April 29, 2016

Miami Dolphins pick Xavien Howard in second round

The Miami Dolphins have their much-needed cornerback.

The team has selected Baylor cornerback Xavien Howard, a 6-foot-1, 201-pounder, who runs 4.44 in the 40.

Howard has all the traits the Dolphins want but he comes with questions ... 

"His tape is highly conflicting," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. "It's either really good or really bad. you look at the tape of his game against North Carolina, he couldn't find the football."

H

"They're expecting me to come in and make plays and learn the defense," Howard said.

He said he models his game after Patrick Peterson and Darrelle Revis and described himself as "a physical cornerback."

Howard said he loves to play press. Good, because that's what the Dolphins are going to ask him to do.

By the way, I told you the Dolphins were trying to trade up in the second round. They did exactly that to get Howard, giving up a fourth round pick to Baltimore.

 

Dolphins need more: First round splash not enough

When the first round wound down to the final picks Thursday night, the Miami Dolphins were trying to see about trading back into the round.

It didn't happen.

But it suggests the Dolphins had another player they clearly wanted pretty badly. It clearly suggests the Dolphins wanted to make a huge splash and picking the player rated No. 2 overall on their board -- OG Laremy Tunsil -- despite picking him No. 13 wasn't enough.

And so in a few minutes the Dolphins -- and the rest of the NFL -- returns to the draft. Rounds 2 and 3 are tonight. And it will be interesting to see if the same Dolphins who were trying to trade up into the first round, tries to move from No. 42 overall and 11th in the second round to a higher perch.

The only way you do this is if you have a player you truly covet.

Perhaps the only way you do this is if you're desperate.

Well, the Dolphins covet a handful or three players. And they are desperate to win.

So it will be interesting to see if the team moves up in the second round.

Speaking of desperation ...

The Dolphins need to address defense.

The Dolphins need a cornerback.

The Dolphins need playmakers.

Obviously if Miami is going to move up, it is to address one of those desperate situations.

Follow me on twitter @ArmandoSalguero for real time updates.

Laremy Tunsil presser drama following draft night drama

Miami Dolphins first-round draft pick Laremy Tunsil was scheduled to meet with the South Florida media at 3:30 this afternoon at the team's training facility. He didn't make it.

Tunsil, the No. 13 overall selection in the NFL draft Thursday, suffered "an allergic reaction" while in the building and could not meet with the media, the team said.

The Dolphins do not know what Tunsil suffered his reaction to ...

"We're trying to find that out right now," coach Adam Gase said.

[Update: 90 minutes after missing the presser, the Dolphins rescheduled and came back with Tunsil who seemed none the worse for wear following his episode.]

"He had been in the building a couple of hours and we're trying to find out more right now," executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum said. "As soon as we have more information, we'll share it with you."

[Update: Neither the Dolphins nor Tunsil said what exactly Tunsil was allergic to, but the player said he's had episodes in the past.]

The Dolphins, God bless them, did a next man up kind of thing in making general manager Chris Grier, Tannenbaum and Gase available. Gase and Tannenbaum returned with Tunsil for the second bite at the apple.

"I'm excited to be here," Tunsil said. "It's a blessing to be in the NFL and to be a part of the Miami Dolphins organization."

Tunsil said the past 24 hours, bizarre by any measure, "have been good to me, man. I got drafted in the NFL."

Tunsil refused to answer questions relative to the hacking of his social accounts, the video that went viral in NFL circles of him taking a bong hit through a gas mask, or just about anything else.

"I'm here to talk about the Miami Dolphins," he repeated a couple of times.

Tunsil did say he's appreciative the Dolphins stopped his slide in the draft at No. 13 overall in the first round.

"They gave me a chance and I'm going to show them why I'm the best player in the draft," Tunsil said.

Tannenbaum was asked the team's comfort level with Tunsil being available and not in the NFL drug program starting his career -- not that the program mandates a rookie would start out suspended in the program anyway.

"Our expectations are he'll be ready to go," Tannenbaum said.

Gase was asked where Tunsil is going to play. He didn't say.

"I won't say what we're going to do quite yet," the coach said, holding his cards close to his chest, as he was not wearing a vest.

I've reported Tunsil starts out as a guard.

"Anywhere they put me will be fine, man," Tunsil said before admitting he admires Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith.

The second press conference lasted seven minutes.

Laremy Tunsil: The inside story of Dolphins pick

The Miami Dolphins were sitting in their so-called war room late Thursday evening, watching the NFL draft on television, when Mississippi offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil began to slide.

He was out of the Top 3. And then he was out of the top 5. And when he got passed over at No. 6 by the Baltimore Ravens, suddenly there was a buzz in the room.

"We're sitting there watching the best player in the draft fall and we started talking about this might actually be happening for us," a source I spoke with early Friday morning told me.

And when Tunsil dropped all the way to No. 13 where the Dolphins eventually selected him, the disbelief was as palpable as the satisfaction over what had just happened.

"We're picking 13 and the best player in the draft just fell to us," I was told.

The Dolphins promised weeks ago that No. 13 player in the draft would be a starter for them.

Laremy Tunsil will be the fulfillment of that promise. He is today a starting offensive lineman for the team.

No, he's not going to be a tackle, the position he played at Mississippi. He's going to be a starting guard by the time the 2016 NFL season rolls around. That is assuming both of Miami's tackles stay healthy. And if the worst happens with either Branden Albert at left tackle or Ja'Wuan James at right tackle, then Tunsil will be the candidate to fill the vacancy at either spot.

A true swing tackle who isn't going to let quarterback Ryan Tannehill get killed.

But if disaster does not strike, Tunsil is a guard who will upgrade a position that has begged upgrading for some time.

(Halellujah, the Miami Dolphins addressed the guard position)!

That's the vision the Dolphins have for what happened Thursday evening.

Now, is it a vision with no clouds? No. Of course not.

Tunsil comes with a problematic history and issues that need addressing, as I wrote in my column. There are legitimate reasons Tunsil dropped.

But the Dolphins are aware of these issues and they plan to address them.

The Dolphins tell me Tunsil and all of their rookies are going to get coached up on life skills, dealing with living in Miami, understanding their roles as professionals, all these things adults need to learn. All that in addition to learning the playbook when they show up at the team's Davie, Florida facility.

"The majority of the players coming into the NFL today are far from polished people much less players," a Dolphins source told me.

The team recognizes this. The team will address this.

The expectation is also that Tunsil will come to his new team with "his eyes wide open" because he just got a master's degree on how life can go wrong very fast. Think about it: Thursday morning Laremy Tunsil was expecting to be drafted maybe as high as No. 3 overall.

By Thursday night he had his privacy invaded, his reputation and habits unearthed to public scrutiny, and his earning potential was greatly diminished as a result. If that's not a life lesson for Tunsil, then there is no hope for this kid.

So, yes, there are reasons to doubt this will go right. As the Dolphins told me, "You've seen it go wrong before so you doubt ..."

Heck yes, I doubt, because it is true. I've seen movies like this reach bad endings before.

But this is a new coaching staff. This is a newly revamped personnel department. This is a different player.

The Dolphins, in short, believe this is a new day.

Let's see.

April 28, 2016

Ezekiel Elliot to the Cowboys with the No. 4 pick

The Dallas Cowboys just selected running back Ezekiel Elliott with the No. 4 overall pick in the first round.

And that has repercussions for the Miami Dolphins.

As Elliott was the only offensive player the Dolphins were willing to trade up for in this draft, they are obviously not going to be trading up for an offensive player.

The Dolphins are also unlikely to fill the running back need in the first round now that Elliott is off the board.

So where does that leave the Dolphins?

Jalen Ramsey remains on the boad and he is a cornerback. Myles Jack remains on the board. And the chances the Dolphins trade up to, say, No. 8 overall to grab a player is all but gone.

So do the Dolphins jump higher to pick Ramsey? That question will have an answer soon enough.

[Update: The Jacksonville Jaguars get Ramsey. He stays within the state.]

