, if you call not wanting to pay $7 million per year to a player who had exactly three receptions more than Anthony Fasano a miss. Alright, I understand the infatuation with Cook but that sure is a lot of money for speed and seam-threat potential.

The Dolphins thought they had Cook at one point the past three days, I'm told. Then the Rams put on the full-court press, which is defined as money, money, money.

Fine, the Dolphins are moving on.

Today, Dustin Keller is visiting with the team, as I reported this morning. Well, more specifically the club plans to give Keller its own kind of full-court press. There will be meetings with coaches, dining with club personnel, and the physical.

The physical, which I'm told was taking place this afternoon, is key. Keller missed a lot of games last year with hamstring and ankle injuries. He had, however, played 64 consecutive games prior to that.

So the thinking here is if Keller is healthy and his physical checks out, then the Dolphins and his agent will be able to begin discussing contract terms.

The Dolphins are also expecting a visit today from wide receiver Brandon Gibson, late of the Rams. Gibson visited the Jets Wednesday morning but left town without a contract. He was flying to South Florida to visit Miami next, according to various New York media reports.

[Update: The New York Daily News is reporting Gibson is staying overnight. I'm reporting that barring a deal, he will fly to South Florida Thursday. He is also scheduled to visit Tennesee.]

Keller, by the way, has shown an ability to be quarterback friendly -- that is, he finds a way to be in place to get his quarterback out of a tough situation. No, he's not running a 4.49 in the 40 like Cook or maybe Vernon Davis. No, he's not going to block out the sun.

But he's efficient. He's been solid. He's played in big games, including two AFC Championship games. He would help Miami's cause if the Dolphins pull the trigger.

What will it cost?

A lot less than $7 million per season. Maybe half that.


Dolphins introduce Wheeler, Ellerbe to media

Skullking around Dolphins camp I've picked up a nugget here and there. Here's the top nugget I have relative to the Dolphins apparently curious exchange of linebackers from Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett to Phillip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe.

Thinks playmaking. Think pass coverage. Think more speed. Think youth.

And, as was discussed Tuesday, all for about the same cap charge or less than what the Dolphins had.

The Dolphins in 2012 were not happy with the fact the defense did not have players that got the unit off the field. Yes,Cameron Wake was one. But who else?

Neither Dansby nor Burnett came up with game-changing plays. But the team believes that is more likely to get that from Wheeler and Ellerbe.

Both Dansby and Burnett, hitting the other side of 30, started to struggle in pass coverage in 2012. The Dolphins didn't feel it was going to get better as the pair got older. Enter Wheeler and Ellerbe -- both of which are gifted in pass coverage and have perhaps more speed than Burnett and Dansby.

Both players showed their enthusiasm for being with the Dolphins today when they were introduced to the media.

Ellerbe described himself as someone "who plays like their hair is on fire."

Wheeler described himself at the start of his press conference by using the word, "aggressive" in a 30 second span.

Like it.

Ellerbe comes from the Baltimore Ravens. He knows something about beating the New England Patriots. That's important for the Dolphins because that is the team they have to unseat if they're going to win the AFC East.

""Sooner or later you have to make something happen<" Ellerbe said of how to play the New England offense. "You have to make a play or force a turnover."

Mike Wallace meets the media in South Florida

Mike Wallace said today he spent the past two or three weeks contemplating where he would sign as a free agent wide receiver and actually had "a couple of options," about teams to play for.

But when he studied the Dolphins he saw a 7-9 team "that was better than a normal 7-9" team. He saw a quarterback -- Ryan Tannehill -- that is young but "has a lot of upside," he thought. And then the the so-called legal tampering period opened and the Dolphins got out of the blocks like Usain Bolt.

"I really felt they were really aggressive since Saturday when we were able to talk," Wallace said.

The Dolphins and Wallace's agent Bus Cook agreed by Saturday that the contract for Wallace would be for five years and $60 million. But the deal was not yet done. The guaranteed money was still an issue. That took a while but eventually the Dolphins and Cook got to the $30 million plateau that matched the team record $30 million in guaranteed money Jake Long got when he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2008.

So what are the Dolphins paying for?

Safety Chris Clemons, who signed a one-year deal with Miami, was asked today if he ever remembers covering Mike Wallace. He did and this is how he described it:

"I had the middle of the field, corner played off, he took it to the house," Clemons said.

Dolphins fans will feel encouraged about that. On the other hand, they might also recognize Clemons is likely to be a Miami starting safety.

I asked Wallace if he would be able to provide the kind of production in Miami that he did in Pittsburgh despite the fact the personnel, including the quarterback, and the offensive system will be different.

Wallace said he's not worried about that and that, in fact, the Dolphins have a good quarterback situation. "Two of them actually," he said, referring to Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore.

Wallace and Tannehill had dinner together Tuesday evening. They went to a local restraurant by the Intracoastal Waterway. Wallace thinks Tannehill and he will be fine. "He smiled a lot," Wallace said.

"It's going to be different playing with a QB that's younger than me," Wallace added.

Roethlisberger treated the younger Wallace like something of a little brother, the receiver said.

"Now I have to be the big brother," he said.


Unrestricted free agency: Day two activities to watch

The second day of free agency is likely to bring another flurry of activity with Dolphins connections.

