March 10, 2016

Miami Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso: Everything he said today

Miami Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso is a man of few words.

He rather discuss his ethnicity -- Cuban dad, family in Colombia and Puerto Rico -- than the recent trade that brought him from the Eagles to Miami. But he nonetheless spoke with the South Florida media via conference call on Thursday.

He said he believes he's going to be used as Miami's inside (middle) linebacker although he has played outside in the past. He said he's healthy. He said he was surprised to be traded. He also talked about former college (Oregon) teammate and good friend Dion Jordan, who is still serving an NFL suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

This is everything he said:

(On whether the trade took him by surprise) – “Yeah, it definitely took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting it, but at the end of the day, it’s business. Football is football, and I look forward to playing there.”

(On how he feels physically) – “I feel great.”

(On whether he anticipates participating in the offseason program) – “Yeah, 100 percent.”

(On his level of confidence in having a productive season) – “I have all the confidence in the world in me. I know what I’m capable of, and I’m just looking forward to getting down to Miami and having a great year.”

(On whether he will play inside or outside linebacker) – “(I am) not exactly sure. I anticipate (playing) inside, but I feel comfortable anywhere in that (position).”

(On playing with DE Mario Williams and CB Byron Maxwell) – “I can tell you they’re both great players – Mario and Maxwell. Mario is a beast on that edge getting after the quarterback. And Maxwell is my kind of a corner and those are two things that you need in this league to have a good and successful defense.”

(On playing with DE Dion Jordan at Oregon) – “Dion, he’s one of my best friends. He’s a great player, a great guy.  I talked to him recently. I hope everything works out with him and I look forward to possibly being his teammate.  He’s a great player, so I’m definitely looking forward to playing with him.”

(On how hungry DE Dion Jordan is to play football again and what Jordan’s mental approach to the game is right now) “I can only imagine. I fought through it and it sucks missing time like that.  I bet he’s going to come back and have a chip on his shoulder.” 

(On how he would describe his playing style) – “I feel like I’m a versatile linebacker. I can drop into coverage; I play the run. I feel like I can do a lot of different things, which is why I think I can carry any of the linebacker duties.”

(On how much his injury situation hurt him last year and if he feels that it is behind him) – “It’s definitely all behind me. I feel great. I don’t make excuses on my knee. I didn’t play very well, but that’s how it goes, and I just try to get better. But I feel great.”

(On why he was surprised by the trade) – “I think because I wasn’t thinking to myself ‘Oh, I’m probably going to get traded.’ I definitely wasn’t as surprised as the first time it happened (in Buffalo), because when it happened I was like ‘Oh, I guess anything can happen,’ because I had no idea I was going to be … I thought I was staying in Buffalo. But obviously, that’s that … (inaudible) … It just shows you that anything can happen.”

(On if he has talked to any Dolphins players since the trade happened) – “When I was down there yesterday I met a bunch of the players. A couple of players have reached out to me.”

(On if there were any Dolphins players he met in particular) – “Yes. I got to meet (C Mike) Pouncey. I had known him before. Obviously, I had played against him a few times in Buffalo and with the Eagles.”

(On if being traded to Miami appeals to him because of his Hispanic background) – “Yeah, for sure. As you said, I speak Spanish. My parents are Spanish. I’m definitely going to feel right at home.”

(On if he has any family in South Florida) – “Yeah, I have some cousins, some aunts, a great aunt. But most of my family lives in Puerto Rico and Colombia.”

 

Miami Dolphins cornerback Byron Maxwell: 'I'm ready to go'; C.J. Anderson about to get a Dolphins offer

The trade that almost wasn't went through anyway and so cornerbacy Byron Maxwell is a Miami Dolphins. And today the Dolphins graciously put him on a conference call during which he cleared up issues about his arrival.

He said a report that stated he told Dolphins doctors he could not do bench presses or push ups was inaccurate.

"That's not true," Maxwell said. "That's not true.

"The issue was the physical, I guess, that was the issue. But everything is good now. I passed both of them. You, know, I'm here. Looking forward to playing for the Miami Dolphins."

Maxwell said he took two physicals. One in Philly for the Eagles and one with the Dolphins.

"I'm fine," Maxwell said. "Like I said, I passed the physical, both with Philadelphia and Miami. So I'm ready to go."

Maxwell said he did not need surgery and would be on the field for the Dolphins offseason camps and programs. Interestingly, Maxwell was at the Dolphins weight room this morning. Lifting. So there's that.

[Correction: Maxwell was at a gym lifting, not the Dolphins weight room.]

Meanwhile, Maxwell had no desire to discuss why he was a bad fit in Philadelphia in his one year there. The Eagles signed him to a six-year, $63 million contract in 2015 that they obviously ran away from. Why?

"There's a lot of reasons, none that I want to get into now," Maxwell said. "It's all in the past. I'm all about moving forward. It's about the Miami Dolphins and helping the team win a championship. That's what it's all about."

The Dolphins are moving forward with free agency today.

Running back C.J. Anderson is visiting the team this morning and Miami's interest is serious. He is a restricted free agent from the Denver Broncos. Interestingly, the Broncos placed a tender on him that gives them same-round compensation if another team signs him and they do not match the offer. The thing is, Anderson was an undrafted free agent.

So the Dolphins could sign Anderson to an offer sheet and not have to pay any draft choice compensation whatsoever. The Broncos would get five days match whatever offer Anderson gets.

The Dolphins will offer Anderson, a source tells me. The question is at what level.

Anderson rushed for 720 yards on 152 carries in 2015. His 4.7 yard per carry average was in line with 2014 when he also averaged 4.7 yards per carry. Lamar Miller, who signed with the Houston Texans as a free agent on Wednesday, averaged 4.1 yards per carry for Miami last season and 5.1 yards per carry in 2014.

 

NFL free agency: Meet Isa Abdul-Quddus, Sam Young; concern about Mario Williams

The first unrestricted free agent signing for the Miami Dolphins this year? Isa Abdul-Quddus. The second unrestricted free agent signing for the Miami Dolphins this year? Sam Young.

Right?

Tell the truth...I'd say 75 percent of Dolphins fans had never heard of either player before Wednesday. I admit I had not. At least not until Abdul-Quddus signed a three-year, $12.75 million deal and Young inked a one-year deal worth $910,000, as first reported by ProFootballTalk.com.

The Dolphins are the third team for both players.

Young, a native of Coral Springs, Fla, will presumably be Miami's No. 3 tackle, a role filled last year by Jason Fox. He's 6-8 and 320 pounds and played at Notre Dame. His previous NFL stops were Dallas, Buffalo and Jacksonville.

Abdul-Quddus is Miami's new presumptive starting strong safety. I hear he's a bright guy and smart player. He is supposed to be a violent hitter and not afraid of contact. We'll see if he plays as billed.

Anyway, as we start the second day of free agency, I figured it would be good for you to meet Abdul-Quddus in his own words. The video below was done when the player was with New Orleans and before he joined the Lions. 

I write in my column in today's Miami Herald that I have concerns about the Dolphins lockerroom as the team continues to build. Adding Mario Williams was a cost-savings move at defensive end but it adds a character to the Miami lockerroom and not necessarily a good character. His reputation is known league wide.

Indeed this is a text I got from a longtime NFL man whose opinion I trust: "I don't like the Mario signing. He's a declining player that will shut down when things go south. It's about identity. Who do you want to be as a team?"

Read the column. It doesn't stink like most of my other work.

 

March 09, 2016

Olivier Vernon busts the bank, headed to New York Giants (with your comments)

So Olivier Vernon has just signed the biggest contract for an NFL defensive end or edge rusher ever. Reggie White, perhaps the best defensive end free agent in NFL history, could only dream of this kind of money.

Vernon got a five-year, $85 million deal with the New York Giants this afternoon -- less than 90 minutes into the start of NFL free agency.