 

 

Whispers, rumors, smokescreens all here (free)

As we get ready for the start of the 2016 NFL draft, I want to share with you the talk going around that I've heard today from various sources. Now, please understand, some of these people have agendas and they say things they obviously want out there.

So please take everything with a grain of salt.

This post is unlike any other that ever appears in this space in that some of these items cannot be independently verified, with men in war rooms or personnel departments not answering texts or answering with, again, certain agendas.

I am, nonetheless, going to share it with you because you love stuff like this if for no other reason than you love draft talk and speculation...

  1. Myles Jack to the Dolphins. Keep hearing it over and over from different people.
  2. I'm hearing the Dolphins are still open to a trade but a gigantic move up to No. 3-4 is going to be nearly impossible. There had been multiple "reports" the Dolphins wanted to get back to the top 10 after trading out of the top 10 earlier this offseason. Obviously, everyone has heard rumors the Dolphins might try to push back up to No. 8 overall where Cleveland is scheduled to pick if certain players are available there -- most likely for running back Ezekiel Elliott. That is a strong possibility. But when it comes to a move into the top 5, that's when the price becomes too prohibitive. The Dolphins, by the way, are not confirming or denying anything. "Not one player away," one source texted when I asked about flying back up the board to the top 5. "We're going to let the draft come to us," another source said cryptically. And so if you're expecting the rocket launch to No. 3 to pick Jalen Ramsey of FSU, that will require so many resources it will be practically impossible. This also means the Dolphins jumping up to No. 4 to pick Ezekiel Elliott or Ramsey is similarly an emptying of the treasure chest the Dolphins think is prohibitive. But again, going to No. 8 is a different story. So stay tuned.
  3. Back to Jack ... The Dolphins have not taken the UCLA linebacker off their board today despite the fact the player told the New York Post he might eventually need microfracture surgery. Indeed, the Dolphins really like Myles Jack, injury notwithstanding.
  4. Several teams have been scrambling today to do extra work on Jack. He didn't help himself when he opened his mouth, folks. He might have actually hurt his status to the point he might be available when the Dolphins are scheduled to pick at No. 13.
  5. Names that we have not heard closely tied to the Dolphins that might surprise because they might end up with the Dolphins: Myles Jack. Clemson's Shaq Lawson. Georgia's Leonard Floyd.
  6. If the Dolphins trade down from No. 13 or stay put, the cornerbacks come into play. William Jackson III and Eli Apple are still names circulating.
  7. Su'a Cravens is a possibility in the second round. I suppose it depends on how serious the Dolphins' concern about the seriousness of the Reshad Jones holdout. I remind you Jones stayed away from offseason workouts three years ago before he signed his current deal and then came in when the team promised to work with him. Maybe this is a repeat of that which would mean it is not a serious worry.
  8. The Dolphins did a lot of grinding on University of Miami cornerback Artie Burns. I asked if the team sees him as an immediate starter as a rookie. "No," was the answer.
  9. Remember Alabama's Reggie Ragland? A couple of months ago, there was major buzz about the possibility of Miami drafting him because, well, he's pretty good. The Dolphins still like him but that would require moving Kiko Alonso from the middle to strong side linebacker.    

Myles Jack admits he might need microfracture surgery

One of the big unknowns of this NFL draft has been the status of Myles Jack's knee.

There have been reports his knee, repaired for a torn meniscus late last year, is "a ticking time bomb." There has been pushback from the Jack camp that he's perfectly fine and has been working out for teams. And there is a lingering belief he is going to drop in the draft based on the different opinions different teams have about his status.

But Wednesday Jack seemingly hurt himself when discussing the topic with Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post. Jack admitted he has degenerative problems in his knee and microfracture surgery could be in his future.

"[The degenerative problems are] there, but it's nothing extreme," Jack said. "Down the line, possibly I could have microfracture surgery potentially. Who knows what will happen? Nobody knows how long anybody is going to play in this league. To play three years in this league would be above average."

Whaaaat?

That seems like a game-changer to me. Jack, if healthy, is a top 5 pick. He's a sideline to sideline transformational talent at linebacker. But he obviously has long-term health issues tied to his knee and he admits as much.

The sound you're hearing is Jack dropping in the draft.

Microfracture surgery is fairly common to repair cartilage that helps cushion the bones where they meet at the joint. It is painful. It takes up to 10 months to recover from. The repaired cartilage is never as strong as the original. The knee often becomes more stiff.

And this: Athletes rarely regain the same level of ability after the surgery.

Basically, this is how it was with reconstructive surgery in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Dolphins, who have the No. 13 selection in the first round, like Jack. They have had discussions about him and even discussed what they might do in a scenario to trade up for him. But they would prefer to have to make a decision on Jack if he's there at No. 13.

After what he said today, he just might be there at No. 13.

Draft day is here: Miami Dolphins looking defense

Welcome to the 2016 NFL draft.

By the end of this weekend we'll have a good idea whether the Miami Dolphins have a chance to be a solid team in the coming season or not. That's right, it is that important.

Why?

Because the Dolphins have numerous and obvious needs. And although they may push back against this truth with talk of "We've got players on the roster you know nothing about that can offer solutions" I simply don't buy any of that public relations.

(Just like I didn't buy the "Our guards are good enough" narrative we heard from the team last year before the guards failed).

(Or the "coaching staff really does have the pulse of the locker room so relax because we know more football than you" narrative of the past four years).

(Or the "new quarterback who will start this year is good enough" narrative we heard for a dozen years before that).

This year so far, I'm hearing too many people be really excited about the team's current crop of cornerbacks. And that is why I explain in my Miami Herald column today why the Dolphins must draft a starting cornerback by the time this draft is over. I believe that excitement is either contrived or misplaced.

Look, the Dolphins have only one starting cornerback right now. You need three. If two don't show up somehow the season is doomed already.

I'm not kidding, folks.

I'm not exaggerating.

I've never been so sure of anything in all my days of covering this team. The Dolphins must land a starting cornerback in this draft and if they don't, the patchwork of talent they have as Plan B will only serve as fodder for failure throughout the regular season. Mark my words.

And while I'm on this subject...The Dolphins are not just a cornerback needy team. They are a cornerback(S) needy team. That makes me wonder why the team cut Brice McCain. The roster move came and went without much commentary from me because there were other things afoot -- such as the departure of general manager Dennis Hickey, the hiring of new GM Chris Grier, the coaching search that eventually landed Adam Gase, and then all the big news that followed that.

Brice McCain got cut and no one seemed to notice.

I'm noticing now.

Why did this happen?

Look, McCain wasn't great last year. We know that. But how much of that was his fault? It is a legitimate question because he signed a 2-year, $5.5 million deal to be Miami's slot cornerback. And the Miami corners were so bad last year, it wasn't long before the coaching staff was offering McCain a chance to start outside. And being a competitor, that's what McCain did.

And being out of position, McCain was overmatched and struggled.

And that got him cut?

It was as if he was being blamed for stepping in to a hopeless situation and failing. He did a good deed and it did not go unpunished.

Brice McCain on this team now would be Miami's best slot cornerback. And, yes, yes, I know Bobby McCain can develop and last year showed promise. Great. So you simply award him the starting job? That's how it goes?

Or do you ask him to compete against a wiley veteran who has attitude and a past history of success?

Now, if McCain had been a big cap savings, then I get it his release. He wasn't.

So what was it? I think I know, but the whispers I've heard (having nothing to do with the player) have to be further developed and confirmed to be printed. I'm old school like that.

Moving on ...

The Dolphins need a cornerback or two. Did I mention that?

Now, there are a couple of scenarios that might prevent the team from picking a cornerback such as Eli Apple (guy I like) or William Jackson III in the first round. That scenario involves the availability of UCLA linebacker Myles Jack.

If Jack is there at No. 13, do the Dolphins cast aside the bigger need -- cornerback -- and pick the better player who is a linebacker? The team has said it will not draft for need. It will draft the so-called best available player. That, by the way, is why the Dolphins drafted defensive Jordan Phillips last season despite having paid (overpaid, from my vantage point) Ndamukong Suh in free agency. Suh is also a defensive tackle.

