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49 posts from April 2013

April 09, 2013

Reason Eric Winston is available: Money, certainty

So what do you think Eric Winston is worth?

It's a pertinent question because, if you remember days ago I reported the Dolphins interest in the free agent offensive tackle had waned. And the only way that interest would be renewed is if Winston dropped his asking price.

Well, since then Winston has visited with the Dallas Cowboys and continued to consider a standing offer from the San Diego Chargers. And he's still unsigned.


Because he wants more money than his market is willing to offer and, I'm told by a source with knowledge of his thinking, he'd like a multi-year deal that would guarantee he's not going to merely be a one-season rental.

So what does Winston think is a fair price for his services?

“In the $3-4 million range is something that I think is more than fair for a starter who has played pretty well throughout his career,” Winston said on Sirius NFL radio.

Actually, when you consider that demand, it doesn't seem exceedingly steep until you recognize what else is involved. Because Winston is working on being with his third different team in three years, he has concerns he's simply becoming a mercenary.

So he would like some sort of certainty (as much as the NFL offers, anyway) that will keep him with his next team for a few years. That usually means a big enough signing bonus that makes cutting him after one year more difficult.

Obviously no NFL team is there right now.

Most are now focused on the draft and picking a right tackle that will be younger and more promising than Winston -- albeit with less certainty of what they'll do in the NFL -- and do that at a much cheaper price, typically.

Winston, meanwhile, wants to get a deal, "sooner rather than later."

So Winston wants his price. He wants some longer-term certainty. And he'd like that get it done before the draft.

He might get one of those, maybe two. I doubt he gets all three.


April 08, 2013

Salguero overview of Dolphins free agency

Regular readers of this blog will remember I reported last week that free agency for the Dolphins is going on hiatus for bit while the focus shifts to the draft. Yes, there are caveats in that hiatus but those are explained in the post.

Well, that means the bulk of Miami's free agency haul is over for 2013.

The Dolphins signed eight free agents, re-signed four of their own free agents, and cut or let six other starting-caliber free agents walk.

So I want to tell you what I think of all this.

I want to do it one time

I want to do it on the record.

I want to do it so that come future days when free agents boom or bust, you know how I stood on each player. (I'm doing this because fans have short memories and those that follow me here or on twitter often say I advocated something I did not or failed to stand for something that I actually did.)

I'm not saying I'm always right. Obviously not. (You read my stuff so you know that's not true). But If I'm going to be wrong, I want to do it on my own (dis)abilities and not with anybody's help.

This should also give you forum for agreeing or disagreeing with me.

Here we go:  

SIGNINGS (contract details in parenthesis)

WR Mike Wallace (5 years for $60 million with $27 million guaranteed): I stood up and advocated for this one and reported on this one to the point of being nauseating. The Dolphins had to do this. The team had no deep threat and had shown precious little ability to add a deep threat this past decade -- remember Ted Ginn and Clyde Gates -- in the draft. So Miami had to overpay. Yes, this is overpaying. But that's what people do for a Rolls Royce. Wallace has averaged 8 TDs a year for years. He's rarely injured. He has never been a problem in the locker room. The Steelers wanted him back but couldn't afford him. That all suggests he's going to be a great addition. And that's what I think he'll be. I wanted him on the Dolphins as much as anybody. I stand by that. We'll see.

LB Dannell Ellerbe (5 years for $34.75 million with $14 million gtd.): Ellerbe said it himself, he thought he was going to be the heir to the Ray Lewis middle linebacker job in Baltimore. So on the surface that seems like a great get if outstanding GM Ozzie Newsome and the Super Bowl Champion Ravens thought that highly of Ellerbe. Except, well, they didn't. They let him go. Yes, they had cap issues. But it didn't stop them from adding Elvis Dumervil. So that gave me pause. Then this: The Baltimore Sun reported that at points during his time with the Ravens, Ellerbe was late to meetings, late to practice and liked to party -- a lot. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe it was early on and not something he dealt with lately, because the Dolphins assured me, "we did our homework," on all the free agents before signing them and part of that was knowing how they would conduct themselves off the field and around South Florida. Miami addressed the linebackers to "get more physical" and have the defense make more plays, according to GM Jeff Ireland and head coach Joe Philbin. Me? I'm not sold. I don't see linebackers in the 4-3 being the huge playmakers in the NFL they once were. The game often creates mismatches against them. The offenses often throw right over them. So I'm not overly excited about this move.