To start, the club is trying to upgrade at tight end after failing to land their prime target Jared Cook on Tuesday. Today, Jets tight end Dustin Keller is scheduled to visit with the team. If Keller doesn't work out, the club may look into Oakland's Brandon Myers.

Keller, 29 in September, has been a steady performer for the Jets but last season was hurt much of the time and only played eight games. He was known as one of quarterback Mark Sanchez's favorite targets when healthy.

Keller is not necessarily an all-purpose tight end as his blocking has been oft questioned in the past.

The Dolphins need a tight end after letting Anthony Fasano move on to Kansas City.

Offensive tackle Jake Long is in St. Louis to undergo a thorough physical. The Rams want to get their bearings on Long's injury status -- particularly with his left triceps, right biceps and both knees -- before they commit to paying him any sort of significant money as a free agent.

This should play out pretty simply:

If Long checks out medically to the team, the Rams will try to close Long. With Jermon Bushrod (Chicago) and Sam Baker (Atlanta) off the market, Long is considered the next best availableleft  tackle -- assuming he's in one piece.

The Dolphins would like to have Long back. But they don't want to overpay for a player they know has been medically, what's the word, predisposed to injuries the last couple of years.

They have what they believe is a good value placed on Long but if the Rams, who need desperately to protect quarterback Sam Bradford, place a higher value on Long, he's gone. If it's a tie, my guess is Long leaves.

This has been an emotional time for Long (who knew he had emotions) and he's been somewhat frustrated by the Dolphins not entirely trusting his health. By the way, I applaud the Dolphins for not trusting.

So really the only way the Dolphins keep him is by outbidding St. Louis. I suppose there is a chance Long takes other visits, but my guess is today will be a big day for him.

Today will probably also be a big day for Reggie Bush.

He is in Detroit to visit with the Lions. They are already on record as offering Bush a deal worth "well north of $3 million per season" and they want him as their lead running back.

So really, all that needs to work here is a fit and comfort level for Bush and the team. Yes, Bush has other suitors, most notably the Arizona Cardinals. But the Cards don't have much of an offensive line or proven answers at quarterback.

Bush is getting to that time in his career where he wants to be on a winner. The Lions offer that potential much more than the Cardinals do. Look for Bush to sign today as well if his questions are answered.

Bush isn't coming back to the Dolphins.

On yet another front, Sean Smith is a curious case. His agent was expecting a big market for his client but that big market didn't show up on the first day of free agency.

Indeed, the first day was something of a disappointment for the flooded cornerback market.

Darrelle Revis wasn't traded -- yet. Namdi Asomugha was cut by the Eagles, and the most notable signees were DeAngelo Hall in Detroit, Darius Butler in Indianapolis and Bradley Fletcher in Philadelphia.

Not exactly earth-shattering stuff.

Smith was originally supposed to visit Kansas City. But the Chiefs made other moves and are not bouyant in salary cap space. Agent David Canter also said Smith would be taking other trips but declined to name the teams.

Whenver an agent says that, he's trying to gain leverage for his client. Smith may indeed have multiple clubs wanting him to visit. But it's clear none at this point are willing to meet his demands of a contract that pays $8 million or so per year.

That kind of deal gets done quickly by a team with cap space and a strong conviction on a player. If Smith isn't done by the end of the day, it will strongly suggest no team is willing to do that kind of deal for him.

And with each passing hour, the chances of Smith returning to the Dolphins increase because, well, his market shrinks and looks closer to what Miami valued the player at. So today is huge for Sean Smith.

As to the players the Dolphins are still hoping to land, I keep hearing the name Brandon Gibson.

The Rams free agent wide receiver is visiting the Jets today. But he has other suitors. A league source said Gibson might take as many as four other trips -- with the Dolphins being one of them.

But ...

It's clear that in the preliminary talks Gibson's agent had with teams, the Jets stepped up the most and thus get the first visit. If the Jets don't close, the market for this receiver drops somewhat.

The Miami vision for Gibson is interesting. Yes, he's a wide receiver but he's very, very much a possession guy. He'd be a third wide receiver on the Dolphins behind Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline. He might be a bigger Davone Bess.

And so if the Dolphins add Gibson, what are they going to do with Bess?

If the Dolphins do not re-sign Sean Smith, the club has free agent options but those will be of the cheap variety. Miami showed interest over the weekend in Detroit's Chris Houston and San Diego's Antoine Cason.

Houston, however,  was reportedly negotiating a three-year deal with the Lions on Tuesday. We'll follow how that plays out.

Cason is a player the Chargers would like back but at a reasonable price. He made $1.2 million in 2012. He's a big corner at 6-1 and he has 12 interceptions in his five-year career. I like him more than Smith, to be honest.

The Lions and Browns also have shown interest in Cason.

Brent Grimes is a player the Dolphins had some interest in but that seemed to cool somewhat even as other teams seemed more enthusiastic.

Derek Cox, formerly of Jacksonville, is also on the Miami radar. He fits Miami's desire for a big cornerback more than Grimes. He's 6-1. He's aggressive. He makes plays as his four interceptions in 12 games during 2012 attests. He has an injury history the past two years, but he finished strong last year. He's another one I like more than Smith.

[BLOG NOTE: Tuesday was the greatest single day for unique visitors and total page views in the seven-year history of my blog. I had as many visitors yesterday as I normally get in a week. But don't stop now. There will be lots of stuff going on today, so check back regularly for updates.]