So the Dolphins didn't have an existential need at defensive tackle but went there anyway because Phillips was the highest rated player on their board.

Following that history, if Jack is there, I assume he gets picked ahead of a player who fills the more pressing CB need because he'd ostensibly be the higher rated player.

But what if Jack isn't quite there? What if he's at No. 11ish in the first round? Do the Dolphins give up a later-round pick to move up a few slots and pick Jack? Depends on the price. Depends on their intel on Jack's knee and comfort level with that intel. But will they consider it? You bet.

And what cornerbacks figure later on if the Dolphins cannot land one in the first round?

I like Kendall Fuller of Virginia Tech. Jalen Mills of LSU might be a solid choice in the third or fourth round. Mississippi State's Tavese Calhoun is on the Miami radar late in the draft -- although he's not starter material at this point. The Dolphins did a lot of digging on Miami's Artie Burns. I get it, he's 6-foot and has speed and athletic explosion. But he's a project to me to pick anytime before the fourth round. And he'll be gone before the fourth round, if you believe all the experts.

The Dolphins will be looking at defensive end this draft, too.

The Dolphins will be looking at running back.

Maybe they'll finally be shamed into picking a good guard.

This team has a lot of needs. Cornerback, in my humble know-nothing opinion, is the biggest one of them all. 

April 27, 2016

Miami Dolphins RB Jay Ayayi trimming down to speed up

Despite the constant speculation that the NFL draft (starting at 8 p.m. Thursday) bringing to the Miami Dolphins a starting running back, the people on the field at the facility Wednesday were talking, acting, as if the team has its starter.

Jay Ajayi.

And Ajayi, about to embark on his second season, is working as the starter now and Dolphins coach Adam Gase is comfortable with that.

"I've just been pushing myself throughout this offseason to have a great sophomore season," Ajayi said. "I was able to get a lot of opportunities last year when I finally started playing and I felt comfortable. And now I'm ready to elevate my game to a new level this season."

There really are only one or two running backs the Dolphins could add this draft that might displace Ajayi from the starting job immediately. Yes, Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott is chief among them. But a running back picked in later rounds won't get that sort of instant anointing. He'd have to come in behind Ajayi and beat him out if he could.

"I'm not worried about that stuff, that's out of my control," Ajayi said. "I can only control my mentality every day, my work ethic and that's what I'm going to do."

To prevent that, Ajayi says he's trying to become a "shiftier" back. He said he played at 228-230 pounds last year and this year wants to be at 218-222.

"I want to be able to be quicker, shiftier," Ajayi said. "doing the work so that I can put my foot in the ground, make a cut and get up the field. I'm trying to prepare myself mentally to take that role as the starter and I think I've been doing a great job so far. It's just about constantly progressing all the way up to the season."

Practice Notes:

*Center Mike Pouncey (illness) did not practice today during the voluntary veteran's minicamp. He joined Ndamukong Suh (working out or whatever in Portland), Reshad Jones (contract issue), Koa Misi (illness), and Mario Williams (personal family issue) missing practice Wednesday.

*Defensive end Cameron Wake (Achilles) was on the field but did not participate in drills as he continues to rehab from his October 2015 surgery.

*It was another excellent day for receiver Jarvis Landry. He's good, The Miami Herald has learned.

*Quarterback Ryan Tannehill said his wife and he are expecting the birth of their first child in July, before training camp.

April 26, 2016

Voluntary veteran minicamp Day 1 in the books: Drama already

Let me get this out of the way right now: New Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said before today's first practice of the voluntary veteran minicamp he "talked smack" to the defense.

Standing ovation, everyone.

Love this already.

After four years of dealing with a head coach who sometimes got "queasy," this is a welcome change in approach. Gase spent the entire practice talking into his walkie-talkie and the reason for that is to have "the quarterbacks get used to hearing my voice."

Smart.

Yes, folks, I like this guy.

Plus he's undefeated, which helps. But the truth is if a team takes on the personality of a coach (and it does), I believe the personality of this team will be more vibrant and confident. I believe a word you'll hear a lot is swagger.

No need to remind you the personality of the team in recent years was sleepy, lacking energy and needing urgency. It was a reason the team often had trouble starting games.

Moving on ...

Gase said everyone gets a clean slate with him and his staff. If a player had a reputation for being "lazy," he could come to work, give everything he has, and the new staff wouldn't hold the past against him.

That's good. Except that people don't often change personalities and habits just because a new man is occupying the nicest office in the building. And so that leads me to Ndamukong Suh.

He was not present for the first day of voluntary minicamp. And Gase is refusing to complain about it. But Suh, as The Miami Herald's Adam Beasley is reporting, has rarely been present for offseason conditioning before this camp. He showed up the first day and not much after that. Same as last year. 

And none of this suggests Suh will be out of shape or not prepared when he shows up for the mandatory camp in June or training camp in July. On the contrary, Suh will probably be among the players most prepared and in the best shape.

But this is more about optics and leadership than muscles built and conditioning honed this offseason.

Suh is the highest-paid player on the team. Whether he likes it or not, other guys watch him. Other guys, particularly younger players, pattern themselves after him. And remember last year, Suh told his teammates in a meeting, "This is my defense."

So he accepted the mantle of leadership when he signed that $114 million deal last spring. And if there was any mistake about that, he held that mantle aloft for everyone on the team to understand when he spoke those words in that meeting. 

And it simply looks bad for the organization, the coaches, the locker room, that this "leader" is choosing to lead by staying the heck away from this camp.

For the record, Gase is publicly taking this in stride. He says he learned long ago not to be upset about players not showing up to voluntary camps. Privately? I can't imagine the guy who talks smack to a defense is thrilled his highest paid player is in Portland, Oregon today when the rest of the team is in Davie, Florida.

About that team:

*Defensive end Andre Branch said he's taking first-team snaps at defensive end in place of Cameron Wake.

Wake did not take any team drills and might for some time. Gase said the goal is to have Wake ready for training camp.

*Tony Lippett said he was pleased he's being given the opportunity to win a starting cornerback job opposite Byron Maxwell. But getting snaps with the starters has its drawbacks as we saw when receiver DeVante Parker took Lippett deep on a nine route. QB Ryan Tannehill placed the ball perfectly to Parker, yes, in stride. Touchdown.

Bobby McCain, getting his shot at slot corner, was good at times and not so much in others today. Jarvis Landry is a tough cover when he lines up in the slot, folks.

*You know that Reshard Jones is planning to hold out this entire offseason if he doesn't get a new contract. Well, Michael Thomas said he worked with the first team defense at safety in Jones's absence.  Issa Abdul-Quddus is the other safety.

*Mario Williams missed today for a personal reason. Linebacker Koa Misi was reportedly sick today and did not practice, either.

*The Miami offensive line is shuffling in Kraig Urbik, Billy Turner, and Dallas Thomas at guard.

*Not working today due to injuries: Jermon Bushrod and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.

 

Reshad Jones plans to sit out offseason

Miami Dolphins Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones, perhaps the best defensive player on the team in 2015, is sitting out today's voluntary veteran minicamp and will not report to any activity this offseason unless he gets a contract extension, a source tells The Miami Herald.

Jones was one of several players who did not attend today's practice. Ndamukong Suh, Mario Williams, Koa Misi were also not present. But Jones's reason for not attending seems different from the others.

"Reshad is the most productive safety in the NFL right now," the source close to Jones said. "And so what he wants is to be paid like it. He wants some security."

The source said Jones will not attend the team's mandatory minicamp in June nor will he be part of the offseason conditioning program. It is unclear if he will decline reporting to training camp in July and risk daily fines for that.

The Dolphins have told Jones and his agent Joel Segal they plan to extend Jones. He is a cornerstone of their defense, they have said. But Jones has two years (2016 and 2017) remaining on his contract so the team might not want to do an extension until next season.

