March 28, 2016

The fallout of Miami Dolphins personnel opinons

This time of year, it seems, everyone is a personnel guru. Everyone has opinions about NFL talent and incoming NFL talent. And mostly those opinions that drive decisions in the spring, determine wins and losses in the fall and winter.

And so today I share with you multiple Miami Dolphins personnel opinions that matter that should give insight about why the Dolphins have taken the path they have taken this offseason.

Consider:

Running back Lamar Miller: Start with the fact interim coach Dan Campbell was not a fan. During the latter half of the 2015 season, the interim coach seriously wanted more Jay Ajayi and less Miller, per multiple people I've spoken with, because he believed the rookie the better back. Obviously that transition was never made, but it set the stage for what happened this offseason in that the Dolphins were more aggressive than they expected to be in trying to re-sign Miller (they offered $5 million per season) but were not going to step beyond that for a player some in the building were lukewarm about. Understand, new coach Adam Gase liked Miller based on tape study. But not to the extent Houston did. The Texans signed Miller for $6.5 million per year average.

Fallout: Either the Texans or the Dolphins are right. The Texans believe Miller is a bell cow back that can challenge for the rushing title. They believe him a 1,200-1,400 yard per season back, who is also a threat out of the backfield. That's what they're paying for. The Dolphins believe C.J. Anderson was a better back than Miller. So they liked somebody else's player more than their own. And having neither, they've shrugged and believe they'll draft someone and/or sign a back-of-free agency guy like Arian Foster (do not forget this name) and will be fine. Foster, by the way, will visit the team this week. This is a good draft for running backs, by the way. The Dolphins think they can find one as good or better than Miller in that draft.

Defensive end Olivier Vernon: I have written multiple times the Dolphins liked OV. They didn't love OV. There was one tape session among coaches last year, I'm told, in which those present spent five minutes breaking down all the things the player did wrong or poorly. (This obviously could not have been the Dallas tape against Tyron Smith because Vernon had a fine game that day). Simply, the Dolphins saw Vernon as a 7-8 sack a year guy who was not a cornerstone on their defense despite being only 25 years old. The New York Giants see Vernon as a cornerstone. They see him as a double-digit sack guy who can team with Jason Pierre-Paul on the other side to form a formidable sack duo. By the way, the OV camp likes to point out he was really a 10.5 sack guy last season, not 7.5 as the statistics say. The reason is Vernon had three sacks stripped away by penalties in the defensive backfield.

Fallout: Either the Giants or Dolphins are right. The investment the Giants have made on Vernon speaks of both great desperation and great confidence. That team is desperate to win immediately and return what has been a dormant pass rush to its Super Bowl days. The Dolphins saw Vernon as more a complimentary player. They didn't see him worth $17 million per year, which is what the Giants are paying. They didn't see him as a $12 million per year player in August 2015 when they made him their most serious offer.

Rishard Matthews: Look, Matthews was long gone even last year when he was having his best season. A source close to Matthews told me his free agency wouldn't be just about money, but opportunity. The player wanted to play and he knew that wasn't going to happen in Miami. In Miami, the Dolphins had traded for Kenny Stills and spent first- and second-round picks on DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry, respectively. The team was heavily invested in those players and that left Matthews as something of insurance in case that plan didn't work. But the problem is the Dolphins clearly misjudged Matthews for several years. You'll recall that Matthews got playing time in 2013 because the Dolphins had no one else. And he responded with 41 catches and 2 TDs in five starts that year. He believed he had earned an opportunity to be among Miami's top three receivers. The Dolphins, under Joe Philbin, didn't. Philbin wanted Matthews gone. Then-GM Dennis Hickey resisted but also didn't count on Matthews. He drafted Landry.

Fallout: The Dolphins, believing Matthews an afterthought type player, considered receiver a significant need both in last year's draft and in the 2014 draft. They spent high picks that might have gone to fill other needs, such as cornerback, because they didn't have a good enough internal evaluation on Matthews. Now, did the team get two players better than Matthews? Maybe. Probably. Landry is outstanding. Parker promises to be outstanding. But remember that Matthews was a superior deep threat to Landry, averaging 15.4 yards per catch to Landry's 10.5. And Matthews caught more passes than Parker, 43 compared to 26, despite missing three more games than the rookie. Decisions made years ago by a coach later fired laid the foundation to Matthews leaving the Dolphins.

Mario Williams: The Dolphins think he's better than Olivier Vernon. Period. Yes, he's older. Yes, he comes with baggage because last season the guy was not a positive force in the Buffalo locker room once he recognized he didn't fit in. But the Dolphins believe they can address all that and are willing to pay $8 million per season over the next two years for the opportunity.

Fallout: Miami has chose cheaper and older and believe that is an upgrade. That makes them unique because teams like the Giants and others considered Williams as well when he was cut by the Bills. And the Giants went a different direction. And other teams didn't want to pay what the Dolphins are paying. It'll be interesting to compare Williams's performance in Miami the next two years to Vernon. It should be noted, the Dolphins also expect a draft pick to come from losing Vernon so that will figure into the metric eventually.

Kiko Alonso: The Eagles view of this player should make you afraid. They believe he was a ghost in their defense last year. No big plays. No impact. Missed tackles. The velocity to the football he showed his rookie year in Buffalo was missing. The Eagles were so disappointed, they gave up on a player who is relatively inexpensive at under $1 million because he's in the final year of his rookie contract. The Dolphins see a different guy. They see a great scheme fit. They see a player who will improve because he'll be two years removed from his knee reconstruction surgery. They see a player who'll benefit from their weight program.

Fallout: Yeah, either the Eagles have a solid grasp of their player, or they just bonked and the Dolphins took Alonso out from under their nose.

March 24, 2016

Miami Dolphins making sure offseason additions are a fit

The only way teams can maximize what players can do athletically is to fit their talents into the right system.

Ndamukong Suh was excellent in Detroit under Jim Schwartz. But the same guy with the same talent came to Miami in 2015 and didn't quite perform up to past standards because, in part at least, he wasn't doing exactly what he did in Detroit. He didn't seem as comfortable. He wasn't a perfect fit, at least early on.

So system fit is important.

And while the Dolphins have struggled at times with system fits in the past -- particularly when coaching staffs came and went, changing systems -- the current staff is doing all it can to make sure its acquisitions this year are a snug, tight fit to their system.

Take Byron Maxwell, Kiko Alonso and Mario Williams for example.

Alonso had a great rookie season in Buffalo in the 4-3 defense. Obviously he blew out a knee in 2014 and wasn't the same with the Eagles in 2015 after he was traded for LeSean McCoy.

The Dolphins think the knee healing will help Alonso but they also like that their system will fit him better than Philly's 3-4.

