February 09, 2010

Look to the draft for the biggest talent boon

I talked to two NFL general managers on Monday -- no, not Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland who flees at the mere smell of a tape recorder.

In e-mail exchanges with these two GMs, I came to believe that if a team is going to load up on talent in the 2010 offseason, it's going to happen primarily through the draft. These guys were truly excited about the college talent coming out, have already put in long hours of tape study on college players, and are eagerly looking forward to the Indianapolis Combine later this month.

And, no, they weren't bailing on the idea that free agency will have a few good players in the offing and even some intriguing surprises. But when 140 to 200 players in their mid to late 20s have basically been eliminated from unrestricted free agency lists because of the rules of an uncapped season, you can understand it diminishes the excitement about free agency.

Still, there will be a free agency this offseason, it just won't look like anything we've grown accustomed to in previous years.

Free agency will come in tiers. There will be street free agents hitting the market even before traditional free agency begins March 5. These street free agents are obviously discards, but maybe one or two will help teams in 2010.

One such street free agent hit the market Monday when the Cleveland Browns cut wide receiver Donte' Stallworth ahead of the lifting of his league-imposed suspension. If you remember, Stallworth struck and killed a pedestrian with his Bentley in Miami Beach on March 14, 2009. He pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter.

That got him suspended by Commissioner Roger Goodell (not to mention it sent him to jail for 24 days, sent him to house arrest and activated other punishment). Well, after a season out of the game, Stallworth is available.

And already I've gotten a dozen e-mails from readers asking if the receiver-starved Dolphins will be interested. I cannot tell you for sure. But I seriously doubt it.

Stallworth is not the answer for a team like Miami that usually avoids such mixtures of mediocre talent and high off-field risks. Plus Stallworth, at age 29 and two years removed from a football game, probably isn't No. 1 receiver material these days.

So I wouldn't bank on him being in a Dolphins uniform despite the fact the guy lives in South Florida and his agent is Drew Rosenhaus of South Florida. But, as I said, that's a guess.

This is not a guess: Throughout free agency, you'll see players come available that typically would not in a capped year. Teams are expected to view the uncapped year as a sort of jubilee, where all their financial mistakes of the past can be erased because no salary cap means no cap hit for getting rid of under-performing players or toxic contracts.

Those players will hit the market. And maybe a handful of them become significant contributors to their new teams. The trick is identifying those few players and pairing them in the right system to bring out the best results.

Another part of free agency is players that have six years or beyond and are out of contract. These players have not been re-signed by their teams for whatever reasons and will be legitimate unrestricted free agents.

But wait, the top players in this category also might not hit free agency. Teams, you see, can slap a franchise tag or one of two transition tags on the best of these players. That could effectively take about 30 players off the market. 

So most of the unrestricted guys on the market will not be game-changers, assuming their original teams do their homework. Some will be aging players. Jason Taylor might be one of those. Some will be younger but not necessarily game-changers. Ben Watson of the New England Patriots might be one of those.

That market, I'm told, will be lean.

And then there is the restricted free agency market. It should not surprise if teams make a play for a handful of these guys. Desperate times call for desperate measures and that is desperation as restricted players rarely get signed away from their teams.

It would not be a cheap venture for any team that tries because draft pick compensation could be due for signing these players.

Why is that such a steep price to pay for proven talent, you ask? Well, because even the most proven free agents can become free agent busts. Because teams will be doubling down on the move -- giving up draft compensation and paying bigtime contracts for the players.

And because in giving up draft picks, teams will not be maximizing their chances in the draft. Yes, the same draft the two GMs told me was full of very good talent.

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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 15, 2009

The great transition that is, was, & must come

I wrote a column in today's Miami Herald that focused on how the Dolphins have continued winning despite undergoing a difficult transition at quarterback, cornerback and nose tackle. Those transitions are the toughest there are in the NFL --  obviously at quarterback but particularly at nose tackle if the team runs a 3-4 scheme.

Check out the column and you'll see some fascinating statistics that prove Chad Henne, Vontae Davis, Sean Smith, and Paul Soliai have been exceedingly effective in replacing valuable veterans.

The column also gives you a hint where future transitions will be needed.

The column does not address where the Dolphins have already made changes previous to this season. The offensive line and defensive line is where those changes came first. That's where Bill Parcells built his foundation.

And the offensive line has delivered, as well it should since it came at a price of $156 million.

