Four more Thursday Fins visits; ex-GM questions Fins; Mike Wallace press conference; Magic's suggestion
A few Fins notes and a couple hoops item at the end:
### St. Louis receiver Brandon Gibson is indeed visiting the Dolphins today and Friday, a source said. Though the Jets wanted to sign him during his visit there on Wednesday, Gibson wanted to take visits to Miami and then Tennessee.
The possibility of the Dolphins trading Davone Bess can't be ruled out if they sign Gibson, but remember that Joe Philbin made ample use of four receivers in Green Bay, and it's very conceivable Miami could use all four (Mike Wallace, Bess, Hartline, Gibson) in passing situations if Gibson signs.
### Tampa defensive end Michael Bennett is visiting the Dolphins today, a source confirmed. He had nine sacks last season and would give the Dolphins another high-caliber pass rusher opposite Cam Wake if Miami signs him. But Miami won't get his brother, Chicago-bound tight end Martellus Bennett.
### Linebacker Thomas Howard and guard Lance Louis -- two veterans coming off torn ACLs -- also visited, the team announced. Howard played only one game last season before the knee injury but has been a starter for the Bengals and Raiders. Louis, who can also play tackle, started 11 games for the Bears last year before his knee injury in November.
### Jets tight end Dustin Keller's visit to Miami ended without a deal being struck but the sides will keep in touch and a deal hasn't been ruled out, according to a report out of New York.
### Despite the excitement generated by the Dolphins' moves early in free agency, they're still catching a lot of criticism on NFL Network, with all three of their high-priced signings being questioned by at least five analysts, including Warren Sapp questioning spending $35 million on Dannell Ellerbe. "Are you kidding me?" Sapp said of replacing Karlos Dansby with Ellerbe.
Then there was this from fired Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum said: “The one I would have proceeded with caution is Philip Wheeler. He’s a journeyman. I’m not sure if I understand that so quickly in free agency. I would have put signing Sean Smith ahead of Wheeler. You’re trying to beat New England.”
### Before being limited to eight games last season because of hamstring and ankle injuries, here’s how Keller’s receptions compared with Anthony Fasano: 45 to 31 in 2009, 55 to 39 in 2010, and 65 to 32 in 2011. He has averaged 11.9 yards per reception in his career, barely ahead of Fasano’s 11.6. Fasano signed with Kansas City this week.
### The Dolphins believe Ellerbe will be better both in pass coverage and as a blitzer than Karlos Dansby or Kevin Burnett. His agent, Nova graduate Hadley Engelhard, got Ellerbe one of the league’s best deals for an inside linebacker (five years, $35 million; $17 million guaranteed) and said Ellerbe will play middle linebacker here. The Dolphins inquired about Ellerbe during the weekend and beginning Monday night “got more and more aggressive. We knew it would be a great fit.” Baltimore was not given a chance to match Miami's offer.
Here’s the Mike Wallace Dolphins press conference from Wednesday, for those interested:
(On what the last week has been like for him) – “It was just, it felt like forever. It took forever just for this last week to pass, but I’m very excited to be here. I’m very excited to start this next chapter in my life down in South Florida.”
On the rumors connecting him to the Dolphins and if he had been thinking about it the past couple of months) – “Not really the last couple of months. A couple weeks – two or three weeks. (I) was just trying to fit myself in in each organization and see where I think I would fit best and I think this one just stood out to me. I love being down South. I love everything that’s going on here. I think they’re very competitive. They’re in the right direction – a young team, second-youngest team in the league actually last year. I think we can do some good things. I like Coach (Joe) Philbin. He’s a good guy. I like the offense first and foremost.”
(On working with quarterback Ryan Tannehill) – “It’s going to be different playing with a guy who’s actually younger than me. Ben (Roethlisberger) always treated me like his little brother. So actually being a big brother is going to be a little bit different, but I’m excited. I’m excited about the different changes. I know he’s happy for me.”
(On if he considered signing with other teams) – “Yes, of course. You don’t get this opportunity too often. Not very many people get this opportunity. You have to look at each situation and try to feel it out and see what’s the best situation for yourself. I think this one stood out to me.”
(On what other teams were involved in trying to sign him) – “There were a couple of teams, but I’m not really going to get into all of that.”
(On the high expectations for him now and if he feels pressure) – “No, actually it feels crazy. It feels like a dream, so I’m still trying to figure everything out. But I don’t have any pressure at all actually. I feel that I put enough pressure on myself just to be good – for myself, my family, my teammates and my organization, the fans. (There’s) enough pressure already, not really too much added from where I come from.”
(On who he brought here today) – “I’ve got my dad here with me. I’ve got my agent Bus (Cook). I’ve got the young guy over here with me. He’s hanging out, enjoying South Florida.”