LB Phillip Wheeler (5 years for $26 million with $13 million gtd.): If Wheeler were coming out of college, I'd look at him as a one-year wonder. Remember that two years ago, the Indianapolis Colts let him walk and he signed a one-year deal with Oakland for $700,000. Yes, the Dolphins liked him last year and wanted him on the team but he wanted to pursue a chance to start so he went elsewhere. So yes, the Dolphins saw something in Wheeler not many other teams did a year ago. But now they see something in him at a price no other team did. Can he do in 2013 as well as he did in 2012? Indeed, can he be a contributor and playmaker -- remember the Dolphins added Ellerbe and Wheeler to make plays -- the next three years or so? I have to see it.

CB Brent Grimes (1 year for $5.5 million with $3 million gtd.): I love this pickup because it adds a stable, experienced, professional, high-caliber cornerback that will be an upgrade to Miami's defense at corner if ... he's healthy. Grimes is coming off an Achiles' tendon tear. His rehab is reportedly doing well (he's doing the reporting). But in the depressed cornerback market, Grimes had to settle for a contract that forced him to prove he's returned to the Pro Bowl caliber player he was in 2011. If he does, he's a great signing. If he doesn't, he didn't break the bank. Grimes will be hungry because utlimately he wants a long-term deal. The question, again, is health. I like this signing very much.

TE Dustin Keller (1 year for $4.25 million with $2.25 million gtd.): Here's another player that was injured most of last year and had to settle for a short-term deal to re-prove his value. So the Dolphins get a hungry player in a contract year who will be playing inspired for himself and certainly for the opportunity to stick it to his former team, the New York Jets. That's not what I like most about Keller. I like that finally the Dolphins have a legitimate pass-catching threat at tight end. In that department, Keller is an upgrade over Anthony Fasano. Yes, the blocking won't be as good. But Keller is willing. That's important. And this is what I like most: Keller comes from an offense that had multiple offensive coordinators the past couple of years. He comes from an offense with a bad quarterback. And yet, he was productive when healthy. So in an offense that is more stable, with a quarterback that promises to be better than Mark Sanchez, I expect better production. This is a solid signing. I like it.

G Lance Louis (1 year for $1,603,750 with $100,000 gtd.): Bargain shopping, the Dolphins hope they strike gold here. Louis was perhaps Chicago's best offensive lineman last year before he blew out his knee. If he can return to that height by training camp, John Jerry will be out of a starting job. If he doesn't, the Dolphins can basically cut Louis with minimal risk. The middle ground is Louis provides veteran experience and can be an experienced backup on the cheap. I like the signing more than the player. The contract is the thing here. Solid job.

WR Brandon Gibson (3 years for $9.78 million with $3.75 million gtd.): Gibson reminds of a Jeff Ireland receiver. Not fast. Not quick. But big and physical. I get it. There's something to be said for that. Me? I like speed. Speed at X, Y and Z. If you're going to spend over $3 million a year I would have preferred some speed be part of the deal. My problem? I looked at the available players and the only one I would have liked was Darrius Heyward-Bey. And he's a problematic reclamation project who signed a one-year deal. The Dolphins obviously decided going with experience was more valuable than dipping into the vast pool of draft eligible receivers that come with promise but no NFL experience. I get it. But do I love this signing? Meh. Let me say this: Instead of signing Gibson, I might have added to the TE corps and solved it. I would have gotten Brandon Myers to go with Keller and drafted a wide receiver to groom. Instead, the Dolphins may end up drafting a tight end. Let's see who produces more in 2013 ... Gibson or Myers.

DT Vaughn Martin (2 years for $4 million with $750,000 gtd.): Ireland loves his defensive line. He believes it is a staple of the team. An anchor. He wants to keep it strong. But the Dolphins needed to address the tackle sport because Tony McDaniel played too high in the 4-3 and was often injured and simply didn't fulfill his role. So the club moved on from him and got Martin. This is a bargain signing. Martin is a solid player. But he will have to get used to the 4-3 because he's been a 3-4 DE the past couple of years. That means a growing period. Is this an awesome signing? No. Is this a solid addition? Probably so. Good work.


WR Brian Hartline (5 years for $30,775,000 with $12.5 million gtd): First off, why the extra $775,000? I know Hartline would have taken $30 million. And this deal was signed at a time the Dolphins were still bidding against themselves. So somebody cost owner Stephen Ross some money on that. Aside from that, Hartline is a good player who has already established some chemistry with quarterback Ryan Tannehill and some presence in the locker room. It's good to keep your own good players. It's bad to be a receiver needy team and let your top receiver go two consecutive years. So the Dolphins had to do this deal. Thing I like most about this? If Hartline and Wallace stay healthy, the Dolphins can put two speedy wide receivers on the field at the same time. And you know how I feel about speed, right?

DT Randy Starks (franchise tender signed for $8.45 million): This rental makes sense. Starks is very, very good at what he does but you don't want to commit four or five years to a 29-year-old interior lineman. The Dolphins approach with Paul Soliai was similar and they ended up cutting his tender in half the follwing year down to $6 million a year on a multi-year deal. Don't be surprised if Starks' price goes down next year and Miami gets him cheaper. The fact is also the Dolphins had salary cap space to fit the franchise tender under the cap so no biggie. Good job.

OL Nate Garner (3 years for $4.875 million with $700,000 gtd.): Not every signing involves a star. You have to have role players and Garner is a good one. He can play both guard and tackle in a pinch. He's cheap. He's experienced and has rarely been overwhelmed by the stage. Garner is also good people. He's good in the community and he kepts his mouth shut, which coach Joe Philbin loves. No issues with this re-signing.

S Chris Clemons (1 year for $2.75 million with $1 million gtd): Clemons wanted a longer deal after being the starter much of the past three seasons. But he's a solid player. That's the extent of it. He's not been a consistent playmaker. He's not been a major issue. Just solid. The Dolphins want to upgrade at safety but one cannot upgrade at every single position over one offseason. So the team is standing pat here this year and could upgrade in the future. Logical move. 

The "losses"

LT Jake Long to St. Louis: He went to the Rams and I shrug. Look, he's a very good player when healthy. But his health is a concern. And even when he is healthy, he's not a cornerstone that will lead any team to the Super Bowl. No left tackle is that, frankly. The best left tackles, the hot left tackles don't carry teams. They are along for the ride. The Ravens won the Super Bowl last year with Bryant McKinnie playing left tackle. McKinnie had been out of shape and out of the loop the entire season until he finally got playing time in the playoffs. So what does that tell you about left tackles? Are they valuable? Yes. Should they be at the top of your salary cap structure? Put it this way, Joe Thomas is a great left tackle and more consistent than Long. He's at the top of Cleveland's salary cap. How's that working them? Playmakers should be at the top of your cap structure. Not the grunts. And certainly not the grunts with lingering injury issues.

MLB Karlos Dansby: He was solid. But he was hired to be great. He was hired to an $8 million a year contract to make plays and disrupt offenses and change games. He didn't. He was merely solid. And if he'd been making $2 million a year instead of four times that, that would have been good enough. But he wasn't. This is a case of Dolphins cutting ties because Dansby wasn't part of the problem, but neither was he part of the solution. What does it say that Dansby still hasn't been signed by anyone?

OLB Kevin Burnett to Oakland: He was cheaper than Dansby but he wasn't cheap. He was just one grade above solid. But again, he didn't make big plays, either. He didn't cause many fumbles or step in front of passes for interceptions. He was a player other players respected. But he's 30 and he wasn't about to get any better. Interestingly, the Raiders recovered from their loss of Phillip Wheeler by signing Kevin Burnett, completing what effectively was a trade of players. The Dolphins paid a much bigger salary for the exchange. Wheeler will have to be a consistent playmaker to make it worthwhile for the Dolphins. We'll see.

TE Anthony Fasano to KC: He did a lot of little things well but did nothing extraodinarily well. He was solid. He was a 7-9 tight end. The Dolphins needed to upgrade and while their blocking at the position may be worse today, I perceive their pass-catching will be better. And, I remind, it is a passing league.

Sean Smith to KC: He wasn't a system fit in Miami. He was at his best in press situations against big, physical receivers. So he had good games against Larry Fitzgerald and A.J. Green. But he seemed lost the entire rest of the season. He gave up first downs as if that was the assignment. And he didn't make plays. Just did not. It was uncanny. The Chiefs believe he'll be great in their system and they tampered focused on Smith early to get a deal done. I believed the Dolphins made a mistake trading Vontae Davis. I don't think letting Smith walk was a mistake.

Tony McDaniel to Seattle: I'd be surprised if McDaniel makes that team.

[Update: Reggie Bush (how could I forget): He was a good player. He worked hard, played hard and was a good citizen. Nothing like what I thought when he got here. But he'll be better off in Detroit and the Dolphins will be better off without him because Lamar Miller will be just as good, if not better, if he stays healthy. And Miller will do it while earning 10 times less money. I would like the Dolphins to draft a running back on draft Saturday, however.]

April 05, 2013

Brady's doing it, but Tannehill and his WRs working also

The NFL was aflutter for about a day this week when the University of Southern California athletics department tweeted a photo of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady working out with new slot receiver Danny Amendola at the USC facilities.

Somewhere, Peyton Manning probably got to thinking about flying to see Wes Welker and matching Brady throw for throw.

Everywhere around the NFL fans were both impressed and depressed -- the first with the idea that Brady is already working on his craft four months before the start of the preseason and secondly, that their hometown QBs might not be keeping pace.

I know some Dolphins fans got worried.

I got emails from a couple.

I had some ask me on twitter if Ryan Tannehill is also working with Miami's receivers or whether he's vacationing and playing tennis as he did last week.

Well, relax.

Someone asked Tannehill about Brady putting in work and Tannehill responded:

"Been having throwing session (sic) w my wideouts for weeks now," Tannehill tweeted.

Within seconds of that tweet, one of the receivers apparently joining those sessions jumped into the fray.

"Ya! Check yo self!" Brian Hartline added in some unremarkable English.

(Just kidding, Brian).

And although I cannot tell you how many Miami receivers are involved in these sessions, or how frequent they are or whether new additions Mike Wallace, Dustin Keller and Brandon Gibson are involved, at least you can know that folks aren't just standing around watching Brady gain chemistry with his newest receiver.

By the way, Brady on Thursday did a session with Terrell Owens.

I would be surprised if the Patriots are going to sign Owens, 39 and two years out of regular-season action, to a contract. And I know the Dolphins aren't going to do it, either.

I say this because I expect those are the next questions someone is bound to ask.

April 04, 2013

Dolphins preseason schedule right here

We knew the Dolphins agreed to play five instead of four preseason games this year. Now we know their opponents in those games.

The Dolphins preseason schedule:

Date       Opponent                                      Time

Aug. 4     Dallas Cowboys (Canton, Ohio)       8 p.m.

TBD.        at Jacksonville                              TBD.

TBD.        at Houston                                    TBD.

TBD.        Tampa Bay                                    TBD.

TBD.        New Orleans                                  TBD.

Coach Joe Philbin wanted wanted to play the extra game because the Dolphins are a young team with many new players. The coach got his wish a couple of weeks ago when the Dolphins were selected to play the Dallas Cowboys in the annual Hall of Fame game Aug. 4. That game, at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio, will be televised nationally.

The extra game allows Miami more time to become cohesive and allows the coaching staff more time to evaluate players.

The Dolphins also didn't want to play regular season opponents in the preseason. That didn't quite work out.

Atlanta, who was on the preseason schedule last year, is not on this year. The Dolphins are scheduled to host the Falcons at Sun Life Stadium in the regular season. That's a win for Phibin.

But, New Orleans, who has been a Miami preseason favorite in past years, is back on this year's preseason schedule. The Dolphins will travel to New Orleans during the regular season. They'll also play Tampa Bay both in the preseason and regular season.

Carolina, a club the Dolphins played in the preseason last year, is off the schedule this year. The Dolphins will host Carolina in the regular season.

The dates and times of the game are still being finalized.

Annual free agency lull comes to the Dolphins

The Dolphins have moved onto the next step of their offseason plan and that means free agency is on hold, barring an unexpected opportunity, until after the NFL draft.

