Adam Schefter, who covers the NFL nationally better than anyone, reminded everyone on this twitter posting Sunday that Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown has been available in trade for over a year and so the implication is don't be surprised if he is traded.
Frankly, I would be surprised if he's traded, but not for the reasons you think.
The truth is the trade availability with Brown has been an on-again, off-again thing dating back to 2008.
The Dolphins were willing to let Brown go for the right price prior to the 2008 regular-season when the player was recovering from reconstructive knee surgery. There simply wasn't much of a market for him. Even at the start of that season, Brown wasn't really Miami's best back which is one reason Ricky Williams started.
But then Brown improved and impressed. As he got healthy he became the biggest offensive playmaker on the team and so Miami suddenly wasn't very eager to get rid of him. He was, at that point, off the market.
The Dolphins took calls about Brown last offseason. But at that point, with Brown coming off a Pro Bowl season, the team wasn't going to give him away and no one wanted to pay a high price for Brown.
So RB continued to be a Dolphins RB.
But in 2009 Brown got hurt again -- this time suffering a Lisfranc injury in his right foot. The fact Brown continues to border on being injury-prone troubles the Dolphins. His DUI incident in March also is a concern despite the fact he's never had any other off-field issues.
The bottom line is Ronnie Brown is today available to any team willing to part with a high draft pick. The Dolphins would love for someone to offer a first-round pick for him. The fact the Dolphins have not to this moment given Brown a long-term deal should also give you a clue the team is treading very carefully on the Brown matter as a long-term answer.
But what is Brown's worth in trade? He's had a season-ending knee injury and a season-ending foot injury the past three years? What team is going to give up significant assets for a running back with that kind of history?
The Dolphins, meanwhile, aren't simply going to give Ronnie Brown away. Yes, he's probably available but Bill Parcells doesn't run a thrift shop. If someone wants a bargain, Miami isn't the place to get one.
The bottom line is Brown seems more valuable to the Dolphins than he is on the trade market. No one is likely to give up a first or even a second-round pick for Ronnie Brown. The Dolphins are not likely to think a third or fourth-round pick for Brown is good return.
So does he get traded? It's possible. But it's not probable.
Remember, it takes two teams to make a trade.
Oh, by the way, Brown has still not signed his restricted free agent tender. He cannot be traded until he does so.
[BLOGNOTE: Speaking of trades, the Jets actually made one Sunday night for wide receiver Santonio Holmes. Come back here at 10:30 a.m. for a post on how that trade impacts the Dolphins. It will also give you a chance to weigh in on what you think of that trade relative to Miami's decision to stay clear.]
Over the weekend I shared with you the list of players that must step up from what their career byline has been so far in order to turn the Dolphins from also-rans to playoff contenders in 2010. In that regard, I served up positive spin because many of the guys I mentioned could indeed turn into excellent players.
But there is, of course, the famine side to the feast I served.
Players obviously can go in the other direction as well, playing well one year and then laying an egg the next. Joey Porter took that route in 2009. Chad Pennington was on that path the season's first three games until he got injured. Akin Ayodele also went in that direction in 2009 after a solid 2008.
Well, the folks at Pro Football Focus have put together an NFL-wide All-Declined team. That team is comprised of the players whose careers are on the downward trek. But the list also includes players who simply suffered from down years.
One Miami Dolphins player made the team.
ILB Channing Crowder.
Crowder was pretty good in 2008 -- at least good enough to earn a three-year contract from Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano. Crowder led the team in tackles in nine 2008 games. The Dolphins bought in on Crowder.
But after delivering a career-high 114 tackles, six passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 2008, Crowder's 2009 production tanked.
He had a career-worst 51 tackles, one sack, three passes defensed, and one interception in 2009. Crowder led the team in tackles in only one game.
"[He was] unable to make the big plays and really out of place in coverage," the Pro Football Focus guys write. "Definition of a down year."
One of the interesting side hobbies I've picked up in covering the Dolphins is reading the people I cover. (They read me, so I figure turn about is fair.) Seriously, I like to listen and observe how things are laid out and that often gives you greater hints about what is happening than what these folks are actually saying.
And even when the hints fail to paint a full picture of what is going on, it gives you an idea that something is going on.
Based on that, when I look how the Dolphins are handling and talking about the quarterback situation, it seems painfully obvious something is going on.
Think about it:
At the end of last year coach Tony Sparano declined to name Chad Henne his team's starter. Yet last week, without Henne completing even one pass in anger since the end of the season because the Dolphins have not played any games, Sparano names Henne his starting quarterback. Fine.
Last year the Dolphins were hesitant to re-sign Chad Pennington. They figured they had their three guys in Henne, Pat White and Tyler Thigpen. But then we saw 2009 play out and this offseason the Dolphins gladly accepted Pennington back.
So on the surface the Dolphins have their four quarterbacks. No biggie, right? But that suggests to me either Thigpen or White or both should be nervous. And the Dolphins are making these veiled remarks suggesting there's some strategy about what's about to happen with these quarterbacks. They're talking like either trades, or cuts or draft picks are en route.
"I'm not gonna reveal my hand, but we do have four quarterbacks," Coach Tony Sparano said last week.
Reveal your hand? Well, nobody knew the Dolphins have a hand to play until they declined to reveal it.
I found it interesting that Pennington, obviously sensing something, requested a no-trade clause in his contract. The Dolphins balked, suggesting they didn't want to give Pennington something they don't like giving other players, but also suggesting they perhaps had trading Pennington in mind.
The issue was resolved by giving Pennington a trade bonus that would pay the player a seven-figure sum if he is indeed traded. It's only money. It is an uncapped year. So don't be surprised if Pennington is traded.
Then the Dolphins made Pennington the No. 3 quarterback. The way it was portrayed by the Pennington camp is this gives him time to settle into his work in the preseason rather than feeling pressure to make more throws following his fourth shoulder surgery. The way Sparano portrayed it was different.
"We feel strongly about a couple of players that are there right now, strong enough that we make sure we do our due diligence, making sure those players are going to get the reps needed to continue to grow," Sparano said. "That's important. Chad Pennington completely understands the role he's in right now.
"Again, I don't want to put barriers around them over there. We're going to let these guys play and see where we are. But we feel strongly about a couple of players at that position."
It is good the Dolphins feel strongly about a couple of players at the position. But they have four players at the position.
And that leads to the next thing that perked my ears and told me something isafoot. Lastweek, Sparano named Henne the No. 1. He said Pennington is the No. 3. But he declined to name No. 2 and No. 4.
I'm not getting into that," Sparano said as alarms are going off in my head. "You guys have a 50 percent chance of getting that right."
So the Dolphins have a mystery No. 2 QB? And they have a mystery No. 4?
Pat White, a second-round pick in 2009, was the No. 2 quarterback after Pennington went on injured reserve last season. But team sources kept telling me if Henne went down, Thigpen, the No. 3, would start the following week's game ahead of White.
Thigpen finally got a chance to play the final game of the season and he was, well, inconsistent. He completed 4 of 8 passes for 83 yards. He threw a 34-yard touchdown and also threw two interceptions. One could hardly say that is who Thigpen is because he came off the bench with little preparation and no practice snaps.
And yet that was better than what White showed all season long.
White could not complete a pass all season and was not even dynamic as a runner out of the spread option. He simply didn't look like an NFL player. And Sparano, who usually gushes about his players when they have a future on the team, was quite reserved about White.
"My thoughts and my evaluation was at the end of the season there was still work to be done with Pat," Sparano said. "I don’t think Pat would say anything different. There’s still work to be done. There’s always work to be done. I mean, there’s work to be done with Chad Pennington right now. That’s the great thing about Chad Pennington; he’ll let you work with him. There’s a bunch of work to be done with Pat, fundamentally throwing the ball.
"[Quarterback coach] David Lee is breaking those guys down every day. So I think that’s been it. But I did see growth. I saw growth from season’s start to season’s end with what Pat can handle from the offensive standpoint. At the end of the year there were no restrictions. He was able to handle it all mentally that way. And I’ve seen growth from a fundamental standpoint out on the practice field. Now, at the end of the day, with the competition out there, whether it’s going to be good enough or not, that really isn’t up to me. It’s going to be up to those players."
Sparano ruled out a switch in position for White at this time. The fact is he's never really played receiver, isn't exceedingly fast or big. The commitment has to be made for him succeeding or failing at one position before asking him to play another.
But it just seems like White has to take a giant leap to even salvage a roster spot in 2010.
Another issue is whether the Dolphins add a quarterback from the draft or as an undrafted free agent. Don't dismiss the possibility. It is real despite Miami having four quarterbacks on the roster.
And why is it such a tangible possibility?
Because I believe of the four quarterbacks currently on the roster, perhaps only two will be with the team when the regular-season begins.
Donald Thomas, a sixth-round selection in 2008 who started 12 games at right guard last season, led all Dolphins players in the NFL's 2009 performance-based pay program.
Thomas made $316,577 in addition to his base salary of $338,397, according to a league document obtained by The Miami Herald.
