March 06, 2015

11 p.m. Friday Dolphins update; Reaction after furious Heat rally falls short; An introspective Michael Beasley reflects on his journey and how he has changed

Quick 11 p.m. Dolphins update: No surprise here, but the Dolphins plan to part ways with linebacker Dannell Ellerbe in the coming days. They have explored a trade (his $8.4 million salary next season would be a deterrent) and plan to trade or release him. That would save $5.7 million against the cap pre-June 1.

If he is released with a post-June 1 designation, the Dolphins' cap saving would be $8.4 million but that extra savings cannot be applied before June 1. Ellerbe injured his hip in the opener and missed the rest of the season. The Dolphins are expected to go with Jelani Jenkins at weakside linebacker; he was 22nd in the league with 110 tackles last season.

Phillip Wheeler also remains at serious risk.

For more on the Dolphins' plans at linebackers and other Fins news from Friday, please see the last post.

#############################################################################################

A night that could have been punctuated with the biggest comeback win in Heat history instead ended with Miami falling out of playoff seeding, this 99-97 loss in Washington dropping the Heat to ninth in the East at 27-34.

The Heat has the same record as No. 8 Indiana, but the Pacers own the tiebreaker. And the Hornets leapfrogged the Heat into seventh, by half a game.

Down by 35 in the third, the Heat staged a remarkable rally, closing to within one late despite being without Dwyane Wade (hip), Luol Deng (calf) and Mario Chalmers (knee). Miami also lost Goran Dragic (18 points) to a bruised tailbone after a hard fall in the third quarter.

Dragic said his back "locked up and I couldn't move. We'll see [about Saturday against Sacramento]. It's an important game."

Miami had two chances to take the lead in the final seconds, but Henry Walker missed a corner three with six seconds left. And after a Wizards free throw with just over a second left, Michael Beasley (who scored all 13 of his points in the fourth) regrettably took a dribble on an in-bounds pass before launching a shot that came just after the final buzzer. Beasley said "that was a lack of experience. I was so anxious to get the last shot and do great for my team that I just had a brain cramp. That was my fault."

"The execution was adequate but wasn't perfect," Erik Spoelstra said of the last shot.

"[Beasley] was very good in the fourth quarter, a two-way player."

Beasley said collective "embarrassment" fueled the Heat's comeback. "We showed a lot of character, a lot of perseverance. We could have literally lost by 100 points." Instead, the Heat outscored the Wizards, 58-32, after halftime to make it a game.

"In the second half, it was about revealing what your makeup is," Spoelstra said. "It shows you, and it's a shame because we didn't have it in the first half, what unmitigated effort, passion, connection, what you can accomplish in a short period of time. It is not a moral victory, but I do commend those guys on the court and their level of competition."

### Hassan Whiteside played just 20 minutes (10 points, 2 rebounds) and picked up another technical. "He'll be fine; he knows our culture," said Spoelstra, indicating that a sideline conversation with Whiteside that drew some comments on Twitter was nothing more than a normal player/coach discussion.

### Spoelstra said Wade's hip is "sore, didn't loosen up the way we thought it would. It wasn't right enough to play tonight. We'll see [about Saturday against Sacramento]."

### Beasley, who figures to stick around with the Heat after his 10-day contract ends after Saturday's game, showed maturity and self-awareness in a lengthy conversation with a few reporters this week. Here's what he had to say:

#################################################################################################

Fear can be a great motivator. So if there is ever any temptation for Michael Beasley to do something he will regret, to display the immaturity he has tried to put squarely in his past, this is the deterrent that resonates:

“My biggest fear right now is my daughter starting to read three-, four-syllable words,” the Heat forward said Tuesday.

“It’s nothing for her to read in a paper: Michael Beasley in trouble. I’m trying to change the way I live for them because they deserve a better example than what I’ve been giving them. That’s where everything is coming from.”

As a first-team All-American at Kansas State and a former No. 2 overall draft pick, Beasley never figured he would be in this position, clinging to an NBA career, playing on 10-day contracts at minimum money.

He views this third opportunity with the Heat as his final NBA chance. “Definitely,” he said. “I’m really playing with desperation. When this goes, I go.”

Beasley, 26, hoped last season’s Heat reunion would rejuvenate his career, would serve as the linchpin to earn him a decent contract somewhere, ideally in Miami. He stayed out of trouble, finished 50th in the NBA in points per 48 minutes and appeared in 55 games.

But he played sparingly in the playoffs and received no guaranteed offers from any NBA team last summer, amid concerns about his maturity, his checkered past and his defensive acumen.

He said the lack of NBA interest didn’t surprise him because “I know the questions that were being asked. Only I could prove those questions right or wrong. I was a little disappointed, disheartened, but surprised? Not really. I had nobody to blame but myself.”

Questions about maturity have swirled around Beasley since his rookie season. He has never been suspended by the NBA but has found himself in a few regrettable situations, including a September 2013 arrest on suspicion of marijuana after a traffic stop. The Suns released him a month later.

Without any guaranteed NBA offers last summer, Beasley attended training camp with the Memphis Grizzlies on a non-guaranteed deal but was released Oct. 9 and signed with the Shanghai Sharks, where he averaged 28.6 points and 10.4 rebounds for a team owned by former NBA star Yao Ming.

He would awake at 5:30 in the morning in China to watch NBA games on television. The thought would often creep into his mind: I could be helping one of these NBA teams.

“Every time that thought comes, there would be a missed screen from somebody… or any easy shot [missed],” he said. “Not the Heat, in particular. I stopped that because I thought I was hating. I stopped trying to compare myself. I love the NBA. I missed it.”

He said the experience in China, being on his own thousands of miles from home, helped him mature.

“I took the opportunity to really find myself on and off the court,” he said. “When you’re by yourself -- professional athletes, entertainers can relate to this  -- you are never really by yourself until dishes are not being washed, food is not being cooked.

“You’ve got to go grocery shopping and wash your clothes. You don’t realize you’re by yourself until you’re alone. Your stomach is growling and there’s nobody there to feed you.”

When his season in China ended, Beasley returned to Miami, where he has maintained a residence, and spent three weeks working out at AmericanAirlines Arena and UM.

The Heat began considering a reunion after Chris Bosh was lost for the season with blood clots on his lungs.

“It was fate,” Beasley said. “And I hate that my triumph has to come from misfortune.”

Beasley met with Heat president Pat Riley before Riley offered him a 10-day contract, and “it was comfortable. We just spoke about life.”

Beasley said the conversation “got heated” when they disagreed about whether he was playing hard during the final few minutes of a game in his second season.

“Ain’t no winning with him,” Beasley said, smiling.

Heat forward Henry Walker has kept in close contact with Beasley since their time as teammates at Kansas State and sees signs of maturity.

“He pays more attention now,” Walker said. “A lot less joking. He’s playing hard as well. He’s playing both sides, not taking any plays off. Once he gets his legs together, he’ll be a monster down the stretch.”

Beasley puts it this way: “I’m still that fun-loving guy that likes to joke but now I understand what’s needed of me, the level of focus I need to bring to every game and every practice.”

One key, Beasley said, has been reducing sugar in his diet.  

“I would lie if I told you I didn’t eat candy but I definitely don’t eat as much,” he said. “I try to eat more grilled instead of fried, more salads instead of snacks. The day I stopped eating loads of sugar, I started feeling more energetic. There wasn’t a crash at the end. I used to go home and fall, hit the floor, and wake up an hour, two hours later.

“Now I’ve got energy the whole day. I can actually do things, be vibrant in my life without a crash at the end. It’s nice.”

Dwyane Wade mentioned Beasley’s defensive improvement last week, and Beasley said he’s “trying to be more than one dimensional. [In the past], I wasn’t committing 100 percent like I was on the offensive side.”

He drew a charge against Phoenix on Monday and “the reaction from my teammates gives me the joy,” he said.

What’s also apparent is the increase in self-awareness, the greater level of accountability.

“I can say [the journey] hasn’t been hard but I would be lying,” he said. “It’s been tough. I used to always [think], I’m cool. [Critics] just need something to talk about.

“I’m not going to get in trouble no more. You have to take ownership. My maturation process is not done at all, by far. I made personal progress and goals I’ve set for myself. I’m definitely going to keep working towards that. I’m optimistic to see what happens next.”

