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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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promichael

“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.”

All due respect to Rich Gannon but Gerrard was brought in to backup the #12 passer in the NFL Matt Moore. Matt accomplished what he did with a not so great OL and no speed receivers. In my view Philbin realized that Flynn also was not an upgrade to Moore either. So why pay a guy $6.5M plus to backup Moore.

John B

GREAT article. Was unaware that we had $13 million in dead money out there. Just another testament to this pathetic and embarrassing management team that is running this Titanic of a franchise into the ground. My longhaul prediction as that Ross will either sell the team to someone competent or try to move the team to a city that is so desperate for an NFL team, they look past the fact there is a complete and utter moron running it.

Miami 13

it's amazing that people are actually angry cuz the Phins didn't sign Flynn, a 7th rd pick with 2 starts, why gamble on a QB who hasn't done crap in this league. I rather have Moore than flynn

Dead Fish

I am so tired of people saying Brandon Marshall was the Dolphins best play maker. I cannot recall one game that BM was the driving force for a win. I remember many we did not win because BM dropped multiple passes or touchdowns, or ran out of bounds with no one near him.

TonyCane

What are you all complaining about? This team is perfectly built to beat the 1987 Denver Broncos. Or the 1955 Colts.

Dary Mike

If you are not a fan of the fins, fine, but take a walk and go invest your time playing RPGs or rooting for another team. Does Ireland have too much power for proving next to nothing? YES!!!
Should he leave the organization? YES please? But stop writing hateful ish on these posts if you are not a fan. Get lost, cheer for tebow and the Jets.
If you love the team, you love the players and the team period.
Gerard and Moore are both solid. Marshall led the league in drops by a number 1 receiver. He's a hot head with no control of anything
Emotions or the ball. Bush is a stud. Wake a stud. Whole defense rallied second half last year. Pouncey and long studs. Bess, hartline, clay, fasano, Moore, and gates have wicked potential. If your a finfan keep posting and if you are not, just shut up-whine about something else-like the pats or the jets. How many superbowls does Gannon have? Talking head mutt he is for certain. He is a career chad henne. Go Delaware!! Go Gannon!! Go tuck rule!! Fourth best team in AFC east? He can please shut up too.

TonyCane

Sorry Dary, but when the team keeps makes bad decision after bad decision (passing on Drew Brees, twice), failing to replace MARK DUPER and MARK CLAYTON(!), and refusing to invest in players that actually score touchdowns, I cannot pretend that everything is okay. 11 of the last 12 seasons have been dominated by the current mentality - run first, good defense, caretaker quarterback. Our kickers is the team's offensive MVP year after year.

THIS IS BORING, BAD FOOTBALL!

FWE

I have no problem building the team thru the draft but they could have saved themselves and the fans a lot of grief if they had made this known prior to free agency and not teased us with bringing so many guys in and then doing nothing.

niz

The bottom line is that the Dolphins paid too much for most of their free agents under the leadership of Parcells and Ireland. Parcells has now left, how Ireland still has the GM job is puzzling? He made a few good signings, but not many! I'll give Philbin at least 2 years to prove himself. If the Dolphins don't show progress in that time it will be time to clean house totally.

The Peyton Manning thing was a wast of time since the Dolphins don't have nearly enough cap room to ever pull it off. Plus he is a big risk as well if he gets injured after a few games. The Dolphins would be in trouble for years!

We will see what Matt Flynn will be and if the Dolphins messed this up? We will find out soon and this could be another blunder if he is very good. I rather see Matt Moore over Garrard who is OK as a backup. After Luck and RG3 there really isn't anybody worth taking in round 1. The Dolphins are better off trading down since they need to create cap space if they can. Ryan Tannehill has upside but I would pick him too early because he could also be a bust. The Dolphins should draft a QB later in the draft for a 3rd QB and one to develop.

TigerSam

Gannon is dead on about Flynn. Even if he was not the long term answer to the team, him starting this year would have helped the offense tremendously getting acquainted with the WCO. The deal he signed in Seattle did not break the bank, and considering we don't have state income tax it is even more baffling the current state of our cap situation.

Still the Flynn deal could have been argued both ways I guess but what I found unforgivable was the failure to sign Eric Winston. At this juncture we do not know if we will be able to afford Long's contract next year, heck we do not even know if he will stay healthy enough to warrant such massive deal (thanks to your top brass again for that one btw, at 0-7 why was there a need to ran your best player to the ground literally, playing with one good leg, that inevitably led to season-ending surgery, DUH!!!!!); and having Winston would have been a nice insurance for the line, besides he wanted to be here, he came here first, wanted to play in grass, from the U, loves the city, no state income tax and we could not sign him for the $22 million / year deal KC gave him? BTW that fellow Scott Pioli does know a thing or two about building a solid line. Position of need, hard to draft for, I can go on and on and no matter how you slice this is just unforgivable.

Ireland is a decent scout but at some point to get over the top you do have to make a bold choice. It is easy to say now how smart was GB to draft Rodgers at 28 a few years back but no one thought that was the right pick when they had Brett Favre on board, that took some balls, the ones we lack. We will be talking about RG3 the same way we talk today about passing on Brees, mark my words.

There's hope in the draft though where Ireland did a good job last year. Of all the QBs out there the only one I like is Cousins, has moxy in his game and I think he will bulk up the same way one lanky, skinny Tom Brady did a few years back. Tannehill at 8 is a major reach and his small hands reek Alex Smith. Osweiler is a very likable dude but he's more raw than sashimi, no thanks. Weeden, is just too old and still faces a tough learning curve, takes too long to set his feet, etc. Would love for this team to add some local talent, heck PR-wise alone it will be a good move, and Tommy Streeter and TY Hilton have lots of potential and could fit nicely in Philbin's WCO.

caphayes

I read about the owner's communications with the protesters, I give Ross credit for that, I could give him the benefit of the doubt. But, I am not buying into Ireland, you can't keep treating players like he does and have the NFL respect you as a franchise. No excuse on how he treated Bell, it is not about cutting him it was about the lack of honor in the way he did it. There has been so many mistakes on this guy's part. What is the excuse in not evaluating a player in his backyard, Graham, he could have picked him up for a third, no excuses.

DOUG

The Bell cut made sense. He's an aging player. He was the number one tackler because our Linebackers blow. He's not the "ball-hawk" that we lack in the secondary. If anyone if going to get some picks, at least the SS should have more than 1 each year. If he resigns at a lower rate, and competes for a position against a solid rookie, it's a win-win for Miami.

The rest of the team is mediocre. They keep trying to build a team that needs to overachieve to succeed. It's some motivational concept that is absolutely failing in Miami at this point.

TheSergeantMajor

Support Miami Hurricanes football with your money and game attendance until Ross fires Ireland.

felixelgato

Artis Hicks is not worth 2M per year. Over the hill and overpaid.

darryl

So now ex QBs know more about evaluating talent than coaches! Anything to put a negative spin on things! Marshall is one issue away from suspension he is def a head case. All I can say and hope is we are in better shape with Philbin coming in after Sparano and co. were at the helm for 4 yrs. We are rebuilding and you dont do that starting on the 4th floor you do it from the ground! Who gives a rats behind about predictions? Heck they are rarely ever correct! At least we have picks in the upcoming draft good O line capable Qbs plenty of time to implement the system should be pretty good D to have the stats they finished with after starting 0-7 is inspiring and with the few exceptions even in the first 7 games played them close! Thats what Im hoping Philbin and staff can bring to South Beach is a closing attitude not fist pump for FGs! Go Joe Go Dolphins and all you naysayers go jump in the Atlantic!

Mark Compton

Another year of dismal football for this organization and the fans, what is it gonna take, All Ross does is talk a good game, Miami has become the bottom of the barrel franchise, even average players do not want to be there, The not signing Matt Flynn blows me away, David Garrard, come on please, that is just like the Dolphins, not signing Drew Brees, but signing Dante Culpepper, The Miami organization do not want to win and will not be a winning franchise until Ross sells the team and the new owner fires Jeff Ireland. Are the Dolphins for sale!

Marco

How are the Fins going to adress the WR situation? Everyone is thinking QB but if the QB have not targets then what? Donovan is good but we need a few more weapond to open the field. Give Moore a chance he is the best option at this time but do him a favor give him back a WR of Marshall caliber or better to help him and the ofence back. Miami could have try to bring some high profiles WR for an interview but to much Manning clouded their jugment. I belive we need at least 2 veterand reciver to put at least some concerd in other teams defents.

remi

Can we trade up for blackmon, sign weeden in the 2nd, fix everything else later in the draft pleasssssssse ....let them shine in miami(who needs a sun when they do the nfl like they did collage)

remi

I would like t.o to ccome back and teach flloyd or whatever player we get in the draft how to play proball.....t.o can do it 1 yr, 1.5 mil contract done deal thanks...or trade ocho for a 7th rd pick...yuuuuuuup or give pitt. The first rd for wallace

remi

Tiger sam ........ weeden is the 2nd best college qb behind rg3...he will do better than luucck givin the chance

remi

I really believe we will do great in the draft, ireland is a good scout, philbin is a great coach and coached college ball, n so far everything he coached was great, and mike shan. Was a college coach last yr. We will get great college players and I guarantee the dolphins will be a good team , with this schedule commin up this yr....I guessing we will go 10-6 , fact ...... ireland makes playofffs or he's done we all know that

remi

Greenbay didn have fancey freeagent signings.....and look what they do and how they play ....GO PHILBIN OUR YOUNG DON S. LOL

Steven

Sell The Team! Stephen Ross, it is obvious you don't know What The Hell Your Doing!! 0 & 7 I'll Be surprised if we win More Then One Game Next Year...

Tony

The Fins have salary cap issues because they're paying for players no longer on the team, the result of poor decisions. This mismanagement has the Dolphins gunshy about signing a QB. IRELAND IS A DUMPSTER DIVING BOTTOM FEEDER. We will see if Flynn excels. And if he does, I hope Ireland who continues to give bad advice to Ross, loses this gig, and our collective nightmare will end. PLEASE END THE TUNA STINK,

LS

Miami is clearly in worse shape after free agency than before. You can rationalise it all you want...they screwed up bigtime. Should have put more effort in trading with St Louis for #2 or should have paid Flynn more. Thank goodness for Matt Moore or this teams would be in shambles on offence. That presumes of course...there is anyone left to throw to............

I guess Miami will be the Indy of next season....and suck bigtime for Barkely...

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