WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
An amusing good cop/bad cop dynamic is playing out among two of the Dolphins’ best defensive players --- both potential 2014 free agents --- and their representation. While Randy Starks and Paul Soliai have said this week they’re not upset, their agents have publicly blasted the Dolphins’ treatment of their clients.
After Soliai’s agent, David Canter, criticized the Dolphins on Twitter for very recently giving Soliai a “lowball offer” and “ultimatum” and refusing to negotiate further, Starks’ agent, Tony Paige, lashed out at the team this week about Starks losing his starting job (to Jared Odrick).
Paige said he intends to call general manager Jeff Ireland to discuss it.
“Randy is not happy about not being a starter,” Paige said. “He’s not going to complain, but believe me, he’s not happy.
“Your starter that went to the Pro Bowl is in competition for his job? It makes absolutely no sense. We’re talking about a guy who’s 29 who has been your most versatile linemen and one of your most productive linemen the last five years.
“They don’t make Paul Soliai have a competition! They don’t make Cameron Wake have a competition! Randy is a big-time player and it blows my mind they would do this and mess up the relationship with a guy like Randy.”
Paige said he believes the Dolphins are “angry he didn’t come to OTAs” after being slapped with the $8.4 million franchise tag and are “punishing” Starks by playing him less.
If the Dolphins can’t work out a new deal with Soliai, they might make another offer to Starks. Paige said the Dolphins haven’t made a new offer to Starks since he turned down a multiyear deal in the spring that wasn’t close to what he’s seeking. They then slapped him with the tag.
“He will be here for this year. Beyond that, I don’t know,” Paige said. “There will be a market for him.”
Paige and Canter, savvy agents, are doing what they feel is necessary by staunchly defending their clients, even if it irks the team. And Starks and Soliai are playing it smart by publicly denying what associates believe are their true feelings.
That’s why Starks said Tuesday with a straight face: “I’m happy with my role, and my role is to be a backup.” And why he said “there is no point in being upset” about his contract.
And Starks wisely said he regrets flashing the middle finger at the Dolphins sideline Sunday. (Joe Philbin scolded Starks this week and told him that behavior is not acceptable.)
Starks said he and his teammates “were making some jokes about getting sacks” and his gesture, intended for them, “came out the wrong way. I didn’t think it would get blown up like that. I accept full responsibility for it.”
He said he hasn’t been fined. (Asked if the league had fined him, an NFL spokesman told our Adam Beasley that it's the team's decision.)
As for Soliai, he said he will not fret about the Dolphins’ take-it-or-leave-it offer, though a friend said he is disappointed and prepared for the possibility of moving on after this season if it comes to that.
“I’m not going to let this bring me down, not going to let one little thing bother me,” Soliai said. “I’m going to keep playing and show people what Paul Soliai can do."
He said he still holds out hope he can remain here beyond this season: "I started here, so why not end my career here?”
The Dolphins badly need to re-sign Soliai or Starks to maintain one of the team’s greatest strengths. But doing that has become messier than they thought.
### The Dolphins, meanwhile, remain confident they made the right move by switching Odrick to defensive tackle (“it’s a spot most advantageous to my career”) and starting Olivier Vernon at defensive end.
Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said he was “particularly impressed” with Vernon Sunday. “He did a great job rushing on their best offensive lineman all day long [Joe Thomas] and had constant pressure. It helped other guys get sacks.”
### Dolphins players love what Coyle calls the “speed” package featuring three defensive ends (Cam Wake, Vernon, Dion Jordan) plus linebacker Koa Misi, with all of them able to rush or drop into coverage. Vernon said he could see the confusion “in the eyes” of Cleveland players when Miami unleashed that package on some third downs.
Coyle has so many choices among pass-rush packages that he compares it to going to Baskin Robbins, with their 33 flavors.
### Lamar Miller received words of encouragement by phone from Frank Gore after Miller’s poor opener Sunday (10 carries, 3 yards). “He said things will work out," Miller said. "I could have run harder. [But] it doesn’t affect my confidence because I know what I’m capable of.”
### Sherman said Charles Clay’s 64 snaps (in 70 offensive plays) were probably too much. The Dolphins hope to work in more of Dion Sims (15 snaps), if he continues to improve. They believe he has a chance to be a complete tight end, and he's the best blocker of the group. Michael Egnew had 21 snaps.
### A veteran player said rookie offensive lineman Dallas Thomas has struggled in practice and coaches have been hard on him.
### UM denied when Bernie Kosar said the Hurricanes self-imposed punishment by withholding 10 scholarships in the last recruiting class. A UM person said the number ended up being around five.
### UM badly wants to add another elite receiver in the 2014 recruiting class, and Palm Beach Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said Miami is the front-runner –- “Alabama a close second” -- for four-star Johnnie Dixon, rated No. 16 among receivers by rivals.com. UM also is in the mix for North Carolina-based Braxton Berrios, the No. 39 receiver, but isn't terribly optimistic about Palm Beach Cardinal Newman's Travis Rudolph (No. 11). Rudolph is said to like the Gators.
### Internally, one of the biggest disappointments Saturday was the offensive line play -– Seantrel Henderson especially struggled, according to a UM staffer -– despite the high-level talent. Brandon Linder was the best of the group, that UM person said. Mel Kiper said UM has at least three NFL linemen.
### With 13 players under guaranteed contracts and three non-guaranteed (Justin Hamilton, Jarvis Varnado, Eric Griffin), the Heat is auditioning a slew of players this week to try to fill out a training camp roster, including Vander Blue (Marquette), Larry Drew II (UCLA), Je’Kel Foster (Ohio State), Justin Holiday (Washington) and ex-Heat swingman Yakhouba Diawara.