"Here's what has been the most impressive - and when you watch an offensive line play, it's never pretty, it really isn't," coach Tony Sparano said. "Their tenacity, I think is a good word, they really are, they're a pretty tenacious, resilient group. They're doing some ugly things hard, and as long as you're doing them hard, you've got a chance. They're giving us a chance that way. Those guys would probably tell you that's a compliment. First of all, I don't dish many out their way, but secondly, that fact in the offensive line, it's not always pretty. It's a different position than most, yet, they're pretty tenacious, and they're pretty resilient. I think that that's the thing to me that stands out the most about it, it's that even when the game gets a little bit ugly, they keep grinding pretty good."

The defensive line has been effective of late also. Sparano said he challenged his defensive ends to play well last week against Jacksonville. They did. And Randy Starks was excellent.

"I think he’s having a great season, I really do," Sparano said. "I’ve said it before, but Randy was physical again yesterday, he had four or five tackles, tackle for loss in there, made a big play in one of those situations. There's still things Randy can get better at, there really are.

"Fundamentally, go back to that again, there's some things in the game yesterday that Randy will watch the film, and he'll know he left out there on the field. He played pretty good in there yesterday, physical, did a great job I thought. We asked our defensive ends yesterday, Randy, [Phillip] Merling, [Kendall] Langford, to do a hard job in that run game yesterday. Their job was very, very difficult from what we asked them to do from a defensive standpoint yesterday, but I thought the three of them, they really did a pretty good job in that game."

Starks is interesting because he came from the Tennessee Titans as a free agent in 2008. He had never played in a 3-4 defense. He'd always been a defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense. Well, he kind of struggled in his first year. He really wasn't much of a factor. But he seemed to get it in training camp. The light bulb seemed to flicker on and now it is burning brightly.

"I think I've had a breakout season," Starks said. "This is probably the best football I've been playing throughout my career. It could be the coaching, the coaching staff. The coaches help me a lot, coach Kace, Kacy Rodgers, he's helped me. Maybe this defense fits me better, maybe I'm just a 3-4 type of player, not a 4-3.

"The first time I ever played 3-4 was last year. It was a hard adjustment for me, but now, I'm getting the hang of it."

Discuss ...

And remember to check out the column for those stats and what I've been told is the next coming change of youngsters replacing vets.

Also, follow me on twitter.  You'll be able to see a picture of my Christmas tree the wife and I just finished trimming.

December 02, 2009

Miami Dolphins personnel dept. good not great

One of my twitter followers (which you should join, by the way) asked me Tuesday afternoon what order of responsibility I would assign to Miami's current struggles. OK, let me be more honest: He asked who I blame for Miami's problems this season.

Well, with the Dolphins the responsibility (blame or credit) for a season's performance goes to the players, who must execute, the coaches, who must develop players and put them in a position to succeed, and the personnel department, who delivers the players to the coaches.

This blog usually focuses on the players and coaches.

Today we focus on the personnel department.

And that personnel department is pretty much the kingdom of Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland -- The Big Tuna and the Tuna Helper, as I sometimes amuse myself designating them. (I'll stop if one ever asks me to.)

The overall grade of the personnel department since March of 2008 has to be considered a B-minus as of today. That department took a 1-15 team and cleaned a very dirty house. I believe the accurate percentage of player turnover has been in the 75 percent range as only 16 players that were on the team before the current regime arrived are still on the team. That figure includes players on injured reserve.

The grade can and will change as this season's final month unfolds, but the point is the personnel department has done relatively well.

But great? Wonderful? Amazing?

Not really.

Quick, which player did this personnel department sign, draft or trade for that has been a game-defining player? Yeah, nobody. 

Jake Long might be an excellent player for the next decade but you're supposed to get that and more when you get the first pick of the draft. And Long doesn't change the game or force opponents to scheme and game plan for him. He's a foundational role player.

The point is we cannot name one player that we know will be a superstar for the Dolphins in the coming years. You hope Chad Henne might be that player. But there are almost as many reasons to doubt he can be that guy as there are reasons to believe he will be.

We hope Vontae Davis or Sean Smith become lockdown cornerbacks in the coming years and become perhaps the best CB combo in the NFL. But they're not there yet. Not even close. And so we can give the personnel department kudos for picking two starters, but no credit (yet) for finding greatness.

Cameron Wake has potential. But he is a project that might take another couple of years. Lousaka Polite is a fine player at fullback but he is a role player, not a star.