He admits “my public persona is not perfect at all. Definitely working every day toward fixing it. Right now, I’m happy. I’m blessed with an opportunity to play basketball again with people I know, people I loved, people I grew up with and I’m actually playing for something that means something to the city. I’m playing for Miami, not just for me…. I’m definitely blessed and humbled.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

March 05, 2015

1 p.m. Dolphins update; Marlins president cautious after 2012 flop, but bettors, Buck with high hopes; Dolphins, Canes notes; Whiteside

Quick 1 p.m. Dolphins update:

### As the Dolphins prepare to bid for Ngamukong Suh (contact with his agent is legally permitted beginning at noon Saturday), they have continued to hold Jared Odrick in limbo.

Despite previously conveying that they planned to make an offer, the team had not made one as of Friday morning. Still, the Dolphins haven't ruled out trying to re-sign him (presumably if they don't get Suh). Mike Tannenbaum said in a radio interview last week that the Dolphins want to keep him.

Odrick would consider a Dolphins offer but he's expected to attract a lot of interest and likely will command a deal in the range of $7 million or more a year. The Colts, Chiefs, Raiders, Bears and Jaguars are among teams expected to have interest.

While Odrick's return to Miami doesn't seem likely at this moment, it cannot be ruled out. Remember: Miami showed zero interest in re-signing Randy Starks for the first two months of the off-season last year, then made him an offer (which he accepted) early in free agency. But it's almost impossible to envision Miami having the cap space for Suh and Odrick.

If the Dolphins sign Suh, the logical next step would be to cut Randy Starks to save $5 million against the cap, and go into next season with Suh, Earl Mitchell, a veteran free agent who's cheaper than Starks and Odrick, with AJ Francis and Anthony Johnson and perhaps a draft pick as depth.

### As Armando Salguero noted, the Dolphins are confident about their chances with Suh. The deal could be worth $17 million a year and $60 million in guarantees. The Dolphins told at least one person they would like to not have to pay as much as the numbers bandied about, but the Dolphins likely will do what it takes to be a serious player and agent Jimmy Sexton is likely going to find a team (Miami or another) who's willing to pay what he wants.

Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio told WQAM's Joe Rose today that "it's the Dolphins or Lions" for Suh. "Other teams are just leverage."

### The Dolphins very much like linebacker David Harris, who re-signed with the Jets Friday. They might turn their attention now to Tampa Bay free agent Mason Foster, who they also like. The 49ers' Dan Skuta also is on their radar, and Nate Irving and Brandon Spikes would seem to warrant consideration.

Miami would like to upgrade over Koa Misi at middle linebacker, according to several people who have spoken to the team. Misi could be moved back to strongside linebacker if the Dolphins are successful in finding a replacement in the middle.

##################################################################################

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN 

The Marlins opened Grapefruit League play on Thursday awash in optimism. Michael Hill, the president of baseball operations, says this team is “unbelievably talented” and has the best outfield in baseball. Owner Jeffrey Loria cites “the incredible combination of players” and “the best chemistry we’ve ever had.” Second baseman Dee Gordon said this roster is comparable in talent to last year’s 94-win Dodgers.

But president David Samson won’t ever forget the last time the Marlins entered a season with such lofty expectations. Those 2012 Marlins flopped, finishing 69-93, and that’s why the team president is speaking more cautiously than most internally.

“I’m very measured in my expectations,” Samson said. “I’m not going to feel the way I did in 2012. Talk is cheap. They’ve got to do it. All our moves don’t mean a thing if we chose the wrong players.

“I’ve had personal experiences winning the offseason. This year is a different approach. Giancarlo [Stanton] and I have talked about that. No talk about how good we are or we’re favorites for this or expected to do this. I want the play to speak for itself.”

So why will this year be different than 2012? General Manager Dan Jennings says the pitching staff is deeper. Loria said the outfield is better. And Mike Dunn, one of only seven holdovers from that 2012 team, said: “On paper, this team blows 2012 out of the water.”

Samson puts it this way: “Going into 2012, everything we did we thought was right and it turns out everything we did was wrong. I think what we’re doing now is right. My hope is that the chemistry and the culture change that have taken place will make this year completely different.”

Don’t underestimate that culture issue. Dunn has told us some former Marlins were more concerned about themselves than the team and it had a negative effect. The Marlins made it a point to add players with good clubhouse reputations.

Martin Prado is one of the greatest teammates; I can’t say enough good things about him,” Dunn said. “Mike Morse is a great teammate from what I’ve heard.”

Nationally, bettors are responding. MGM Grand and 11 other Nevada casinos have changed the odds of the Marlins winning the World Series from 40 to 1 to 30 to 1 and now 25 to 1 in response to a “lot” of people betting on the Marlins at those higher odds. The Marlins are still middle of the pack in odds; Washington has the shortest odds (5 to 1).

Among those especially high on the Marlins is the television voice of the World Series, Fox announcer Joe Buck.

A couple of months ago, Buck named Marlins’ owner Jeffrey Loria when asked by Sports Illustrated Richard Deitsch who would be the most fascinating person in sports in 2015, calling Loria “a quirky art dealer who really does love the game and his players will emerge with the last laugh after the failed try in 2012.”

I asked Buck to expand on why he picked Loria.

“I got to know him last year when my wife [NFL Network reporter Michelle Beisner] and I ran literally into him in Paris,” Buck e-mailed. “Sat with he and his wife at dinner and got the feel for his passion with his team and the personal connection he has to some of his key players.  He told me he had hosted the artist formerly named Mike [Giancarlo Stanton] in Europe when he was just getting started.  He loves the guy and proved it with the deal they agreed to.

“They have studs in the rotation (and hopefully health), made shrewd moves around the big contract, and I think they will win the East. He is a guy who has received more than his share of criticism and I think it will come full circle for him this year and in the next few to come.

“He got killed for dismantling that team that didn't fit together, and while he saved money, I still think that took guts after the opening of the new stadium.  So I just think his passion and those moves pay off in 2015.”

CHATTER

### According to someone directly involved, the Dolphins remained genuinely uncertain Thursday about whether they will keep Mike Wallace, with one factor being whether Miami can do what it needs in free agency while sustaining Wallace’s cap hit. There is front-office support for keeping him, but the cap hit is an issue.

### Among the receivers the Dolphins have discussed internally: Cecil Shorts, who had 53 receptions for 557 yards for Jacksonville last season. Eddie Royal, Nate Washington and Hakeem Nicks also would make sense among reasonably-priced receivers.

The Dolphins know they need receivers that are better with yards after the catch. Brandon Gibson and Brian Hartline, both released by Miami, ranked 81st and 84th among 109 receivers in average YAC. (Hartline and the Dolphins haven’t ruled out a return.) Mike Wallace tied Hartline with a 3.3 YAC average. Conversely, Royal was 19th, Shorts 37th and Miami’s Jarvis Landry 44th.

### In his latest mock draft, Mel Kiper has Miami picking Louisville receiver Devante Parker at No. 14.

"Wide receiver is a bigger need now than it was a week ago prior to the release of Hartline and Gibson," Kiper wrote on ESPN.com. "The future of No. 1 receiver Mike Wallace, who is on the books for $9.9 million next season, is also in the air, and tight end Charles Clay received the transition tag but will negotiate with other teams starting Saturday. The Dolphins need a big target on the outside for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Parker is listed at 6-foot-2 and 209 pounds, and he plays physically. I’m not sure Parker falls this far in the first round. But if he's available at No. 14, this would be a solid value pick for Miami." 

### As the Dolphins prepare to try to make a splash in free agency, they addressed their need for depth at offensive tackle on Thursday by re-signing Jason Fox to a two-year, $2.5 million contract.

Fox played well filling in as a starter at right tackle the final two games. He is expected to be Miami’s No. 3 tackle, behind starters Branden Albert, who has said he’s progressing well a major knee injury, and Ja’Wuan James.  If Albert “is not able to go Week One, I’ll be ready,” Fox said.

“I love the situation there with this team, where it’s headed,” said Fox, who was in Haiti on Thursday volunteering at a friend’s orphanage.

### Fox, on his former teammate, Ndamukong Suh, who (as we've written all week) the Dolphins are prepared to bid for:

“He’s obviously a dominant player, one of the best defensive tackles, if not the best defensive tackle in the NFL. He’s a game-changing type of player. In the locker room, he’s not the ‘rah-rah’ guy and he speaks up when he feels like it’s necessary. He’s one of the guys that leads by example. He’s a hard-worker and that shows.”