Jones wants an extension this season. The team and the player's representatives have had no substantive conversation about an extension this season as yet.

Jones averages $7.03 million per season on his current contract and that average is seventh-highest average among safeties, according to Spotrac.com. He averages highest among strong safeties. He is scheduled to make $7.225 million in 2016 and $7.06 million in 2017. 

Jones obviously wants to be among the highest paid safeties overall.

Look, Reshad Jones signed a contract in 2014. I get it. But just as teams change their minds and cut players before their deals are fully expired, players have the right to do the same thing.

Jones actually outperformed his deal last season and expects to do so again this year. So he's making a stand.

Miami Dolphins (sort of voluntary) veterans minicamp starts Tuesday

Welcome to the opening of Miami Dolphins veterans mini-camp today. New coach Adam Gase is hoping as many players as possible report for a voluntary camp that will run through Thursday.

The team has been in its offseason strength and conditioning program for weeks and that has included some onfield work. This will be significant onfield work. As in non-contact practices.

But because it is voluntary, it's impossible to know if some vets will be absent or not. (Note to Dolphins vets: You have a new coach. You have a new coaching staff. The slate is pretty much clean. Don't muck it up by skipping the new coach's first camp, you know? Probably not a wise career move).

So I would expect close to 100 percent participation.

It will be interesting to see, however, if everyone present is able to practice. I'm speaking specifically about defensive end Cameron Wake, who is only six months removed from surgery to repair a torn Achilles' tendon.

My guess is he won't be practicing because... 1. He's six months removed from surgery and 2. Why put him out there even if he can walk without a limp (which he can) and jog (which he can). Why risk a setback to a 34-year-old veteran with nothing to prove over a spring voluntary camp?

So Wake working is unlikely.

We shall be seeing the first look at Gase running his own practices. He's not the offensive coordinator anymore. Well, he will be calling the plays so he kind of is the offensive coordinator in a way, but he's got to pay attention to the defense as well. So it will be interesting to note how he splits his time.

It will also be interesting to see what the new-look Dolphins work on at this point. Are they going to look more like the 2014 Denver Broncos or 2015 Chicago Bears on offense? Is the defense going to take on the look of the Cincinnati Bengals -- where defensive coordinator Vance Joseph was the defensive backs coach last year?

And we're going to get an early feel for how the Dolphins are handling those troubling cornerback spots they tried to tell us last week wasn't a problem.

Byron Maxwell is one starting cornerback for sure. Who are the other two working with the first-team? Yes, two. This is the NFL and NFL teams are sub packages 65-70 percent of the downs. That means three corners at a minimum on the field.

The festivities start at 11:05 a.m.

Interviews with defensive players will follow.

Speaking of following, follow me on twittah (as they say in England) for real time updates. @ArmandoSalguero.

I might have a couple of surprises for you.

 

April 25, 2016

Miami Dolphins might trade back up for at least two players

There are at least two players the Miami Dolphins will consider trading up for in the NFL draft later this week, per multiple sources -- Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott and UCLA linebacker Myles Jack.

The Dolphins would love if either or both Myles and/or Elliott are available when they pick at No. 13 overall. But the chances of this happening are against the Dolphins because both players are coveted by teams scheduled to draft ahead of Miami. So the Dolphins are apparently studying scenarios where they might move up to select one of the players.

 

And this is interesting for multiple reasons ...

Firstly, you'll recall the Dolphins traded down from No. 8 overall weeks ago. They exchanged picks with the Philadelphia Eagles, who originally held the No. 13 pick, in exchange for cornerback Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso.

And in explaining their reasoning for that trade, the Dolphins said they did a study on the situation and decided moving down would net them three starters -- the two veterans from Philadelphia plus the player selected at No. 13 overall.

Fine.

But it seems now the team believes Myles and Elliott might present such an opportunity as to merit giving up extra resources in exchange for the chance to move up again. If that happens, the formula for Miami getting three starters (because either Ezekiel or Jack would be instant starters) would be moving down five spots, plus giving up whatever assets a trade would cost in exchange for three players.

Consider that moving from No. 13 overall into the top 10 is expensive. The move from No. 13 to No. 10 costs 150 points, according to the trade value chart. That means the Dolphins would have to give up a fourth-round pick and other assets or perhaps even a third-round pick (accepting a deficit or getting another later pick back) to make that modest three-spot climb.

That possibility doesn't seem to bother the Dolphins philosophically.

I asked executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum about that philosophy during the team's NFL mandated pre-draft presser. I asked if the initial studies the team did on moving down wouldn't be proven to be wrong if the team finds a compelling need to now climb back up in the first round?

"No," Tannenbaum yelled at me angrily.

(Not really. He didn't yell at all. He's in a great mood these days because this is his Super Bowl.)

"It just means that a new set of opportunities present itself and the price and the risk was reasonable," Tannenbaum added. "But I’m not sitting here saying that’s what we are going to do. I feel great that Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso are in the building and they’ve been great and they are two players that we project will play meaningful roles for us. We’re going with eight draft choices, two players that we’ve already added, and we’ll just make those best decisions when they are presented. I’ve been around long enough to hear trades that I would have never dreamed of, even going up or back, because people’s perceived values will always be different than ours."

Obviously, Tannenbaum is not going to confirm or deny anything at this point. And of course he's not sitting there saying that's what he's going to do because that would make him the most transparent (and dumb) personnel man in the NFL. But the Dolphins have said repeatedly they would be willing to move up or down in this draft -- as all teams generally do.

The other question: Why Jack or Elliott?

What makes them so special that Miami might be tempted to move again when a good player is likely to be there at No. 13 when the team picks?

Because, if one believes scouts and others, these two have a chance to be transformational players. And despite this chance, circumstances might let them drop beyond where they might ordinarily be valued.

The circumstances for Jack are understandable. He is coming off a knee injury that required surgery last December. And the recovery from that surgery has been shrouded in questions -- mostly from anonymous sources. There is one report that some teams have taken Myles off their board because his knee might not hold up beyond a handful of years.

There are competing reports that say Jack checked out at the Indianapolis Combine medical re-check and he has run and worked out for numerous teams. The Herald's Barry Jackson noted recently what I have been hearing for quite some time and that is Jack worked out for the Dolphins privately.

So there is acute interest.

The Dolphins also have interest in Elliott in that they need a starting running back. Elliott is considered the best back in this draft. The team brought him in on one of their 30 visits. And although he probably doesn't rise to Todd Gurley potential, he is healthy and can nonetheless be an upgrade over Lamar Miller, who signed with Houston this offseason as an unrestricted free agent.

“He’s a good player," general manager Chris Grier said. "He’s a good football player. There are a lot of good football players in this draft. I know you guys all know he came in here to visit. He’s a good kid, so we enjoyed spending time with him. There are a lot of good players in this draft, and he’s one of them."

So why might Ezekiel be available in the general neighborhood where the Dolphins might pick if they trade up some?

He's a running back. And many teams devalue running backs or simply have greater needs they need to fill early. That might allow Ezekiel to fall a little bit. And that might cause the Dolphins to reach up to get him.

Why not

Appeals court reinstates Tom Brady suspension

The Miami Dolphins may have caught a scheduling break this morning.

The United States Appeals court in a 2-1 decision reinstated the four-game #Deflategate suspension of New Patriots quarterback Tom Brady this morning, according to Reuters and other reports.

What does that mean?

It means if the suspension stands -- and right now it is legally binding -- then the New England quarterback will miss the first four games of the 2016 season.

He will miss the opener against Arizona.

The second week against the Dolphins.

The third week against the Texans.

And the four week against the Bills.

The 33-page ruling reads, in part, "We hold that the Commissioner properly exercised his broad 20 discretion under the collective bargaining agreement and that his 21 procedural rulings were properly grounded in that agreement and 22 did not deprive Brady of fundamental fairness. Accordingly, we 23 REVERSE the judgment of the district court and REMAND with 24 instructions to confirm the award."

