It's not right to say the Dolphins are bargain shopping in free agency. Not when Brandon Albert got $20 million in guaranteed money two days ago and the highest average per year salary of any left tackle signing during free agency.
It is more accurate to say the Dolphins are value shopping. General manager Dennis Hickey has said that over and over, again and again.
"Again, we always look at value," he said. "That’s what we’ve done so far, and that’s what we will continue to do. Putting a number on those things, again we are just trying to get the best 53-man roster."
And so this is what you must keep in mind as free agency continues ... According to sources familiar with the Dolphins thinking, the club is now value shopping for a cornerback. Miami is value shopping for a running back -- and on this one, the shopping may very well lead to the draft. (More on that in a moment).
The Dolphins are still shopping for both a guard and a right tackle, although getting good value on this front may be more tricky, one source tells me.
Value shopping takes time.
And it is risky because other teams with similar needs can easily set higher values on players.
But this is apparently what the Dolphins are committed to doing. Sometimes it works and the value the team places on a player leads the player to or back to Miami -- think Randy Starks. Sometimes it fails and the value the team places on a player leads him elsewhere -- think Paul Soliai.
There are other instances where setting a certain value or price point for a player doesn't get it done. And the offensive line offers multiple examples of this.
The Dolphins offered guard Zane Beadles a contract they believed to give them (and him) good value. But the Jacksonville Jaguars blew Miami out of the water with a five-year, $30 million deal that included $12 million in guarantees.
That's right tackle money, folks.
Beadles is a guard.
The Dolphins also wanted Rodger Saffold to play alongside Albert at left guard or perhaps right tackle. But the Oakland Raiders blew Miami out of the water with a five-year, $45 million deal that included $21.5 million in guarantees. Think of this: The Raiders were going to pay Saffold, who is not durable and not a home run as a left tackle, more guaranteed money than the Dolphins were going to pay a proven Pro Bowl left tackle.
And the Dolphins offer was to pay Saffold as a guard or right tackle.
They couldn't compete. Thankfully, actually.
Well, last night the Raiders either got buyer's remorse or the team doctor became the smartest man in the organization. The Raiders failed Saffold in his physical.
Saffold is now going back to the Rams.
So where does that leave the Dolphins?
Again (as Hickey likes to say) the Dolphins are hunting for a veteran cornerback, a guard, a right tackle and a running back.
The cornerback issue is one where value has just reared its head. The Philadelphia Eagles this morning announced they agreed to terms with now former Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll.
The Dolphins like Carroll. He's big, he's fast. His best football is in front.
But they didn't value him as a starter. They valued him as a No. 3 type guy.
Carroll valued himself as a starter, or at least someone who could compete to start. And the Eagles convinced him he had a place there. So the Dolphins lose the player who started 22 games for them the past two years -- more than anyone else.
The hunt continues for a veteran corner -- one who can compete to start but can slide into the No. 3 role if he doesn't win the competition. The Dolphins like San Francisco's Tarrell Brown. They've shown interest in Walter Thurmond.
Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie and Antonie Cromartie are out there. But both are starting corners who expect to be paid like big-time starting corners. Do the Dolphins value them as such? That's the only way Miami has any interest.
I have no idea who the Dolphins are targetting at guard and right tackle now. [Update: The Miami Herald has confirmed Rams guard Shelley Smith is scheduled to visit tonight and tomorrow. He has visited the Giants and is currently in New England. He's looking for around $3 million a year. Good luck with that. He'll soon understand Dolphins are looking for value.]
The Dolphins initially called on New Orleans right tackle Zach Strief and apparently were scared away by 1. His strong desire to return to New Orleans. 2. His price. (Perhaps this changes, perhaps not).
The team desperately and I do mean desperately needs to add a couple of more veterans on the line. The consensus top guards and right tackles are apparently spoken for. What is mostly left are mid-level players.
So can Hickey fight off desperation and not sign a mid-level player for starter money because those mid-level players are going to start?
As to the running back issue, the Dolphins are in something of a tight spot. It is no longer a question of whether the team will add one. Sources tell me that is definitely the plan. The Dolphins want a big, bruising back that can pick up the short yards and also run over people in late-game situations protecting the lead.
(Good-bye Daniel Thomas).
Is there anyone out there like that? Ben Tate is available, but I don't know that is likely because he wants a bundle of cash to be the man. The Dolphins intend to run by committee.
I'm told the team believes there can be value in finding that RB in the draft -- and not necessarily early in the draft. So this can happen later.
I suppose that's what hunting for value is about. Waiting for the right time to strike. And that is often ... later.