(On if he’s talked with Ryan Tannehill yet) – “We had dinner last night. (He’s a) cool guy. He’s ready to get down to work just like me.”
(On where they went to dinner) – “I don’t know. I know they had boats and stuff (laughing). I don’t really know too much about where we go. I just get out of the car. I get in and get out. I just know they had a lot of boats. Big boats.”
(On if there will be a discussion about he and Tannehill having same jersey number – “We’ll talk about it, but if he’s up to it. I’m not a guy who’s just going to try and pressure anybody about anything. If he wants it, he keeps it. If not, I’ll talk it.”
(On Dannelle Ellerbe joining the team and his past rivalry with him when they played in the same division) – “I guess we don’t have a choice but to get along now (laughing). But I don’t like too much of those guys where he comes from (Baltimore Ravens). We’re on the same team now, so I’m excited.”
(On if there’s a lot of excitement about the Dolphins right now) – “Yes, definitely. I feel like we made a great splash yesterday (and) with the guys that they have, a young team and I feel like they’re competitive. That’s the main thing. I don’t feel like this is a team that was 7-9 in a bad way. I feel like it was all hard fought games. Some of them get away from you sometimes. We were 8-8 this year, so I know that every game’s not going to go the way you want. I think this is a competitive team and I think we can do some good things.”
(On if he’s had a chance to meet with the other receivers Brian Hartline and Davone Bess) – “I talked to Brian yesterday. I haven’t had a chance to meet him.”
(On the list of qualifications that he looked for in his next team) – “Really for me it was about my family and just seeing where I thought they would be comfortable at. I don’t think they really like the north too much. They don’t have a problem going there if need be, but you want to put them in the best situation. And I just think the direction that the team is going in is a good one, and I’m excited about it. I like Coach Philbin. I like what he brings to the table, and I just like the offense in general. I like the quick hits, the big plays. I think we are going to do some big things.”
(On whether being the third highest paid receiver and being the focal point of opposing defenses is a daunting challenge) – “Not really. I feel like the last three years I’ve been the focal point when I’m on the field, so I don’t really feel too much pressure on me. There’s a lot of relieved stress and a lot of just excitement right now.”
(On whether he is going to move down to Florida immediately) – “Pretty soon, pretty soon. I’ve got to figure things out. It hasn’t even been 24 hours yet. I’ve got a lot to figure out.”
(On the process of dealing with the front office and Jeff Ireland) – “I feel like they were really aggressive. They really wanted to show me that they wanted me here. As soon as Saturday, when we were able to talk, they were really aggressive. I think they wanted me and wanted me in their plans, and we’re excited.”
(On the recruiting process and whether he went out to dinners and watched film of the team) – “I really didn’t want to do too much of that. I wanted to figure stuff out on my own. I think (his agent Bus Cook) Bus did a great job of being in contact with everybody, and I just let Bus handle that business. I just did a little research on each team on my own.”
(On whether he looked at video of the teams) – “Yeah definitely. I watch a lot of film so I like it.”
(On whether he studied Tannehill) – “Yeah of course. This guy has a lot of upside. I know that for sure. (I like him) over a lot of guys in the league. I think we can build.”
(On whether he could sense that Tannehill was excited about his signing when they met) – “Yeah he was happy. A lot of smiling. He is a young guy, and I’m a young guy, so I think we are going to be on the same page. He can put it up there.”
(On how he responds to people who say that Ben Roethlisberger made him the player he is) – “I don’t really have anything to say about anybody. Really I don’t care what anybody says. I’m here with this team. I have Ryan Tannehill. Ben was a great player, and people are going to have their opinion, so I think we’ll take care of that and we’ll see.”
(On whether he thinks he can continue to produce touchdowns at his current pace regardless of system) – “Definitely. I think just being on the field, my will will get me some touchdowns. We have a good enough quarterback, two of them actually. A lot of guys can’t say that. A lot of guys can’t say that you have two guys you feel comfortable playing with all the time at any moment. I think they will get me enough touchdowns on their own.”
(On if it was tough leaving the Pittsburgh Steelers) – “Definitely. That’s the only place I’ve ever been. That’s the only thing I know. It’s just different. It’s a new experience, but I’m excited about it and I think it’s going to be good for me.”
Magic Johnson on Wednesday became the first national commentator to endorse Erik Spoelstra for Coach of the Year: “Coach Spoelstra is pulling out all the stops making sure this team is focused and ready. He should probably be Coach of the Year.”
### At an ACC Tournament practice Wednesday, UM sophomore guard Shane Larkin reiterated what he told me in this space a month ago: He will return for his junior season instead of turning pro.