« February 20, 2013 | Main | February 22, 2013 »

3 posts from February 21, 2013

February 21, 2013

The Jeff Ireland press conference right here

As you know, Jeff Ireland spoke to the media today. It'll be the last time he speaks to the media until free agency.

This is everything he said:

(On if having so many picks in the draft changes his approach to the combine) – “It doesn’t change too much, we brought every single person in the building. So we have eyes on every single player at the combine, we brought 55 personnel and coaches to the Combine, so we’ve got a lot of eyes on a lot of different guys so it really doesn’t change the process. We are trying to prioritize who we are looking at, what we are looking at, this is an information gathering process. No firm decisions are made during this time period, we are just gathering all the information in and then we will start analyzing it as the information comes in.”

(On philosophy with the 12th pick, fill a need or best player available, in the 2013 Draft) -  “Its early in the process, but we are going to try to, that’s obviously the first goal you would like to take the best player available, but it depends on what you do in free agency, it depends on some of your needs and depends on what’s there when you take the pick.”

(On taking a player when ‘public perception’ may think it’s a reach) – “Well if history repeats itself, I really don’t care what the public perception is. I care about what my scouts say and what my eyes are telling me. So we have our own evaluations that we go into and sometimes you have a need there, sometimes you have the grade and they have to marry to each other when they do you take the player.”

(On if this a do or die or make or break off season for the Dolphins) – “I would probably say neither of those, I think it’s a very, very important time period for this off-season. We have put a lot into getting into this position, so obviously we are in a position by design and so we plan to use some of the money and plan to draft the best players available if we can and try to address some of the needs and musts that we have on our football team.”

(On how important it is to resign Brian Hartline) – “Well in terms of our free agents, were going to address every player that is a free agent. As it relates to anyone in particular, I am not going to discuss how our negotiations are going at this point, but it is important to get the guys that we are trying to get back, it’s important to get those guys done certainly before the (March) 8th, no doubt about it.”

(On his opinion of the franchise tag and the likelihood of the team using it in 2013) – “Well it’s a resource certainly, and you have to evaluate how negotiations are going with certain particular players, but there are a lot of things that go into the franchise tag. A lot of different opinions, a lot of different aspects of when you use it when you don’t use it, why you use it. So in terms of this year, there is certainly a likelihood that we could use it, but on particular who we haven’t made that decision yet.”

(On how much stock is put into what a player does at the Combine) –“I always say that if you’re doing your job your making decisions based on what they do when they have pads on and so we try to put a grade on them at the end of December and maybe at the end of February that we just got meeting on and that doesn’t change when you get the results from here you just try to analyze what they are. Certainly the higher draft choices you want the ability on the field to marry to the ability in shorts. And certainly the later draft choices in my opinion you are looking for upside so you are looking for very good athletes and some of the things like that, so you are looking for more athletic ability at least that is what I am looking for.”

(On why none of the Dolphins free agents are signed yet) – “Well we are going through a process, I don’t think that we had to get them done on the first of January or there was no date, right now the date that I have in my head is March 9th is to get those guys done before they get into that period. So we have taken on the evaluation of our coaching staff we have been very thorough in that process, finding out what fits and when you have as many of them as we do you just can’t make knee jerk reactions on certain guys and getting certain guys signed. So we have taken a very thorough evaluation, we have met on it many times so this is the time period we are starting to talk to them and get some things done.”

(On if he learned anything new about Joe Philbin that he didn’t know during the hiring process) – “Not really, Joe and I kind of hit it off from the beginning. He is very thorough, he doesn’t get too high, he doesn’t get too low. A very highly organized, got a great thought process involved, so all those things I knew going into his first year and it’s more enhanced now that we have got better communication and we have spent more time together. I think he knows what I am about and I know a little bit more of what he is about so it has been a very good marriage at this point.”

(On if he thinks that he has a mainstay at quarterback in Ryan Tannehill) – “As I have said before, Ryan has got 35, 36 games under his belt as starting quarterback combined from a college and pro career and you would normally like to have 35 games under your belt as a graduating senior, so I think that there is a bunch of upside left in Ryan’s potential and I like what I see so far. I love his intangible makeup, I love his athletic skill set. We have a long way to go, he knows that, but he can get a lot better, I am very confident in that.”

(On how wide he sees the gap between the top team and the rest of the division) –“There is a gap, certainly they have won the division quite a bit, so we have to close that gap. To say that, I think it’s a five game gap right now in wins and losses, so that’s where the gap is. So we have to close that gap and we plan to do our best job, put our best foot forward getting that done this off-season. Now whether we can completely close the gap, we have to get back on the field and close the gap on the field, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to talk about it right now.”

