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44 posts from March 2014

March 13, 2014

Dolphins think value with benefits and repercussions

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.


March 12, 2014

Randy Starks contract a win for Dolphins

The re-signing of Randy Starks was a win for the Dolphins because it brings back a two-time Pro Bowl player who happens to play a position of need (until he signed his name on the contract) for the Dolphins.

It was also a win for general manager Dennis Hickey and Executive vice president of Football Administration Dawn Aponte -- who are working the contract for Miami -- because the deal they got seems beneficial for the Dolphins.

The reported deal of two-years worth $12 million is a mirage.

Oh, it might be worth that $6 million per year annual average if Starks maxes out and actually sticks around for the two seasons because there are $1 million in incentives each year -- in 2014 and 2015.

But the deal is actually for a total of $10 million with $5 million guaranteed in the form of the $2 million signing bonus and his $3 million base salary this coming season. The other $5 million comes in the form of 2015 base salary.

What does that mean?

Starks, 30, is really only assured of being with the team in '14. If for whatever reason his play drops off or, God forbid, he gets hurt, or the Dolphins simply want to go in a different direction, the team can cut the defensive tackle next year and save $4 million in cap space even while carrying $1 million in dead money.

And because there is no triggering mechanism that would force the Dolphins to make a decision on Starks next offseason, they could carry his contract through training camp 2015 before making their final decision on his future.

I suppose Starks understood all this when he met with the media Wednesday and didn't exactly do cartwheels over signing the deal.

“I mean it feels really good," he said. "It could be worse, I could be out on the street, but for the most part I’m glad to be back. I’ve been in this organization for six years and I think I’m established here. I’m just happy to be back."

The reason Starks is glad to be back "for the most part" is because he clearly expected a bigger payday in perhaps his last big bite of the contract apple. A league source tells me Starks' representation was talking about a $7.5-million-per-year-plus salary for Starks before free agency began.

Obviously, that never materialized. So Starks was sort of forced to go back to the Dolphins, who had balked at his initial asking price and told him to go shop himself in the market.

"I had options out there, but like I said this is where I want to be," Starks said. "I want to finish my career here, and I think this two-year deal gives me a chance to do that.”

Hickey on Starks return, Revis rumors, Dolphins future

Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey said he is "optimistic" the Dolphins will be able to re-sign defensive tackle Randy Starks on Wednesday, meaning the Dolphins defensive tackle position could be resolved soon.

"We're talking and negotiating to his representation," Hickey said after the Dolphins introduced both Branden Albert and Earl Mitchell as their new free agent additions. "Dawn Aponte is up there right now and we're talking. We're optimistic and we'll see how that happens. We'll let you know."

Obviously the deal is not yet done as has been reported elsewhere. But the Dolphins are going well down that road.

[Update at 3:10: The Starks deal is now done. He agrees to a 2-year deal that pays a maximum of $12 million.]

Hickey did nothing to douse the smoke to any rumors the Dolphins will be interested when/if cornerback Darrelle Revis is released from Tampa Bay and becomes a free agent.

While the New England Patriots are mentioned prominently among teams that will chase Revis, it must be noted Hickey was prominent in the Bucs' chase for Revis a year ago when they traded for him.

"I'm not going to comment on players on other team's rosters," Hickey said about Revis.

Hickey would not say if adding more free agent offensive linemen -- the Dolphins have voids at both guards and right tackle -- would continue to be a free agency focus. "The priority is always good players," he said.

"We always look at value. That's what we've done so far and that's what we're going to continue to do. We're trying to get the best 53-man roster.

Hickey obviously feels good about what the Dolphins are today and what they can become by the time this offseason is over.

"We're confident we're going to build or are in the process of building a championship team," he said. "We're going to keep adding pieces and keep developing the pieces that are already here. We feel we have a quality team and we'll keep adding to that trying to get the best 53 man roster."

On Ben Tate ... run defense ... need for more upgrades

In the last two days, the AFC East has seen the departure of Antonio Cromartie from the Jets, Jairus Byrd from the Bills and Aqib Talib from the Patriots. So until Darrelle Revis is cut by Tampa Bay today and decides whether to go to the Patriots or not, the airways promise to be kinder to Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Doesn't matter.

My column in today's Miami Herald says the Dolphins need to improve the ground game -- on both sides of the football.

Yes, the Dolphins signed Brandon Albert to their left tackle job (press conference today) and agreed to terms with defensive tackle Earl Mitchell on Monday. But that better be a start rather than a finished work.

With all due respect, the Albert signing replaces Jake Long one year later. It doesn't make everything better. He's not by himself getting the Dolphins to the playoffs. The Mitchell signing may or may not be an upgrade over Paul Soliai.

So the Dolphins have to giddyup and do more to make their rushing attack and poor run defense -- neither of which was even remotely close to mediocre last year -- a team strength rather than an obvious weakness.

They're not getting Austin Howard. He's gone to the Raiders. Howard will reunite with his former New York Jets offensive line coach who is now the Raiders OL coach -- Tony Sparano.

So ... Zach Strief, please.

[Update: The Dolphins have shown interest in Strief but at this point there is no further movement on the issue. Stay tuned as I work to get more. No visit is planned at this point. Strief wants to return to the Saints.]


He's 30 and will be 31 in September. I get it, that's not what the Dolphins like to do. So get him for two or three years if possible. Geez.

I give you compelling examples of how improving the running game and run defense can help a cellar dweller become a playoff caliber team and how a good team goes to a championship right here.

And I give you one name that could go a long way in helping the Dolphins improve their rushing attack ... Ben Tate.

The Dolphins have shown lukewarm interest in Tate, I'm told. Not surprisingly, most NFL free agent running backs don't exactly break the bank these days. Donald Brown, for example, signed a three-year deal for $10.5 million Tuesday night.

Tate might get more. But not necessarily a ton more.

So why not?

By the way, Dolphins new offensive line coach John Benton should be able to give the Dolphins a solid report on Tate's practice habits, on his affect on the locker room, things that in the wake ofthe Wells report are important to the Dolphins.

Use that information.

If not Tate, would it kill the Dolphins to check in on LeGarrette Blount?

He is a known player to Hickey, who was in Tampa when Blount played for the Bucs. Yes, he knows Blount punched that kind while at Oregon and another one as a rookie while with the Titans. But I imagine he also knows Blount can return kickoffs because he runs a 4.5 in the 40 and is a LOAD at 248 pounds. Blount is a career 4.7-yard-per-carry back.

Blount has seven 100-yard rushing games since 2010 -- as a part-time player. The Dolphins have had a player turn in a 100-yard rushing games only nine times since 2010.

On another front, there is no way the Dolphins don't need to keep addressing the run defense that has gotten progressively worse the past two years ... from No. 3 in 2011 to No. 11 in 2012 to a disappointing and unacceptable No. 24 last season.

