« Crowder's deal shows both sides moved | Main | Fins sign Wilson to 5-year deal [UPDATE 2] »

Dilemmas connected with signing Jason Brown

As the clock ticks inexorably toward the midnight hour Thursday and free agency gets set to begin, the Dolphins are faced with something of a dilemma on a couple of fronts.

One person close to Brown, the Baltimore Ravens center who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at midnight Friday, told me Wednesday evening the player knows he will draw interest from the Dolphins, Redskins, and possibly Jacksonville if he isn't re-signed by the Ravens.

And, the person said, although Brown would like to return to Baltimore, he understands that may not be possible.

So the Dolphins have definitely shown interest in whatever manner teams do it without breaking the NFL mandate against tampering. And they are likely to find themselves in some sort of bidding battle with Washington, possibly Jacksonville, and other teams.

The brings me to Miami's first dilemma. Do the Dolphins go all out to keep from being outbid for perhaps the best young offensive lineman left in free agency or do they follow their unstated policy of doing sound, fair, but unspectacular free agent deals?

If Miami is intent on following policy, it would not surprise if Washington gets Brown because owner Daniel Snyder's deep pockets and aggressive reputation toward getting players is no joke. It doesn't always work for the Redskins, but they typically land players they really want.

So what is Miami's second dilemma? Well it seems Brown, who started at center all 16 games in 2008, wants to be paid like a guard. He started 28 games in 2006 and 2007 at left guard. Why is that Brown's stance?

Because guards make more money than centers for some reason God only knows. Last year, the guard market was set by free agent Alan Faneca who signed a five-year contract worth $40 million with the Jets. The contract included $21 million in guarantees. Do the math. The standard for top NFL guards now is $8 million per season.

The best contract ever signed by an NFL center was signed by Jeff Faine when he put his John Hitchcock (yes, I know) on a six-year deal worth $37.5 million. That deal included $15 million in guarantees and if you do the math that comes out to $6.25 million.

Obviously, Brown's agent wants his client paid closer to $8 million per year and not $6.25 million so he's shooting for a guard contract. But the Dolphins need a center and so that is a point that requires negotiation.

I would assume the teams' stances would be that Brown is not worth $8 million per year because, in fact, he is not a Pro Bowl player as Faneca is and, in fact, is not a guard like Faneca is. So maybe they pay him more than Faine but less than Faneca. Somewhere in the $7 million annual average range, maybe.

But that still creates an issue for the Dolphins because of their salary structure. Remember the Dolphins just signed right tackle Vernon Carey to a deal that has been reported at six years and $42 million. I have not independently confirmed those numbers and, in fact, numbers filed with the NFL Players Association show the deal as a five-year contract. But I digress.

The point is the right tackle is averaging $7 million per season, if the reports are correct. So how can the Dolphins justify spending the same or more than that on a center or guard, particularly when both signings come in the same year?

It is an intriguing situation the Dolphins face. I suspect the situation will have an outcome by the time the weekend is over.