Dolphins making LB a priority, inform several free agents they're wanted back; Fins, Heat, Canes, Marlins chatter
WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
The Dolphins are making linebacker one of their offseason priorities and have begun informing some of the free agents they want to keep and those they do not. Here's what we're hearing:
### The Dolphins and tight end Charles Clay are in active negotiations and there is cautious optimism that a deal will get done, though not certainty. The Dolphins very much like the Clay/Dion Sims tight end tandem.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins have informed defensive tackle Jared Odrick that they plan to make an offer to keep him. But the Dolphins have confided in people that he might command more than what they’re willing to pay and acknowledge there’s certainly a possibility they might lose him. He could land a deal worth $7 million-plus per season.
### The Dolphins have told multiple people that they want to add a starting linebacker, and they’re expected to pursue the Jets’ David Harris, 31, who had 123 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 2014 and is considered the best free agent inside linebacker.
Mike Tannenbaum, the Dolphins’ president/football operations, drafted Harris out of Michigan in the second round in 2007, when he was the Jets’ GM.
Though Harris played inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense with the Jets, he has the skills to play middle linebacker in a 4-3.
Miami is one of the teams that is believed to appeal to Harris, but it remains unclear how high the Dolphins will go in the bidding. If the Dolphins are outbid for Harris, they have interest in Tampa Bay free agent Mason Foster, 25, who has started 57 games with six sacks and five interceptions in four years for Tampa and was drafted by the Buccaneers when Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey worked there.
If the Dolphins sign Harris or Foster, they could move Koa Misi back from middle to strong-side linebacker, with Jelani Jenkins starting at weak-side linebacker. Joe Philbin has said the move of Misi to middle linebacker last season did not work out "as well as I would have liked it to work."
Misi's durability concerns them (he missed five games last season), but they still like a lot about him. But they also would like to find an upgrade in the middle if they can, with Harris or Foster looming as potential replacements.
Though Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe have not been informed of their status, many expect at least one or both will be released. The Dolphins have decided not to re-sign Jason Trusnik, barring a change of heart.
### The Dolphins have an interest in keeping two key free agents in their secondary --- safety Louis Delmas, who played well before a season-ending knee injury in the 13th game against Baltimore, and safety/slot cornerback Jimmy Wilson.
The Dolphins' pass defense was much better before Delmas was injured, and the safety tandem of Delmas and Reshad Jones was generally a strength. And the Dolphins value Wilson's versatility.
### Receiver remains unresolved, but the Dolphins have told people there will be some turnover at the position. They have been discussing a pay cut with Mike Wallace and resolution isn’t really needed until $3 million of his salary becomes guaranteed on March 15. This matter still could go either way.
Baltimore Ravens owner Steven Bisciotti raised eyebrows when he said Tuesday: “Mike Wallace got $10 million. I don’t think anybody thinks that was a good deal.” (It’s actually $12 million a year.)
Brian Hartline, whose current cap number for 2015 is $7.3 million, hasn’t been told what the Dolphins intend to do with him. Same with Brandon Gibson ($4.3 million). The Dolphins want to keep Rishard Matthews ($673,403 cap number).
### As expected, the Dolphins have told people that Mike Pouncey will move back to center. They have interest in re-signing Samson Satele as depth but he figures to have a better opportunity elsewhere.
### The Dolphins want to re-sign Jason Fox, who impressed them late in the season, to be their third tackle behind Branden Albert (who said his recovery from knee surgery is going well) and Ja’Wuan James.
New Heat guard Goran Dragic has been in Miami less than a week and he already loves the Heat.
“They take care of players,” he said Tuesday. “I feel like I’m spoiled here. So much great stuff around. You can be focused on basketball.” He said he’s struck by the fact that “when you talk with some guy in the front office or players, they’re always thinking about a championship.”
### Dwyane Wade marveled Tuesday about how Miami added a quality center (Hassan Whiteside) and excellent point guard (Dragic) in the past few months.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Wade said. “To find Hassan, a diamond in the rough, that was amazing for a season, and then to make a trade for an All-Star point guard without giving up a starter, it’s pretty impressive. Our front office and ownership continue to show they will do what it takes to put us in a winning circle.”
### Wade is enjoying playing with Dragic: “He’s a point guard who can score – he’s not a scorer who’s a point guard; there’s a difference,” Wade said.
“Even though LeBron [James] gained a lot of attention when he had the ball, the pressure and how quickly [Dragic] drives is a different kind of attention. I’m trying to get used to being open. I’m getting used to not having the ball in my hands and letting our point guard kind of run the show.”
### Quick Dragic nugget: He grew up playing soccer in Slovenia but sustained a leg injury and “my mother said, ‘No more soccer for you.’” So he switched to basketball.
### So what’s the deal with Heat forward Bill Walker changing his name last year to Henry (his middle name)?
He said he did it as a symbol of his maturity and to “change perception.” Some confusion has ensued --- he has gotten some strange looks at games. But "some people don’t even know me. It’s like two different people.”
### Please see the last post from a few hours ago for a lot more Heat chatter, including the back story of why Udonis Haslem is suddenly shooting three-pointers, and role changes for Luol Deng and Mario Chalmers.
### UM still hopes to convince Antonio Crawford to change his mind and stay at UM instead of transferring, but considering his angry tweets and considering the fact he didn't show up to practice again today, he already seems to have one foot out the door.
Crawford, who has good speed, might be UM's best slot corner. Corn Elder and Tracy Howard can also play that position.
### Al Golden said defensive end Tyriq McCord was moved to linebacker because “he rushes the passer well and moves well.” The move was possible because of UM’s depth at defensive end…. James Coley said he could envision using Malik Rosier as a short-yardage quarterback at times next season.
### Biggest surprises for Coley so far? Tight ends David Njoku and Chris Herndon (both have been impressive), running back Gus Edwards, receiver Rashawn Scott and offensive tackle Sunny Odogwu.
### UM hasn’t decided who will replace Ereck Flowers at left tackle; Odogwu has been getting a lot of the reps with others injured.
"I have to see KC [McDermott] work there, because he has not worked there - him and Taylor Gadbois worked all right tackle last year," Coley said. "And I haven't seen Trevor [Darling] there either. I'm intrigued to see Trevor there."
McDermott and Gadbois continue to recover from knee surgery last season.
Coley said early enrollee Jahair Jones and summer arrival Bar Milo could play left tackle. Both can also play guard.
"Jahair for what we've thrown at him has done a great job," Coley said. "And we have more in right now than we had two weeks into training camp last year."
### Please see the last post for an explanation of why Al Golden hired WQAM's Josh Darrow as his assistant director of football operations.
### Among under-the-radar players the Marlins are very eager to see this spring: Rule 5 left-hander Andrew McKirahan (“power fastball, power breaking ball,” executive Michael Hill said; has 128 strikeouts and 2.16 ERA in 120 minor-league innings) and right-hander reliever Nick Masset (very good for Reds from 2009-11 before injury issues).
### Derek Dietrich has learned first base and left field this offseason, which helps his chances to land one of two open Marlins bench jobs.
Credit Dietrich for working out this winter with Florida Southern in Lakeland; the school's baseball team allowed him to practice catching fly balls in the outfield and scooping ground balls at first base.
A middle infielder by trade, Dietrich said he now has the comfort level to play anywhere but center field, right field or catcher.
### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz