11/19/2014

Update on Marlins' free agent moves; Behind-the-scenes nuggets on Stanton negotiations

All Marlins talk in the wake of today's press conference for Giancarlo Stanton's historic 13-year, $325 million deal:

### By accepting below-market salaries of $6.5 million and $9 million over the next two seasons, Stanton has given the Marlins flexibility to augment. And the Marlins are acting quickly.

According to a source, the Marlins have made a two-year, $20 million offer to free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche, who hit .259 with 26 homers and 92 RBI for Washington in 2014.

Meanwhile, the Marlins have expressed interest in several free agent pitchers, including right-handers Jason Hammel (10-11, 3.47 ERA for the Cubs and Oakland last season) and Justin Masterson, who battled injuries and was 7-9 with a 5.88 ERA for Cleveland and St. Louis last season but was much better in 2013 for Cleveland (14-10, 3.45).

The Marlins also have interest in Arizona left-hander Wade Miley (8-12, 4.34) if the Diamondbacks trade him. The Marlins say their payroll will top $60 million.

### The Marlins’ first offer to Stanton was vastly different than the one he accepted. According to sources, the Marlins made a six-year, $130 million offer shortly after the season ended.

Agent Joel Wolfe said Stanton declined the offer and “had me tell them if it’s not a lifetime contract, there’s no point in talking. The offer wasn’t insulting but he didn’t want a traditional [Mike] Trout-type contract.”

### The Marlins liked Stanton’s idea of a lifetime contract and suggested meeting in Los Angeles. Owner Jeffrey Loria, manager Mike Redmond and front office executives David Samson, Michael Hill and Dan Jennings attended that Nov. 6 meeting with Stanton and Wolfe inside bungalow 10A at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

During that meeting, Loria made an offer to Stanton and laid out a plan for how the roster would be improved.

“They had a contract there,” Stanton said. “I put it aside. I said, ‘Listen, what are we going to do to make this better?’ I’m not trying to come here and get my butt kicked for 10 hours and go home to a lavish lifestyle every day.

“That was a concern for me…. You can’t keep saying we’re going to win this year. I’m sick of hearing it.” Ultimately, Stanton believed the Marlins were committed to winning.

### Samson said Stanton asked a lot of “direct” questions. Such as: “Do you view the core of the team the way I view the core?... Are you looking to add more bats?”

The Marlins brass said yes to that "add more bats" question and then “we all said, to really do this, we need the next three years to be lower than market,” Samson said. “It’s what the Heat did --- they took less to have more.”

Stanton was on board with the idea and ultimately took $30 million over the next three.

### Wolfe said he and Stanton “didn’t know what to think or expect going into the meeting.” But Wolfe said Stanton left the meeting “interested and surprised.”

### During the meeting, Stanton said he thought it would be in the team’s best interests to move in the Marlins Park fences, partly to help the team’s other position players.

Stanton said he thought he missed out on 10 home runs because of the outfield dimensions. The Marlins then showed him evidence that he actually missed out on only four home runs.

“We went through a chart,” including the impact on other Marlins hitters, too, Samson said. The Marlins will keep the fences status quo in 2015 but re-evaluate before 2016. Stanton actually hit better at home (.310, 24 homers) than on the road (.265, 13 homers).

### The Marlins made a 12-year offer during the Beverly Hills meeting and the sides decided later to add a 13th-year team option ($25 million if he’s on the team in 2027, $10 million if he’s not). Wolfe said the final per-year figure offered in Beverly Hills was pretty close to the final number.

But Samson said there were at least 20 more phone conversations, plus additional meetings with Wolfe at the GM meetings in Arizona last week, before a deal was reached.

### In the days after that meeting, Stanton asked for both a no-trade clause (meaning he cannot be traded without his approval) and an opt-out clause. The Marlins had no problem with the no-trade clause, though Samson said “we still will not be giving no trade clauses” to others.

But the opt-out “was the difficult part,” Wolfe said. Stanton wanted to have the right to opt out sooner than six years, Wolfe said. The Marlins didn’t want an unconditional opt-out, instead preferring to tie the opt-out “to triggers,” Wolfe said.

For example, the Marlins wanted the opt-out to be delayed if the Marlins won a certain number of games or made the playoffs. Wolfe said “a hundred different scenarios” were discussed before Samson called Wolfe last week and said they would agree to a six-year opt out. That sealed the deal.

“We said opt-out clauses historically have only been to get money,” Samson said. “He said that’s not why we’re doing it. He said, ‘I don’t want an opt-out clause because of instead making $218 million over the last seven years, I want to make $219 million or $319 million…

“[He said], ‘I want to make sure I’m in a place where there’s sustained winning and a winning culture.’ Once we believed the opt-out clause would be used as a shield and not a sword, we were OK with it. That required some very direct questions to him, which we asked. They answered it correctly. As he pointed out, either way he makes the money.”

### Samson said Loria, who turns 74 Wednesday, has no intention of selling the team. “We get a lot of calls; people want to buy the team,” Samson said. “He’s in it for the long run because he loves it.”

### How will the Marlins afford this? Besides the expectation of signing a far more lucrative TV deal, Samson said with attendance, there is “no question in the next two years we will be back to where we were in 2012 and go up from there.” The Marlins averaged 27,401 in the first year of the ballpark (2012) but 21,386 last season.

### Most unusual question from the press conference: WSVN’s Steve Shapiro noting Stanton will make $69,000 per day during the contract and asking if part of that is almost embarrassing.

“Embarrassed? No,” he said. “I know I have a lot of expectations I have to live up to, which I’m willing to do. This isn’t like having a winning lottery ticket and peace out. You win the lottery and go away, retire.

“This is the start of new work and a new job for this city. It’s a huge responsibility. I have to come into this like I was drafted in 2007.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

11/18/2014

Details on Giancarlo contract, Marlins payroll plans, and why he backloaded contract; Dolphins, Heat, UM

BUZZ COLUMN

Giancarlo Stanton’s agent told me this afternoon he expects Stanton to be here all 13 years of his backloaded contract, which has an opt-out after six seasons, and that Stanton agreed to take a salary well below market value for the next three seasons because he wants to win and wants the Marlins to have enough money to augment the roster.

Meanwhile, the Marlins have told people they plan to dramatically increase payroll by year four of the contract, when Stanton’s salary skyrockets, according to another person briefed on their plans.

Agent Joel Wolfe said Stanton would not have taken the richest contract in baseball history (13 years, $325 million) if the Marlins hadn’t been committed to winning. Stanton also likes living in South Florida, even though he spends part of the offseason in his native Southern California.

Wolfe said Stanton “wanted to know” that the Marlins “were going to create a winning culture.”

And Wolfe said if Stanton “was going to make those kind of demands, he couldn’t rightfully also demand the team pay him his full value [the next three years] and take up 50 to 70 percent of the team’s payroll over the next two or three years. This gave them flexibility, given the state of their current TV deal,” which is among the worst in baseball.

As a result, Stanton agreed to take $6.5 million next season (well below the $13 million he likely would have made in arbitration), $9 million in 2016 and $14.5 million in 2017, according to two sources with direct knowledge.

In seasons four through six of the deal, Stanton will pocket $25 million, $26 million and $26 million. Stanton then has an opt-out clause, after 2020.

The next six years of the contract, after the opt-out, include salaries of $29 million, $32 million in years 8, 9 and 10, $29 million in year 11 and $25 million in year 12. In year 13, the Marlins can pay Stanton $25 million or exercise a $10 million buyout.