(On what he got out of the Hard Knocks experience and if he would do it again) – “We sat and talked about whether or not we were going to do it or not and Joe I think made the famous statement ‘I don’t think any games are going to be won by doing it and I don’t think any games are going to be lost by doing it’, and I still feel the same way. It was a good experience, those guys are extremely professional people. The days go by and you really don’t really know that they are there, other than the fact that the guy is sitting there with a mic as soon as I open my door in my office. I enjoyed it, it was good exposure for our franchise and again NFL Films and Hard Knocks they do an outstanding job.”

(On using Ryan Tannehill mobility more going forward) – “You are asking the wrong guy, my title is General Manager not Head Coach, so I know he did some of that in college, he had some long runs. Again, I like his athletic skill set, that is one of the reasons we drafted him as high as we did. But how we use him and things like that, that is going to be up to (offensive coordinator) Mike (Sherman) and Joe (Philbin).”

(On his theory or philosophy on how he approaches ‘big-ticket’ free agents as opposed to the less expensive) –“You are always looking for value, and certainly to get production you hope that matches the value for what you are going to get. Everybody wants a bargain, and free agency, if you are going to play in free agency there are not just a ton of bargains out there especially if you are playing at the top of the market. So you just have to feel confident that what you are paying for is what you are getting, and that has always been a philosophy of mine is that the value and the production, the value and the ability and the evaluation, they match and that you are not overpaying for a lesser talented player.”

(On how he compares this year’s draft to past years in terms of difference makers) – “I think there are some difference makers, difference makers I am sure you are referring to maybe some of the skill positions players, but I look at it maybe a little bit differently. I look at difference makers in the offensive line, maybe defensive line, maybe there is a safety out there, so maybe your vision of a difference maker may not be the same. I think there is good depth in the draft, I think in our last meeting we talked about 250 players that we liked a lot, so I think that there is pretty good depth.”

(On how he brings the coaches into a process that he has been working at for months following the end of the season) – “I have always used the saying, ‘scouts help you bring the information to the bridge and without the coaches you can’t cross the bridge.  So you have to have both involved in this evaluation, period.  So again like said we brought our entire coaching staff here.  This is the first time that as General Manager I brought every single person.  Our building is empty right now so, but again, it’s a very critical period for us.  I wanted all eyes on all the players and the mental aspect of the scheme fit is important to us and so we have our coaches talk football with them so we get them involved in that regard.  I think it’s a very important aspect of things.  In terms of the final decision, I mean that’s a collective, it’s a collective process.  Joe and the coordinator and position coach on that particular player, maybe.  We’re going to sit down.  We’re going to watch them together.  If we don’t see it eye to eye then we’ll sit down and we’ll watch the tape together and in trying to get that process right.”

(On if there is any friction between the scouts and the coaches) - “I’ve never really been involved with a lot of friction.  We’re all professionals.  The scouts, we work in professional football and I expect my scouts and I expect my coaches to be professionals in their regard.  No we live in a world where we’re paid for an opinion and so you’re going to have an opinion and you’re going to have an opinion and they don’t always mesh, they don’t always marry.  You like it when they do.  Quite frankly I like when they don’t.  But it creates more debate involved in that and debate is problem solving and that’s ultimately what the head coach and the GM are interested in, charged with as solving problems.”

(On the new aptitude test that is being administered) -“I really don’t know a whole lot about it and they have not given us a lot of information about it, so they’re just going to give us the results and how its being tested. I’m sure it’s early and new and so we’re going to get into it a little bit more.”

(On what the Wonderlic was not providing) -“It’s been used quite a bit and I think there’s maybe some concern that maybe people outside the combine are getting a hold of it possibly.”

(On CBA and the salary cap roll over) - “Well we’ve got good cap space so I like it.  So right now I do anyway. I think that it’s been a positive thing for us.  Being able to, what you don’t spend (is that what you’re talking about.  What you don’t spend in one year you can roll back over the next year?)  I think it’s good because certain things, you know, certain players you’re trying to get done maybe in the current year, you can’t get that person done so you’re going to use that money to do him next year.  So you don’t want that money to go away.  You want to be able to use that process.  And now with the cap not going up is, maybe the 7% and I think teams need all the dollars.”

(On if there is a percentage that he has in mind for his current free agents as well as going after other free agents) -  “I haven’t necessarily look at from a percentage stand point.  We know the guys we want back on our team and we know the guys that we’re going to potentially go after in the market so we’ll maybe analyze it, maybe a little bit different than that.  Right now I think the plan is, it’s a strong plan to try to do a little bit of both and we’ll see where it goes from there.”

(On teams taking a chance on a talented player with character questions) – “Well character and makeup, I’ve talked a lot about it.  Always talked a lot about it, it’s been  part of my philosophy since I was in Dallas.  I certainly like guys that are highly competitive, that can learn.  They’re dependable.  Highly passionate about football.  So that’s always going to be a part of my process of player procurement process and Joe certainly wants those dependable guys in the locker room.  Look, we’re not, there’s going to be guys on our football team that are going to make mistakes and we’re aware of that.  You know moving forward those decisions that were in the past, those weren’t all just character.  There were some other things involved that which I’m not going to get into.  But I’m proud of the team that we’ve assembled.  I’ve got a great, strong locker room.  I think that’s, you it’s youthful, and I think that gives you the best opportunity when you have a good locker room, with good chemistry to continue to grow as a group.”