Count Pro Football Talk among those calling the Dolphins the favorite for Suh. NFL.com's Mike Silver reports the Raiders expect Suh to visit next week.

### The Dolphins resigned safety Jordan Kovacs, who appeared in eight games last season, his agent, David Canter, said on Twitter.

### More remarkable achievements from Hassan Whiteside: Besides leading the NBA in blocks per 48 minutes, he’s averaging more rebounds per 48 minutes (21.9) than any player this century. (Four-time rebound leader Dennis Rodman averaged 22.2 in his best season)…

He’s averaging 18 points, 16.4 rebounds and four blocks per 36 minutes. No center has done that for a full season since blocks became an official stat in 1973-74… And he has more 20-rebound games in 33 career games for the Heat (four) than Alonzo Mourning had in 593 games for Miami….

When Whiteside wrapped his arms around Phoenix center Alex Len’s legs this week, Mourning told Whiteside to “keep my cool.” Whiteside said he hasn’t seen Zo’s famous leg-wrap of Jeff Van Gundy but would try to find it on the Internet…. Pat Riley told Sun Sports he thinks Whiteside can get 16 points and 12 rebounds “without even going to him.”

### UM is encouraged by the spring work of Stacy Coley, who had two touchdown catches in Thursday’s scrimmage and is responding well to new assistant Kevin Beard’s coaching, which emphasizes creating leverage. Coley, who dipped from 591 yards receiving and eight touchdowns as a freshman to 184 and none last season, said:

“Ever since we played the [bowl] game, I told myself I won’t [allow it] again,” he said. “I blame everything on me. I wasn’t as focused as I am now. [Beard] is elevating our game. I want 14 [touchdowns next season]…. I feel like I’m having fun again.”

Coley has been working tirelessly since the bowl game: “We came back to Ft.Lauderdale and I got back at it. Every Saturday, my high school coach comes down here to work with me.”

He said Beard has taught them that “once you attack the DB’s leverage, there's nothing the DB can do. If they can't jam much, it's over.”

Brad Kaaya said Coley was "killing the DBs" Thursday.

### UM running back Gus Edwards has been terrific this spring, but Trayone Gray --– who could be a real weapon if he gets his act together --– is “not consistent right now which is making him consistently inconsistent,” Al Golden said.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz      

March 04, 2015

Report: Suh prefers Miami; Suh notes; Postscripts, reaction from Heat, UM wins tonight

A six-pack of notes on a Wednesday night:

### It has reached the point with Ndamukong Suh that it would be a mild disappointment if the Dolphins don’t snag him. As we have written the past two days, the Dolphins are interested in signing him, and Yahoo (citing a source in his camp) reported tonight that Suh --- who reportedly has been in South Florida this week --- has a slight preference for Miami, but that the Colts and Lions aren’t far behind.

Yahoo also reported Miami and the Colts are expected to make the strongest push for Suh and guaranteed money in the deal could top $60 million.

As cap guru Joel Corry noted today, the Dolphins could sell Suh on the fact there’s no state income tax in Florida. He noted that a  six-year, $102 million deal with Miami or Oakland would be worth $58.9 million after taxes if he signed with Miami, compared with $51.1 million in Oakland because of California’s 13 percent state income tax.

Said Corry: “For instance, a six-year contract with $94.3 million over six years and $50.85 million in the first three years is equivalent to a six-year, $102 million deal with $55 million over the first three years in Detroit, after taxes.”

As we mentioned yesterday, Miami figures to structure the contract in a way that would be more onerous on its 2016 cap (when the Dolphins have just $102 million in commitments) than its 2015 cap. As a point of perspective, Mike Wallace’s cap number was just $3.25 million in his first year with the Dolphins, but $17.5 million the second….

ESPN's Mark Dominik, Dennis Hickey’s close friend and former boss, insisted on Sirius Radio that he doesn’t have any inside information but lists the Dolphins among the top five contenders for Suh, with the Jaguars, Redskins, Giants and Cowboys.

"The reason I added [Miami] with Jacksonville is because they play in Florida with no state taxes," Dominik said. "No state income taxes has a huge advantage. I didn't mean to say Suh is coming to Miami and I've talked to Dennis Hickey. It's not like that."

### If Suh signs, it will put even more pressure on Cam Wake to play up to Pro Bowl form next year. Wake’s 2016 cap hit is $9.8 million if on the team, $1.4 million if he’s not. Dumping Wake after next season will be very tempting for Miami unless he’s a monster next season…

Brent Grimes’ 2016 hit is $9.5 million if he’s on the team, $3 million if he’s not. So even with about $50 million in 2016 cap space, the Dolphins can clear a lot more, including $8 million with Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler, who figure to be gone before then.

### One of many measures of Suh’s dominance: With Suh anchoring their line, the Lions have ranked sixth and first in run defense the past two seasons.

Over the past three seasons, Pro Football Focus rated him fourth, second and third among all defensive tackles. He led all tackles with 37 quarterback hurries last season; he had 54 the year before.

### Another monumental night for Hassan Whiteside tonight, and every one of his 18 points, 25 rebounds and four blocks were needed in this 100-94 win over the Lakers.

Whiteside’s 25 boards were the second-most in franchise history, behind Rony Seikaly’s 34.

Whiteside had 24 rebounds twice this season, including Monday against Phoenix. He converted two nifty passes from Dwyane Wade --- one for a layup, one for a dunk --- in the final 1:05.

"Some players sometimes you have that instant connection, and we saw that early on," Erik Spoelstra said of the Whiteside/Wade chemistry. "Dwyane has the ability to make those reads at the last [moment]."

Whiteside's only blemish? Seven missed free throws in 13 attempts. "I was just rushing it," he said. "I'm better than that."

Wade was outstanding, with 25 points and six assists and Goran Dragic had 21 points (including a big three to put Miami ahead with 3:28 left) and six assists.

"Good to see us show some grit in the fourth quarter," Spoelstra said. "In the first half, we did virtually everything wrong. But guys were holding each other accountable."

At 27-33, the Heat is one half game ahead of 26-33 Charlotte for seventh in the East and one game ahead of 26-34 Indiana, which is ninth.

### UM’s NCAA Tournament chances remain very much alive after tonight’s huge 67-63 win at Pittsburgh. UM led 7-0 early, trailed by four at halftime, but rode Sheldon McClellan late in the game to move to 19-11 and 9-8.

McClellan closed with 20, Davon Reed had 19 and Tonye Jekiri had 10 points and 11 rebounds. And Miami did it without Angel Rodriguez, who was sidelined by a wrist injury. This was a quality win against a team also on the NCAA bubble.

“Great win for our team,” assistant coach Chris Caputo told Joe Zagacki on WQAM afterward. “Without Angel, they banded together. Sheldon made some terrific shots. DeAndre Burnett went 0 of 5 but he was so important for us down the stretch the way he was defending.”

UM closes Sunday at Virginia Tech and Jim Larranaga believes UM needs to win that game and two in the ACC Tournament in order to be invited to the NCAA Tourney.

### Brian Hartline visited the Browns and Bears this week and agent Drew Rosenhaus has said Hartline is expected to make a decision on a new team this week. Incidentally, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross called Hartline after his release, according to reports.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

March 03, 2015

Suh pursuit has support in Fins' front office; Dolphins, Heat, Canes, Marlins chatter

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

As we mentioned last night, the Dolphins have been discussing making a serious attempt to sign All-Pro free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. And we received additional word today that at least one key front office member is in favor of it, according to two people in contact with the team.

Suh would cost a bundle (ESPN floated a six-year, $100 million contract), and if the Dolphins go ahead with an offer as expected, they will face stiff competition. But it’s something they are ready to explore.

As most of you know, ESPN’s Mark Dominik, who was Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey’s boss in Tampa and remains close with him, already has said the Dolphins have a “real shot” to get him.

If you include Charles Clay's current $7.1 million cap hit (which comes with the transitional tag but can be reduced as part of a longterm deal), the Dolphins are about $15 million below their $153 million cap, based on numbers from overthecap.com. The Dolphins' cap number is about $9 million above the league cap because of carryover cap space and other adjustments.