“Coming off his injury, we feel good about it being another year removed from that," Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. "We see a guy that runs well, that he hits, he strikes. He’s going to fit into what we do really well. Him being back in a 4-3 defense, that probably suits him a little bit better. We’re really excited to get this guy going and getting him in our program. Having that kind of speed at linebacker is really going to be helpful for us.”

By the way, about that speed: The Dolphins last year were lost when they asked their linebackers not named Jelani Jenkins to cover. Alonso's speed gives the team options.

Consider that last year Brandon Marshall destroyed the Dolphins in two games. He caught seven passes for 128 yards in the first meeting and nine catches for 132 yards and two TDs in the second game. The Jets did a lot of this by putting Marshall in the slot. And while often the Dolphins put their best corner, tiny Brent Grimes, in the slot to check Marshall, it was a physical mismatch.

Well, Alonso gives the Dolphins some flexibility. They can now bracket Marshall with Alonso and a corner if they want. And because Alonso is 6-3, 238 pounds, and fast enough to run with Marshall (that is not a misprint) the physical mismatch greatly diminishes.

Maxwell was obviously suited to what the Seattle Seahawks asked him to do. They asked him to press. They relied on extreme pressure up front to protect their long (and slower) corners from getting beat on time consuming deep routes. It worked in Seattle but in Philadelphia, Maxwell slumped as the Eagles pass rush was 25th in the NFL in sacks per pass and Maxwell played off more, not getting his hands on receivers as much, which he likes to do.

But the Dolphins will be pressing. Maxwell and the other corners will be in receivers' faces.

"I feel like Byron is going to fit well into what we’re going to do on defense," coach Adam Gase said.  He’ll be able to do more of what he has done in the past where he had success. I’ve competed against him a couple times when he was in Seattle, and he challenged us, and we had some pretty good receivers. I feel really good about him coming in. I’m excited that … I could feel his excitement (about) getting down here.

"I think Byron fits in our scheme really well. What he did in Seattle was, he’s aggressive on the line of scrimmage, getting up there and pressing and being able to play aggressive and that’s what we want to allow him to do."

Notice how many times Gase is mentioning the fit, the fit, the fit?

Williams was clearly not a fit under Rex Ryan's 3-4 defense last season. He didn't like dropping into coverage. He wasn't good at it. He complained about it. His sacks totals sunk. It was not a fit.

But Vance Joseph worked with Williams when the two were with the Houston Texans. And the Dolphins will be employing a Wide 9 technique for their rush ends which Williams has excelled at in the past.

So if Williams doesn't regain his past level of production it won't be because he didn't fit.

Interestingly, the fit thing is greatly important on defense. It obviously matters on the offensive line because zone blocking linemen are not always able to adapt to man blocking and vice versa. But for the other positions on offense, Gase promises to adapt what he does to what the players can do best and feel most comfortable with.

"Defensively, it’s a little easier for them because they look at that tape and you can see a lot of the attributes that fit into the system that we are going to run," Gase said. "On offense, I feel like that side of the ball we’re actually going to have to go out there (to the practice field) and experiment and kind of figure out where we’re at with Ryan [Tannehill]. There’s some of the routes that this group does really well that I haven’t been a part of in a while. Every quarterback likes different things and watching a lot of our film from the past, Ryan does excel at some concepts that I haven’t run in a while that the last two quarterbacks I had didn’t really like.

"We’ll be a little bit in the experimental phase as far as the offensive side. We have a ways to go on that side of the ball. I feel like on defense, those guys have a good feel for what we have on the roster and where we need to go from there."

March 23, 2016

RB needy Miami Dolphins leaving no stone unturned

The Miami Dolphins are exploring every option as they try to fill out their depleted running backs corps and that includes the possibility of getting a player via trade. The Dolphins have had conversations with multiple teams about trading for a back, a league source said from the NFL annual meeting Wednesday.

There are no specifics available as to which players the Dolphins have inquired about. But it is not believed a trade is imminent.

The Dolphins need a running back because efforts have so far failed in the attempt to re-sign Lamar Miller, sign resticted free agent C.J. Anderson, or unrestricted free agent Chris Johnson.

Miller signed a contract with the Houston Texans that paid him an average of $6.5 million per season. The Dolphins held the line as their highest offer to Miller was $5 million per season on average, per another league source.

The Dolphins graded Anderson as a better player than Miller, per a club source, but nonetheless were able to sign Anderson to an offer sheet that averaged $4.5 million per season. The Denver Broncos, however, matched the offer to retain Anderson.

Johnson visited the Dolphins prior to returning to the Arizona Cardinals on a one-year deal worth up to $3 million.

So the Dolphins continue to shop, adding the trade avenue to possibilities in the draft, or the latter part of free agency. A veteran player, including Arian Foster, has not been eliminated as a possibility.

And why are the Dolphins shopping despite having second-year running back Jay Ajayi on the roster?

"The reason we were trying to do that is we’re looking to having more than one guy," Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. "Jay is going to be a big part of what we’re doing. I’d like to have multiple backs. Right now, we don’t have a lot of guys on the roster. I think we only have three guys on the roster right now. We’re going to need to really develop that stable of backs.

"Options will present themselves. We just need to stay patient, whether it’s through the draft or somebody gets cut free or there’s somebody else out there that we need to take a look out. We’ll just keep investigating that. I guess for me, I feel really comfortable with Jay. I saw a lot of good things on film last year. I’m fired up to get going with him. The problem is, we can’t do anything until April 11th. But really, those two weeks are meetings and weightlifting. Really, that minicamp will be our first good look to see where we’re at with our running backs.”

March 22, 2016

Stephen Ross not a fan of past coaching, takes swipe at Miko

Stephen Ross is a big fan of new head coach Adam Gase. And he's a big fan of starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

But in speaking to the media at the NFL annual meeting Tuesday, Ross made it clear he's not a big fan of the coaching Tannehill got the past couple of years and he's definitely not a big fan of Miko Grimes, the wife of former cornerback Brent Grimes.

Ross said he's looking forward to seeing what his quarterback can do as he enters his fifth NFL season and that is increased by the coaching Gase, who is something of a quarterback expert, is likely to impart on his new project quarterback.

"I'm really optimistic about Ryan," Ross said. "I have a great deal of confidence in him. Reading what he has said ... the relationship between the coach and the quarterback is essential. If you look at the track record of Adam and quarterbacks, I don't think you'll find anyone with any better track record and I have every reason to be optimistic.

"I think Ryan is a rare individual who is exceptionally athletic, exceptionally bright and hard working and dedicated. And I think when he gets the right kind of coaching we can expect great things."

Wait, so Ross doesn't think Tannehill has been getting the "right kind of coaching?" Has coaching been a factor in his play?

 "I think so," Ross said. "He's had one [head] coach in four years in the league. He played under Mike Sherman in the same system when he came into the league. So I think really, that Adam's experience and track record with quarterbacks and getting confidence back to Ryan that he needs and hasn't had, and with the support of the coaches, we're very optimistic and looking forward."

Hearing Ross talk suggests he was down on former coach Joe Philbin and his staff after sticking with the coach well beyond any time period that was truly defensible. So was last year's 6-10 record a misjudgment of talent or a coaching problem?

"Probably a little bit of both," Ross said. "It's not one thing. Obviously, we made a decision on the coaching, didn't we? That speaks for itself."

The Dolphins cut Grimes the first week of March and I reported the conduct of Miko, Grimes's wife, was a factor in that decision. Ross confirmed that when he was asked if indeed the conduct of Mrs. Grimes was factored in the decision.

"I'm not going to get down to that level," Ross said. "I think everybody knows what she represented and  I thought it was best the Dolphins move on from Brent and Miko."  

Adam Gase: Miami Dolphins not a rebuilding team

Adam Gase is a competitor. So he saw the Dolphins lose a handful of solid-to-good players this offseason and that didn't make him happy. But the team has filled the needs created by losses, added starters in multiple areas, and obviously there's more to do.

And so Gase doesn't believe the 2016 Dolphins are in rebuilding mode.

"I don't see us as a rebuilding team," Gase said. "I think we're a team that has talent, we just have to put it together. We need to figure out a way to play as a team. Talent alone, that does nothing. We have to make sure we do a good job of putting three phases together and figuring out how to win games as a group instead of just one or two guys who are really exceptional.

"It doesn't work that way. This is a team game. We have a to do a great job of making sure we're all on the same page."

The first part of getting on the same page this offseason involved free agency -- the Dolphins keeping or losing their own players and then replacing players and filling in at other areas of need. 

"It's been a whirlwind for sure. I like the additions we've made," Gase said. "We've lost some good players. That's part of the challenge of free agency -- when guys make it through and get to that opportunity and the way the money is structured, the money gets up there pretty quick. So it's tough to keep good players if you don't get the deal done early."

Make no mistake, Gase is no fan of having lost Lamar Miller, Olivier Vernon, Rishard Matthews and Derrick Shelby. But he believes it was out of his hands because all those issues and contracts had to be addressed last year, rather than after the season.

"That's the struggle," Gase said. "That's the tough part, at least for myself being in Year One, there's nothing that I was able to do as far as moving forward. We're in that situation and three good players that were wanted by other teams ... Obviously, we would have loved to keep them, but it was too late. Once they hit the market it was going to be a challenge to keep them on our roster."

Gase has been intimately involved in the personnel aspect of the team. His office is not on the same side of the Dolphins facility as that of general manager Chris Grier's or executive vice president's Mike Tannenbaum. "They might as well move my office by their office," Gase said.

"I spend a lot of time around Mike and Chris. They're ready for the players to get back. They're tired of being around me. It's amazing the amount of time spent on watching players, talking about scenarios, saying, 'What are we going to do if this happens, what are we going to do if that happens?' It's almost a different game and it takes a lot of time and there's a lot of discussion that goes into it. We watch a lot of film together."

Gase says there are "healthy discussions" that may include a difference of opinion, but ultimately, "for us, I've feel we've all been on the same page for everything we've done."

Gase approves of the trade the Dolphins made with the Philadelphia Eagles. He believes it adds three starters in that cornerback Byron Maxwell, middle linebacker Kiko Alonso and the No. 13 overall selection will be starters.

If the Dolphins do not make the deal, they add one starter -- from the No. 8 overall pick.

"I was fine with it because we added to starters and we're going to add a third," Gase said. "We moved back five spots and we got two starters. So I was all for it. I know this: One guy is not going to change our team. Adding three starters for us is a big deal. We have a lot of needs we needed to fill, we started talking with those guys, Mike [Tannenbaum] felt really good about the players we were going to get. I felt really good about it."

About some of the players currently on the roster:

Gase is excited to get around Jarvis Landry. "There's an intensity there that you want to get around. You can tell he feels like there's a respect factor he feels he doesn't get and he plays like that," Gase said.

Gase thinks Jermon Bushrod brings "intriguing" position flexibility in that last year in Chicago he played multiple positions. He was the starting tackle, lost that due to injury, then worked at center, guard and even back at tackle.

Gase said backup tight end Dion Sims is a player with much potential. But potential has to turn to production.

"I'm interested to see how far we can bring him along," Gase sadi. "I've told him this is probably the year we need to get this rolling. Let's get the consistency going ... I expect him to be an important piece to what we're doing this year."

Gase said he looks at his offensive talent and .. "I feel really good about it."

So, not rebuilding.

Adam Gase: Miami Dolphins D will attack, press, come in waves

Adam Gase was hired as the Miami Dolphins head coach because he is a quarterback guru. The guy is an offensive expert -- although he started his career as a defensive coach -- and he will be calling the offensive plays for the Dolphins.

So the defense falls to defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. Gase said he's going to let Joseph run that defense without a lot of interference although he is still obviously the boss.

So what will the 2016 Dolphins defense be?

"We're going to be a 4-3, penetrating, attacking-style defense," Gase said Tuesday during the AFC coaches' breakfast at the NFL annual meetings. "We're looking to be aggressive on the outside. That's what we're looking to be. And we want a front that's going to get after it. That's why we keep bringing in all these guys on the defensive line. Because that's what we're going to be. We're going to bring it in waves. We're going to keep guys fresh and moving them in there. We want fresh pass rushers in the fourth quarter. And as far as our linebackers go, we want guys that can run and hit."

Gase said the corners will press. He mentioned that Byron Maxwell did very well in press at Seattle, prior to going to Philadelphia, and so that's what he's going to be doing in Miami.

Gase said Kiko Alonso, acquired in the same deal that brought Maxwell from Philly, is currently the team's starting MIKE (middle) linebacker. That may change if the Dolphins find another middle linebacker in free agency or the draft and if that happens, Alonso would move to WILL (weak outside linebacker). But think MIKE right now.

The addition of Isa Abdul-Quddus gives the team "flexibility" on the back end, Gase said, because now both safeties -- Reshad Jones and Abdul-Quddus are equally comfortable playing deep or in the tackle box.

On the defensive line, the Dolphins lost Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby but added Mario Williams and Andre Branch. There might be another addition in the offing and, obviously, the slim possibility of defensive end Dion Jordan rejoining the team after his multiple drug suspensions looms at the end of April.

Gase said the Dolphins will not move Cameron Wake from his usual left defensive end spot. That means when he's in the game with Mario Williams, Williams, who also has traditionally lined up against the right tackle, will move to right defensive end.

Williams, 31, is coming off a bad season in Buffalo. But his history prior to that is what the Dolphins hope they will recapture.

