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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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Demetri

We need to get our cap in order. Personally I would take the best player available at 8 or trade down and get more picks. Let's give Matt Moore a chance to start the season as our QB and if we still stink then we should be able to get Barkley in next year's draft.

vaustn

ROSS AND IRELAND ARE BRAIN DEAD FOOTBALL WISE. THEY ARE TRYING TO RUN THE TEAM LIKE A REGULAR BUSINESS. IT IS NOT.

Jim Burns

What a load of crap. Wake me up when Ireland and Ross are gone. This team is low end and will stay there until new ownership can restore the pride.

finfabulous

The bottom line is players don't like, respect or trust(see Y. Bell) Jeff Ireland. Free agents aren't going to sign with an organization with that rep.

Trading Marshall seems like a huge mistake. They tried for years to draft a number 1 receiver with no luck. I don't have much confidence they can find the right receivers in the draft. They certainly haven't hit any draft home runs lately.

In my view if they needed cap space they could have cut McDaniel or one of the other more expensive defenders. Even trading Long with his insane cap number would have had less actual impact than Marshall. The problem with this team for eons has been no investment in the skill positions. There needs to be more balance in what we spend on the offensive line and defense versus receivers, tight ends and QB. 2012 record prediction 4-12.

Poor Joe Philbin he is looking more and more like Cam Cameron redux.

Jay1Dolphin

No more Jhon Beck, Chad Henne or Pat White on the next draft.

They want to rebuild on the draft but they going to need 15 picks.

John

Who is Rich Gannon? LOL

Ron

no more season tickets for me and a couple of my friends feel the same way, we are fed up with this clown running the team and want nothing to do with them.

Al

Some people take Philbin for an idiot. This guy has been around the sport of football forever. You don't pay a guy like Flynn without more proof of consistent ability. If he had that, he would have challenged Aaron Rodgers for the starting job. Does anybody remember Frank Reich? This guy leads his Bills to 35 second half points and one of the greatest playoff comebacks in NFL history, but lead a team consistently? NO WAY! Seattle overpaid for a backup level guy. Our guys are smarter than that. Moore is better than Flynn and better than Smith. C'mon and wake up. This team is going to be great again as long as we stop trying to recapture the Marino days. Keep in mind, he did not win the BIG ONE! Just sayin'

72fins

well i think we all should see what happens in the draft
and i do agree that the gm needs to be let go ross should hire bill polin he did a good job with the colts
but honestly it is hard to take watching how far down the drain we have gone

Lotsathings

Incompetence at its best.

caphayes

Basically you are saying that the reason why is the worse front office in the NFL and an owner who is too dumb to realize this.

Jebediah

Garrard is a backup QB - nothing more. I highly doubt he'll push Moore very much and I expect Moore to beat him out. What were the Fins supposed to do - go into camp with Devlin as the backup? Flynn would have been brought in to be the immediate starter so it's a completely different situation. Philbin obviously didn't think that highly of him to stake his Miami career on the guy.

Jebediah

We need to get our cap in order. Personally I would take the best player available at 8 or trade down and get more picks. Let's give Matt Moore a chance to start the season as our QB and if we still stink then we should be able to get Barkley in next year's draft.
Posted by: Demetri | 03/23/2012 at 11:58 AM

I wouldn't trade down, but I hope they don't pick any QB except Tannehill if they're absolutely sure he will be really good, or wait until late in the draft. These bozos will probably take Cousins or some other project and then pass on Barkley next year when we have a shot at an actual franchise QB. Just draft a project in the 6th round or so and no Weeden, Cousins, Ostweiler, or any of the other 2nd or 3rd round more than likely busts.

sbspence

Hey we are onboard for the Suck for Luck sweepstakes! YEA!

OH wait that was last year.

locknut

TO LEON, YOU NEED TO GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT.THE DOLPHINS VS THE 49ERS IN THE SUPERBOWL --JAN 28TH 1985 SCORE 38-16 49ERS

Fireland2

What this comes down to is Jeff Ireland and Stevie Ross simply not knowing good talent. Michael Vick was available, but Ireland thought that Pat Devlin and Pat White and Tyler Thigpen were better players. Ireland decided that Jarrod Mastrud was a more valuable pass-catcher than Brandon Marshall. He feels that Austin "Holding Penalty on Special Teams" Spitler is a better defender than Yeremiah Bell and Will Allen and Kendall Langford. Sad.

no way

the dolphin organization is a peace of ISH smh

Tom Wilson

I have been a Dolphin Fan since 1971 when I was eleven. I have followed them in good and bad years. However, it pains me to see this once great franchise be pounded into the ground. None of us know what kind of decisions that are being made in the front office. It does not speak well of the owner, GM or new head coach to come out and assure their loyal fans that the "top priority of this franchise is to secure a premier QB". They knew the cap standing of their club, why even say something like that when you do not have the latitude to secure a Manning or Flynn? In short what confidence can any of the leadership of the Dolphins now give us? I told another great loyal fan of the Dolphins over lunch today this is the last year I am giving to the Dolphins as loyal fan unless we see results. I will not be paying to attend any games this season. The ownership and GM will be hard pressed seeing a sizable crowd this year. They say the Dolphins are rebuilding, they have been rebuilding since 83 when they lost the Super Bowl.. how long does it take?Trying to come up with something positive to say would be... we will be in the top 4 of the AFC East division this year probably in fourth.

Captcrunch

Excellent article, Barry. It certainly clarified many questions as to why the Phins didn't go after FA market the way I and many other fans thought they should. I wish you had written this two or three weeks ago, it would have prevented me from many days of AGITA!ggrrg.

Phinjunky

There was a good point in this column that I hate to bring up,but it needs to be said, Marino isn't doing a thing for the team.Maybe he is bitter because Miami didn't get him a ring. He sits in his chair and rolls his eyes on television when people talk about the state of the Dolphin franchise but he doesn't want anything to do with helping grow the legacy that Shula started and he carried for so long. I don't know how much it would help to have him involved with recruiting players but I will say this, if the Dolphins are moved to L.A. in 2 years and they change the name to The Los Angelas Spartans,no one will be talking about what a guy named Marino did in South Florida. Don't forget where you came from you might be forgotten.

SANBAR

HOW WERE THEY GOING TO SIGN MANNING, WITH MANGOS? WHAT A BUNCH OF LOSERS. THIS TEAM HAS LOST 20,000 SEASON TICKET HOLDERS IN THE LAST 3 YEARS AND IT WILL GET WORSE. SUN BANK HAS ANNOUNCED IT WILL NOT RENEW THE USE OF,OR PAY, TO PUT THEIR NAME ON THE STADIUM WHEN THEIR CONTRACT EXPIRES. I'M DONE AFTER 10 YEARS WITH 4 SEASON TICKETS. 2 SONS-IN-LAW DON'T WANT TO JOIN ME AS MY GUESTS NOR DO FRIENDS. THE IRS SHOULD CONSIDER LETTING THE FANS DEDUCT THE PRICE PAID FOR TICKETS AS A CHARITABLE DEDUCTION.

raul

Mr. Ireland, thank you but no thank you for still be with the Dolphins. What you need to do is know more about football in this country and I think you must go back to Ireland where you belong. I can not believe this guy is still in the position where he is. Mr. Ross, thank for wasting your money in someone who does not deserved.

SANBAR

To think it could get worse than when Wayne H. owned the team is unbelievable...but a reality. Ross bought the team and stadium for around $1.2 billion. Wayne is a genius. What do you think it's all worth today?

scott from delaware

WE ARE GONNA SUCK AGAIN THIS YEAR THANKS JEFF, JUST LET PHILBIN PICK THE PLAYERS IRELAND SUCKS PLEASE FIRE HIM BEFORE IT GETS EVEN WORSE

John Hagan

Attention Miami Dolphins fans!!! Run Jeff Ireland out of town....FAST...he has absolutely no business running a once-proud NFL franchise like the Miami Dolphins. Because of his ludicrous and rediculous decision making for free agency and the draft, I'm afraid the Dolphins will go from 1972's 17-0 perfect season to a season without a win. Run him out...FAST!

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