If the Dolphins cut Mike Wallace (whose fate remains unresolved), Dannell Ellerbe, Phillip Wheeler, Randy Starks and Brandon Fields, that could save an additional $23.6 million (using post-June 1 designations for Wallace and Wheeler, though that additional savings won't go on their cap until after June 1). That would add to up $38.6 million in space -- at least $5 million of which is needed to sign draft picks.

Even more could be created with a longterm deal that brings down Clay's hit and Mike Pouncey's $7.43 million hit. The Dolphins like Koa Misi, but cutting him would save another $2.7 million. Restructuring Cam Wake or Branden Albert is another option, but there's no indication if the Dolphins are considering this.

Bottom line: Despite Suh’s price tag, it would be possible --- by cutting additional players and creatively structuring contracts --- for Miami to add Suh and be able to upgrade at several other need areas through resourceful spending and the draft.

One way to do it is making sure Suh’s cap hit is fairly modest this year but rises substantially in 2016, when the Dolphins will have ample cap space. The Dolphins have only $102 million in cap commitments for 2016, when the cap is expected to rise to at least $150 million.

That doesn’t include a big payout to Ryan Tannehill --- about $16 million if he doesn’t sign a longterm deal before then. But that $102 million includes a lot of cap commitments that will be substantially lessened by then --- including $14.2 million combined for Ellerbe and Wheeler (neither of whom is expected to be with the team) and $13.7 million for Wallace.

Cam Wake ($9.8 million) and Brent Grimes ($9.5 million) also could be at risk, in another year, with those 2016 numbers.

The Dolphins have left impending free agent Jared Odrick and Randy Starks (who’s under contract) in limbo while mulling Suh and other defensive tackles that intrigue them, including Terrance Knighton, Corey Peters and Tom Johnson. Though they told Odrick they want to keep him and plan to make an offer, there hadn’t been one presented as of early this week.

Though Suh is reportedly in South Florida this week, the agents for free agents can’t legally speak to outside suitors until Saturday. And Suh can't visit a new team until Tuesday, the first day he can also sign with a new team.

So if you can create at least $40-$42 million in space (quite do-able), the Dolphins could sign Suh (if he's willing to structure it in a way with a relatively low 2015 base salary) and a reasonably priced veteran cornerback and a linebacker and a receiver, re-sign Louis Delmas to a reasonable deal off his knee injury, re-sign Derrick Shelby and then use the draft to address receiver, competition at guard (with the thought that Shelley Smith, Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas could compete for two starting jobs) and a slot cornerback (if Jimmy Wilson, who the Dolphins want to keep, is priced out of their market) and a backup defensive tackle.

Would this permutation and a bunch of others be challenging and awfully ambitious? Yes.

Possible? Certainly, but Miami might not get the quality it wants at middle linebacker and cornerback and receiver if it spends big on Suh.

It's all fascinating to consider and at least this Dolphins brass is thinking big.

Dominik, by the way, calls Suh “a generational type of free agent, one of the most significant ever to hit the market.”  

### Stephen Ross certainly has the money for Suh. Forbes said Tuesday that Ross, with a net-worth of $6.5 billion, is the NFL’s second-richest owner behind Seahawks/Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen ($17.5 billion). The Heat’s Micky Arison ($7.1 billion) trails only Allen among NBA owners.

CHATTER

### Among the Dolphins’ three restricted free agents, they want to keep Shelby (with a moderate to high draft tender), conveyed interest in re-signing linebacker Jonathan Freeny but aren’t tendering cornerback R.J. Stanford.

Among their exclusive rights free agents, they want to keep Jordan Kovacs, and Michael Thomas said late last season that the Dolphins told him they are interested in keeping him.

### How unusual was it for Goran Dragic to score 21 points playing just 15 minutes against Phoenix on Monday? Elias Sports Bureau tells me no Heat player had ever scored at least 20 points playing 15 minutes or fewer. It has been done only two other times in the past 15 years in the NBA (Kyle Lowry, Charlie Villenueva).

### Dragic awoke Tuesday with this nifty distinction: He’s the NBA’s only guard shooting at least 50 percent from the field (50.1). One reason is he’s the best finisher in the league, percentage-wise, among guards, inside of five feet (68.2 percent), nearly identical to LeBron James. Of his 372 baskets, 57 percent are layups.

“Back in Europe when I was a kid, I was basically too fast for everybody [so] I was always penetrating,” he said Tuesday. “I’m not afraid to get a body on the big guy, get contact. That’s my game. I never developed a jump shot in Europe. You start to develop your jump shot [as he has in the NBA] and everything is much easier.”

### ESPN reported the Heat has a "level of" interest in signing free agent center JaVale McGee, who was bought out by Philadelphia this week. A bunch of other teams do, too.

### With the Marlins coming up short in their late bid for free agent Francisco Rodriguez, they will open the competition to determine who will get first crack at the eighth inning set-up job, among Bryan Morris (“did a great job with that” last year, Mike Redmond said), ex-Royal Aaron Crow, AJ Ramos (7-0 last year) or Mike Dunn (against lefty-heavy lineups).

Carter Capps, who the Marlins viewed as an ideal set-up man when they acquired him from Seattle, hopes to crack that mix after being limited to 17 games by an elbow injury last season.

He’s the Marlins hardest throwing reliever, with triple figure readings at times on the radar gun and 119 strikeouts in 104 career innings. But “I need to be a reliable guy. At times, I can be really good. At times, really bad.”

Rafael Soriano, who had 32 saves for Washington last season, remains unsigned, but the Marlins aren’t sure how well he would fit into their clubhouse.

### With the transfer of Antonio Crawford and graduation of Ladarius Gunter, UM is down to three experienced cornerbacks, one inexperienced one (Ryan Mayes, who has had a good spring but “has a long way to go,” Al Golden said) and three freshmen summer arrivals.

“We’ll probably be one short; we’ll see if there’s someone available,” Golden said. Expect UM to investigate adding a transfer who’s eligible immediately. Golden said Deon Bush could play cornerback if needed, but he's UM's best safety.

### The UM staff believes it will be just as good at tight end, even with losing NFL-bound Clive Walford, not only because of the emergence of Standish Dobard (the staff calls him “dump truck” because of his toughness), but the intriguing upside of Chris Herndon, David Njoku and Jerome Washington.

Tight ends coach Larry Scott said Washington’s “ceiling is through the roof. You look at yourself and shake your head and say, “We’ve got a special one here.’…

“Njoku looks the part. He had the toughness of a linebacker did but some things as a receiver that made you go, ‘Hmm.’ He’s a 6-4 kid that’s a 7-foot high jumper. Where are you going to find that in big people? He’s another one we’re super excited about. And [Herndon] is so smooth in everything he does. There’s no wasted movement.”

### Of Crawford's decision to transfer, defensive backs coach Paul Williams said: “Antonio’s a great kid. We love him. We wish him well.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

March 02, 2015

All-Pro Suh linked to Dolphins; More concern expressed on Canes; Heat-Suns; Marlins

A six-pack of notes on a Monday night:

### The notion of a marriage between the Dolphins and Lions free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh --- an idea that had seemed highly improbable –-- gained some steam tonight with two developments:    

Mark Dominik, the media person who’s closest to Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey, mentioned the Dolphins as a potential landing spot.

We also received word that there are segments of the Dolphins organization that are very intrigued by the idea of pursuing Suh.

On Monday night, hours after the Lions opted not to put the franchise tag on Suh, ESPN’s Dominik, who was Hickey’s boss in Tampa and remains close with him, listed Miami, Atlanta and Jacksonville as three top contenders for Suh. He said the Dolphins have a "real shot" to get him.

“The last team I would say has a chance is the Miami Dolphins,” Dominik said on ESPN. “When you’re talking about state taxes and you’re in Tennessee, Texas or Florida,… any of those teams has a shot. … Miami is another team I could see being interested in Suh.”

Still, there are factors working against this, including the fact other teams have more cap space. And though the Dolphins could clear more than $40 million in space, they have multiple needs to fill in free agency and privately acknowledge needs at middle linebacker and cornerback.

On the flip side, the Lions were able to accommodate Suh, Calvin Johnson and Matt Stafford under their salary cap.

If the Dolphins signed Suh, they could have more that $32 million in cap commitments to Suh and Ryan Tannehill in 2016. Suh wants to be the highest-paid defensive player in football, with the type of contract normally given to franchise quarterbacks.

