April 22, 2010

Final word (I think) on Taylor offseason offer

Before we continue our regularly scheduled draft coverage, I want to share this with you. We've got a few hours before the draft begins anyway.

This morning, excellent NFL insider Adam Schefter posted this story on ESPN.com qouting a source close the situation, saying the Miami Dolphins did indeed make a contract offer to Jason Taylor after the 2009 season that included an $850,000 raise on his 2009 salary and would have raised his salary to more than $2 million.

If this is true, it would obviosly change everything because it would have meant that Taylor indeed had an opportunity to return to the Dolphins this offseason and didn't take it.

Well, the validity of the source close to the situation is up for scrutiny by actual named persons as close to the situation as you can get -- both Jason Taylor and Gary Wichard, his agent.

"Source this, source that, there was no contract offer from the Dolphins, end of story," Wichard just told me. "I never got a call from the Dolphins saying, 'We want to sign Jason. Here's the deal. That's all we can do.' If I had a contract and had told Jason, he would have said let's get this signed.

"We never had a contract he could sign before he went to (visit) New York, after he went to (visit) New York or until the day he signed with New York. There is no Dolphins contract JT could have signed at all this offseason. End of story."

The Dolphins confirmed to me this morning that as of two days ago when Taylor decided to accept an offer from the New York Jets, there was indeed no offer on the table for him to sign.

Is it possible there was a deal available to Taylor in the days just after the 2009 season ended and the offseason began, I asked. My source did not know that for certain one way or the other.

Taylor this week told South Florida media there was a contract extension proposal during the 2009 season but that offer was withdrawn by the time the regular-season ended.

He called a source suggesting he had a chance to sign any Miami contract this offseason, "a liar."

Me? I'm done with this. It is draft day. Jason Taylor is a New York Jet. The Miami Dolphins will draft his replacement today or in the coming days. Can't we all just get along?

[BLOG NOTE: I'll be posting again in a bit just prior to kicking off the draft coverage. There will be a live blog here today. Join me. It should be a good time.]

April 21, 2010

Thomas: Dolphins have to show respect

If a Mount Rushmore of Dolphins players existed, Zach Thomas would be up there with Dan Marino and Larry Csonka and a couple of others. He was a Dolfans' favorite player from the second in 1996 he stepped on the field as a short, no-neck-having, self-deprecating rookie to the day in 2008 he packed his belongings and left.

And to this day Zach Thomas remains a South Florida resident, a fan of the Dolphins, and someone the organization admires enough that it considered him to join the new radio team being assembled to work on a new flagship station -- the team by the way, would not consider me as a commentator because I'm not enough of a homer.

Anyway, the point is when Zach Thomas is peeved with the organization, well then, something is wrong -- not with Zach, but with the organization.

And Zach Thomas is steaming about how the Dolphins have treated his brother-in-law Jason Taylor (married to Zach's sister Katina). He's upset about the handling of the latest Taylor saga in particular and and about the way the Dolphins handle inconic players in general.

Yesterday on the Sid Rosenberg show on 560-AM here in South Florida, Thomas pulled back the curtain on how Jeff Ireland and Bill Parcells handled his departure when he was waived by the Dolphins.

"The only thing that was like a punch in the gut to me was the day I was cleaning out my locker, the day they cut me, [agent] Drew [Rosenhaus] asked them if I could just say thanks to the fans through the media at the Dolphins facility and their answer was, 'No, he's not a Dolphins player anymore, he's got to do it off premises.'" Thomas said. "That's when you know, like, 'Wow,' the whole loyalty and everything they preach with team and things like that goes out the window."

None of this is commentary on how the Dolphins make football decisions. There is no arguing it was time for Zach to go. He didn't fit the Dolphins scheme. He was getting up there in years. He was coming off a year in which he had concussion issues.

But this is commentary on what happens after the football decisions are made. A player like Zach Thomas basically gets kicked to the curb in much the same manner as Abraham Wright would.

After he was waived, Thomas had to find a way to say good-bye to Dolphins fans. He had to call media members one by one, me and many others included, to say his farewell to ... you.

That is wrong.

This regime doesn't like making exceptions. They like to treat all the players the same. The Dolphins, for example, are one of the few NFL teams that do not welcome new free agents with press conferences because the team doesn't want to make it seem like the new players are more important than the ones already on the roster. The Dolphins also don't get mushy when former greats such as Thomas or, yes, Jason Taylor leave are or forced to leave.

And that is fine if you're talking about Shawn Murphy being traded. But if Jason Taylor is being traded, that needs to be handled differently.

The strange thing here is that general manager Jeff Ireland is aware of how great players should be treated. He sometimes talks about how he doesn't want to do anything that would sully the organization's great name or history.

Ireland's stepfather was a Hall of Famer E.J. Holub. His grandfather Jim Parmer was a former Philadelphia player and Bears executive. Those men knew the importance of legacy and standing. Those guys respected those ideals.

But Ireland, under Bill Parcells, isn't really holding up his end very well in that department. The Dolphins fumbled on the Zach Thomas dismissal two years ago. They dropped the ball again in the manner they treated Jason Taylor this offseason.

Their football decisions were probably correct in both instances. Their people skills were lacking both times.

"You've got to know to respect great players," Thomas said. "You've got to know that. Jason is going to be a Hall of Famer. He's going to be in the [Dolphins Ring] of Honor. His name is always going to be in Dolphin Stadium, and that's big. And you know what, you can do it in a different approach. It might not be their approach. But I get disappointed when I see guys that have put everything on the line for the Dolphins organization and have a Hall-of-Fame career like Jason Taylor and it goes down like it has the last couple weeks...