Losing Randy Starks (might happen, might not as team has an offer in for him) and Paul Soliai (to Atlanta for a reunion with former coordinator Mike Nolan) while adding Mitchell doesn't exactly scream upgrade. It suggests holding your ground while paying less for the players involved.

But it is not a certain upgrade.

More must be done.

Maybe on Day Two of free agency.

March 11, 2014

Jonathan Martin traded to San Francisco

The nightmare is over -- for all parties involved.

Following through on owner Stephen Ross' words that neither Jonathan Martin nor Richie Incognito would return to the Dolphins after the 2013 harassment scandal, the Dolphins confirm they have agreed to trade Martin to the San Francisco 49ers.

Martin thus rejoins former Stanford coach and current San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh in the Bay Area.

Terms of the trade were not immediately available. But it is likely for a low-round pick. ESPN was the first to report this story.

The Dolphins invested a second round pick on Martin in 2012.

In 2013, Martin imploded.

Plagued by depression and self-esteem issues, and tormented by poor treatment from Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey, Martin admits in the Wells Report he felt suicidal in May 2013.

In late October he left the Dolphins in the middle of the season.

Now he's left the Dolphins for good.

Martin's reaction?

"Big news," he tweeted moments ago. "Opportunities are few in the NFL. Can't wait to get to work."

He added the hashtag: 9ersempire.

The Dolphins will carry $959,734 in dead money against their cap for the Martin trade.


Soliai gets big $$ from Falcons

It's been known Paul Soliai was going to break the bank.

The bank where the Atlanta Falcons leave their deposits is today a little leaner because the former Dolphins defensive tackle has joined the NFC team.

Soliai is en route to Atlanta right now and will be signing a five-year contract worth $32 million with $14 million fully guaranteed.

Soliai will be making $11 million this year, according to a source familiar with the deal.

The Dolphins were never really in the game for Soliai. They never actually presented a contract to kick off negotiations.

They did make verbal offers that would have paid Soliai $5.5 million this year.

Not close.

Update: Paul Soliai released a statement thanking you, the fans, for his time in Miami. He thanks assistant coach Kacy Rodgers and he thanks "the previous" staff for bringing him into the NFL. He does not thank the Dolphins organization and I'm told that is by design:

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Albert agrees, couple of more UFA players to watch

Free agency is underway and the Dolphins have come to contract terms with offensive left tackle Branden Albert on a five year deal believed to be worth between $45-48 million.

No secret there.

Albert must take and pass a physical before the deal is official and signed. 

[Update at 4:01: Albert's deal is for $47 million with $25 million guaranteed.]

I smiled this afternoon when ESPN analyst Bill Polian said Dannell Ellerbe "played well" for "OK" money he got from the Dolphins last year. Polian also referred Ellerbe as "Daniel."

Strike one.



We know that Ellerbe will be with the Dolphins this year but the coaching staff and new general manager Dennis Hickey have been considering moving him to outside linebacker, which would mean the Dolphins would need a new middle linebacker.

(Remember the flirtation with D'Qwell Jackson?)

Anyway, the other way to address the linebacker position is to get an outside backer and force Phillip Wheeler and Koa Misi to compete for playing time.

Well, if Plan B is the way to go, the Dolphins have Tampa Bay OLB Dekoda Watson on their radar.

The team is also looking for right tackle help.

And Austin Howard will be available in the coming minutes. The New York Daily News reported the past few minutes the team was unable to sign Howard in time before free agency's start.

He'll be on the market.

The Dolphins are going to need to make moves at defensive tackle and we've already discussed Earl Mitchell and also Cam Thomas as a low-cost third DT option.

Another option is Kansas City five-technique defensive end Tyson Jackson. The Dolphins are considering him as someone capable of making the move to 4-3 DT.

[Update at 4:03: Mitchell has agreed to terms with the Dolphins and is flying to Miami today, according to Adam Beasley and ESPN and me. Beasley reports the agreement. ESPN says it's a four-year deal worth $16 million. I'm told Mitchell will get $9 million in guaranteed money.]

[Update at 4:10: Jackson is obviously no longer a priority. He will visit the Falcons tonight, per a source.]

Another DT possibility emerges for Dolphins

Yes, the Dolphins are trying to move on from Randy Starks and Paul Soliai. Don't be sad for the guys you know, as they will have offers. Indeed, Soliai might be visiting his new team starting tomorrow.

But as for Miami's replacement of those players, a new name to consider is Cam Thomas of the San Diego Chargers.

Thomas, 27, is 6-4 and 330 pounds which means he's a similar body to Soliai. That has him on the Dolphins radar.

Thomas is younger, has a high ceiling, and will be way cheaper than either Soliai or Starks would be.

But here's the thing:

Thomas today isn't as good.

Thomas was basically handed the starting nose tackle job with Chargers last year when Aubrayo Franklin and Antonio Garay left the team. Then he lost that starting job in early December and thereafter shared snaps with Sean Lissemore.

Thomas nonetheless is a good prospect.

Keep his name in mind along with Earl Mitchell, who was discussed in this space earlier today.


Free agency tidbits before the launch of free agency

The purpose of free agency is to upgrade. Let's see what you got, Dennis Hickey.

The new Dolphins general manager inherited a mediocre (8-8) team rife with unmet expectations. The team needs an offensive line, save maybe one or two spots. The team has cornerback questions, defensive tackle questions, running back questions and linebacker questions despite investing heavily in the position last year.


Let's roll.

Look beyond the well-chronicled offensive line issues for a moment. Think defensive tackles to start. Randy Starks is actually looking at the Seahawks as a possible landing spot. Paul Soliai has gotten flirty eyes from Atlanta.

The Dolphins seem a distant possibility.

So where's the upgrade?

The Herald offered a handful of names as possible defensive tackle upgrades. And if you look at former NFL executive of the year Bill Polian's free agent tracker, one name is sticking out: Earl Mitchell.

Learn the name because you'll be hearing it the next 24-48 hours.

Mitchell has already been in contact with the Dolphins. Thing is he's also been contacted by the Bucs, Seahawks, Bears, Chargers and Cowboys. That's a lot of buzz for a four-year veteran with only 134 career tackles (33 per season average) and 3.5 sacks (less than one per season average) to his name.

Yet teams are loving him.

He is a high-motor, solid penetration, one-gap type guy.

The Dolphins will try to sign at least one defensive tackle in the coming days.

And that brings us back to ...

Yeah, offensive line.

Chad Rinehart re-signed with San Diego on Monday. Pfft.

The Broncos have encouraged Zane Beadles to shop around. Beadles loves Denver and loves playing with a winner. But I'm sure he also loves to get paid.