Cornerback Sean Smith, who started all 16 games, pocketed an extra $212,282 to place second on the team in performance pay while tight ends Joey Haynos and Anthony Fasano followed in third and fourth place, respectively, among the highest collecting players in the performance-based system.
Haynos collected $207,264 in addition to his regular salary of $390,980 while Fasano got $189,412 atop his salary of $535,850. Wide receiver Davone Bess, an undrafted free agent in 2008, rounded out Miami's top five earners in performance pay, adding $185,902 to his base salary of $394.480.
The league's performance-based pay system sets up a fund on each team to reward players based on how their playing time compares with their contractual financial compensation. The system won't exist in the 2010 season because the NFL collective bargaining agreement has moved into an uncapped year.
But in the final capped season of the current CBA, 12 Miami players added at least $100,000 to their base salaries.
Performance-based pay is meant to reward lower-paid players who outperform their contracts. The system does, however, also reward higher paid players based on play time.
And the system does not judge the quality of the play, but rather the quantity.
Maybe that's the reason safety Gibril Wilson, a high-priced free agent aquisition and a bust, collected an extra $31,764 in performance-based pay. Wilson was cut last week after one season with the team.
Tackle Andre Gardner, a sixth round pick in 2009, brought up the rear of the performance-based pay sheet, having collected $681.
In total, 61 Dolphins players collected $3,422,875 in performance-based pay.
Over the weekend the Dolphins suffered a free agency setback when Pittsburgh free safety Ryan Clark was invited to town for a visit. Clark was offered a contract by the Dolphins and a chance to start in 2010 but he decided not to take the offer and headed back to Pittsburgh where he signed a four-year contract Tuesday with the Steelers.
Immediately, Dolphins fans cried foul, saying Clark had used their team to get a better offer from the Steelers.
Seems Clark is talking about his visit to SouthFlordooda andhis version of events throws his agent under the bus, because it apparently was about money. And his version of events also throws the Dolphins under the bus because it depicts them as team that didn't make him feel wanted.
In an interview with Denver TV station Fox 31, Clark said he came on the trip "with an open mind," but his mind closed somewhat when the Dolphins started talking numbers.
"What it came down to was the inability for us to agree on a deal. [The Dolphins] offered what they thought was fair, but in the end I didn’t agree," Clark said.
"They were definitely straight forward with me. I wouldn’t expect anything less from a Bill Parcells team. I thought that I was going to be paid like a starter, but unfortunately for me, the negotiations didn’t reflect that."
So it was about money. The Dolphins' offer was not starter money in Clark's mind.
"There just comes a time in negotiations where you have to give a player reasons as to why you won’t stretch yourself financially," Clark said. "In the way that they responded to me, I could tell that they were being honest so that’s why I can’t be insulted, but I just didn’t agree."
And now the part where Clark throws the Dolphins beneath the Greyhound. He says that in his talks with the team that was supposedly recruiting him, he got the distinct feeling the Dolphins didn't really love him all that much.
"They certainly showed [Karlos] Dansby how they felt about him with what they offered him," Clark said, "but I just felt like I would have to prove myself to [Dolphins head coach] Tony Sparano all over again; and in Pittsburgh I wouldn’t have to do that.
"They told my agent, 'Look, we just don’t know this guy. After we evaluate him more out there with us, maybe we’ll feel different about it.' But I just figured, if this is how theyfeel, these things aren’t going to change about me overnight."
One question: If the Dolphins were willing to tell Clark's agent that they didn't really know Clark that well, why were they willing to bring him to town and offer him a deal to begin with?
Obviously the team found itself in a situation that it had a player it liked ... but didn't love. And they actually told him as much which I supposed is honest but also kind of tactless.
Ultimately, Clark signed a four-year deal worth $14 million with the Steelers. That is a bargain rate for a good free safety.
Consider Clark will make an average of $3.5 million a year. Consider that Miami paid free agent bust Gibril Wilson more than half of what Clark will make in four years -- $8 million -- for one year's poor service.
Obviously, having heard the contradictory versions from the agent and player, I'd love to know the Dolphins' version of the story. I will call the team in the morning and request an interview with Jeff Ireland or Bill Parcells on the topic.
And then I'll sit by the phone today and wait for it to ring.
[Update 11 a.m.: The Dolphins say they saw today's blog and are passing on the opportunity to set the record straight. "There will be an opportunity to ask those questions, and others, at Coach Sparano's appearance at the AFC Coaches breakfast at the NFL annual meetings in Orlando later this month and at Jeff Ireland's pre-draft press availability which will be scheduled shortly after that," the team said.]
Unrestricted free agency started as a sprint over the weekend when many NFL teams jockeyed for position to immediately land their prize targets or re-sign their best players.
The Dolphins got Karlos Dansby who is an upgrade at inside linebacker. The Dolphins locked up backup quarterback Chad Pennington. And they added by subtracting Joey Porter and Gibril Wilson.
But not all has gone according to plan.
The Dolphins have struggled to land a starting-caliber free safety because fate has not been kind. They put a certain value on Antrel Rolle and the New York Giants placed a higher value on him and got him. Value is defined here by cold, hard cash.)
They placed a higher value on Ryan Clark than his most recent team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, but Clark, a classy, solid dude, had other priorities he had to answer to. So Clark left Dolphins money on the table in order to return to the Steelers.
Some front offices might begin to panic. I trust the Dolphins will not, not with Bill Parcells at the helm.
On the surface, the situation looks uncomfortable if not dire.
A survey of the landscape shows the Dolphins have needs at too many positions to solve all those needs through the draft.
They need a starting OLB, a NT, a starting FS, and, of course, a playmaker at WR. Always a playmaker at WR.
So what to do?
While Cincinnati is hosting both Antonio Bryant and Terrell Owens this week, while Seattle is studying Brandon Marshall, after Baltimore traded for Anquan Boldin and Kansas City signed Chris Chambers, the Dolphins have done nothing.
I love Boldin -- a lot. But I cannot criticize the Dolphins for not moving on anyone left. It would be a sign of desperation for them to go after domestic batterer Marshall. Even if the move might be popular with fans and sell tickets, it would be a huge risk.
Owens will be 36 years old. He's better than any wide receiver the Dolphins currently have, no question. But did I mention he'll be 36 years old? And he has a history that rubs Parcells the wrong way. So is the Big Tuna going to basically cast off everything he believes in and chase this player? That would be a sign of desperation.
Bryant? He has had issues with his knees. His career byline is one of inconsistency and wearing out his coaches and his welcome. He also apparently would like a nice payday.
So maybe, just maybe, the Dolphins would best be served by sitting this one out if they have a plan. (God, please let them have a plan!)
The safety position is equally troubling because the Dolphins don't have a starter at the position. By their chase of both Rolle and Clark, the Dolphins have told everyone they don't think Chris Clemons is ready to be a starter and might never be. Remember, they offered those guys multi-year deals so the team was comfortable with Clemons not starting at FS for some time.
The problem is that the free agent options are running out. Darren Sharper is very, very, very productive but also older than Miami typically likes. He's also coming off knee surgery and reportedly isn't taking trips. O.J. Atogwe continues to be out there, but as of this writing, no contact from the Dolphins.
The Dolpins obviously didn't want to draft for this position. They might need to unless they can uncover a double-secret starting FS no one is aware of.
And then there are the other issues the Dolphins haven't even attempted to address in free agency: The team needs at least one starting outside linebacker, but DeMarcus Ware isn't available. They need a nose tackle but Vince Wilfork re-signed with New England. The Dolphins are a team in much need.
So why am I not crying "The Sky is falling" from my house top?
Two years ago, as the Steelers and Cards were preparing for a Super Bowl year, neither team signed a free agent early on. Last year at this team, neither the Colts nor the Saints signed a free agent early on.
Free agency is less than a week old. It is not Labor Day yet. The draft will plug some of these holes. And since this front office doesn't typically show desperation, neither will I. At least not yet. It is way too early for that.
Three thoughts going into the second day of free agency:
1. You guys know I'm kindasorta obssessed with the Dolphins landing some top-caliber wide receivers, right? You know that I am convinced a team cannot win an NFL championship with second-tier wide receivers and the only reason I believe that is because it's true.
The fact is three teams with very solid personnel departments chased a Boldin trade on Friday. At one point in the day the New England Patriots were in the talks and when I heard that, I felt a bit vomititious. You see, the idea of facing Randy Moss and Wes Welker is bad enough. The thought of Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Anquan Boldin?
Luckily, Boldin ends up in Baltimore.
But I have serious concerns that Miami isn't pressing enough on the WR issue. And the unrestricted free agent receiver pool is practically dry. Terrell Owens is out there but Bill Parcells won't go for that. Antonio Bryant is out there but the Dolphins haven't made any serious overtures of interest as of this writing. There was a report the Dolphins might be interested in Derrick Mason but I believe he wants to return to Baltimore.
So where does that leave us? Restricted free agency?
Restricted free agent Brandon Marshall is visiting Seattle today. That's their problem.
Philadelphia's Jason Avant can be signed for a second-round pick but he is primarily a slot receiver. New Orleans's Lance Moore can be signed for a second round pick but he's often injured and smallish. Arizona's Steve Breaston is available for a first-round pick but it's a first round pick! Dallas's unproven Sam Hurd can be had for a second rounder but he's unproven.