But money alone “was not enough,” Wolfe said, adding the 13-year contract was Stanton’s idea.

We hear Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria pitched Stanton and gave him specific details about Loria’s plan to improve the team during a meeting in Los Angeles in the past month.

That plan includes adding another hitter and likely another starting pitcher, among other moves. As noted in this space last month, first basemen Adam LaRoche (.259, 26 homers and 92 RBI last season) is among the Marlins’ free agent targets.

The Marlins also have inquired about high-end free agent starting pitcher James Shields, though it would be surprising if the Marlins could meet his demands, reportedly $20 million a year.  And agents for several other quality free agent starters said Tuesday they were expecting to hear from the Marlins.

The Marlins, expecting a payroll in the $60 million range next season, have less than $48 million in projected payroll for 2015, leaving them with at least $12 million to supplement the roster and potentially more if they can dump first baseman Garrett Jones, due $5 million next season, and catcher Jarrod Saltamacchia, due $7 million. The Marlins were disappointed in both Jones and Saltalamacchia last season.

They plan to increase payroll to more than $100 million by 2018 by using the money from what they expect will be a much more lucrative local TV deal.

Their Fox Sports TV deal expires after 2020 and pays the Marlins about $14 million per season. But the Marlins want to restructure and extend that contract in the next couple of years and hope to triple their annual local TV revenue.

Meanwhile, the Marlins have told Christian Yelich’s camp that they intend to make an offer that would extend beyond November 2019, when he’s eligible for free agency. If the money is right, Yelich would be interested, especially because he’s close with Stanton and knows Stanton will be here for a long time.

They’ve also broached an extension with shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who cannot be a free agent until after 2018.

### Besides a no-trade clause, Stanton's contract also includes incentives clauses, such as for winning MVP or making the All-Star team.

CHATTER

### After Philip Wheeler allowed a touchdown pass in the final seconds of the Green Bay game and criticized coaches afterward, one Dolphins player predicted: “He’s done here.”

In his five games since, Wheeler has played 11, 14, 16, 21 and 12 snaps --- the least of any starter.

“I feel I should be playing more but maybe others don’t think so,” Wheeler said. “I don’t know the reason.”

Part of the reason is that the Dolphins are now often playing with only two linebackers, and they far prefer using Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi, who both played every snap against Buffalo.

Because of the way former general manager Jeff Ireland structured Wheeler's contract, the Dolphins would have a $4.2 million 2015 cap hit if they cut or trade Wheeler this offseason, compared with $4.4 million if they keep him.

### Cortland Finnegan said his ankle is feeling a lot better and he hopes to play Sunday. But he didn't practice Tuesday, at least in the two portions open to media, which isn't exactly encouraging... There was a lot of talk today at camp about the fact the Dolphins' longest touchdown play all season has been 21 yards.

## Credit Pat Riley for the Shawne Williams signing when scouts and others were questioning giving the journeyman guaranteed money ($1.4 million).

Williams in fifth in the league in three-point shooting (50.9: 27 for 53). He has lost so much weight (30 pounds) that a bunch of players have done double takes when they see him.

Toronto's “Lou Williams said he didn’t recognize me when they were watching film.”

### Per Elias, Mario Chalmers is the first Heat player other than Dwyane Wade or LeBron James to lead the team in points and assists for three straight games since Shaquille O'Neal in 2005.

### Al Golden correctly points out that UM’s depth doesn’t yet measure up to FSU’s, and he pointed to three positions where that’s the case: running back (UM didn’t want to use Trayone Gray in Gus Edwards’ absence Saturday and isn’t sure what Gray’s longterm position will be), offensive line and linebacker. (Gray did play special teams Saturday.)

###  How upset was UM receiver Braxton Berrios about dropping that touchdown pass Saturday? He said he has watched the play more than a dozen times and couldn’t sleep all weekend.

### Go figure: A greater percentage of homes watched UM-FSU in Columbus, Ohio (17.4) than in Miami-Fort Lauderdale (16.2). In between those two cities, ranking No. 2 among major markets, was Jacksonville (17.0).

### UM's Michael Wyche, who coaches thought would be a starter and impact player at defensive tackle, instead spent this season losing weight (365 to 329) and playing limited snaps (13 on Saturday).

“It was a setback,” he said, noting he's determined to be an impact player next season. Golden said Wyche has “come on” but Calvin Heurtelou has distinguished himself most of the defensive tackles.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz     

11/17/2014

Stanton agrees to deal; What Loria is saying; Fins injuries; Lazor addresses report about strained relationship with players; Dolphins, UM, Heat, Marlins

The Marlins have agreed to a 13-year, 325 million contract with Giancarlo Stanton that includes an opt-out after six years and a full no-trade clause. The contract would be the richest in baseball history if Stanton is here for all 13 years.

Speaking by telephone to my colleague Clark Spencer, Loria called it "a landmark day. It means everything to the franchise. We have a face of the franchise for the next 13 years.

"I expect him to be a Marlin for 13 years. We are going to be surrounding him, we have already started to surround him, with all-star caliber players and there will be more."

Regarding the opt out after six years, Loria said: "I tend to be very positive and I would expect he would be as excited then as he is now."

Why did Stanton agree to this? "He obviously saw last year that the franchise was serious about winning and serious about doing great things in the new stadium," Loria said. "I talked to him this afternoon just after all the tests were completed. He passed with flying colors. I'm thrilled. What can I tell you? He's a wonderful young guy and he's a talent."

How can a team like the Marlins afford this? "We can afford it," Loria said. "We are going to surround him with an improved lineup as well. We need another bat in this lineup that can help him out."

In closing, Loria said: "I did this for the city, the fans, for Giancarlo, our team, for myself and for baseball."

The Marlins are planning a Wednesday press conference to announce the deal.

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Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor spoke at length today about assertions in an NFL.com story last week that said he has a “rocky” and “strained” relationship with some players; that his “abrasive tenor has worn thin on some” and that Ryan Tannehill isn’t allowed to audible.

Here’s what he had to say:

### On the story: “ I saw the headline. I fought the temptation to read the story.

"The week before I was approached by someone in the organization about some great articles about our offense. They said do I want them? I said absolutely not. I said please don’t send me any, because the ones that sound good at one point take your focus off what you’re supposed to be doing to do your job the right way. Wouldn’t you know, one week later, somebody is asking me about the negative articles. In this job, you’ve got to stay focused on what you’re doing.”  

### So has there been any discontent between Lazor and the players?

“I think it’s about what a normal NFL offensive team would be. I’ve had players tell me how much they appreciate the standards of expectations we’ve had. I’ve also had some players in a very professional way over time come up and say maybe this other approach might help us at times. The reason I enjoy coaching this level is because I like working in partnership with the players. I’ve coached in college, coached with a number of professional teams. The thing I really enjoy is when you come into work with a bunch of professionals and you’re in it together. It’s about like all the NFL teams I’ve been on.”

The story relied on multiple anonymous sources, and Lazor said: “I probably just don’t put a lot of credence on anonymous reports. I enjoy coming to work every day because of the people I work with. You’ve been at training camp. Nothing is different [with his treatment of players in practice].

I would like to think if the players were asked they would say I’ve been professional. There have been very, very few times that curse words have come out of my mouth but I am demanding of them. The greatest feedback I’ve gotten from our players in one on one settings is when they have told me how much they appreciate the expectations I have for the offense."

### Lazor disputed the part of the story that said Tannehill isn’t allowed to audible.

“One of the things I think is special about Ryan is how he sees the field and can react to things that happen. Because he does that so well,… Ryan has more options than a lot of quarterbacks we’ve coached. We do certain things differently. Some of them are what you would call verbal audibles. Some are right at the snap. Some are built in options.

“It’s how we choose to play. Ryan has the ability to handle those things and does them very well. That’s one of his strengths. He uses all the different options, whether they be audibles or built-in options to get the ball distributed around the field. That’s probably when we’ve played our best offensively, when he’s used all those things."

### So is Ryan more than a game manager?

“I don’t know what that terms means,” he said. “To me, Ryan is a player. You hear that term a lot and it’s almost always used in a negative context it seems.

"We want Ryan to be a winner. One of the things I’ve love about Ryan is he’s willing to do it how ever he has to do it. He enjoys running. I probably want him to run less than he wants to run because I want to keep him healthy. He’ll do it any way he has to do it. One of the great things Ryan did against Buffalo was complete a whole bunch of passes at the beginning of the game. [The Bills] have the [ability] to sting you early, disrupt things and get you out of rhythm. We felt one of the important things for Ryan would be to throw completions. He threw those first eight completions. That took a little bit of an edge off their front, which we think is a fantastic front.” 

### Lazor said Tannehill can still learn from other quarterbacks. “Smetimes it is easier to show a quarterback bad examples of somebody else. Sometimes as a player, it seems like a player all day long you’re getting corrected.... Sometimes it’s easy to take a coaching point when you see somebody else screwing it up.”  

### In several key measurable statistics (yards, points), the Dolphins offense is clearly better since Lazor took over. Same with Tannehill.

The two things that gnaw at Lazor? “Explosive plays in the passing game and finishing off those red zone drives with touchdowns.” 

### New right tackle Dallas Thomas goes from blocking Mario Williams last week (he gave up two of Williams’ 3.5 sacks) to blocking Denver’s Von Miller this week.

“The first thing I would tell Dallas is to have some confidence,” Lazor said. “There are a whole bunch of great clips on video. He wasn’t perfect. But Dallas should have some confidence. I see him especially in the run game blocking more confidently all the time. He’s an improving young player and I take the Buffalo game as a great example. I’m proud of him. I know he’ll get better. Some of the times when maybe he wasn’t at his best, maybe confidence would help him because he has the ability to do it. We’re in for a heck of a challenge with these [Denver] pass rusher.” 

###  On facing Denver: “When you face these kinds of teams that can score a lot of points, you’ve got to put great emphasis on each possession. The number one thing you have to do is score points. When you fall behind, when you play a good offense, you let them play the game exactly the way they want to play it. I would take a little less time of possession if it meant we were getting more explosive plays. We’re trying.” 

INJURY UPDATE

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said he's unsure if Cortland Finnegan's ankle will be healthy enough for him to play Sunday... Linebacker Jonathan Freeny could miss a month with a hamstring injury.

If you haven’t seen last night’s post, please check it out for an analysis of Dennis Hickey’s work, a Branden Albert update, musings from Bill Parcells and Heat, UM and Marlins chatter.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

 

11/16/2014

Evaluating Hickey's work; Albert update; Parcells; Marlins hot stove; Heat, UM chatter

How has Dennis Hickey done in his first 10 months as Dolphins general manager? Analyzing his moves: 

### Offensive line free agency: Hickey was prudent to sign Branden Albert (five years, $47 million) over Baltimore’s Eugene Monroe (five years, $37.5 million). Albert was the better player in 2014 before his knee injury.

Prioritizing Shelley Smith (rated 45th of 78 guards by Pro Football Focus) was questionable, but the deal was modest (two years, $5.5 million) and the Dolphins didn’t want to match Jacksonville’s five-year, $30 million offer for Zane Beadles, rated 14th among guards.

PFF ranks Daryn Colledge 64th, but he was cheap (one year, $2 million). Not re-signing John Jerry (rated 54th by PFF) was wise; Jerry now starts for the Giants. The Samson Satele pickup looks good, but Hickey added him only after Mike Pouncey was injured and Smith bombed during his training camp trial at center.

 ### Running back free agency: Hickey obviously cannot be blamed for Knowshon Moreno’s knee injury, and Moreno’s one-year, $3.3 million deal seemed like a bargain when he led all NFL backs in rushing in Week 1. Baltimore ended up making a better (and luckier) move in adding Justin Forsett, who signed for one-year and $730,000 and averages 5.4 per carry.

LeGarrette Blount (4.1 per carry average) would have loved to come here, but Hickey didn’t want him after their up and down Tampa experience; he took two years, $3.8 million with Pittsburgh.

### Defensive back free agency: Hickey passed on three reasonably priced cornerbacks who have outperformed Cortland Finnegan: Arizona’s Antonio Cromartie (one-year, $3.25 million; ranked fourth among all corners and a 55.6 passer rating against), the 49ers’ Perrish Cox (one year, $695,000; ranked 15th; four picks) and Buffalo’s Corey Graham (four years, $16 million; ranked 8th; 56.3 passer rating against).

Finnegan, who got a two-year, $11 million deal, is ranked 76th of 108 corners, with a 97.8 passer rating against. But the Dolphins can escape his $5.4 million salary next season with only a $1 million cap hit…

Hickey made a better decision at safety: Louis Delmas ranks 29th among 85 safeties, with a 74.4 passer rating against. Several corners who were free agents have somewhat outperformed Delmas: Antoine Bethea, Malcolm Jenkins and Donte Whitner, but Delmas (one year, $3.5 million) was much cheaper.

### Draft: Ja’Wuan James, selected 19th overall, was a terrific pick, solidifying a need position despite allowing 20 quarterback hurries, and now filling in at left tackle. The Jarvis Landry pick at 63 was outstanding despite it not being a need area.

Though Billy Turner, picked 67rd, hasn’t played, the Dolphins believe he can be a starting guard eventually; he has the brute strength but needs to work on technique. Among the dozen players picked after him, three have made strong impacts: inside linebackers Preston Brown (Bills) and Chris Borland (49ers) and running back Tre Mason (St. Louis). Brandon Linder, picked 93rd by Jacksonville, is rated sixth among guards by PFF and would have been a more NFL-ready pick than Turner.

Later draft picks Walt Aikens (125th) Jordan Tripp (171) and Terrence Fede (190) haven't played much recently beyond special teams but the Dolphins like their potential and injured tight end Arthur Lynch (picked 155th).... 

What Hickey culled among undrafted rookies (Damien Williams, Chris McCain, Anthony Johnson) was impressive. In retrospect, ex-UM tackle Seantrel Henderson --- starting for Buffalo --- would have made more sense than practice squad receiver Matt Hazel at 190.

If the Dolphins make the playoffs or finish strong but miss out on a tiebreaker, Joe Philbin and Hickey are expected to return. But if there's a coaching change, Hickey's status for 2015 would be in question.

CHATTER

### Though Albert’s injury carries a recovery time of 9 to 12 months, his doctors are optimistic he will be ready for the start of next season.

### Couple snippets from Nunyo Demasio’s new book, Parcells: A Football Life: Turns out Jeff Ireland didn’t decide on his own to apologize to Dez Bryant for asking if his mother was a prostitute; Bill Parcells indicated he instructed Ireland to call Bryant and express contrition…

Parcells, on Jason Taylor: “He’s a sensitive guy that’s used to getting attention. And if you don’t give it to him, he doesn’t like it. I don’t mean he’s a bad guy, but he has a sense of entitlement, and his ego gets bruised. He can’t take his feelings being hurt.”

### Though he never admitted it, Mario Chalmers was down about losing his starting job, Dwyane Wade tells us. But credit Wade for helping Chalmers through it, and Chalmers, in his new role, is averaging a career-high in scoring.

“Mario Chalmers thinks he’s the best player on the court no matter who’s on the floor and he’s been a starter pretty much his whole life, so you were a little worried [how he would react to losing his job],” Wade said. “His spirits were down a bit. But we sat down and had a great conversation about his role at this moment. Nothing is set is stone. Whatever role you have, you have to play to the best of your ability. No reason to whine or cry about it. He’s done a great job for us.”

Chalmers said Erik Spoelstra told him he was moved to the bench because the coach wanted more size on the second unit.

With Wade missing his second consecutive game with a hamstring injury, Chalmers started his first game of the season Sunday and scored a team-high 18.

### After shooting 2 for 17 and scoring 10 points in tonight's demoralizing home loss to Milwaukee, Chris Bosh is now mired in a 12 for 49 swoon over his past three games. He’s in a 3 for 22 slump on three-pointers.

“It’s frustrating; the past couple games the shot hasn’t fallen,” he said. “I’m still trying to find my rhythm everywhere. Most of the shots were good shots, shots I usually make. I have to play better, especially with [Wade] out. I guess it's on me. This team is relying on me to do a better job, and I have to do a better job.”

Asked if he’s pressing, Bosh said, “Yeah. I’m not going to say, ‘Sit back and the game will come to you.’ I’m going to press until I get over the hump. I figured it would return tonight.”

Spoelstra said of Bosh: “We need to do a better job of getting him in places where he can feel comfortable.”

### On a night Miami badly needed more from Luol Deng, he shot 3 for 11 (10 points). He’s now 38 for 61 in Heat wins but 16 for 51 in Heat losses.

“So far, there are games I’m great and games I’m so bad,” Deng said. “There are times I find myself thinking too much.”

### The Heat would fall to 5-6 if it loses Monday at Brooklyn. Miami has been under .500 just twice in the past four years: 0-1 after the first game of the LeBron James era in 2010 and 1-2 last season

### Forward Danny Granger remains out with a strained left hamstring. Granger said he could play immediately if the team needed him but “they want to make sure I’m 100 percent."

### UM's Al Golden said MRI results were good for Anthony Chickillo, who left the FSU game in the fourth quarter with a knee injury, and he's day to day, as is Deon Bush.

Golden's perspective, a day after the FSU loss: "There are no moral victories, but we were better on third down than we had been. We controlled the clock. We had 74 plays to their 61, had 19.8 yards per completion and 9.3 yards an attempt. There were a lot of things that we did well in the game. In the end we needed to be plus one in the turnover margin, had a couple of costly turnovers. And we didn't convert a lot of our shots, to be quite honest with you.

"Six or seven shots in the second half and we really did not other than the one we hit to Clive Walford up the seam we did not have the explosive plays we needed to get to knock them out. Whether it's the one we dropped right before the half [Braxton Berrios dropped that one] and then missed a field goal, that was a big turnaround. The third and 11 we knock up in the air and they score. Any of those can be the difference in the game. It's not going to make them feel better but they're going to understand that moving forward.

"We gave up two long runs that we haven't given up in a long time, and both of them were missed tackles on the line of scrimmage. One was a 26 yard run and one was a 44-yard run, and both those times they ran through a tackle, which we hadn't done that in a while. So we obviously missed an extra point that was big, missed a field goal. A lot of different things that we need to do better. [FSU] is the deeper team."

### The Marlins privately considered Kike Hernandez, acquired from Houston the Jarred Cosart trade, to be the front-runner for the second base job, but an abdominal injury sustained in Winter League play has left his status for spring training in question, according to the team. Donovan Solano will have a chance and the Marlins have inquired about a few outside options, including Emilio Bonifacio.

Derek Dietrich, another option at second, played first base in the instructional league and is now a viable option to play first in 2015, Marlins’ vice president Marty Scott said. The Marlins ideally want to upgrade over Garrett Jones (due $5 million) at first but didn’t want to approach the Mets’ two-year, $21 million for Michael Cuddyer, who liked the Marlins.  

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Postscripts, reaction, thoughts from UM's 30-26 loss to Florida State

It could have been the signature win this program so badly needed, so badly craved.

Instead, heartbreak.

Yes, this was a valiant effort by UM. And no, UM is hardly the first team to blow a big lead to a steamrolling FSU machine that has now won 26 in a row.

After all, FSU --- down 23-7 in the second quarter tonight --- rallied from 17 down against NC State and from a 21-point hole against Louisville.

Still, this was a lost opportunity to return to the top 25 and push the program ahead. So there is no moral victory here, not against an opponent that can still look somewhat vulnerable even in winning 26 in a row.

And this is troubling, too: As WQAM/NBC's Adam Kuperstein noted, UM has been outscored 150-53 in the second half of its past eight losses under Golden, who's now 0-4 against FSU.

So how did this one escape UM’s grasp?

You could cite a dozen reasons.

Among them: Missed tackles, Brad Kaaya going 6 for 17 for 76 yards in the second half after a 10 for 17 for 240 yard first half; conservative second-half play calling; fourth-quarter injuries (on the same play) to Anthony Chickillo and Deon Bush that kept them sidelined late; a missed extra point and a missed short field goal; two dropped UM touchdowns in the first half and turnovers by two UM tight ends, one in each half; FSU safety Jalen Ramsey’s disruptiveness; and, of course, Kaaya’s interception on a fourth and nine to end the game.

"There were a lot of things we did to hurt ourselves more than them actually hurting us," Duke Johnson said.

Dalvin Cook’s game-winning 26-yard TD run with 3:05 left harkened back nightmares of UM’s defense against Nebraska and Georgia Tech: Olsen Pierre missed Cook, and then Tyriq McCord, Denzel Perryman and Thurston Armbrister all missed tackles.

But there were plenty of breakdowns before that. WQAM's Duane Starks criticized the defensive coaching after the game, saying he saw UM blitz only twice in the second half.

UM often rushed four in the second half, but keep in mind that several of FSU’s big plays in the second half came when UM rushed five, including Cook scooting for 14 yards on a screen shortly before his touchdown run.

And UM was simply unlucky on Karlos Williams’ 11-yard third quarter touchdown, caught off a McCord deflection.

### After scoring 23 points in the first 19 minutes, UM managed just three over the final 41.

Braxton Berrios’ dropped TD pass --– it wouldn’t have been an easy catch --- was costly late in the first half, as was Michael Badgley’s missed 29-yard field goal that followed.

Earlier, Philip Dorsett dropped what would have been a tough TD catch, forcing UM to settle for a Badgley 45-yard field goal.

In the second half, UM's first possession ended with Kaaya overthrowing a receiver, and the next one stalled when Mario Edwards knocked down a Kaaya pass on 3rd and 7 when Dorsett was open.

UM’s next possession ended with a Standish Dobard fumble after a 33-yard gain, and on the Canes’ ensuing possession, Ramsey forced Kaaya to throw prematurely on third down, forcing UM to settle for a Badgley 46-yard field goal.

