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Team of free agents can win, but will they?

I watched the replay Saturday of the infamous Tuck Rule game from back in January 2002. (Yes, I have no life). Anyway, that game between the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders which the Patriots won in overtime and used as a springboard to beating Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship and St. Louis in the Super Bowl got me thinking.

As I watched, it seemed everywhere I looked I saw players that the New England Patriots did not draft. I saw free agents all over the field. I saw a team that clearly stomped all over the theory that championship squads must be home grown via the draft.

Consider the free agents on the Patriots:

RG Joe Andruzzi: He was picked up on waivers from Green Bay in 2000. He signed with the Patrtiots. He started every game at right guard in 2001.

LG Mike Compton: He left the Lions and signed with the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent in 2001. He started all 16 games and in the playoffs. So, yes, the Patriots starting offensive line had a couple of free agent starting guards.

Linebacker Bryan Cox: Yes, that Bryan Cox. After leaving the Dolphins and the Bears, Cox spent three years with the Jets. Then the Patriots picked him up in 2001 and he started seven games and played in 11. He had three fumble recovers and two forced fumbles and he scored a TD. The guy was in decline but he always had been a playmaker.

Running back Antowain Smith: He was originally drafted by the Bills. He was added as an unrestricted free agent and led the team by rushing for 1,157 yards. He'd been considered something of an enigma in Buffalo. He was a locker room leader in New England.

Linebacker Mike Vrabel: The Pittburgh Steelers drafted him but let him go to New England as an unrestricted free agent. So much for that theory that the Steelers don't let good players go in free agency. Vrabel started 12 games and had three sacks with two interceptions in 2001. He got better later and had three Super Bowl rings with New England before he went to Kansas City in 2010.

Linebacker Roman Phifer: Originally the 31st overall pick in St. Louis in 1991, Phifer went to the Jets as a UFA and signed a three-year deal through the 2001 season. He was, however, cut after the 2000 season and the Patriots signed him to a one-year minimum salary deal. Phifer started all 16 games. He was re-signed after the season for three more years. He was a Pro Bowl alternate two of those three years.

Cornerback Terrell Buckley: The former Packer and former Dolphins joined the Broncos for one season in 2000 and then went to New England when he was cut. He played with the Patriots in 2001 and 2002. He was the team's nickel cornerback and had an interception in the AFC title game against Pittsburgh that helped New England go to the Super Bowl.

Tight end Jermaine Wiggins: Another Jets castoff, Wiggins signed as a free agent in 2000 and lasted through the 2002 season. He also had a big game in the Tuck Rule game.

Cornerback Otis Smith: He played for the Patriots in 1996 but left to join the Jets for three years. Then he returned as an unrestricted free agent in 2000. He started 15 of 16 regular season games and throughout the playoffs.

Linebacker Larry Izzo: He was an undrafted free agent who made the Dolphins in 1996 and stayed through 2000. The Patriots signed him in 2001 as an unrestricted free agent. There he became the special teams captain and won three Super Bowl rings. He recovered two fumbles in the Tuck Rule game. Two.

Wide receiver David Patten: The Cleveland Browns cut him after 2000. The Patriots picked him up in 2001 and he started 14 games. He was the club's leading receiver in the Tuck Rule game.

No, this is not a Patriots blog. But I happily use the Patriots to prove the point that a team can be brought together from other teams and turned into a cohesive, high-caliber ballclub.

And, yes, that leads me to the Dolphins.

As you know they've been doing work this offseason in free agency. No, they probably haven't done as much as I'd like. The flirtation with Elvis Dumervil which I reported last Tuesday and the Denver Post reported Friday didn't bear fruit. Dumervil signed with Baltimore Sunday and his salary cap number for 2013 is, get this, $2.5 million.

So the Dolphins still have work to do finding more pass rush, adding a cornerback and possibly a defensive tackle. The offensive line is still in need of an upgrade, too. Eric Winston is still a possibility. He'd like to play for the Dolphins, according to his agent Drew Rosenhaus, but would also like to get paid so there's that. The Dolphins may be waiting for the price on Winston to drop somewhat.