He gets $52 million guaranteed. Of that, $40 million is fully guaranteed, meaning Vernon could never play a down for the Giants and he has made $40 million. His cash flow is ridiculous in that he will make $29 million this season, will have made $41 million by his second season, and $54 million by his third season.

This is a monster deal. This is a monster that is radioactive and shoots venom and has X-ray vision. I can definitely understand why the Dolphins showed no ability or significant desire to sign Vernon to a long-term deal the past few weeks.

But ...

They could have had him for $12-$14 million per year in August of 2015 and decided they didn't want to pay that. So, yes, them walking away now is understandable. But them not biting last year is questionable.

Of course, you guys cannot complain about that. That's because when I wrote last June that Vernon would be a $12 million per year guy, many of you scoffed. You mocked me in the comments section. And I have a long memory. So enjoy your comments from last year:

 

Alisson Pescador Aloia ·
Shut up Salgueiro ... Vernon is a normal player ... Any player that have cameron wake on one side and suh on middle have to pick 10 sacks a year ... i think dolphins have to invest on cb position ... DE we have terrance fede ...
 
Zach Wilky Wilkinson ·
Terrance federal is a solid DE. But going into his second year coming off of an injury, he's just good depth at this point. Vernon is a young, ascending talent in the NFL. You look across the the line and have an aging super stud in cam wake. If you ask me, Vernon needs to be a priority, I wouldn't be upset to see cam wake traded away to see the phins clear some cap space to get Vernon this contract he's going to demand. Fact of the matter is the nfl is based on production, and if he produces, he's going to get paid. Don't put it passed Dennis hickey to cut veterans to make room for young ascending players.
Like · Reply · 3 · Jun 2, 2015 9:37pm
 
Zach Wilky Wilkinson ·
And also you can't forget about Derek Shelby, who has been nothing but promising with the opportunities he's been given.
Like · Reply · 1 · Jun 2, 2015 9:41pm
 
Tison McCartney
lol how you feel about this statement now?
Like · Reply · Mar 1, 2016 10:17am
 
Mark Botelho
And with that news, the Cameron Wake farewell tour officially commences.
 
Raymond Fiore
I didn't want to sayit,but Mark,you are probably right.
Like · Reply · 3 · Jun 2, 2015 10:47am
 
Mark Botelho
He's probably not the only one Raymond but the most significant. This team is going to have to get quite a bit younger starting next year. Salary cap will require management and hard to justify a 34 year old DE next year.
Like · Reply · 2 · Jun 2, 2015 11:03am
 
Bob Dziadik
Mark Botelho add Grimes into that tour
Like · Reply · 2 · Jun 2, 2015 11:36am
 
Jim Cory
Hey Allison, you do realize Suh has not played one down for the Fins yet, right?
 
Jason Linderman
Hope people understand that this will most likely be the end of Cameron Wake with the Dolphins unless he takes a huge pay cut. Vernon is cheaper, an excellent player and can only get better and Wake is getting older and not getting better.
 
Jerry Gragg ·
Wake has not gotten worse, either. He has an excellent personal offseason training/conditioning program and a fairly limited injury history. which should extend his playing years. Still remains one of the best pass rushers in the league
Like · Reply · 2 · Jun 3, 2015 8:00pm
 
Mike Jamrozek
First off, Armando's contract numbers are way off!
It is much easier to accumulate sacks as a 4-3 DE than it is for a 3-4 end. If their sack totals are the same then the 4-3 guy is worth significantly less.

I don't think OV gets anywhere above an 8mil a year contract and frankly, he wouldn't be worth that IMO. Good player but definitely replaceable.
 
Ger Flanders
You're comparing apples to oranges. 3-4 DE's are also too big to be 4-3 DE's. Also in 3-4 the 4TH PASS RUSHER is a blitzing lb. It's "VERY RARE" you see 3 Man NFL pass rushes. Unless going against an extremely bad pass protecting oline, or a DC just loves seeing his D carved upped by the opposing qb.
Like · Reply · Jun 2, 2015 11:51am
 
Bob Dziadik
Mike, you are wrong. Vernonwill easily get 12 Million. I hope we can figure a way to getit done
Like · Reply · Jun 2, 2015 11:58am
 
Ger Flanders
Bob Dziadik exactly! Just because it's a 3-4 doesnt mean only 3 guys rushing the passer. The 3-4 very often blitzes that 4th pass rusher, whether lb or db. There's still ALMOST ALWAYS 4 guys coming after the qb.
Like · Reply · Jun 2, 2015 12:03pm
 
Jay Pao
I agree that this is likely a farewell year for Wake. Love the guy but Vernon represents the future. No way you can afford to let him get on the market.
 
Jeffro W Rapp
you're crazy Wake is the best DE on the team and he isnt regressing. He started late in his career so he has a football body of a 28 year old .. expect 5 more dominate years from Wake
Like · Reply · Jun 3, 2015 2:24pm
 
Jay Pao
This is why Jordon being the draft bust that he is really kills the fins. They could have developed Jordan as Wake's replacement and it would have given them another OPTION when deciding on Vernon. Now they have no option because Jordan is a flake.
 
Mark Botelho
Excellent point. This is where the pain is felt.... roster void should already be filled. Come on Fede!!!!
Like · Reply · 1 · Jun 2, 2015 11:49am
 
Ger Flanders
Wake would still be gone were Jordan to emerge a superstar pass rusher. Definitely wouldnt be the younger lion Vernon. It would be the DECLINING older lion Cameron Wake.
Like · Reply · Jun 2, 2015 11:54am
 
Jay Pao
I am not so sure. My point is that Wake is going. But if Jordan was a star the Fins might not feel the pressure to pay Vernon the big $ contract. While they would want them both they likely couldn't afford to pay them both plus Suh. Now they have no choice but to pay Vernon as they hope Fede rises or they find someone in the draft. The Jordan collapse is painful.
Like · Reply · Jun 2, 2015 2:11pm
 
Jay Pao
Wake leaves after this season. They sign Vernon and they are right back looking for a dominant DE in Round #1 next season.
 
Ger Flanders
I believe Fede is going to become a beastily pass rusher. He made pretty good use of his opportunities last year.
Like · Reply · Jun 2, 2015 11:55am
 
Jeffro W Rapp
Wake isnt going NO where
Like · Reply · Jun 3, 2015 2:25pm
 
Bob Dziadik
This is why we should have traded Wake this year. Now we lose him and get nothing in return. Draft priority next year.
 
Ger Flanders
I was saying this the entire offseason.
Like · Reply · Jun 2, 2015 11:56am
 
Mark Botelho
Once you signed Suh, you pretty much owed it to the fans and team to give the Wake/Suh combo one year...otherwise, we might have seen Wake traded for more picks.
Like · Reply · Jun 2, 2015 11:57am
 
Joseph Hichborn ·
Mark Botelho However, there's always the chance that the Wake/Suh combo inflates Wake's numbers, possibly driving up his trade stock.
Like · Reply · 1 · Jun 2, 2015 1:42pm
 
Nathan Rowlands ·
If anyone thinks wake is replaceable, yer on some good drugs.
 
Melody Mackey
Not many guys have Wake's character. Agreed.
Like · Reply · Jun 2, 2015 12:45pm
 
Ger Flanders
I think you are on some good drugs if you think Wake's going to be here past 2015. It's not character or anything else. It's called SALARY CAP. They are not going to let VERNON WALK to keep an OLD GUY like Wake, who has 1-2 productive to semi-productive seasons left.

No offense, but, glad you are not the gm. The NFL is ran on salary cap not sentiment or blind allegiance.
Like · Reply · Jun 2, 2015 1:05pm
 
Ger Flanders
Plus, everyone's replaceable, short of BEING A GENERATIONAL CALIBER PLAYER, if you have the RIGHT talent evaluator doing your drafts. If not youre doomed.
Like · Reply · Jun 2, 2015 5:34pm
 
Melody Mackey
I understand the Suh contract. Pouncey's contract made sense too. But the Dolphins are spemding a lot of money this offseason heading towards financial oblivion. I like Vernon and Tannehill for me still has a lot to prove but gosh if they get another major deal done I'm gonna start pulling out my hair.
 
