The Dolphins will get a forum with Peyton Manning after all, but not exactly the one they envisioned.
Manning will meet with Dolphins coach Joe Philbin sometime in the next two days, according to a source. ESPN reported that besides meeting with Philbin, Manning also plans to meet with Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak.
News of Manning's looming meeting with Philbin came five hours after ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Manning will be taking no more visits after meeting with Denver on Friday and Arizona on Sunday.
The Dolphins had hoped to make a full presentation to Manning, with Philbin, general manager Jeff Ireland and owner Stephen Ross in attendance.
But the Dolphins, desperate to sign Manning, will settle for whatever they can get at this point, and are relieved Manning will meet with Philbin for a football-intensive discussion, without bells and whistles. The Dolphins are hopeful Philbin can make a connection with Manning because of Philbin's offensive expertise and calm, pleasant demeanor.
Phibin's meeting with Manning is expected Monday night or Tuesday morning, Mortensen reported.
Schefter said there's no urgency for Manning to see the Dolphins facility, because he has been there during preparation for the Colts' two Super Bowl appearances at Sun Life Stadium.
Two Dolphins sources insisted Monday that they believe the Dolphins are still in the running for Manning, and the meeting with Philbin certainly would strongly suggest that.
One factor apparently hurting the Dolphins is the fact they have no high-level coach or executive who has a longstanding relationship with Manning. By contrast, Manning has a good relationship with Broncos coach John Fox and executive John Elway and Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt. That's why it's critical Manning feels a comfort level with Philbin and his plans for the offense.
Mortensen said Manning is "exhausted" from his three-day Western trip, not expected to make a decision before the start of free agency at 4 p.m. Tuesday and might not make a decision until next week. He reportedly flew on Sunday night from Phoenix to South Florida, where he has a home.
Depending on the feedback they get from the Manning camp, the Dolphins must decide whether to wait on Manning or make an agressive bid for Green Bay free agent Matt Flynn when free agency starts Tuesday. Flynn is expected to receive immediate interest from at least one team (Cleveland) and possibly another (Seattle) that are not involved in the Manning sweepstakes.
Now, on to some other Dolphins items, on the draft and free agency:
### What if the Dolphins don't get Manning? Interest in Matt Flynn is expected in that scenario, but not everyone inside the organization is enthusiastic about that. One official raised questions about how much better Flynn is than Matt Moore.
Coach Joe Philbin, Flynn's offensive coordinator in Green Bay, likes Flynn, and so an offer to Flynn appears inevitable if Miami strikes out on Manning. But at the Dolphins ownership level, there's some uncertainty about what they would be getting and no great conviction he's destined to be a franchise quarterback. And now that Washington has aquired the No. 2 pick (and the right to draft Robert Griffin III), the bidding for Flynn could get awfully high, with Cleveland and potentially Seattle among the other expected suitors.
The Dolphins' other free agent options aren't good, with Jason Campbell and Kyle Orton among others available. If the Dolphins strike out on Manning and Flynn, Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill becomes an option at No. 8 in the draft.
### We solicited views from several NFL scouts on Miami’s potential options with the No. 8 pick, and here’s some of what was expressed: serious concerns about North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples because of questionable effort/attitude; support for South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram (two scouts said Miami should take him); and a warning not to overlook LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers as an option at No. 8.
One scout who spoke to North Carolina coaches said: “Coples turned people off. He was out for himself all year. He needs an attitude adjustment. I saw lack of effort. Sometimes, there’s a play going away from him and he won’t chase it hard, if he chases it at all. He stands and watches sometimes. It’s a shame, because he’s got all the talent you would want in a 4-3 defensive end. He would fit a 4-3 end role better than Melvin Ingram or Courtney Upshaw.”
Another scout said Coples, 6-5 and 284 pounds, "would scare me half to death because of lack of effort, lack of production." Another said, "Anytime you pick a guy in the top 10, you want to see effort every play and it wasn't there with him." It's a tossup whether Coples will be available when Miami picks eighth.
### All the scouts like Ingram – “strong, explosive, outstanding pass rusher” with good speed for his position - but two voiced mild concerns about his height (6-1) and arm length (30 ½ inches). Though some project him as a 4-3 defensive end, two envision him as a better fit at linebacker because "he’s short. His leverage against some of the tackles is not going to be good,” one scout said.
Another said, "If you look at Pittsburgh's LaMarr Woodley, he has 34 inch arms. When you're an undersized linebacker, you would like that length."
Still, all agreed Ingram would be a better pick than Alabama’s Upshaw, who “doesn’t have the type of speed and quickness Ingram has.” The evaluators said Ingram would be best as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Miami wants to use primarily a 4-3.
### The scout who advocated Brockers (6-5, 322 pounds, 35-inch arms) said he has more upside than Ingram, Upshaw or Iowa’s Riley Reiff but without Coples’ red flags. At 19, “he’s already so dominant in the run phase, and he will develop into a pass rusher,” one said, comparing him to Raiders and former Patriots standout Richard Seymour.
### The consensus from the scouts was even though Reiff is a solid player, picking a right tackle at No. 8 isn’t good value. “You want someone with more impact at that spot,” one scout said. “You already have your left tackle and you can get your right tackle in the second or third round.” ESPN’s Mel Kiper disagrees, saying Thursday that “with right tackle being so problematic… I would go Reiff if I get Manning.”
### The Dolphins' pick could have more value in a trade if a top-six talent such as LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon or Alabama running back Trent Richardson falls to No. 8. Trading down is a realistic option because the Dolphins will have multiple needs to fill in the draft if Manning takes up much of their cap space.
### What about fast-rising defensive tackle Dontari Poe at No. 8? The scouts said that’s too high. “He wowed everybody at the Combine, but he was up and down at Memphis.”
### Who, besides Coples and Ingram, would be next best as a pass-rusher for Miami? One scout said Southern California’s Nick Perry, but that No. 8 is too high. Another said Marshall’s Vinny Curry if Miami trades down to get a first-rounder in the 20s. Miami also has studied Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus (16 sacks), a one-year wonder projected to go in the teens.
### The scouts said taking Tannehill at No. 8 can be justified if Miami doesn’t get Manning or Matt Flynn because of his strong arm and ability to extend plays with his feet. But accuracy “in the face of pressure” was one concern raised.
### The Dolphins have put all their prominent free agents on hold while awaiting word from Manning. Those who have spoken to the team say they don’t want to go wild in free agent spending beyond Manning but badly want to find a starting-caliber No. 3 corner because third corners are on the field so much. Kelly Jennings, Richard Marshall, Eric Wright, Terrell Thomas, Cedric Griffin and Dimitri Patterson are among free agents who would fit that bill.
Miami hopes to find pass rushers and potentially a right tackle in the draft. Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland still hopes to re-sign Kendall Langford (“very good run player, dependable, never been late to a meeting, never had one angry word with a coach,” Ireland said). But if Ireland cannot, he still has Randy Starks, Jared Odrick, Tony McDaniel and restricted free agent Phillip Merling to play tackle in a 4-3. Odrick and Starks can play end, also.
### Though Yeremiah Bell has a big salary ($4.3 million), Ireland reiterated his commitment to him because “that’s the one piece who is absolutely one of the highest competitors on the team.”
### The Dolphins don’t view receiver as a pressing need and are curious how insistent Manning will be about adding Reggie Wayne to the team he signs with. NFL Network’s Marshall Faulk insists it’s a package deal, and it’s difficult to see the Dolphins allowing that to jeopardize their chances.
### One of Erik Spoelstra’s toughest decisions remains whether to use Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier or Mike Miller with the Big Three and Udonis Haslem late in close games. So far, he has opted usually for Chalmers; the Heat has outscored teams by a modest five points in 74 minutes with that lineup, compared with plus-24 in just 15 minutes with Miller. With Battier and the four others, Miami has been outscored by four in 14 minutes.... Add ex-Heat forward Shavlik Randolph to the list of veteran power rotation players who have been under consideration by Miami. But the Heat is encouraged by the recent play of Dexter Pittman.
### The Marlins, internally, are discussing offering a longterm deal to Giancarlo Stanton, who’s not eligible for free agency until after 2016. “If they offer, I would love to,” he said.
Asked by a fan about having 60 homers so early in his career, Stanton – who’s at 56 – cracked, “I’m not at 60 yet. Give me about a week!” Cleanup poses a new challenge for Stanton, who produced less in that spot (.220, no homers in 82 at-bats) than anywhere else he batted much in 2011.
### We hear that UM guard Durand Scott was suspended for Friday's ACC Tournament game because a former UM assistant coach provided transportation to a family member as well as Scott's former AAU coach. Both are NCAA violations. The assistant coach told the NCAA a long time ago that he provided transportation to the AAU coach, which makes it even more unfair and outrageous that the NCAA made this an issue a few hours before the Hurricanes' most important game of the season. UM has asked the NCAA to reinstate him. And our question is this: When will the former coaches be held accountable?
### UM and FAU have discussed starting a football series; FAU wants a home-and-home. UM prefers a home game but said it hasn’t ruled out a home-and-home. UM wants fewer tough non-conference games; UF (2013), Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Michigan State are among those already booked. Also scheduled in future years: Rutgers, Memphis, Toledo and Cincinnati. The USF series will end after 2013 because UM didn't want to continue…. Two NFC scouts said receiver LaRon Byrd (4.46 in the 40) helped himself more than any player at UM’s Pro Day. Travis Benjamin and Olivier Vernon also helped themselves.