The Dolphins may add one or two more free agents.

And that brings up the question whether a team can win with a bunch of recently added veterans? Obviously, I just showed you the Patriots did it.

But I saw Don Shula not only fail to do it in 1995, it was something of a chemistry nightmare. And the following year I remember Jimmy Johnson cleaning house and telling me he didn't want veterans who learned to do things under different coaches to come to him and expect him to do what they were used to.

"I want rookies and players I draft to learn to do things the way I want them to," Johnson said. "I don't want to deal with fighting the veterans."

Well, the Dolphins have some new veterans now. And now it's up to coach Joe Philbin to get them to do things the way the Dolphins do things or he'll have to adjust to them.

Philbin isn't talking like he's the one who will be making the adjustment.

“They’ve got to get acclimated," he said. "We hopefully, in 13 months, we’ve been able to establish a culture and environment, an atmosphere of how we do business when they walk into that door. While these guys are veterans and we’re certainly looking for them to put their stamp on things and make an impact, they’ve got to kind of fit into how we do things. So I think it’s more them, at least, understand these are responsibilities, the obligations that come with being a Miami Dolphin and kind of fall in line and then let their football stuff care of itself."

It'll be interesting to see how that goes.



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I have to agree Armando.

There's exceptions with every rule.

So far, I think Ireland and Philbin have dipped into the Free Agency pool quite nicely.

What really makes me believe they can make this formula work is that they still have 11 picks in the upcoming draft.

Only time will tell. But I like what they've done so far and I think they can afford to sign a few more Free Agents!

I hope Philin and Ireland know what they are doing. But, even if some of the veteran don't work out, Miami has a lot of draft picks.

It's possible New England signed most of those guys to 1-2 year contracts; short term. That generally makes free agents play a lot better than the 4-5 year contracts.

Good morning fellas, if you look very closely the pats took mostly retreads or castoffs from other teams. Except for phifer nobody else was a former 1.st.rd picks. So of course billyb could sell his program to a bu nch of scrubs because those guys wanted to stay in the nfl !! How did O.Thomas C.Johnson B.Lloyd workout for the pats ? Examples of guys the pats paid good money too and they released a year later. Established f.agents who couldn't handle the so called B.S. The Patriot Way !! Patriots way my a** !! You mean The Tainted Way !! They haven't won sh** in a decade, done nothing since spygate. You can't take any team seriously when lose not 1but 2 super bowls to Eli Manning Wow !! Brady v 10-0 before spygate a robust 7-7 since !! Geez I wonder why fellas lol !!

If you notice it is mostly Jet and Phin outcasts. It shows we draft well, develop and then cut them before the become good. Not signing Izzo drove me nuts. Bellicheck plays against these guys every year. He sees what they can do and when we lose faith he scoops up all the good ones at a great price while we all go out a get our number 8 draft pick again. Of course every one of these guys hate the Phins after the media and team cut them to shreds in the paper.

We even traded Welker to the Pats and that guy will haunt us forever for a second rounder? A team in our division and without question the best all round offensive player we had at the time.

Reading the NFL.COM, Rosenfell thought we did poorly in FA stating we signed too many FA's. He is so wrong that I am surprised that the editor let him submit the article.

Ireland didn't go nuts. He replaced areas that needed fixing. He certainly didn't sit on his hands hoping for a savior out of the draft.

Armando, the Patriots should of NEVER won anything that year...That was by far the biggest joke ever...Worse call in the history of Pro Sports...Tuck Rule my butt...Brady clearly fumbled...Whatever...It was a decade ago but I remember as if it was yesterday...And it's so stupid that now the NFL is considering getting rid of it...Wow...What a bunch of clowns...

I think the dolphins did o.k. in f.agency, but like I said yesterday kindry until the dolphins start making either consistent deep playoff runs or just making consistent playoff appearances they will not get the benefit of the doubt from the national media !!

Dude, we traded Welker as an RFA because they signed him to one of those Steve Hutchinson-style offer sheets where he got paid $2million for every game he played in Florida, and $100,000 for every other game. The NFL banned that offer-sheet BS shortly after. We were going to grievance it to the league before the teams worked out the deal for the 2nd rounder.