Anyone else on that roster that might be getting Pro Bowl consideration in the coming weeks or seasons?

Anyone?

We hope Phillip Merling goes there, but frankly, he's kind of a disappointment in that he didn't pick up this year where he left off last season and then rise from there. Kendall Langford is good enough to start, but not great. Randy Starks is a nice player, but he's not going to the Pro Bowl, folks.

The rest of that highly paid $156 million offensive line? Not a Pro Bowl player on there despite high hopes for the future of Donald Thomas. Again, good stuff, but no greatness yet.

The fact is the personnel department has hit on a ton C and B players. But the A and A-plus guys have yet to show themselves.

Miami's personnel department has also missed some as well, and that, of course, lowers the overall grade.

The personnel department's biggest and most obvious mistake is in its failing to find a playmaker for the offense. Here we are in Year 2 of Parcells and Ireland and we are relying on Ricky Williams to carry the offense.

Ricky Williams!

The guy was carrying the offense in 2002. So Parcells and Ireland are threatening to fall into the same abyss that swallowed Dave Wannstedt and Nick Saban and Cam Cameron in that none added two or three offensive players that turned Williams into a role player. Saban almost did it by drafting Ronnie Brown, but even he complained in 2006 that one reason the Dolphins finished 6-10 was that his best weapon was not available as Williams was suspended for the season.

Cameron wanted to get rid of Williams because he disliked everything Williams represented, but even he found himself needing Williams.

And now these Dolphins need Williams. Too much. The truth is today's Dolphins have no real hope of winning games if the 32-year-old running back doesn't play great. That Miami finds itself in this unseemly situation is ... is ... really bad personnel work.

The personnel department has yet to find a star wide receiver. The Dolphins weren't interested in Terrell Owens, didn't trade for Braylon Edwards, didn't draft Hakeem Nicks, and now Miami has no receiver that is an appreciable threat to defenses. The team did draft Brian Hartline and Patrick Turner. Hartline has been OK as a rookie, while Turner cannot get on the field.

The personnel department blew it on Ernest Wilford. That's all I got to say about that.

The personnel department was looking for an upgrade at free safety this year and paid Gibril Wilson $27.5 million to be that guy. The New Orleans Saints, meanwhile, paid Darren Sharper $1.7 million for one year. Which of the two players has taken over games this season? By the way, it was a personnel decision to let Renaldo Hill go to Denver. He also has played better than Wilson.

No personnel department is flawless. Miami's is not. But the outstanding personnel departments cover a multitude of misses by adding one game-changing player a year or two. Look at Minnesota, who has added Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen and Brett Favre the last three years.

No, they didn't draft two of those players. So what? All three are key reasons the Vikings are playing exceedingly well now.

The Colts do it through the draft, but they seem to get production from their rookies almost immediately. Look up WR Austin Collie's numbers. Look at what rookie CB Jerraud Powers is doing as a starter. And I'm not even mentioning Donald Brown, who we last saw plowing over Gibril Wilson en route to a TD at Land Shark Stadium.

The point here is the Miami personnel department is in great hands with Parcells and Ireland. They've done a good job. But you cannot honestly say they've done a great job until we see some great players on the field. We cannot say they've done a great job until we see a team that's better than 5-6.

November 25, 2009

Miami Dolphins players must produce quickly

Surprised by the waiving of Matt Roth?

If we can cast aside for a second the conspiracy theories about this move, of which there are many -- theories that are unproven and therefore unfair (for now) to relate -- Roth was waived based on performance. He had four weeks to prove he could contribute to the Dolphins this year and beyond and he failed.

He had four tackles in four games and so the Dolphins did what they always do: They acted quickly and decisively to get rid of a player they no longer needed.

(I happen to love that about this regime.)

Unlike other teams that nurture draft picks, coddle free agents, or hold on to veterans perhaps one year too long, sometimes adding to a mistake by refusing to eliminate that mistake, these Dolphins recognize their mistakes and get rid of them.

It sounds harsh because players are men not meat and these men have families to feed. But the NFL is a business and the Dolphins treat the business with little emotion. These guys are Vulcan-like in their rational, logical approach to casting out roster weakness.

That's why no player or coach can feel safe on the Dolphins unless he is producing.

Remember only a few weeks ago, coach Tony Sparano was saying of Roth, "it was good to get him out there," and a couple of weeks later he's gone. Remember I told you how Shawn Murphy got a figurative pat on the back from Sparano about how well he was coming along and two days later he was waived?

Here yesterday, unproductive today, gone tomorrow.

We've seen it time and again.

Samson Satele started all 16 games last year but was a weak link that glowed in neon in losses to Baltimore and other games. He was traded.

John Beck was talked up and credited for his professionalism all last year and in training camp. He was waived.

Eric Green was signed as Miami's free agent answer to its cornerback problems. He was cut in training camp.

Ernest Wilford was a huge free agent bust last year and so the team swallowed a $4.5 million salary cap hit to get rid of him.

The club claimed tight end Davon Drew off waivers and to hear Sparano talk, the guy was on Miami's radar for some time and had great potential. And five minutes later, Drew was cut.

And the approach applies to assistants as well. Remember offensive line coach Mike Maser? He spent 2008 cursing at his players and was basically fired one week after the season ended.

And all this leads us to this question: Who is next?

Earlier this year, when the Dolphins were struggling, I was told no one was safe. In other words, no player that Miami would want to cut after the season could relax simply because his contract situation. The Dolphins saw no salary cap situation they couldn't overcome.

Of course, this doesn't include guys like Jake Long or Vontae Davis or some others because the Dolphins wouldn't consider cutting or trading them anyway. But vets who aren't performing this year risk being outta here by next year regardless of their contracts.

And there are, of course, candidates. These players must step up in the coming weeks to avoid finding themselves possibly looking work elsewhere next season:

1. Jason Allen. The experiment has failed, he is a first-round bust. He isn't a starting-caliber cornerback or safety. That fact aside, he isn't exactly contributing a ton in his current role on special teams, either. He has only seven special teams tackles this year.

2. Ted Ginn Jr. Miami coaches will defend him until the cows come home the rest of this season. But in the offseason the team will make finding a legitimate No. 1 receiver one of its priorities. And if someone comes, someone's got to go. Ginn may still stick as a special teams weapon, but barring some sort of epiphany by him as a receiver, his days at that position in a Miami uniform could be numbered.

3. Joey Porter. The Carolina game gave him a huge reprieve because he's under the microscope bigtime. Porter had eight tackles against the Panthers. That's as many tackles as he had since the third week of the season. But coaches recognize Porter did that against a guard that was playing out of position in place of an injured left tackle. They aren't fooled by the stats. Porter, 33 years old in March, has to prove in the season's final six weeks and in the coming offseason camps and conditioning program, that he deserves a spot on this team. It is not guaranteed.

4. Lionel Dotson. Sparano raved this preseason about how Dotson "changed his body" and got stronger and bigger and better. And he's still managed to be active only twice this season after being active only twice last season.

5. Anthony Fasano. I struggled with this one because I know Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland really like this kid. He's good in the locker room. He's a solid citizen. He plays all-out. But his production has fallen off the table this year. He has only 14 receptions for 113 yards. Dallas Clark had more yards against the Dolphins in one game. Fasano has been injured, has two fumbles, and three drops. He's not having the season anyone would want in a contract year. I don't think he'll be off the team, but I think the Dolphins will definitely try to add talent at TE in the offseason and, as I said before, if someone comes in, someone has to leave.

6. Gibril Wilson. I struggled with this one also. If the evaluation on Wilson had stopped in October, Wilson would probably be gone next season. He missed tackles that cost touchdowns and, arguably, games. But something happened starting Nov. 1. Wilson has not had the same dubious tackling troubles and his coverage has been solid. So it's really quite simple for him: If he plays as he did before Nov. 1, he's gone. If he continues to play as he has been of late, he stays.

7. Patrick Turner. He'll be around for training camp next year because the Dolphins did invest a third-round pick on him. But he should look to example of Murphy, a fourth-round pick in 2008, before he gets too secure in his roster status. He must improve by leaps and bounds by next season because the honeymoon for Dolphins players in Miami can be very short.

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January 14, 2009

Second in series: Grade Ireland, Parcells trades

[This is the second in a series of posts about the Dolphins personnel department. Today we look at the trades Jeff Ireland and Bill Parcells made in 2008. Next: Ireland and Parcells in free agency.]

Let's get this out of the way right away: Jeff Ireland and Bill Parcells did a fantastic job last offseason whenever they got on the phone with other NFL personnel men and agreed to exchange players or draft picks or both.

So, to dispense with the formalities, both get a rousing ovation from the peanut gallery for their trade acumen in 2008. Both deserves an A for their jobs. Both should put in for their raises immediately ... oh, Parcells is about to do that already. Never mind.

But for the sake of the exercise, it must be noted these two men go into this Dolphins offseason with still much to do. So let us recount the trades they made this season and the reasons you should love them to try more trades in the coming months.

The TRADES: There were plenty of them and it began with the raiding of the Dallas Cowboys. Jason Ferguson was acquired for a 2009 sixth-round draft pick and the exchange of the teams' sixth rounders last year. Ferguson rewarded the Dolphins with 13 starts in 15 games and was a good anchor at nose tackle. Yes, he's a stopgap at the position. But the Dolphins didn't have anyone else. They need to address that spot this offseason. A little-known factoid about this trade is the Dolphins used the sixth-round pick from Dallas on Donald Thomas, who earned a starting right guard spot in the season opener before getting injured. The Cowboys used the sixth they got from Miami on linebacker Erick Walden, who they eventually waived. After the Chiefs claimed and then waived Walden, the Dolphins claimed him from the Chiefs. In other words, the Dolphins traded their sixth-round pick this year for Ferguson, Donald Thomas and Erik Walden, who showed promise on Miami's special teams and I think will be a good player down the road.

On April 26, the Dolphins traded a fourth-round pick to Dallas for Anthony Fasano and Akin Ayodele. On that same day, the team got a fourth-round pick from Philadelphia for Lorenzo Booker. The Dolphins essentially traded Booker, a player they had determined would not play a role in the offense, for the team's new starting tight end and a starting inside linebacker. Oh yeah, thumbs up!

On April 27, the Dolphins traded away another fourth-round pick (115 overall) and a seventh-round pick (208 overall) to Chicago in exchange for Chicago's fourth round pick (110 overall). The move put the Dolphins in position to draft guard Shawn Murphy of Utah State. Murphy did not play in any games in 2008, which is a disappointment considering the team eventually resorted to Andy Alleman and Ikechucku Ndukwe as its starters. Unless Murphy gets his act together, this trade will have resulted in no benefit to Miami.

On July 20, with much uncertainty about Jason Taylor's future hovering about, the Dolphins said good-bye to their most decorated player. It was a bittersweet moment for everyone but Bill Parcells who didn't want any unhappy players in the locker room at the start of training camp. Taylor, eager to play for a contender and doubting the Dolphins would contend, wanted out. He got a ticket punched for Washington and was thrilled about that. The Dolphins got a second-round draft pick in the coming draft and a sixth-rounder in 2010.

Taylor started eight games for the Redskins and contributed 3.5 sacks. Before the season was over, he admitted he wasn't worth the $8 million Washington was paying him in salary and he expects to be cut this offseason. Because the Redskins failed to meet Taylor's (or their own) expectations, and finished with an 8-8 record, they will draft 13th in the first round. The Dolphins now own Washington's pick in the second round, which is higher than their own pick in the round. We don't know what that second-round pick will bring, but the trade looks to be tipping in Miami's favor at the moment.

On Aug. 20, the Dolphins pulled the trigger on sending cornerback Travis Daniels to Cleveland for a seventh-round selection. The Dolphins were planning to waive Daniels within 10 days. So they got something for him, albeit only a final round pick this coming draft. Daniels, meanwhile, didn't exactly light things up in Cleveland. He played in seven games and started in one. He had five tackles without an interception or a pass defensed.

Ireland and Parcells made a free agent signing mistake on Josh McCown -- we'll get to that tomorrow. They tried to get out from under that error by trading McCown to the Carolina Panthers on Aug. 27. Miami got a seventh-round pick in exchange for McCown. McCown got in two games but did not throw a pass for the Panthers in 2008. This trade was a save-face move. At least the signing doesn't go down as a total loss.

The ROUNDUP: Can you find one trade that screams major mistake? I cannot. The move to get Murphy made sense at the time. It has not worked out, but is it a major error? Not really. Can you find one trade that suggests the Dolphins lost on the exchange? Again, no. Can you find reasons to think picking up four starters, a 2009 second-round pick, a special teams player, two 2009 seventh-round picks, and a 2010 sixth-round pick for one starter, one backup cornerback, a failed free agent quarterback, and an unproven third-down back is good business?

I can.

The FINAL WORD: The next trade Ireland and Parcells make for the Dolphins that goes awry will be the first trade they make on behalf of the Dolphins that goes awry. And if I'm Jerry Jones and Bill Parcells or Jeff Ireland are calling, I do not pick up the phone.