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):
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.
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.
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.
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.