With a chance to drain the clock with 7:12 left, UM went three and out after Duke Johnson lost one on a first down run, followed by a Jonathan Feliciano false start, a Kaaya incomplete pass and a three-yard pass to Johnson on third down. UM punted, and FSU then put together its winning drive: 5 plays, 62 yards in 2:06.

UM got it back with 3:05 left but took too much time and the drive stalled after two first downs.

The final four plays: Kaaya overthrew Joe Yearby on a wheel route; Yearby ran for one on a draw; Ramsey deflected a Kaaya pass on a blitz and Kaaya threw an interception to Ramsey on fourth and nine with 39 seconds left.

"I had to force it [on] fourth down," Kaaya said. "They played harder, played more aggressive than the first half. There are a few plays we left on the field. They played a whole lot more zone in the second half. I expected it. It's what teams have been doing the last several games against us."

### If there was a second-guess --- offered by Kirk Herbstriet and others --- it was this: Should UM have played more aggressively in the second half?

Of UM’s first 17 first down plays, 10 were passes. But of UM’s next seven first-down plays before the final drive, six were runs. UM didn't do enough to exploit FSU's vulnerabilities in the middle of the field in the second half after doing it several times in the first half.

"We knew what was coming," Starks said of UM's second-half play calling. "Start running a couple more play actions and end arounds."

Another factor: After converting 8 of 11 third-downs in the first half, UM went 2 for 7 in the second half. UM entered converting 31 percent of its third down attempts, which was 117th in the nation.

### UM’s 320 yards in the first half were the most against FSU since 2010. But UM had only 172 in the second half.

### Al Golden afterward: “Real proud of the effort. There is no question they prepared and entered the game believing and knowing we were going to win. They made a couple more plays than we did. That was the difference in the game. Our guys fought their tails off. It was as physical as anything we’ve been involved in…. [Losing Chickillo and Bush] was a big loss…

If you come to the University of Miami, this is what this game should look like, what this game should be…. Missed an extra point and a field goal. Big factor in the game…. We just came up a couple plays short against a really, really good team…. We’re asking Kaaya to do a lot and he makes you forget he’s a freshman sometimes. I told the guys there’s no words. We just appreciated everything they did. They laid it on the line…. We lost the field position battle in the second half. We left some shots on the field.”

### Dorsett, who had 4 catches for 90 yards, including a 27-yard TD to open the scoring: “We’re competitors. Unfortunately, we didn’t come out with the W.  I’m just happy how my brothers… fought. We had each others’ back tonight. I’m proud of that. We didn’t execute as well as we did in the first half. They adjusted in the second half. I feel like the whole country definitely respects us.”

### Duke Johnson finished with 130 yards on 27 carries, his sixth consecutive game over 100 yards. But he sat out a few plays in UM’s final drive because of cramps…. Joe Yearby had 10 carries for 34 yards. Gus Johnson sat out with injury…. UM closed with a 492-418 edge in total yardage.

### Walford had a fumble when trying to get extra yardage in the first half but closed with four catches for 127 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown that pushed UM’s lead to 23-7.  

### UM dropped to 23-2 when leading at halftime under Golden… Winston closed 25 for 42 for 304 yards.

### ABC’s Kirk Herbstreit afterward: “Brad Kaaya is a future star. Miami is heading in the right direction.”

### So UM, at 6-4, is eliminated from contention for the Coastal Division title with two games left. Miami closes at Virginia (7 p.m. next Saturday on ESPN2) and home against Pittsburgh, with a bowl to follow –-- perhaps in Nashville or Yankee Stadium or elsewhere.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

           

11/14/2014

UM-FSU recruiting battle brewing; Jimbo on his knack here; UM notes; Marlins; Dolphins; Jameis allegation

Please see the last post for a Friday afternoon Dolphins report.

Talking UM-FSU, and Giancarlo Stanton:

### Remember that metaphorical fence around South Florida that former UM coach Howard Schnellenberger spoke of building? FSU’s Jimbo Fisher very much enjoys trampling it.

That’s why Fisher, preparing for Saturday’s game against Miami and emboldened by this dominant run of Seminoles football, stood in front of hundreds of supporters in Coral Gables six months ago and said: “This area to me is critical. We are always going to get these kids.”

Let’s be clear: UM has beaten FSU and other top schools for several elite local recruits: Duke Johnson, Stacy Coley, Chad Thomas, among others.

But UM coaches privately have been frustrated by FSU’s ability to snag several elite Dade/Broward/Palm Beach players that UM coveted over the past four years: Kelvin Benjamin, Devonta Freeman, Nick O’Leary, Rashad Greene, Lamarcus Joyner, Matthew Thomas, Dalvin Cook and Ermon Lane, among others.

Fisher, in a private moment this past offseason, insisted he draws no extra satisfaction from beating UM for top South Florida recruits but believes he’s winning some of these battles against UM because “we’ve got a good product on the field, and the players we have from down here are graduating and being drafted in the NFL. There's a history here.” (UM can say the same.)

But unlike UM in the past decade, “we're winning championships: second-winningest team in college football over past four years,” Fisher said. “And Tallahassee is one of the great atmospheres in college football. You absolutely have to win those battles [with UM for South Florida prospects] because you're going to be playing against Miami. It's one of the great rivalries in college football.”

Tyrek Cole, a Miramar safety and West Virginia commit who orally committed to FSU before the Seminoles dropped him in September, asserted UM is at a disadvantage against FSU in recruiting not only because of on-field performance recently, but also because of game atmosphere and FSU’s indoor practice facility.

FSU visits Saturday with 29 players from South Florida, including blue-chippers Lane and Cook from this past year’s class.

And the Seminoles already have oral commitments from two four-star-or-higher 2015 South Florida recruits: American Heritage five-star cornerback Tarvarus McFadden, who UM wanted, and Hallandale linebacker Sh’Mar Kilby-Lane, a four-star Army All-American who UM reportedly didn’t offer.

UM, conversely, has no five-star commitments from South Florida in the 2015 class but does have three four-star commitments (all were offered by FSU): Killian safety Jaquan Johnson, St. Thomas Aquinas running back Jordan Scarlett and Booker T. Washington running back Mark Walton, who has officially reclassified from the 2016 to 2015 class.

Meanwhile, UM and FSU are battling for several undecided high-end local recruits. Among them: Central four-star receiver Da’Vante Phillips, who said FSU remains his preference even though UM sends him messages every day; Westminster Christian four-star running back/safety Tim Irvin (considering UM, FSU and others) and Booker T. Washington four-star safety DaVante Davis (UM, FSU, UF and Alabama among his top suitors).

Numerous out-of-town players are expected to attend Saturday’s game, including California-based five-star teammates Rasheem Green (rivals.com’s No. 3 defensive end) and John Houston (rivals.com’s No. 2 outside linebacker).

This game takes on even more importance for UM from a recruiting standpoint because according to UM, recruits are allowed to attend only one UM game this season on official or unofficial visits because of NCAA sanctions. Many are doing so for the FSU game.

Walton --- who hasn’t ruled out Georgia and West Virginia --- told rivals.com that his commitment to UM will be “more solid” if UM wins Saturday, and three-star New York based defensive end Austrian Robinson --- offered by UM --- said a Miami win “would make me see the program differently.” Miami Central coach Roland Smith, whose three-star safety Calvin Brewton is orally committed to FSU, said a UM win would show recruits that Miami “is back.”

CHATTER

### UM people privately blame the cloud of the NCAA investigation for losing Thomas, the five-star Booker T. Washington linebacker, to FSU, in 2013. It hasn’t been a big loss so far. Suspended for the first six games of the season, Thomas has 10 tackles in three games. But UM has been hurt by other local defensive players signing elsewhere. Among them:

Ohio State sophomore defensive lineman Joey Bosa, who has 10 sacks this season, never seriously considered Miami out of St. Thomas Aquianas. In the weeks after he replaced Randy Shannon, Golden couldn’t convince elite former Plantation and Ohio State first-team All-American linebacker Ryan Shazier to flip. A UM person insists Miami didn’t get former Louisville/Norland star linebacker Keith Brown because he insisted Miami also take one of his teammates.

UM never offered four-star University School linebacker Skai Moore, now a standout at South Carolina. UM never offered Boyd Anderson three-star receiver Eddie Jackson, now a starting cornerback for Alabama. And LSU freshman defensive tackle Travonte Valentine (Hialeah Champagnat) picked LSU because he preferred LSU’s 4-3 scheme and felt there was too much pressure to play right away at UM.

### FSU on Thursday landed an oral commitment from five-star 2016 California quarterback Malik Henry. UM previously picked up a commitment from three-star Jack Allison of Palmetto, Fla., rated the nation’s No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the 2016 class. He has offers from Alabama and others.

### An involved FSU Trustee said the school this week investigated and found no evidence to support an allegation, reported by IBN Sports, that Jameis Winston was involved in a point shaving scheme to help his former high-school teammate, University of Alabama-Birmingham defensive end Chris Rabb, win a $5000 bet. Rabb allegedly placed a bet for Louisville to be winning at halftime of the Louisville-FSU game Oct. 30. Winston played poorly in the first half, which ended with FSU trailing 21-7. FSU won, 42-31.

The FSU Trustee said FSU determined the Alabama-based bookie who raised suspicions about Winston was a “buffoon” with questionable credibility. TMZ reports the NCAA is investigating.

### UM has credentialed 16 NFL scouts and more than 300 media members for Saturday…. Brad Kaaya, who needs 243 yards to surpass Bernie Kosar’s UM freshman passing yards record for a season, “is a special QB,” Kosar said, “and it’s an honor to watch him break and set my UM record.”

STANTON NOTE

The Marlins, as of yesterday evening, were optimistic they would be able to finalize a longterm deal with Giancarlo Stanton.

Though Stanton and his agent declined comment, CBS' Jon Heyman reports the sides have agreed on a 13-year, $325 million deal with an opt out (unclear when but presumably at least five years into the contract)  and a no-trade clause, but that language needs to be finalized.

Without a new contract, Stanton wouldn't be eligible for free agency until after 2016. 

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... And again, please see the last post for Dolphins news.

Dolphins Friday report: Philbin addresses Lazor complaints; Will Davis injury update; Dolphins in lofty historical company

The Dolphins will once again give their fans relevant games in December.

Whether they also give them the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2008 rests in part on Ryan Tannehill’s right arm and whether this diminished offense line can hold up against several more imposing defensive fronts.

In their 22-9 win Thursday, the Dolphins allowed five sacks to a Bills’ defense that leads the league with 39.

That’s worrisome, considering five of the Dolphins’ final six games will be against opponents that rank in the top 10 in sacks: Minnesota (third), two games against the Jets (seventh), Baltimore (ninth) and Denver (10th). And New England is 14th.

But here’s the good news:  Since 1990, 61 percent of 6-4 teams have made the playoffs.

As we noted in last night's post, even if the Dolphins (6-4) lose at Denver (Miami’s next opponent, on Nov. 23) and at New England, they have a pretty good chance of making the playoffs if they win home games against Baltimore, the Jets and Minnesota and win at the Jets.

And if they win at New England (7-2) on Dec. 14, an AFC East title is a possibility if somebody can cool off the Patriots, who are averaging 40 points in their past five games. The Patriots have a difficult schedule in the coming weeks (at Colts, Lions, at Packers, at Chargers, Dolphins) before closing at the Jets and home against Buffalo.

There was a lot to like about Thursday’s game, which gave Miami its best record after 10 games since 2008.

Executing a game plan that called for mostly short and intermediate passes, Ryan Tannehill posted the third-highest completion percentage of his career (76.5: 26 of 34, for 240 yards) and topped 109 in passer rating for the fourth time in the past seven games.

He closed at 114.8, moving his season rating to 92.2 --- 16th in the league and ahead of Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson and Matt Stafford, among others. He’s now up to 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions for the season.

"To be able to get the ball out of my hands quickly and into our playmaker’s hands and them [turning it into positive] yards-after-catch really opened things up for us,” Tannehill said. “It settled everyone in.”

In an introspective moment on NFL Network’s post-game set, Tannehill said he believes he “turned the corner” when the team was in London, following a tumultuous week in which Tannehill said Joe Philbin created a distraction by not publicly naming him the starting quarterback.

“When I went to London, I took a step back and said, ‘Make plays, have fun and stop thinking so much,’” he said. “It took me a little while to get comfortable in the offense. I feel great [in this system]. I think we’re pretty good.”

The Dolphins’ offense also got a boost from Lamar Miller, who had 86 yards on 15 carries (5.7 average) and ranks seventh among all NFL running backs in per carry average (4.7). “He ran hard, was decisive,” Philbin said.

And the defense, which entered fourth in the league in yards allowed per game (309.8) and fifth in points permitted per game (19), yielded only 237 yards and nine points.

After halftime, the Bills mustered just 79 yards and failed to convert any of their seven third-down plays into first downs. Plus, the Bills had 54 yards rushing, on only 2.8 per carry.

Still, concerns remain, starting with the offensive line and continued difficulties in the red zone.

The revamped line --- with Ja’Wuan James at left tackle, Dallas Thomas at right tackle, and Shelley Smith at left guard --- blocked efficiently in the run game but had lapses in pass protection.

Thomas allowed two sacks against Mario Williams. Philbin said today he liked how Thomas performed in run-blocking but “there were a couple plays that need improvement in pass protection.”

Other sacks were relinquished by tight ends Charles Clay and Dion Sims and center Samson Satele. James and right guard Mike Pouncey each allowed four quarterback hurries.

“I kind of like overall how they blocked in the run game,” Philbin said. “Our backs ran hard. It’s hard to say we had great protection when we were sacked five times. I didn’t think it was terrible. Overall, they did a good job.”

The Dolphins entered with an NFL-high 43 forays into the red zone but just 20 touchdowns, with that 46.5 percent TD rate ranking third worst in the league. On Thursday, the Dolphins had just two touchdowns in six red zone trips, and Mike Wallace said the Dolphins won’t make the playoffs if the offense plays like this.

"No, not when we’re talking about being two of six in the red zone,” Wallace said. “The problem is not getting down the field; it’s putting it in the end zone. The execution has to be that much better when you get to the red zone. The windows are smaller. Spots are tighter. You’ve got to make a play…..  We’ve got to score more points in the first half. I think we do a pretty good job in the second half.”

Tannehill’s inability to connect on deep balls also can’t please Wallace. On Thursday, Tannehill was 26 for 31 on passes thrown less than 20 yards, but 0 for 3 on passes thrown more than 20, including a deep throw to Wallace that sailed out of bounds. Tannehill also was upset about missing Wallace on a shorter throw that would have been a touchdown late in the game.

Still, the Dolphins emerged generally pleased, especially considering they had lost four of their past five against Buffalo. “It was a good feeling, just the way they played,” Philbin said.

NOTES

### Cornerback Will Davis said he will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. Philbin said the team will place him on injured reserve but “we’re not overly concerned about the depth” at cornerback, noting he was pleased by Jamar Taylor’s play.

### Philbin was asked about an NFL.com report that said offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s relationship with players is “rocky” and that “his abrasive tenor has worn thin on some.”

Philbin said if there are “issues, we have an open door policy and we can continue to work on that.... They can talk to coaches.”

But he said: “Bill is doing an excellent job. When I talk to the staff numerous times during the year, I always tell them I want them to be demanding but never demeaning to the players.”

### The Dolphins have recorded their first six wins by 13 points or more. Only three other teams since 1970 have done that: the 2007 Patriots (went 16-0, lost Super Bowl), the 1999 Rams (won Super Bowl) and the 1984 Redskins (11-5, lost in playoffs).

### Pro Football Focus gave its top defensive grades to Reshad Jones, Louis Delmas and Cameron Wake... Miller played 36 snaps, Daniel Thomas 24 and Damien Williams 9.... Defensively, Deon Jordan played 16 of the Dolphins' 62 snaps, his fewest of the season. 

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz.     

Postscripts, thoughts, Tannehill musings, Wallace message after Dolphins' 22-9 win

This Dolphins season remains relevant tonight because Ryan Tannehill delivered his best game ever against Buffalo, Lamar Miller ran with purpose, and the Dolphins throttled the Bills in the second half, limiting them to 86 yards after halftime.

Some thoughts and reaction:

### Here’s what the Dolphins' 6-4 record means: Even if the Dolphins lose at Denver and at New England, they have a pretty good chance of making the playoffs if they win home games against Baltimore, the Jets and Minnesota and win at the Jets.

And if they win at New England (7-2) on Dec. 14, an AFC East title is a possibility if somebody can cool off the white hot Patriots, who are averaging 40 points in their past five games. The Patriots have a difficult schedule in the coming weeks (at Colts, Lions, at Packers, at Chargers, Dolphins) before closing at the Jets and home against Buffalo.

### The Dolphins had gone 33 series with only one touchdown against Buffalo, before scoring two in a span of six minutes late in the third and early in the fourth tonight.

### Both coordinators had sound game plans and their units executed them splendidly. Because the Bills’ defensive line had a clear edge over the Dolphins’ depleted offensive line, Bill Lazor served up a heavy diet of short passes, and Tannehill was accurate on short routes in the first half and short and intermediate routes in the second.

Kevin Coyle dialed up blitzes at opportune times in the second half, and the Dolphins forced Kyle Orton to get rid of the ball prematurely --- one reason Buffalo went 0 for 7 on third-down conversions in the second half, and one reason Orton --- who entered with a passer rating of close to 100 --- closed this game at 69.7.

### Tannehill, conversely, closed with a 114.8 rating, finishing 26 for 34 for 240 yards, two touchdowns (a 7-yarder to Brandon Gibson and 8-yarder to Jarvis Landry), plus four carries for 17 yards.

His only missteps: a fumble in the red zone, a wayward deep pass to Mike Wallace (what else is new) and an errant pass to Wallace that should have been a pad-on touchdown late in the game.

But overall, Tannehill was very good, especially considering his history against Buffalo (67 career passer rating and 1-4 record against them before tonight).

The Dolphins are now 16-1 when Tannehill has a passer rating of 90 or higher. Tannehill has a rating of 109 or higher in four of his past seven games. And he’s now up to 17 touchdowns, seven picks.

### Tannehill, on NFL Network afterward: “I definitely think I’ve been playing better. It took me a little while to get comfortable in the offense. The guys around me have really stepped up and played well. … We were West Coast last year, so a completely different system. All kinds of zone reads. Spreading things out. A lot of new concepts. But it’s been a lot of fun…. I feel great [in this system]. When I went to London, I took a step back and said make plays, have fun and stop thinking so much. I think I turned a corner….

“I think we’re pretty good. We’re two plays away from being 8-2, looking at the Green Bay and Detroit game. We’re that close. Just because we didn’t make those plays doesn’t mean we can’t think of ourselves that way. We have a lot of confidence in what we can do this year.”

How does Tannehill keep all the receivers happy? “Not everyone is going to be happy all the time. I like it. Their competitors. They want the ball. I like that about our receivers. We do a good job of spreading the ball around and getting everyone touches….. Jarvis Landry is great. He practices with a passion. Once he gets the ball in his hand, he doesn’t want to be denied. He’s unbelievable. I love playing with him.”

### Landry had his third fumble of a punt this season after the safety, but Dan Carpenter missed a 47-yard field goal on the Bills’ subsequent possession, and Landry made amends soon after, eluding a tackler to sneak into the end zone.

Landry had five catches for 46 yards, and the Dolphins got Brian Hartline more involved, with three receptions, for 55 yards. Gibson had his first touchdown of the season, and Wallace caught four passes for 38 yards. Damien Williams' 32 yard catch and run on a 3rd and 24 early in the game was one of the most impressive plays of the night.

### A bunch of defensive standouts tonight: Brent Grimes, who bottled up Sammy Watkins, holding the dynamic Bills rookie to three catches for 32 yards…  Olivier Vernon’s pressure forced a throw-away from Orton that was called a safety after a referee conference…

Jamar Taylor, in his first start as a pro, had his best game in his brief career. He had an excellent tackle for a loss on 3rd and 2 on the Bills’ first drive of the second half. And his coverage was generally sound…. Earl Mitchell had Miami’s other sack, besides Vernon’s… Jared Odrick had a tackle for loss and the entire d-line was solid, especially in the second half. Buffalo had 54 yards rushing, averaging 2.8 per carry…. Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi again performed competently at linebacker.... Safety Reshad Jones was disruptive.

### Mario Williams had 3.5 sacks, giving him 7.5 in his past four games against the Dolphins. It was a tough first game at right tackle for Dallas Thomas, but not entirely unexpected.

The Bills, who entered with a league-leading 34 sacks, had five, but the Dolphins’ offensive line did good work in run blocking, creating holes for Lamar Miller, who had 15 carries for 86 yards. "I thought they played well," Tannehill said of his o-line.

### Vernon, afterward: "We knew they had our number. We couldn't let this one slip out of our grasp."

### Deion Sanders, speaking about Tannehill on NFL Net before the game: “He’s like a see-saw. I didn’t like that as a kid.”

Bill Cowher responded: “I like where he’s at. You have to live with his inconsistencies.”

Said Sanders: “Inconsistent gets coaches fired.”

### Joe Philbin, afterward: "It was a good win. We talked to our guys that we had to step up, start playing good football at this time of the year.... We executed better in the second half... I like what the guys did in the running game... I thought the offensive line did a good job... Lamar's play speed looked kind of like Lamar, and that certainly helped."

### Mike Wallace, on Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin saying the Bills would beat Miami's "ass": "That's what happens when you talk. Shut your mouth and play the game." McKelvin departed with an injury during the game.

But Wallace said the Dolphins must be better in the red zone. Miami entered with the most red zone trips in the league but among the league's worst conversion rates. Tonight, the Dolphins scored touchdowns on two of six trips inside the Bills ' 20.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

11/13/2014

Marlins and Stanton discussing richest contract in baseball history

Determined to keep their All-Star slugger long-term, the Miami Marlins and  Giancarlo Stanton are in serious discussions regarding what would be the richest contract in baseball history, a deal that would exceed 10 years in length and be worth $300 million or more, a source told The Miami Herald.

Fox Sports reported earlier in the day that Stanton, 25, and the Marlins had discussed a 10-year deal worth at least $300 million. Three sources disputed that 10-year figure, with two of them insisting the contract under discussion would be longer than that.

The Marlins are very hopeful Stanton will accept the deal, but there is no indication how seriously Stanton is considering it. Stanton’s agent, Joel Wolfe, has not responded to requests for comment in recent days.

Stanton would not be eligible for free agency until following the 2016 season, but the Marlins are eager to secure a long-term commitment from him.

The Marlins have said they have no intention of trading Stanton even if he rejects their offer. If Stanton chooses to take a one-year deal, he could make $13 million or so next season if the matter goes to arbitration this winter.

“I’d say it’s a safe bet Giancarlo is hitting in the Marlins lineup next year and the next year,” Marlins general manager Dan Jennings said Wednesday.

Besides offering at least $300 million, the Marlins also appear receptive to consider allowing a partial or full no-trade clause, which would be a departure from previous club policy, as my colleague Clark Spencer noted this week.

A $300 million deal would be the richest guaranteed contract in baseball history, topping Alex Rodriguez’s 10-year, $275 million deal with the Yankees in 2008.

Miguel Cabrera signed an 8-year, $248 million contract with the Detroit Tigers but that deal could reach $292 million over 10 years if the Tigers exercise two option seasons.

That $300 million would be on the par with the $303 million the Marlins have spent combined on their entire major-league roster the past five seasons.

Stanton hit .288 with 37 home runs and 105 RBI in 145 games this year before his season ended when he was struck in the face with a pitch on Sept. 11 against Milwaukee.

At the time of his injury, Stanton led the National League in home runs (37), slugging percentage (.555), OPS (.950), total bases (299), extra-base hits (99), RBI (105), walks (94), at-bats per HR (14.5) and was on pace to become the first player to lead the NL in homers, RBI and slugging percentage since Dante Bichette in 1995.

Stanton ended up finishing first in the National League in home runs and slugging percentage but second in RBI behind the Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez, who had 116.

Stanton and Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw are top candidates for the National League MVP award that will be announced Thursday evening. [Update: Kershaw won it. Stanton finished second.]

The Marlins have had two factors working against them in convincing Stanton to take a longterm deal: 1) The appeal of returning to his native Southern California and playing for the Dodgers; 2) Stanton needing convincing that the Marlins are prepared to do what it takes financially to be a perennial contender.

But an offer of $300 million obviously would command anybody's attention.

The Marlins also have discussed contracts with Stanton that would run five or six years in length. But Marlins management is intrigued by the idea of what would essentially be a lifetime contract.

A source close to Stanton has said that even though he's fond of Southern California, he enjoys living in South Florida.

Please see the last post for Dolphins, Heat and Canes notes.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz    

11/12/2014

Wednesday night report: Dolphins rift; Fins CBs, OL; UM football and Heat notes

Notes on a Wednesday night:

### Former Herald colleague Jeff Darlington, now doing good work with NFL.com, reported today that Dolphins offensive coordinator “Bill Lazor’s relationship with players is rocky” and that “his abrasive tenor has worn thin on some" and that there's a "rift" between Lazor and several players.

Three reactions: 1) We’re not surprised. We heard earlier this season that some players were taken aback because Lazor is, well, demanding. He wants things done exactly his way and he’s not shy about expressing that. Players who don't do it his way will hear about it.

2) This shouldn’t be a concern. The Dolphins’ offense and Ryan Tannehill, while still inconsistent, are performing better than they did under Mike Sherman. Regardless of whether some of his players like him or not, Lazor generally has done a good job.

3) There are a few offensive players on the team who aren’t happy about their role; it’s easy for most Dolphins fans to figure out who they are. None of those players are going to feel warm and fuzzy about Lazor, though none of them obviously has criticized him publicly.

### With Cortland Finnegan ruled out for Thursday's game against Buffalo, the Dolphins want to see at least one of their second-year corners distinguish themselves. Though Jamar Taylor and Will Davis have had their moments, neither has played as consistently as coaches would like.

Taylor said he has heard some people speak critically of his performance against Detroit and quibbles with that portrayal.

“I gave up a pick route and an under route that I hadn’t seen in a game before. I won’t make the same mistake again,” he said. “But I competed my butt off. I think I played pretty good.”

### Ja’Wuan James said before moving to left tackle to replace injured Branden Albert during last Sunday’s game, he hadn’t played left tackle since high school except some snaps against Dallas in the preseason and one snap against Green Bay.

### Dolphins players seemed more amused than annoyed by Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin saying Buffalo would beat Miami’s “ass.”

“Don’t make those kind of comments before a game,” Mike Pouncey cautioned.

### Now at right tackle, Dallas Thomas cannot be overwhelmed by Mario Williams on Thursday like he was against Tampa’s Gerald McCoy in preseason when Thomas was playing guard. But coaches insist Thomas is much improved since August.

“I thought he hung there and competed well the other day,” Joe Philbin said of Thomas, who was rotating at left guard before moving to right tackle. “You figure, hey, you are playing left guard, then the next play you are playing right tackle and you’re on the road against a pretty good defense and some pretty good players. I thought he held his own.”

### How has Mike Pouncey done at right guard? “I think he’s done a nice job,” Philbin said. “I like the group that we’ve had out on the field. I like the way they compete. I like the way they work together. I like the chemistry of those guys. It’s a good group, a smart group, tough guys.”

Pro Football Focus rates him 56th of 78 guards, with three sacks and 10 hurries allowed.

### Besides Finnegan being out, Daryn Colledge is doubtful for Thursday's game. Charles Clay, Dion Sims, John Denney and Kelvin Sheppard were listed as questionable.

### So the Heat follows its best win of the season (Sunday at Dallas) with this inexcusable eyesore tonight against an undermanned, lottery-bound Indiana team. Not sure which is worse about this 81-75 loss: Miami’s 8 for 18 shooting on free throws or 53-28 rebounding deficit.

The Heat entered 27th in the league in rebounding, despite Chris Bosh’s good work on the boards in the first seven games.

Bosh had his first poor game of the season tonight: 9 points, 3 for 13 shooting and 2 rebounds in 33 minutes.

"We missed free throws. We didn't move the ball. We just didn't play a good game," Bosh said. "We're going to learn from our mistakes. This was a bad one."

### Luol Deng shot just 2 for 10, making him 8 for 28 in the Heat’s three losses. He’s 38 for 61 in the Heat's five wins.

### UM coaches thought Michael Wyche would be a major factor for them at defensive tackle this season. Conditioning issues prevented that early in the season, but “he’s starting to have an impact on the defense,” Al Golden said. "He’s done a good job keeping his weight down.”

Having Wyche in the rotation is “keeping us fresher and healthier.”

### Against FSU’s high-powered passing attack, Golden says it will help that Miami has five experienced, skilled corners: Ladarius Gunter, Artie Burns, Corn Elder, Tracy Howard and Antonio Crawford.

“We only have six [corners] in the program,” Golden said. “The number is low but the experience is high.”

### Though FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said UM is better than the team that lost in Tallahassee last November after entering 7-0, Golden declined to give an opinion on the topic.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz