The one-year contract, known to some as a prove-it deal, was put to good use by the Dolphins in 2013. About half a dozen players and the team agreed to one-year deals -- helping some of the players rehabilitate their reputations while also helping the team add talent while also not committing to that talent long-term in case something went wrong.
This offseason the Dolphins have once again made use of the one-year contract but as the general manager is different it's not surprising that so is the philosophy to some degree.
While former GM Jeff Ireland seemed to take bigger gambles on 2013 one-year deals, chasing bigger talents at higher prices, current GM Dennis Hickey is for the most part using the one-year deal on less accomplished and cheaper players.
There are exceptions, of course. Runnning back Knowshon Moreno is being paid the average of what the free agent running back market bears in 2014 and he is quite well known.
Below is the breakdown of the prove-it deals the Dolphins did last year, along with how those turned out:
DT Randy Starks (1 year, $8.45 million): Starks was Miami's franchise player. And although it is hard to play up to an $8 million salary, Starks did indeed play very well for the Dolphins in 2013. The one-year deal kept the Dolphins from committing to Starks long-term, which ultimately proved the right thing to do based on his age, and it helped keep the player performing at a high level so that he could go out and get a good payday this offseason. Verdict: Good for both sides.
CB Brent Grimes (1 year, $5.437 million): Grimes had to take a chance on himself because he was coming off an Achilles tendon tear that sidelined him all of 2012. The Dolphins took a chance that Grimes could return to the Pro Bowl status he reached in 2011 and he did exactly that. Verdict: Good for both sides.
RT Tyson Clabo (1 year, $3.5 million): Clabo was said to be a salary cap casualty by the Falcons after 2012 and, unfortunately for the Dolphins, he played down to that stigma through the first half of 2013 -- leading the team in sacks allowed. But after being benched, Clabo recovered somewhat during the season's back end. He provided good but expensive insurance against the departure of Jonathan Martin. Verdict: A push in that he filled a need but didn't do it well enough.
LT Bryant McKinnie (1 year, $1 million): The Dolphins took on McKinnie in October to serve as relief for the failed experiment of Martin as a left tackle. As part of the trade, they gave him a chance to become a free agent in 2014 rather than take on his original contract he signed with Baltimore. McKinnie was solid in the locker room and a C-plus player on the field. Verdict: Served its purpose.
TE Dustin Keller (1 year, $4.25 million): Like Grimes, Keller needed to prove he could stay healthy and return to his former heights after an injury-plagued 2012. He couldn't do it. He suffered a terrible knee injury in the preseason -- an injury that ended his season -- and the Dolphins got nothing for their money. Verdict: Nobody's fault but it was a disaster.
S Chris Clemons (1 year, $2.75 million): The Dolphins wanted more plays out of their deep secondary but understood that not every so-called "want" could be addressed in one offseason. So they re-signed Clemons, understanding that he rarely makes big plays but rarely makes big mistakes. And that's exactly what he delivered -- no big plays, but no huge mistakes. Verdict: Fill the gap move filled the gap temporarily.
Bottom line? The Keller contract was a waste and the Clabo deal didn't help. The Grimes deal was genius and the Starks, McKinnie and Clemons deals accomplished what they were supposed to accomplish.
So this year, Hickey has some notable players signed to one-year deals. But unlike Ireland, the Dolphins are being more frugal with their one-year deals. The deals:
WR Damian Williams (1-year, $800,000): Williams is getting only $70,000 in guaranteed money to come to camp and compete for a No. 4 or No. 5 wide receiver job. Maybe he competes for the kick or punt return job as well.
S Louis Delmas (1 year, $2.25 million): He is a physical, downhill tackler and that's something the Dolphins want more of on their defense. They want to be more physical. They want more defining plays out of the back end. And there's no doubt Delmas is arrives at the ball angry and makes more plays than, say, Chris Clemons did. But the knock on Delmas is he hits so hard, he often injures teammates or himself when he's hitting the ballcarrier. He also has been known to give up the long completion. So will the Dolphins get the dependable playmaker or the injured guy who gives up bbig plays?
RB Knowshon Moreno (1 year, $3 million): The Dolphins want more production out of the backfield and want better pass protection from the running back corps. Moreno is known as one of the best in pass pro at his position. He is not a big-play running back. He has not often faced the kind of run-stopping fronts playing with Peyton Manning that Miami runners faced with Ryan Tannehill.
RT Jason Fox (1 year, $795,000): Typical of Hickey's one-year deals, this has only $65,000 in guaranteed money. So if Fox makes the team as a backup at RT, great. And if he doesn't, the pain is minimal. If he does make the team, the Dolphins are banking Fox can stay healthy, something that hasn't been the case lately.
WR Kevin Cone (1 year, $570,000), WR Michael Rios (1 year, $420,000), QB Jordan Rodgers (1 year, $430,000): All fall under the category of no guaranteed money money given to young players who will have a chance to come to camp and compete for a bottom-of-the-roster spot. No risk whatever.
It's interesting that the Dolphins signed both Cortland Finnegan and Starks to two year deals, but both are really one-year deals in disguise.
Finnegan, unspectacular for the Rams the past two years no matter what the Dolphins will argue, got a two-year, $11 million deal. However, all of his $5 million in guaranteed money is being paid this year and all but $1 million of it goes on the cap this year.
Next year, if Finnegan disappoints in any way, the Dolphins can cut him. And while they would absorb $1 million in dead money, they would save his $5.45 million in base salary. So he has to play well this year to get that payday in 2015.
Meanwhile, the two-year, $10 million deal Miami signed with Starks gave the tackle $2 million to sign and his $3 million base salary is guaranteed. In 2015, however, Starks has no guarantee and the team can save $5 million (his base salary) by cutting him before the start of the regular-season. So this also is a one-year commitment with a club option to go another year if the player succeeds.