"I'm not trying to be hard on Jeff Ireland. But he's saying it wrong, especially for a guy who has so much history with the Miami Dolphins. He's the all-time sacks leader among active players, and you're going to talk about him like he's a first- or second-year player. He should know how to respect guys that have been great to the game. ... It's fine if you don't have a need for him. But you tell him up front. And you don't go through the media and act like you're shocked that it's being brought up. I don't like the organization to look bad that way."

Here is a quick suggestion to the Miami Dolphins, an organization that thinks it knows it all: Sign Zach Thomas for a day. Hold the press conference now that you refused to grant him in 2008. Allow Zach to say good-bye the right way.

You can't do anything about how you handled Jason Taylor's departure. Right the wrong you did with the Zach Thomas departure. And do it soon.

Where JT, Dolphins agree and disagree

From 7 p.m. until approximately 10 p.m. Tuesday night, I spent time on the phone and in person listening to Jason Taylor, or people close to Jason Taylor, or family members of Jason Taylor, or associates of Jason Taylor. (I admittedly did not communicate Dr. Doolite-style with Jason Taylor's dog.)

When I arrived home I got a call from the Miami Dolphins and spent 45 minutes on the line listening to what they have to say about, you guessed it, Jason Taylor. By the way, 45 minutes on the line with folks representing an NFL team is an aging experience.

Following that I will now share with you what I know and what is curiously not settled as this chapter of Taylor's Dolphins career comes to a close.

What I know:

1. Taylor on Tuesday morning accepted from the New York Jets the only contract offer he had on the table to him. Period. There was a report on the Dan LeBatard radio show here in South Florida that quoted a source saying the Dolphins had an offer on the table for Taylor and he decided to take the Jets offer anyway.


"It was take this or go on a nationwide (Dancing with the Stars) tour with Jerry Rice," said Taylor, who also called LeBatard's source "a liar."

The Dolphins are in agreement with Taylor on this issue. They confirm they did not currently have a contract offer on the table to Jason Taylor.

We're off to a good start.

2. The Dolphins offered Taylor a contract extension in early November of 2009. That was reported here yesterday, Taylor said it in his press conference, and the Dolphins confirm this is true.

And the manner in which the offer came is also not up for debate. It came in a private meeting between Taylor and Bill Parcells himself.

And the offer came in the form of a Post-it note.

Parcells wanted to deal with Taylor directly. No agent was supposed to be involved. That seems to be increasingly the way the Dolphins operate with their veterans. Remember that last year Parcells approached Ricky Williams to discuss his contract?

Williams thought the team wanted to cut his salary. Instead, Parcells handed Williams a note with the figures for a contract extension. The caveat to the note was that Parcells didn't want to go through Williams' agent. And so Williams, needing money, happily left agent Leigh Steinberg out of the loop and accepted the Parcells contract extension on a Post-it note.

Well, the Dolphins tried the same thing with Taylor.

He declined the offer and instead referred the Dolphins to his agent Gary Wichard.

"It wasn't the right time," Taylor said. "I wasn't comfortable with the contract situation coming up then. Maybe I grew up old school, back in the days of Jimmy Johnson and Dave Wannstedt and Rick Spielman. We didn't talk contract once the season started. My focus was on trying to get to the playoffs, not on talking money. And why would I do a deal without my agent? Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland have an agent."

3. The Taylor camp believes that once the player declined the Big Tuna's personal offer, that triggered something that doesn't resemble love. The Dolphins do not argue the point that perhaps -- perhaps -- Parcells was not thrilled Taylor rejected his personal overture.

4. The Taylor camp to this minute does not know if the Dolphins would or would not have offered them a contract after the draft. And the Dolphins don't know 100 percent, either. That decision, they say, was going to be made after the draft. And they admit they might have decided not to offer Taylor a contract.

5. The idea about after the draft is troubling but moreso in that there is agreement on it than not. The Dolphins say that after Taylor received an initial offer from the Jets, they were told of the offer from the Taylor camp. No disagreement there. And the Dolphins say their response to finding out those numbers was to inform Taylor and his agent they wished to make their decision on Taylor "after the draft."

And, they say, that as late as Monday, the Taylor camp was "fine" with waiting until after the draft.

The Taylor camp agrees that they were initially "fine" with the idea of waiting until after the draft. No disagreement there, either.

Now here is where we get into disagreements:

1. The Dolphins, far as they know, still believe the Taylor camp was "fine" with waiting for Miami's decision after the draft. The Taylor camp obviously felt that a decision needed to be moved up because the one offer they held -- that of the Jets -- could easily disappear after the draft.

The Taylor camp says it reached out to the Dolphins when it became clear the Jets could pull their offer. The Taylor camp says it requested a decision one way or the other but got no response.

Why there wasn't one last-minute, last-gasp attempt to keep Jason Taylor in a Dolphins uniform, is unclear to Taylor. In fact, to this day Taylor doesn't know why he didn't get any Miami offer. "If I was told why, I could express it to you," he said. "But I wasn't told."

The Dolphins say there was nothing to express. They were waiting until after the draft.

2. About that November contract extension:

The Taylor side feels Parcells took Taylor declining to deal without an agent personally. The Dolphins side doesn't necessarily refute this as stated above. But ...

Parcells would not allow personal feelings to get in the way of completing imperative football business even if his feelings have a little boo-boo. (Salguero personal opinion: Taylor simply wasn't imperative to the Dolphins. If he was 25 instead of 35, he would have become imperative. But he isn't.)

3. Taylor said that once he turned the situation over to his agent he expected the negotiation to continue but that eventually the offer was pulled. The Dolphins say that once Taylor declined Parcells' offer, it was turned over to Jeff Ireland to handle and that negotiations indeed continued for some time between Ireland and Wichard.

(I'm getting a headache, aren't you?)

4. The Taylor camp is not really going here, but I am: They believe they were disrespected. Taylor, they say, is an all-timer with the Dolphins that, no matter what your football evaluation is, should be respected and treated well based on what he's meant to the franchise for 13 years.

They don't believe either Parcells or Ireland recognized the player's place in team lore and dealt with him poorly by playing the "after the draft" game. Taylor just wanted to know outright if the Dolphins wanted him or not. Black or white. The Dolphins told him to wait until after the draft in 2009, but they also told him they wanted him. They told him to wait until after the draft in 2010, but didn't hint as to whether he was in their plans or not.

Taylor was ultimately frustrated by the gray of "after the draft."

You saw part of that peek through when Taylor said, "I'm happy somebody wants me to play for them. The Jets have given me an opportunity to play and not just an opportunity but they showed me they wanted me up there ... They made it clear what they wanted to do."

The Dolphins? They insist they respected Taylor's historical standing.

But, they add, at the end of the day, they simply made a football decision.

[BLOG NOTE: I know there were issues with all of you being able to post comments on Tuesday. I was flooded with e-mail complaints that the blog was broken. I'm told the issue is being resolved. Personally, I blame it all on the New York Jets.]

April 19, 2010

Rumors: 'Can't take it no more'


They are everywhere. Everywhere!

Sometimes, they have zero credence, like the one that said Jason Taylor's contract with the Jets was "close to done." That was almost two weeks ago. I guess close can be a relative term -- like the moon is close to the Earth, if you compare our planet's distance to Pluto.

Sometimes the rumors are based in fact. Remember the rumor I reported to you about Brandon Marshall telling a Denver Broncos teammate he was headed to Miami? Remember the rumor about Ted Ginn being on the trade block?

Well, the days leading to the draft are perhaps the most rumor-filled days on the NFL calendar. And there are some interesting ones floating.

There's a rumor Ronnie Brown is on the trade block. The truth is, Brown cannot be traded right now. He cannot be traded until he signs his restricted free agent tender. The truth is the Dolphins are not actively calling all 31 other NFL teams and offering Brown. But the truth also is if a team approaches Miami about Brown, the Dolphins are more than happy to listen. I believe the Dolphins would gladly trade Brown for a second-round pick. I also believe they aren't likely to get that for him. We'll see.

There's a rumor the Dolphins are intrigued by the idea of trading for Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora. Apparently the NYGs have taken a sort of liking to South Florida's Jason Pierre-Paul and if that liking develops into them drafting him, that makes Umenyiora not only endangered, but practically extinct on the roster. Umenyiora played at Troy. Bill Parcells regularly looks at players from Troy and, indeed, picked DeMarcus Ware from Troy in 2005. Thus these trade rumors.

But this one is a head-scratcher, if you ask me. Umenyiora would project as an OLB in Miami's defense, but he's never played the position before. So the Dolphins would be interested in giving up a draft pick for Umenyiora after a 29-tackle, 7-sack season even when a team from New York has decided he's no longer a fit. But the Dolphins are apparently not as interested in giving up zero draft picks for Jason Taylor after a 42-tackle, 7-sack season even when a team from New York has decided he'd be a great fit. Yes, I know Umenyiora is 28 years old and Taylor is 35 years old. But I also know the draftee it costs to get Umenyiora would come cheaply and be maybe 21-22 years old.

On the positive side, if the Dolphins do indeed swing this deal for a fifth-round pick, they will have effectively traded Ted Ginn Jr. for Osi Umenyiora. That sounds like an upgrade to me. Ronnie Brown for Osi Umenyiora? Both Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw are recovering from various surgeris. Of course, so is Brown. We'll see.

There's a rumor the Dolphins are trying to trade G Justin Smiley. It is true. It also hasn't gotten done so far. The bottom line here is Smiley has shoulder issues. He had them in San Francisco. He had them in Miami. They are not going away anytime soon. Furthermore, once the Dolphins put Smiley on the market and told him not to report for offseason conditioning, they basically alerted the rest of the NFL Smiley isn't in their long-term plans. The price for Smiley has dropped. Despite this, the Dolphins don't want to simply give him away. Their stance is they can hold onto Smiley up until training camp is set to open in late July. So what might Smiley bring in trade?

Not a lot. Purely speculating here: Maybe a sixth-rounder. Sad isn't it? We'll see.

There's a rumor the Dolphins will attempt to trade down in the coming draft. This is true. Although the chances are better that Miami will have to stick with pick No. 12 for lack of trade-down options, the team seriously would like to drop a handful of spots and pick up a late-second pick in the exchange. The Dolphins are not the only team wanting to do this. Denver might want to trade down also and the Broncos are scheduled to pick at No. 11. So, you guessed it, we'll see.

April 13, 2010

The Sparano-Taylor meeting off on wrong foot

Tony Sparano called Jason Taylor in recent days and with all the charm and charisma that convinces so many Dolphins to play hard 100 percent of the time, the coach told Taylor the two of them needed to meet this week.

Man to man. Coach to player.

Nobody needed to know about it, Sparano told Taylor.

And so Taylor didn't tell anyone about the meeting.

Taylor didn't tell his agent Gary Wichard. He didn't share it with any of his close confidants, either. So on Monday afternoon when ESPN senior insider Chris Mortensen reported on NFL Live that the meeting was coming this week, everyone connected with Taylor denied they knew about it because, well, they didn't.

But obviously someone inside the Dolphins organization told Mortensen. So the same organization that swore Taylor to secrecy leaked news of the meeting to the Worldwide Leader -- a figurative national bullhorn.

What is the deal with these Miami Dolphins? On the one hand, they're asking players to keep in-house matters in-house. On the other hand they're planting stories in the national media.

And what is the point? On the one hand, they seem to be reaching out to Taylor. But, in fact, by leaking the story, they have actually done damage to whatever they might be trying to accomplish. Taylor was disappointed with the team late Monday night when he learned news of the planned meeting leaked from the team after he was told to tell no one.

The Dolphins have been in lockdown mode on the Taylor issue for weeks. General Manager Jeff Ireland calls Wichard regularly every time facts about the Taylor-Dolphins negotiations -- or lack of negotiations -- get out in the media.

But Ireland is working for the very organization that slips ESPN interesting little notes -- like Ronnie Brown being on the trade block or Joey Porter not playing the rest of the season after his 2009 suspension. Granted, sometimes the information is flawed, but apparently the tuna can that is the Miami Dolphins isn't very well sealed.

The greater point is the Dolphins work in unorthodox ways. They have asked players to betray their agents -- as with the Ricky Williams contract extension that excluded agent Leigh Steinberg. And they betray their players -- as in leaking news of Taylor's private meeting with Sparano.


The now well-chronicled meeting, by the way, is still scheduled for the next day or so. Taylor is scheduled to go out of town with his wife late in the week. (No, he isn't going to New York to sign a contract.) At least that wasn't the plan late Monday before Taylor found out the meeting was all over the Internet.

So where does this meeting go? What purpose does it serve?

It should probably start with Sparano apologizing to Taylor. The coach put his reputation on the line in asking Taylor to keep things private, but his team instead turned around and opened its information pipeline to ESPN. That cannot help the Dolphins' agenda unless the agenda is to simply make a public relations move -- one the Dolphins want publicized on national TV.

Maybe the meeting is meant to tell Taylor to go quietly into the night -- or in this case to simply take an offer from the New York Jets.

But if the point of the meeting is to be sincere and try to convince Taylor to be patient with the Dolphins, to wait until after the draft and hedge his bet Miami might want him back, this definitely is a strange way to go about that.

Strange and wrong.

April 12, 2010

Tony Sparano to meet with Jason Taylor?

The Jason Taylor saga is taking another turn this week as the Dolphins may be putting on a last-minute effort to keep the veteran outside linebacker.

NFL senior insider Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports that Taylor and Sparano are scheduled to meet in person this week.

"I've been told Coach Tony Sparano and Jason have a pretty good relationship and will meet sometime this week and then Jason will make a decision," Mortensen reported on NFL Live.

I have not been able to confirm this report yet but decided to share it with you for the sake of giving you the latest on the matter. Mortensen did not say who told him this meet was planned, but everyone knows Mortensen is tight with Bill Parcells.

I'll update as details become available.

[UPDATE 1: A source close to Taylor tells me news of this planned meeting is news to Taylor himself.]

[UPDATE 2: Mortensen texted me to remind me that he is close to "eight other members of the organization" and that I'm a dummy and he can squash like a bug at a whim.]

[UPDATE 3: Mort didn't really say I'm a dummy. But ... well, you guys read the blog. You listen to me on radio. The dummy part is assumed.]

Jets acquire Santonio Holmes: The fallout

This thing with the Jets adding players almost every week is starting to get a little irritating.

Rex Ryan's team is limited by the "Final Four Rule" that says they cannot add a free agent unless they lose a free agent and cannot pay that player more than the player they lost gets from his new team. And despite this limitation the Jets have added LaDanian Tomlinson, Antonio Cromartie and on Sunday night Santonio Holmes.

Cromartie and Holmes both came via trade, with Holmes being added for a modest fifth-round selection.

There is little doubt Holmes brings trouble with him. It is no secret league-wide that he will be suspended for four games in 2010 for violating the league's substance abuse policy. He also has some legal issues to clear up in connection with him allegedly throwing a glass at a women at an Orlando club.

But have you heard? He was also the Super Bowl MVP in 2008-09, and caught 79 passes for 1,248 yards with five TDs in 2009. When he's playing football, he's pretty darn good.

Obviously, the Dolphins must have been aware of Holmes being available and didn't pull the trigger. No, they don't have a fifth-round pick this year anyway, but they have three sixth-rounders and they have their fifth for next year. Obviously, it could be argued the Dolphins shy away from troubled players that are about to be suspended and this was no exception.

But the fact of the matter is Holmes will be suspended for four fewer games than the league suspension Miami's Jason Ferguson will serve for violating the league's performance enhancing drug policy. And the Dolphins re-signed Ferguson this year, knowing he was going to serve the 8-game term.

So what gives with the double standard?

A fifth-round pick is nothing. Statistics prove players selected in that round rarely factor much in the NFL and rarely play more than three years. (Spare me the Zach Thomas reminders. That was almost a generation ago.)

Miami's fifth rounders the past decade were John Nalbone and Chris Clemons in 2009, none in 2008, none in 2007, Manny Wright (supplemental) in 2006, Anthony Alabi in 2005, Tony Bua in 2004, J.R. Tolver in 2003, Omar Lowe and Sam Simmons in 2002, Shawn Draper in 2001 and Arturo Freeman in 2000. In other words, Nalbone and Clemons have to be golden for Miami to show anything for a decade of fifth round picks.

So if the Jets lose on this gamble for Holmes, what have they really lost? A fifth-round selection that probably wasn't long for the league anyway? It's a good gamble for them. And for others, I suspect.

There are interesting side notes to this trade that affect Miami:

The Steelers are now in the market for a wide receiver and their need probably extends early in the draft. They have the 18th overall selection in round one, and that could mean one fewer WR will be available to Miami when the Dolphins pick in round two. The Steelers also have the 20th pick in round two (52nd overall), meaning one less WR might be available to Miami in the third round.

In other words, Pittsburgh now-obvious need for a wide receiver could decrease the Dolphins' choices by one player after Miami's first pick.

Another interesting side note to this is whether the news of the Jets acquiring a weapon that could help their playoff cause would sway Jason Taylor with his pending decision about going to the New Yorkers or not.

Finally, the hope here is that Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland wake from their wide receiver slumber and realize it is a passing league. They need to find a star wide receiver, maybe even two, in this draft. Dez Bryant, Golden Tate and Demaryious Thomas are good places to start.

I hope they've done their homework and are ready to go hard after a receiver.

Everyone else is.

[Update: Holmes is flying to New York for a physical today. Am I the only one that is rooting he fails the physical because they find drugs in his system?]

April 11, 2010

Sunday morning happenings in Dolphins country

A couple of interesting things this Sunday morning:

First off, Michael Lombardi of the National Football Post is saying that based on his conversations with other teams, it seems to him the Dolphins are looking to trade down from No. 12 in the first round. Perhaps the trade down I proposed last week isn't so crazy after all.

Bottom line here? Teams call other teams before the draft and talk about trading up and down all the time. Doesn't mean they're going to do it. Doesn't mean it is what they want to do. They are testing the waters so when they dive in on draft day, it isn't a shock to the system.

Having said that, every player the Dolphins seemingly have locked into -- Dez Bryant, Earl Thomas, Dan Williams -- seem to be rated slightly lower than at No. 12 by all the so-called experts. Maybe the Dolphins can gain a pick by moving down and still land their guy.

Next, Jason Taylor continues to be an issue because, well, because I choose to make it so.

In my column in today's Herald, I make the point that Taylor should just go ahead and call the Dolphins' bluff and go to the Jets.

If you are now aghast at the thought, get over it.

Man's got a right to work and the Jets are offering a job.

If you would consider J.T. some sort of turncoat if he goes to the Jets, let me pose a hypothetical question to you.

As much as you hate the New York Jets, what would you do if you were unemployed and Rex Ryan called you tomorrow and said, "The New York Jets will pay you $1.5 million to come work for them this year and $1.95 million for next year." You know that you'd hold your nose and take the job. If you say you would not, you're probably lying.

The amount of the deal isn't actually that important. A job is a job and you take it.

It's a business decision and you'd make it.

Jason Taylor is also entitled to make a business decision -- even one he doesn't necessarily want to make.

And if the Dolphins don't like the idea of that decision, they should step in and stop it. They have not done that so far.

April 07, 2010

With Taylor, Dolphins style is lacking

The Miami Dolphins like Jason Taylor. They say he's a good player and sincerely believe they have a good relationship with him. Coach Tony Sparano believes he and Taylor are as tight as an employer-employee relationship allows, while general manager Jeff Ireland believes he and Taylor's agent Gary Wichard have an open and honest association.

So the Dolphins are not seriously sweating Taylor's visit to the New York Jets.

The Dolphins know what Taylor would like to be paid in 2010 and they say Wichard knows the value they have placed on Taylor. No, the Dolphins haven't made an official contract offer to Wichard for reasons they believe to be sound business, but they insist "everyone knows where everyone stands." There is, by the way, a difference of opinion between the parties about Taylor's value.

But, the Dolphins believe if Taylor gets an offer from the Jets Thursday, or anyone else in the coming days, they will have the opportunity to adjust their opinion.

The Dolphins believe they will have a chance to match any offer any team makes Taylor.

Perhaps that is true. Perhaps it isn't. But that's what the Dolphins believe. So from a purely cold, unemotional, business aspect, nothing the Dolphins are doing really can be deemed wrong or a mistake.

But ...

Dealing with Jason Taylor is not and cannot be just about cold hard facts. It cannot be just about legal tender green dollars.

Taylor wants to be loved, maybe even wooed. He definitely wants to be shown respect because after 13 NFL seasons he rightly believes he's earned that. And the New York Jets are showing him that love and respect at a time when Taylor doesn't think the Dolphins are.

On Wednesday, the Jets flew Taylor to New York for a free agent visit. He and his wife Katina were picked up by limousine and taken to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, a five-star facility overlooking Columbus Circle in midtown Manhattan. The Jets later put Taylor in a helicopter and flew him to their new stadium in New Jersey. The place is in a wasteland called the meadowlands but the Jets sold it to Taylor as his new home he can help decorate with a Vince Lombardi Trophy.

The Jets wined Taylor. They dined Taylor. And Rex Ryan repeated to Taylor what he told Wichard the past couple of days as he was setting up this visit: If Taylor signs with the Jets, he will have between 12-15 sacks in 2010 because Ryan would use him as a pass-rusher coming from every imaginable and unpredicatable location on the field except perhaps the pressbox.

Jason Taylor was never recruited by bigtime college programs before he went to Akron but by Wednesday night he definitely knew what it's like to be wanted.

And that is the biggest difference between the Dolphins and Jets right now. The Jets have the Dolphins over a barrel on style if not necessarily on substance.

The Jets may not be able to pay Taylor very much at this time because they are limited by NFL Final Four rules imposed on clubs that made it to the conference title games. Taylor would like to make approximately $3 million per season and he would like a two-year deal because he wants to play two more seasons. Under the rules, the Jets seemingly can't get much higher than $1.5 million in the first year of the deal and cannot raise Taylor's 2011 salary more than 30 percent to $1.95 million.

But the Jets are nonetheless chasing Taylor like he is invaluable.

The Dolphins? They're the team that made it clear to Taylor last year he had to earn his roster spot after he signed. They're the club that isn't showing its cards or any emotion in dealing with Taylor. The Dolphins are the club that have returned some but not all of the calls from Taylor or his agent this offseason.

That matters to Taylor. And so does this:

Taylor has noticed that Miami signed Jason Ferguson this offseason after he tested positive for performance enhancing drugs but they keep him at arm's length. The Dolphins have signed Chad Pennington when his shoulder might or might not be 100 percent going forward but they're biding their time on re-signing the same Jason Taylor who played an entire month with a bum shoulder last season.

Understand that the Dolphins don't see any problem here. They see nothing wrong with approaching folks in a direct and candid way or putting other folks on the back burner when necessary. But one man's candid is another man's tactless. One man's back burner is another's contempt. That's perhaps a reason safety Ryan Clark returned to the Steelers rather than signing with the Dolphins.

Clark didn't get more money from Pittsburgh than he might have from Miami. But he felt he got a whole lot more love.

The Dolphins are not big on that love thing. They don't show everyone a lot of love and particularly not to Taylor for some strange reason.

While Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick were calling Taylor's agent multiple times last year, the Dolphins acted like they were doing Taylor a favor in signing him at a bargain $1.5 million price. And Ryan's continuing chase of Taylor this year is in sharp contrast to Wichard approaching Ireland at the Indianapolis Combine in February and having to sell Taylor as a sound investment, like a pitchman stumping for his product.

Again, nothing wrong with Miami's substance. But the style raises eyebrows.

It is clear that all things being relatively equal, Taylor would love to continue playing for the Dolphins. The Dolphins know this and are absolutely using it to their advantage. And that's fine. The NFL is, after all, a business and Ireland is trying to conduct good business by getting the best deal for his team.

But good business is also about having good timing. And while the Jets are acting in their own timing, the Dolphins are banking on reacting to a New York offer.

Good business is also about keeping a good relationship. And there is no room in a good relationship for being lukewarm when someone else is being red hot.

Good business, in short, is also about style -- especially when it threatens to affect substance.

Miami Dolphins reach out to Jason Taylor

A few weeks ago I shared with you how the Dolphins were pretty much ignoring Jason Taylor while carrying on with business on other matters.

The column, which basically said the Dolphins weren't returning calls from the Taylor camp, prompted some fans to begin an e-mail writing campaign requesting the team bring Taylor back. The column also got something of a rise out of the Dolphins.

Although Taylor has not discussed the matter with me, I'm told by a good team source that the day the column published, coach Tony Sparano contacted Taylor. And the contact effort was two-pronged as the Dolphins have since reached out to Taylor's agent, as well.

Now, this does not mean Taylor will absolutely, positively, 100 percent be back with Miami in 2010. The Dolphins didn't call to offer Taylor a contract. But things are looking better than they did when I originally wrote the column and that is good news for Taylor fans.

Taylor obviously wants to return. If the choice were his, he'd be on the Dolphins now, today. But the Dolphins are not at that stage yet. They are still in draft mode and want to take care of that important business before resolving the Taylor issue.

But the club doesn't want to write Taylor off altogether. He still has value. Miami obviously wants to keep a good relationship with him until a final decision whether to bring him back or not is made.

That likely will not happen until after the draft.

So there is no rift at the moment. At least folks are talking.

Good news.

[BLOG NOTE: Come back early afternoon today because I'll update with any newsy item from a national conference call with Mel Kiper. I know you folks cannot wait to hear what Mr. Kiper has to say.]

March 12, 2010

Twelve Dolphins players get at least $100K in performance pay bonus for 2009

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.

February 03, 2010

The behind-the-scenes Dolphins soap opera

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.

January 22, 2010

Which is the greater priority: OLB or ILB?

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.

Discuss ...  

December 30, 2009

Dolphins have second-highest payroll in NFL

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.

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December 29, 2009

Miami Dolphins: Playmakers wanted please

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.

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December 24, 2009

Christmas wishes for the Miami Dolphins

'Tis Christmas eve. On this night, Cubans celebrate Noche Buena, which translated means Good Night. It is the night we believe Mary and Joseph settled in to the manger at the Inn and prepared for the birth of baby Jesus, who is the Christ.

It is a time for glad tidings and festive wishes. We also eat a lot and I plan to do much damage at my in-laws' house. Tomorrow we'll have Christmas dinner at my house. I hope yours is a joyous holiday.

Meanwhile, these are my Christmas wishes for the Miami Dolphins and Dolfans everywhere:

A week of open practices so I can judge for myself how much or how little Pat Turner is progressing.

More screen passes. Remember those?

Better touch passing for Chad Henne.

Better accuracy for Chad Henne.

Better protection for Chad Henne.

Better weapons around Chad Henne.

More of Jason Taylor on passing downs.

Less of Joey Porter on run downs.

Fewer sideline patterns for Ted Ginn. He finds the sideline often enough as is.

More recevier screens with Greg Camaillo running hard for six yards.

A shovel pass every once in a while.

A Pat White completed pass every once in a while.

A Gibril Wilson intercepted pass every once in a while.

A Nathan Jones corner blitz. Remember those?

More tackles for Channing Crowder and Akin Ayodele at the line of scrimmage.

Fewer tackles for Yeremiah Bell five yards from the line of scrimmage.

Stability on the offensive line.

An offseason shakeup at WR.

An impact play or two for Kendall Langford.

Double-digit sacks for Randy Starks.

That Pro Bowl berth that follows double-digit sacks for Starks.

More playing time for Brian Hartline.

Fewer fumbles for Davone Bess, who leads the team with six.

A tight end that can eat up the seam route and catch the ball between a linebacker and safety.

A tight end that makes the other team's safeties seem overmatched.

A wide receiver that averages 16 yards per reception.

The same receiver having 82 receptions. (Do the math).

The death of the Orange Carpet.

The rebirth of the Flipper tank.

Cheerleader calendars that aren't rated R.

National anthems sung loud and proud at every game.

Military flyovers at every game.

Victory for the military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not a tie. Not a respectful retreat. Victory!

Peace in everyone's heart.

More Miami players that talk the talk ...

... and then walk the walk.

Visiting Jets fans that know when to shut up.

Jets teams that aren't pompous ... even after getting swept.

A rematch with the Patriots ... in this year's playoffs.

A chance to avenge this season's 31-14 loss to Buffalo ... by playing the Bills in next season's AFC title game.

A speedy recovery for Ronnie Brown.

And Jason Ferguson.

And Patrick Cobbs.

And Chad Pennington.

And Will Allen.

All the privacy Ricky Williams so covets ... after he retires.

More attention and appreciation for Tony Sparano, because it's not all about Bill Parcells.

More time for Parcells in that darkened film room, because he loves it there.

More time for Parcells in that white bright afterglow of a Super Bowl victory, because he loves it there even more.

And finally, one request for myself: A sign from Heaven that my mom and dad are pleased with me and are waiting to see me up there some day.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

November 11, 2009

Jason Taylor wants to return to Dolphins in 2010

Talking to friend Tom Brady and then sharing a quick, polite conversation with Bill Belicheck after the Patriots beat his Dolphins on Sunday, Jason Taylor looked like a man who might have second thoughts about his decision to play for Miami over New England.

If that's the case, looks are deceiving.

Taylor picked the Miami Dolphins this offseason perhaps more than they picked him. He never intended to play for the Patriots even when they were courting him through public statements from owner Robert Kraft and phone calls from Belichick. And the Miami strongside linebacker remains happy about the decision to go to Miami rather than New England, according to sources close to him.

Fact is, Taylor is so happy with the Dolphins, he would like to play for them next year and perhaps after that, too, one source told me Tuesday evening. Taylor, 35, has even mentioned playing three more years.

Taylor was unavailable for comment Tuesday as Miami players were off. But he told Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf he'd like to return to Miami next year during a production meeting with them prior to the New England game which they broadcast for CBS.

So even as the Patriots seem to be pulling away from Miami in the standings, Taylor's is sticking with his call to play for the 3-5 home team.

And yes, it is his home team. One reason Taylor is so thrilled being in Miami is he's home and that makes everyone at home happy. It certainly is better than 2008 when Taylor was in Washington playing for the Redskins and his wife and kids remained in South Florida most of the time.

Taylor is playing 2009 under a one-year contract. There have been no conversations about extending that deal for next year or beyond. But those talks will happen after the season. No doubt about it, from Taylor's perspective.

September 25, 2009

Win at all cost or just another game on Sunday?

You know the facts. Since 1990, only three teams have started their seasons 0-3 and still made the playoffs.

The 1992 Chargers started 0-4 and made it to the playoffs. The 1995 Lions started out 0-3 and made the playoffs. The 1998 Buffalo Bills started out 0-3 and made the playoffs. Everybody else that started out 0-3 since 1990 was playing golf by late January.

The Dolphins are 0-2, so history tells you they must beat San Diego Sunday to salvage a good opportunity to make the playoffs. The issue is so important, compelling even, that the great minds on the ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown set this weekend will look at several 0-2 teams -- the Panthers, Titans, and yes, Dolphins -- and tell their respective fans whether they should be patient or start to panic.

The issue will divide the cast among those that believe Sunday's game for Miami is a must-win and those who might think it's not any more important than other games. And in that respect, the divide cuts across the very Miami locker room.

I asked nose tackle Jason Ferguson this week if this game against San Diego is a must-win.

"Yes," he said quickly. "For me it's a must-win. We got to win this game. 0-3 is really hard. I've been there before. You give yourself a reason to go 0-4 and it's all over. And now it's 0-3 and it could be over because when you're 11-5 you may not make the playoffs around [this division.] It's definitely difficult but we put ourselves in this hole. And the good thing is you can look at last year and say we did it before. So let's get W, that's the main thing. 

"Every guy in this room got to be thinking we got to get that W."

Perhaps so, but every guy in the locker room is not thinking this game is make-or-break, must-win, pull-out-all-the-stops time.

"It doesn't make the game any more important," linebacker Jason Taylor said. "Every game is so important. You try your darndest to win them all so we're not going to put extra pressure or focus on this game. It's going to get the same amount it deserves and it always would."

Suggest to Taylor that this game truly is make-or-break and thus requires added effort and he does not buy it.

"I totally disagree," he said. "There's no more sense of urgency than there ever was. It's not like we were chilling the first game and then we lost and now we need to pick it up a little more after the Indy game. It's always been pedal to the metal. So the sense of urgency has not picked up at all. It's the same team. Our defense is going to stay the same. Our offense is going to stay the same. We just need to execute better and not make mistakes and finish games."

So why is Taylor refusing to put an added sense of urgency on this game that Ferguson clearly sees? 

"I don't want to start 'now-we're-pressing' and 'we're up against the wall' because we're 0-2. We're going to do what we do only do it better."

So where do you fall? And why?

October 01, 2008

JT thanks local media for 11 memorable years

Seth Levit, the executive director of the Jason Taylor Foundation, just popped into Dolphins camp on business and part of that business was to pass out letters to 30 or so selected members of the media which Jason Taylor wanted to reach out to.

Taylor, now with the Washington Redskins, wanted to thank those media members who covered him throughout his Miami career -- an unnecessary, but very classy move. Taylor wrote those members of the media a letter.

Here is the one delivered to me:

Dear Armando,

I hope this letter finds you well. The last few weeks have been quite a whirlwind for me but now that I am beginning to get my feet back on the ground, I want to take a moment to reach out to some of the journalists who covered me on and off the field throughout my Miami Dolphins career.

While it may sound like rhetoric, I sincerely feel as if my 11 years in Miami were some of the most memorable of my life. The amazing moments, sometimes triumphant and sometimes, well, pretty darn awful, all had a major impact on me -- and you were there to capture so many of them. As professional athletes living and working in the public eye, we often complain about the "media" and how we are covered. I know I have done my share. Looking back, however, I am fortunate enough to say that the positive words written and said aobut me far outweigh the negative and because of the hard work you and your peers put in, I can someday sit down with my three children and share with them a very special time in my life.

So I want to thank you, Armando. Thank you for telling me who you think I am and who you think I am not. I want to thank you for providing South Florida fans an opportunity to get to know me in some small way. I want to thank you for supporting my community work and more than anything, for your professionalism. I'm sure you didn't always agree with every decision I made on the field or every statement I made off of it, and there is a good chance that I didn't always agree with every word you wrote or said, but in the end, we both have jobs to do and I'd like to think we did them with a mutual respect.

As a token of my appreciation, please accept this small gift [a leather computer/travel bag]. I'm hopeful that you can put it to good use as you continue to tell important and interesting stories about the players and organization that will always have a unique place in my heart.


Jason Taylor

Anyway, I know many Dolphins fans are still Jason Taylor fans. Figured you guys might like to hear about him. And for the sake of disclosure, Herald ethics policy requires I not keep the bag. Oh well.

July 22, 2008

One final post on the Jason Taylor trade

I am still scratching my head and it doesn't even itch. Seriously. Because this really doesn't make sense to me.

Sometime between late January and mid February of this year, Jason Taylor's agent called the Dolphins and informed them Taylor only intended to play one more season and it made sense for him to play that final year someplace else. The Dolphins were, after all, about to rebuild and Taylor, at 33 years old, didn't want to be part of that rebuilding because he wanted one final shot at winning a title.

Gary Wichard, the agent, made the logical points to Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland and even team president Bryan Wiedmeier. It was a compelling argument because, after all, Taylor gave his all for 11 seasons and wanted the Dolphins to reward that service by letting him get a chance at a title in his final go-'round.

Fast forward to April when Wichard made the point to the Dolphins again. Then in June when Taylor got in front of the media and said, "I told the Dolphins my intentions from Day One. My intentions are to play one more year."

Then fast forward again to this week when Taylor is traded to the Washington Redskins and, all of a sudden, that stuff about playing one more year which he and his agent have been saying for seven months is simply swept under the rug. "I know I made a statement in June that I would play one more year in '08," Taylor said, "but I have talked to [Redskins owner] Dan Snyder and [executive vice president] Vinny [Cerrato] and coach and I'm going to play out my contract and I will be here for more than one year, God willing, unless something bad happens. I'm here to play ball as long as I can."

Are you feakin' kidding me?

So one conversation with Snyder and the Redskins and suddenly the story he has told the Dolphins from "Day One," is out the window? One day in Washington is enough to convince Taylor to play the two years remaining on his contract and maybe more but 11 seasons in Miami wasn't worth that kind of commitment?

Here is my point: The only reason the Dolphins had to seriously, seriously want to trade Jason Taylor is because they are rebuilding and a Taylor who intends to play one more season isn't as valuable as a draft pick because by the time the team is good again, Taylor would be out of the league.

But if Taylor tells the Dolphins, he's playing until the end of this contract and, in fact, says he's playing "as long as I can," that definitely changes EVERYTHING. Suddenly the team should be thinking it has a pretty good player, one who is rarely injured, for 2009 when the team is hoping to be very competitive and perhaps beyond -- maybe to 2010 when thoughts of playoffs might be on everyone's mind again.

Suddenly the entire picture is different.

Fantasy, you say? Well, are you aware that Taylor would be 37 years old in 2010? In 2004 when Michael Strahan (who Taylor respects) was 33 years old as Taylor is now, his team was 6-10 and finished last in the NFC East? Three years later Strahan, at 37, was a key contributor on a Super Bowl champion. Things change in the NFL. They change quickly.

And the irony here is that the posturing about getting one final chance to win it all is bunk now because the Redskins, with all due respect to those guys that wear pig noses and dresses on Sundays, don't look like much of a legit title contender.

Yes, they made the playoffs last year, but they could just as easily take a step back this year because they don't have Joe Gibbs anymore, they still have an unproven QB, their defensive coordinator isn't as good, they won't have the momentous emotional lift that brought them together last year when Sean Taylor was tragically cut down, and they still play in the world's toughest football division.

Maybe JT hasn't noticed but the Cowboys are loaded. Maybe he hasn't noticed but the Giants won the Super Bowl. Maybe he hasn't noticed but the Eagles, which finished last in the division with an 8-8 record last year, are healthy and added several high-priced free agents. They also have a better coaching staff than Washington now.

So the Redskins have absolutely zero guarantee of making any playoffs. Yet that was enough to make him about-face on the one-and-done statement?

I wouldn't be surprised if the Redskins are watching the playoffs on TV this year, just as the Dolphins probably will be. I wouldn't be surprised that by 2010 the Dolphins have passed the Redskins on talent.

And, given his recent history, I wouldn't be surprised if sometime in the next 12-13 months, Taylor changes course on this issue. Again.