Suh has played in 78 of 80 regular season games, with those two missed games resulting from suspensions for player-safety violations. He is a four-time first team All-Pro with 36 career sacks.

Bottom line: It would still be somewhat surprising if the Dolphins could pull this off. But it would not be shocking, provided they go ahead with a serious offer.

“We don’t need him or his price tag,” always entertaining Miko Grimes (wife of Dolphins cornerback Brent) said on Twitter.

An Internet report, unconfirmed by The Herald, said Suh is in South Florida tonight. But he isn't allowed to talk to other teams before Saturday and cannot sign anywhere (except for the Lions) before March 10.

### Impressive offensive display by the Heat tonight in this 115-98 win over Phoenix, including a career-high 26 points in 25 minutes from rookie Tyler Johnson; 21 from Goran Dragic (including 10 in the fourth) in just 15 foul-plagued minutes; 17 points (and 10 boards) from Hassan Whiteside before his ejection for tackling Alex Len after Len threw him aside; 16 from Wade and 12 from Michael Beasley.

According to ESPN, Johnson never scored that many points in any game in four years at Fresno State.

Miami (26-33) remained in seventh place in the East. The Heat would have fallen to 10th with a loss tonight.

### Reaction afterward: Erik Spoelstra: "You had two desperate team. We came in feeling this was an absolute must win.... Tyler was fantastic. He looked like the closest facsimile of a young Goran Dragic. He put his head down and attacked the basket. Mike was very good in the fourth quarter... .The guys wanted to get this win for Goran and Zoran. Without saying a lot, we knew this would mean a lot to him."

Spoelstra said "Hassan has to take the next step of being game-planned and being a guy teams aren't going to want to give up dunks and opportunities at the rim. If he did not retaliate, the punishment would have been on Len."

Said Whiteside, who was ejected in the third quarter: "I'm starting to realize a lot more teams are getting physical with me and I'm down for it. That's why I lift weights.... I shouldn't have retaliated. I should have just walked away." (Len also was ejected.)

Said Dragic: "I was a little anxious to do well, so I got into foul trouble. I'm happy with the win."

### Count former UM athletic director Sam Jankovich among those troubled by the state of the UM football program.

“The thing that bothers me more than anything is the team is not improving,” he said. “The team just doesn’t play with the intensity you need or seem to improve. I don’t think Miami has played well since joining the ACC.

“Leaving the Orange Bowl had a real impact on the program. I follow it pretty closely [from Idaho], and I don’t think it looks very good. It’s concerning. They’re losing a lot of the enthusiasm that made the program so great. It’s very disappointing to see the program just existing” instead of thriving.

### Fox gave the Marlins two regional appearances on their national TV schedule, both in prime time: May 22 against Baltimore and July 4 at the Cubs. Two other games will air on Fox Sports 1: May 15 against the Braves, June 23 against St. Louis.

But ESPN hasn’t committed to carrying any Marlins games on its partially-released Sunday night schedule.

In all, 154 of 162 Marlins games will be televised. Of the eight that aren’t on TV, all are on weekday afternoons except a Thursday night 10 p.m. game in San Diego on July 23.

### UM’s basketball season is on life support, with Jim Larranaga saying Miami needs to win Wednesday at Pittsburgh, Sunday at Virginia Tech and two games in the ACC Tournament to earn an invitation to the NCAA Tournament.

Larranaga said the losses to FSU, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech “really do hurt” but “five of the [conference] losses shouldn’t be held against us.”

The bright side of UM closing the regular season with two road games? “We’re averaging five more points on the road in the conference than at home,” Larranaga said.

He said Angel Rodriguez told the team’s trainer that his wrist is feeling a little better.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

March 01, 2015

2 p.m. Monday & 11:40 p.m. Sunday Fins updates; Dolphins looking closely at cornerbacks, d-tackles; Dolphins, Canes, Marlins chatter; Heat cap/tax change

Monday 2 p.m. update: The Dolphins created an additional $7.1 million in cap space this afternoon by releasing cornerback Cortland Finnegan and offensive lineman Nate Garner.

The Dolphins are determined to upgrade over Finnegan, whose release saves the Dolphins $5.5 million in cap space. (Scroll down for potential cornerback targets.) Finnegan, 31, played one season for the Dolphins, producing 44 tackles and one forced fumble but no interceptions in 12 games. 

Finnegan, one of a limited number of NFL players without an agent, said last season that he might retire if the Dolphins did not bring him back on the second year of a two-year contract.

The versatile Garner, 30, played in 74 games --- starting 19 combined at guard, center and tackle --- in six seasons for Miami but was limited to 10 games last season before being sidelined for the remainder of the year with migraine issues related to concussions.

Agent Drew Pittman said Garner is still dealing with those issues related to concussions but did not elaborate. His release saves the Dolphins $1.6 million against the cap.

Those moves left the Dolphins with about $18 million in cap space, with more moves to come. Some of the space was created by carrying over $7.8 million in unused space from last season. 

But some of that space will be used on Charles Clay, who was given the transition tag. That means he will make at least $7 million next season. Other teams can bid on him, but the Dolphins have the right to match.

Quick Sunday night update: Sensing the Dolphins were potentially headed in this direction, agent Drew Rosenhaus said during his weekly segment on WSVN-Fox 7 that he asked the Dolphins to release Brian Hartline so that Hartline could go into the market and explore his options and also give the Dolphins an opportunity to re-sign him.

Rosenhaus said the Dolphins have interest in re-signing Hartline and didn't rule it out. But as Armando Salguero noted, Hartline has interest in teams closer to his native Ohio and with an established quarterback, making the Colts an appealing option. Rosenhaus said he expects Hartline to sign somewhere this week.

Rosenhaus, who does not represent Mike Wallace, also said he believes Wallace will remain with the Dolphins because the team needs him after releasing Hartline and Brandon Gibson. He said he feels that way even though he knows Miami is trying to trade him and also believes they have asked him to take a pay cut (which has been confirmed by people close to the situation).

######################################################################################

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Besides their desire to upgrade at middle linebacker, the Dolphins also have made cornerback and defensive tackle priorities. What we’re hearing as teams approach the March 10 start of free agency:

### Well before joining the Dolphins’ front office, Mike Tannenbaum said cornerback is critical for Miami in a division with Tom Brady. Tannenbaum also said this a couple of years ago: “The fastest way to lose games in pro football is not to have corners. Other things you can survive, but if you can’t cover on the outside, it’s dismal.”

The Dolphins want to add at least one quality corner to upgrade over Cortland Finnegan, and free agents Kareem Jackson and Brandon Flowers are among those who have been discussed internally, according to a person with knowledge of Miami's discussions. (I'm sure there are other cornerbacks also of interest to Miami; these were merely two of the names we know have been talked about.)

Jackson, 26, a five-year starter for Houston, had three interceptions in 13 games in 2014 and quarterbacks had a 74.1 rating in his coverage area.

Flowers, 29, played for the Chargers in 2014 --- quarterbacks had an 84.2 rating against him --- after six seasons in Kansas City. His family lives in Delray Beach and a friend said the Dolphins would hold some appeal to him. Pro Football Focus rated Jackson 11th and Flowers 15th among 108 cornerbacks for 2014.

PFF said Flowers had “a superb first year in San Diego. Not going to fit in every scheme but put him in the right spot and he’s a top-tier cornerback” and said Jackson “has done very well to rebuild a reputation that looked almost beyond salvaging after his first two years in the league. Jackson has rebounded with some impressive play and can be one of the better No. 2 corners in the league.”

The Dolphins approached All-Pro Darrelle Revis last offseason, but Revis wanted to sign with a Super Bowl contender. A Revis confidante expects the Dolphins to call him again, but it’s highly questionable if Miami has the cap space to seriously compete for him, considering it must address several other needs.

Besides Revis, Tannenbaum also has a history with Arizona free agent Antonio Cromartie (31 picks in nine seasons), so he cannot be ruled out. Cromartie, according to PFF, “rebuilt his rep in the first half of the season but didn’t follow that up with the kind of strong second half that would have everyone expecting a big short-term deal come his way.”

Other corners set to become free agents include Seattle’s Byron Maxwell, Dallas’ Sterling Moore, the 49ers’ Chris Culliver, Jacksonville’s Alan Ball, New Orleans’ Patrick Robinson, the Giants’ Walter Thurmond, Cleveland's Buster Skrine and Green Bay’s Tramon Williams.

Signing a quality free-agent cornerback in this market will be pricey, and it will be interesting to see how much Miami is willing to spend on Jackson or Flowers or any of the others mentioned here. 

Remember, Kevin Coyle strongly implied after the season that the Dolphins cannot go into next season counting on Jamar Taylor or Will Davis as starters. And waiting until the draft to find a starting cornerback to pair with Brent Grimes would be risky.

Upgrading on Finnegan isn't Miami's only cornerback issue. Though the Dolphins want to re-sign slot corner/safety Jimmy Wilson, several teams like him and Miami will have stiff competition.  

### Defensive tackle: A lot hinges on whether the Dolphins can re-sign Jared Odrick (expect Chicago, Jacksonville and others to pursue him; Miami wants to keep him but knows it might be outbid) and whether they keep Randy Starks, who is awaiting word on his fate. He has a $6 million cap hit if he’s on the team, $1 million otherwise.

We're told the Dolphins like Minnesota free agent Tom Johnson, who made only two starts in the past four seasons but had 6.5 sacks in 2014 and was rated 23rd among 81 defensive tackles by PFF.

The Dolphins also like Denver’s run-stuffing Terrance Knighton (12th by PFF), but he would be far more costly and it’s unclear if they will be able to compete financially for him. Atlanta’s Corey Peters (34th by PFF) was mentioned to me as another name on Miami’s radar.

PFF said Knighton plays “some stellar run defense” and is a “streaky pass rusher” and Peters “rebounded nicely from a devastating Achilles injury with a solid 2014.”

Among other tackles available: Detroit’s trio of Ndamukong Suh (Mark Dominik, who worked with Hickey in Tampa, believes the Dolphins might pursue him), Nick Fairley (very costly) and C.J. Mosley; Green Bay’s Letroy Guion (facing felony charges on possession of marijuana and a firearm), Arizona’s Dan Williams, Kendall Langford (the former Dolphin and ex-Ram), ex-Cowboy Henry Melton; and Chicago’s Stephen Paea (skilled pass rusher who graded out below average against the run).

The Jets’ Kenrick Ellis, who has a background with Tannenbaum in New York, is a backup option. Baltimore standout Haloti Ngata naturally would be appealing if he’s released.

The Dolphins are expected to keep Earl Mitchell and like A.J. Francis and Anthony Johnson as fourth/fifth tackles.

### As we noted last week, the Dolphins want to upgrade at middle linebacker and are eyeing a few including David Harris, Mason Foster and versatile Dan Skuta.

CHATTER

### Though the Dolphins think highly of San Francisco free agent Mike Iupati, they have expressed some hesitance to spend a ton on a guard, and there are more pressing needs. They conveyed to Shelley Smith earlier this offseason that they like him and want to give him another chance to compete to start, barring a change of heart. And general manager Dennis Hickey envisions Billy Turner as starting-caliber.

Among free agent guards: Denver’s Orlando Franklin (will get a lot of money somewhere), James Carpenter, Clint Boling, Todd Herremans, Rob Sims, Vlad Ducasse (played for Jets under Tannenbaum) and Willie Colon.

### If the Heat and Goran Dragic agree on a multiyear contract this summer, which many expect, Miami would be above the luxury tax threshold (presuming Luol Deng opts in for $10.1 million) and might not add anything else beyond a few minimum contracts.

### Dragic’s brother, Zoran, is signed next season for $1.7 million and the Heat sees upside with the 6-5 swingman.

Zoran said his strength is “getting in the paint. Everyone knows me as a good defensive player. I know how to play. I just need an opportunity.” Goran is the better shooter, but Zoran said he is “growing as a shooter.”

### According to Elias, Hassan Whiteside --- who appeared in his 50th NBA game Saturday --- is the first player since Shaq to produce at least three 20-rebound games in his first 50 NBA games. (All came this season for the Heat, including two 24-rebound games, both in Heat losses.) Shaq did it six times. Wilt Chamberlain holds the record, having done it an absurd 46 times in his first 50 games.

### Dolphins games attract slightly more than three times the average audience of regular-season Heat games. But while Dolphins games ranked 28th among 32 NFL teams in 2014 local-market ratings, Heat ratings are the NBA’s fourth-highest, with only the Spurs, Cavaliers and Thunder generating higher numbers in their markets.

And whereas Miami-Fort Lauderdale’s 38.7 rating for the Super Bowl ranked last among 56 metered markets, its 8.2 rating for the NBA All-Star Game was seventh.

### So why did Antonio Crawford, arguably Miami’s best slot cornerback, decide to transfer? A UM source said he wanted to be “the guy” --- a full-time starter --- even though he plays a lot here. He wasn't happy with the coaches, primarily because he didn't believe they valued him as much as they should --- even though they tried fruitlessly to get him to stay.

His departure means Ryan Mayes will get every opportunity to become UM's No. 4 corner, behind Artie Burns, Tracy Howard and Corn Elder. Burns made a terrific deflection to prevent a touchdown in practice Saturday.

### We don't put much stock in 2018 oral commitments, but the two that Miami has snagged for that year have familiar names: Al Blades Jr., son of the late great UM player, and Artie Burns' brother, Thomas Burns. Both recruits are defensive backs.

### Please see the last post for a lot more Canes notes (football and basketball) from Saturday.

### Though the Marlins traded a bunch of quality prospects this offseason (Andrew Heaney, Anthony DeSclafani, Austin Barnes), president/baseball operations Michael Hill said the system is “not barren. We have a lot of upper level prospect depth.”

Among those that bear watching: power right-hander Tyler Kolek (picked second overall in the 2014 draft); left-hander Justin Nicolino (some internally like him more than top prospect Heaney, who was dealt to the Dodgers; his strikeout numbers are low but his control is exceptional), J.T. Realmuto (the Marlins see him as their starting catcher in a year or two); right-handers Trevor Williams (a second-round pick in 2013 with a 2.98 minor-league ERA) and Jose Urena (13-8, 3.38 ERA in Double A), and run-producing first basemen Justin Bour and Viosergy Rosa (.292, 95 RBI in Single and Double A last year; 14 RBI in seven Double A playoff games).

### Despite the big offseason, “teams are still overlooking us,” Marlins left-hander Mike Dunn said. “I don’t think we’ve had enough respect. You can’t look past our pitching staff.”

### The Marlins are interested in hosting an NHL game at Marlins Park, just as Dodger Stadium did in 2014. Nothing is close to happening, but it's something they want to explore and pursue.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

February 28, 2015

Saturday afternoon UM report: Canes' NCAA Tourney chances take blow; Two 4-star d-linemen looking to make impact

North Carolina badly damaged UM’s NCAA Tournament chances today by closing the game on a 23-14 run to beat the Hurricanes, 73-64, dropping the Canes to 18-11 and 8-8.

The Hurricanes shot just 42 percent, including 6 for 24 on threes, committed 13 turnovers and were outrebounded 42-29. That was a recipe for failure against the 15th ranked Tar Heels, who were steaming from a home loss to North Carolina State.

So the Hurricanes have no margin for error now. Jim Larranaga said after the game today that he believes UM must win Wednesday at Pittsburgh, Sunday at Virginia Tech and win two games in the ACC Tournament in order to earn an invitation to NCAA Tournament.

"We've put ourselves in a very tough situation to make the dance," Larranaga said.

If UM splits its final two conference games, it likely would need to make the ACC Tournament championship game, at the very least, to have a real shot at being invited to NCAA Tournament.

Angel Rodriguez played only three minutes because of a wrist injury (a sprain) sustained Wednesday when he took a charge against FSU.  "We missed Angel's leadership; he does a lot of other things for us," Larranaga said.

Manu Lecomte started at point guard and shot 3 for 9, finishing with 10 points, four assists and three turnovers.

Sheldon McClellan scored 11 points (4 for 10 from the field) and was in foul trouble throughout the second half.

Tonye Jekiri (six points, eight rebounds) didn’t make as much of an impact as he usually has this season. Also hurtful: Davon Reed shot 1 for 8.

The Hurricanes relied a lot on newcomers down the stretch --– Ivan Cruz Uceda (11 points) Omar Sherman (who had six points but airballed a three during a key stretch late in the game) and Da’Quan Newton (who had some good moments and finished with 10 points, shooting 5 for 7).