Geoff Schwartz is a possibility. Rams like him. He's going to be popular starting at 4 p.m. today.

St. Louis guard Shelley Smith of the Rams seems a good system fit for a zone blocking scheme, which is exactly what the Dolphins do.

KC's Jon Asamoah is also going to be very popular starting at 4 p.m. today. The Jets and Falcons are reportedly very interested.

About the Jets: They cleared nearly $18 million in cap space the two days by releasing Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie. They have gone from the third most cap space in the AFC East, behind Buffalo and Miami, to the second most cap space in the AFC East.

They have flexibility that they didn't enjoy the past couple of seasons, which is not exactly good news for their division rivals, including Miami.

So if the Dolphins are interested in right tackle Austin Howard, as The Herald has reported, I offer two caveats to actually getting him:

1. The Jets have been trying to re-sign Howard, so let's see if he even makes it to the market.

2. Let's see what happens if gets to free agency and then both the Dolphins and Jets try to sign him. Talk about driving up the price on a solid-but-not-outstanding player.

On the cornerback front, the Dolphins have told Nolan Carroll, starter of 12 games in 2013, to shop around. He's doing just that. And Minnesota and San Francisco have shown interest.

The Dolphins re-signed Brent Grimes and that's good. But that doesn't do it all. With Dimitri Patterson cut and Carroll shopping around, a couple of things need to happen:

1. Last year's rookies need to show up. Neither Jamar Taylor nor Will Davis proved anything during their rookie seasons. One or the other -- Taylor most likely because he was a second-round pick -- will feel some heat to perform in 2014.

2. The Dolphins would do well to hedge their bet by adding a veteran cornerback who can, at minimum, be a solid No. 3 replacing Carroll.

And let me just mention one more thing:

Darrelle Revis is available via trade. If he doesn't get traded, Tampa Bay, under new management, will cut him by Wednesday because they don't want to give the Jets a third-round draft pick from last year's trade nor pay Revis a $1.5 million bonus atop his $16 million base salary.


Well that brings me back to Dennis Hickey. He was part of the old management in Tampa Bay that brought Revis to the Bucs in 2013. Just saying.

March 10, 2014

Dolphins cut Patterson, add Delmas, save cap space

One move has seemingly been coming for two years and the other for two weeks. Both arrived today.

The Dolphins cut oft-injured cornerback Dimitri Patterson and in so doing save $5.4 million of cap space for 2014. There is no dead money involved in cutting Patterson as he was in the final year of his contract.

Patterson started only four games for the Dolphins in 2013 and was plagued by a groin injury throughout the year.

The club also today signed safety Louis Delmas to a one-year deal worth a maximum of $3.5 million, according to a league source. Delmas, a Miami native, was cut two weeks ago by the Detroit Lions and visted the Dolphins soon thereafter.

The Delmas deal is a prove it contract because while he is a solid player, he's struggled to stay healthy much of the past two seasons. Delmas rarely practiced for the Lions last year and missed 13 games from 2011-12.

What does this mean?

Well, forget the Jairus Byrd rumors. And Chris Clemons isn't coming back to the Dolphins.

And think more about CB needs for the Dolphins because combined with the fact Nolan Carroll, who started 12 games at cornerback, is getting strong feelers from other teams in free agency, cutting Patterson it means the Dolphins are  probably still in the market for a cornerback.

Unrestricted free agency begins at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

So possibilities?

The cornerback market is not exactly teeming with great possibilities.

Aqib Talib is out there. He wants a big payday. And he obviously has a history with Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey in that he was drafted by and played for Tampa Bay.

But that also means Hickey should know Talib is something of a ticking time bomb -- with injury issues and off-field issues in his past.

San Francisco's Tarell Brown and Oakland's Tracy Porter might be cheap options on the secondary free agent market.

Dominque Rodger-Cromartie is expected to be available, although the Broncos are said to want him back. DR-C is nothing if not inconsitent -- sometimes great, sometimes barely average.

The Jets today dumped Antonio Cromratie so he's out there as well.

There's also this: The Tampa Bay Bucs supposedly might be interested in trading Darrelle Revis. This is all speculation. Media have discussed the possibility but no one has actually reported this as fact.

If that's the case, it bears mentioning that Hickey was in Tampa Bay when the Bucs traded for Revis.

The problems?

Revis would be dangled in trade. And that means giving up compensation for him. And it also means accepting the $16 million cap number Revis is expected to have this season.

Honestly, those are both problems but not the biggest problem for the Dolphins. I'm sure they would not simply give up high-round picks. And as you just read, they just gained $5.4 million and have approximately $38 million in salary cap space.

But Revis doesn't seem like a system fit. He's a press man cornerback. The Dolphins are an off-man team.


Free agent offensive line possibilties narrow

Forget Rodger Saffold. Forget Chad Rinehart.

Two Dolphins free agent offensive line possibilities are not headed to Miami.

Saffold, who the Dolphins contacted over the weekend, had been on the team's radar as a backup left tackle possibility had the Branden Albert chase not worked out. But as I've reported today, Albert to the Dolphins is almost done.

The Dolphins liked Saffold enough that there was thought he might come anyway -- as a guard or perhaps a right tackle.


Saffold is going to get left tackle money and that means he's not coming to Miami at all, according to a source. Saffold is likely to land in Oakland.

That's that.

Rinhart, a guard with the San Diego Chargers, is staying in San Diego. The Chargers announced minutes ago they have re-signed Rinehart so he will not be hitting the market.

The Dolphins continue looking at guard and right tackle possibilities.

As discussed in this space on Saturday, the best right tackle possibilities are Zach Strief of New Orleans and Austin Howard of the New York Jets.

The guard possibilities?

Do not dismiss Davin Joseph, cut by the Bucs last week -- because of his ties for Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey.


Source: Albert deal 'almost' done

Not that this is breaking news, but Branden Albert will be a Miami Dolphin.

The offensive left tackle's representatives have been talking to the Dolphins for a while now and a deal between the sides is "almost" done, a source tells me.

So when the unrestricted free agency period begins tomorrow at 4 p.m. (eastern) the Dolphins and Albert's camp will likely put a cherry on top of the deal, there will be a physical at some point as Albert lives in Miami, and we'll soon be off and running with a signing in free agency.

Interestingly, the Dolphins' study of unrestricted free agency did not lead them to Eugene Monroe as their No. 1 target at left tackle ... and it did not lead them to Eugene Monroe as their No. 2 target at left tackle, either.

I have zero idea why.

Interestingly, (again), the injury concerns the Dolphins had on Albert last season when they were considering trading for him seem to have faded.

You will remember one reason the trade for Albert never materialized is because then Miami general manager Jeff Ireland wanted Albert to take a physical before he committed to trading for him. But the Chiefs declined to let the Dolphins administer the physical.

Well, Albert has not taken a physical with the Dolphins and the team is going full steam ahead on this negotiation. And, it must be pointed out, Albert missed a couple of games with a hyper-extended knee last season and also worked through some shoulder problems.

The previous year he had to overcome knee and back problems.

Yes, Albert will have to take and pass a physical with the Dolphins before his contract becomes effective. That will likely happen Tuesday or Wednesday.

Watch for fibs, Albert and ... Jairus Byrd?

Today is the final day of official contact-but-no-contract courtship between NFL teams and representatives for players. Starting tomorrow, it becomes serious. Starting tomorrow at 4 p.m., players are able to sign with new teams.

The past few days?

The agent wild west.

As most NFL teams don't tell the media anything (rightfully so) about their plans for signing other teams' players at the opening of free agency, all the information is coming from agents. And some of that is misinformation.

"Love my agent counterparts for putting out such an awesome account of misinformation re: players, team interests, and team free agent activity," agent C.J. LaBay of Relativity Sports, tweeted on Sunday evening.

He's right. Many agents want to create buzz for their clients because buzz can raise the price on players. So a player who has talked to one team other than his own can be said to be "talking to multiple teams showing serious interest, according to a source."

And, of course, the teams are not identified. And the agent doesn't have to put his name behind the information.

And the media (me) publishes it because teams don't typically confirm or deny the information and thus do not correct the record whenever such information is only tangential to the truth.

Yes, there are many upright, honest and professional agents who deal straight with the media. Not everyone works the same. But to suggest the scenario I just shared with you never plays out excludes the whole truth from what's happening through today.

So as with free agency for teams, buyer beware with the information out there.

That said:

There is some information about the Dolphins market that merits consideration as Tuesday draws nearer.

1. The Dolphins interest in Eugene Monroe was cooler than expected. Yes, they showed interest over the weekend but it was not the full-on courting of the player many believed would be the hottest LT talent available.

Apparently, teams were lukewarm on Monroe for some reason -- maybe they didn't like his price tag that was married to his uneven play in 2013 and lack of overpowering physical presence.

2. Branden Albert was apparently the hottest commodity expected to come available. A handful of teams had him as the best LT about to hit the market and the Dolphins are one of those teams. Perhaps it is price point, a more even ability to run as well as pass block ... I don't know. Obviously it is not his age (29) vs. Monroe (26).

3. The Dolphins believe they are going to get Albert. Does that mean a deal is done? No. Does that mean one will get done 100 percent? No. But is it likely? Yes. And the talk on the annual average salary is between $9-$10 million per season.

4. The Dolphins were also interested in Jared Veldheer as something of a backup option at LT. And his price tag is expected to be between $7-$8 million per season.

5. The Dolphins are doing work at the safety position. Agent Drew Rosenhaus said on WSVN's Sunday night sports show in Miami that he and the Dolphins have talked about a contract for free agent Louis Delmas. Meanwhile, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported Sunday evening that the Dolphins are "showing real interest" in Jairus Byrd of the Buffalo Bills.

That's interesting if true because Byrd is expecting a contract that averages between $8-$9 million per season. Let me repeat: Jairus Byrd wants a contract that would pay about $36 million over four years and that would include between $16-$18 million in guaranteed money.

So are the Dolphins serious about that?

I remind you that last year the Dolphins signed Reshad Jones to a four-year extension worth $29.36 million with $15 million in guaranteed money. They are not cutting Jones because that would mean approximately $13 million in dead money.

So the Dolphins are going to have a starting safety duo that represents approximately $16 million in average annual salary? They're going to tie up eight percent of the $133 million cap on two players, neither of which scores touchdowns for a living?

And in the meantime, they've got questions about who starts at cornerback opposite Brent Grimes?

Look, I love Jairus Byrd as a player. As I've written, the man is a turnover machine. He averages one turnover every two games. And then I found out what his asking price is.

And it gave me pause.

Adding Byrd makes a ton of sense when you're not already paying big bucks at the other safety spot. He's a big luxury.

Very big.



March 08, 2014

Tampering begins: Top 3 in areas of need for Dolphins

Let the tampering begin! At noon, NFL teams were actually within their rights to start negotiating with players on other teams. Yes, that's actually been going on for weeks, but you know the game (wink, wink).

The Dolphins need offensive line help. They need defensive tackle help. They may want middle linebacker help so they can kick Dannell Ellerbe outside. Safety? Sure. Running back? Maybe.

Below are fake GM Salguero's top three players in those areas of need as free agency negotiations begin this afternoon (legally):

Left tackle

1. Eugene Monroe, Baltimore: Young. Elite pass-blocker. Average run blocker. Think Richmond Webb without the big behind. He's quiet and a not a locker room issue, which should be a positive for the Dolphins. Will be expensive.

1A. Branden Albert, Kansas City: Also young (29) but not as young as Monroe. Has elite skill set but doesn't always get elite results. Also excellent in pass pro; not as good in running game but slightly better than Monroe. Will be equally expensive as Monroe. Loves and lives in South Florida. Albert has a history of back issues.

1B. Jared Veldheer, Oakland: Missed the first 12 games of 2013 due to a biceps injury, which raises the injury red flag. Better athlete than the other two, better run blocker than the other two. But feeling around the league is increasingly that Oakland is allowing him to shop simply to match the offer. Most teams don't like to work for the sake of having a player return to his current team.

Overall position analysis: The Dolphins had better sign one of the top guys or something is wrong. As to playing coy with the money, that won't work. The Dolphins have a huge need and everyone knows it. This is going to be an expensive proposition.

Right tackle

1. Zach Strief, New Orleans: The Saints are unloading talent to make cap room but want badly to re-sign Strief. That should tell you something that he's more valuable to them than, say, Lance Moore or Darren Sproles.

2. Austin Howard, New York Jets: Let's make the Jets weaker! Well, that's not a good enough reason to entertain signing a player but it can't hurt. Howard is not elite and won't require elite money to sign. But he's better than say, Jonathan Martin. He played better last year than Tyson Clabo. He's solid. Not great. Solid. You cannot have a Pro Bowl player at every spot.

3. No one. It's a baaaad free agent class at right tackle, folks.

Overall position analysis: This screams draft. But maybe GM Dennis Hickey has a trick up his sleeve. Or he's desperate. If all else fails there's always the stand-by Eric Winston, Tyson Clabo, Jeremy Trueblood gang at the last minute.


1. Zane Beadles, Denver: Excellent footwork and excels in pass pro. Great balance which is reason he's not often on the ground. His production is hard to argue with although he played much better in 2012 than in his 2013 contract year.

1A. Chad Rinehart: Very good run blocker. Hard worker. Versatile in that he can play either guard spot. Smart player. Plays with leverage and doesn't make a lot of mistakes. Not the most gifted athlete but he's a football player.

2. Geoff Schwartz: Want to improve the run game? This is the guy. Was a revelation down the stretch in 2013 and played better than previous starter to the point he beat him out. But ... was it the view of things to come or simply a stretch he was playing over his head?

2B: Jon Asamoah: The player who got beat out (see above). He's been solid for three seasons but dipped a bit in 2013. Interesting issue: Do you go with guy who played better at end of '13? Or do you go with guy who has more consistency over longer period of time? Asamoah is the latter.

Darkhorse: Davin Joseph: The Bucs released him this afternoon. He has always had a high ceiling but never really got there. Problem is he sometimes didn't even try to get there. He is also coming off knee surgery and he's 30. But his Bucs connections to Dennis Hickey cannot be overlooked.

Surprise candidate: The Dolphins like St. Louis Rams T Rodger Saffold as a possibility at either guard or tackle, acccording to The Herald's Adam Beasley. Saffold is solid but not very durable. He has not played 16 games since 2010. He has struggled with knee and shoulder issues.

Overall position analysis: The Dolphins can really use a veteran with good interior presence because playing with two rookie guards is a recipe for disaster. If all else fails, there's always Richie Incognito and John Jerry. Not.

Defensive tackle

1. Jason Hatcher, Dallas: Want to upgrade, Mr. Hickey? Here you go. A true 4-3 defensive tackle. A pocket-pusher. He'll get up field and disrupt. He'll also disrupt the salary cap because he will be very expensive.

2. Linval Joseph: Want a cheaper Paul Soliai? Here you go. A run-stopping player with limited pass-rush ability (less than Soliai). He's also not going to catch too many guys from behind. He was good in his contract year.

3. Earl Mitchell, Texans: He's a one-gap guy but he has excellent quickness and athletic ability that translate to other uses. He can also push the pocket so he's not just a run-down player.

Overall position analysis: The days of Paul Soliai and Randy Starks seem over. Soliai is perhaps the best run-down player on the market. But he's a run-down player in a passing league. Starks is the best pure DT on the market in my opinion but he's 30 years old. And that one-finger salute that he extended to Joe Philbin and his coaches? That has not been forgotten.


1. Jairus Byrd, Buffalo: Want to break the bank? Here you go. But he also offers the best defensive playmaker on the market at any position. Man averages nearly one turnover every two games. 

2. Donte Whitner, S.F.: If the Dolphins were of the mind to get him, they could let Reshad Jones become the roaming free safety he probably should be. Whitner is a strong safety enforcer. He hits hard, he causes offensive players to think twice about going across the middle, he's a tackling machine. He is older and he probably wants to stay with a winning team.

3. Taylor Mays, Cincinnati: Only reason he's on here is his ties to Kevin Coyle. He's a north-south, stiff dude. But he's fast and he hits like thunder.

Overall position analysis: The Dolphins would do well to draft here. They need to unleash Jones. And paying too much at this position would tilt too much money, added to the 2013 Jones extension, to the back end of the defense. 

Middle linebacker

1. Jon Beason, New York Giants: Nothing will happen with him until Tuesday because he represents himself and teams cannot talk to players before Tuesday. But he's a savvy veteran. He has a great motor. And he loves Miami.

2. Karlos Dansby, Arizona: I think we know this isn't going to happen. He doesn't, um, love Joe Philbin. But ... playmaker? Check. Solid inside presence? Check. Hard worker? Check. Plays hurt? Check. Of course, all his abilities didn't translate to the Dolphins. Coaching the reason? Check.

3. Daryl Smith, Baltimore: Want a true team leader? Want a tackle machine who won't be collecting his tackles eight yards downfield? Want an accomplished A-gap blitzer? Want a solid player who isn't going to break the bank because he's getting up there in age? This is your guy. 

3b: Brandon Spikes, New England: This won't happen because Spikes has a mind of his own and Philbin doesn't like that. He's also really only a run-down player and very, very limited in passing situations. But want to help solve Miami's declining run defense? This would help.

Overall position analysis: It is just sad to me that a year after spending so much on Dannell Ellerbe in free agency, the case could be made that he really isn't suited to be a middle linebacker ... or that the Dolphins didn't coach him well enough to man the position at a high level.

March 07, 2014

Dolphins PR department going in a new direction

PR man Harvey Greene was fired half a dozen times by former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and hired five times. But in 1989 he decided to get away from the cold and uncertainty of the New York Yankees and accepted a job as the Dolphins head public relations man.

It started an era that lasted 25 years, spanned nine head coaches, three owners and a lifetime of stories and secrets he keeps closely guarded.

Well, today Greene is moving on.

He is out as the head of the media relations department and now becomes the Dolphins vice president of Historical Affairs -- a newly created position.

Jason Jenkins becomes the Dolphins new PR chief.

Greene announced the moves in an email minutes ago ...


I want to let all of you know personally that effective immediately I am transitioning from the Dolphins Media Relations Department to a new role with the team as Vice President, Historical Affairs.

The organization is making a concerted effort to make our unique tradition and history a more meaningful complement to our current team and its fans, and my new responsibilities will entail developing major initiatives to continue that process. Having been a part of the Dolphin organization for 25 years, the institutional knowledge and relationships I built during that time will serve me well to head this initiative. I will concentrate on developing historical programs that will highlight our special  heritage and enhance and expand our historical displays and commemorations; including an upcoming 50 year anniversary celebration. After spending so many years in media relations with the Dolphins, I am looking forward to contributing to the organization in a new and challenging way and to expand my own administrative portfolio.

As a result of my new responsibilities, Jason Jenkins will now be your primary media contact for anything involving the Dolphins and Sun Life Stadium. After spending 14 seasons in the NFL, including the last five with the Dolphins, he certainly is well-qualified to head the media relations department. Many of you have worked with Jason in the past and know very well his professionalism and helpful manner. For those who have yet to get to know him, I am sure you will find working with him a pleasure.

 As I look back at my tenure in media relations with the team, one of the things I enjoyed the most was building friendships with so many of you over the past quarter century. I am looking forward to continuing those relationships in my new role with the organization.

 Many thanks.



Interestingly, Greene's new email signature includes his new office address. It is listed as Sun Life Stadium rather than his usual spot at the Dolphins training facility in Davie.

It's an end of an era, folks.

It is almost here: free agency FAQ

We're almost there, ladies and gentlemen.

NFL free agency for 2014 kicks off Saturday at noon. when all clubs are finally (and legally without worry of tampering charges) allowed to speak to all free agents.

Although teams cannot sign any players until Tuesday, March 11 at 4 p.m., they are free to engage in negotiations for those players.