That's the message I'm getting from multiple team personnel who texted Wednesday afternoon. I asked if the club that hasn't had a free agent visit in nearly a week might be done for a while and the responses were similar across the board.

"That's probably accurate although we never say never," one team official responded.

"Unless something falls off a tree," another team official said.

"What's left worth signing anyway?" one more smart-alecky team person said.

(Just kidding dude, love you.)

Here's the deal:

The Dolphins have signed eight unrestricted free agents and have plenty of salary cap room to sign more if they wish. According to NFLPA figures released Wednesday evening the Dolphins have $8,263,667 in cap space available. That includes all their transactions through Wednesday.

And, you must remember, the Dolphins will get a $10.4 million cap savings after June 1 when the releases of both Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett are figured onto the cap.

So that means the Dolphins could use their entire $8.2 million in current space and have enough after June 1 to sign all their draft picks, add priority free agents after the draft, add a practice squad and also have enough for an emergency stash for the regular season.

This truly is good cap work so far by GM Jeff Ireland and Executive VP of football administration Dawn Aponte.

Nonetheless, the Dolphins aren't likely to spend that entire $8 million because, well, the up-value portion of free agency is done, the bargain hunting part of free agency is donel, and now what remains is the fill holes part of free agency that typically comes after the draft.

In case you're wondering what fill holes free agency means, its when teams take inventory after the draft and if they feel they failed to meet a need in the draft, they fill that need with an available veteran. That is usually a cheap signing.

There is, however, as you read above a caveat to the free agency silence you'll hear from the Dolphins until after the draft:

If a veteran Miami covets suddenly gets cut by another team before the draft, then free agency can kick back on. If a veteran, such as Eric Winston, suddenly has an epiphany and decides he'll play very, very cheaply for the Dolphins instead of waiting for someone to offer him better money, then Miami's interest might be rekindled.

The Dolphins' interest in Winston has otherwise waned somewhat.

[Update: The Falcons are releasing RT Tyson Clabo today, per his agent. Perhaps that is a possibility. Sounds like someone falling off a tree to me.]

The personnel department and coaching staff are grinding on draft eligible players. That's the front-burner issue now. Free agency?

Not so much. 


Hey, folks the numbers are in from last month they show it was one of the best months in the history of this blog. Thank you. And follow me on twitter please.

April 03, 2013

Coaches sometimes hurt the personnel process

During the Bill Parcells era the Dolphins did what most teams do this time of year. The personnel department tried to mesh with the coaching staff and come to a consensus agreement on the worth of draft eligible players.

This is an interesting shotgun wedding that occurs every spring because, let's face it, it's at some level dumb to do this. Coaches are paid to coach. They are paid to develop talent that is right in front of their faces. They are paid to maximize an individual.

They're not paid to project. They're not paid to evaluate.

Indeed, most coaches are not great talent evaluators.

Yet, year after year, NFL teams ask coaches to do the very thing they are not specifically paid to do: Evaluate talent.

And it has become quite clear to me in recent days that while the Dolphins personnel department of 2008-2010 had its share of misses, that was augmented by the fact the coaching staff was generally not great at evaluating college talent.

For example:

In 2010, the Dolphins were asked to serve as one of the coaching staffs at the Senior Bowl. Me, being a dummy, assumed this would give the staff firsthand knowledge of the players they were coaching and that would be a draft-day advantage.


During that week of practices, both head coach Tony Sparano and offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo fell in love with a guard/tackle from Mississippi. His name is John Jerry.

They liked Jerry's aggressiveness. They liked his punch. And because they liked his awareness and intelligence so much, they tried the player who played right guard and right tackle in college on the left side because he was smart enough, they reported, to handle the move.

Moreoever, Googs also reported Jerry had no issues learning quickly.

And so on draft day 2010, the Dolphins looked at their board in the third round -- the one that had tight end Jimmy Graham from Miami still sitting there -- and picked Jerry instead.

In training camp the team tried him at left guard. He was actually the starting left guard the first day of camp. And that lasted only one day because Jerry was a disaster there. He couldn't figure out the position at all.

And later in the year when Jerry's inability to get on the field came up in a conversation with a Miami personnel man, DeGulielmo, the same coach that months earlier had said Jerry was bright and had no issues picking up the system, reported that Jerry's problem was he wasn't picking up the system.

And thus Jerry couldn't do either of the things Sparano and Googs reported to the personnel department that he would be able to do. He couldn't make the transition to left guard. And he couldn't learn seamlessly.

Coaches hurting the personnel evaluation process.

Two years earlier, the Dolphins had been searching for a quarterback. And as I've recounted to you before in this blog and in my column, the Dolphins sent out Sparano, offensive coordinator Dan Henning as well as general manager Jeff Ireland to see, meet with and work out three quarterbacks.

Matt Ryan.

Joe Flacco.

Chad Henne.

And Henning, who fancied himself something of a quarterback guru, came back convinced, CONVINCED, that Henne was and would be every bit the equal of Ryan and Flacco. CONVINCED!

And he reported this to his close friend Bill Parcells. Sparano and Ireland had some misgivings but generally went along with that opinion as well.

Obviously, in hindsight, we now know that Henne isn't the equal to the other two because despite his fine arm and great work ethic and prototype body, something just doesn't click for Henne as an NFL QB. Something inate is missing. And so he is and will always remain a backup type while Flacco carried his team in the playoffs and won the Super Bowl and Ryan is among the top 10 QBs in the league.

Coaches acting as personnel men.

Why do teams do it?

It's interesting to me that personnel men don't don whistles and go try to coach players during training camp. Why do coaches get to play personnel men in February and March?

I will say this:

Recently, on my way back from the NFL annual meeting in Phoenix, I shared a flight with ESPN insider Chris Mortensen. We chatted about a number of issues and shared and compared notes on different things and one thing he told me perked my ears.

He reported that in talking to various NFL people the word he was getting was that current Dolphins coach Joe Philbin was gaining respect as a solid talent evaluator.

One source told Mort that Philbin is the best coaching evaluator he's ever worked with.

Now, that doesn't mean Philbin is ready to take over the Miami personnel department. Indeed, he still has to prove he's a good head coach because today his career record is 7-9.

But if the opinion relayed by Mort's sources turn out to be fact, perhaps the synergy the Miami coaching staff and personnel staff are forced to share this time of year won't be a hinderance.

Not like it was in previous years.

Two meetings with potential draftees that truly interest

I'll admit it, I used to get caught up in the hype about which college players the Dolphins would meet privately or workout this time of year. I used to be interested in what players the team would bring to town in its top 30 visits or what local prospects made the cut to visit the facility.

This was a big deal back in the Jimmy Johnson era. Basically, if a player was coming to Davie to meet with the Dolphins the chances of him being drafted by the team were quite high.

Lately, the truth is a majority of the players the Dolphins bring to town don't end up getting drafted by Miami. Many are borderline guys the coaching staff needs to meet up close to gauge. Many are simply priority free agent types for after the draft.

So the process is not as interesting to me except, well, when it's interesting to me.

This is interesting to me:

This week the Dolphins are bringing in their local prospects and according to a league source, one of the players the Dolphins are expected to host is a defensive lineman named Jose Jose.

I'm not kidding. Jose Jose.

Jose is a Miami kid. He was All-Dade at Central High twice. He was recruited by Miami, Florida, Tennessee, West Virginia and Rutgers before accepting a full scholarship from the University of Central Florida.

And then things went terribly wrong.

In March 2010, one month after signing his national letter of intent, Jose was arrested in Miami-Dade for carrying a concealed firearm without a permit and aggravated assault with a firearm.

UCF cut him loose but Jose was not convicted. He was sentenced to a six-month administrative probation. So Jose went the JUCO route. The following January he was again offered a scholarship at UCF.

And for 14 months things went smoothly. Until March of 2012.

After making a transition from offensive line to defensive line and battling weight issues, Jose apparently got into a heated argument with head coach George O'Leary.

And the argument escalated.

And O'Leary kicked Jose off the team.

"Really it wasn't, well ... yeah it was an argument," Jose told the Orlando Sentinel. "I do not really want to get into what was said in the argument, and I said some things that I probably shouldn’t have said. He took action and did what he had to do and that's just kind of how it is. I can’t really take back what I said."

Indeed, Jose now is trying to get himself either drafted or picked up as a priority free agent after the draft. Because he's from Miami, the Dolphins can host him along with other local products.

I'd love to know how that conversation with Joe Philbin goes.

Among the Top 30 players scheduled to visit with the Dolphins is former Washington State wide receiver Marquess Wilson.

Wilson is a 6-4 and 198 pound receiver with good speed and solid albeit not spectacular production in college. So why does he interest me?

Wilson, if you can remember, quit the WSU football team last November and then alleged abuse by coach Mike Leach before eventually recanting the allegations. And then when all seemed settled, in February Wilson recanted the recant of the allegations while he was at the Indianapolis Combine.

Wild, right?

Wilson actually released a letter to the media claiming he was the victim of "physical, emotional and mental abuse" at the hands of Leach and the WSU coaching staff. Wilson timed the letter's release on the day WSU played a nationally ranked UCLA in a nationally telecast game.

The PAC-12 and WSU conducted an investigation and cleared the coaches.

And that left Wilson off a team and looking at expecting hard questions from NFL suitors, including the Dolphins now.

The likely questions?

Why did you quit?

Can you be expected to quit when any situation turns difficult?

Have you turned on any other people you know?

If you come here, would you do the same here that you did at WSU?

Why should we trust you to keep problems in-house?

It's an intriguing situation because Wilson was expected to be a second-round caliber receiver before he left the team. Now, nobody knows where he'll be drafted if at all.

Obviously, the Dolphins are doing their due diligence. They're seriously beating the weeds here in hopes of landing a bargain player.

Me, I'd love to be a fly on the wall on the Jose Jose and Marquess Wilson meetings with the Dolphins.

April 02, 2013

Answer to the most-asked draft question: No

Without question the player Dolphins fans ask me about the most for the coming draft is West Virginia all-purpose ankle-breaker Tavon Austin.

I suppose the reason Miami fans love this player is because he is a surge of electricity. Here now. Gone now. Lots of speed. Great vision. A one-on-one mismatch in the open field when he has the ball. He promises many dropped jaws in the stands and dropped pants by defenders.

So Miami fans want to know if the Dolphins are likely to pick Austin.

No, I do not see the Dolphins picking Tavon Austin in the coming draft -- certainly not in the first round where everyone seems to think he'll be selected.

This, I write, because I know how the Dolphins judge players. This because I know how the Dolphins value size and weight and the so-called prototype in the draft.

And Tavon Austin is all of 5-8 and 175 pounds which is as far from the NFL prototype as you can get without being in the CFL.

Understand, the Dolphins do make size exceptions. They made one for Pat White who happened to hail from the same West Virginia program as Austin. Um, maybe that's not a good example.

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland has told me he asks himself this question when he's evaluating a player that is for whatever reason not of prototypical size or weight or speed: "Does he walk on water?"

(The phrase originates from the fact Jesus Christ walked on water on the sea of Galilee. So did Peter for a couple of steps before he got tackled by a blitzing lack of faith).

The point is most people who are not the Son of God cannot walk on water. They simply aren't so incredibly great that the field tilts in their favor when they step on it. They simply aren't so amazing that one can forget that they are too short or light or slow or whatever other failing the player may have.

Most players do not walk on water.

Barry Sanders did.

Thurman Thomas did.

Darrell Green did.

But the list of non-prototypes in my mind isn't much longer. And while looking at Austin on tape suggests he floats very well on water, and perhaps even swims like a fish in the water, he's not walking on the surface. He's not Sanders-Thomas-Green great.

Austin caught 114 passes for 1,289 yards last season. He caught 12 touchdown passes. He was also used out of the backfield and has a career 9.5 yards per carry average. His game against Oklahoma in which he gained 572 total yards was perhaps the greatest individual performance of the season by a collegian.

But ...

His 11.3 yards per reception is not suggesting NFL deep threat. He sometimes double-catches passes, perhaps a result of his smaller hands. That's not a big deal in college because the game is slower. But in the NFL, receivers who juggle and must recatch the football often get drilled between the first catch and the attempted second catch.

I watched Austin cutups and I saw him be very, very friendly with the sideline. He searches out the sideline a lot to avoid contact, which is natural and smart for a player his size but could be an issue for some coaches. 

I also saw a little high stepping a few times. Yeah, Miami coach Joe Philbin would love that. 

Don't get me wrong. Fake GM Salguero would love Tavon Austin on his team. But not at the expense of the No. 12 overall draft pick. Late in the first round? Maybe. In the second round, yes. But in the upper third of the first round, the durability concerns caused by his size, the fact he'll never be an outside receiver because he simply lacks the wingspan to help the quarterback out there, and the good but not great hands give me pause.

By the way, some folks will look at the Austin highlight tape below and believe him to be a faster Wes Welker. Don't be fooled. Wes Welker towers over Austin and outweighs him by at least 15 pounds. Welker is built much more compact and strong. Austin is lean.

That's another thing. One scout I talk to a lot told me he has questions about Austin's affinity for the weight room. The scout loves the kid's spunk and swag and all that. But he did mention the weight room issue.

So, to answer the most asked question I get: I don't believe the Dolphins will be drafting Tavon Austin at No. 12. Not unless he finds a way to walk on water between now and draft day.  

April 01, 2013

Perspective about free agency is necessary

Over the weekend the Boston Globe's Greg Bedard noted that the last three Super Bowls champions had only one unrestricted free agent starter in his first year with the team -- combined.

(I'd embed the link but the column is behind a paywall so if you want to see it, go get it. I recommend you do).

Anyway, while that is a very interesting and consequential fact that suggests Super Bowl teams typically grow a majority of their own talent and need their imported talent to adjust for more than a year before succeeding at the highest level, I can see the fact also has the potential to be misunderstood.

Just as what the Dolphins are trying to do this offseason will likely be misunderstood.

The fact suggests rightly that free agents don't immediately bring Super Bowl titles in tow when they sign. Fine. I think everyone gets that. But the next assumption -- that the Dolphins will fail miserably in 2013 because they added eight free agents so far is ridiculous.

Look, Jeff Ireland has spoken to the media multiple times this offseason. So has owner Stephen Ross. And coach Joe Philben spent an hour on the record only two weeks ago.

None have uttered the words, "We're adding free agents this offseason to win the very next Super Bowl and if we don't we're total failures."

The Dolphins aren't adding free agents to win the next Super Bowl. That's not the immediate goal. They're adding free agents to help them win. Period. It's something that hasn't been done in Miami for quite some time and the Dolphins are doing what they can to change course.

The last time the Dolphins put a winning team on the field was 2008. That's a president ago. That's a whole different economy ago. It's been a long time, folks.

And so to criticize them for trying to add talent to a team that desperately needed the infusion is akin to criticizing an athlete for practicing his craft because he might not immediately win a title as a result.

Winning a title is the ultimate goal, yes. But there are goals lower down the ladder of accomplishments the Dolphins will happily chase and consider 2013 a success if they meet -- even if they don't win a Super Bowl.


How about turning in a winning season? How about making the playoffs as a wild card team? How about winning the AFC East? Relevance doesn't just come after winning the Super Bowl.

All of those are viable goals short of a Super Bowl win that would likely feel good to the fan base by the time 2013 comes to a close.

And, unlike that ominous stat about first-year starting UFAs on Super Bowl winners, I can report UFAs do indeed help their teams turn it around fairly quickly when the measure of that turnaround is not a Super Bowl win.

Drew Brees went to New Orleans as a UFA and turned that team, indeed that city, into a winner.

Michael Turner went to Atlanta in 2008 as a UFA and helped that team make multiple playoff appearances. Atlanta, by the way, has no problem adding talent by any means necessary -- trades for veterans, trade ups in the draft, unrestricted free agency, you name it.

When the Giants won the Super Bowl in February 2008, the player who caught the winning TD was UFA Plaxico Burress.

The Arizona Cardinals went to the Super Bowl in February 2009 with UFA quarterback Kurt Warner leading them there.

Jacoby Jones was released by the Houston Texans on May 1, 2012 and signed as a free agent seven days later with the Baltimore Ravens. And that was him making multiple big plays for Baltimore last postseason, including a 70-yard touchdown catch against Denver with 30 seconds to play to tie the game and a 108-yard kickoff return touchdown against San Francisco in the Super Bowl.

By the way, Denver was 13-3 last season and won the AFC West. I'd say UFA quarterback Peyton Manning had something to do with that. 

So what about those facts suggest adding free agents is a bad idea?

Oh yeah, nothing.