March 23, 2015

Dolphins explain why they love Stills, Wallace trades

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- On the surface it seems the Miami Dolphins got worked in trading away Mike Wallace after acquiring Kenny Stills.

Miami gave up Wallace and a seventh-round pick to Minnesota for a fifth round pick.

The Dolphins had already traded linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and third-round pick to New Orleans for Stills.

But the Dolphins are very happy with the deals they made and don't see a disparity in losing Wallace for only a fifth while getting the less accomplished Stills for a third. Why?

Because the team doesn't view Wallace and Stills in the same market.

The Dolphins see Stills as a young, ascending, proven receiver who is still cheap because he's still playing on his rookie contract. The Dolphins saw Wallace as an older, more expensive and somewhat troubled veteran.

The Dolphins actually traded Wallace to Minnesota for the same compensation the Chicago Bears traded Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets -- the player and a seventh-round pick for a fifth-round pick.

And both teams -- Miami and Chicago -- view the player they dealt as somewhat troubled.

"Mike contributed the last few years," Dolphins executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum said during a break at the NFL owners' meeting. "We felt once we had Kenny Stills, it was a good opportunity for [Wallace] in Minnesota. They were interested in him a couple of years ago when he was a free agent. It was good for him and we felt it was good for us. It gives him a chance to get a fresh start and for us with Kenny Stills in our offense and where we project him with Jarvis Landry we just thought it was the right fit to do that now."

Make no mistake this wasn't merely an exchange where talent was considered. Salary cap was considered. Chemistry in the locker room was considered. And, yes, that episode in which Wallace left the field complaining in the 2014 season-finale, the one that led to his benching by coach Joe Philbin for not being in the game, was considered.

"I wasn't here for all that," Tannenbaum said. "There were challenges that were in the past. We're not hiding from that. With that said, we have to look at all those things. We could have made the cap work but you do have to look at the economics when you make a decision in our system. At the end of the day when you look at who we had and where we're going to go, it was the best decision for us.

"It leaves us with flexibility moving forward not only this year but in the future. I would say the variables you want to balance short term and long term is we have Kenny Stills here. And I don't want to say we're replacing Mike Wallace one-for-one [with Stills] because he's not, but we have another young receiver who's played in the league, who is explosive. It gave us the confidence to make that move."

The Dolphins may use their first-round pick on a wide receiver. Tannenbaum acknowledges that. He also says maybe the team won't go that direction but the fact he's open to the idea suggests a wide receiver could be added in the draft and then a veteran could come afterward.

(Nothing is imminent on adding a veteran, per a source).

But Stills is a player the team has very high hopes for.

"That old axiom I believe a lot in that the tape sets the floor and the character sets the ceiling," Tannenbaum said. "He's played in the league. He's had a fair amount of production. His production is what it is -- it's been good. It hasn't been prolific by any stretch but we felt for what we're asking that position to do there was explosiveness. And the routes he runs well were responsibilities we felt were pretty close to what we're going to do with our offense.

"The more research we did on Kenny not only at Oklahoma but New   Orleans we felt football was important. He's young, there's a lot of good football ahead of him. So we really feel he has a bright future."

March 22, 2015

The reason the Dolphins didn't use the franchise tag on Charles Clay

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Charles Clay's agent did a great job getting him a big contract from the Buffalo Bills. But it was obviously a much better job than even he expected to do, apparently.

Clay and his representative are getting $23 million from the Bills the first two years of the tight end's new five-year contract with his new team.

That is $10 million more, per a Dolphins source, than the last contract Clay presented the Dolphins before they tagged him with the transition tag. And, interestingly, the Dolphins' negotiations with Clay prior to them tagging him never rose above $6.8 million per season.

That explains why the Dolphins did not use the franchise tag on Charles Clay.

The team using the $7 million transition tag was actually above where contract talks had reached with the tight end at the time. Putting the $8.2 million franchise tag on Clay would have effectively been $1.4 million more than what Clay was asking at the time on a one-year basis.

Obviously, neither the Clay camp nor the Dolphins expected the Bills to come into the picture with such urgency to sign Clay. And urgency is exactly what the Bills showed with their contract to Clay.

They gave Clay $38 million over five years, or $7.6 million per year and, yes, made Clay the highest paid tight end in the NFL next two seasons, averaging $11.5 million per season.

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The Dolphins may meet with wide receiver Greg Jennings while their contingent is at the owners' meeting here in Phoenix.

Jennings was scheduled to be in the area for other reasons and so a tentative meeting later this week was set.

The Dolphins may address the wide receiver position with a free agent addition but not necessarily before the draft.

The team is 45-55 percent going to address the position before the draft, meaning more likely afterward, according to a team source.

The Dolphins have shown interest in both Michael Crabtree and Jennings.

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The one-year contract quarterback Matt Moore signed with Miami to be Ryan Tannehill's backup is worth $2.6 million plus incentives.

The incentives obviously would drive up Moore's salary if he actually plays, which he has did sparingly the past two years after getting $8 million for two years.

 

March 19, 2015

Gone: Miami Dolphins not matching Charles Clay deal

Tight end Charles Clay is a Buffalo Bills player now.

A source today texted the entire Earth saying the Miami Dolphins will not match the five-year, $38 million deal Clay got in an offer sheet from Buffalo.

The same source then went into spin mode, saying the Dolphins feel "strongly about Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims going forward."

They felt so strongly they had a $7 million transition tag on Clay so I'm not buying that piece of swamp land. Face it, Clay, Cameron and Sims is way, way better than Cameron, Sims and probably a draft pick.

But I understand the reasoning behind not matching. The Clay offer from the Bills was onerous and reportedly included a $12 million cap charge in 2016.

Too onerous for the Dolphins, apparently.

The fact Clay goes to Buffalo means the Dolphins now free up $7 million in cap space. And so the team is now free to shop in free agency.

That's the reason WR Michael Crabtree continues his visit with Miami today. That's the reason backup center J.D. Walton (New York Giants) and backup QB Tarvaris Jackson (Seattle Seahawks) are visiting the Dolphins today.

The fact the reserve QB and center are visiting should tell you the Dolphins are more than prepared to move on from Samson Satele and Matt Moore -- both of whom are also unrestricted free agents. Satele, I'm told, wants to go someplace he can compete to start after he did a good job as Miami's starter all of last season. He would not have that opportunity again in Miami with Mike Pouncey moving back to center.

The Dolphins have now effectively traded, cut or let walk in free agency four pass catchers. Mike Wallace was traded to Minnesota. Brian Hartline was cut and signed with Cleveland. Brandon Gibson was cut and signed with New England. And Clay is with the Bills.

So the men who caught 16 of Miami's 27 TDs and 193 of the team's 392 completions are gone. All of them are done, primarily, for salary cap vs. production vs. fit reasons.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is going to have to adjust and learn his new set of primary receivers -- Kenny Stills, Cameron, perhaps Crabtree, perhaps a draft pick, fairly quickly. He may also lose his sounding board -- Moore -- from the quarterback room.

Jackson over Moore would obviously also be a cap decision. The Dolphins paid Moore $4 million last season. Jackson made less than $2 million in Seattle.

Much of this is an outgrowth of the $114 million Ndamukong Suh signing and pending big contracts for Pouncey, Olivier Vernon and Tannehill. The cap is the cap. If you pay over there, it is hard to pay over here as well.

The Bills, who finished 9-7 last season and ahead of the Dolphins in the AFC East, have this offseason hired Rex Ryan as coach, added Clay at tight end, RB LeSean McCoy, WR Percy Harvin, and Matt Cassel at quarterback. They already had WR Sammy Watkins.

The team did lose running back C.J. Spiller to New Orleans.

 

March 18, 2015

Miami Dolphins to host Michael Crabtree

When the Miami Dolphins bring free agents in for a visit, they are typically serious. The team last year offered contracts to all the players it hosted. This year it has hosted two players and signed both.

That's why one can only conclude the Dolphins are serious about wide receiver Michael Crabtree.

Crabtree is scheduled to visit the Dolphins later Wednesday and Thursday.

He better come cheaply because he is not necessarily an upgrade over what the Dolphins have cleared out recently.

Crabtree, 27, has been in something of a decline the past couple of years since a fine 2012 season. He was injured much of 2013, which limited him to only five games and 19 catches.

Last year he played all 16 games and caught 68 passes for 698 yards. But something was missing. Never the fastest receiver, Crabtee lacked explosion. His per-catch average dipped to 10.3 yards per catch from 14.9 the year before and 12.5 career mark.

Crabtree also had a tough year catching the football because ProFootballFocus marked him at a 12.82 drop rate which was fourth highest out of 50 wide receivers wide receivers. Jarvis Landry's drop rate, by comparison, was fifth-best in the NFL at only 2.33.

Hmmm.

Anyway, the Dolphins like him. Certainly, executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum likes him. Tannenbaum graded Crabtree highly -- a near the top of the draft type -- when Crabtree came out in 2009.

He has never delivered to that height. But obviously the Dolphins are serious about him.

Miami Dolphins won't lose Charles Clay if they don't want to

We expect to see the actual true and complete numbers to the Charles Clay contract today.

They will be ugly for the Dolphins, I'm sure, because that's what the Buffalo Bills intended when they gave the restricted free agent tight end a five-year, $38 million offer which Clay reportedly signed Tuesday.

But if, and this is a huge if, the Dolphins are of the mind to absolutely not lose Charles Clay to a divisional rival, they probably could match the offer. It can be done.

Obviously we are working off reporting and not the numbers filed to the NFLPA yet but it is clear the Clay offer from Buffalo is meant to be a salary cap nightmare for the Dolphins this season and more importantly in 2016.

Why 2016?

That's a huge year for the Dolphins and everyone in the NFL knows it because that's when the onerous portion of Ndamukong Suh's record $114 million contract comes into play. Suh is scheduled to cost the Dolphins $28.6 million against the cap that season.

That's not good.

Add to that the fact the Dolphins will also be dealing with the added costs of a new contract for Ryan Tannehill, a new contract for Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey, and a new contract for defensive end Olivier Vernon and you see the Dolphins are carrying Suh at a premium in 2016 and must do major business with three other very good players as well.

So how does one handle those four significant deals, plus Cameron Wake, plus Brent Grimes, plus Reshad Jones -- all of whom have cap numbers north of $8 million in 2016 -- and also carry the expected $12 million cap hit the Bills put on Clay for 2016?

Well, if the Dolphins are of the mind to absolutely not lose Clay, they could conceivably opt to restructure the source of the pain, which is the Suh contract, and make it more salary cap friendly.

Yeah, this can be done.

The Dolphins could simply convert $22.7 million of Suh's $23.4 million base salary in 2016 into a new and guaranteed signing bonus before next spring. Doing that adds to the prorated portion of Suh's cap number in 2016, '17, '18, '19 and '20. It effectively raises his cap numbers in 2017-20 by $4.5 million each year.

But it lowers Suh's cap number next season, the all important 2016, from $28.6 million to $10.5 million. This, combined with an expected rise to the salary cap the Dolphins believe they have a good handle on suggests the math may work.

(Plus, there are again next offseason a number of contracts that Miami can jettison if the players don't perform at an extremely high level in 2015. led by tight end Jordan Cameron's second year of his two-year deal).

The math can work.

More or less.

In theory.

The question is and will remain, for a couple of days at least, whether the Dolphins want to institute such a plan -- mortgaging their future despite, you know, not winning a Super Bowl -- to keep a player they themselves didn't value so highly during last season, as I reported here?

The question is to what level of desperation the Dolphins are willing to go to keep Clay?

And make no mistake, all these cap modifications and gesticulatons are desperate measures when the team doing them isn't a championship team trying to keep together some sort of dynasty.

Remember, the Dolphins are doing this and they've been 8-8 the past couple of years. They've not been one player from a title at any point since, well, probably 1984.

So there is sound logic to simply not bust the cap and move on.

One final thought: The University of Miami is less than 40 miles from the Dolphins training facility. The U has a football team. That team had a tight end the past couple of years named Clive Walford. He's raw. He's not as fast as Clay. But he has the makings of a solid NFL tight end once he learns to follow instructions and learns the game better. He'll probably be available in the second or third rounds. He could replace Clay for about 25 percent of the price.

March 17, 2015

Buffalo (finally) makes offer to Charles Clay: Whopper

The Buffalo Bills waited ... and waited ... and waited to give restricted free agent tight end Charles Clay an offer sheet. But when they did moments ago, it was a whopper -- so much so it calls into question whether the Dolphins can or will want to match it.

According to the Buffalo News, Clay has signed an offer that is for five years and $38 million with $20-plus million guaranteed. That's a lot of dough for Clay but the issue is not the annual average. The issue is the numbers the first couple of years where the Dolphins might struggle to match the offer because of their current and 2016 cap situation.

And those numbers, if the report is accurate, are also whoppers.

Clay gets $24.5 million the first two years of the deal.

Would you like fries with those whopper numbers?

The Dolphins have five days to match the offer or lose Clay to their division rival. If they elect not to match the offer, the Dolphins get no draft pick compensation.

And this is where it gets interesting: The Dolphins never offered Clay a deal that eclipsed $6 million annually throughout the 2014 season. As recently as prior to the start of free agency they never got close to $7 million.

This, I am told, frustrated Clay who was expecting (rightly, I guess) a market well north of those numbers. The Dolphins, on the other hand, were not thrilled with the negotiations of late, either, I'm told, to the point they simply stopped negotiating until seeing the offer sheet.

There seemed to be a bit of a fracture.

One more thing: Chalk this up to the Dolphins current salary cap situation and moreso their situation next year.

With Ndamukong Suh counting $28.6 million on the cap next year and the team needing to address new contracts for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, defensive end Olivier Vernon and center Mike Pouncey, giving Clay a deal that would require they allocate significant cap space this and next year is perhaps problematic.

There are those second-guessing the Dolphins in that they didn't tender Charles Clay with the Franchise Player tag -- which would have virtually assured the team would keep the tight end for one year at a cost of $8.4 million.

I'm not second guessing. I don't think Clay is worth that.

The truth is there were four games last year in which Clay caught two or fewer passes. The Dolphins were 3-1 in those games.

There were 10 games in which Clay caught three or more passes last year. The Dolphin were 4-6 in those games.

Clay had 58 catches for 605 yards with three TDs.

Is he a Franchise Tag player?

If the Bills believe he's that and more, that is their right. If, however, after sitting on numbers belw $6 million for a year, the Dolphins suddenly match this deal, then it shows they had no plan from the start.

But if they let Clay go, I can live with that.

Sometimes teams have to let good players walk.

As long as there was a plan executed and it has next logical steps, I can live with losing Charles Clay.

 

 

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.