Those are a couple of basics. Here are other frequently asked questions and their answers about NFL free agency, right from the NFL office:

Q.  What is permitted during the three-day negotiating period prior to the start of free agency?

A.  Beginning at 12:00 noon ET on Saturday, March 8 and ending at 3:59:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 11, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2013 player contracts at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 11.  However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m. ET on March 11.

During this negotiation period, a prospective unrestricted free agent cannot visit a club (other than the player’s current club) at its permanent facility or at any other location, and no direct contact is permitted between the player and any employee or representative of a club (other than the player’s current club).  If a player is self-represented, clubs are prohibited from discussions with the player during the negotiating period.

(Salguero: Former University of Miami standout Jon Beason has basically hurt himself by choosing to represent himself. As he has no agent and cannot be contacted by teams until Tuesday, he looses the three-day negotiation advantage he would otherwise enjoy).

Clubs (other than the player’s current club) may not discuss or make any travel arrangements with prospective unrestricted free agent players, their certified agents, or anyone else associated with the player until the expiration of those players’ 2013 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 11.

The three-day negotiating period applies only to potential unrestricted free agents; it does not apply to players who are potential Exclusive Rights Players or Restricted Free Agents, or to players who have been designated as Franchise Players or Transition Players.

Q.  What are the categories of free agency?

A.  Players are either “Restricted Free Agents” or “Unrestricted Free Agents.”  A Restricted Free Agent may be subject to a qualifying offer.  A Restricted or Unrestricted Free Agent may be designated by his prior club as its Franchise Player or Transition Player.

Q.  What is the time period for free agency signings this year?

A.  For Restricted Free Agents, from March 11 to May 2.  For Unrestricted Free Agents who have received the June 1 tender from their prior club, from March 11 to July 22 (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later).  For Franchise Players, from March 11 until the Tuesday following the 10th week of the regular season, November 11.  For Transition Players, from March 11 until July 22.  If the above-listed players do not sign by November 11, they must sit out the season.

Q.  What is the difference between a Restricted Free Agent and an Unrestricted Free Agent?

AIn the 2014 League Year, players with three accrued seasons become Restricted Free Agents when their contracts expire at the conclusion of the 2013 League Year.  Unrestricted Free Agents have completed four or more accrued seasons.  An Unrestricted Free Agent is free to sign with any club with no draft choice compensation owed to his old club.

Q.  What constitutes an “Accrued Season”?

A.  Six or more regular-season games on a club’s active/inactive, reserved/injured or reserve/physically unable to perform lists.

Q.  What could restrict the ability of a Restricted Free Agent to sign with a new club?

A.  If he has received a “qualifying offer” (a salary tender predetermined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and its players) from his old club.  He can negotiate with any club through May 2.  If the Restricted Free Agent signs an offer sheet with a new club, his old club can match the offer and retain him because the qualifying offer entitles it to a “right of first refusal”  on any offer sheet the player signs.  If the old club does not match the offer, it may receive draft choice compensation depending on the amount of its qualifying offer.  If an offer sheet is not executed on or before May 2, the player’s negotiating rights revert exclusively to his old club.  In addition, a player who would otherwise be a Restricted Free Agent may be designated by his old club as its Franchise Player or Transition Player. No Restricted Free Agents were designated as Franchise or Transition players this year.

Q.  What determines an Unrestricted Free Agent?

A.  A player with four or more accrued seasons whose contract has expired.  He is free to sign with any club, with no draft choice compensation owed to his old club, through July 22 (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later).  At that point, his negotiating rights revert exclusively to his old club if by June 1 the old club tendered the player a one-year contract for 110 percent of  his prior year’s salary.  His old club then has until the Tuesday following the 10th week of the regular season (November 11) to sign him.  If he does not sign by that date, he must sit out the season.  If no tender is offered by June 1, the player can be signed by any club at any time throughout the season. 

Q.  What determines a Franchise Player?

A.  The salary offer by a player’s club determines what type of franchise player he is: exclusive or non-exclusive

An “exclusive” Franchise Player – not free to sign with another club – is offered the greater of (i) the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position for the current year as of the end of the restricted free agent signing period on May 2; or (ii) the amount of the required tender for a non-exclusive franchise player, as explained below.

Article 10, Section 2(a)(i) of the CBA sets forth the methodology, known as the “Cap Percentage Average,” for calculating the required tender for such a player:

The Nonexclusive Franchise Tender shall be a one year NFL Player Contract for (A) the average of the five largest Prior Year Salaries for players at the position . . . at which the Franchise Player participated in the most plays during the prior League Year, which average shall be calculated by: (1) summing the amounts of the Franchise Tags for players at that position for the five preceding League Years; (2) dividing the resulting amount by the sum of the Salary Caps for the five preceding League Years . . . ; and (3) multiplying the resulting percentage by the Salary Cap for the upcoming League Year . . . (the “Cap Percentage Average”) . . . ; or (B) 120% of his Prior Year Salary, whichever is greater . . .

If a club extends a required tender to a “non-exclusive” Franchise Player pursuant to this section, the player shall be permitted to negotiate a player contract with any club, except that draft choice compensation of two first-round draft selections shall be made in the event he signs with a new club.

Q.  How many Franchise Players and Transition Players can a team designate each season?

A.  A club can designate one “Franchise” Player or one “Transition” Player among its potential restricted or unrestricte free agents.

Q.  Can a club decide to withdraw its Franchise or Transition designations on a player?

A.  Yes.  A club can withdraw its Franchise or Transition designation, and the player then automatically becomes an unrestricted free agent, either immediately or when his contract expires.

Q.  What is the salary cap for 2014?

A.  The salary cap is $133 million per club.

Q.  When must teams be in compliance with the cap?

A.  At the start of the 2014 League Year, which begins at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 11.

Q.  If a team is under the salary cap at the end of a given season, can the team carry over room to the next season?

A.  Yes.  A team may “carry over” room from one League Year to the following League Year by submitting notice to the NFL prior to 4:00 p.m. ET on the day before the team’s final regular-season game indicating the maximum amount of room that the club wishes to carry over.

(Salguero: The Dolphins can carry over $18 million in cap space from 2013).

 Q.  What is the maximum amount of room that a club can carry over? 

A.  One hundred percent of its remaining room.

March 06, 2014

The other free agent OL possibilities

The NFL's worst kept secret now is the Miami Dolphins are going to sign a left tackle in free agency. And it's also no secret that if Baltimore LT Eugene Monroe is available, the Dolphins will chase him. They will also chase Kansas City LT Branden Albert and hoope to land one of the two.

But as the Dolphins have four open offensive line spots and not just one, it must dawn on folks that the free agency derby that starts Monday is going to include at least one and perhaps two more workhorse linemen.