Craig Miller ·
Vernon might in fact be a $12 mil a year player but not a chance in Hell he should ever be that on this team. I would let him go and draft his replacement next year in the draft. Might take a year or two to develop, that's fine. Vernon disappears at long stretches, as shown by his second half last year. Let someone else overpay for him....and they will.
 
Mark Botelho
I agree. Unless he has his best year this year and shows definite improvement - no way do I pay him that kind of money long term.

I would even franchise him one year despite what Mando says.
Like · Reply · Jun 2, 2015 1:00pm
 
Ger Flanders
This is the exact same mentality previous fo's had on "SECOND CONTRACTS". Hmm..... never quite seem to get those guys replaced as EASILY as thought, now do we? Further more, whether Vernon is a 12M player or not will all stem upon HIS 2015 SEASON. That's yet to happen has it?

Armando's basing it on him have a 10+ SACK SEASON this year. Still, I would like to see at least 13 to 15 SACKS from him in 2015 to say he's worth 12M a year average. He gets at least 13 sacks this year, hell yes, he's worth 12M.
Like · Reply · Jun 2, 2015 1:00pm
 
Mark Botelho
Yeah, so based upon him having a year he has yet to have or to show definite improvement
Like · Reply · Jun 2, 2015 2:15pm
 
LJ Mercado
Idk, a lot of Vernon's sacks come from coverage. He isn't the type to blow by or blow up a tackle. Add the fact he is rarely doubled, his numbers are a bit deceiving.
 
Joseph Hichborn ·
I worry that this is the case. All I can say is that Vernon is, at worst, decent.
Like · Reply · Jun 2, 2015 1:43pm
 
Ger Flanders
Another thing it all depends on is HOW EFFICIENT can this year's offense be. If they can average 30PPG there will be plenty SACK OPPORTUNITIES to go around for everyone. Because OPPOSING TEAMS will be PLAYING CATCH UP. When the opposition is playing catch up they have to THROW THE FOOTBALL more. Right?

This equals MORE SACK OPPORTUNITIES right? Close games usually equal LESS PASSES thrown and we all know what that means right? Less sack opportunities.
 
Mark Botelho
30 points a game???? Only two teams barely eclipsed 30 ppg last year... Denver and GB... that's unrealistic.
Like · Reply · Jun 2, 2015 2:17pm
 
Harvey Housley ·
I agree, except if we can't stop the run. If you can't , the other team runs to keep it away from your offense.
Our lack of run defense hurt our offense last year.
Like · Reply · Jun 2, 2015 2:17pm
 
Shane Le Gresley
Harvey Housley If we can't stop the run this year, Coyle should be publically flogged as his last act as DC for this team.
Like · Reply · 1 · Jun 2, 2015 3:36pm
 
Kevin Landry
The awkwardness of a poor draft two years running shows how much this affects the cap and the teams development. Worst of all it really affects the cap as the cheap players aren't able to play and then the team has to hire expensive FA's. One bad draft year and the team is 2 years behind. 2 bad draft years and money is gone to free agents for 10 years. Like trying to herd cats. We can point to Ireland but there were 2 or 3 GM;s behind Ireland that also sucked.
 
Mark Botelho
As many mistakes as Ireland made - honestly he was more productive than Mueller or Spielman who burned this team down to 1-15... that's expansion team territory or i.e. nothing in the cupboards.
Like · Reply · Jun 2, 2015 2:18pm
 
Shane Le Gresley
Ireland was a decent college talent evaluatior he just had no credibility and the worst poker face in regards to contracts. Also he got tunnel vision on players and hurt this team trying to save his job.
Like · Reply · 2 · Jun 2, 2015 3:39pm
 
Ger Flanders
Shane Le Gresley huh, are you fudging kidding me? Ireland was great with NO-BRAINER picks(Long/Pouncey). After this name one significant pick(pro bowler) puick? However, Reshad Jones may become the first this year. Which still isnt a very good track record over 6 SEASONS.

He dumped Vontae Davis(1st rd pick). He hit on a few mid rd picks, but their CEILING was AVERAGE at BEST.
Like · Reply · Jun 2, 2015 5:22pm
 
Christian Paige ·
He had one good season and he is worth 12 million a year?! No way. Will he have an awesome year this year? Yes. Why? Suh and Wake. This guy is not worth that. I would rather move on and slide Fede in there to be honest. I get Wake is getting older but 12 mil a year, come on dude.
 
Zach Walsh ·
The official end of the Cam Wake/Brent Grimes Era in Miami. I'd rather have Vernon though, let one of the younger guys step up in Wake's place.
 
Chad Micheal
29 sacks in 4 years is PHENOMENAL for a 3-4 DE. Sorry, I know he'll get it, but I don't think OV is worth it.
 
Oscar Canosa ·
Finally, from one of our veteran Players on how some of our new Players are performing: Reshad Jones, "He's an animal. He catches everything near him. He's aggressive. He uses his body very well." on Devante Parker.
 
Mark Botelho
That was Jelani Jenkins who said it re: Parker.
Like · Reply · Jun 3, 2015 6:11am
 
Ger Flanders
Also, as long as SUH is playing on that side, he'll make LIFE EASIER for any above average DE we place over there. As long as an ABOVE AVERAGE DE replaces Wake, he will not be GREATLY missed.
 
Oscar Canosa ·
Lots of cap managers here but none of them are named Dawn Aponte.
 
Kenneth Booker ·
Can't wait to see'm play.
 
Frank Collura Dc
The market is what it is and will dictate Vernon's price. He does need a very good 2015 to guarantee $12 mill per year kind of money but he is still going to get good money if he tested free agency. This does spell the end of Wake and Grimes as Dolphins if the team decides to resign Vernon. You have to read between the lines- why would the Dolphins pay Suh the biggest money of the contract in 2016? Because Aponte and team management know who are most likely going to be the cuts and how much they have to spend to sign free agents or in house players in 2016. Im positive that Aponte has the cap figured out in advance for the next few years so the team knows what they can spend and what they can't. Vernon might be too much money even with a Wake and Grimes release. We will see what happens....

Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso trade complete: Brent Grimes (and you know who) gone

What we have all known for days (although it was a litte touch and go this morning for about two hours) the trade between the Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles is complete and the Dolphins also cut cornerback Brent Grimes.

The team announced the moves this afternoon.

The trade sends to Philadelphia the No. 8 overall pick that previously belonged to the Dolphins in the draft's first round. The Dolphins get Philly's No. 13 overall pick, plus Maxwell, plus Alonso.

So within the past 24 hours, the Dolphins have added three starters -- a LB, DE, CB. They have lost Olivier Vernon, who is negotiating with Jacksonville and the New York Giants as a free agent, Grimes, and obviously the better draft slot.

(Oh, yes, the Dolphins have also jettisoned Hurricane Miko Grimes, vulgar wife to Brent Grimes and headache to the team for the past year or so. Grimes and his spouse become free agents immediately. All the best to them both.)

The Dolphins need to add a defensive end. They had not done much work toward bringing Derrick Shelby, a free agent, back but may think about circling back. Robert Ayers is available.

The team needs to add two more cornerbacks -- likely another starter and a nickel.

The nickel possibility remains Cincinnati's Adam Jones, although he has other suitors.

The other starter may be Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara, who is drawing interest from the Dolphins, per The Herald's Adam Beasley. It should be noted that if the Giants want to keep Amukamara, they can because they have much more cap space than the Dolphins.

 

Lamar Miller to the Houston Texans

The Miami Dolphins will be looking for a new running back this offseason as Lamar Miller, the starter the past three years, has agreed to a four-year deal with the Houston Texans.

Miller will be agreeing on a 4 year deal with the Texans for $26 million. He gets $14 million fully guaranteed. He averages $6.5 million per year and that was simply too rich for the Dolphins who were not anywhere near that number when they spoke to Miller's agent last month.

Losing Miller is not a surprise to the Dolphins who simply didn't put that kind of value on Miller.

Miller could have signed with another team for $7 million per year on what would have been a five-year deal, a league source said. But Miller liked the shorter term.

Miller, 25, gained 872 yards on 194 carries in 2016 for the Dolphins. He gained 2,930 yards in his four seasons with Miami.

The Dolphins have been searching for a replacement running back and had interest in Chicago Bears free agent Matt Forte. But Forte, who played for Dolphins coach in Chicago last season, opted to agree to a contract with the New York Jets.

The running back class is thinner now than when this day dawned. New York Jets running back Chris Ivory went to Jacksonville as an unrestricted free agent and Doug Martin re-signed with Tampa Bay.

The Dolphins, by the way, are looking for a No. 3 defensive end that could eat snaps because Cameron Wake is 34 and Mario Williams is 31. And the team's top target was to be William Hayes of the Los Angeles Rams.

Nix that idea.

According to Mike Garafolo of FOXSports1, Hayes is close to a deal that will send him back to the Rams.

Miami Dolphins trade with Philadelphia Eagles is a go

The Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles will indeed consummate a trade that will send cornerback Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso to Miami for draft choice compensation.

According to a league source and agent Alvin Keels, who represents Maxwell, the cornerback was cleared of the curious shoulder issue that turned up in a team physical on Tuesday. The league source added that the deal goes forward.

Dolphins doctors examined Maxwell's shoulder again Wednesday morning and cleared the player to pass his physical.

Originally, terms of the deal included the Dolphins and Eagles exchanging first-round draft picks. The Dolphins were sending their No. 8 overall selection to Philly for the Eagles' No. 13 overall pick. It is unclear if those terms have been altered.

So now the Dolphins have added what they expect to be three defensive starters before the start of free agency at 4 p.m. They signed street free agent defensive end Mario Williams on Tuesday. When this trade becomes official they will add a starting cornerback and linebacker.

The team is losing starting defensive end Olivier Vernon, who is no longer encumbered by the transition tag, and starting cornerback Brent Grimes, who will either be cut or traded.

 

Miami Dolphins pull tag from Olivier Vernon: What it means.

The Miami Dolphins this morning rescinded the transition tag they had on defensive end Olivier Vernon.

The means the team immediately gains $12.7 million in salary cap space as it nears the 4 p.m. start of the new league year and unrestricted free agency. It also means Vernon will become an unrestricted free agent at that time.

It also means Olivier Vernon has almost definitely (99.9999 percent) played his final game for the Miami Dolphins.

The timing of this moves lets the Vernon enter the league formulation for awarding compensatory draft picks for 2017, so when Vernon goes, the Dolphins could get a compensatory pick as a result.

Vernon's agent was hoping and praying the Dolphins would do this so that he could shop his client without teams having to concern themselves with the Dolphins possibly matching their offer.

The New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars will be among the two or three teams that will aggressively chase Vernon. The Chicago Bears are also a possibility.

The Dolphins on Tuesday signed defensive end Mario Williams to a two-year, $17 million contract. The deal contains a $4 million signing bonus and has a $4.85 million base salary for 2016. It also has a $15,000 workout bonus this year. So Williams cap number for 2016 will be $6.5 million.

The 2017 numbers are trickier. Williams is scheduled to make $8.45 million in base that season. Including the signing bonus proration and another $15,000 workout bonus, his cap number is $10.5 million.

But the Dolphins can get out of the deal before the fifth day of the league year because that is when $3.5 million of the base salary becomes fully guaranteed. I suppose the contract is structured that way because Williams has a reputation for shutting down when situations -- personal or team related -- go poorly.

If that happens in '16, this will likely be a one-year rental.

 

 

 

Miami Dolphins much hyped trade to bolster defense may be off

Cornerback Byron Maxwell, linebacker Kiko Alonso and defensive end Mario Williams were at and around the team's training facility Tuesday to meet coaches, take physicals, sign contracts (in Williams and Maxwell's cases), and later went to dinner with coaches as the newest members of the Miami Dolphins quickly revamping defense.

So it seemed all was well and the rebuilding project for the NFL's No. 19 scoring unit was well underway.

Except it wasn''t. Last night, whispers that one of the physicals was worrisome leaked to Adam Beasley of The Miami Herald. This morning, more details started to emerge that those worries centered around Maxwell and ESPN reported his shoulder was a concern following his physical and, get this, the "trade might be off."

Maxwell did miss two games last year with a shoulder sprain.

Ouch.

I've reached out to the Dolphins and have yet to hear back.

This issue really is in Miami's court. In case you are not aware, physicals are part medical facts and part opinions. The Drew Brees physical raised red flags in Miami in 2006. The Drew Brees physical in New Orleans that same summer raised no such issues.

The Dolphins may accept the findings of the Maxwell physical and deal with the repercussions, which could include surgery for Maxwell. Or they could decide their comfort level is so affected that the trade could be rescinded. It is a concern. But the trade is not dead yet.

If that trade is rescinded, suddenly Miami might keep Brent Grimes -- who was scheduled to be cut today because he didn't take a pay cut and other notable issues, including his vulgar wife.

If that trade is rescinded, suddenly the Dolphins still have linebacker issues.

If that trade is rescinded, suddenly the Dolphins might be shopping for another cornerback in free agency beyond maybe Adam Pacman Jones, who is a nickel cornerback option in free agency.

If that trade is rescinded, suddenly the three new starters on defense becomes one new starter on defense.

And on that subject ...

My colum in today's Miami Herald addresses the issue of what is likely to happen and what it means that Mario Williams and is and Olivier Vernon is possibly -- likely? -- out of Miami's plans going forward.

To put it bluntly, I'm not a fan. Check out the column.

March 08, 2016

Mario Williams done by the end of the day? Possible

The day before the official start of free agency and plenty of comings and goings ...

First, Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.com reported this morning the Dolphins are hoping to close a deal with defensive end Mario Williams today. Williams, the former first overall draft pick of the Houston Texans in 2006, is a street free agent who has visited the Dolphins and New York Giants. He can sign before the start of free agency.

And he would be a domino signing that affects several other moves in Miami. It should be noted Williams wants a contract that averages at least $10 million per season. This despite collecting only five sacks in 15 starts with Buffalo in 2015. He obviously was not a system fit in Rex Ryan's 3-4 defense. He would be a system fit in Miami's 4-3 that will employ a Wide 9 rush approach.

[Update: I'm told if Williams signs with Miami (and that is now likely, barring a team jumping in at the last minute) the deal will average more along the lines of $7.5 to $8 million annually.]

But here's the thing: Mario Williams signs, there is very little way the Dolphins can also keep a $12.7 million transition tender on Olivier Vernon and handle the scheduled $9.8 million salary cap hit for Cameron Wake. Combined with a $12 million cap hit for Ndamukong Suh (the team created $16 million in cap space when it recently restructured his contract), that is a ton of money on the defensive line.

A ton of money. Too much.

It is untenable.

So something has to give. Either the team rescinds the transition tag on Vernon (likely) or cuts Wake (possible, one supposes after he declined to restructure his contract). The Dolphins are not in love with Vernon but he's 25. They love Wake but he's 34 and coming off an Achilles tear that ended his season in October last year.

I think the Dolphins let Vernon walk. I would try to keep the young guy and let Wake walk in a perfect world. But obviously, Vernon is going to get offers in free agency and the Dolphins must match whatever offer sheet he signs to keep him -- a major gamble.

If the Dolphins do close with Williams, they will have the first overall pick of the 2006 and the second overall pick (Suh) of the 2010 draft.

Williams, it must be noted, last visited the Giants and they also were in negotiations with him on Monday.

[Correction: Willliams planned to visit the Giants but never did. His asking price was too steep, even for a team with $50 million in salary cap space.]

 

March 07, 2016

Grimes (and Miko) out; Byron Maxwell in: Net gain?

By the time free agency begins at 4 p.m. on Wednesday the Miami Dolphins believe they will have improved at the cornerback position because they are effectively replacing Brent Grimes with Byron Maxwell.

Their plan as of this writing was to trade or cut Grimes, the Pro Bowl cornerback they know intimately, and add Maxwell, a much-maligned Eagles cornerback about to go to his third team in three years. And, those an many other facts considered, that will feel like a net plus for the Dolphins.

Why?

Well, in cutting Grimes the Dolphins can save between $6.5-$8 million in cap costs, depending on whether they designate him a pre June 1 ($6.5 million savings) or post June 1 cut ($8 million savings). If they find a team looney enough to trade for him, the savings is similarly $6.5 million but obviously they would get compensation in return. And what does all that do?

They get rid of a huge headache. In short, they move out a 32-year-old cornerback who had matchup issues against bigger receivers, didn't play as well in 2015 as he had in the past, was scheduled to make a lot of money, and came packaged with issues best described in two words: Miko Grimes.

That's what cutting or trading Grimes slices from the roster. More on all that in a moment.

In adding Maxwell, who is 6-2 and 200 pounds, the team added length to their secondary to compete against such receivers as Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker of the New York Jets and Sammy Watkins of the Buffalo Bills. The team also got younger in that Grimes is 32 and Maxwell is 28. And Maxwell will cost the Dolphins $8.5 million against the 2016 cap, or exactly $1 million less than Grimes, who was scheduled to cost $9.5 million.

And in the exchange the Dolphins also save themselves the headache named Miko.

Obviously, this is what the exchange -- should it happen as expected by Wednesday -- looks like to the Dolphins on paper. But what about on the field?

What about Maxwell's much-maligned play for the Eagles in 2015? Remember, he is traded from Philadelphia because a new braintrust, comprised of a new coaching staff and the return of Howie Roseman as GM, sees Maxwell is more valuable gone than on their team. He's viewed as part of the problem in Philly rather than part of the solution. That has to be weighed and viewed critically because adding Byron Maxwell is definitely not a slam dunk great idea.

But one must also realizes the Eagles are in a different mode than the Dolphins. They are in sell mode. They are in rebuilding mode, and unlike the Dolphins, true rebuilding mode in that they agreed to get rid of major assets Monday in exchange for draft picks.

It must also be said part of the reason for the Maxwell criticism coming out of Philadelphia is that he signed a six-year, $63 million contract with the Eagles after playing well for the Seattle Seahawks. But the problem wasn't that Maxwell was terrible, although he definitely could have played better. The problem was Maxwell's contract paid him an average of over $10 million per season but he played like someone worth half that amount.

Expected to play like a Darrelle Revis, Maxwell instead wasn't even quite himself. And that unmet expectation, caused by the high salary, turned him into a free agency bust.

The Dolphins mitigate that issue slightly in 2016 in that he's no longer a $10 million player for them. Again, he's costing $8.5 million against their cap. They also were working on restructuring Maxwell's 2017 numbers so we'll have to see where those land. 

Look, this isn't the Dolphins adding Richard Sherman. Indeed, Maxwell might not be quite as productive as Grimes was on the field even if he is a better matchup for their defense against those big receivers I mentioned.

But on the cap and in the locker room, this is an understandable move.

Here's the reason the welfare of the locker room has to be weighed:  

GrimeshellGrimes, unassuming and uncontroversial, was a nightmare for the Dolphins the past couple of years because his wife Miko Grimes was so out of control not even her husband could manage her. Mrs. Grimes, notorious for her activity on social media, last season caused a commotion within the Dolphins locker room after she took to twitter to say players did not believe in quarterback Ryan Tannehill. She called Tannehill a loser. She tweeted things that supposedly happened during practice -- such as Tannehill failing to connect on any two-minute drill passes -- even when interim coach Dan Campbell said the club had not even practiced two minute drills throws that week.

Tannehill called the attack from a teammate's wife "a distraction" to him personally on a game week and Grimes said he apologized to the QB.

But in a year the Dolphins are trying to rehabilitate Tannehill both on the field and within the locker room -- as a leader and player who is a source of team confidence -- the team didn't want a dissenting voice constantly working against them. Especially when that voice was perceived to come from within the so-called franchise family.

Mrs. Grimes, arrested before one game last season and usually vulgar in her approach to conveying her thoughts, is the reason the team met with Grimes at least half a dozen times. Those meetings and conversations with head coach Joe Philbin, executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum, and others, tried to get Grimes to stop his wife from embarrassing the franchise. They yielded no change in course.

Grimes would tell the team he did not share his wife's opinions and wasn't responsible for how she expressed herself. But that excuse rang hollow this offseason. The Dolphins made Grimes accountable for his wife. And his wife showed no ability to rehabilitate her approach. Indeed, Monday night, after a day of rumors about Grimes getting cut or traded, I tweeted (@ArmandoSalguero) in 140 characters what I've said here: That Mrs. Grimes is a reason Brent Grimes is out.

And her measured and thoughtful response on twitter was to threaten to do me bodily harm by way of gunshot wounds.

Even as Mrs. Grimes is partially responsible for causing her husband to be escorted out the door from his current team she is already hurting his value with his next team by making hollow Internet bully threats. What right-thinking team reads that tweet and decides it wants to pay Brent Grimes more rather than less money. (Yeah, she'll read this paragraph and immediately delete the tweet.)

And so now the couple seems headed out the door.

By the way, I am convinced the Dolphins would not have done this if Grimes played in 2015 as he did in 2013. But he didn't. And because he is now two years older, not quite as productive, more expensive, and the wife is a problem that is hard to manage, he becomes expendable. In short, any player's status becomes uncertain when his production decreases while his headaches, cap numbers and age increase.

So the Dolphins lose an exceedingly athletic cornerback, their best the past three seasons. They gained a bigger, younger cornerback whose family isn't likely to rip the starting quarterback or threaten to shoot moi on social media. And the exchange saves the team salary cap room in 2016.

The Dolphins must believe that to be a net gain.

Miami Dolphins trading for two Philadelphia Eagles players

The Miami Dolphins are adding Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso in trade, according to multiple league sources. The trade is agreed to but will not be announced until Wednesday after 4 p.m. because of the NFL rules governing trades in the new league year.

The Dolphins are still in talks with Maxwell to adjust his contract so whatever comes of that and a physical are the final hurdles toward making the deal work. The Eagles and Dolphins already agreed to draft compensation although that is not yet known. ESPN reported the Dolphins will be sending a draft pick for the two players.

Alonso is in the final year of his rookie contract so no extension or restructure is necessary to get the deal done. Indeed no extension nor restructure has been discussed.

Miami's assault on an offseason championship is well underway!

This could be Miami's third or fourth offseason title in the past seven years.

(OK, enough sarcasm.)

The Maxwell addition almost definitely signals the end of Brent Grimes as a Miami Dolphin. He has been Miami's best corner the past three years but following a year in which he declined and off-the-field issues related to his wife Miko increased, the Dolphins have all but decided to go in a different direction. Grimes will be out once Maxwell is in.

Both Maxwell and Alonso, added by former coach Chip Kelly in the 2015 offseason, were available this offseason following seasons in which they disappointed in Philadelphia.

Alonso, active and explosive in Buffalo his rookie year, suffered a season-ending knee injury his second season with the team. Last year he was traded for running back LeSean McCoy. He was injured again during training camp and struggled during the season to regain the form he showed as a rookie. He fills an immediate need Miami has at linebacker but is obviously not a salary cap burden at $991,418.

He will be in Miami on a prove-it basis. If he plays well in 2016, the Dolphins may want to extend or re-sign him. If he doesn't play well, he will go to free agency.

Maxwell had a good but not great season in Philadelphia. He has two interceptions and only yielded two touchdown passes. But because he signed a six-year, $63 million deal in free agency, he was expected to be a premier lockdown cornerback. He was not that.

He had one particularly bad game against the Atlanta Falcons and Julio Jones.

Miami Dolphins legally tampering with Seattle offensive lineman

The NFL's legal tampering period began at noon Monday. (I've got jokes about the illegal tampering done the past month or so, but whatever, not now.)

Anyway, the Dolphins expect to address at least one guard position during free agency and one target they've shown interest in, per a league source, is Seattle Seahawks guard J.R. Sweezy.

Sweezy, 27 next month, is a three-year starter at right guard for the Seahawks. He obviously has postseason experience. He obviously is comfortable in a zone read type offense -- some of which the Dolphins are expected to employ in 2016.

Sweezy is not expected to come cheaply. NFL Network reported a handful of teams other than Miami have shown interest in Sweezy.

Sweezy is not a favorite of ProFootballFocus. They ranked him No. 66 among all guards.

The No. 2 and No. 3 rated guards by PFF are also free agents. They are Richie Incognito, a former Dolphin, and Evan Mathis, who the Dolphins opted not to sign in 2015, but went to Denver and helped the Broncos win a Super Bowl.

KC's Jeff Allen, Pittsburgh's Ramon Foster, Minnesota's Michael Harris, San Francisco's Alex Boone, Houston's Brandon Brooks, and Atlanta's Chris Chester are also unrestricted free agents.

Running back Lamar Miller to hit free agency on Wednesday

Running back Lamar Miller will hit the open market when free agency begins in earnest Wednesday, according to a source close to the player.

Miller, 24, is unsigned for 2016 and his agent Drew Rosenhaus has been talking with the Dolphins about a new contract in advance of free agency. But those talks have not produced a deal between the sides and is not expected to do so before other teams are allowed to bid on the player starting Wednesday. So the market will determine Miller's value.

This is not great for the Dolphins who are without a starting running back.

The team has expressed universal desire to have Miller back. That included head coach Adam Gase saying Miller is a good combination of runner, pass protector and pass catcher.

But that praise has not brought the Dolphins up to meeting Miller's contract demands.

Miller led the Dolphins in rushing the past three seasons. He gained 872 yards on 194 carries (4.5 yard per carry average) and scored eight TDs in 2015. He also improved his pass catching, turning in a career high 47 receptions for 397 yards and two TDs.

Miller's best season was 2014 when he gained 1,099 yards on 216 carries for a 5.1 yard per carry average and eight TDs.

Despite the numbers, the Dolphins have been unable under the previous coaching staff to find a consistent workload for Miller. He averaged only 12 carries per game in 2015, down from 13.5 in 2014. Miller wanted more carries and opportunities to touch the football but didn't say so publicly until after the season.

Obviously Miller is not the only one who will be shopping when free agency begins at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. The Dolphins can also shop and may decide they want to look at available running back talent on the market.

New York Jets running backs Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell are among the group of running backs scheduled to be free agents, along with Miller. Ivory rushed for 166 yards against the Dolphins in a game in London last season.

Matt Forte, who played for Gase in Chicago and the coach loves, is also scheduled to become a free agent. So there should be at least mild interest from Miami. Forte, however, is 30 years old and that means he may no longer be viable for playing an entire 16-game season unless his workload is carefully managed.

Doug Martin, who rushed for 1,402 yards for Tampa Bay in 2015, is also scheduled to be a free agent. He wants a big payday coming off a career year. But he has history of injuries that caused him to miss significant parts of 2013-2014.

[Update: Denver just tagged restricted free agent C.J. Anderson with an original round tender. As Anderson was an undrafted free agent, that means a team can sign him to an offer sheet and, if Denver does not match, there would be no draft choice compensation. And, of course, Gase coached Anderson in Denver.]

March 05, 2016

Miami Dolphins create cap space by restructuring Suh, Misi, cutting Jennings

The Miami Dolphins on Saturday created $23.9 million in salary cap space for 2016 by officially restructuring the contracts of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and linebacker Koa Misi and cutting wide receiver Greg Jennings.

The moves come on the heels of the team hosting veteran street free agent defensive end Mario Williams, 31, who was himself recently waived by the Buffalo Bills in a cap costing cutting measure. Williams arrived Saturday and was expected to remain until Sunday at least.

None of the moves by the Dolphins were a surprise.

The Dolphins saved $18.18 million in the Suh move, which was agreed to in his contract when he signed it in 2015.

The team saved $4 million by cutting Jennings, 32, in a move that nonetheless will keep the receiver on Miami's books to the tune of $1.5 million in dead money. Jennings was scheduled to cost $5.5 million against Miami's cap but that was obviously not fiscally sound as he would be the team's No. 4 or No. 5 wide receiver if he remained.

The Misi move guarantees he'll remain on the team in 2016 but shows a clear intention by the Dolphins to begin an eventual shift in a different direction at the linebacker spot. The Misi move saves approximately $1.7 million in cap space.

The 2016 NFL camp is scheduled to be $155.3 million. The Dolphins cap will be approximately $164 million because they are carrying over approximately $9 million in cap space from 2015.

So where are the Dolphins at the moment?

They were scheduled to be over the cap for 2016 but the current moves along with previous cuts of Brice McCain and Jason Fox plus the placing of the tranisition tag on Olivier Vernon, which is costing Miami $12.7 million against the cap, means the Dolphins currently have approximately $14.9 million in cap space. That cap number includes the six exclusive rights tenders the Dolphins placed on six players on Friday.

All NFL teams must be at or below the salary cap when the new league year begins at 4 p.m. on March 9.

March 03, 2016

'Five or six' possible DE's for Miami Dolphins

In talking to the Miami Dolphins the last couple of days the message I heard over and over relative to the defensive end position was this: We like Olivier Vernon and would like for him to remain with the team but not beyond the value we have set for him. And if Vernon, fitted with the transition tag, goes elsewhere and we decide not to match, we have identified five or six defensive end possibilities in free agency and the draft that we are prepared to seek.

Well, the possibilities may have increased by a couple the past couple of days.

The Carolina Panthers released defensive end Charles Johnson, 29, today for salary cap  reasons after he's collected 63.5 sacks over nine seasons. That came on the heels of the Buffalo Bills releasing Mario Williams for salary cap, system fit and other reasons.

Both Johnson and Williams come with a buyer beware tag because neither performed up to his past reputation in 2015.

Their availability comes on the heels that I've reported the Dolphins really like pending Los Angeles Rams defensive end William Hayes, whose pass rush production has been merely steady but who played the run quite well in 2015.

So who else might fill out the list of "five or six?"

Denver's Malik Jackson is going to make a lot of money this offseason. Jackson had five sacks and was a QB pressure and run-stop machine last season. But because Denver plays a 3-4 defense, Jackson is a five-technique that would have to be projected to a 4-3 DE. I don't know if he would seamlessly make the transition. Even if he does, he wouldn't be playing with DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller also rushing the QB in Miami. Talented? No doubt. Expensive? No doubt. Questions? Some.

Well, there's toxic Greg Hardy. Hardy spent last year on suspension for violating the NFL personal conduct policy and had six sacks in 10 games when he returned to the team. But the story with Hardy is not about the sacks and on-field production. it is about him having an extensive domestic assault history and being hard to manage within the team. I'm putting his name in here because he clearly is the most talented defensive end available and his agent Drew Rosenhaus is local and does a lot of deals with the Dolphins. That is hard to dismiss. But I don't see the Dolphins doing this because I cannot see saddling a new head coach with this headache right out of the chute. I also think him on the same team with Ndamukong Suh, who is not well liked within the building and among some teammates, seems a volatile combination. Also, did I mention the domestic violence?

Robert Ayers. It should be noted the New York Giants are looking for pass-rushers and the fact Ayers, who had 9.5 sacks for them last season, is a free agent is curious because the Giants are projected to have $50 million in salary cap space. Ayers is 30 years old. But he accounted for 581 snaps a season ago, was relentless with pressures, and his run defense is solid. He's also not going to cost $12 million per year. Both he and Jason Pierre Paul are free agents and so perhaps the Giants are setting their priorities on the more talented but fewer fingered Pierre Paul. Regardless, this is a name to monitor.

Chris Long is on the free agent market. He is coming off a terrible season in which he had only 19 tackles and three sacks in 12 games. So I understand why the Rams cut ties and saved money. But teams must figure out if 2015 was an outlier season or the direction Long's career is about to take in the future. Long is expected to begin taking free agency trips by this weekend or next week.

Other possibilities include re-signing Derrick Shelby or KC's Jaye Howard or Detroit's Jason Jones.

In the draft:

Joey Bosa. Yeah, forget it unless the Dolphins trade up from into the Top 5. Highly improbable.

Oregon's DeForrest Buckner. I'm not a big fan because I don't see great explosiveness in this 6-7 and 291 pound end. But he's productive, he's going in the first round and will likely be available when Miami picks.

Clemson's Shaq Lawson. He showed his toughness playing hurt during Clemson's run to the national title game. He's productive. He has good size. He'll be there when Miami drafts.

Outside of first round: Florida's Jonathan Bullard, Clemson's Kevin Dodd, Oklahoma State's Emmanuel Ogbah, Michigan State's Shilique Calhoun.

I expect the Dolphins to make three defensive end moves this offseason. If they lose Shelby and Vernon, they must replace them and add someone else. The point is they must sign or draft a total of three players.

 

 

March 02, 2016

The Miami Dolphins have to do more with less this offseason

So here we are two months after the end of the 2015 season and only eight days from the start of the 2016 league year and the same Dolphins that had multiple areas of talent need when the season ended seem headed toward having more needs when they begin to address their problems.

Grim?

I don't know about that. But true?

No doubt.

Consider for a moment that we knew defensive end was going to be a need for the team in 2016 because Cameron Wake is 34 years old and Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby were unsigned. Well, guess what, based on the team putting the transition tag on Vernon Tuesday, it seems more likely than not Vernon will not be with the team next season.

The truth is the team has a certain value for Vernon. That value is in the $12-$13 million range based on their transition tender and other numbers that have been unofficially tossed of across negotiating tables. But the problem for the Dolphins is other teams are awash in salary cap space (and the Dolphins are not going to be at that level even after making cost cutting moves) and those teams needs for a pass rusher.

And so Vernon may get $14 million per year from someone -- say like, Jacksonville or Oakland -- both of which have over $70 million in available cap space. 

Would the Dolphins match offers in that range? Hard to fathom them doing that. Obviously all this depends on whether Vernon could generate such offers and the Dolphins aren't certain he will. But a source close to the player seemed confident Vernon would bring close to that kind of money in free agency starting March 9.

So let's assume that's true. Vernon gets that kind of offer. The Dolphins do not match. Now they have to go out and find a replacement.

Did they just get better? Or did they just fill a hole created after the 2015 season?

They just filled a new hole without yet addressing the other holes we know, they know, everybody knows they had when the season ended.

And what has to happen is the Dolphins have to replace Vernon with any of the handful of players they've identified capable of doing that, including as I reported Tuesday, Los Angeles Rams defensive end William Hayes. But the net gain is still zero.

And the team still has to address the possible loss of Shelby, who is looking to double his salary, while managing the fact Wake is 34 years old and coming off a traumatic Achilles injury that ended his '15 season in October. So now the Dolphins are looking this offseason for Vernon's replacement, Shelby's replacement and someone to share snaps with Wake.

This team needs three defensive ends!

(Oh, but what about Terrence Fede?)

Yeah, Fede faded toward the end of last season. He has to be something he has not yet been to be one of those three additions.

Wide receiver?

Look, I highly doubt Rishard Matthews returns to Miami. Yes, he wants to start negotiations around $5 million per year. But he wants to play. A lot.

And the Dolphins are not going to promise Matthews anything because the player's camp would see through that fake promise. The player's camp sees the Dolphins drafted DeVante Parker. And Jarvis Landry just went to the Pro Bowl. And Kenny Stills is the No. 3 guy. So where does Rishard Matthews fit?

He told WQAM's Joe Rose recently he wants to be no less than the No. 2 receiver. If he sticks to that he's gone, because Parker and Landry are going to be No. 1 and No. 2 for the Dolphins.

So the Dolphins, needing a ton of defensive help, have to add at least one wide receiver and certainly two if Matthews bolts.

I hate treadmills. But I feel like the team I cover is going to be running really hard this offseason to merely keep pace with where it was last season on the talent front. By definition that is running in place.

I have not even begun to address whether the Dolphins are keeping Brent Grimes or not. Yes, coach Adam Gase said at the combine he's spoken to Grimes. And that sounds like all is well and settled and good. But the talk still has not happened. And it must happen before the Dolphins can convince themselves all is well on the Grimes family front.

(You know what this means if you are a frequent reader here. If not catch up here for a snapshot of the issue).

Assuming the Grimes talk goes well, the Dolphins still need help at cornerback. They need to add a starting caliber cornerback opposite Grimes. They need to identify a nickel corner, be it Bobby McCain or someone else. Those three guys would be playing at least 65 percent of the snaps each. Remember last year those snaps were covered (pardon the pun) mostly by Grimes, Brice McCain and Jamar Taylor.

Well, McCain is cut after being a free agency bust. And Taylor was deep in the coaching staff's doghouse because, well, touchdowns, first downs, and completions happened at an alarming rate on his watch.

So the Dolphins had issues here with the bodies they had. Now, they don't even seem to have viable bodies to identify as candidates for open jobs.

This team needs to add at least two starting caliber cornerbacks if you believe the nickel plays starter number of snaps.

So far the list of needs, wants and must haves is two and maybe three defensive ends. Two wide receivers, at least one of which will be active on game days. And two starting caliber cornerbacks.

And we haven't even discussed two linebackers. A safety. One guard for sure but maybe two. A swing tackle who can replace Jason Fox, who was cut after the season, to be the backup to Branden Albert and Ja'Wuan James.

The team needs a backup quarterback because Matt Moore is a free agent and the team is moving on. (Yes, Logan Thomas is back. Is he the backup?)

And Miami either has to re-sign Lamar Miller or look for a new starting running back.

That is a full, full plate.

And I simply do not see how the Dolphins find at least eight quality starters -- two linebackers, one defensive end, one running back, one guard, two corners including the nickel, and a safety -- and then also fill in five important backups in one offseason.

And remember the team is going to have only moderate salary cap space -- depending on how extensively it cuts or restructures contracts -- while nine teams are going to have at least $40 million in cap space, with five of those having $55 million or more in cap space.

Folks, in 2013 the Dolphins had tons of cap space and five draft picks in the first three rounds. It didn't bring the boon of talent everyone hoped and indeed expected. This year is the opposite of 2013. There is going to be good-not-great cap space. The Dolphins will have no boon of draft picks.

So can Mike Tannenbaum and the Miami braintrust do with much less what Jeff Ireland and the Miami braintrust could not do with much more? 

March 01, 2016

Miami Dolphins, Cameron Wake not on same page over contract

The idea that the Miami Dolphins want to keep Cameron Wake, and indeed extend his contract for one or two more years, took a significant hit before and during the Indianapolis Combine when the team and Wake's agent formerly discussed the subject.

According to a source familiar with the exchange, the discussions have not gone well.

The discussions apparently did not start well as the parties were way, way far apart even conceptually of what was about to happen.

The Dolphins, apparently were trying to significantly cut Wake's scheduled cap number of $9.8 million for 2016. Wake expected that, but also expected some sort of in-kind gesture that would not result in an actual cut in salary and indeed would include an increase in money he is guaranteed, thus insuring his future with the Dolphins.

The difference between those two positions became a divide that has not been bridged as of this morning.

And, per the source, the differences in how to get the deal done is significant. 

So Wake currently has one year left on his contract and is scheduled to make $8.275 million in base salary on the deal. At age 34, his future in Miami beyond this year is uncertain. The Dolphins, meanwhile, are about to carry the $9.8 million cap figure they were hoping to trim.

No one is getting what they want. At this stage, the parties are expected to do nothing further and instead live with the fact Wake will play out the final year of his contract. It is possible the Dolphins decide to cut Wake or try to trade him, but that is more an option than a likelihood.

With the possibility (strong likelihood) Olivier Vernon, the team's transition player, will get an offer in free agency the Dolphins will not match, and Wake and the Dolphins not seeing eye-to-eye on a plan for the defensive end going forward, the defensive end spot becomes a major, major issue for the Dolphins this offseason.

Miami Dolphins like Olivier Vernon, don't love Olivier Vernon

The Miami Dolphins want to keep Olivier Vernon. No doubt about that. That is why this morning they have placed the transition tag on the player, worth $12.7 million that ensures they can match any offer on the open free agency market Vernon gets.

But the Dolphins didn't want to go to what they believe to be extremes to keep Vernon.

And paying $15.7 million in a franchise tag that is guaranteed and fully costing against the cap was obviously something the Dolphins felt was extreme.

So the team cannot prohibit Vernon from going to other teams and getting contract offers. And with the transition tag they can match those offers if they meet the value they have for Vernon.

But if Vernon goes out and gets even one offer that pays in the $15-$16 million per year range with significant guaranteed money, he's gone. The Dolphins will not match it. They proved that today by not tagging Vernon at that rate.

And the transition tag comes with zero draft choice compensation. Those are the rules.

So the Dolphins really, really like Olivier Vernon. A lot. Over $12 million worth.

But they don't love Olivier Vernon. Not to $15.7 million worth.

There is another side of this, too.

The Dolphins like Vernon and want to see him return. But they have identified a handful of pass rush options they believe they can get more cheaply to play at the level Vernon has shown his first four seasons with the team.

William Hayes, a pending free agent from the Los Angeles Rams, is a player the team likes very much. If Vernon walks, Hayes will be an option. Hayes, 30, had 5.5 sacks last season.

The Dolphins have strong conviction about being able to get a comparable -- maybe better player, they believe -- if they lose Vernon based on their experience with Charles Clay in 2015. Last year the Dolphins placed the transition tag on Clay because they didn't think him worth the kind of money he was asking in a long-term contract.

Clay signed a five-year, $38 million deal with Buffalo that included $24.5 million in guaranteed money. The Dolphins opted not to match. They signed Jordan Cameron instead to a two-year $15 million deal with $5 million guaranteed.

Clay in 2015 made $13 million and caught 51 passes for 528 yards with three touchdowns.

Cameron in 2015 made $7.5 million and caught 35 passes for 386 yards with three touchdowns.

Clay had a drop rate of 6.6 percent. Cameron's drop rate was 4.6 percent.

Clay played 71 percent of Buffalo's snaps. Cameron played 72 percent of Miami's snaps.

Get the players on the scale and weigh salary versus production. The Dolphins can argue they paid $5.5 million less for a roughly equivalent player.

The Dolphins have been sort of telegraphing this move for over a year. They made one offer to Vernon's agent, David Canter. The team deemed it fair. The agent didn't and indeed, didn't even counter because he deemed the offer not realistic. That offer came last August-September.

There have been no offers since.

Again, the team has a value on Vernon it intends to abide by. And the player and his agent -- and likely other teams -- have a higher opinion of what Vernon is worth.

Free agency begins March 9. Despite his transition tag, Olivier Vernon will be on the market.

 

February 29, 2016

Miami Dolphins, Olivier Vernon headed toward franchise tag decision

The Miami Dolphins and agents for their pending unrestricted free agents met in Indianapolis over the past few days to discuss what it will take to keep the players, and those talks include the club and the agent for defensive end Olivier Vernon.

The team and agent David Canter met Saturday and have remained in contact beyond that meeting. But no deal for Vernon was imminent as of this writing and it seems the team will indeed have to decide whether or not to use the franchise tag on him by the deadline Tuesday at 4 p.m. Placing the tag on Vernon means the team extends a guaranteed $15.7 million tender on him that hits the salary cap books immediately so that he cannot sign with another team without draft compensation coming back to Miami.

The team is keeping its intents on using tag a secret although it seems Miami must tag Vernon short of getting a deal with him to avoid the ramifications of having him hit free agency. Here are the scenarios the Dolphins are looking at if no multi-year deal is struck by the tag deadline of 4 p.m. Tuesday:

  1. Tag Vernon and keep him. That's expensive in that Vernon immediately goes on the salary cap books for $15.7 million or a 1,000 percent increase on his 2015 pay of $1.5 million. The Dolphins are unlikely to use the exclusive franchise tag which prevents any teams from negotiating with the player but is determined by the top five highest salaries at a position. The non-exclusive franchise tag, a more likely scenario for Vernon, is less expensive and allows other teams to negotiate with the player. The Dolphins could then match any contract offer Vernon receives or let him walk and get two first-round picks in return.
  2. Tag and trade. As no team is likely to agree to give up two first-round picks for Vernon, the Dolphins could tag Vernon with the intent to trade him. They would indeed place the tag on him and signal that he is nonetheless available for compensation less than the two first-round picks. The team's initial asking price would likely include at least one first-round pick but it is possible Miami might take less -- such as multiple second rounders, for example.
  3. Tag with intent to remove. This is the nuclear option that assures mutual destruction. The Dolphins could tag Vernon now to keep him from going to the market. They could hope that bides them time to negotiate a long-term deal. If no long term deal is struck -- and none was struck since last August when the team and Vernon first talked about a new deal -- then the team could simply remove the tag in June or July. That would make Vernon a free agent at a time most NFL teams have already allocated most of their salary cap space and don't have room to add a $14-$16 million per year player. Vernon's choice would be to sign a lesser deal with another team, sign a lesser deal with Miami, or sit out the season. This option is onerous for the player but also the team in that it would be allowing Vernon to take up approximately 10 percent of its 2016 cap space for several months during free agency -- preventing them from making other moves and still ultimately risking losing the player. I doubt this happens as it would anger Vernon and send a bad message to other players in the locker room about how the team treats players. The only reasons this is included here is because, well, it is a tactic, regardless of how terribly unlikely.   
  4. Do not tag. This would happen under two instances, and that would be the Dolphins refuse to take $15.7 million in cap space on Vernon immediately but are certain they could sign him to a long-term contract between now and the opening of the league year on March 9. Or the Dolphins would be confident that Vernon would go to the market and give them a chance to match any offer he receives from another team to decide whether to keep him or not. The Dolphins have been told Vernon would be willing to give the team that courtesy.
  5. Walk away. The Dolphins could simply not tag Vernon, decide he's too expensive compared to the value they've placed on him internally, and then they have another hole to fill this offseason.

It would be dumb to simply walk away. Pass rushers are hard to find and those about to hit their prime -- Vernon is 25 years old -- are the most valuable ones. Vernon is also the best pending free agent the Dolphins have. So they would try to keep lesser players but let the better player walk? That would not be a good signal.

It would be unwise to not use the tag in some form and hope to match a contract another team offers. Although the Dolphins are confident Canter would give them the chance to match an outside offer, it seems strange to let another team negotiate a deal for you. It puts your salary cap situation in another team's hands.

Tag and trade makes sense in that if the Dolphins do not believe Vernon is worth $15.7 million for one year, they can try to add a first-rounder or multiple second rounders in exchange for him. In a year the cap has been raised to $155 million, some teams are flush with salary cap space and might be willing to part with compensation for a pass rusher.

The "tag and keep" option helps the Dolphins kick the can down the road on a Vernon deal. It keeps him on the team in 2016. It also swallows 10 percent of the team's available 2016 cap, which is not great.

I look for the Dolphins to tag Olivier Vernon by 4 p.m. Tuesday. I cannot imagine letting young talent at a premium position walk.