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Blame past decisions, philosophy for lack of splash in Fins free agency;plus UM;Heat

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

One question we’ve heard a lot about the Dolphins: How can a team that’s so mediocre and dumped its top playmaker (Brandon Marshall) not have the cap space - or try to create it - to make competitive bids for Eric Winston, Vincent Jackson, Mario Williams or any other free agent who was an impact 2011 starter for another team?

The Dolphins entered the first day of free agency with $9 million in space before the Marshall deal; only 10 teams had less and the Broncos ($43 million), Patriots, 49ers and Ravens all had more. Now they have about $7 million after several signings and dumping Marshall and Yeremiah Bell, but much will be needed to sign draft picks and most of the top free agents are gone anyway.

So why didn’t Miami do more in free agency or create the cap space to do more? One reason is that Jeff Ireland and Joe Philbin want to build primarily through the draft. Philbin explained this to former players, but nobody bothered telling the fans, which led to this huge letdown. But there were other factors that led to Miami not signing any definite starter except Paul Soliai. Among them:

### Even though the Marshall deal left $15 million in space, the Dolphins used most of it on Soliai, a solid No. 3 cornerback (Richard Marshall), Lydon Murtha, Phillip Merling, David Garrard and backups Jamaal Westerman and Artis Hicks, instead of signing fewer players but using a larger chunk on, say, Jackson or Winston or Matt Flynn or Laurent Robinson or John Abraham or Kamerion Wimbley. Miami believes that was the smarter approach and perhaps it will prove to be; only time will tell.

### Among many reasons the Dolphins don’t have more space is their cap is clogged by $13 million in dead money to players who aren’t even on the team and more than $8 million for offensive linemen who are backup types, two of whom might start out of necessity.

That includes linemen Murtha ($1.9 million hit, Nate Garner ($1.6), Hicks ($1.5) and Ryan Cook ($1.13). Heck, Will Barker and Ray Feinga combine for another $1.1 million hit.

Because of proration of bonuses, the Dolphins are taking a $5.5 million cap hit for Marshall, $4.8 million for unsigned Vernon Carey, $1.85 million for Bell and a combined $838,000 for Tim Dobbins and A.J. Edds.

### The top 51 salaries count against the cap, and Miami’s 11 players with the highest cap numbers account for $68 million of the $129 million they have to allocate.

Two of those, Marshall and Bell, aren’t on the team. Another, Tony McDaniel, is a backup with a $4.2 million hit. Karlos Dansby ($11.3 million) and Kevin Burnett ($5.3) are good players, but that’s a big hit for two inside linebackers.

No surprise: Miami is allocating by far its most cap space to the offensive line ($28 million). Remember: Cap hits are usually higher than salaries because of bonus proration.

### Jake Long ($12.8 million cap), Reggie Bush ($6 million) and Randy Starks ($5 million) are all entering the final year of their contracts. If Miami had extended any before free agency, their cap hits could have been lowered to give Miami more money to spend in free agency or less need to cut Bell. Regettably, that did not happen, though Miami wants to keep all long-term.

CHATTER

CBS analyst and 2002 NFL MVP Rich Gannon, who has watched Flynn closely as the Packers’ preseason TV analyst, made a case, off the air, for why Miami messed up by not offering more to get Flynn, who reportedly got three years and $19 million (plus $5 million in incentives) from Seattle:

“Comparing Flynn to David Garrard (who got one-year, $3.35 million), it’s not even close,” Gannon said, believing Garrard isn’t a clear upgrade over Matt Moore. “If I’m Joe Philbin, who is better to help me install my system than a guy who has been in it for four years? If you have a guy that knows the system like Flynn, you are so much further along. Just pay the guy a few extra million. What Seattle paid is fair. Why wouldn’t Miami do that deal? This is insane. The guys in Seattle did a much better job recruiting him.”

Plus, as Gannon noted, Flynn has the skill set for the West Coast offense. Gannon said Seattle called Gannon, Mike McCarthy, Aaron Rodgers (who predicts Flynn will be a top-15 starter) and others in determining Flynn’s value and concluded he was worth that type of money. But Philbin, Flynn’s former offensive coordinator, did not ask Ireland to offer that type of money.

As for Garrard, “He has a ways to go, which is unusual for a guy with as many starts as he has,” Gannon said.

Gannon raises this broader question: “Who is the guy evaluating the quarterback talent in that building? Joe Philbin has an offensive line background; he was the protection and run game guy in Green Bay. You better have someone who knows how to evaluate that position.” He said Miami is now the AFC East’s fourth-best team.

### Alex Smith, who re-signed with the 49ers, implied to Bay Area writers he never seriously considered Miami and visited the Dolphins because “I had never been to Miami Beach and thought it was a good way to see it.” Lovely.... Drew Rosenhaus told WQAM's Joe Rose that "maybe there's a chance [Yeremiah Bell] will come back to the Dolphins," but that there is interest in him elsewhere in the wake of Miami releasing him Tuesday.

### Whereas the Dolphins lack a marquee free-agent recruiter (Dan Marino doesn’t want to be), we got another reminder this week of Pat Riley’s prowess in that area. After his first Heat practice Thursday, Ronnie Turiaf – who picked Miami over several teams – spoke of how meaningful it was to get a call from Riley before he made a decision.

“I told him he didn’t need to call me, but for him to do that was something valuable,” Turiaf said. “He told me he really liked me from the draft, said the Heat is a family environment, that he sees me as a Heat type of player. We had a really good talk that went beyond basketball. I told him I was crushed when they picked” his friend, Wayne Simien, ahead of him 29th in the 2005 draft.... Still no timetable for a return from Mike Miller, who will miss at least the next three games with an ankle injury.

### UM's Ryan Williams is leaner and has demonstrated better mobility this spring. One example: During Thursday's spring practice, he threw a nifty touchdown pass to Kendal Thompkins on the run. Eduardo Clements is going to be a huge weapon in the passing game - he took a short pass for a 25-yard gain in Thursday's session. Linebacker Eddie Johnson is among the young defenders turning heads.

### Wade LeBlanc is the favorite for one of two open Marlins' bullpen jobs, with Jose Ceda and Steve Cishek battling for the other and Chad Gaudin making a case.

 

 

Comments

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Kenneth Hawkins

I'm not on the Dolphin's suck bandwagon. Just based on last year we were competitive in all but three games last year. New England, Philadelphia, and the Giants out played us. Two of those teams went to the Superbowl.

With the new offense we are installing we should dominate the AFC east and will definitely make the playoffs.

The truth

This is to the fools that actually believe in Jeff Ireland and call fans whiners.

Let's see...The Dolphins have had 4 out of 5 losing seasons and are currently on a three straight losing season roll. All signs point to a fourth straight losing season which would be a franchise record.

STEPHEN ROSS AND HIS WATER BOY JEFF IRELAND MUST GO!!! They have destroyed the image and reputation of this team. We are the laughingstock of the NFL! No one respects either one of these two bums. Are you Jeff Ireland fan boys blind!

hande

These guys make the three stooges look like financial/sports geniuses... how did rossie boy get rich again... I thought the rich got/stayed rich by moving and hiding money... slight of hand if you will

Steve

For the past few years the dolphins have tried to make free agency splashes (Dansby, Burnett, Bush), and traded for Marshall (the diva receiver Ireland said he wouldn't want to acquire). Now we are forced to use the draft -- which is how most teams become good -- because we can't spend more. It is the best restriction on Ross yet.

psness

Just read this elsewhere..."Fins GM Jeff Ireland acknowledged he informed Yeremiah Bell and his agent last month that they were safe, wouldn’t be released and didn’t need to restructure his deal. However, the Fins released Bell a week into free agency after all the teams looking for starting safeties had signed one. While the move can be viewed as smart strategy, there are ethical concerns about the way Bell, a team captain, was treated by Ireland and the organization".

I've been a Fins fan for 30 years. It's been tough and I've always given the owner and GM the benefit of the doubt. But if this is the way Ireland conducts business, is there any wonder why nobody of any quality wants to play in Maimi? I may finally have to find another team.

Sam

Wow a guy using a team to leverage his old team into giving him more money, now that never happens to other teams does it??? LOL. Also who cares what Rich Gannon says about anyone, was he in the Green Bay building every day for the last 4 years watching Flynn practice and go to meetings??? No Philbin was and there must of felt that he was not worth the money. Also what a ringing endorsement that Flynn will be a top 15 QB, that means that he will be average, well we already have average we want elite and nothing that Flynn showed me in his TWO games screamed elite to me.

But in the end the referendum on Ireland will be decided by his choices in QB this year. If Flynn is a stud and Tannehill (or whoever he decides to hang his hat on this year in the draft) is a bust (like Henne and White) then he will be gone, that is fact. Everyone screaming for his head now is an idiot because who would you replace him with?? Firing him now is not an option. So let him make his decisions and see what the record is after this year and how his hand picked QB (without Parcells influence) plays and then we can have the firing next year in January when there actually are options to fill his role on the team.

Craven Morehead

As you can see, the Patriots are a playoff bound team every year with loads of cap room. Dolphins are a mediocre team with little cap room year after year. That's a perfect way to grade an organizations business side of football.

y-not

Here is the problem in America - we have a 24 7 news cycle - we have countless network and cable stations all reporting the same thing in an endless 24 hour cycle each trying to spin things differently. The talking heads, to earn their money, want to be retained so they concoct all types of outrageous comments to throw out on the air to see what sticks. With all the blogs the fans, in sports, or the zealots, in politics, take what they have heard - believe what suits them and then blog their mindless opinions endlessly too! If you are still reading this - I rest my case!!!!!

KB

I have been a Dolphin fan since age 5. That dates back to Shulas arrival. I look in stunned amazement at how this once proud freanchise, at one time the winningest francise ever, has fallen. Ross showed his lack of integrity with "Tim Tebow day". Ireland...well ask Dez Bryant. I knew with these two at the wheel no proven coach would give any serious consideration to signing on. Players in the league don't like Ireland. I can't think that Dolphin players have much for an owner that would promote and celebrate the opposing QB at our stadium. Philbin may be a great coach but nobody knows. So how can this team hope to lure a free agent? I will never turn my back on what I consider "my team" but it aint easy.

NHFINSFAN

We all wanted Tony Sparano gone...and he is.
We all wanted Chad Henne gone...and he is.

We have a brand spanking new football philosophy in Miami that is only two months old...and because of the new CBA rules, the players can't officially learn it until after the draft.

No one, and I mean NO ONE really knows how the Dolphins will perform under this new regime. It can be Cam Cameron part 2...or it can be a Jim Harbaugh type revival that has us in contention right out of the gate.

Case in point...Alex Smith was an average QB until Harbaugh started coaching to his strengths. Who's to say Moore does not react the same way under Philbin's new coaching style?

Gloom & Doom have shadowed the fan base for a long time and it's hard to break the cycle of being hyper-critical of every decision made by the front office and previous coaches (fist pumping coach)during the games.

But that is all history and we are now moving forward into a new chapter of Miami Dolphins football, one with all the promise of a new born infant who has nothing but open road ahead of them.

extremelytiredfinfan

DeezNuts, you and your friend Markiya(or whatever), are the 2 biggest idoits here. Miami's record for the last 3 years, lets just say, have been horrendous. No playoff appearances, boring to watch, and no playmakers that make one want to go to the games. They could've made cap space by either contract extensions or simply letting go quite a bit of these sorry no-talent losers we have on this team. At least one or maybe two outstanding players in free agency would have helped this team significantly. Instead this guy Ireland insist he will bring a championship team to miami with below average players (on sale like at Walmart). The records the last 3 seasons is direct proof that whatever the hell their plan is-its not working! Ireland is majorly inept at his position. And this is why he's got to go. Oh, I forgot, how many rookie players picked in the draft over the years have made an impact in this team. DUH!

SEPTUM

All it takes is one good draft class and the pundits will change their view about the Dolphins. Ireland better not pettyfog this draft.

teammiami87

the doplhins should draft streeter

BoulderPhinfan

the fact that seattle called rich gannon on advice is enough to know about them. I guess we'll see if flynn can beat out t-jax

Larry Pascale

This is the team that passed on Drew Brees twice!! TWICE! MORONS!
I was on my couch watching the draft years ago (2001) saying "please take Brees" of course we know what happened. There are countless other qb's Im not naming we have passed on
How can a team thats had Griese, Strock, Woodley(yes even Woodley) and Dan the Man not understand the value of a top QB...? Complete INCOMPETENCE! You can not understate the stupidity of whats been going on since Marino retired...

Dan

http://spasticgoatrodeo.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/jeff-irelands-resume/

4 years later and the Dolphins have many of the same glaring holes and needs as they did after the 2007 1-15 season:
2 WRs, TE, RG, LG, RT, Pass rusher, 2 Safeties, CB, LB, DL

needs list from:
http://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2012/03/05/team-needs-2012-miami-dolphins/
http://www.newerascouting.com/2012/02/20/2012-nfl-draft-team-needs-miami-dolphins-edition/
http://walterfootball.com/offseason2012mia.php

budtki

how is it that teams like the jets, eagles,...and just about every team out there have a ton of great players, manage to add big money freeagents and are still able to sign their top draft picks? look at all the other teams and the plethra of big names on there roster and compare that to miami. it seems as if miami can NOT afford even ONE star let alone four or five. teams like the steelers can maintain their star studded defense and yet have a ben rothilesburger, mike wallace,...whereas it would break miami's pocketbook to even sign ONE measily star. i can see if miami made the playoffs last year and wanted to return the same team and maybe make one or two big additions, but this team lost their first eight or nine games, and yet are bent on returning the same exact team for this up and coming season MINUS are biggest offensive weopon, this welcomes a repeat performance of last year, pathetic ticket sales, and will erode the already disgruntled fan base to a level that will either send ross into foreclosure or force him to sell the team. this might be a good thing, could you imagine DAN SHNIEDER down here! miami's back is against the wall and i see no other option but another major rebuilding year on the horizon, axe everyone and start all over.

ISAAC

you know who jeff ireland reminds me off that one GM that killed the lions for years and years and now is on TV giving his opinion what was his name?? oh yea MATT MILLEN -__________-

JL Raleigh

In regard to Gannon....He assessed that Flynn is better than Garrard and Moore based on all of two games? Look, if Philbin really wanted Flynn badly he would have got him. More than likely he felt he was and always will be a 7th draft choice whose best days were served as a fill in for Aaron Rodgers.

charmingly mediocre

@formfactor The Fins can't be both cheap AND close to cap limits. Those are contradictory propositions.

They may not be cheap, but they are pretty dim for paying all the guaranteed money to players who didn't pan out in Miami. 18 million owed against the cap on players no longer on the roster? Poor planning.

ORANGE BOWL 4EVER

BUILD THRU THE DRAFT ?@#$%

WTF....

JUST LOOK AT THEIR DRAFT HISTORY.......& HISTORY TENDS TO REPEAT ITSELF....

DOES NOT LOOK GOOD FOR THE FURURE..

Leon

To Deez Nuts- The Dolphins last SB Visit WAS '83- The Patriots represented the AFC in '85- check your facts before you post your comments.
YES! The fans have a right to DEMAND their team's front office do everything in their power to produce a quality product. This is why we spend our hard earned money. As a fan, you want to see your team at least make an effort to improve. The Dolphins' front office has failed miserably at this. At the end of the season, Ross promised Dolphin fans he was dedicated to acquiring a top notch head coach and a top notch QB. Instead, they bring in a rookie Head Coach and a QB ho missed all of last year with back problems. If you haven't noticed- NO significant free agent player wants to sign with the Dolphins- why? With that said- I am tired of the excuses! Bad reputation in the league, bad decisions, no ability to land the BIG DEAL- Ireland must go!! FIRELAND !!!!!!!!!!!

wu1sabes

How do you not extend Long and Bush's contracts and save cap space, that is just stupid. They knew they were trading Marshall so they knew they needed the cap space to sign another #1 receiver. They were clueless in free agency and should have realized they had no chance to sign a QB worth anything. Bottom line is they are still in rebuilding mode for the 10th consecutive year. WTF?!!!

Shambles

the problem is that we like to build through the draft and we draft horribly. How many probowlers has Ireland picked in the last five years? Jake Long, and he was the first overall pick in the draft. One probowler in five years and look at all the misses in the 2nd and 3rd rounds? Merling, Henne, White, Jerry, Misi etc. How many of their late round picks have make a contribution? Ireland is supposed to be this draft genius, but I don't see the proof?

Tube Salvation

Folks not everything is Doom and Gloom check this out !

http://youtu.be/ysNd4QGOgeY

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