"I'm excited he's with us," Gase said of Williams. "We went against him two years ago when he was rolling pretty good. We're looking forward to getting him playing like he was playing in 2013, 2014. I feel like he's in a good place. We had a great visit. When we talked to him, you could tell he was excited to get last year, that taste out of his mouth. He's a good addition for us."

As to the need to fill other cornerback spots -- the off corner from Maxwell and the nickel -- Gase pointed to the "young guys" currently on the roster.

Jamar Taylor, Bobby McCain, Tony Lippett and others are a focus. "Somebody's got to step up," Gase said.

My expectation is the Dolphins will also address cornerback in the draft.

By the way, Gase said the trade that sent the No. 8 overall selection to Philaldelphia for the No. 13 overall pick, Maxwell and Alonso, netted the Dolphins three starters.

Yes, Gase expects No. 13 overall to be a starter.

Don't be surprised if it is on defense.

For the sake of perspective, you should know the Dolphins played an attacking, pressing defense before. They did it under Jimmy Johnson. They did it under Dave Wannstedt.  

Read my twitter timeline @ArmandoSalguero for the highlights of today's breakfast with Gase.

Tannehill on his offensive line: 'We have to play better'

My column in today's Miami Herald outlines the physical as well as mental state of Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. It is, shall we say, different now that Adam Gase is the new head coach.

So please check out the column.

But as Tannehill's physical state will have a lot to do with the offensive line, I have to share with you what Tannehill thinks of the state of his offensive front and where that is likely to go, because, you know, guards are a thing for Dolphins fans but not necessarily for the Dolphins.

I've been told by the team that Tannehill, the NFL's most sacked QB the past four seasons, will be protected in 2016. No, the team hasn't add a ton of guard talent in free agency, unless one thinks Jermon Bushrod is that.

But Tannehill acts as if he's not concerned.

"I know we have to play better. I know that being healthy at the tackle position will definitely help our offensive line play," Tannehill said at the NFL annual meeting in Boca Raton. "Just being consistent and having those guys. I don't know exactly the number of games but it was like 12 games or something like that with a backup offensive lineman in the lineup. And it's tough to be consistent and tough to play at a high level when you play that many games with backup lineman.

"And we've added some key pieces to help our offensive line depth right now. We'll see what happens at the guard position -- whether we'll get somebody else up or continue to develop the guys that we have. But I did see improvement as the season went on and they're going to have to continue to improve. I think it's got to be a balance of guys being healthy, of guys getting the ball out and guys playing better.

"Whether we add a piece or not I think we're going to find a way to succeed."

Well, I have heard that before and Tannehill is the most sacked QB in the NFL the past four seasons. So be warned.

But I've been told Gase iintends to put both Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas on weight programs focusing on their lower bodies to address some of their problems.

As to free agency, the Dolphins lost leading rusher Lamar Miller, No. 4 wide receiver (this year's projection) Rishard Matthews, and No. 6 wide receiver Greg Jennings, who was cut.

Happy Tannehill, on display Monday, shrugged off the losses.

"It's exciting. We brought in some talented guys and we're getting better," Tannehill said. "Each and every week we've gotten better so far since free agency hit. We still have a few more pieces to add through the draft and free agency as well and we'll be ready to go.

"You lose guys, not just teammates but friends and good players. It's tough but that's the business that we're in. You're constantly going to have good players come and good players go. And unfortunately we saw a few of our good players go. But that's the nature of the business but we've add a few pieces that will compliment the pieces that we lost. I wish those guys best, communicated with them, and I want to see them succeed except when they're playing us."

So what is Tannehill doing to get himself better this offseason?

"You're constantly trying to improve," he said. "You watch tape and let your body heal. You start getting back into the trianing and improve anything in your body you had problems with, and rehabbing and building up your strength. You're doing all those things. I've been throwing for several weeks now. I've been throwing with the guys off campus. We get together twice a week. We have guys that are showing up consistently. And we're getting better. that's the funnest part for me, seeing guys getting better. We're running routes differently than we have in the past. So it's about consistency for everyone, different timing in how the ball is coming out, moving different at the top of routes."

March 21, 2016

Mike Pouncey confirms another hip surgery

Mike Pouncey wants you to know he didn't have foot surgery this offseason. I mean, he really, really wants you to know because he repeated that to me three times during his visit to the NFL annual meeting at the Boca Raton Resort today.

"Tell the people it wasn't a foot," he said. "There's nothing wrong with my feet."

Pouncey had hip surgery. He said he had bone shaved down and that he is in the middle of a three-month rehabilitation.

Pouncey said he could be ready by the start of OTAs in April but he acknowledges there's probably no reason to rush him back from the three-month recovery. He expects to be fully ready for the start of training camp with no issues.

The interesting thing is that this is Pouncey's second hip surgery in two years. He missed the first four games of the season in 2014 while rehabilitating from the surgery. Pouncey, however, didn't seem too worried his hip issues are chronic.

He said this surgery was on the other hip from the one in 2014.

March 18, 2016

Miami Dolphins plan with Cameron Wake is be cautious and use sparingly if necessary

The Miami Dolphins are going to be very careful, indeed, they are going to take precautions with the return of defensive end Cameron Wake from a ruptured Achilles.

And if that means Wake isn't the starter and taking all the repetitions in practice the first day of training camp, so be it. And if that means Wake isn't the starter and taking 40-50 snaps at the start of the regular season, so be it.

Indeed, the Dolphins are planning for those exact scenario, per people familiar with the team's thinking.

Wake, 34, may not be ready for a full load early in the 2016 season, the team believes. And even once he is fully 100 percent, he will not be asked to be a full time player anymore.

That is why defensive end Andre Branch, an under-the-radar acquisition on a one-year deal, is considered the starter initially until Wake is fully healthy. At least that is what the team told Branch when he asked about his role.

“A very prominent role," Branch told reporters on a telephone conference call Friday. "Basically, (I’ll) be opposite of Mario Williams and then on rush downs, when Cam Wake gets back, it will be me, Cam (Wake), (Ndamukong) Suh and Mario (Williams). Those guys have been playing at a high level their whole career and I’m ready to learn from those guys.”

Those guys haven't been together very long at all.

Wake and Suh played only seven games together before Wake ruptured his Achilles in October 2015. Williams and Branch -- who may get more reps at defensive end than anyone else until Wake is ready -- just joined the team days ago.

So the Dolphins defensive line will look different in 2016 after losing Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby.

Indeed, Branch is supposed to play the Shelby role. But, again, Wake's health might thrust him toward more snaps than Wake.

And now you can understand why the Dolphins wanted to restructure Wake's contract last month. He is scheduled to cost the team $9.8 million against the cap. That is a fair figure for a full-time 45-50 snap defensive end who is an accomplished pass rusher.

But Wake might get perhaps half that many snaps -- at least early in the season. And most of those might come in passing situations.

That makes him a very expensive part-time player.

The Dolphins solution was either push Wake to continue playing his traditional role as a full-time player or trim his cap number, and likely his salary. The negotiations to cut the cap number didn't succeed. The team doesn't intend to force Wake to play more snaps because it doesn't want to risk another injury or a re-injury. The Dolphins also don't want Wake wearing down before the end of the season.

And so right now Wake is a part-time player getting paid like what he used to be -- a fulltime defensive end who is among the NFL's better pass rushers.

Mike Tannenbaum's comparison of 2016 Dolphins to 2015 is worrisome

Last weekened, in what was supposed to be a completely off-the-record conversation, Miami Dolphins executive vice president for football operations Mike Tannenbaum told local sportscaster Steve Shapiro that given the improvement of the coaching staff, and the tweaks he's made to the roster, he (Tannenbaum) believes the 2016 Dolphins could whip the 2015 Dolphins.

The message got out when Shapiro repeated it on air on WSVN-7s Sunday night sports show.

And folks at the Dolphins cringed because the conversation was supposed to be confidential.

And I cringed for different reasons.

One: Why is anyone at the Dolphins wasting time thinking like that?

Two: It is probably not true.

Three: Even if it were true, it suggests the Dolphins are aiming at the wrong goal this offseason.

Four: If it were true and being better than last year's team is the goal, the Dolphins are about to embark on a wholly wasted season -- one they must already know is going to lead them, well, nowhere.

So let's consider these things.

Firstly, I understand the desire of the Dolphins football czar to want to measure his current (if incomplete) work against that which he knows best, which is last year's disaster of a team. I get that. It's an easy exercise, especially when you are as intimately familiar with the subject matter as Tannenbaum obviously is, having constructed significant parts of both the 2015 and burgeoning 2016 rosters.

But how does one look at this team and think it is better?

This team has no starting running back. Well, if it has a starting running back, his name is Jay Ajayi. And Ajayi was last year's backup to Lamar Miller, who has left via free agency. So has the running back position improved or regressed so far? It has regressed.

This team addressed the guard position by adding veteran Jermon Bushrod, who has never been a guard by trade in the NFL, and he is so far the upgrade at the position. Otherwise the position sits exactly where it was last year, with Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas as the presumptive starters. So how is this helping the 2016 beat the 2015 team? Oh, it's not.

The center and tackles are the same from one year to the next so that's a wash.

This year's team will feature 34-year-old Cameron Wake at one defensive end spot. He is expected to be on something of a snap count in the coming season because he's coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon and, again, he's 34. Well, last year's team featured 33-year-old Cameron Wake. And he was on a something of a snap count while he was healthy last year. So one year and a season-ending Achilles injury later, Cameron Wake has improved? No. Sorry. Not buying it.

This year's team will feature a rental of Mario Williams, who had a bad year in Buffalo in 2015, over Olivier Vernon, who had a solid year in Miami. The Dolphins think this is an upgrade. I'm not giving them that. I'm open to the possibility that in the short-term, Williams might add something because he is motivated to prove last year was an outlier rather than a predictor of what is coming.

But I'm also aware that both Mario Williams and Olivier Vernon were out there for 31 teams, other than Buffalo, to sign. And multiple teams decided chasing Vernon, even at a higher price, was the better option.

Williams? He had a couple of suitors. But even then, no one, not even the Dolphins, valued him as high as multiple teams valued Vernon. Think about that. Multiple NFL teams saw Vernon and Williams on the market days apart and thought Vernon a better value. And the Dolphins, knowing better than anybody else, are countering that Williams is still an upgrade?

I fall on the side of waiting to see evidence.

(By the way, get used to me saying this. I'm am going to be waiting to see evidence before I applaud or condone (or rip) anything the Dolphins do from now on. I have said it before and repeat here, I'm done buying the hype. I only am trusting my eyes from now on. So don't tell me in March X is better than Y and expect me to simply accept it. Show me. I want on-field proof. Anything else is opinion, and the Dolphins' opinion reservoir is empty now based on 6-10 last year, no playoffs since 2008, and no playoff wins since 2000.)

Tannenbaum believes this 2016 coaching staff is much better than the 2015 staff. He said that to Shapiro but the sportscaster didn't get into deep specifics on the topic on air. At any rate, I want to believe that is true. Look, Joe Philbin was a nice enough human being, but as an NFL head coach he was simply lacking in too many areas -- leadership for one -- to be good.

So Adam Gase is the new thing, the hot commodity. If you go by the Olivier Vernon example I just used, multiple NFL franchises valued him so highly they interviewed him to be their coach. So there is reason to hope he's going to be an upgrade. But can anyone be 100 percent sure? Absolutely not. He's 37 years old and has not coached his first game yet.

So how can anyone know for sure?

The point is Tannenbaum calls this a major upgrade. But at this point, I'm not giving him that because, again, a 0-0 all-time record as head coach is not enough evidence for me.

Moving on...

Are the Dolphins better in the secondary? Maybe. Maybe not. I thought they blew it cutting Brice McCain. The guy is a slot cornerback. The Dolphins played him out of position on the outside because they didn't have anyone else. That's wasn't McCain's failing. That was on the Dolphins poor planning. And so McCain was predictably terrible outside. So it is his fault he was signed to play the nickel but was better than anyone else so he got bumped outside and failed?

Meanwhile, the Dolphins have question marks at nickel now. And they still haven't filled a cornerback spot outside. They basically traded Brent Grimes for Byron Maxwell but the starting corner on the other side is still a mystery.

And with no nickel (only unproven candidates like Bobby McCain) and no starter opposite Maxwell, the Dolphins have improved at cornerback? Not. Buying. It.

The Dolphins have improved at safety. Isa Abdul-Quddus is not a star. At least he has not been that. But he's an upgrade over Walt Aikens and probably Michael Thomas. So a plus for the 2016 squad!

Middle linebacker with Kiko Alonso over Kelvin Sheppard? Depends on which Alonso the Dolphins see -- the 2014 Buffalo version that was outstanding or the 2015 Philadelphia version that was of little consequence on defense and the Eagles were willing to dispatch in trade. We do not know what Alonso is going to be. And neither do the Dolphins. They have a hope. But NFL games are not won on hope. So I'm not giving them an upgrade here until I see it. Sorry.

The rest of the team is basically the same. 

So there's a lot of wishful thinking and best-case-scenario projecting for Tannenbaum to be saying these Dolphins are better than last year's team.

And, with respect, are the Dolphins trying to beat what they did last year? Or are they trying to beat the rest of the AFC East? If the goal is to be better than 6-10, that's setting the bar pretty low, no?

I mean, can you imagine Adam Gase's first meeting? "Guys, let's do better than 6-10 this year!"

That must never be the marching orders. That must never be the goal.

Either you're trying to win the division or you're wasting everyone's time. If you're not aiming for that, you're missing a chance to aim high. Last year the Dolphins were dead last in the division and trying to get out of the cellar doesn't put you on top or in the playoffs, which should be the stated goals every year.

Finally, and most concerning, maybe Tannenbaum said this because he can say nothing else.

If what is left unsaid is that the Dolphins can only hope for slightly better than 6-10 we're still in for a long season in 2016. Maybe Tannenbaum believes that's coming. Maybe he realizes this team still has a ton of holes, is riddled with question marks (as I've outlined previously) and so the best way to frame things is, "Hey, we're better than last year's terrible team!"

If that's the case ... Prepare of a long season, folks.

March 17, 2016

Salary cap comparison: The Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots

The National Football League Players Association salary cap report this morning is an eye-opener.

The Miami Dolphins currently are $18,399,241 under the NFL salary cap of $155,270,000. This includes $9,137,544 carried over from last year that went unused and now is being employed by the team to add to its cap space.

So the Dolphins, the team that finished in last place in the AFC East in 2015, have $18.4 million in cap space.

The New England Patriots, the team that finished first in the AFC East in 2015, have $18,056,126 in cap space.

And I ask myself, how is it possible that the Dolphins are coming from a place that is so bad -- last place -- while the Patriots are coming from a place every other team wishes it was in -- first place -- and they're both at the same basic salary cap space?

By the way, the Dolphins and Patriots have the most cap space in the division. The Bills ($7.5 million) and Jets ($4.1 million) are bordering on dire straits considering they have to set aside space to draft, space for a practice squad, and space to maneuver during the season.

So there is no complaint about the Dolphins cap management relative to those two teams -- the other non-playoff teams in the division.

But compared to the Patriots, well, the Dolphins are not in any better spot than the division champions. And considering the Patriots are in a far superior spot when measuring talent, that means the Dolphins are going to be hard pressed the rest of this offseason to make up ground on the team everyone in the AFC East is chasing.

Remember, cap space gives a team the ability to improve because it can be used to buy resources (talent). If you have less talent, it stands to reason, you should have more space to acquire more because that is what proper cap management is about.

Terrible cap management is having a bad team and little cap space.

Amazing cap management is having an excellent team and having plenty of space.

The Dolphins have had a poor team (6-10, coaching staff fired, general manager fired) but have good space. That's solid enough cap management.

The Patriots have an outstanding team (12-4, won the division, advanced to another AFC title game) and also have good cap space. That is outstanding cap management.

The thing is if the last-place team, which by logic has less talent, doesn't have an advantage with its cap, it is unlikely to make up ground on the team that started the offseason with more talent. So maybe the Dolphins are making up ground on the Bills and New York Jets, who don't even have a quarterback right now.

But judging by their cap space and looking at the actual moves the teams have made, they don't seem to be making up any ground on the Patriots. And because both have roughly the same cap space, Miami's prospects for closing the talent gap the remainder of the offseason are not good.

Now, I was going to get into comparing the Dolphins' recent personnel moves and their cap costs compared to the Patriots recent personnel moves and their cap costs. But it got, well, depressing.

Suffice to say the Dolphins are trying to hold their ground. They are replacing Brent Grimes with Byron Maxwell, replacing Olivier Vernon with Mario Williams, replacing Derrick Shelby with Andre Branch, replacing Lamar Miller with nobody so far.

The Dolphins are stirring their roster.

The Patriots are shaking their roster. Aggressively, I might add, considering they were 12-4 last year.

They are taking a risk by trading 12.5-sack defensive end Chandler Jones to Arizona. But they did that because they didn't believe themselves capable of paying him in 2017 when he becomes a free agent. So they got something for him now. They received potential starting guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round pick for Jones.

And to replace Jones they signed free agent Chris Long from the Rams.

(It will be interesting to see whether Mario Williams or Chris Long -- both of whom were disappointments last season -- has a better year in 2016.)

The Patriots also have been trying to acquire more weapons for quarterback Tom Brady. They signed Chris Hogan, formerly known as 7-11 when he was with the Dolphins in their 2012 training camp, as a restricted free agent. They also just traded for tight end Martellus Bennett to team in double-tight end sets with Rob Gronkowski -- two 6-6, 260-plus-pound guys who can run and pose matchup issues.

Obviously, the Cooper addition also begs scrutiny. He's been a draft bust since going No. 7 overall in the 2013 draft. But the Patriots wanted to improve their offensive line this year and believe this can help.

The Dolphins also needed to improve their offensive line this year, specifically the guard position. Their answer in free agency was to sign veteran Jermon Bushrod, who has never been a consistent guard in the NFL.

(It will be interesting to see whether Cooper or Bushrod -- both dogged by question marks now -- has a better year in 2016.)

Both teams have made moves that seem comparable to one degree or another. The Patriots cut vet WR Brandon LaFell; the Dolphins cut vet WR Greg Jennings. There are others ...

The important point is as of this morning, the Patriots have $18 million in salary cap space.

The Dolphins, perpetually chasing the Patriots it seems, have $18.4 million in salary cap space.

March 16, 2016

Andre Branch agrees to terms with the Miami Dolphins.

The Miami Dolphins have agreed to a one-year contract with defensive end Andre Branch, The Herald's Barry Jackson is reporting.

And you're saying, "Who?"

Well, Jackson covers sports for The Herald ... Oh, you mean, who is Andre Branch?

Branch is a 26-year-old veteran of four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He has 14 career sacks in 51 games. He has always been a part-time player although last year injuries and other issues thrust Branch into starting nine games for Jacksonville.

If you want to see more on Branch go to this video from 2013.

"I always want to be better than yesterday," Branch said.

One thing that must be said: The Jags had Branch and brought in three other pass rushers to play ahead of him.

Miami's plan initially? The Dolphins are looking to Cameron Wake to be on a snap count of sorts coming of a season-ending Achilles injury at age 34. Indeed, Wake was on something of a limited snap count last year.

Branch can eat up some of those snaps while Wake is on the sideline.

 

Matt Moore gets some guarantees for himself and family

Matt Moore's deal with the Miami Dolphins has so many guarantees, it speaks to the player's desire to know where he's going to be the next two years and the team willing to give him that assurance.

Moore, who has been with Miami since 2011, signed a two-year deal worth $3.5 million with $2.25 million of that total guaranteed.

Moore got a $750,000 signing bonus and $500,000 of his $1 million 2016 base salary is guaranteed. In 2017 Moore is scheduled to make $1.75 million in base salary with $1 million of that also guaranteed. 

The contract includes language in case Moore, the backup quarterback, has to take the reins of the Dolphins offense for any reason.

The contract could be worth as much at $6 million because there is $1.25 million available in incentives (should Moore attain them) for 2016 and 2017.

The Dolphins will officially announce the Moore signing Wednesday or Thursday.

 

What now: Miami Dolphins find a backup QB, needs a starting RB

First the news: A league source confirmed this evening the Dolphins had reached a contract agreement with Matt Moore to be the backup quarterback. No contract details were available overnight.

That comes on the heels of the Dolphins losing running back C.J. Anderson to the Denver Broncos, who matched Miami's offer sheet to the restricted free agent.

So what does all this mean?

First the running back issue...The Dolphins need one. They need a back capable of sharing the 400 or so carries the Dolphins will have in 2016, either as the starter (1A) or the other back (1B) who can share carries with second-year back Jay Ajayi.

I know many Dolphins fans were disappointed their team isn't getting Anderson. I'm told the reaction within the Dolphins building was a collective shrug of the shoulders. It was not good news. But it wasn't devastating.

So are the Dolphins headed full bore into the third or fourth tier of free agency to find a ball carrier? I'm told no. I'm told the team will likely study the field, keep in touch with a couple of veteran possibilities and probably even bring one or two in before the draft. But the team will look at adding a running back in the draft, too.

[Update: The Dolphins will host a visit by veteran Chris Johnson today, per multiple reports. This would be exciting...if the year was 2008-2008 when Johnson was electric. Not the case any more.]

No panic, which is counter-intuitive considering Miami lost its starting running back in free agency and needs to find a new one.

Now to the QB situation...It is good news on multiple levels that Moore returns.

The Dolphins have a good teammate in the quarterback room, now. Again. Moore is a good man and having him on the team is a net plus on an intangible level.

He also is a veteran who has experience if he's called upon to play. So he checks that box.

But (you knew that was coming, right?) he's not going to be any sort of legitimate competition to starter Ryan Tannehill. No matter what the Dolphins say, no matter how many reps Moore gets in training camp, he is not going to be the starter.

So he's not really competing for the starting job.

And why does this matter? Well, the coaching staff at the end of last year came to the conclusion that Tannehill might benefit by being pushed on the field more. They felt Tannehill might benefit from competition.

I don't know how this new coaching staff felt but most coaches want competition all around their roster and new coach Adam Gase is simply not getting that at quarterback in 2016.

The only way competition is possible is if the Dolphins draft a quarterback high in the coming draft -- which seems unlikely now.

So that idea passes away. 

March 15, 2016

Report: Denver Broncos match, keep C.J. Anderson from Miami Dolphins

C.J. Anderson remains with the Denver Broncos and the Miami Dolphins continue to need a starting running back.

The Denver Broncos informed the running back they are matching a restricted free agent offer sheet the Dolphins and Anderson signed five days ago, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

[Update: It is pretty official based on the C.J. Anderson and John Elway tweets.]

 

That leaves the Dolphins with only Jay Ajayi as a viable starter in their backfield. The team must replace Lamar Miller, their starter the past three seasons, because he signed with the Houston Texans as a free agent.

The Dolphins had structured their offer sheet to Anderson in such a way as to make it unpalatable for the Broncos to match. Miami did so by giving Anderson a guaranteed $5.25 million roster bonus on March 31 in addition to his $675,000 base salary. Because roster bonuses are not prorated like signing bonuses, the entire sum of the bonus goes toward the 2016 Anderson cap number.

Thus Anderson's cap number is $6.1 million when a $100,000 workout bonus is also factored in. That was apparently not too much cap value on Anderson for the Broncos to match. 

Anderson's cap value drops in 2017 when $1.7 million of his $2.9 million base salary is guaranteed. He has a $100,000 workout bonus due that year as well for a total cap number of $3 million.

Anderson's cap numbers in 2018 and '19 are $4.5 million all drawn from his base salary. Those will be important years for Anderson. If he does not perform to expectations the next two years, the Broncos can cut him in before the 2018 or '19 season with no cap ramifications.

If re-signing Lamar Miller to start at RB was Plan A, and signing C.J. Anderson to start at RB was Plan B, the Dolphins are now at Plan C for finding a starting RB.

Cameron Wake and DeMarcus Ware negotiations: Same goals, different results

Consider Cameron Wake and DeMarcus Ware.

Both are highly decorated pass rushers. Wake is 34 years old and Ware turns 34 in July.

Both men fought injuries last season. Wake struggled early in 2015 with a hamstring injury and then suffered an Achilles' tendon rupture in October, ending his season after seven games. He finished with seven sacks. Ware missed five games in 2015 due to back problems, ended the season with only 10 starts and collected 7.5 sacks in the regular season.

(It must be said Ware got hot in the postseason, collecting three sacks in three games.)

Anyway, both the Dolphins and the Broncos zeroed in on their veteran pass rushers as needing pay cuts/restructures this offseason. Both had high salary cap values. Both are getting on in age. Both are likely going to be on snap counts in 2016 -- starters still, but veterans who will be managed throughout games so that they don't wear down or get injured.

Two NFL teams coming up with similar plans for two venerable, highly paid, highly effective pass rushers.

The Broncos succeeded in their plan.

Per ProFootballTalk.com, Ware agreed to reduce his compensation from $10 million to $6.5 million. Of the amount, $4 million is fully guaranteed, which means he most likely won’t have to worry about being cut on the eve of the start of the regular season.

Ware can earn the $3.5 million back by doing what he is supposed to do -- sack the quarterback. He gets $1.25 million for eight sacks, $2.5 million for nine, $3 million for 11, and $3.5 million for 13.

PFT's reporting found that Ware and his representatives believed that he’d earn $10 million or more this year on the open market, but Ware didn’t want to change teams. 

Fine.

So why couldn't the Dolphins succeed in their plan?

The Dolphins wanted to reduce Wake's $9.8 million cap figure for 2016 but that plan went south after multiple attempts, including a face-to-face meeting at the Indianapolis Combine in February.

And here we have a clear line of distinction drawn in what should be twin attempts by two NFL teams to accomplish the same offseason contract maneuver with two equivalent players.

So why would the Broncos succeed and the Dolphins fail?

Obviously, I do not have all the specifics because I am not on the phone calls between Wake's agents and the Dolphins representatives (likely Dawn Aponte). But it is bothersome that this didn't work for Miami and I blame both sides.

Obviously Wake and his side didn't see possibly leaving the Dolphins as a problematic end to failed negotiations. And, yes, getting cut is always a possibility when a team wants to do a contract adjustment and the player declines -- ask Brent Grimes.

Obviously Wake didn't want to make concessions on the same level as Ware did.

Obviously Wake's side was not motivated to stay in Miami come what may, including a pay cut.

But also, obviously, the Dolphins were not as adept at working this negotiation as the Broncos were on their side. Perhaps that is because the Dolphins side doesn't have the same fallback of past success to pitch to a player as what the Broncos have -- which is a Dolphins failure of another level. The Dolphins cannot tell a player, "Stay with us and win another Super Bowl."

But I'm told it was more than that.

Whereas the Broncos negotiation with Ware was almost entirely amicable, I'm told the Dolphins negotiation with Wake had "tension."

Why?

Why is it the Broncos can get a 33-year-old pass rusher with a limited history with the team, coming off an injury season, to work out a deal, but the Dolphins cannot get a 34-year-old pass rusher with a long history (since 2009) with the team, coming off an injury season, to work out a similar deal?

Why?

There are reasons some teams compete for division titles and get in the playoffs and compete for Super Bowls consistently. And there are reasons other teams do not.

March 14, 2016

Miami Dolphins show interest in Chris Clemons, but why?

So the Miami Dolphins are reportedly interested in defensive end Chris Clemons in free agency, according to multiple reports.

And my immediate reaction is, why?

It's not that Clemons isn't a player. I mean, he was in the NFL last year. It's just that he hasn't been a good, reliable player for a couple of years and hasn't been a really good since maybe 2012. So this would be significant news if it were four years ago.

But, sadly, this is 2016. And Chris Clemons is 34 years old.

And he'll be 35 during the season.

And while some bigger, stronger defensive ends can play into their mid thirties, the smaller ones often start to break down and lose their explosion and that's the thing that typically made them effective because, obviously, it wasn't overpowering size or strength.

Clemons is a 6-3 and 255 pound defensive end.

He had three sacks last season for the Jacksonville Jaguars but only one in the final eight games of the season. Indeed, he had only five tackles the final eight games of the season. He was also the worst edge rush defender in the NFL, per ProFootballFocus metrics.

Clemons was a big free agent addition in 2014 for Jacksonville but has been such a flop, a team with $63 million in cap space cut him to save $3 million. By the way, if you look at Clemons' stats, you see he had eight sacks in '14. You should recognize three of those came in one game against an Indianapolis offensive line that was missing three starters, including both starting offensive tackles.

Obviously, Miami's interest would be to kick the tires on Clemons as a situationational pass rusher. Isn't that what Cameron Wake was supposed to be at age 34 and coming off a season-ending Achilles' injury?

Seems Miami's plan to play Wake sparingly is changing on the fly because the team's hopes of landing a younger DE such as William Hayes fell through when Hayes re-signed with the Los Angeles Rams.

So Miami's staring DEs will be 34-year-old Wake and 31-year-old Mario Williams. And the guy off the bench could be 34-year-old Chris Clemons if Miami offers him and he signs.

Look, free agency is not yet a week old and teams are already shopping at the clearance rack. I get that. But there's a difference in shopping for a bargain, and shopping for a 34-year-old defensive end who has not been productive in quite some time. What is the point in that aside from wishing for an improbable career comeback year?

March 13, 2016

Miami Dolphins players ensured guaranteed money; No offseason title for team this year

Today is the fifth day of the NFL 2016 league year. That doesn't mean games but it does mean gains for several Miami Dolphins players.

As part of their contracts, several Miami Dolphins players see guarantees kick in today -- as a way of forcing the team to show its hand that it plans to keep the players or let them go by today.

The Dolphins are keeping Mike Pouncey, Branden Alber and Ryan Tannehill.

Pouncey on Sunday had his entire $9 million 2016 base salary and $2 million of his $7.95 million base salary for 2017 become fully guaranteed today.

Albert on Sunday had $6 million of his $8.42 million base salary in 2016 become fully guaranteed.

And Tannehill had $3.5 million of this $17.975 million base salary for 2017 become fully guaranteed.

Cha-ching. 

It has been a busy weekend for the Dolphins. They hosted quarterback Brandon Weeden, defensive end Jason Jones, linebacker Sean Spence all visit. And all left after their visits without contracts. The team is giving all of them the once-over as backup possibilities.

Not exactly free agency shopping at Sak's, right?

Well, as I explain in my column in today's Miami Herald, the Dolphins have apparently learned that making the big free agency splash is not any sort of guarantee for winning.

I give you some interesting factoids about what free agency did for other teams last year relative to great players coming on their roster. I outline for you the new direction the Dolphins are headed.

It means the Dolphins are not going to win the NFL offseason championship this year. That seems headed to the New York Giants.

I"m fine with that.

 

March 11, 2016

Miami Dolphins get no compensatory picks this year, but next year ...

The NFL announced its compensatory draft pick awards today and, well, nothing to see here for the Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins were shut out while the New England Patriots got four picks (a 3rd, and three 6th-rounders) and Buffalo got two picks (a 4th and a 6th). The New York Jets got no picks. New England's four picks ties Dallas and San Francisco for the most in the NFL this year.

So where's the good news?

Well, as I reported last night, the Dolphins are expecting a treasure trove of compensatory picks this time next year -- for the 2017 draft.

The Dolphins are banking on a third-, fourth- and seventh-round pick being awarded to them next year. Why?

Under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive

The compensatory picks will be positioned within the third through sixth rounds based on the value of the compensatory free agents lost.

Compensatory picks may not be traded this year.  A rule change approved by clubs in 2015 will permit compensatory draft picks to be traded beginning in 2017.

Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors.

The Dolphins this year have lost Olivier Vernon, who has signed one of the biggest contract in free agency, running back Lamar Miller, receiver Rishard Matthews and defensive end Derrick Shelby.

Brent Grimes headed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Brent Grimes is headed to Tampa Bay.

The former Dolphins cornerback, cut this week for various reasons, has agreed to terms with the Buccaneers, per Rick Stroud of the St. Petersburg Times.

Grimes, 32, declined in 2015 while playing the same system and under the same coaches he played under the previous couple of season in Miami. Grimes was excellent in 2013 and '14.

Last year he struggled with bigger AFC East wide receivers as well as others.

No terms have been released on the Grimes contract but it will be interesting to see to what degree the Buc commit to Grimes. My guess is it will not be a long-term deal.

[Update: The NFL Network is reporting the deal is for two years and $16.5 million. We shall see if that is accurate tomorrow when the NFLPA releases the contract report. Now, another report from the NFL Network is saying it is really a $13.5 million deal with many incentives that, if all earned, could reach $16.5 million. It will be interesting to see when the real numbers are reported what guarantees if any Grimes got and whether the deal is really a one-year in disguise.]

Grimes is reunited with Mike Smith. Smith was the Atlanta Falcons head coach when Grimes played in Atlanta. He is now the defensive coordinator for Tampa Bay.