Besides, Welker wouldn't have done anything here, no better than Bess. We didn't have the qb or the coaching.

I realize that it would be nice to grab a DE or CB in the FA but as we can see they want youth. If you grab a solid pass rusher in the first he has Cam Wake to work under. Now that is someone you want molding those guys for sure. I think Vernon really steps it up this year as well having a whole off season to work with Cam. If we are in fact going more of a GB way then talent begins to show in the sophomore year of players. So I do expect a huge boast from our year two guys and also am curious about Philbin's comment about LB Kaddu. Could he be put in with the new group to form a bond while sliding Misi to DE and trade off snaps with Vernon while of course having Odrick rotate on DT. I also do not believe our O-line is as jacked up as everyone says. Philbin is well known for his work with O-Lineman.

Seriously that Rosenthal guy...what a unobjective pile of jealous spew. Remember the last time he built a team? Me Either. Someone needs to ask him how can the new LB's have less impact plays than none? AND the deal saves the team money.

Now if you want to talk about overpaying for Wallace fine. But that claim is flawed too...The Steelers offered him 10 mil (last yr)and we gave him 11.2 mil. Is that overpaying? That's utter non sense.

"Fall in line".

Comments like that are why I NEVER take sports too seriously.

Sign up Winston for RT, let Jerry and Martin battle it out for LT and draft Womack with your first pick... Please don't give up 2 draft picks for Albert...That is so retarded it's not even funny...

I think Vernan, Kaddu and Misi are all POSSIBLE pass rushers. None of them have shown any CONSISTENT ability at the NFL level. Should we be really confident with these three entering the year as starting DE's?

I think Patterson, Marshall and Carroll are all decent NICKEL CB's but they haven't shown any CONSISTENT ability to be starting #1 and #2 NFL level CB's since joining the Fins. Did they have prior experience elsewhere? Yes. But they haven't shown anything CONSISTENT since joining the Fins. Injuries for for Marshall and Patterson? Yes. Should we be really confident with these three entering the year as starting CB's?

Martin and Gardner played OK last year as T's. But they didn't show CONSISTENT ability. Good game, bad game. Good game, bad game. I think Martin will improve this year. I see him getting to the starting NFL T level. I like the signing of Gardner as a BACKUP NFL T. Should we be really confident with these two entering the year as starting T's?

These are the three positions I worry most about at this point. DE, CB and T. I would feel much better getting a starting T added in FA. At #12 we can likely add one starter in the draft at one of these positions. Maybe we can use our #2's to find starters but theres that word again....MAYBE.

I really hope they add Winston to ensure experience remains at the T position to protect THILL.










Every team signs free agents, I don't see that as a negative. We have a nice core of young players and we are not even in training camp, so some of these FA signings might not make the team. Besides, we will look quite a bit different, (IMO) by the time the 1st game comes around.

Correct BR at least Tannehill gives us some hope at the QB position, that said the draft will really dictate where this franchise is really going !! Unless somebody like a Wallace gets hurt or Pouncey no excuses dolphin fans !! I don't wanna hear it, Ireland better draft playmakers on defense Period Period !! Yesterday some of guys kept trying to tell me the 7.th ranked defense, a pathetic&putrid 16 takeaways. Thank-god Philbin&Coyle realize this gutless defense never comes up big when it matters most !!

Coaching plain and simple. You have to give credit where credit is due- that Patriots team were coached correctly and bought into what Belechick was selling. I get the same feeling about Joe Philbin. The Dolphins are undergoing a cultural change thanks to Philbin and the team is buying into his "plan." Joe Philbin has a talented coaching staff around him to develop young players. Its an exciting time to be a Dolphin fan.

Has anyone heard about what Brent Grimes has decided? As far as Winston, is money the issue? How about Brandon Moore? Does anyone know what's going on with these three?

Armando's point should be remembered when the fans are outraged that the team didn't sign X player. We don't always know what personality issues a player has. It is no good having a player who can't take direction or be part of a team. (Brandon Marshall!)

We should have signed Winston like a week ago and maybe this helps bring his price down I don't know. But, we need a guy for the Oline. I don't see Ireland pulling the trigger on the lopsided deal for Albert. The oline is a big concern of mine if we are not going to sign a FA we should use one draft pick on a guy early. What choice do we have?

Truth is, there is no one RIGHT way to build a team. Teams are built blending the best fit for a system or a coaching staff. Miami might succeed this year, they may fail, but it won't be because they have too many FAs.

As far as building a "Dolphins way", I don't really put much credence in it at this point. Philbin's been here all of ONE year, there are very few players from past Dolphins team still on the roster, and it's one of the youngest teams in the league. Add to that our pathetic recent history, and what you get is an organization trying to regain its footing. That won't happen in a year, and it certainly won't happen if a team can't even get to .500. Winning brings glory, not the other way around. They first need to show they can play, then the fans will come back, and then the team will buy in and the culture will be set. Until then, it's all just hot air.

FA's are the only chance we have the way Ireland drafts.


I was one of those "7th ranked guys" and if you remember my post, I said I agree with you about adding playmakers, especially edge rushers. The problem I had with your comment is that you called our 7th ranked defense nothing short of awful. The issue with this team last year was the offense. Two FGs and we are 9-7. A better offense and we go 11-5. You cannot deny this. We went 7-9 last year bc of that defense because if the D was as putrid as you say, we could have easily been 3-13. I'm all for improving both sides of the ball. But the defense hardly needs a drastic makeover you seem to think it does. The offense needed the makeover more so.

To close, we are both on the same page that Philbin and Coyle recognize the need to improve the D in the specific aspects it needs improving. The new LB core is there to shut down the Patriot TE because Philbin knows, you got to win your division- thats the number one objective.

You can find zone blocking ol in the 4.th 5.th rounds, just draft playmakers on both sides of the ball. It will cure a lot of ills and it will finally start to point this franchise where it needs to go !!

What I'm tired of seeing is the Dolphins sitting on cap space with glaring holes to fill and options available that they don't pursue. This is willful stupidity to be terrible every year and snub players that would have made them better. If the Dolphins have a losing season again while sitting on ample cap space every fan should walk away because this isn't a team that's honestly trying to win.

thats a good argument, but that great NE D with seymour, bruschi, wilfork, ty law, etc. was built through the draft. that defense, along with brady, made NE a dominant team back then. they have won anything since except the AFC east.

The Packers built through the draft but the Dolphins couldnt. Time for a real GM?

Geez, I thought we were getting Dumervil but I cant blame him for chosing the Ravens over us.


Agreed, the team isnt making winning a priority. If they were they would've replaced Ireland and signed Bush, Long, Fasano,Smith, etc. Ross just cares about the money and its quite obvious. Thats why the stadium is half empty on Sundays. The fans arent all stupid.

The ravens were a better fit for Elvis just because of the defense they run ... it would be hard for him to get through 16 games as a DE and paying that guy $5M as a part time player at OLB?? Not an efficient use of the cap.

Bryan Cox ... Mando is right ... always a playmaker ... didn't he get double digit sacks for us one year as an ILB???

Mando, nice post. Once thing I think you failed to point out was that the Patriots of 2001 retooled their roster with free agents, but they retooled with value free agents, not premium guys. There were no Mike Wallaces or Phil Wheelers.

You also forgot to mention that New England's backup QB that year was Damon Huard.

Shula 73 the only "stupid" thing on this blog is you.

Shula, because those players you mentioned showed in the past how they could contribute to a winning team, right? Only 2 of them had ONE winning Season as Dolphins (Fasano, Long). If those are core players you need to keep then tell me again what you believe the object of the game of football is (because obviously in your mind it's not about winning)?

Shula 73 must have had a lobotomy if he thinks resigning mediocre, oft injured players is the answer.

I have to agree here. I was a fan of Sean Smith and Jake Long but I don't think they were team leaders or irreplaceable. If jake Long was such an important guy, he wouldn't have left for a measly $500k per year when he already took the franchise for $60M. Jake is clearly out for Jake and Jake alone so fine .. let him go.

Sean Smith ... well ... he didn't even get an offer so clearlyt he coaches thought they could do better.

I don't see Long or Smith as big losses, especially because of the price tag. Have to see how it plays out, if Smith gets beat like he did here and Long is injured again those moves look real good.

Also don't bother responding to Shula73, or any of the other troll names... Just let him talk to himself.

Our coaches have to evaluate if our back-ups are better than the people available as free agents. I am surprised that we picked up Brandon with all the talent we had on the practice squad at WR.
It has been proven that we cannot win with Bush, Long, Fasano, Smith, Dansby and that group. Quit whining, unless you think our record was good enough?
Our DL is close to awesome. Dumerville could not have started. Why pay him that kind of money and pizz off the good young players that are better than him?
It is my opinion that our new coaches consider things like that. That alone will make the Dolphins a better team.

The FA listed were part of the team that won. Were they the most productive members of that team? No they weren't. Take a look at the pro bowlers from that team and the players they drafted that were key to that Super Bowl run. You'll recognize the names.... Brady, Bruschi, Seymour, Malloy, Brown, Light, etc etc.

No team can only do it through the draft but the backbone of your team shoul come from there.

Now if we can get Tanny to perform like Brady we should win the Super Bowl right? With all sarcasm aside. All these Patriot teams have had the classic overachiever called Tom Brady. He has the ability to motivate and bring out the best in average players. Take welker for instance the man was a ok player in Miami. Brady made him into a pro bowler and possibly HOFer and Blicheck into a shoe in to the HOF. Before Brady Belicheck coulndt coach his way out of a paper bag. I would rate him right there with Tony Sparano. Brady is a once in 100 yrs player we wont see one like him for decades after he retires and no we dont even have close to a brady clone in tanny. Tanny will be a David Woodly type. Solid but nothing special and never a pro bowler. Probably gone in 2 to 3 yrs for and "upgrade"

Free agency has been around for quite awhile now. It has worked for some teams like the Pats, Cowboys, 49ers,and even us. Remember Keith Byers and Irving Fryar.

It hasn't been so good for the Redskins prior to last year.

I think there are so many writers and talking heads now that they just have to have something to say. How can you really grade anything until some games are played.

I think if it works out it will be a great thing for us fans who have waited long enough for something worth rooting for.

Drastic times call for a little more drastic or more immediate measures. This is basically rebuild turbo and I'm all for it!

Statler teams can roll over money from one season to the next now so you'll see lots of teams leaving a chunk of cap space unused one year to help with contracts that are coming up the next (ie Bengals this year, us last year).

Dolfan Rick I agree that for the Fins to be relevant again we needed to shake up the roster. The core vets were not winning, and maybe they were part of the problem all along. Who knows? It's do or die for the Dolphins front office and coaches though. I can't see Ross accepting another losing season from either group. And if Tannehill regresses then it's back to the draft for another QB.

The only one I would have like to keep was Bush he was a playmaker for sure, the other guys were just okay, Fasano would make a spectacular catch every once in a while but there are better tight ends, I don't know if Keller is going to be though. My opinion on Long, he was definitely not worth the money or the number one pick overall , when you draft that high it has to be on an impact player not someone who blocks for a living, not that lineman aren't important, but our offense sure could have scored more touchdowns over the past five years if we had Drafted Matty ICE

And Matty ICE still hasn't won a Super Bowl surrounded by that much offensive talent!?!? How many more weapons does the guy need?

Agree Darkoak,

If we have a losing season again next year then I don't see Ross giving Ireland another contract. Then of course a new GM will probably want his own coach and then here we go again.

As far as Tannehill as someone posted earlier, I wouldn't be surprised if we drafted a QB late.

Tanny looks like he's a gamer though. Lets hope he's our QB for a long time.

Anyone check out Star Lotulelei's pro day results? Eye popping to say the least. To me, Shariff Floyd, Sheldon Richardson, and Star are on the same level athletically and skill wise. After all these grades are shaking out - it definitely looks like the best players are DTs and Ots -- that kind fo draft. if we could get one of the three DTs or one of the three OTs - we will have done very well

My wife can't stand Tannehill she thinks he's a bust. Her first passion was never football but she's picked it up fast. When she first saw Henne play she said we'll never get to the playoffs with him. She was a charter member of the Suck for Luck bandwagon... Lol.

Me I liked what I saw from Tannehill last year. Mind you I didn't see the shut out loss at the en of the season, and I think that leads to alot of the Hennehill talk on this blog. When what have you done for me lately is nothing that kind of leaves an impression.

Mark doesn't Star have a heart problem? Some thought it was dangerous for him to Ben take part in a pro day.

I know everyone's a little skittish after the Chad Henne affair but realistically - with the system we run here, the coaching Tannhill will have, the year under his belt where he definitely shwoed to ability to improve and realistically outperformed everyone's expectations ... now given another year of learning, another year to get stronger, a better offense .. no reason he should get up to about 3,700-4,000 yards passing and at least another 5-10 tds. he will be fine if healthy.

Not Ben, even.. Stupid spell check.

NFL teams built primarily on free agents don't win the Super Bowl- never have. I challenge you to look at the record and find one. I'm not saying this because I've already looked and know the answer. I'm saying this because I haven't looked and know the answer -even with a half assed memory and drinking at 11 in the morning (why else would I be here). Young underpaid players are hungrier, healthier and always a better investment. Fat cat with a $ contract = loser. Bank on it. Unlike the first question you won't have any trouble finding those teams.

Darkoak, Iheard the same and I'm not a cardiologist so i don't know what risk level or how possible it is to regulate his heart. I know here in Toronto, we had a goaltender that suffered a couple of heart irregualrities and through minor surgery and medication it got fixed to the point where he can play. he still sucked and the team sucked but I don't think it was because of his heart problem.

That is the homework teams will have to do on Star .. but man on measurables and tape he is extremely legit.

Your wife was willing to suck dick to get Andrew Luck?

That's one devoted Dolfan!

Come on man, really?

I think Tannehill should be pretty good. He showed a lot of promise last year with very little to work it. A rookie QB with 1 decent receiver and limited running game took a team to 7-9 (easily 9-7, carp..). We'll see what happens next year, but I expect him to keep getting better.

I guess that's one interpretation of Suck for Luck. I meant the widely publicized campaign to lose to get the 1st pick overall.

More recently, (I hate to use this example) but the Jets got to two AFC Championship games, on a tTeam full of Free Agents. Remember they name themselves the On paper champions.

Of course, Signing some many free agents hurts the team's future. Look at them now. Tim Tebow is starting running, Tightend, and No. 2 Receiver.

More Butt Fumbles to come for this team!!

I get sick of the second guessing sometimes. Is there really any doubt that the coaches had already talked to their signees about having to conform and how they felt about it? This is a great story and all but we all know Philbin is a smart guy right? That's been talked about to death. Why in the heck would we conclude that he didn't take EVERY single detail into account before giving the thumbs up on a player.

The story suggests that one of our free agents may flip the script and tell the coach he needs things done his way.

REALLY? That's not a serious concern of mine with Joe Philbin in charge.

Difference between that Jets team and Dolphins is the Jets were spending money they didn't have. They also put not thought into the future (GM was terrible, and people whine about Ireland...)

Look at Sanchez or Holmes contract, both idiotic. They also draft terrible.

Jets QB roation might be... Sanchez, Kolb, Tebow... Has to be one of the worst ever fielded. I'd rather have Henne, Beck, Lemon : )

We dumped a lot on Henne. Sometimes it was the receivers we had. Other times and I truly believe the biggest fault lies with Sporano. Imagine driving the team down the field to the 40 yard line, then getting pulled and we run 2 wildcats for 3 yards, then put Henne in at 3rd and 8.
And the receivers were not there when Henne needed them, once again Sporano and his coaching staff.

Team game and Henne's troubles were not entirely his fault.

I thought Tebow was being released ... he's still there?

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