Ultimately, UM didn’t have enough. And so a season that started with such promise is now very much on life support.... UM's regular-season home finale was a sellout today (7972).

################################################################################################

Considering the defensive line hasn’t exactly been a strength for the University of Miami football team in recent years, it’s understandable that ballyhooed four-star recruits Demetrius Jackson and Jelani Hamilton weren’t pleased when they were told they would be redshirted last season.

Both spoke Saturday about how the developmental year helped them, and UM is hoping they’ll blossom this fall.

Jackson, a standout at Booker T. Washington, and Hamilton --- a Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas alum --- stand at different stages of their UM careers.

Jackson still has four years of eligibility remaining, and UM coaches expect a formidable rotation at defensive end with Al Quadin Muhammad, Chad Thomas (Jackson’s high school teammate), Ufomba Kalamu, Trent Harris and Hamilton.

Conversely, Hamilton has only two seasons of eligibility remaining, and his redshirt season was unexpected because he played a limited role the previous two years, producing just six tackles as a freshman and four as a sophomore.

“I looked at it as any young, naïve player would,” Hamilton said of redshirting. “I didn’t like it at first. But I saw advantages. I saw it as a chance to develop my lower body. I’m finally healthy. It’s the best I’ve ever felt. My leg is not stinging when I make a tackle.”

Hamilton had an ACL injury as a senior in high school and has undergone knee surgery twice more at UM, including a clean-up procedure a month ago.

Now working at both defensive end and tackle, Hamilton said he’s more responsive to coaching than when he arrived at UM rated by Rivals.com as the ninth-best defensive end in the 2012 class and No. 106 recruit overall.

He said when coaches criticized him previously, “I remember I used to shut down a lot in my freshman year. But not any more.

“When I started off here, I wasn’t very good taking coaching. Some of the things we did here, my freshman year, I was like, ‘Dang, we did that in high school.’ When coaches asked me to do something, I was like, ‘I did this before.’ That was the wrong thing to do. I’m just trying to learn from that experience,… trying to get the coaches’ confidence and trust.”

Jackson, rated by rivals.com as the 17th best defensive end in the 2014 class, had 12 sacks and 13 quarterback hurries as a senior at Booker T. and “was really impressive on [UM’s] scout team” last fall, defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said.

Jackson, who picked UM over Arkansas and Texas, said redshirting “was frustrating at first” but NFL-bound left tackle Ereck Flowers assured him last year that “my day will come.”

In retrospect, Jackson said be benefitted from redshirting. He has raised his weight from 215 to 247, said he’s “way better” stopping the run than a year ago and his instincts are better.

He said UM’s talented young defensive ends spoke last week about the impact they can make over the next few years: “We can all bring something to the game…. Me with my strength and knocking down balls.”

### UM offensive line coach Art Kehoe, the only coach who spoke to reporters Saturday, said four possibilities have emerged at left tackle: KC McDermott (still limited by knee surgery but plans to return to full workouts later this spring), Sonny Odogwu, Trevor Darling and Taylor Gadbois, who’s out for the spring after knee surgery.

Kehoe mentioned Darling and early enrollee Jahair Jones as options at right tackle.

Danny Isidora returns as the starting right guard, and Nick Linder is considered the favorite at center.

### Safety Deon Bush said cornerback Antonio Crawford’s decision to transfer “really hurts. Antonio is a great player.”

### UM hosted about 50 prospects at Junior Day, and Miami Central Class of 2017 linebacker Waynmon Steed orally committed, according to canesport.com.

### Brad Kaaya, who feels comfortable in the shotgun, said he’s working this spring on playing under center and executing play action in those sets.

### Thomas batted down a pass and had a sack during Saturday's practice.

### Trayone Gray was back at practice after missing two sessions because of academic issues… Tracy Howard, who has been dealing with a shoulder injury, did not participate.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

February 27, 2015

Marlins change payroll approach; Loria spending on new things; Boras rejects Marlins offer; Fins cut two

The Dolphins cut receiver Brian Hartline this morning and Brandon Gibson this afternoon in a move that will save them $9.1 million in cash and $6.4 million of salary cap space.

After catching 76 passes for 1016 yards and 74 for 1083 in the previous two seasons, Hartline's numbers dropped to 39-474 last season, largely a result of being thrown a lot fewer passes.

Hartline would have had a $7.4 million cap hit if he had remained on the team without restructuring his contract. But the Dolphins will have $4.2 million in dead money by cutting Hartline.

His 298 catches ranked seventh in Dolphins history.

Hartline's and Gibson’s departures leaves the Dolphins with three veteran receivers under contract: Mike Wallace (whose status remains in doubt for next season) Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews.

Of that group, Landry and Matthews are expected to return.  Wallace is opposed to taking a pay cut, which the Dolphins want him to do, per multiple sources.

The Dolphins have $12 million in cap space and that figure will grow.

### Add San Francisco’s Dan Skuta (five sacks, three forced fumbles) to the list of free agents the Dolphins like; he can play inside and outside linebacker.

### Some wondered whether the Dolphins might approach specialists Brandon Fields and John Denneyabout restructuring, but that had not happened as of earlier this week.

 ### Jeffrey Loria’s increased spending has extended beyond player salaries, and the Marlins say the days of wild payroll fluctuations are over and that the current payroll (about $82 million, second-highest in team history) is a reasonable range, with size of future increases dependent on revenue and on-field success.

Asked if payroll would be slashed dramatically if the Marlins underachieve, as they did after 2012, president David Samson said no. “We’re past that,” he said.

Samson said “we want it to be at a point of stability. It’s the ups and downs that have hurt the franchise. We’re trying to become more stable. The team is going to lose money. Jeffrey is writing checks. [But] our revenues are increasing. We want our payroll to increase.”

Every Marlins payroll spike has been followed by a steep reduction --- from $53.5 million in the championship season of 1997 to $13 million the next; from $60 million in 2005 to $14 million the next; to $101 million in the first year in MarlinsPark (2012) to $50 million and $45 million the next two.

The Marlins’ 2015 payroll could top $85 million if Ichiro reaches incentives on plate appearances. Of the $82 million, the Dodgers are covering $10 million (for Dan Haren) and the Yankees are paying $3 million of Martin Prado’s $11 million.

One factor affecting future payrolls is how much the Marlins can command in their Fox cable deal, which they would like to renegotiate and extend. The contract, which runs through 2020, reportedly pays them about $14 million annually --- lowest in baseball.

Meanwhile, Loria this offseason paid for a private jet with first-class seats for the whole team (the Marlins chartered on United last season), hired an assistant hitting coach for the first time (Lenny Harris), hired a chef to make nutritious meals for players, paid a club-record $18 million for draft picks and international amateur players in 2014 and added more than a half dozen employees on the scouting and administrative side.

General manager Dan Jennings said full-time scouts were hired in Mexico and Colombia in the past year and the Marlins now have scouts in every Latin American country.

### Unlike with Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins failed to strike long-term deals with outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, who rejected multiyear offers but cannot be free agents until after 2019.

Yelich was open to it, had the money been higher: “I’m honored to be approached with something like that. I feel like we’re going to be good for a long time and it would be nice to be a part of it.”

Meanwhile, Ozuna said agent Scott Boras advised him to reject it: “He thought I should wait. I’m young.”    

### Mark D'Onofrio said sophomore defensive tackle Anthony Moten has taken "a big leap." Moten has been getting a lot of first-team defensive tackle snaps.

### Trent Harris and Ufomba Kamalu continue to take first-team snaps at defensive end for UM, with Al Quadin Muhammad, Demetrius Jackson and Chad Thomas behind them. It would be surprising if Muhammad or Thomas doesn't emerge as a starter.... Jamal Carter and Dallas Crawford have been sharing first-team safety reps opposite Deon Bush.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Hartline cut; Marlins vow new approach on payroll stability; Loria opens wallet

The Dolphins cut receiver Brian Hartline this morning in a move that will save them $5.9 million in cash and $3.2 million salary cap space.

After catching 76 passes for 1016 yards and 74 for 1083 in the previous two seasons, Hartline's numbers dropped to 39-474 last season, largely a result of being thrown a lot fewer passes.

Hartline would have had a $7.4 million cap hit if he had remained on the team without restructuring his contract. But the Dolphins will have $4.2 million in dead money by cutting Hartline.

His 298 catches ranked seventh in Dolphins history.

