SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Everyone knows several of the Dolphins' veteran additions have underperformed. But the exasperation intensifies when you consider the performance of some of the players the Dolphins had a realistic chance to get, but passed on. An update:
### Offensive line: What’s striking is not only that the Dolphins ignored Marc Colombo’s dreadful 2010 play (which has carried over to 2011), but they also pursued what has proven to be the worst of the three free agent Cowboys linemen who played for this regime in Dallas. Guard Kyle Kosier -- who resigned for three years, $8.5 million -- has been solid, ranked 22nd overall among guards by Pro Football Focus. Former center Andre Gurode (earning $3 million) has played well at guard for Baltimore, allowing no sacks. Miami pursued neither. So even among players with whom they are most familiar, the Dolphins went after the wrong one, albeit the cheapest (Colombo is making $2 million).
The Dolphins also passed on tackles who have graded out much higher than Colombo (ranked 61st) -- including reasonably priced Jermon Bushrod (eight) and Bryant McKinnie (36).
The Dolphins also would have been better off leaving Vernon Carey at tackle and signing guard Brian Waters. But Miami wasn’t interested; Waters joined New England, ranks fifth among guards and hasn’t allowed a sack. They also passed on reasonably priced Chris Spencer, who signed with Chicago and is ranked ninth.
Heck, even two Dolphins rejects – Rex Hadnot (second) and Evan Mathis (sixth) have graded out higher than Colombo and Carey (35).
### Running back: Of 11 prominent backs available this past summer, Reggie Bush’s 3.0 per-carry average is ahead of only Ronnie Brown’s 2.9. Sproles averages 7.1 per carry and has 31 receptions to Bush’s 13. Plus, at two years, $10 million, Bush costs more per year than Sproles (four years, $14 million).
So why didn’t the Dolphins pursue Sproles instead? After refusing to top the Giants’ four-year, $18 million offer for Ahmad Bradshaw (4.0 per carry), they decided they needed someone who could carry 12 to 15 times a game if Daniel Thomas couldn’t handle that and deemed Bush better equipped than the 5-6 Sproles. They could have addressed that by spending a bit more to sign both Sproles and Ricky Williams (4.7 per carry).
FYI: Several backs who signed for less than Bush are averaging more per carry: Willis McGahee (4.5), Joseph Addai (4.4), Cadillac Williams (4.0). And, oh yes, PFF ranks Bush last among all running backs for 2011 performance.
### Tight end: Greg Olsen and Zach Miller were realistically too expensive, but the Dolphins would give defenses more to worry about, especially in the red zone, if they had signed Jeremy Shockey (14 catches, 199 yards), Todd Heap (13, 150) or Kevin Boss (six, 114 in three games). Instead, we get Jeron Mastrud behind Anthony Fasano.
### Inside linebacker: Before cutting Channing Crowder and signing Kevin Burnett, the Dolphins inquired about Nick Barnett, who missed most of 2010 with a wrist injury and was cut by the Packers July 28. Miami instead decided to pursue Burnett, who played for this regime in Dallas.
But Barnett (three years, $12 million from Buffalo) has played far better than Burnett (four years, $21 million). Barnett has 42 tackles, one forced fumble and two interceptions (one for a touchdown). Burnett has 13 tackles.
### Free safety: The Dolphins decided they would be better off with Reshad Jones (ranked 77th among safeties). They didn’t want to match or top Washington’s five-year, $26 million offer to O.J. Atogwe, who ranks 15th. But they also might have been better off with the 49ers’ Dashon Goldson (20th), who was cheap (one year, $2 million).
Goldson’s a big-time hitter, and his play recently drew lavish praise from Tampa’s Raheem Morris. Some wondered why the Dolphins didn’t pursue Brandon Meriweather when New England cut him, but the Dolphins thought he wasn’t worth $3.5 million and they were apparently right --- Chicago benched him this week.
### Outside linebacker: The Jason Taylor signing was easy to justify, but he has zeros across the board in two of the four games and no tackles in three of them. The Dolphins passed on FIU alum Antwan Barnes, who is much younger, has two sacks (after 5.5 last year) and a forced fumble for San Diego. Barnes has twice as many sacks as Taylor in 93 fewer snaps.
### Quarterback: You could understand the Dolphins not spending big money on Matt Hasselbeck, 36, or Kyle Orton. But if they had signed Vince Young, they could have used these final 12 games to see if he’s starter material, instead of using (wasting?) them on backup Matt Moore.
Sources say Jeff Ireland could have spent up to the cap (Miami reportedly is $10 million under), but didn’t believe several of the aforementioned players were worth it.
### With SOME fans of the Dolphins and other win-deprived teams rooting for their teams to lose enough to be able to draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck first overall, what does Luck think of the "Suck for Luck" campaign? "I think it's stupid. Simply put," he told The New York Times last week.
### An official close to the NCAA’s investigation said several former UM players have refused to speak to the NCAA, as expected, and the NCAA probably won’t be able to corroborate most of what Nevin Shapiro claimed against more than 50 former Hurricanes players. Canes coaches “told me there might a little penalty but not as bad as some people think,” said Columbus High’s Deon Bush, the nation’s No. 4 safety prospect who is considering UM.
Fact is, no one at UM knows for sure what to expect, but there’s optimism the penalty won’t be crushing. One UM official said the irony is beyond all the harm that Shapiro has done, UM ended up losing money on him, because it had to return his donations and because he never paid the $50,000-plus for his Sun Life Stadium suite in 2009.
### Suspended receiver Aldarius Johnson will turn pro (he’s projected to go undrafted) instead of transferring to another school for a final year of eligibility, his mother said. Johnson is on track to graduate in December, and UM has shown no interest in reinstating him.
UM told him he needed to be more honest with the NCAA, but Johnson stuck by his original story, that he played in a bowling-for-dollars event with other players and Nevin Shapiro, but that he did not receive any of the other benefits that Shapiro alleged. UM’s “official” reason for suspending him is for sending a tweet asking people for strip club suggestions.
### Assuming Mario Chalmers re-signs, the Heat sees five open roster spots to fill thusly: two on centers (ideally a starter and a cheaper backup, perhaps Eddy Curry or re-signing Jamaal Magloire); a backup point guard; and two wing players (preferably re-signing James Jones and a rotation-worthy veteran, with Shane Battier among expected targets). There would be six open spots if the Heat uses the potential amnesty clause to dump Mike Miller, owed $24 million through 2014-15.
### Curry, who interests the Heat, is in “excellent shape” and “no question” ready to join an NBA team post-lockout, well-regarded Chicago-based trainer Tim Grover told us last week. Grover declined to give Curry’s weight, which was 300 in August, down from 350 in March.
Grover said he advised Curry not to play in the FIU charity game last weekend because “these are not games for big men.”
### Marlins officials aren’t the only ones exasperated by Ricky Nolasco’s inconsistency. “Nolasco was the most upsetting to watch, watching his demeanor and execution,” ex-Marlin Al Leiter said. Leiter, now a Yankees announcer, said the Marlins must add veterans who are “respected across the board. They didn’t have it this year.”… Free agent Livan “I Love You Miami” Hernandez (8-13, 4.47 ERA for Washington) said he would love to hear from the Marlins about returning to play here. But Hernandez would be an option only if the Marlins need a very cheap veteran to compete for the No. 5 rotation spot with arbitration-eligible Chris Volstad (if he's retained), Brad Hand and Alex Sanabia. If the Marlins allocate some of their money on a quality, starter-caliber hitter (and some internally believe they need to), they probably could afford to add one expensive pitcher but not two. That would be the scenario for a cheap No. 5 rotation member to be added.