1:30 update: Misi extension; Ultimatum for Soliai; Jordan eager for debut; ESPN analysts on UM-UF; Dolphins, Canes
Saturday noon update: Though nothing has been announced, the Dolphins have given linebacker Koa Misi to a 4-year contract extension, through 2017. Misi would have been an unrestricted free agent after next season.
The Dolphins see Misi, Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler as their linebacker troika for years to come. Then again, they also saw Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett as a longterm linebacker tandem before moving on from them sooner than they originally planned.
Misi is the third potential 2014 free agent to receive an extension in the past month, joining safety Reshad Jones and long snapper John Denney.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins also have offered extensions to 2014 free agents Paul Soliai and Randy Starks. It's not likely that Miami would keep both. More likely, Miami would keep only the first one who accepts. Neither has accepted.
A deal with Soliai was close, but negotiations ended recently when the Dolphins gave his agent, David Canter, an ultimatum and refused to negotiate further.
"Don't do deals when people give lowball offers and ultimatums," Canter tweeted.
As Armando Salguero and I heard, the Dolphins offered him no guaranteed money in years 2 and 3 of the deal.
Besides Soliai and Starks, the Dolphins' other key 2014 free agents include Brent Grimes (likely will get an offer if he plays as well as Miami expects, Richie Incognito, Randy Starks and Chris Clemons.
Misi played 49 percent of the Dolphins' downs last season, and Pro Football Focus rated him 10th among 43 outside linebackers who play a 4-3. Coach Joe Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle have repeatedly raved about him in the past year.
Dolphins and Canes-Gators quick hits heading into a glorious football weekend:
### Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan wore a big smile on his face Friday --- not only because he’s two days from his first regular-season NFL game, but also because he’s finally healthy after a troublesome shoulder sidelined him for several weeks.
“I’m feeling good,” he said. “It’s been kind of tough” dealing the shoulder – including labrum surgery in February and re-injuring it in the second preseason game. “But I understood coming out that me being patient was something I needed to work on. I feel like it’s tested me. I’ve been up to the test.”
Besides responsibilities on special teams, Jordan is expected to play in obvious passing situations (particularly third downs) – the Dolphins envision playing Cam Wake, Jordan and Olivier Vernon together at times. He said he isn’t bothered in the least that he won’t be a starter, at least initially and quite possible at all this season.
“Whatever they need me to do, I will do,” he said. “I’m really excited. Closer you get to game day, you get more anxious.”
Teammates love the young man. “He’s been nothing but a pleasure to work with,” Wake said. “He’s humble and he listens.”
### Though the Dolphins kept only four receivers on their 53-man roster, return specialist Marcus Thipgen – who can play running back and receiver – said he received no snaps at receiver in practice this week. Thigpen, 5-9, said he could play slot receiver but has never received any work at any other receiver position in his year-plus with the Dolphins.
Baltimore was left with only three healthy receivers during the second half of Thursday’s opener – a difficult predicament the Dolphins would face if any of their top four are injured. (Receivers Marvin McNutt and Brian Tyms are on the practice squad.)
### When the Dolphins released cornerback Julian Posey, who spent the entire offseason and preseason with them, it wasn’t shocking that Cleveland – Miami’s Week 1 opponent – added him to their practice squad.
Posey is in position to give the Browns a lot of information about the Dolphins’ playbook, but Joe Philbin said Friday he’s not the least bit concerned.
Will that make the Dolphins do anything differently? “Not necessarily,” Philbin said. “I don’t think that’s going to decide the outcome of the game. We are going to run our stuff. We have 1000 plays from last year on each side of the ball. It’s not about trickery. They are going to know some things we do. Good teams have tendencies.”... Please see my story on the sports home page for a look at the Dolphins' injury report and a story on Dimitri Patterson.
### While there’s no question who will be getting the vast majority of carries for UM on Saturday, that’s in doubt for the Gators. Matt Jones, who missed August practices and the opener with a viral infection, will start at running back for UF, but Mack Brown (who ran for 112 yards last week against Toledo) will play early, Gators coach Will Muschamp said.
“Whoever the hot hand is, we’ll ride,” Muschamp said.
ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit said the “strength and quickness” of the Gator backs “will be very tough” for UM to handle. Herbstreit didn't pick a winner but expects a low-scoring game.
Muschamp, by the way, said Duke Johnson “is very similar to [ex-Gator] Chris Rainey, but a bigger version of that. We recruited him here.”
### ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay expressed surprise that the Gators are a two-to-three point favorite, depending on the oddsmaker. “Miami comes out victorious,” Kiper predicted. “The Hurricanes program --- the arrow is going up.”... ESPN's Mark May, considered a Canes-hater by some, also picked UM to win Saturday.
### The Gators were allotted 12,500 tickets --- with 1000 in the lower level and club level, which UM says is more than FSU and Ohio State received for past games at Sun Life. That number was negotiated, by the way.
The Gators wrote a letter to ticket holders saying this: "As you can imagine, interest and anticipation in our first visit to Miami in quite some time has helped us sell out our very generous allotment of 12,500 tickets. We are writing to alert you, however, that most of the tickets we received will be situated in the upper level 400 sections, and many are in the mid-to-upper rows of those sections.
“Only roughly seven percent of our allotment will be situated in the lower or club levels. This is not out of the norm, and is consistent with what the University of Miami provides all of its visiting ACC opponents."
#### Please see the last post, if you haven't already, for an explanation of why ESPN rejected UM's request for a night game Saturday.
### One quick UM hoops note: This won’t only be a big recruiting weekend for UM football, but also for basketball, which welcomes two recruits already orally committed to UM (guards James Palmer and Ja’Quan Newton) and three undecided players that UM has offered: 6-8 four-star Bronx small forward Terry Larrier (rated 59th by ESPN/also considering Kansas State, Wichita State and Indiana, among others); 6-10 Northwest Florida State College power forward Stephen Hurt (Kansas State and Wichita State among others in the mix) and four-star Chicago small forward Paul White (rated 54th by rivals.com; Connecticut, DePaul, Georgetown also in the mix).
San Antonio-based 6-10 center Ben Lammers, pursued by Georgia Tech and others, has said he’s visiting UM next weekend.