Interestingly, Chief Judge Katzman sided with Brady but was outvoted by two colleagues.

So Brady is now scheduled to play the Dolphins only once this season. And he would miss the Dolphins trip to New England on Sept. 18. Brady can appeal to the United States Supreme Court. Even if he does so, it is no incumbent upon SCOTUS to take up the case.

The suspension, obviously, is good news for the Dolphins defense.

Moreover, Brady would miss two division games. That has repercussions in Miami's favor as well. It obviously also has repercussions for the three other AFC East teams.

The Dolphins had no immediate reaction to the news. The Bills were a bit more transparent. They tweeted:

 

The Patriots have won 12 of the last 13 AFC East titles. The one title they didn't win? In 2008.

When Brady missed all but one game with a knee injury. 

April 22, 2016

EVERYTHING the Miami Dolphins said today about the NFL draft

The NFL mandates every team have a pre-draft press conference. And the reality of a competitive environment that pits teams so closely matched mandates these pressers include no actual information.

And in that regard, the Miami Dolphins won the presser today!

There was no actual information today from Chris Grier and Mike Tannenbaum. And I don't blame them. They don't want to give anything away. They said things today that made no sense. They didn't lie, per se. But they certainly didn't wrap themselves in the full disclosure of truth.

All good.

Having said that, I ate it up. And I know you'll eat it up. Because we like to read between lines and glean gold nuggets out of dirty, mines filled mostly with worthless rocks.

So here is the full presser in all of its glory.

Enjoy:

Mike Tannenbaum:

(Opening Statement) – “Hello everybody. Thanks for coming. I just want to start today by acknowledging something. We recently lost a member of our family. Neville Hall, who was known as known as Mr. Neville, was a valued member of our organization who recently passed away. Neville worked at our facility for the last 12 years. He had an incredible smile, great attitude and big heart and he will be greatly missed by all of us. I just want to turn attention now to our roster. We really feel good about where we are (and) the energy in the building. We’re really happy with the offseason program that started. It’s voluntary but we’ve been really pleased with the attendance thus far. Currently we have 78 players on our roster, 24 of which are new, which is approximately a third of our roster. Our average age is about 25.6 years old. We also have 16 new coaches on our staff. While we’re please where we are, we feel like we have a lot more work to do and next week is the next opportunity for us to add a few young players to our roster. In terms of the dynamic with Chris (Grier), Adam (Gase) and I, it has been terrific. We’ve worked together since January and again there’s great energy in the building. We got a small glimpse of that, we had a local day – Miami Day – and to see the new staff out there was great. I’m really excited to see them start working with our players next week (at) next week’s minicamp. Chris (Grier) has done a tremendous job. (Chris) and his staff have worked incredibly hard and importantly they’ve worked hand in hand with our coaching staff to identify the needs and the fits for our organization to make sure the players fit the scheme that we’re trying to build on in all three phases. So I really tip my cap to Chris (Grier) and his entire staff. They’ve done a great job. So again, we see next week as the next opportunity for us to add players and Chris (Grier) is going to tell us who we are going to pick next week. (Laughter)”

Chris Grier:

(Opening Statement) – “Thanks, Mike. First, I’d like to wish continued success in the playoffs to the (Miami) Heat and (Florida) Panthers organization. It’s an exciting time to be a South Florida sports fan. You guys know I follow hockey. So it’s good to see hockey getting back on the radar down here a little bit. Echoing what Mike (Tannenbaum) said, I’m excited for the draft because our process has been outstanding in terms of communication with the coaches and our player personnel staff. From day one, the discussions, the collaborations and the debates have been outstanding. It’s been a pleasure to work with Coach (Adam) Gase and his staff from day one, when we all got together in early February for the first time, and they laid out the foundation for what they were looking for and our guys have done a great job of doing that. Coach Gase, (Defensive Coordinator) Vance Joseph, (Offensive Coordinator) Clyde Christensen and (Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator) Darren Rizzi have done a great job communicating what they want our team to look like – in terms of every position from speed, height (and) weight. You guys are going to ask some questions here in the future, as we get going, on what we are looking for. We have what we like, but again you have to be flexible in terms of the types of players that we want. The scouts have worked tirelessly throughout the Combine, Pro Days and over meetings to identify the prospects that we like for the Dolphins. I’d like the thank Chase Leshin, our Player Personnel Coordinator, for all of the work that he has done behind the scenes, from Miami Day to the Combine, organizing all of our lists and everything. He’s an asset to our organization. And I’d like to thank (Director of Analytics) Dennis Lock and (Football Analyst) Tom Pasquali for their analytics contributions, as well. Overall, it has been a good, thorough process. I’ve enjoyed working with Mike and the coaches, and I feel we are very prepared for the draft next week. Any questions?”

Chris Grier:

(On if the Dolphins have zeroed in on a position that they will take in the first round) – “No. I said right now we’re going to take the best player for the Miami Dolphins. There are a lot of good players in this draft. A lot of prospects will be there. We’re picking 13th, so we will just follow our board and let the process play out.

Mike Tannenbaum:

“And really our thing here has been, we are coming off a 6-10 season and all through the offseason we feel like we’re not one player away. So there are a number of things we’d like to accomplish at the draft and we’ll see how the board falls to us."

(On how far in advance they are in contact with other teams regarding trades) -- “Yeah, some of those foundations are laid days before. Typically we’ll reach out to teams just to have preliminary conversations, but sometimes the phone rings out of the blue or there’s a strong conviction for us to make a move. You have some preliminary conversations but by and large, at this point, you have to see how things unfold.”

(On if there has been any update or indication from the NFL about the status of DE Dion Jordan) -- “(There are) no updates on Dion. He’s not on our active roster. He’s still on that reserve list and if something changes again we’ll let you know.”

(On if he knows if Jordan has applied for reinstatement) – “I don’t. I don’t know where things stand. That’s something that you’d have to check with him or his representative.”

(On if they are more likely to trade down and stockpile picks since they are not one player away) – “As Chris (Grier) alluded to, we are going to let the board dictate that for us. If there’s a player we have a strong feeling on, it’ll be hard to move back; but yeah, if the phone rings, we’ll evaluate that opportunity.”

Chris Grier:

(On if one of their draft picks needs to be a cornerback) -- “No, I would say really, you just have to trust your process and working through the board and how you rank them. The story I always tell is that my dad was in Houston with the Texans, and a defensive end wasn’t a great need but they took DE J.J. Watt. They got booed mercilessly (for taking him). But would you pass on J.J. Watt if he was there, knowing that it was maybe a need that people perceived? We are confident that we can go out and play with who we have on our roster right now. I would just say our board will dictate who we’ll take at that pick.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

(On if there is much interest in free agent CB Josh Norman) – “Anytime a free agent becomes available, we’ll look into it and we’ll make the best decision for us. We have nothing imminent with any player right now.”

Chris Grier:

(On whether they are looking for a different cornerback prototype compared to previous years) – “We always take the best player. At the end of the day, every staff really has what they’re looking for in terms of prototypes, etc. You also have to be flexible. If a guy is an exceptional player and an exceptional athlete at that position, maybe you’ll make the exception and take that player. Really, it’ll be whoever the best player on the board is at that time.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

(On how the change in coaching staff affects their draft approach) – “Again, philosophically, I just believe our job is to serve the coaches. As Chris (Grier) alluded to, to have sustained success, you have to have a really good idea of what each scheme is looking for. And then within reason, we have to do the best job we can each year to try to get those players to look perfectly. Now, candidly on opening day, in a salary cap system, is every person going to look identical to what we’d like in a perfect world? Odds are probably not, but we believe in the staff to maximize the strength of each player. They’ve been really fun to be around and to listen to them, to hear them problem solve. So, we’ll keep working hard. We had a guy in DT Chris Jones last week that Vance (Joseph) knew from Houston. Sometimes those (players) aren’t household names, but DT Chris Jones may make a play in the fall that could be meaningful and that’s the part that … Our approach is anytime we have a chance to improve the roster, we will.”

