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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.

Okay.

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.

So?

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.

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