I don't believe the Dolphins would invest a 1st and a 3rd on San Diego's Vincent Jackson or Malcom Floyd.
Face it, Owens for one year might be the best investment. Is he a pain? Not usually the first year.
Is he no longer capable of playing? I think he proved to Vontae Davis (below) that he's still got it. Owens caught 55 passes for 829 yards and 5 TDs last year. He did it on a team that fired its offensive coordinator one week before the season. He did it on a team that had no quarterback. He did it on a team that fired its head coach during the season.
And his 829 yards and five scores still would have led the Dolphins.
Does Parcells hate the idea? Of course, but desperate times call for desperate measures and it's not like one year would constitute a long-term commitment.
I know, I'm dreaming. But I think it could work as well as, say, chasing Antonio Bryant.
2. I'm happy for Chad Pennington. He has been offered and is expected to sign a one-year contract with the Dolphins. According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Pennington will not receive the no-trade clause he was seeking for the Dolphins. Instead the team got over the obstacle with, what else, money.
The $2.5 million offer I reported to you yesterday is still the deal but it now also includes, according to Mortensen, a $1.515 million trade bonus. So if the Dolphins decide they aren't keeping Pennington and can get him traded, they must pay him the bonus.
A couple of things:
First, the Dolphins could not give Pennington the no-trade on philosophical grounds as much as anything. If they do it for him, they might have to do it for others. And they don't want to do it for anyone else.
Second, Pennington wants to stay in Miami next year. The Dolphins might trade him anyway.
3. Nate Jones agreed to terms with the Denver Broncos Friday for what was reported as a four-year deal worth up to $13.6 million if he reaches all his incentives. Jones clearly is a free agency winner but I'm certain the Dolphins could have gotten him for less if they'd offered him a contract in the weeks prior to free agency. They didn't.
And that makes me wonder how the Dolphins could let Jones, their nickel cornerback and a good special teams player, go without an offer, but they keep Jason Allen, who couldn't beat out Jones the last two years?
So the Denver Broncos put a first-round tender (only a first-round tender, it is being portrayed in league circles) on Brandon Marshall and immediately Dolphins fans think Miami should rush to trade for the enigmatic wide receiver.
I don't believe this is today an idea being seriously considered within the Dolphins halls connecting the offices of Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano. Frankly, it would be out-of-character for those men to be currently planning a move for Marshall because they are excellent football men.
And excellent football men don't trade the No. 12 overall selection in the first round -- a premium draft pick by any measure -- then pay a king's ransom in a new contract, all for the right to inherit someone else's headache.
For the record, Marshall is a supremely talented individual. He is 6-4 and 230 pounds and has caught over 100 passes for over 1,000 yards in each of the last three seasons.
But guess what? Marshall is not the answer to every Miami problem that is, has been, and will be. Fact is Marshall has helped the Broncos reach the playoffs zero times in the three years he was posting those fat numbers.
And that's not even the first problem with chasing Marshall.
Marshall has shown a troubling side for over a year now. He was witness in the murder trial of former Broncos player Darrent Williams because he was at the club the night the shooting happened and played a small role in the altercation that may have led to the crime.
Show of hands, how many of you remember what Bill Parcells said he tells his players all the time?
"Stay out of the clubs."
Anyway, in his trial testimony Marshall said that not one day passes when he doesn't think of Williams. "Every day," Marshall said. It was an emotional and stirring moment when he said that as his eyes were watering. But that death happened over three years ago. Perhaps it sounds callous, but NFL teams worry about the emotional state of players they are about to acquire.
Any team considering Marshall must gauge this testimony. And they must gauge his history of domestic violence which is best outlined by the video below.
Then there are the other troubling issues. Why do you think the Broncos want to get rid of Marshall? Is it because he's a really good player? Is it because he caught an NFL record 21 passes in one game last year and is a mismatch against practically any defensive back he faces?
KC Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers once said Marshall, "is a defensive lineman playing wide receiver. He wants to inflict phyisal punishment on you. He wants you to try to tackle him so he can shove you off of him and get more yards."
You think that's the reason the Broncos want him gone?
Or do you think it's because they have weighed Marshall's positives against his negatives and have found the negatives weigh more?
Buyer beware, folks.
Marshall had several run-ins with new coach Josh McDaniels last year. That doesn't worry me so much because so did new Miami defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. But Marshall's behavior was unprofessional following those run-ins. He supposedly dropped passes in practices on purpose because he was upset.
That got him benched for the final two games of the preseason. Funny thing is he'd been benched the first two preseason games for conduct detrimental to the team.
Then he was benched for the final regular season game because he reportedly blew off a physical therapy session.
Does any of this sound like a Bill Parcells player? Does this sound like a player Parcells will give the No. 12 pick in the draft for?
On top of all this, Marshall will require a contract that keeps him happy. It is not beyond imagination that he believes he should be paid what the most productive WRs in the NFL make because, frankly, he's among the top producers. The five highest-paid WRs in 2009 averaged $9.5 million in salary and that price is likely to climb for Marshall to be happy.
That doesn't matter now. There will be no salary cap in 2010. But no one knows what is over the fiscal horizon in the NFL -- or in this country, for that matter. So what seems like an acceptable contract now could become an anchor around the neck of a future Dolphins offseason.
I'm not saying Brandon Marshall won't be traded. He likely will.The Broncos want badly to get rid of him and mny teams are actively looking for WRs and want to make a splash.
I am saying any team that lands Marshall will have paid a steep, steep price to acquire a player with great talent and a great amount of baggage.
Does that sound like the Dolphins to you? I don't think so at this time.
Less than 24 hours from the start of the NFL's new league year and Dolphins fans have cast their sights primarily on one place: Arizona.
It is in Arizona that linebacker Karlos Dansby is about to become an unrestricted free agent. It is in Arizona where safety Antrel Rolle is about to be released, barring an unlikely last-second agreement on a contract restructure. It is in Arizona that wide receiver Anquan Boldin is on the trade block and apparently can be had relatively reasonably.
For Dolphins fans, and to some accurate degree for the Dolphins themselves, what happens with the trio from Arizona will determine how successful Miami's dip into free agency and trades this new league year will seem once it begins at midnight March 5.
So allow me to address the issues of The Three Cards Studs:
Dansby: The Dolphins are interested. There is no doubt about that. Too many NFL people are saying it for it not to be true. The latest to make the point is Andrew Brandt, the former VP of the Green Bay Packers who now writes the business of football column for National Football Post. He direct messaged me on my twitter Wednesday to stress he keeps hearing from his sources that the Dolphins are onto Dansby.
The NFL Network's Steve Wyche reported that three teams are onto Dansby, although he did not know the teams. I also don't know the other teams. But I can tell you Dansby expects something of an auction for his services and he will go to the highest bidder.
By auction, I'm talking Rembrandt type stuff here. Agent sources tell me Dansby will be "asking" $30 million in guaranteed money on a five-year contract that would expire when he's 33 years old.
He wants to set the market's new ceiling for a linebacker so he's going to start out somewhere in orbit. And understand the $30 mil is not the entire deal. The total cost of the deal Dansby will be asking will average at least $8 million annually. Do the math. The guy wants a deal of approximately $40 million with 75 percent of that guaranteed.
Of course, asking and getting are two different universes. But the fact more than two teams are apparently interested is a good sign for the former Auburn standout.
I would tell you Dansby would be the prize of unrestricted free agency for the Dolphins should they land him. But landing him will be neither easy nor cheap.
It is clear he's not worth the $4 million roster bonus due him March 9 plus the $8 million salary he's scheduled to earn from Arizona in 2010. Thus, the Cardinals will cut Rolle as early as Friday. They will allow him to test the market and see what he can find, while obviously believing they have a good enough sense of his worth that their offer to him will stand up with whatever the market is offering.
I regard this a case of more Rolle wanting to play for the Dolphins than the Dolphins wanting Rolle to play for them. He's a good player. He's a playmaker. But he, too, wants big bucks. (Shocking ain't it?)
The Chicago Tribune is reporting Rolle wants a contract that averages $8 million. The Dolphins will absolutely not come anywhere close to that. You might argue Miami paid an average of $5.5 million to Gibril Wilson to be a resounding bust, and that would be true.
But $8 million per year is more than game-changers Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu make on an annual average.
The interest the Dolphins show in Rolle will be the first test of Jeff Ireland's credibility when he suggested the team was expecting Wilson to play better in 2010. If Rolle is added, there would be no room for Wilson on the roster at all.
I believe Ireland to be honorable. I believe the Dolphins won't be making a strong bid on Rolle. We'll see.
Boldin: As The Miami Herald reported last week, Arizona is ready and willing to trade the former Florida State standout. On Wednesday, the NFL Network's Michael Lombardi reported the Cardinals want "only a third-round pick" for Boldin.
The question is whether that is what they are asking or if that is what it will actually take to move Boldin. I've reported in the past that Dolphins football czar Bill Parcells has a healthy respect for Boldin. Many NFL people do.
Parcells likes Boldin's toughness. Likes his production. Likes his size. Likes his game. Yes, there are questions about Boldin's age. There are also questions about his recent rash of nagging injuries. And then there's the contract -- more on that in a moment.
Given the variables, and deciphering sometimes painful conversations with sometimes reluctant sources, I reported on my twitter that Miami definitely would not give up a second round pick for Boldin but might possibly give up a fourth-rounder under perfect circumstances.
So the question is, again, are the Cardinals absolutely stuck on getting a third for Boldin? Or is the third their initial negotiating stance that they'd be willing to come down from?
Now, about that contract. The contract is the primary reason Boldin is on the market. He's been unhappy with his current deal for two years and would be unhappy again in 2010 in what is the deal's final year. So he wants a new deal that pays north of $7 million per season and probably closer to $9 million per season.
That is a ton of money even in an uncapped year and it could raise eyebrows because teams aren't absolutely certain what the financial realities will be beyond this coming year.
So anyone, including the Dolphins, that considers a trade for Boldin must weigh whether they can find a younger, cheaper receiver in the third or fourth round and accept the risk of that player never panning out. And the teams must also weigh whether adding a proven 29-year-old Boldin is worth a draft pick plus a big contract.
It's all measuring risk versus reward.
That's how it is when you make a play for The Three Cards Studs.
So now you know that Mike Mayock believes the Dolphins will draft outside linebacker candidate Sergio Kindle because he is rated No. 7 among the draft analyst's best players, and Miami needs a defensive playmaker, and all those great football reasons.
And that is dandy for an analyst looking purely at a player's skill set and matching them to a team's needs. But drafting for an NFL team is more than purely projecting whether a player can play a position or adjust to a scheme or has the physical prowess to perform.
NFL drafting is also about knowing the person, his habits, his character. And Mayock doesn't measure any of that which the Dolphins must absolutely measure before taking a gamble on anyone such as Kindle.
You see, Kindle, by all accounts a fine athlete, has had some off-field issues during his 22 years on the planet. And the Dolphins must and will collect data on those issues and include them in their evaluation of Kindle.
This isn't new. Every team does this. But for some reason, unless the issues are obvious, guys such as Mayock and Mel Kiper rarely account for them. They loved Rey Maualuga last year, but didn't say anything about the drinking problem that most teams were aware of. Not surprisingly, Maualuga, supremely talented, had a drunk driving incident in January and then reportedly checked himself into a alcohol rebabilitation center.
Now you understand why he didn't go higher in the 2009 draft?
Kindle's current state of mind and character is for NFL teams to judge now. But I can tell you he's had trouble before that Mayock didnt mention in speaking about him Tuesday on a national conference call.
In July of 2007, when Kindle was a sophomore, he was arrested for DWI. He was suspended for the first three games of the season and had to perform community service.
In June of 2009, just prior to Kindle's final season at Texas, he was involved in a car accident in which he drove his car into an apartment building at 2:50 in the morning on a Wednesday. Kindle then got the help of some friends, pulled the car out of the wrecked apartment, and put it on the street.
Then Kindle fled the scene. Having suffered a concussion, his story is he was very tired and simply went home to sleep. Kindle claims there was no alcohol involved in this accident and that he was simply texting a coach when it happened.
(Um, show of hands in the comments section for anyone who totally buys this story.)
Kindle's car, by the way, was registered to his father: Johnny Walker.
I kid you not.
Anyway, even if you are a believer, you must wonder how Kindle would handle playing in a town like mine because we got a couple of places to party down here. Fact is, even people close to Kindle wonder if he should be playing in a town like Miami.
Kindle's high school coach Bobby Estes told the New York Times in January that he and his wife "cringe" at the idea of Kindle ending up in a city like Miami and are hopeful, instead, he ends up "in a cold-weather city so he would stay inside more."
“Is he Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow citing Scripture? No,” Estes said. “But I do know that he knows right from wrong. I hope he’s making mature choices."
Kindle told the newspaper stories about his reputation as a drinker and a partier don't worry him. He told the newspaper he's "not the Sergio of '06-'07," and is now "walking a straight line."
Well, it's up to NFL teams to find out if that "straight line" is one drawn by a cop during a field sobriety test.
ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper has the Dolphins picking Alabama inside linebacker Rolando McClain with their No. 12 overall pick of the first round in the upcoming draft.
But Kiper believes the Dolphins will have a healthy and perhaps heated discussion whether to go with McClain or Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant if the wide receiver is on the board when Miami selects.
"Dez Bryant, I think he'll be in the discussion, but you look at him and he could go higher," Kiper said today on a nationwide conference call. "I have him going at No. 10 to Denver still ... [The Dolphins] certainly need wide receiver help and you got to get it at some point and I think they will try get in this draft.
"But at that point, I think McClain would be the best option if Bryant's gone. And even if Bryant's there it's going to be a heck of a discussion, I would think, even if Bryant is still on the board."
Yeah, I could see that discussion going something like this:
Jeff Ireland: Bill, we've got a wide receiver and a linebacker on the board and ...
Bill Parcells: I'm Bill freakin' Parcells and I love linebackers.
Ireland: Linebacker it is.
Seriously, the Parcells penchant for drafting linebackers is well-known. And picking McClain, whom Kiper says has "a Ray Lewis-type enthusiasm and Bill Parcells will see that in McClain," seems logical.
"You look at Parcells when he was with the Giants and at other places, he loves linebackers that have that type of ability, especially guys with his kind of size too, with LT and Carl Banks and those type of guys," Kiper said. "This is an inside linebacker that looks like an outside linebacker."
And that is where Kiper and I disagree. I believe the Dolphins have a greater need at OLB than ILB. But Kiper doesn't see any OLB as worthy of the No. 12 selection.
I believe Michigan's Brandon Graham is more than worthy of that pick, talk of his short arms be damned. I love Graham! I have put in adoption papers for Graham because I want that guy in my family if he's not going to be on the Dolphins!
And here's the kicker, despite saying Graham rates around No. 20-32, Kiper also seems to love Graham.
"I've liked him all along, that's the one guy I've been consistent with all the way through," Kiper said. "He's got that great work ethic, he comes hard every play. He took advantage of some offensive tackles that were very suspect, obviously, and in the NFL that's not the case."
Kiper believes Graham will somehow wind up chasing Dolphins quarterbacks someday, either for a Miami division foe, or a team the Dolphins must eventually beat to become great.
"I actually have him going to New England in the latest projection I did from the standpoint of being a 3-4 outside backer," Kiper said. "As a 4-3 defensive end situational guy if Indianapolis looks at him in that rotation with [Dwight] Freeney and Robert Mathis it makes sense. I think his character and every game bringing it, the way he did production-wise is the reason why he's a pick to go now between 20 and 32."
I think that's precisely the reason the Dolphins should take him at No. 12. The kid brings it every play. Every single play. And he brings it with speed and explosion and good instinct and discipline.
Why isn't he rated higher?
Anyway, if the Dolphins decide to address their 3-4 OLB need later in the draft, Kiper has a handful of guys rated after the first round. They are:
Jerry Hughes of TCU, Ricky Sapp from Clemson, Antonio Coleman at Auburn, Cameron Sheffield at Troy, Eric Norwood at South Carolina. Kiper had Wisconsin's O'Brian Schofield rated as a first-rounder until he blew out his knee at the Senior Bowl in January.
Like the sands through the hour glass these are the last days of Joey Porter's Dolphins career.
The countdown clock is winding to Porter's certain release from the Miami Dolphins. If that isn't clear to you by now after it's been written on this blog time and again, then you certainly must be getting the drift as Porter continues to slime the team in radio and television interviews the past three weeks.
I must say the best of those interviews came Tuesday and was done by the fine folks over at 560-AM (WQAM in Miami). It was the best because Channing Crowder, paid by the station, convinced Porter to come on for nearly 15 minutes and simply unload.
And by the time the segment was over, Porter had pulled back the curtain on exactly how dysfunctional the Dolphins really were in 2009. As he and Crowder talked you understood players don't really love coach Tony Sparano. You understood how Sparano's penchant for putting a happy face on everything is truly just propaganda. And you recognized how utterly, undeniably delusional Porter really is.
At one point in the interview, Porter actually let these divergent thoughts stream from his mouth as if they could ever belong together: "I got no problem being here," he said. "I think we're headed in the right direction. But I can honestly say I don't want to be back."
Anyway, forget the stuff about Porter being unhappy with being platooned. I've covered that in previous posts. Porter wasn't happy with that at all. But the guy has no grasp on the fact he was authoring a terrible season much of the year when Sparano instilled the platoon system. He doesn't recognize that Cameron Wake was increasingly looking like a sack waiting to happen every time he came in the game.
And Porter apparently doesn't recognize Jason Taylor was simply a more complete player -- defending the run and the pass as well as rushing the passer.
Porter? Regardless of what Sparano wanted you to believe, the next time Porter set the edge of the defense would have been the first time he did that.
And yet Porter apparently sees himself as vastly superior to his teammates.
"If you let us fight for the job, it's not even an argument," he said. "No shots at nobody (really?), but it's not even an argument. All them guys in my room, love them to death, but the outside linebackers, I'm the best one we got. Period. There's nothing to talk about. That's period. Who am I switching with? Why should I be switching with any of them guys."
Later in the interview Porter showed the disdain for which he held the guy about to replace him.
"If you want to play Cameron Wake and them in the game, go ahead," Porter said. "Good luck to you."
I told you yesterday Porter really only had one advocate at Dolphins camp and that was Tony Sparano. And then I told you he had lost Sparano. Apparently the relations went sour well before the end of the season.
"Last seven weeks of the season after missing the Tampa Bay game was no fun for me ...," Porter said. "Going in and being a captain, I went from talking to the coach every day to not talking to the coach no more. Only time I talked to him was on game day. Not talking to nobody. Seeing Jeff Ireland and Bill Parcells and them and nobody saying nothing to you no more. It made me feel like an outcast. The writing's on the wall for me."
Porter was apparently hurt that Sparano lost trust in him and cast him aside like a three-button jacket. And he apparently was somewhat envious that Sparano continued to see Taylor as the team's leader.
"I'm your captain but I'm not in no meetings no more," Porter complained. "Nobody's talking to the captain no more.We lost [Jason] Ferguson. We lost Chad Pennington. We had four. We lost two to injury. So now it's just me and Jason, but Jason't the only one that's meeting with the head coach.
"And he's relaying a message to me: 'Yeah, coach said this because he said you don't want to talk.' Why I don't want to talk? Usually when we call a meeting, you say, 'Joey, Jason come up.' Not just, 'Jason come up.' So everybody don't know everything I went through. That last seven weeks was no fun for me."
BLOG PAUSE HERE. ALTOGETHER FOR JOEY: Aaaahhhh. Joey wasn't having the proper amount of fun as he was making about $5 million last year. Three million people lost their jobs in 2009 but Joey wasn't loving life every second he lived it. Makes me really sad.
Anyway, as I reported to you on January 26th, one of the things that got Porter truly torqued off at Sparano was his suspension for the Tampa Bay game.
And in talking about that episode Porter and Crowder painted the picture of a team on which players don't agree with the head coach and assistants aren't agreeing with the head coach about a player's suspension -- one Sparano was absolutely correct about, by the way.
Team unity was apparently not so united.
"It was an uncomfortable situation amongst the team," Crowder said. "And I know I'm not the only player that thinks that. I know a lot of the guys were too."
Said Porter: "I put it this way, it wasn't a situation to where when [Sparano] sent me home, everybody was on board with that decision. Coaches and players. I got phone calls from coaches telling me, 'Just keep your head up. Fight through it, man. You'll be alright.' Now why you telling me this? 'Cause you know in your heart the deal was just wrong. It was just wrong."
Porter claims he was suspended because after missing two days of practice Wednesday and Thursday, he left his crib Friday night to get dinner. "I went out to get something to eat from 9 to 10:30," he said.
The Dolphins have a different version although they continue to hide behind their veil of silence that frankly has become sort of transparent now. The team believes Porter abused the privilege of being off Wednesday and Thursday by going out Friday night.
"[Sparano] wasn't happy about that, and I've never heard of that before," Porter said. "You know what I mean? Telling a grown man what to do on a Friday. It wasn't Saturday night curfew. I'm talking to him, looking at him and I'm like, "I'm not in here leaking alcohol, getting in the steam room trying to get it out of me. I'm here bright eyed and bushy tailed.' I went to sleep at 10:30. That's good for me. That's great for me."
"Amazing," Crowder chimed in agreement.
Amazing indeed. But not for the reasons these two think.
Today our Dolphins In Depth scout Chris Cordero looks at the linebackers at the Senior Bowl.
I think we all agree the Dolphins need to address their aging, regressing linebacker corps. Although Cameron Wake had the look of a good pass rusher, we still have no clue if he can become a three-down player while the futures of Joey Porter and Jason Taylor in Miami are uncertain.
Inside, Akin Ayodele didn't perform in 2009 up to the standards of 2008. He was exposed in coverage and wasn't a factor otherwise. Channing Crowder, meanwhile, was hurt a substantial part of the season. Again.
Here's the 3-4 OLBs and ILBs:
The Dolphins lack depth here, as well as great talent, and this area must be addressed. Top prospect Rolando McClain of Alabama is an underclassmen and not participating and top seniors Brandon Spikes of Florida and Sean Lee of Penn State are not participating. Many of the prospects in this game are undersized for the middle in a 3-4 as well.
-I would be remiss if I didn't start off with his attitude and personality; his teammates love him and he gets everyone fired up and does not stop yapping (I am a fan of that personally) Channing Crowder and him would drive opponents crazy. He is very enthusiastic - a leader.
-Very smooth and athletic - can get out and cover backs and tight ends; makes plays sideline-to-sideline.
-Hits with power - saw him level Mardy Gilyard in one of the practices.
-Strong and explosive - showed power in pass rushing drills.
-Very comfortable in coverage.
-Has a great football IQ and great instincts; flows to the ball and fills gaps due to great reactions.
-Tends to go for the big hit and not use proper technique when tackling.
-At times would appear heavy legged and take false steps - but this was few and far between.
If you would have asked me at the beginning of the college football season - he would have been the best LB prospect in the draft. Period. However, he had a lackluster senior season, for his standards, and slipped some in the eyes of most. This week should change that - he is firmly a 1st rounder. I can see him going anywhere in the late Teens to the 20's and if by some miracle; he makes it to the 2nd Round the Fins should jump all over him. He might even be worth trading down for and picking up some extra picks. Is the type of athlete and personality that can define a team.
-Smart, tough, disciplined - 4 year starter and leader for an SEC defense.
-Locates and flows to the ball in the run game.
-Has good movement skills; adequate speed.
-Gets good drops in coverage.
-Stays with his assignment and does not get caught out of position often.
-Lacks ball skills in coverage.
-Not very physical and could be a better tackler.
-Has had some injuries.
It looked as if the coaching staff took a liking to him; as Coach Sparano spent some time with him on the field. Would be a great value late in the draft (should we pick up a 5th Rounder or if he fell further); but with the lack of depth and talent at the Inside Linebacker position in the draft - he will probably go earlier (probably 4th) as he should test well at the Combine.
-Very athletic and faster than I thought for a guy his size; smooth, explosive athlete.
-Breaks down and wraps up as a secure tackler.
-Has good recognition skills and is quick to diagnose run/pass/screen pass (blew up a screen pass to a RB pretty nicely in practice).
-Keeps his head up and locates the ball.
-Is very good when moving upfield.
-Despite his speed; showed slow feet in drills.
-Has trouble in coverage and will struggle outside of the box.
-Also had trouble taking on blocks at times.
Was a late invite to the game; but showed enough where he should get drafted. Would be a good value if he is available in the later rounds (Rounds 6-7). Is a good athlete who has bulked up and managed to keep his athletecisim - but I worry that with his lack of coverage skills it would be redundant to what the Dolphins already have. Again, with the lack of Inside Linebackers at the combine - he could go earlier than he is rated.
HONORABLE MENTION: A lot of the undersized linebackers looked very good in the practices. Daryl Washington of TCU in particular stood out - he has excellent coverage skills, play recognition, and is a hard hitter. If he was a bigger he could be a very high draft pick; as it stands he will at least be a 3rd Rounder. Darryl Sharpton of the University of Miami (the U!) had a decent week as well - looking good as a pass rusher and laying some big hits. Dekoda Watson from Florida State had a rather non-descript week - but seems to be a good athlete. Phillip Dillard of Nebraksa and Roddrick Muckelroy of Texas also didn't stand out and lined up at various linebacker positions. A.J. Edds - who has good size for the 3-4 - looks very good in coverage and could be a good "nickel" backer.
The key to creating pressure on the Quarterback in the 3-4 defense; Many 3-4 Outside Linebackers are college defensive ends - so it is a very projectable position. Some of the better prospects not at the game are Sergio Kindle of Texas, Ricky Sapp of Clemson, Jerry Hughes of Texas Christian and some projectable underclassmen - Jason Pierre-Paul of South Florida and Jason Worlids of Virginia Tech. Despite those players not being here; this might have been the strongest position at the game.
Here are my rankings for the Senior Bowl 3-4 Outside Linebackers
1. Brandon Graham - 6-1, 263lbs - Michigan
Career numbers: 138 tackles, 28 sacks
-A pass rushing terror - explodes off the line at the snap and has an array of moves including a sick spin move and a fantastic swim move; locks unblockable at times.
-Is a football player in every sense of the word - tenacious, a leader and is going to whoop you and tell you about it - great prescense on the field with a nonstop motor and great energy.
-Has great strength - heard him say that he was going to bench 225 lbs at the combine over 40 times and I don't think he was kidding!
-Comes off the ball low and hard and with great leverage and technique.
-Better than average speed as he was able to blow by Vladimir Ducasse on more than one occasion.
-How will he hold up in coverage?
-Can get locked up at times by better Offensive Lineman when they are able to extend and get their hands into him.
Wow! Was the best prospect on either team at any position all week. If he wasn't a 1st rounder he definitely is now. The only concern with him is can he make the switch to 3-4 OLB and whether he can be decent in coverage versus backs and tight ends. Absolutely worth trading back for and picking up some extra draft picks. Reminds of Dwight Freeney and former teammate LaMarr Woodley. Could be a star.
-Didn't embarass himself in coverage drills and came into this game already listed as a linebacker.
-His potential as a pass rusher is apparent.
-Has good lateral mobility and short area burst.
-Beat West Virginia OT Selvish Capers with a beautiful spin move on one play.
-Will need work in coverage despite looking OK in drills.
-Trouble holding up at the Point of Attack.
-Can be fooled by play-action and is late to react at times.
Like his teammate Brandon Lang - you could find yourself comparing them to former University of Troy superstar DeMarcus Ware. He would seem to be a better fit in the 3-4 defense than Lang as he has experience playing linebacker already. I think he has great potential and seems to want to improve. Could be a good value in the late rounds.
3. Brandon Lang - 6-4, 260 lbs - Troy
Career numbers: 138 tackles, 21 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
-Strong upper body and has decent hand usage to keep blockers off of him.
-Is fast and agile off the edge, and comes around with good leverage and low pad level.
-Is powerful and explosive as a pass rusher.
-Fairly quick off the snap.
-Holds up well against the run.
-As is the concern with most of the prospects - how we he hold up in coverage (although he would seem to be better than most as has some experience).
-Needs to add more strength.
-Has trouble holding ground.
It's easy to compare him to fellow University of Troy graduate DeMarcus Ware - but he is not the ridiculous athlete that Ware is. Despite the fact that these players are in great demand - he could fall to the Dolphins in the later rounds of the draft - 5-7 range - with the great depth at this position. Has the foundation to be a good pass rusher.
4. George Selvie - 6-4, 247lbs - South Florida
Career Numbers: 206 tackles, 27 sacks, 6 fumbles forced
-Very quick off the snap and has some nice pass rush moves; looks explosive at times.
-Knocked Tennessee Offensive Tackle Chris Scott on his rear with a bullrush; showing his strength.
-Able to split the double team and get to the QB.
-Did well against the run and held his own.
-Looked quick and fluid in linebacker drills run by Coach Mike Nolan.
-Plays with good effort.
-Has a very small lower body and has had some injury history - needs to add strength and bulk so as to prevent injury.
-Will need some work in order to make the transition to 3-4 OLB.
-Can get engulfed by the double team.
-Not an elite athlete and will not have the best timed speed.
Has fallen off after his sensational sophomore season. Still, is a talented pass rusher and judging by how well he looked in the drills - could have an easier time making the move to OLB than most of the prospects here. Will more than likely be a 3rd Round Pick - but would present a good value for the Dolphins in the 4th.
5. Koa Misi - 6-3, 244lbs - Utah
Career numbers: 198 tackles, 10 sacks, 5 fumbles forced
-Already making the transition to Linebacker here; so he will have a leg up in that regard.
-Has good balance and plays with strong effort and a high motor - wants to learn and get better; with a good work ethic.
-Looked fairly natural in coverage in most drills and scrimmages.
-Has good speed sideline to sideline and very good athleticism.
-Good quickness and lateral mobility.
-Has a good push with decent strength and explosiveness.
-Is not the pass rusher that some of the other prospects here are and was often a step late getting to QB.
-Needs work on his tackling.
-Lacks ball skills.
-Over pursues on run plays.
Had a strong week here and could be moving up the draft charts - could play in a 4-3 at this point as well. If he can come up with some pass-rush moves he could be pretty good. That being said - I don't see him as being better than a 5th Rounder - but could go before that.
HONORABLE MENTION: In all honesty; after Brandon Graham - most of these guys were interchangeable - there are just so many of them and they all have their pluses and minuses. Antonio Coleman of Auburn looked pretty good in most of the practices and is a good athlete that didn't look terrible in linebacker drills. Justin Cole of San Jose State is another great athlete who has experience playing outside linebacker, and really every position outside of the secondary on defense, already and could also warrant a late round look. Austin Lane of Murray State might be a little big to make the move - but he is worth a mention as he plays with a high motor. The one disappointment for me was Eric Norwood of South Carolina - I had very high hopes and he looked like nothing more than a one-trick pony. He struggled in space and lacked any feel for coverage - but did block 2 punts.
Tomorrow: A recap of the game as well as reports on some top Interior lineman.
Sometimes you can tell what the Dolphins are thinking based on some strong philosophical roots Bill Parcells laid down long ago and isn't likely to give up anytime time soon.
We know Parcells doesn't like diva receivers.
We know Parcells doesn't like giving away draft picks.
We know Parcells insists his team lift dead weights, not that Nautilus stuff, in the offseason.
One other thing I have to share with you that is a Parcells non-negotiable. Parcells doesn't like fat guys. Ironic, for obvious reasons, I know. But that's the way it is.
The Big Tuna wants his players fit and strong. He doesn't want them fat, and he definitely doesn't want them sloppy fat. Fat players get hurt more often, aren't conditioned well enough to stay on the field for extended periods, and as a result, aren't as dependable or valuable.
Parcells is so adamant about this he put weight clauses in the contract of practically every big on the roster. A big is a linemen on either side of the ball and sometimes a linebacker or even a fullback and tight end.
Jason Ferguson? He has a weight clause.
Kendall Langford and Phillip Merling. They have weight clauses.
Even Jake Long, who is the leanest 317-pound left tackle I've ever seen, has a weight clause in his contract.
These clauses can cost or make the players between $100,000-$250,000 per season. That's big money but it speaks to how important Parcells believes weight issues to be.
And that brings me to Terrence "Mount" Cody. His name is popular among Dolphins fans because he's a nose tackle and the Dolphins need a young nose tackle to take the baton from starter Jason Ferguson, who is 35 years old and spent much of last season on injured reserve.
Many of you have suggested the Dolphins use their second round pick on Cody. Well, they might get a chance to use a much later pick on the man ... and still might pass based on the fact Cody is, well, fat.
And not just big fat. We're talking dripping french fry grease from his pores fat.
He weighed in at a whopping 370 pounds at the Senior Bowl Monday. He looked so big he might have to expand his nickname from Mount to a full-fledged Mountain Range. The photo in the Mobile Press-Register speaks for itself. But if that isn't enough, consider what NFL Network's Mike Mayock said.
"It hurts," Mayock said of Cody's weight. "And it wasn't even a clean 370."
Indeed, not only isn't it clean, it seems to be a source of concern because Cody has been well over 400 pounds in the past, suggesting he can balloon, and this report from Jan. 5 on Cody's work ethic to keep his weight down says Cody was 355 pounds at the time.
So he's gained 15 pounds in 20-some days?
At a time he's supposed to be rounding, pun intended, into shape as he prepares for the Senior Bowl and the Indianapolis Combine, which are his job interviews?
It bodes poorly for Dolphins fans who might think of Cody as anything other than a project. It bodes poorly for Cody to be in this sort of shape at a time teams like the Dolphins are looking for players to show they've got good discipline and can boast good conditioning.
When the 2009 season ended for the Dolphins, the team obviously had issues on defense that still need addressing.
As I explained to you a couple of days ago, the linebacker corps was one of those issues. But the question is where is the bigger problem -- with the inside linebackers or outside linebackers?
Yesterday you saw Mel Kiper vote ILB as his first mock draft of the offseason had the Dolphins taking Rolando McClain of Alabama -- a tackling savant that will be an inside backer tackling machine in the NFL.
Well, lesser known Bucky Brooks of NFL.com comes back and votes OLB as Miami's bigger issue. In his first mock draft of 2010, he's got the the Dolphins taking Texas OLB Sergio Kindle at No. 12 in the first round.
One reason Brooks has the Dolphins taking Kindle might be he also has Denver taking McClain one pick before Miami. In that regard, Brooks apparently agrees with what I wrote yesterday about the Broncos. You see, Kiper had Denver taking Dez Bryant at No. 11, but I think that's not the direction they will go because you can still find good WR help later in the draft, and Bryant has been away from the game for much of a year as he served an NCAA suspension.
It would be interesting to know what Brooks thinks the Dolphins would do if both McClain and Kindle are on the board for Miami. Stop dreaming! But in his scenario, he sees Miami's OLB corps as needing urgent care.
"Joey Porter and Jason Taylor are at the end of their careers," Brooks writes. "so finding an athletic edge rusher is paramount."
Brooks obviously believes Cameron Wake doesn't fill that paramount need and I don't think any of us think Charlie Anderson is the answer, either.
If you've read this blog every day (it's good for your soul) you already understand how the Dolphins break down how they go about filling out their roster. As I've told you several times in the past, they have three primary categories: Wants, Needs, Must haves.
The Must haves is the priority category. It is the category that must be filled.
The Needs is the second most important. This category is what the team needs but can extend out if lesser players are on board.
The Wants is the luxury category. The Dolphins want a running back that will be ready to step in when Ricky Williams retires and Ronnie Brown is out of contract. But the team can probably survive 2010 if it doesn't address that want.
It is clear inside linebackers and outside linebackers fall either in the Needs or Must haves. No one not named Big Tuna Bill Parcells and Tuna Helper Jeff Ireland knows which position has risen to the priority category. Even they might not know because free agency might play a role in affecting this stuff.
You can argue the Dolphins have bodies at ILB with Channing Crowder and Akin Ayodele. Sure, Ayodele didn't play well in 2010 and Crowder is often injured. So the team needs to address the position. But will things fall to pieces if Crowder and Ayodele are the starters again in 2010?
You tell me. The Dolphins will tell us.
At OLB, meanwhile, neither Jason Taylor nor Joey Porter might be coming back in 2010. I know both of them won't be back. That was a disaster last season. So the Dolphins need to add a body here to go with Wake and Anderson and Quentin Moses. But is this position a Must have?
You tell me. The Dolphins will eventually tell us.
The Dolphins have requested and received permission to interview Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker coach Keith Butler for a defensive assistant job, most likely the defensive coordinator job, according to a club source.
Butler, 53, has ties to coach Tony Sparano. Both worked under head coach Chris Palmer in Cleveland in 1999-2000. While Sparano went to the Washington Redskins in 2001, Butler remained with the Browns through 2002 before joining the Steelers in 2003.
Butler is considered a possible heir to the Pittsburgh defensive coordinator job if and when Dick LeBeau decides to retire. His work under LeBeau suggests he is familiar and comfortable with the 3-4 defense but also an attacking style of that defense that includes a vast array of zone and other type of blitzes.
Under LeBeau, Pittsburgh has at times been referred to as Blitzburgh.
With Butler as their coach, Pittsburgh linebackers have feasted on great seasons. James Farrior, LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison, Joey Porter and Clark Haggans all had varying degrees of success under Butler.
Harrison in particular stands out. He was the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year and has been named to he Pro Bowl three times.
And so Miami players had to clean out their lockers to make room for another team -- a better team -- to come in and use the space before the Super Bowl.
The truth is the entire practice facility will be on lockdown the week the AFC champs are in town. No Dolphins players will be allowed to work out in the weight room or use the training room. And the second floor of the facility, while open to Miami staff, will be locked up in certain places so folks like Tony Sparano or Bill Parcells or Jeff Ireland won't be peeking at the AFC champions' practices.
I've been told it is possible Sparano will give his coaching staff that week off so as to limit the insult of not having full run of the facility and also maximize the efficiency of the weeks they are working on post-season evaluations.
"That's crazy and what really hurts is you look up the street and see the Jets made the playoffs," Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell said. "I mean, we beat them twice this year. But at the saem time, they earned it. They found a way to get it together at the end of the year and get themelves in. It is what it is and we'll try again next year."
Can you believe it?
There is a possibility -- a small one I admit, but a possibility nonetheless -- that the team using Miami's facility will be the New York Jets. Yeah, the same team that scoffed at the Dolphins twice this season after Miami beat them twice.
There's also a chance the team using the Miami facility will be the New England Patriots. The Patriots have an easier road to the Super Bowl than New York as they actually will have at least one home playoff game when the tournament begins this weekend.
The fact of the matter is four three of the six teams in the AFC playoffs beat Miami this year -- San Diego, Indy and New England. Baltimore and Cincinnati did not play the Dolphins in 2009.
And then, of course, is this usavory irony: One of the coaches that might be using the Miami facility before the Super Bowl? Baltimore offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
[BLOG UPDATE: I have a notebook full of stuff I need to get to you in the coming days, so I'll be posting at least twice a day for the next few days. So please check the blog in the morning and come back in the afternoon for any news and further updates. And follow me on twitter for notifications and news alerts from the blog.]
Dolphins salary documentation obtained by the Miami Herald on Tuesday shows the team may not be getting good return for the money it is spending on players in 2009.
According to those documents obtained from sources, the Dolphins spent $126,855,921 in total payroll in 2009, not including incentive bonuses. That is not only up from last year's $114,649,660, it is the second-highest total payroll in the NFL.
The New York Giants have the highest total payroll in the NFL in 2009 at $137,638,866. The Houston Texans, which defeated the Dolphins 27-20 on Sunday, settle in just behind the Dolphins with the third-highest total payroll at $122,573,860
The Giants are 8-7 and have been eliminated from playoff contention. The Dolphins are 7-8 and need a multitude of scenarios to play out over the weekend to make the playoffs. The Texans are 8-7 and similarly need help to get into the playoffs.
The figures obtained by The Herald show that paying premium money for talent is not necessarily a guarantee for success in 2009. Only four of the teams in the top ten for total payroll have already clinched a playoff spot.
How wisely the Dolphins are spending their money is a question that shows up tangibly all over the field.
The team's highest-paid player in 2009 is right tackle Vernon Carey who is making $15 million, with $12 million of that coming in the form of a signing bonus he received for signing a new contact in the offseason. Miami's return on that investment has not paid great dividends as Carey has slumped in the season's second half and has played poorly in recent weeks.
Center Jake Grove, who came to the Dolphins with a reputation for getting hurt, was rewarded with a free agent contract that is paying him $14.2 million this season. That makes him the second-highest-paid player on the team. Grove played well early in the year but has missed five consecutive starts with a high ankle sprain and tibia injury.
The Dolphins invested a lot of money in the deep secondary in 2009 -- $16.6 million to be precise. That means Miami has the most expensive set of safeties in the NFL.
Yeremiah Bell, making $8.6 million this season in the form a $6 million signing bonus, a $2.55 million base salary and $50,000 in other bonuses, is the league's second-highest-paid safety behind Kerry Rhodes of the New York Jets. Rhodes is collecting $9.95 million this season.
Bell, Miami's fourth-highest-paid player in 2009, leads the Dolphins in tackles and has made a couple of tackles that prevented touchdowns.
But free safety Gibril Wilson, the NFL's third-highest-paid safety in 2009, has been a bust for Miami.
Wilson struggled to tackle well early in the season, has struggled in coverage the entire season, and has no interceptions to show for his work. At one point this season, Wilson's struggles led coaches to use rookie Chris Clemons in his place in certain situations.
And all this at a price of $8 million, the fifth-highest salary on the team.
Jake Long, who was the No. 1 overall selection of the 2008 draft and was named to his second consecutive Pro Bowl on Tuesday, is Miami's third-highest-paid player behind Carey and Grove. Long is being paid $8,006,240 this season.
In focus, Miami has gotten mixed results from its top five paid players.
Long and Bell have been worth the money. Carey and Wilson have probably not played up to their lofty salaries. Grove has earned his money when he's been healthy, but as had been his history prior to coming to Miami, he missed over one-quarter of the season with an injury.
The fact three of Miami's five top-paid players are offensive linemen should not surprise anyone. The Dolphins field the most expensive offensive line in the NFL, costing $156 million in total contracts for the starting five and $39,597,240 in total salary this season for the starting five. (The latter figure can vary by a few thousand dollars depending on who starts at right guard.)
The sixth-highest-paid player on the Dolphins in 2009 is inside linebacker Channing Crowder. He is making $6,516,000 in 2009 based on $1.5 million in base salary, $3.75 million from the signing bonus of contract he signed this year, and $1.266 million in other bonuses. The Miami Herald was the first news outlet to report that Crowder definitely would not play against the Steelers in the season-finale.
The Dolphins do have instances where they are getting great return on their investment. This typically comes from players the team drafted, rather than signed as free agents or re-signed once their contract expired.
Starting quarterback Chad Henne is making $950,340 before incentives this season. That makes him the second-lowest paid full-time starting quarterback in the NFL behind Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys. Romo is making $625,980 in total salary this year. Romo signed a six-year, $67.4 million deal in October 2007. The 2009 salary is the lowest in Romo's contract and his salary rockets to $8.5 million next year.
The bargain the Dolphins are getting from Henne offsets the $5,750,000 they are paying injured quarterback Chad Pennington.
Other Miami players that have been relative bargains this year or played above their pay scale include outside linebacker Jason Taylor ($1,102,860 before incentive bonuses), defensive end Randy Starks ($2,625,000), wide receiver Davone Bess ($391,240), offensive lineman Nate Garner ($391,240), and fullback Lousaka Polite ($1,206,240).
Rookie starting cornerbacks Vontae Davis ($1,625,000) and Sean Smith ($1,255,000) have also been bargains for Miami. It is not correct, however, to say the Dolphins are getting a bargain for their cornerback money.
The rookies have offset the investment on cornerback Will Allen, who was a starter until he suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the season. Allen is making $5,506,240 this season, including $1,506,240 in bonus money.
And reserve cornerback Jason Allen is making $1,360,000 this season in salary and bonus. Allen, a former first-round pick, is almost exclusively a special teams player despite his lofty price.
The 2010 Pro Bowl team will be selected Tuesday evening and the Dolphins aren't likely to fare exceedingly well in the selection process.
Jake Long will likely be recognized as he was last year, perhaps even starting as the AFC team's left tackle. So congratulations to him.
After that ... it's likely to be a tough sell getting much attention for Miami players.
Fullback Lousaka Polite might get some attention as a backup or alternate. Randy Starks might get some votes as an alternate but the fact is he's only got six sacks, and hasn't had one in the month of December as I noted in my column in Tuesday's Miami Herald.
Ricky Williams might also get an alternate spot but I don't see him beating out Chris Johnson or Thomas Jones or Maurice Jones-Drew to get on the Pro Bowl team as a starter or substitute.
I'll update you with the actual team later in the day.
As for what the lack of Miami players on that Pro Bowl team should tell you, it is this:
Despite the good job Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland have done restocking the Dolphins with talent, the job is not complete and perhaps not even half-way finished.
Why do I say this?
We start with playmakers. Quick, tell me who the playmakers on the Dolphins are this year. Tell me the players on either offense or defense that scare the opposing teams. Tell me what Miami players the Titans were talking about two weeks ago while all the talk in the Miami locker room was about Johnson and Vince Young.
Tell me what Miami player opposing coaches consistently worry about.
I don't know that Miami has any player that keeps other teams awake at night.
Joey Porter was such a player last season, but his 17 1/2 sacks were obviously an aberration and not what we have seen from Porter in either 2007 or 2009.
Jason Taylor used to be one of those sleep-robbing players but let's face it, the man is 35 years old now and his freakish ability to change the course of a game comes on much more rare occasions than it used to when he was younger.
Williams? He's a good player, no doubt about that. But he also is 32 years old and is talking openly about retiring after 2010. He was a game-changer in 2003, the guy a team could ride to much success. But he is a role player now.
Ted Ginn Jr.? Nope.
In fact no Miami pass-catcher is a game-changer.
Chad Henne? Not yet. Plus Parcells has to give the kid some weapons to work with.
The point is the Dolphins need to add a dynamo or two to the roster in the coming drafts or free agency because all the really good teams seem to have those kind of guys.
Fact is, even the mediocre teams seem to have those kind of guys. Houston has Andre Johnson. Pittsburgh has Troy Polamalu, Santonio Holmes and Ben Roethlisberger -- though Polamalu has been injured most of this season.
New England has Tom Brady and Randy Moss and Vince Wilfork.
The Jets have Kris Jenkins and Leon Washington.
New Orleans has Drew Brees and Darren Sharper.
Indy has Peyton Manning and Dallas Clark and Dwight Freeney and Reggie Wayne.
The point is most teams have somebody that scares the other team -- somebody that can make a game-defining play at any moment and does that so often as to make his team dangerous.
The Dolphins don't often get the 45-yard interception return for a touchdown, or the strip-sack-fumble recovery for a TD, or the 75-yard bomb for a score from a receiver, or the 48-yard laser down the seam to a tight end for a TD.
The Dolphins are a team that relies on seven five-yard runs, a 13-yard completion, two Lousaka Polite fourth-and-1 conversions, a nine-yard completion, and a wildcat run to score their TDs. Lightning? The Dolphins wait for it to come from the sky rather than their offensive huddle.
The defense, meanwhile, is also mostly solid. But Sean Smith doesn't have an interception and neither does free safety Gibril Wilson. Yeremiah Bell is solid at run-support and is dynamic at erasing the mistakes of other players by catching people from behind. But he isn't blowing up a ton of people in the secondary or causing a ton of turnovers.
Nobody on defense is doing that.
That is not an indictment on any of the players I just mentioned. They all serve a purpose and all have strengths. They all have value.
It's simply that Miami doesn't have a couple of players whose strength is to make play after play that change the course of games in Miami's favor. And those players and those plays have to come for the Dolphins to take more steps toward being a consistently good team.
A couple of weeks ago the Cleveland Plain Dealer "reported" Bill Parcells was on the Browns' radar and that a source believed he might be swayed into being interested in the job as Browns football czar.
Um, that report doesn't resonate so well right now as Cleveland has offered the job to Mike Holmgren.
The truth of the matter is Parcells has been spending the past few weeks meeting with Miami's scouts and studying tape as if there was a soon coming exam. The tape he studies is of Miami practices, Miami games, Miami opponents, and college players he will be interested in draft next April.
And if he is drafting next April, it will be for the Dolphins. I cannot report this as fact. But call it a prediction that I'm fairly confident about.
The truth is Parcells has it pretty good in Miami. Worries that new owner Stephen Ross would become a pain for him have not materialized. Ross, very active on the business side, has not asked Parcells for the keys to the franchise that Wayne Huizenga tossed the future Hall of Famer in December 2007.
Parcells would also be hard pressed to quickly reproduce elsewhere the results he has brought in Miami because he basically hit the ground running here. He had "his guys" that are familiar with his system and he hired them here.
Those men have contracts with the Dolphins. It would be difficult for Parcells to then take those guys to say, Cleveland, and have his golfing and dining partner (Dan Henning) as an offensive coordinator, his apprentice (Jeff Ireland) as a general manager, his former assistant (Paul Pasqualoni) as the defensive coordinator, and his former offensive coordinator and offensive line coach (Tony Sparano) as the head coach.
Simply, it would be hard for Parcells to reproduce the quick turn-around he did here because he would have to start from scratch with a lot of people and he didn't have to do that here.
Another issue is that Parcells' job isn't truly done here. Have you noticed? The Dolphins haven't won a Super Bowl. Haven't won a conference title. Haven't won a playoff game. They are better than they where they were when Parcells arrived. But they are by no means elite. And Parcells was hired and is being paid to make them elite.
So if he leaves, he leaves the job unfinished and I don't believe he wants to do that. Not this time. Finally, where else is Parcells going to go that would offer him the lifestyle that South Florida offers? He can play golf in December. Hialeah is re-opening. Spring Training is around the corner.
You don't get that anywhere else.
Nope, Parcells isn't leaving the Dolphins for another NFL job. If he ever leaves, it might be for television. But another team? Hard to imagine.
The motto that other Dolphins teams have used -- without much success, I must add -- made its 2009 appearance around the Dolphins facility on Wednesday.
Why not us!
It was plastered throughout the locker room. Just like that. The phrase is actually a question, but it was punctuated by an exclamation point. And what purpose does the phrase serve?
"How can I put this," cornerback Sean Smith told me, "no offense, you guys the media, the evil media, everybody's talking about the playoffs and whatnot, but nobody's mentioned the Dolphins from what we've seen. Even though that doesn't really matter to us, I think it's a message to ourselves that even though a lot of people aren't talking about us, why can't it be us?"
Although the Dolphins admittedly have little room for error if they want to get in the playoffs -- needing to win out and also needing other teams to lose -- they like their chances. They like their chances even if they've perceived that the media (mostly national) pretty much ignores them.
"We're doing positive things so why can't we finish it off by getting the playoffs?" Smith asked rhetorically. "It's a reminder to us not to worry about what everybody else is talking about. Let's play our game and worry about what we do in these walls."
It's classic bunker mentality. But hey, if it works, whatever gets you through the night.
I had a handful of followers on my twitter asking me Wednesday if receiver Patrick Turner would be getting playing time before this season is over. This is what coach Tony Sparano said about Turner on Wednesday:
"Patrick's done a nice job, he really has," Sparano said. "He's a work in progress right now. Obviously, you wish you could take every player to the game and we can't do that. We've carried four receivers on a lot of occasions. He's been active a couple of times and played sparingly on special teams. But the guy works very hard in practice. I see great improvement out of him and he's a guy sooner or later here that is going to get an opportunity and I'm sure make the most of it."
Translation: Unless something significant changes in the final three weeks of the season, such as an injury to one of the other wide receivers or unless Miami's playoff hopes are dashed by a loss or two, Turner isn't going to be playing at all on Sundays.
He's just the fifth horse in a five-horse race and that doesn't qualify him to be active on game day.
The fact Miami has had two receivers -- Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo -- go over 100 yards in receiving the past two games also means the coaching staff isn't going to sit anyone just to play Turner.
So Turner's time may just have to wait until 2010.
The last word on the Ted Ginn Jr. versus Chris Johnson match race that never was: Ginn didnt want to step up and take Johnson on, either by words or deeds. And one would expect most of Ginn's teammates to step to the receiver's corner.
But not all of them.
Asked if Ginn or Johnson is faster, linebacker Channing Crowder picked Johnson.
“I’ll put him and a cheetah up," Crowder said. "The cheetah might have a step on him, but he is ridiculously fast, explosive and just a great back.
Asked if he believes Johnson could give Usain Bolt a run for his money, Crowder has no doubts.
“He probably can," Crowder said. "He might run with Bolt in the damn 100. Y’all don’t know how fast that boy is. I know y’all look at numbers. He is fast – fast, fast; flat out period fast. There’s game speed and this explosion and good cut, good feet, no. He’s fast. He’s fast, period. Capital letters. Write it down in your report. I know I’m going to give y’all what you need to write down. He’s fast. Y’all know how to spell it, with a capital damn ‘T’ at the end."
Thursday is a big day at Dolphins camp. The coordinators talk. The locker room is open We'll see if Reggie Torber (hamstring) practices after missing Wednesday. I'll have an update on Vince Young's status. And I'm sure a couple of surprises are bound to crop up. So ya'll come back often, ya'hear? (Getting my Tennessee talk all polished).