Chris Grier:

(On whether this year’s draft preparation differs with a new coaching staff) – “I would just say that every coaching staff has been thorough in detailing what they want. With this staff – with Coach (Adam) Gase from Day 1 – they came in, they told us (what they were looking for). Vance (Joseph) is a tremendous communicator. Obviously, Adam knows what he wants on offense, and Coach (Darren) Rizzi, as you know, has been here for a while. He’s one of the best special teams coaches in the league. So, they’ve been very clear and direct, and it has been an easy process for our scouts.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

(On who will be the starting cornerbacks in addition to CB Byron Maxwell) – “Ultimately, Coach (Adam) Gase and Coach (Vance) Joseph will decide who will play, but we have guys that have played meaningful snaps. CB Jamar Taylor has played a lot of snaps in this league. CB Tony Lippett is a player we’re encouraged by. (CB Tyler) Patmon has played. Are they all household names? No. And again, we feel like we’re more than one player away. We want to take the best player, and that could be a position we add to. But again, there are players in this building that we feel good about. That’s why they’re here. They’re working hard. Over the course of the season, those players will play. You need depth at that position given the fact that teams are passing the ball more and more.”

Chris Grier:

(On whether they are comfortable at the running back position) – “I think we’re comfortable. I think (with) Coach (Adam) Gase’s history of what he has done with running backs, these guys all fit what he’s looking for in terms of their skillsets. But again, we’ll take any opportunity we can to add at any position if it’s a good football player.”

(On whether trading up in the draft is outside the realm of possibility at this point) – “All options are on the table for us. I wouldn’t rule anything out.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

(On how many “players away” the team is) – “We’ll answer that a week from Monday. (Laughter) Look, every team is (players) away. You can start with Denver. They’re the defending champions. For us, I think it’s a tireless commitment to constantly improve the team. Again, the part that’s exciting for us is we’re going to add a whole bunch of players next week, and hopefully they’re going to help. But a lot of the improvement on our team in 2016 is going to come from within. To me, that’s always the most invigorating part of the process, because you get to see the (Head Strength and Conditioning Coach) Dave Pulokas and the (Sports Performance Director) Wayne Diesels impact our players as much as our position coaches. We’ll have to go prove it in the fall, but I think we’re all very optimistic about where we’re headed, and I couldn’t put a number on how many players we need.”

Chris Grier:

(On the offensive line’s depth) – “I think we feel good about it. We added (OL Jermon) Bushrod and T Sam Young and some other pieces (so) that we feel good (with) where we are right now. Again, (I) don’t want to sound like a broken record, but if there’s a good player at that position, we’ll take them. But we feel good (about) what we added in the free agency process.”

(On RB Ezekiel Elliot) – “He’s a good player. He’s a good football player. There are a lot of good football players in this draft. I know you guys all know he came in here to visit. He’s a good kid, so we enjoyed spending time with him. There are a lot of good players in this draft, and he’s one of them.”

(On whether there is anything they learned from RB Ezekiel Elliot’s visit) – “It’s like with all (of) the visits – that and from the combine visits. And our scouts have done a lot of visits with players offsite, at campuses, at their school. (We are) trying to get a feel for the kid and the person just in terms of if they’re made up of what you want in your organization.”

(On the prototype of the player they want to acquire in the draft) – “Really, you just want guys that are competitive, that love football, have passion for the game, are football smart and are driven to succeed. Coaches can’t always push guys. You want guys who are going to push themselves and basically just love to compete. It’s what we’ve talked about from Day 1, just bringing competitive players (in that) we love, that love football.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

“Just taking that a step further, we’re incredibly fortunate that (Chairman of the Board/Managing General Partner) Steve Ross has given us so many resources that other teams don’t have. For us (with) that axiom of, ‘The tape sets the floor and character sets the ceiling,’ we want guys that want to be here and take advantage of all these resources that we have to make them feel better, play better, become more flexible, become stronger, become more explosive. So, I think it’s up to us. And again, I think Chris (Grier) and his entire staff has done a great job of … They’re going to come at different shapes, sizes and backgrounds – four-year players, players that have come out early – but do they love football? Do they want to be in the building? Do they want to avail themselves to be as good as they could be? That’s really what a big part of our process is and how they handle adversity, because things in pro football never go perfectly. But that’s really important to us, because again, you’re never going to have the perfect player at every position. But if they can maximize their ability, that’s going to give us the best chance year-to-year to win.”

(On how the draft process will work among the staff) – “Chris (Grier) is running the draft. Chris has put a grade on every player, and we’ve already hashed out where we want to go with things for the most part. We have some more tweaking to do, but we’re really going to let the board dictate, and that has really been based on the final grade that Chris has put on each player.”

Chris Grier:

(On if General Manager Chris Grier will be on the phone with other teams) – “Yeah.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

(On the margin for error with this draft) – “It’s really important. Every draft is important. You want to come out of the draft every year with three, four or five players, because – on the other end – you’re going to lose three, four or five players, because you can’t keep everybody in a salary cap system. You constantly have to manage your indoor and your outdoor. That’s why adding players like OL Jermon Bushrod or S Isa (Abdul-Quddus) … All those guys we’ve added is just part of the narrative. Again, Chris Jones may impact us more than a fifth rounder. I’m not saying he is (going to), but that’s why we’re constantly looking at where they are in contracts (and) what our expectations are. But obviously, the draft and the cost certainty you get – starting with possibly five years in the first round – it’s critical to have sustainability. It’s really hard to win if you don’t hit on a number of picks each year.”

Chris Grier:

(On if the coaches have emphasized certain characteristics they want in prospects more than previous coaching staffs) – “No, I think every staff has always been pretty self-explanatory in what they want and what they are looking for – height, weight, speed, what positions, etc. in terms of makeup and character. So no, this staff, again, they’ve done a great job. I’ve said they’ve hit it 100 miles per hour right from the start. Again, I just have tremendous respect working with Coach (Adam) Gase, Coach (Vance) Joseph and Clyde Christensen. Those are guys that I didn’t know before but I had heard people say great things. Just watching them work every day has really been exciting.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

(On if there was a philosophical change to approach this offseason focused on value) – “Yeah, I think going back to when Chris (Grier) joined the senior management team, talking with Steve (Ross) – and then Chris, Steve, myself, and when we brought Adam (Gase) on board – we’re trying to build something long term and sustainable. Again, we want to be measured and take advantage of opportunities when they are there. I think it is how it played out this year. I think our sense has been that we are going to need a number of pieces, especially with a new (coaching) staff. Again, 24 new players, as of now – that’s a high number. If we sat here in February, that wouldn’t have been the number I would have thought that we would have gotten to. But I think that’s a result of being 6-10 and having a new staff.”

(On if there are any changes with analytics under the new general manager and who will be in the draft room) – “Chris (Grier) has done a great job. Dennis Lock and Tom Pasquali, they run our analytics department and they help with everything. They helped in the coaching search. Really, they help with everything. They help with actuarial projections on cap and cash, trades and players. They are really good and they have been helpful. I think Chris has done a great job of trying to even integrate them more into our process in terms of when a player gets a final grade, they have a say in it. So that’s been one of the things that Chris has brought to the table. In terms of the draft room, it will be pretty small and pretty tight. That’s just something that we both believe in.”

Chris Grier:

(On what will make this draft, led by him, different than past Dolphins drafts) – “I just think at the top – with Adam (Gase), Mike (Tannenbaum) and myself – the collaboration and the communication. You’ve heard me talk about that stuff from day one – the three of us are kind of inseparable. You see us and we are everywhere together. I think (we share) the vision we all have for the team and what types of players we want to bring in. I’m very confident in our process and I’m confident that we will do very well in this draft.”

(On if it is safe to say this will be a defense-heavy draft) – “Like I said, the board is going to play out for us. I think we can go out and play with people right now and compete. But we need to keep adding good players. People say it is a strong defensive draft and I’d probably agree with that. There are a lot of strong defensive prospects; but say for us, again we are just going to take the best player available for us.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

(On if potentially trading up indicates the studies that told the team to trade down were wrong) – “No, it just means that a new set of opportunities present itself and the price and the risk was reasonable. But I’m not sitting here saying that’s what we are going to do. I feel great that CB Byron Maxwell and LB Kiko Alonso are in the building and they’ve been great and they are two players that we project will play meaningful roles for us. We’re going with eight draft choices, two players that we’ve already added, and we’ll just make those best decisions when they are presented. I’ve been around long enough to hear trades that I would have never dreamed of, even going up or back, because people’s perceived values will always be different than ours.”

Chris Grier:

(On how much draft preparation goes into playing out possible situations during the draft) – “There’s so much misinformation out with (mock drafts) as well. For me, I’m just focused on the Dolphins and what we do and the players that we like. You can’t help but see it here; it’s everywhere. It’s how big the draft has become. But for us, we’re just really focused on our process and the Miami Dolphins.”

(On if the second day of the draft holds any significance in building a team) – “I think they’re all very significant. I think – as Mike said – when you’re trying to build something long term for sustained success; you really need to hit on those picks. We’ve done that in the past on occasion. We’ve hit on some guys that’ve been really good players in those third, fourth rounds. We’ve just got to make sure we hit on those first, second (rounds) and just be consistent through the draft. Our scouts, led by (Player Personnel Director) Joe Schoen and (College Scout) Adam Engroff, have done a good job in free agency of finding players through free agency here over the last ten years. And you guys that have been here know that. So I think all the picks are valuable. I don’t think you can win without building your team through a draft.”

(On how much he pays attention to locker room personality in building a team) – “I think it’s important. You want guys that have character. Again, like we talked about, (we want) guys that love football. (We want) the guys that are not playing just for money. They’re playing because this is the game that they love and it’s important to win. So yeah, we do put an emphasis on it. We’ve done a lot of studies on that and it’s very important to us.”

(On his first draft as a general manager and how he feels) – “I’m excited. I just feel heavier because I’ve been eating more and gaining (weight). I haven’t worked out as much as I should (laughs). But seriously, I’m excited. Honestly, I’m not nervous. I’ve been doing it, been in this business for so long, and I think we’re prepared going through our process. No, I’m excited. I thought I would be more nervous than I am, but honestly I’m not. This is how I am every day.”

(On where he would stack up this draft on talent and does that impact how he conducts business) – “No, at the end of the day the drafts the last couple years have all become junior heavy in the first couple rounds. Then after that, you’ll always find value throughout the draft. It’s just a matter of – again, getting the right players for your system and what your coaches want; what you’re looking for. So, at the end of the day, people always say it’s a strong or weak draft. But there’s been so many good players in this league that have come from mid to late rounds on every team that you can find guys that do the hard work.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

“And I think it’s true that three years from now, you can go back and truly evaluate any draft. And that you can really see the strength of it and what it looks like today could be different in a year or two.”

Miami Dolphins pre-draft press conference highlights

The Miami Dolphins had their pre-draft press conference this morning. Some highlights:

Firstly, executive vice president for football operations Mike Tannenbaum said there is "nothing imminent" relative to roster signings when he was asked about the team's interest in cornerback Josh Norman. That confirms my report the player is not coming to Miami. It also means the rumors relative to defensive end Jason Jones -- that he's signing soon -- are not true. Jones is a possibility down the road a bit but not just yet.

The major message from both Tannenbaum and general manager Chris Grier is that the board will determine what the Dolphins do in that they will pick the best available player regardless of position. That means it could be a cornerback, or linebacker, or defensive end, or running back, or kicker or whatever.

The duo stressed this over and over.

And I challenged them a little bit because, as I told them, the cornerback room is in trouble.

And they pushed back, saying Jamar Taylor, Tyler Patmon, Tony Lippett and others are viable and will be in the mix to start.  Tannenbaum said Taylor, "has played a lot of meaningful snaps."

I was not rude and didn't remind them Taylor played a lot of snaps in which he gave up completions, first downs, touchdowns. And he didn't play a lot of meaningful snaps at the end of the season when last year's coaching staff, including current defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo, benched Taylor because they were done with him.

But, all good, I know they're not going to rip the players on their roster. But don't feed me a stinky foot and tell me it's sirloin, either.

The duo also said they are comfortable with the running backs on the roster.

Look, I get that these pressers are not meant to uncover the team's plans, but this sounds delusional.

The Dolphins are comfortable with Daniel Thomas? Isaiah Pead? Damien Williams? Jahwan Edwards? They good with that?

Come on, man.

Anyway, in the same press conference, the Dolphins admitted what everyone knows: Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott was one of the team's Top 30 visits.

"He's a good player," Grier said, who went on to say the club enjoyed its time with the top-draw talent.

I asked Grier who he's going to feel conducting his first draft: "Excited," he said.

He said he is not nervous.

 

 

April 21, 2016

Josh Norman probably will not be a Miami Dolphin

The Miami Dolphins are, for all intents and purposes, out of the Josh Norman derby.

Although the team is not publicly admitting it is no longer vying for Norman -- indeed, there was no public acknowledegment the Dolphins were in the chase to begin with -- a source is telling me tonight it is all but certain Norman will not be a Dolphin.

(Caveat: Norman is going to begin making so-called recruiting visits in the next few days and if those somehow bomb, then perhaps, the source said, the Dolphins might be a fallback option for him).

Indeed, various national media outlets are reporting Norman will make his first visit to the Washington Redskins. The San Francisco 49ers also are considered a viable landing spot behind the Redskins.

So where does this leave the Dolphins?

Right back where they were Wednesday before the Carolina Panthers rescinded the franchise tag from the All-Pro (I voted for him) player.

The Dolphins need a cornerback and perhaps two in the coming draft.

That, atop needs at defensive end, running back, linebacker and guard -- the last of those needs more as thinking among pundits and team fans than the Dolphins themselves.

As for the current state of the Dolphins depth chart at cornerback, Byron Maxwell is a starter. Beyond that, Jamar Taylor, Tyler Patmon, Chimdi Chekwa and others are looking to step forward.

 

Josh Norman revamps representation; PLUS the timing of getting a deal done

Just like that, Josh Norman has hired a new agent and rather than dealing with a smaller, local South Florida agency, the Miami Dolphins (and other teams) will instead primarily deal with one of the agents from Athletes First, a bigger, national agency whose clients include Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Von Miller as well as coaches Chip Kelly and Jason Garrett.

If there was any advantage for the Dolphins in that Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum lives five minutes from agent Michael George of SFX Sports Group, that is gone now.

George will remain as one of Norman's representatives as the cornerback searches for a new team as an unrestricted free agent. But the lead agent now becomes Ryan Williams of Athletes First. Athletes First CEO David Dunn is a longtime NFL agent.

If this sounds too inside baseball to you, consider something that shouldn't be: The timing of what is about to happen.

George remains part of Norman's team, albeit in a diminished capacity, so as to not require the player to go through the five-day waiting period mandated by the NFLPA when a player changes from one agent to another.

That five-day period would be devastating now because the NFL draft is April 28-30. And teams would typically want to know if Norman is on their team or not by the time they begin the draft process because, well, it would affect their choices.

The Dolphins, for example, would likely not be a cornerback-desperate team at No. 13 overall in the first round if they knew Norman is going to be their starter along with Byron Maxwell. Suddenly, the idea of picking a linebacker or defensive end or the best available player (BAP) becomes the likelihood.

And if they know Norman is not coming, then their plan to add a cornerback, early if possible, remains in place.

The point is teams would like more clarity rather than cloudiness when they make draft decisions. And so knowing what Norman is likely to do and where he's likely to go is important to them.

This is going to be interesting because already on Wednesday, teams were trying to set up visits with the player. Other teams were simply calling to gauge Norman's asking price to see if they were viable candidates to chase him. Some teams dropped out of the running when they heard Norman wants to be the highest paid cornerback in the NFL.

The highest paid corners in the NFL now are New York's Darrelle Revis at $14.024 million per season and Arizona's Patrick Peterson at $14.010 million per season. Seattle's Richard Sherman comes in at $14 million per season.

The New York Jets, by the way, were among the teams interested in Norman. They dropped out of contention once they heard the price point for the player.

Miami Dolphins in the chase for Josh Norman

The Miami Dolphins are indeed interested in unrestricted free agent cornerback Josh Norman and are, according to the Charlotte Observer, among the "eight or nine teams" that contacted Norman's representatives late Wednesday afternoon.

[Update: The number of interested teams is up to 10 now.]

One of Norman's representatives, by the way, is Boca Raton based Michael George of the SFX Sports Group.

(I'm not saying the fact George is local means the Dolphins have any advantage, but I suppose it cannot hurt).

Remember the Dolphins' selling points: Sunshine year-around and no state income tax, things George obviously knows.

Having said that, a phone call to the agent doesn't necessarily mean the Dolphins are about to make a full-on charge toward getting the Pro Bowl and All-Pro (I voted for him) cornerback. It doesn't mean all the hurdles I previously pointed out have been crossed.

But it strongly suggests Miami is not just on a fishing expedition, either. The Dolphins may not be the most interested team. That seems to be the San Francisco 49ers. But Miami is interested.

Why?

Well, the Dolphins aren't afraid to do big contracts: Remember that Miami today is paying Ndamukong Suh the biggest contract yet to be signed by any NFL defender. Yes, it will eventually be passed by the deal Denver linebacker Von Miller signs, but for now, Suh's $114.375 million deal with $60 million guaranteed and averaging $19 million annually is at the top of the money hill.

The Dolphins have a need at cornerback: If you doubt that, go back to what we discussed on that very topic a couple of days ago. And then consider some of the names of cornerbacks on the roster. Now, tell me if Josh Norman's name wouldn't be a welcome addition to that group.

One more thing: I've told you the people that run the Dolphins as well as owner Stephen Ross love outside the box thinking. They love big moves. They love shiny things.

Chasing Josh Norman -- perhaps the best cornerback in the NFL in 2015 -- hours after he's unexpectedly released from his franchise tag and allowed to become a free agent a week or so before the draft qualifies as big and shiny.

So now we've established all the reasons the Dolphins would love Josh Norman.

There are, however, a concern or two. Or three.

The main concern involves money.

The secondary concern involves money.

Firstly, the Dolphins can indeed fit Norman under their cap. And if it becomes a snug fit signing him, and drafting and signing the rookies, and budgeting for a practice squad, and leaving a workable amount left over for in-season maneuvering, then the team can restructure someone's contract or simply cut someone. I gave you the most logical options on that front Wednesday.

The second issue is this short history the Dolphins have for overpaying some folks. No, I'm not talking Mario Williams this year. He wasn't overpaid despite what some cynics might argue. Obviously, I'm not talking about Olivier Vernon this year because the team walked away from his price point.

I'm talking Suh.

The Dolphins overpaid on Ndamukong Suh.

And the reason I know is that there were only three teams vying for Suh's services last spring -- Detroit, Oakland and the Dolphins.

A source within the Lions has told me that team stopped its bidding on Suh when the price went north of $15 million per year. That's where it ended for them.

Another NFL source told me the Raiders pulled out when the bidding got to $17 million per season and, truth be known, Suh was basically using them for leverage because he didn't really want to go to Oakland.

Yet the Dolphins ended up paying $2 million more annually than the next closest competitor was offering. They overpaid to get Suh.

That all comes out in the wash now because, well, what's $2 million APY? Certainly, the Dolphins will never complain about it. Suh will definitely never complain about it.

But as the Dolphins begin their chase of a player who wants to be paid close to the Suh orbit -- not quite because the numbers reported for Norman vary from $15-$17 million APY -- learning some discipline from the Suh experience might be a good idea.

The final concern I have, and perhaps the Dolphins do not, is that Norman has excelled playing a predominantly zone scheme. The Dolphins won't be in zone all the time. They will press and often play zone behind that but not always. They could be in cover three. They could be in man. It will vary.

So is Norman, who did not have elite speed when he came out of the draft years ago, fit the Miami scheme?

I suppose the Dolphins think so. After all, they called didn't they?

April 20, 2016

Miami Dolphins interest in Josh Norman: Can't eliminate the possibility

The Carolina Panthers this afternoon announced they have rescinded the exclusive franchise tag off cornerback Joshn Norman. That makes the Pro Bowl cornerback an unrestricted free agent immediately.

He is able to talk with any NFL team. He is free to sign with whatever NFL team is willing to pay him close to what he's asking.

And it makes sense the teams that will show the most interest immediately are teams that need a very, very good NFL cornerback ...

...Like the Miami Dolphins.

I reached out to a handful of Dolphins sources to ask if there would be interest in Norman. Only one of them answered via text. The text read, "Can't say yes for sure. But it would be wrong to say no."

Dolphins wide receiver Matt Hazel, teammates with Norman at Coastal Carolina, tweeted, "Wow," in response to the news.

The Panthers are parting ways and, unless there are underlying reasons beyond money, it has to be that Norman has wanted to make upwards of $16-$17 million per season to sign a long term deal. That is obviously too rich for Carolina and so the defending NFC Champions are moving on.

The Dolphins currently have $19.5 million in salary cap space, per the NFLPA.

If this is going to be an all out bidding war for a player, the Dolphins likely won't win.

The San Francisco 49ers have $52.6 million in cap space. Jacksonville has $52.5 million in cap space. The Cleveland Browns have $40.3 million in cap space.

Now, if Norman is going to only entertain teams with a chance to win, that changes the dynamic with those teams. But that does not help the Dolphins either, as they haven't been to the playoffs or managed a winning season since 2008.

This does not definitely mean the Dolphins would be in on Norman. There are many things to consider beyond money and his interest. There's scheme fit. There's chemistry fit because Norman is a very outgoing player.

But if the Dolphins want to go hard here, they absolutely could find a way. Remember,  they can restructure center Mike Pouncey's contract, turning base salary into guaranteed money and save up to $6.5 million in salary cap space this year. The team could cut Cameron Wake, who is in the final year of his contract, and save $8.4 million.

But this is more than just about cap space.

This is also about hard money. The Dolphins do indeed have an annual cash expenditure budget for player salaries. They expect to spend between $115-$120 million in cash in 2016.

Adding a huge contract such as Norman's would likely put the Dolphins beyond their budget for this season. And so owner Stephen Ross would have to be included in any conversation about interest in Norman because it is, after all, his money the team would be spending.

Stay tuned.

Norman is 6-foot and 195 pounds. He was a Pro Bowl player for the first time in 2015. He has seven career interceptions, including four last season. His body of work in 2015, per ProFootballFocus.com, is impressive:

He held DeAndre Hopkins to two catches for 24 yards on seven targets

He held Vincent Jackson to two catches for 31 yards on six targets, picking off one pass.

He held Mike Evans to one catch for 15 yards on five targets in the other meeting with the Bucs.

He held T.Y. Hilton to one catch for 15 yards on three targets, breaking up the other two.

He held Dez Bryant to one catch for six yards on five targets.

–Held Julio Jones to six catches for 55 yards on eight targets across two games.

The Dolphins have one experienced starting cornerback in Byron Maxwell. They were expected to add one and perhaps two cornerbacks in the April 28-30 draft. The team has said multiple times this offseason it is not one player away.

Away from what, who knows.

The Dolphins have also been careful not to make any significant moves in free agency with the idea of adding multiple compensatory draft picks in 2017 after losing Olivier Vernon, Rishard Matthews and others in free agency. Big contract free agents are judged against the contracts signed by players who left in a complex formula.

That formula becomes moot after May 12, but it is unclear if Norman would want to wait to sign for another 2-3 weeks.

The Dolphins currently have an inauspicious group of cornerbacks on the roster.