Hartline's departure leaves the Dolphins with four veteran receivers under contract: Mike Wallace (whose status remains in doubt for next season), Brandon Gibson, Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews.

Of that group, Landry and Matthews are expected to return. Gibson's status also remains in question; he has a $4.2 million hit if he's on the team, $1 million otherwise. [UPDATE: Gibson was cut this afternoon.] Wallace is opposed to taking a pay cut, which the Dolphins want him to do, per multiple sources.

### Add San Francisco’s Dan Skuta (five sacks, three forced fumbles) to the list of free agents the Dolphins like; he can play inside and outside linebacker.

### Some wondered whether the Dolphins might approach specialists Brandon Fields and John Denney about restructuring, but that had not happened as of earlier this week.

 ### Jeffrey Loria’s increased spending has extended beyond player salaries, and the Marlins say the days of wild payroll fluctuations are over and that the current payroll (about $82 million, second-highest in team history) is a reasonable range, with size of future increases dependent on revenue and on-field success.

Asked if payroll would be slashed dramatically if the Marlins underachieve, as they did after 2012, president David Samson said no. “We’re past that,” he said.

Samson said “we want it to be at a point of stability. It’s the ups and downs that have hurt the franchise. We’re trying to become more stable. The team is going to lose money. Jeffrey is writing checks. [But] our revenues are increasing. We want our payroll to increase.”

Every Marlins payroll spike has been followed by a steep reduction --- from $53.5 million in the championship season of 1997 to $13 million the next; from $60 million in 2005 to $14 million the next; to $101 million in the first year in MarlinsPark (2012) to $50 million and $45 million the next two.

The Marlins’ 2015 payroll could top $85 million if Ichiro reaches incentives on plate appearances. Of the $82 million, the Dodgers are covering $10 million (for Dan Haren) and the Yankees are paying $3 million of Martin Prado’s $11 million.

One factor affecting future payrolls is how much the Marlins can command in their Fox cable deal, which they would like to renegotiate and extend. The contract, which runs through 2020, reportedly pays them about $14 million annually --- lowest in baseball.

Meanwhile, Loria this offseason paid for a private jet with first-class seats for the whole team (the Marlins chartered on United last season), hired an assistant hitting coach for the first time (Lenny Harris), hired a chef to make nutritious meals for players, paid a club-record $18 million for draft picks and international amateur players in 2014 and added more than a half dozen employees on the scouting and administrative side.

General manager Dan Jennings said full-time scouts were hired in Mexico and Colombia in the past year and the Marlins now have scouts in every Latin American country.

### Unlike with Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins failed to strike long-term deals with outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, who rejected multiyear offers but cannot be free agents until after 2019.

Yelich was open to it, had the money been higher: “I’m honored to be approached with something like that. I feel like we’re going to be good for a long time and it would be nice to be a part of it.”

Meanwhile, Ozuna said agent Scott Boras advised him to reject it: “He thought I should wait. I’m young.”    

### Mark D'Onofrio said sophomore defensive tackle Anthony Moten has taken "a big leap." Moten has been getting a lot of first-team defensive tackle snaps.

### Trent Harris and Ufomba Kamalu continue to take first-team snaps at defensive end for UM, with     Al Quadin Muhammad, Demetrius Jackson and Chad Thomas behind them. It would be surprising if Muhammad or Thomas doesn't emerge as a starter.... Jamal Carter and Dallas Crawford have been sharing first-team safety reps opposite Deon Bush.

### Please see last night's post for a lot more Dolphins and Canes, plus Heat... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

February 26, 2015

Thursday night: Chatter on Wallace, Fins RBs, Beasley, Jagr; J.T.'s thoughts; Canes add player for 2015

News and notes on a Thursday evening: 

### Though the Dolphins insist there's no decision, a lot of NFL people believe the Dolphins will move on from Mike Wallace, who appears resistant to a pay cut.

“Not surprising; he’s a proud guy,” one NFL source said.

That means unless the Dolphins surprisingly decide to keep him, Wallace would stand to be the latest high-end talent who isn’t a conformist to be jettisoned by Joe Philbin.

At his charity golf tournament last week, Jason Taylor shared an interesting perspective when I asked him whether Philbin would be wise to embrace more flamboyant personalities: 

“Some guys want everyone to fall in line and hold hands and walk in a straight line,” Taylor said. “I like guys that can be disruptive on the field. Sometimes you are going to have personalities that come along with that….

“Often times those guys that have a little edge to them are great for the team. They push each other, keep the waters going. Calm water isn’t always great. You don’t need turds but you need guys that can ruffle feathers a little bit.”

Quick aside: It’s impressive to see what Taylor and Alonzo Mourning have continued to do with their philanthrophic efforts since retiring.

Taylor --- whose foundation raises money to improve the lives of children --- would like to see the Dolphins address linebacker and cornerback but said: “I like a lot of things about the team. I love
the quarterback. There’s not a whole lot of guys in this league I would take over Tannehill. I’m very confident you can win with Ryan Tannehill. You can definitely win a championship with him.”

### On the running back front, the Dolphins will consider a multiyear deal with Lamar Miller later this offseason (not definite, but on the table as a possibility); very much like Damien Williams; have been non-committal with free agent Daniel Thomas; and gave no indication they want to keep LaMichael James.

### Michael Beasley today became the first player to have three different stints with the Heat. Miami, just $1.4 million below the tax threshold, now appears unlikely to use its $2.65 million disabled player exception by the March 10 deadline.

Bill Walker and Beasley --- former Kansas State teammates on 10-day contracts --- won’t push the Heat over the threshold.

### Among players who played in half their team’s games last season, Beasley was 44th in points per 48 minutes (25.2), ahead of Klay Thompson, Tim Duncan, Chris Bosh and others. He was the only one in the top 50 who hadn't been in the NBA this season (before today).

A Heat person said there were concerns last season with his defense, consistency and maturity/focus (improved but room for growth), but Bosh’s injury made Miami interested in a 10-day deal. And the Heat has always liked his offense.

### Beasley met with Pat Riley on Wednesday before Miami committed to signing him. The Heat believes the experience in China helped him.

“It’s like I never left, honestly. I feel great,” he said today after joining the team for a voluntary practice in New Orleans. “I’m definitely blessed and humbled to have another opportunity.”

### Josh McRoberts’ agent said he has heard nothing to change the projection that he will miss the season after knee surgery. But the Heat this week wouldn’t rule out a return.

### Pompano Beach Blanche Ely cornerback Terrance Henley is a late addition to this UM recruiting class, according to Canesport.com. Henley received an offer today after getting the required SAT score. Henley, whose other offers were from Tennessee State and James Madison, had 13 interceptions over the past two seasons.

Henley’s addition is another strong sign that disgruntled cornerback Antonio Crawford won’t return. Crawford has said he’s transferring, but UM isn’t removing his name from the roster in the unlikely event he has a change of heart.

### University School sophomore cornerback Al Blades Jr., son of the deceased UM great, committed to UM this week. Al Blades was killed in a car accident in 2003.

 ### UM people have been raving about two newcomers: tight end Jerome Washington and safety Jaquan Johnson.

“Jerome is really gifted, as we thought,” Al Golden said. “Doing a great job with his hands. Real physical presence. [And] Jaquan is all business. He’s got a chance to be really good.”

### Among goal scorers, Jaromir Jagr today became the biggest name in Panthers history since Pavel Bure. Jagr, acquired from New Jersey for second- and third-round picks, had 11 goals and 18 assists this season and ranks sixth all-time in NHL goals.

Jagr, 43, who was unhappy with his ice time with the Devils, is obviously past his prime but still can make a difference.

“We’re elated,” GM Dale Tallon told Panthers TV voice Steve Goldstein. “It’s great for our franchise. Everyone will ask us about the age but this guy is the finest fit athlete in the league. Nobody works harder. A dominant player still. I’m hopeful he will mentor young guys and help us offensively in the last 20 games. This is a statement for us. This sends a message to our fans and our players that we’re committed and will do what it takes to win. [Owners] Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu said go for it. He’s going to help us on the power play. We have a big forward line now. It will be tough to knock us off the puck.”

Tallon has expressed interest in possibly re-signing him this summer. “I hope a couple more years for him, because he’s willing and able to do it,” Tallon said. “He likes the makeup of our team, the direction we’re headed and he likes our young players.”

The Panthers entered tonight three points out of the eighth playoff spot.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz