March 17, 2015

Miami Dolphins in the running for New England guard

While the Buffalo Bills are messin' with a Miami Dolphins tight end, the South Florida team is apparently among the teams trying to mess with a New England Patriots offensive lineman.

The Dolphins are one of a handful of teams interested in veteran lineman Dan Connelly, per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.

The Dolphins view Connolly, 32, as a guard. The Seattle Seahawks view him as a center option to replace the traded Max Unger. Tampa Bay views him as a center and the Bears see him as a guard.

The point is Connolly is a commodity in the second-tier free agent market as much because of his talent as versatility.

The Patriots want him back, as well, to play guard.

Connolly has started all 43 regular-season games he has played for New England since 2012. Obviously he is not a long-term answer but the Dolphins may have to acquire a short-term gap filler. The team cut Shelley Smith this offseason after realizing he was too expensive, too soft, and not very good after signing him as a 2013 free agent.

Connolly is more seasoned and obviously more accomplished.

March 14, 2015

Miami Dolphins trade draft picks for cap space PLUS Kenny Stills talks

The Miami Dolphins definitely are valuing salary cap space over draft picks now.

The team traded Mike Wallace and his high cap number and toxic contract for a fifth round pick Friday. That was the same day they traded with New Orleans for Kenny Stills, a less accomplished wide receiver than Wallace, for a third-round pick as long as they took linebacker Dannell Ellebrbe and his toxic contract.

Draft picks for cap space ... And a lesser player.

Obviously, the Dolphins see it as addition by subtraction.

Stills spoke to the South Florida media Saturday. Here is everything he and general manager Dennis Hickey said:

General Manager Dennis Hickey:

(Opening statement) – “Thanks for venturing out on a Saturday. As always, this is an exciting time of the year as we continue to look to add talent. As an organization, we’re always looking through all of the different avenues to add players and obviously there are the signings, there are trades. We’ve had Kenny Stills on our radar for some time here, did a lot of research and watched him as a player. The opportunity to add a talented, young, athletic, fast, consistent receiver, to our roster, was something that we definitely looked into. We were very excited we were able to trade with the New Orleans Saints and add that caliber of player, caliber of person that’s going to be a positive teammate, both on and off the field. We have quite a few connections with Kenny and several of our players on the team, and as we talked to them they were very excited about the opportunity to add such a good player and such a talented, young, ascending player. It’s with that, I want to introduce Kenny Stills, the newest Miami Dolphin.”

Kenny Stills:

(On his connections with Dolphins players) – “Just knowing Damien Williams and Jamar Taylor, San Diego boys being here. Damien was a roommate of mine at Oklahoma. He called me immediately yesterday, it was great to hear from him and know that I’m going someplace where I know a couple of guys and I’m going to be comfortable.” (On how much that increases his comfort level in Miami already knowing) – “It’s always great to go somewhere where you’re going to know other guys and other players. I’m still going to have to meet guys in the locker room and introduce myself. It’s just a starting point for me.”

(On how high he thinks his ceiling is considering he is still just 22 years old) – “I’m not really looking and focusing on my ceiling right now. I’m just excited to be here, happy to be here and working my tail off to make sure that I can maximize my potential.”

(On if there were talks during the trade about extending his contract) – “I have no clue.”

(On being known as the speed receiver on this team and if he likes that label) – “Whose label is that?”

(On the thinking that WR Mike Wallace was the speed receiver and now that he’s gone, he will assume that role) – “I don’t think I was brought in to replace anybody. I’m just here to do whatever I can to help the team win. Mike’s a great player and I’ve looked up to things that he’s done. Like I said, I’m just here to help the team win in any way that I can.”

(On what he learned from New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees that he can take with him) – “A lot. I learned a lot from Drew. He’s a great professional, a great person. The little details and paying attention to the little details every day and coming to work every day with the right attitude and mindset. Just being a professional.”

(On how he would describe himself as a receiver) – “I would describe myself as a complete receiver. Every day, I come to work with the right attitude. I’m trying to get better and maximize myself in all facets of the game. I’m 22 and I’m young and I’m still working on my game. There is still plenty for me to improve on.”

(On which receivers he looked up to as a child) – “I wouldn’t say any heroes, but I loved watching Randy Moss, I loved watching Hines Ward. There are guys that I can name, a list of guys. Just what Randy Moss did in his rookie year and his whole career, it was something that really inspired me.”

(On if he was surprised that the Saints traded him) – “Definitely, I would say that I was surprised. I’m surprised with everything that’s going on in free agency right now throughout the league. Like I said, I’m happy to be here and I was really with my time in New Orleans, I had a great time there and learned a lot from Drew (Brees) and from the rest of the guys and (Head) Coach (Sean) Payton.”

(On his impression of the Dolphins and the direction they are headed) – “It’s a really exciting time here, bringing in Jordan Cameron, Ndamukong Suh and myself. Everything that’s been going on around here, it’s really exciting for everyone and you can tell that they’re looking forward to winning a lot of games and trying to bring a championship here.”

(On if moves like the Dolphins have made thus far excite players) – “Definitely. We’re all in this business to win, so when you see big moves being made like that, you see your opportunities and chances to win going up. Everyone is excited about that.”

(On his friendship with WR Jarvis Landry) – “Jarvis and I actually pretty good friends as well. I had a chance to meet him when I was in New Orleans. Obviously, he did his thing last year and I’m excited to team up with him and get out there and make some plays.”

(On what he was doing when he found out about the trade) – “I was at the gym.”

(On what his initial reaction was to when he found out he was being traded) – “It’s a different process. It’s definitely a whirlwind, knowing that you’ve just been traded. It’s different. I was surprised, I was excited, I had a bunch of emotions. I’m just happy to be here. It’s a fresh start and a new chapter in my life.”

(On if he’s kept track of QB Ryan Tannehill’s development from afar) – “Definitely, we had a chance to play against (Texas) A&M in college, so I saw Ryan playing receiver as well. He’s progressed over the years that he’s been in the league. I’m excited to work with him and get out there and make some plays.”

(On if having DT Ndamukong Suh on the roster helps recruit players, and if it helps the overall feeling of the team when they take the field) – “We know what he’s capable of and what he can do and I definitely think it’s a recruiting tool for other guys on the defense and on the offense as well. We know what we’re going to get from him. That’s exciting for this team.”

(On if being traded to a great city like Miami eases the shock of being traded) – “Miami is a great place, I’m excited to be here with this team regardless of the city. This is team is on the up and up and we want to win games. That’s what I’m excited about.”

(On how much time he’s spent in South Florida) – “Not much.”

(On if he’s been to South Florida before) – “Once, for a second to catch a flight.”

(On if anybody has told him what his role will be yet) – “No. I’ve expressed I’m here to do anything I can to help the team win. I think they will use me that way.”

March 13, 2015

Mike Wallace on way to Minnesota

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace has been on the phone with the Minnesota Vikings much of the afternoon and the player believes a trade to the Vikings is likely, per a source close to the player.

Wallace moments ago got off the phone with Vikings staff and has been telling friends and associates he is gone from Miami.

Wallace told teammates and family members.

[Update: A source tells me Wallace isn't kidding. He's been traded.]

Not coincidently, when Wallace was an unrestricted free agent in 2013 the two teams most interested in him were the Dolphins ...

And the Vikings.

Terms of the deal are not known at this time because, well, there is no deal at this time. The Dolphins have no comment.

[Update: The Dolphins get a fifth round pick from the Vikings. The Dolphins send Wallace and a seventh to the Vikings.]

Miami Dolphins trade for WR Kenny Stills

Mike Tannenbaum mentioned wide receiver and cornerback as two Miami needs while doing a segment on the Joe Rose Show earlier this week.

The Dolphins are addressing the receiver part as they've traded for wide receiver Kenny Stills, per a league source.

The compensation for Stills is not known, but ProFootballTalk.com is reporting it is LB Dannell Ellerbe and a third-round draft pick that goes to New Orleans. I have not confirmed the compensation package.

[Update: Ellerbe tweeted his good-bye to Miami and excitement about his "new team" so obviously he is on the move.]

[Update: The Saints announced they traded Stills for Ellerbe and a Dolphins 2015 third-round pick.]

[Update: The Dolphins have announced this move as well.]

Stills is a young, 22, and productive wide receiver. He's also cheap on the salary cap.

Stills had 63 catches for 931 yards and three TDs in 2014. His career yards per catch average is 16.5 per catch, so yes, he is something of a deep threat.

Stills was a fifth- round pick in 2013.

That's the same offseason the Dolphins went crazy, cutting productive Karlos Dansby and signing Ellerbe to a five-year, $35 million deal in free agency.

The Dolphins never got their money's worth. Ellerbe was not the middle linebacker Miami hoped he'd be in 2013. He often was pushed around and was poor in coverage. Last year he was moved to outside linebacker but even that was a failure because Ellerbe suffered a season ending hip injury in the season opener.

If Ellerbe has indeed been traded, the Dolphins save $5.65 million of salary cap space with the move.

Jordan Cameron speaks on QB, Miami Dolphins offense, concussions and joining the team

Tight ends catch touchdown passes in the red zone all around the NFL.

It is a fact. The statistics show how effective good players at that position damage defenses in the red zone and come up with TDs.

The Dolphins now have a legitimate red zone threat in 6-5, 265-pound Jordan Cameron.

"Any time you can add talent to your roster, especially Pro Bowl talent, it's always a good day for the Miami Dolphins," general manager Dennis Hickey said in introducing Cameron to the media Friday.

Hickey said Cameron brings "playmaking ability" and "mismatch ability" to the team.

And Cameron agreed with him.

"I can run," he said, having covered 40 yards in the 4.5 range at the combine years ago. "And I can win."

He can win match-ups. And in Miami he'll have help because two primary factors Cameron saw in Miami helped him pick the team as an unrestricted free agent.

"This system is similar to what I had two years ago when I played in the Pro Bowl," Cameron said. "In the NFL a lot of the success you have is the quarterback and the system you're in and those two things are here."

In Cleveland the quarterback situation is uncertain. Their best QB on the roster now is Josh McCown. Johnny Manziel is on the roster but currently in rehab to address a personal addiction.

In Miami, Ryan Tannehill is the unquestioned starter.

"He's an up-and-coming guy, very young, working hard and they were saying a lot of good things about him yesterday in this building," Cameron said. "And that's a big part of my decision. I'm very excited to be here. It's going to be a good fit."

It would not have been a fit had Cameron's physical showed significant issues. Cameron has suffered three concussions the past two years and that forced him to miss some time last season. But apparently everyone is satisfied all is well.

"If it was a concern for me, I wouldn't be here right now," Cameron said. "I've seen a lot of specialists and talked to a lot of people. It's clear. My baseline is the same as it was six years ago. I don't have any cause for concern on my end and the Dolphins felt the same."

There was an hour or so Thursday during which it seemed Cameron was supposed to be headed back to Cleveland, if multiple national reports could be believed. But Cameron said he never agreed with any other team and obviously, he never left South Florida.

"The Dolphins were aggressive," Cameron said, "and talks were heating up, and the Dolphins were pretty adamant about bringing me here. I wanted to be here and that was one of the things, the mutual agreement. We made it happen."

March 12, 2015

Jordan Cameron signs with the Miami Dolphins

No. Yes. No. Yes.

In a bizarre twist, the Miami Dolphins and tight end Jordan Cameron have agreed to a contract, per a source. He is Miami's new starting tight end.

UPDATE: The Dolphins have confirmed a two-year deal is signed.

Reports earlier today from multiple national media platforms had Cameron going back to Cleveland on a two-year, $15 million deal.

Well, not exactly.

The Dolphins are getting Cameron instead.

UPDATE: Multiple reports have Cameron getting a two-year deal for $15 million. It will be interesting to see the structure but I'm certain the cap number is not more than $6 million the first year.

Cameron, 26, has suffered three concussions the past two years. He underwent a physical with the Dolphins so one assumes he passed and the team is comfortable with his situation.

The addition of Jordan Cameron assumes the Dolphins are done with Charles Clay. That, however, is only an assumption.

As Cameron's back-and-forth earlier this evening proves, assume nothing until we see the numbers on the contract.

Clay spent three days in Buffalo and did not get the much-expected offer sheet from the Bills everyone has been awaiting. Clay is still a target for the Bills.

The Dolphins have not pulled their $7 million transition tender on Clay. He is still tied to them, as well.

Cameron back to Cleveland, Clay still option in Miami

Forget Jordan Cameron. Yes, he visited the Miami Dolphins today. And then he re-signed with the Cleveland Browns, per reports by NFL.com, Yahoo and ESPN.

But the Dolphins are still aggressively trying to re-sign tight end Charles Clay.

Although executive vice president for football operations Mike Tannenbaum has never met Clay, the player is very well respected within the Miami organization and practically everyone is saying this is a must-get.

So the Dolphins, led by Tannenbaum, are trying to get him.

Interestingly, the much-anticipated offer sheet from the Buffalo Bills still has not come in at this hour.

The Bills are not giving up.

So in that respect, the two division rivals are battling.

With Cameron going back to Cleveland, the Browns are apparently out of the chase for Clay. Cameron got a two-year deal worth $15 million, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Dolphins say not working on a trade for Evan Mathis

The Miami Dolphins are working on a trade to acquire guard Evan Mathis from the Philadelphia Eagles, The Miami Herald has learned.

The two clubs and agent Drew Rosenhaus are working out the details of a trade today, per The Herald's Adam Beasley.

[UPDATE: The Dolphins are denying The Herald report.]

If true, Mathis would address the team's need for a starter and would likely complete what seems to be the nucleus of Miami's starting offensive line:

LT Branden Albert, LG Billy Turner, C Mike Pouncey, RG Evan Mathis, RT Ja'Wuan James.

If not true, the Dolphins still need a good guard next to James to upgrade the run-blocking, with which James struggled some last season.

The Dolphins must obviously compensate the Eagles for the player. It is believed that can be accomplished with a mid-round selection.

Mathis has two years (2015 and '16) left on his contract but the Dolphins would likely want to extend that and lower his cap numbers.

 

All tied together: Charles Clay offer sheet, Jordan Cameron visit, Suh big bucks, salary cap situation

Thursday is tight ends day for the Miami Dolphins.

As I reported here overnight Tuesday early Wednesday, the Dolphins have Cleveland tight end Jordan Cameron on their free agency radar and that is going to become obvious because the former Pro Bowl player is scheduled to begin his visit with Miami after arriving in South Florida Wednesday evening.

At the same time, I'm told the Buffalo Bills and the representation for Charles Clay are expected to put the finishing touches on an offer sheet to the Miami transition player. If the agreement is finalized, Clay may sign it likely before the weekend. The Dolphins would then have five days to decide whether to match the offer sheet or let Clay walk.

The Dolphins get no draft choice compensation if they do not match.

If the Bills and Clay cannot put together the offer sheet -- yeah, unlikely -- the tight end may move on to visiting the Cleveland Browns, which also have interest in signing Clay to an offer sheet.

Each team has more salary cap space than the Dolphins. I'll update those figures here in the morning when they are posted by the NFL Players Association. But after signing Ndamukong Suh Wednesday, the Dolphins may find it difficult to match a heavily frontloaded, 2015 heavy-salary-cap-hit offer.

The Suh deal, by the way, is every bit as staggering as Chris Mortensen reported it would be Sunday.

Per Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, Suh's deal is six years and worth, here we go, $114,285,000.

He got a $25,500,000 signing bonus.

A total of $59,995,000 is fully guaranteed. His annual salary will average out to $19,047,500.

His base salary in 2015 will be $985,000 so the cap hit this year will be $6.085 million.

His base salary in 2016 will be $23,485,000. That plus the prorated signing bonus number of $5.1 million will make his '16 cap hit a whopping $28.585 million.

This base salary in '17 is $9.985 million so his cap hit is scheduled to be $15.085 million.

The base salaries this season, next season and in 2017 are fully guaranteed.

This disparity between the Year Two and Year Three cap number suggests the Dolphins expect the cap to rise dramatically next year, perhaps by as much at $10 million.

Suh will be due an $8.5 million roster bonus on the fifth day of the league year in 2018. If he gets that, it'll be a good bet he remains on the team that year and will be scheduled to make $16.95 million in base salary. His cap number in 2018 is scheduled at $22.085 million.

In 2019 his base salary is $18.95 million and his cap number is at $24.085 million.

In 2020 his base salary is $18.36 million and his cap number is at $18.36 million.

(I promise, I started this post with the intention of writing about tight ends).

Anyway, the Dolphins are not out of the Clay sweepstakes. If they are smart, they'll realize they undervalued the market for him and are trying to still work out a multi-year deal. On the other hand, I'm sure Clay is committed to seeing what the Bills and possibly the Browns actually put on paper.

Restricted free agents don't take trips unless some initial ground work is done and both sides are serious. So Charles Clay didn't go to Buffalo to eat wings.

The Bills on Wednesday cut longtime tight end Scott Chandler. The move saved the team $2.25 million in cap space. Guess where that is likely to be allocated?

Yes, the Clay offer sheet.

The point is the Dolphins are currently carrying $7 million in cap space for Charles Clay. The Bills may want to double that cap number this year to make it prohibitive for Miami to match even if the Dolphins were to elect cutting linebacker Dannell Ellerbe -- a $5.65 million savings -- to try to fit Clay on board.

As for Cameron ... He would be much cheaper than Charles Clay. The fact he's had three concussions in two seasons limits his earning potential.

Cameron probably gets a one-year, prove-it contract or perhaps a two-year contract to make the deal more cap friendly with the second year becoming an easy cut option.

It will be interesting to see if the Dolphins wait on the Clay offer sheet first before offering Cameron (assuming medical tests come back relatively clean) or if they've already reconciled that they're going to get blown out of the water in that first year by the Bills.

The answer may come today.

March 11, 2015

Dolphins working on restructures for Ellerbe, Wallace...might be able to keep both

The Miami Dolphins are working to restructure the contracts of both receiver Mike Wallace and Dannell Ellerbe and the success of such moves will determine the status of both players on the team's roster going forward.

"We're working through the process with both," a high-ranking team source told The Miami Herald today.

That may be very good news for a team that has undergone something of a talent purge the past two weeks to find a comfort zone in the NFL's $143 million salary cap.

The Dolphins have cut receivers Brandon Gibson and Brian Hartline, defensive tackle Randy Starks, linebacker Phillip Wheeler, cornerback Cortland Finnegan and restructured punter Brandon Fields in order to make room against the cap.

It is possible the team won't be able to match a tender offer by the Buffalo Bills for transition player Charles Clay, depending on the structure of that deal.

Despite that, the Dolphins could possibly end the talent bleed by keeping both or either Wallace and Ellerbe if restructures are successful.

Wallace told ESPN's Josina Anderson he would be amenable to a restructure but not "anything crazy" and not necessarily a pay cut. Obviously, Ellerbe's representation will eventually be contacted by the Dolphins on a possible restructure although it is unknown how much of a pay cut that would entail.

The Dolphins don't just want cap relief for this year. They're looking for cap relief for 2016 and 2017 when big contracts for center Mike Pouncey, quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and defensive end Olivier Vernon will be at the forefront of work to do for the team's salary cap team.

If the Dolphins can keep both Ellerbe and Wallace it would lessen if not end the need to spend money in free agency at the receiver and linebacker positions.

If the players cannot agree to a restructure, however, their status on the team for 2015 will remain uncertain and perhaps even tenuous.

Ellerbe signed a five-year, $35 million deal in 2013 that made was the 12th highest of 71 inside linebacker contracts, according to overthecap.com.

He is scheduled to count $9.85 million against the cap this season.

Wallace signed a five-year, $60 million deal in 2013 that made him the NFL's highest paid wide receiver. He is scheduled to $12.1 million against the cap this year and $13.7 million in 2016 and '17.

The Dolphins obviously want to reduce those cap figures for both players.

The team is working under no real deadline on this matter. It is under the cap even with Ndamukong Suh's $114 million deal coming online Thursday. The Dolphins can actually keep either or both Ellerbe and Wallace until after June 1 before making a final decision on their status if they don't restructure.

Failing to restructure, the Dolphins can save more cap space by cutting either or both players after June 1. 

 

Ndamukong Suh signs with the Dolphins (finally)

What has been known and obvious since Sunday morning when the Miami Dolphins and the representatives for Ndamukong Suh successfully laid the groundwork to a contract is now a reality: The best and most expensive free agent on the market has joined the Dolphins.

Suh has signed his six-year contract with the Dolphins, according to a league source.

He arrived in South Florida this morning. He arrived at the training facility early in the afternoon. And after getting a tour of the facility and doing the requisite meet-and-greet with the braintrust and coaches, Suh put signature to contract.

The deal details have not been made known to The Miami Herald. But ESPN reported four days ago it was worth $114 million with $60 million in guaranteed money. ProFootballTalk.com reported the $60 million figure is fully guaranteed with $20 million of that being paid out this year.

The fact the $60 million is fully guaranteed means owner Stephen Ross has to set aside the entire sum. Ross, a billionaire and one of the NFL's richest owners, can obviously deal with that money flow issue.

After all, he approved this entire deal from start to finish.

Ndamukong Suh is a Miami Dolphin.

Randy Starks cut by Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins are making room for the signing of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh today. He has arrived in South Florida, per a team source.

So one defensive tackle is coming and another is going because Randy Starks was released by the team this morning.

The move saves the Dolphins $5 million in salary cap space. It also creates a big hole on the roster.

The Dolphins are now without two of the top three defensive tackles from last year's team -- a fallout from being the No. 24 run defense in the NFL -- as Jared O'drick is gone to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

But Suh and fallout from his whopping $114 million contract will continue to be felt, as I write in my column today.

Later today the Dolphins are likely also going to release linebacker Dannell Ellerbe if they cannot trade him and his terrible contract. Starksflips

Starks, 30, turned in a typical year (for him) last year. He had 26 tackles in 14 starts. He had 4.5 sacks and recovered a fumble. He played for the Dolphins since 2008 when he came from Tennessee as an unrestricted free agent.

He's on the market once again.

By the way, I appreciate that Starks was his own man and something of a bully. When the coaching staff benched him before the first game in 2013 because he had stayed away from all the team's offseason activities and workouts while tagged as the franchise player, Starks revolted.

In the first game against Cleveland, coming in as a substitute, he picked up a sack immediately. And then turned to the sideline and shot coaches a middle-finger salute.

Never forget that moment. 

March 10, 2015

Miami Dolphins top two UFA targets after Suh ...

Free agency is a two-way street and so while tight end Charles Clay is shopping his services by visiting the Buffalo Bills, the Miami Dolphins have set their sights on a possible replacement by focusing on Cleveland Browns free agent Jordan Cameron.

The team is also moving forward with plans to chase cornerback Brice McCain of the Pittsburgh Steelers in free agency.

McCain is in town visiting and the sides have already talked contract. Expect Cameron to visit with the Dolphins barring him getting a quick deal elsewhere.

Cameron, 26, is interesting because it shows the Dolphins are prepared to move in another direction should Clay get the offer sheet everyone expects in Buffalo. The Dolphins are not going to overpay for Clay, I'm told.

Cameron is on the comeback trail after missing six games of the 2014 season with recurring concussion issues. Cameron has suffered three concussions the past two seasons. Obviously the Dolphins would have to, well, have Cameron's head examined before offering him a contract.

But when he's healthy Cameron is very productive -- perhaps moreso than Clay. Cameron was a Pro Bowl player in 2013 when he caught 80 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. He is a legitimate 6-5, 255-pound seam threat.

The Seahawks were expected to be major players to sign Cameron because of the player's ties to coach Pete Carroll -- Cameron played for Carroll at USC. But Seattle on Tuesday pieced together a blockbuster trade for former University of Miami tight end Jimmy Graham, so that door closed.

The Browns reportedly want Cameron back at the right price. The Raiders are said to be interested as well. Cameron had 24 catches for 424 yards and two touchdowns for the Browns in 10 games last year.

McCain, 28, is a former sixth-round draft pick of the Houston Texans. He played for the Pittsburgh Steelers last season, and started nine games when injuries befell the Pittsburgh secondary. McCain six passes defensed, three interceptions and scored a touchdown off one of those picks.

McCain, 5-9 and 190 pounds, would neither be cheap nor expensive. His price tag will be in the $3 million per year range.

The Steelers and Minnesota are also interested. The Steelers have an offer on the table for McCain for three years.

 

Miami Dolphins free agency update here (free)

The Dolphins have cut guard Shelley Smith in a salary cap move.

The team saves $2.75 million of cap space with the move. Smith, an unrestricted free agent addition in 2014, was unspectacular in 2014, starting three games. He was handed the starting right guard job in training camp and lost it in the first preseason game.

While Smith did show some promise as a backup, the team's hopes he could compete to start was mostly a dream unrealized.

The feeling among a couple of league observers is the Dolphins are doing this move as a compliment to finding a starting-caliber guard in free agency rather than a move to make cap room for Ndamukong Suh's deal.

The move could also be used to brace for an impending battle for tight end Charles Clay.

Clay, a transition player, is on his way to a visit with the Buffalo Bills.

Clay is a major target for the Bills. They expect to sign him to an offer sheet that will make it difficult for the Dolphins to match.

So the nearly $3 million the team just saves plus the lowering of the $7 million cap number currently on Clay based on the transition tag could be enough to strike a long-term deal or match one.

We'll see. 

The team has also restructured he contract of punter Brandon Fields, as reported by The Herald's Adam Beasley.

Meanwhile, the New England Patriots signed former Dolphins receiver Brandon Gibson, per ESPN. The deal is for one year and $825,000.

 

TE Charles Clay may be on the move despite transition tag

Tight end Charles Clay is a good player and the opening of the unrestricted free agency period may prove multiple teams share that opinion.

According to multiple reports in the Buffalo News and Cleveland Plain Dealer, both the Bills and the Browns are prepared to make a run at the Dolphins tight end.

Clay was tagged as Miami's transition player for a $7 million price tag. But that does not prevent other teams from signing Clay to an offer sheet.

The Dolphins would have the option of matching any offer and keeping Clay but would get no compensation for not matching.

Obviously, the Browns and Bills would both structure an offer such that it would be prohibitive for the Dolphins to match. That comes from the Dolphins spending $114 million on Ndamukong Suh.

Yes, that move has cap repercussions and this might be one of them.

Interestingly, the Dolphins elected not to put an $8.37 million franchise tag on Clay that would have basically killed all outside interest in Clay because it would have required the Dolphins get a first round pick in return for losing him.

(The more intelligent move would have been signing Clay to a long-term deal that would have been more cap friendly than either the transition or franchise tag and would have guaranteed Clay stay in Miami. Obviously didn't happen with minutes to go before start of free agency).

By the way, Jimmy Graham, perhaps the best tight end in football, is being traded to the Seattle Seahawks for center Max Unger and a first round pick this year, per multiple reports. The rich getting richer.

Heath Evans: Suh contract a 'bank robbery'

The Miami Dolphins and Ndamukong Suh are mere hours from finalizing a $114 million deal that includes $60 million fully guaranteed, according to ProFootballTalk.com (amazing details of a deal leaking although officially the Dolphins have no offer on table).

Anyway, the Miami braintrust, led by owner Stephen Ross, ostensibly loves this Suh deal.

NFL Network analyst Heath Evans, a former Dolphins fullback, hates this Suh deal by the Dolphins.

On NFL Network's free agency lead-in show Evans unloaded on the Dolphins:

"We're going to look back here in history and say this is dumb," Evans said, making the point the Dolphins would have been better off signing multiple good players instead of one great player.

Then Evans went to town on the idea Suh is a great player.

"Ndamukong Suh, look at his production last year when the Lions played the Patriots," Evans said. "He was basically a non-factor."

Suh had four tackles against the Patriots last season in a game New England beat Detroit, 34-9.

"The dominant players that are dominant every week they're double teamed just like him. They never have bad days. This guy had plenty of bad days."

Evans went so far as to call Suh's contract with the Dolphins "a bank robbery."

"Suh robbed the bank," he said, "and Joe Philbin is going to get framed for this bank robbery. The trickle down effect of this will be devastating to this franchise, mark my words."

Heath Evans hates the Dolphins.

Miami Dolphins tender (and keep) Derrick Shelby

Olivier Vernon is a starting defensive end for the Miami Dolphins about to start his fourth season with the team. Derrick Shelby is a reserve defensive end for the Miami Dolphins about to start his fourth season with the team.

And, in a strange quirk of the rules and the salary cap, Shelby is going to make more money than Vernon in 2015.

The Dolphins Monday night tendered Shelby, a restricted free agent, the $2.35 million necessary to put a second-round compensation tag on him. That tag ensures that no other team will sign Shelby because no one will want to give up a second-round pick in exchange.

The reason Shelby was restricted is because he came into the league as an undrafted free agent and had not signed a long-term deal.

Vernon came into the league as a third-round pick and signed a four-year rookie contract. He is scheduled to make $1.532 million this year in the final year of his original deal.

He'll make nearly $1 million less than Shelby.

Crazy, right?

Obviously all this will change next year when both Vernon and Shelby are scheduled to hit free agency. The Dolphins are likely to try to extend or re-sign Vernon.

But for one year, the money is greater for Shelby -- the reserve player.

The Dolphins, by the way, could have tendered Shelby lower. They could have given him the $1.52 tender but that would not ensure they would keep him. Shelby could have gone into free agency and sought a better deal without any compensation due any interested team because, again, he was an undrafted free agent originally.

And the lower tender compensates the team losing the player with original draft round compensation -- which in Shelby's case would have meant nothing coming back to Miami.

Shelby had 27 tackles and three sacks for the Dolphins in 2014.

Dolphins likely to be investigated for Suh deal

The NFL office sent a letter to all 32 NFL teams Monday warning them not to, well, tamper with players during the so-called legal tampering period which began Saturday and runs until the start of free agency Tuesday at 4 p.m.

The NFL said it would investigate clubs who forged contract agreements with prospective unrestricted free agents before 4 p.m. Tuesday against the league's rules. And while the NFL on Monday declined to tell The Miami Herald whether the Dolphins would be among those investigated this is clear:

1. The Dolphins, who have an agreement in principle with probably the biggest free agent on the market in Ndamukong Suh, are in the NFL's crosshairs.

2. The team is taking the threat of sanctions extremely seriously.

The Dolphins have been in utter lockdown for a week since word leaked they would be chasing Suh. But something changed Sunday and Monday. I'm told employees were told they better have zero contact addressing the possibility of a Suh deal with anyone -- much less the media.

And that makes sense because the media blew Miami's cover on the Suh deal.

Yes, although everyone does it, it is going to be hard for the Dolphins to explain to the NFL how ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported an agreement between Suh and the Dolphins on Saturday when no offer was allowed. This will be particularly difficult to explain if Mortensen's report -- of a six-year, $114 million deal with $58 million in guaranteed money and $60 million the first three years -- is accurate.

How could the numbers be out there and be right if the Dolphins weren't exchanging offers with Suh's agent Jimmy Sexton?

(Sexton is an agent for CAAsports. Mortensen is reprensented by the agency).

Anyway, the Dolphins are said to be "nervous" about this and some other negotiations, one agent dealing with the team told me Monday.

No doubt this email obtained by NFL.com had something to do with raising the alarm for a team that's normally secretive anyway:  

"Clubs were advised of the rules for the three-day negotiating period in PP-23-15 (attached). These rules include limitations such as that a club cannot make an ‘offer;’ or enter into a written or oral agreement of any kind, express or implied, or make promises or representations of any type concerning the terms or conditions of employment to be offered to any Unrestricted Free Agent for inclusion in a Player Contract after the start of the new League Year; or provide assurances of intent as to the future execution of an NFL Player Contract.

"Clubs were further advised that ‘Any attempt to undermine the purpose of this negotiating period may be considered conduct detrimental to the League.’ At this time, the League office is beginning investigations into a number of reported agreements with clubs. Violations will be dealt with accordingly."

Violations may be sanctions with fines on the club or individuals and may also rise to the level of costing a team a draft pick or picks.

Again, everyone does this. The Jacksonville Jaguars have an agreement with soon-to-be former Dolphins Jared Odrick. The Buffalo Bills have agreed to give LeSean McCoy a contract extension even though they cannot officially trade for him until 4 p.m.

But when the deal agreed to is the biggest one of free agency and Suh's will probably be that ... And when that deal is reportedly done three days before an offer could officially even be made ... And when the entity breaking the story is the biggest media empire in the nation ... That gets the NFL's attention more than Odrick to the Jags.

By the way, the Dolphins have perfectly good reasons to be nervous about this issue for other reasons. If they've even come close to adhering to the rules, Suh has not signed the deal -- even though he was in South Florida. And until there is a signature, there is nothing certain.

Remember that years ago Minnesota defensive tackle John Randle, visiting the Dolphins facility, said he was eager to sign with the team. And during his visit his phone rang. And suddenly he excused himself because, he told his Miami hosts, he was re-signing with the Vikings.

Also remember that running back Frank Gore reportedly agreed on Sunday to play for the Eagles in 2015. And on Monday he changed his mind and is continuing to look for a team.

Finally there is this: It is possible that to veil the fact they had an agreement with Suh that was reported by ESPN, the numbers change somewhat so that all parties can plausibly deny the report of an agreement was correct.

Wouldn't it be interesting if leaking the numbers costs somebody actual dollars to, well, make those leaked numbers wrong?

Welcome to free agency.

 

March 09, 2015

Hartline: Only regret not winning enough, not making playoffs

Brian Hartline got a call from Joe Philbin last week, the night before he came into a scheduled meeting with the team. The coach wanted to let Hartline know he was being cut. He was going to get a chance to test free agency before the market actually opened for everyone else.

"'It's the right thing to do,' coach Philbin told me and I appreciated that," Hartline said Monday evening.

It was right because Hartline played six years with the Dolphins, forged friendships, was a team guy, and that time was coming to an end. So the early release gave him a chance to land a new job before other wide receivers flooded the market.

Hartline landed that job Monday night. Before the start of free agency.

He agreed to a two-year, $6 million deal with the Cleveland Browns, according to his agent Drew Rosenhaus.

"It's weird," Hartline said. "To me, my plan was to play as a Miami Dolphins for 10 years. I didn't think anything else. For me, not to accomplish that, shame on me. But the business of football can be tough. It's a grueling business. But no hard feelings. I left on a good note. I will hold a special place in my heart for my time in Miami.

"It was a great experience. There was nothing negative except not winning enough games and not getting into the playoffs."

Hartline might have had a chance to return at a much reduced salary. But that would have meant coming back to the same situation and in the same role he was in last year when he statistics dropped from 76 catches and 1,016 yards in 2013 to 39 catches and 474 yards last season.

So on to Cleveland Hartline goes.

"I'm 28 years old and I can still run," Hartline said. "I'm an ascending player still."

To show it with the Browns, he'll have to adjust to their uncertain quarterback situation. The team signed Josh McCown as a free agent and Johnny Manziel is on the roster as well but still in rehab to address personal addictions.

"Josh brings veteran leadership," Hartline said. "I heard he's been in the league 12 years and had 12 different offensive coordinators. He's looking to lay some foundation and be here over a period of time. I think he gives you the chance to win.

"I'm not speaking for the coaches. But I know the coaches want to create competition and I know him with the other quarterbacks will compete. I'm looking forward to playing with all of them."

Hartline hopes to deliver some sort of farewell to Miami fans. He's thinking about a billboard or a page in the newspaper to deliver his message. But he leaves open the possibility that some day ...

"Who knows," he said, "Maybe in two years, I might be back. You never know."

Miami Dolphins put Brandon Fields in cut mode

The Dolphins plan to release punter Brandon Fields if he does not restructure his contract in the next few hours, The Miami Herald has learned.

The Herald's Adam Beasley is reporting Fields has been made aware the Dolphins are prepared to part ways in a salary cap move.

Cutting Fields would save the Dolphins. $3.1 million in cap space.

That's too tempting for a team trying to eke out space to fit the $114 million Ndamukong Suh contract under the cap by tomorrow.

Fields is coming off the worst season of his career on a statistical basis.

His punting average was a career low 42.7 yards. His net average was a career low 38.6, lowest since 2010. With the Dolphins offense improving, Fields also punted fewer times than at any time in his career.

That decreased his worth to the team.

The Dolphins are expected to make multiple moves in the coming hours beyond Fields.

Phillip Wheeler will be cut. Dannell Ellerbe will be cut. Unresticted free agent Jared Odrick obviously has played his last game for the Dolphins. They Dolphins may also try to restructure the contract of defensive tackle Randy Starks or cut him as well.