Because even if the Dolphins land Monroe or Branden Albert or some other left tackle, they cannot play a game with just that player and center Mike Pouncey. And believing the Dolphins can go into the draft and pick three linemen to fill the other spots is not very football savvy.

One does not simply draft three rooks, count on all of them to come in and learn the offense, learn the nuances of the game, be good enough to start, and then become cohesive and effective all while playing under a head coach whose record through two seasons suggests he's not fond of starting rookies other than Ryan Tannehill.

So veteran shopping beyond Monroe et al. the Dolphins must go.

The problem with that?

The free agency market at guard and right tackle is not exactly teeming with great possibilities.

There are a couple of good possibilities. But not great.

The guard market is so depressing that Richie Incognito would be the catch of the group were it not for his emotional problems and history. John Jerry will also be in that group and I suppose the Dolphins could bring him back -- if they don't want to upgrade, and don't mind mediocre play, and don't have a problem with him being a key player in the harassment scandal the past couple of years.

Assuming the Dolphins do want to upgrade there are a couple of guards that offer that chance:

Chad Rinehart, 29, showed himself a valuable, tough inside presence for the Chargers last season. He was battling a nagging toe injury much of the year but still showed up on Sunday and did OK work. Obviously, the Dolphins need to do their homework on the injury and decide how much that really limited Rinehart's play. Rinehart graded out slightly better than Jerry but, again, he was hurt, Jerry was healthy and there's the other stuff hovering over Jerry.

Geoff Shwartz, 27, is the brother of Cleveland Browns tackle Mitchell Shwartz and he became a very pleasant surprise for the Chiefs when he took over at right guard for them last year. Shwartz was previously the backup right tackle but when he stepped over to RG the Chiefs got better pass protection from the position. His run-blocking in adequate. (Hey, I"m not saying pay the guy like he's Jahri Evans).

(Peanut gallery: But Mando, we watched the playoffs and the Super Bowl and saw the Broncos have this guard Zane Beadles and he's a free agent. The guy played on a good team so he must be good. Let's get him!)

I was coming to him, gallery. He is a free agent -- like the others, unless he re-signs -- and he was good enough to start on a very good team. And he was good in 2012. But in his contract year, Beadles didn't shine. He was the No. 51-rated guard, according to ProFootballFocus.com. And while the metrics site is not the Bible and thus inerrant, it is widely recognized Beadles didn't play up to his previous heights last year despite being surrounded by Super Bowl talent.

So what happens if he's surrounded by non-playoff talent? What happens if he expects Tannehill to get rid of the ball like Peyton Manning but Tannehill is still holding the ball like, well, Ryan Tannehill?

Maybe he steps up to previous form. But would the Dolphins want to pay the premium Beadles is going to want to bet on a good answer to that question?

I'm thinking Rinehart and Schwartz have a lower ceiling but their asking price is also going to be much, much lower than Beadles'.

That addresses the guard possibilities. Obviously, there are a couple of right tackle possibilities.

The best of those is probably Austin Howard of the New York Jets. He played quite well for the NYJ last year and that team does not want to lose him.

But there's a market for a 26-year-old, athletic, two-year starter, who happened to handle being in New York well.

Also, adding him would mean weakening the Jets.

The other accomplished right tackle on the market is Zach Strief, who is actually a better player than Howard but is mentioned second here because he wants badly to return to New Orleans and the Saints want him as well.

Stief gave up only three sacks in over 1,000 snaps last season and that caused PFF.com to rate him right along with Drew Brees as the highest-graded Saints offensive player. Remember, if you will, Jimmy Graham also played on the Saints offense so this is a big deal.

Strief comes with the added value that he is a leader. And the Dolphins are looking for that. Strief was one of his team’s offensive captains and is known to be a top lockerroom leader.

Obviously, Strief prefers to stay with a Super Bowl contender and at a place where he's already comfortable. But at 30 years old, he must understand this will probably be his last big contract opportunity.

And the Saints, like most teams with a highly paid quarterback, don't have a lot of flexibility within their cap.

Former Dolphins trainer hires law firm, sets sights defense

Former Dolphins trainer Kevin O'Neill, who worked 18 years for the Dolphins but was fired in the wake of Wells report findings three weeks ago, has hired a law firm to represent him.

And the firm of Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart and Shipley, P.A. promises to take "every appropriate legal measure to restore Kevin O’Neill’s good name."

I suppose that may include legal action, but the first measure the firm is taking is releasing a statement of facts as O'Neill sees it by firm partner Jack Scarola.

The statement:

"On Wednesday night, February 19th, the distinguished 25-year professional career of Miami Dolphins Head Trainer, Kevin O’Neill was abruptly ended. O’Neill’s firing was accompanied by no explanation, but its timing – only five days after the release of what has come to be publicly referred to as “The Wells Report” – has left an undeniable impression that Kevin O’Neill was being held responsible for the abusive mistreatment of Jonathan Martin at the hands of his Dolphin teammates.

"In fact, The Wells Report comes nowhere near supporting the decision of the Dolphins’ management to sack Mr. O’Neill. Instead it demonstrates that Kevin O’Neill was improperly singled out to placate an understandable public outcry for action in response to what was publicly portrayed as intolerable workplace bullying.

"The Wells Report invited “anyone with a stake in this matter…to disclose any additional information [they might have].” On behalf of Kevin O’Neill, whose stellar and hard-earned reputation is at stake in this matter, we accept that invitation.

"We begin by examining the totality of the “evidence” described in the 148- page report relied upon to justify Mr. O’Neill’s termination. In fact, Kevin O’Neill is referenced with respect to only two incidents:

"First, there is the uncorroborated assertion by Jonathan Martin that Mr. O’Neill heard unspecified vulgar comments about Martin’s sister “and even laughed at them from time to time;"

"Second, Mr. O’Neill “allegedly even laughed at some of the racial insults” directed at his assistant trainer, who is of Asian descent.

"We do not ignore the fact that vulgar verbal attacks on one’s sister can be “fighting words,” but the fire-able offense with which Kevin O’Neill was charged had nothing to do with his speaking those words. There is no assertion that he ever spoke such words. The crime he is said to have committed was “laughing.” If laughing at vulgar, tasteless humor is to be elevated to cause for terminating without warning an employee with decades of flawless service, then our entire country will face a monumental labor shortage.

"As to each of the two circumstances when Mr. O’Neill is alleged to have inappropriately laughed, The Wells Report contains important additional details. The report makes it clear that Kevin O’Neill had no knowledge of the extent to which Martin was harassed when it specifically finds that most of the offensive conduct “occurred away from the workplace” under circumstances where Mr. O’Neill was obviously not present.

"Of even greater significance is the fact that, if Kevin O’Neill laughed at the ribald locker room humor at Jonathan Martin’s expense, he was not alone. Martin himself admitted that his own response to the harsh teasing to which he was subjected was “to laugh it off.” Martin never reported or complained about the harassment to anyone, including Kevin O’Neill. In fact, when Martin was not laughing, his response was to ignore the teasing without ever challenging the offending teammates.

"If Mr. O’Neill laughed, and if Mr. O’Neill at other times ignored the vulgar “humor” to which Mr. Martin was subjected, then Kevin O’Neill was doing exactly what Jonathan Martin was doing and exactly what, by all appearances, Jonathan Martin wanted done. However, as The Wells Report also confirms, Kevin O’Neill did not simply laugh off or ignore the way Martin was treated.

"In fact, the first thing Mr. O’Neill did, according to Martin himself, was to pull Martin aside to counsel him on how to put an end to unwanted verbal abuse. As soon as Kevin O’Neill was informed of the seriousness of Martin’s emotional response to the treatment to which he was being subjected, Mr. O’Neill took immediate and appropriate action by referring Jonathan Martin for professional help.

"The Wells Report findings provide even less support for the firing of Mr. O’Neill based on any conduct involving his assistant trainer. Mr. O’Neill is alleged to have “laughed along” with racial insults directed at the trainer, but the report acknowledges that investigators “did not cover this specific topic in [their] interview with O’Neill.” They did, however, cover the topic with the assistant trainer.

"And what did he say? “He expressly denied having been the victim of racial harassment…When pressed, the assistant trainer denied that he was bothered by this treatment."

To the extent that there is any suggestion that Kevin O’Neill was obliged to do more to help “victims” who never complained and never asked for help, the question must be asked as to why Mr. O'Neill had any greater responsibility than every other member of team management who knew as much or more than what Kevin O'Neill knew about what went on in the team locker room.

"Mr. O’Neill was selected by team trainers and medical staff members throughout the NFL to be honored as the league’s Trainer of the Year. There is no greater recognition of achievement and respect within Kevin O’Neill’s profession. So why was he targeted for termination when there was no evidence of any significant wrongdoing on his part?

"The Wells Report itself clearly suggests an answer to that question. Mr. O’Neill did not give the report investigators the “voluntary” cooperation they and the League wanted.  “Voluntary” cooperation that would involve responding to questions regarding the psychological well-being of players under his care was not an option for Mr. O’Neill unless and until proper waivers were obtained from all the individuals whose privacy rights were at stake.

"Since the publication of The Wells Report, Mr. O’Neill’s character and integrity have been called into question in a very public way, and he has lost his employment.

"The law firm of Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, P.A. is honored to have been chosen by Mr. O’Neill to represent his interests in these matters. We are prepared to take every appropriate legal measure to restore Kevin O’Neill’s good name."

Monroe will be on the market barring late Ravens rally

Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, a Super Bowl winning coach, had a press conference on Wednesday to discuss the team's situation just before the start of free agency. He stressed the Ravens want to keep several of their pending free agents, including offensive tackle Eugene Monroe.

"We want to keep our guys," Harbaugh said. "We want our guys to be here just like Dennis (Pitta). We want to keep those guys."

Harbaugh said the team has offers to its pending free agents and characterized those as "aggressive."

Except ...

The chances of the Ravens keeping Monroe are getting bleak now. According to a league source, Monroe will be testing free agency, barring a significant change in course by the Ravens. The two sides have not been talking every day even as time is growing short for a deal to get done before other teams can enter the picture.

NFL teams can begin negotiating with free agents starting Saturday.

Simply, the Ravens have set a price point for Monroe and that is so far falling short of the expectations Monroe and his representation have for a new contract.

The Ravens and Monroe have not been close to a deal because it's doubtful the team wants to go too far beyond the $8 million per year range. But it would not surprise if Monroe's camp is expecting $10 million per season.

And the Monroe camp may have the upper hand initially because, as I've reported previously, the Dolphins are very, very, very, very, very interested in adding Monroe in free agency. The Dolphins are also very, very, very, very interested in adding Branden Albert. It will be an interesting choice. And the Dolphins have the cap space to meet the $10 million-per-year threshold if they want.

So a five-year deal for $50 million is not out of the question here.

If Monroe hits the market as expected, there will be competition for him. Arizona will be interested, at least initially. The Cardinals expect to land a left tackle in free agency.

Carolina needs a left tackle as well following the retirement of Jordan Gross -- although the Panthers probably don't have the cap space to compete for a $8-10 million-a-year left tackle.

So that all leads to significant questions:

1. Do the Ravens have a trick up their, um, wings? Can they convince Monroe that taking a less money to play with a perennial contender is better than going to a non-playoff team like the Dolphins or Cardinals?

2. Do the Dolphins decide they want Monroe, a solid player and solid citizen (more important to this team than most following the harassment scandal), to the extent they reach the $10 million per year mark for a very good but not great left tackle?

I cannot predict the answer to No. 1. I think everyone knows the answer to No. 2 -- yes.

March 05, 2014

Grimes contract great for player first 2 years, great for team final 2 years

The details of Brent Grimes' contract are in and, predictably, the sides answered the issue of the player's age, which will be 31-years-old when the 2014 season begins, by basically splitting the baby.

King Solomon would be proud.

The Dolphins make a strong commitment to Grimes the first two years of the four-year, $32 million deal that includes $16 million in guaranteed money.

Grimes gets a $6 million signing bonus that is guaranteed and $10 million of his base salaries the first two years are fully guaranteed. Those base salary numbers are $2.475 million and $8.475 million. In the second year, only $7.525 million is guaranteed.

So Grimes is going to make $17 million the next two seasons and $16 million of that is fully guaranteed. That makes sense for him because he's assured himself of being around and earning big paydays when he's at his youngest and his play is likely to mirror what it was last season when he went to the Pro Bowl.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, protect themselves from a sudden drop in performance when Grimes hits his 33rd and 34th birthdays because he could easily be cut those two years.

The cap hit for cutting Grimes in 2016 at age 33 would be $3 million ($1.5 million if they designate it after June 1). The cap hit for cutting Grimes the final year of his deal would be $1.5 million. And by cutting Grimes those years the Dolphins would save $8 million in cap space in 2016 (assuming they designate the cut for post June 1 or $6.5 million if they take the $3 million in dead money all in one lump sum.)

The Dolphins would save $5.5 million in cap space in 2017 if they cut the player at any time before the regular season begins.

So, in that regard, the Dolphins are really committed to Grimes for two years.

One more thing: The cap hit for Grimes this season is $4 million. That's less than the cap hit for Grimes last season. And the while the cap hit will climb to $10 million in 2015, the salary cap itself is expected to climb next year for all teams so that will mitigate that pain.

By the way, there's $100,000 in reporting bonuses throughout the life of the contract -- $25,000 every year.

Pocket change, right?

What a world.