(On how important it is to bring back players from a continuity standpoint) - “Well I think it’s important to bring back key members of it.  Again, it’s going to be their choice too.  Well they want to come back but it’s a process involved.  And we’re going to try to bring back the guys that we feel like are necessary to bring back to continue moving in the right direction.”

(On if he looks at what guys do with their Twitter feeds) - “It’s something new, for sure.  And I’m not very good at it but I know I have guys on my staff that are very good at it and they follow it and they look at it.  I don’t know how much of the evaluation process that it’s taking in.  Again it’s more information in what they’re saying and maybe there’s a sense of maturity that goes along with being a heavy twitterer, is that right language, heavy twitterer.  My guys on my staff are very good at it.  They follow a lot of college athletes and I think it’s going to be a little bit bigger process as we move forward.”

(On when he started putting more emphasis on Twitter and Social Media) - “Might have been in the last two years for sure that we spent some time talking about it but more or less it’s on the individual scout to really to grind in to what they’re saying and you know we don’t actually pull up their twitter page or anything in a meeting aspect but the individual scout or the national scout or may be even the college director may bring a snippet of information to the process.”

(On if there’s an obligation to sign a big name, high priced free agent) - “You know we’re just trying to help our football team move in the right direction.  I don’t really feel the pressure there has to be a name guy.  If that particular player we thinks going to help our football team move forward and take a big step then if he has a big name, great.  If he helps our football team that’s our first and foremost primary reason why we’re signing the player.”

(On the 3 day window going to change what he does as a team) - “You know I don’t exactly how it’s going to change things.  I don’t know that there’s going to be a lot done in the first 24 hours of that time period.  That’s just a guess.  Some of the bulk of what we can get done needs to happen before that time and so that’s what we’re trying to get done and then that 3 day window is going to be, it’s obviously going to be competitive because of that openness of negotiating.  So but exactly how it’s going to change things I’m not exactly sure yet.”

(On if the first day of the negotiating period is now replacing the first day of free agency) - “Yeah, you could look at it that way.  I mean, you know, you can now exchange papers but you can’t bring the player in.  But then there’s three days of that.  So whatever you give to an agent in the first 24 hours you’ve got 48 hours left to continue doing your work.  So, it’s a sketchy.”

(On if there is a role for Reggie Bush on this team) - “Certainly, certainly, certainly would.  You’d love to have his skill set on the football team.  I mean Reggie has a unique set of skill sets.  He’s been a receiver, he’s been a primary running back.  So I definitely see a role for that type of skill set.”

(On if it’s realistic for Reggie Bush to be an every down back on this team) - “Again, you’re asking the wrong guy for that. That’s a coaching question.”

(On him having to make the contract commitment) -“Yes.   Absolutely.  So we know again, we’ll just have to see how things go.  We’ve got a couple of more days of talking to our own guys and we’ll see how that goes.”

(On Jake Long saying it’s up to the Dolphins now if he would be back) - “Well, you know we’ve talked with Jake.  We’ve talked with his representative as well.  We’ve made our desire to have him back on this football team known.  But that’s a tricky one as I said at the Senior Bowl.  There’s a lot of different things that normally you don’t have in that particular case.  Some of the details I don’t really want to get into, to be honest with you but there’s just a complicated negotiation.  But, you know, so we’ll have to see how things go as well.  I’d love to have it back.  He’s been a pillar for our football team since the day he step on campus and I don’t see that thing changing either if he get him back.”

(On Jake Long’s injury history playing a factor in whether he comes back) - “No.  It’s just something that we look at.  I don’t want to say it’s issue.  I’'s something you look at.  We have more intimate knowledge of his health than probably anybody else so it’s something that we’re aware of.  And not something we have to get over or it’s an issue but something we know about.”

(On the tight end position and how his evaluation of the position has changed) - “No it goes back to what’s being played in college and that position that’s not primarily playing a traditional on the line of scrimmage, hand in the dirt, wide tight end as we would call it.  You got a lot of detached receiver types that fit a tight end body type and so and then then when you play a system that uses a Y in the hand traditional tight end you’re trying to sometimes project that player and projection in business is difficult.  But you don’t have to project the aspect of him being in the slot and running down the middle of the field and maybe getting open from different prospective, but you just have to make sure that player that you’re drafting from the college standpoint, where he plays, marries to the scheme that you’re playing you scheme.  Basically.”

(On the franchise tag and continuity at cornerback) -“Well I think there’s several players that are our current free agents that would be an option for the tag.  I have not ruled out Sean (Smith) as being an option there.  But again, we’ve got several more days left before we have to make that decision.  Pretty good idea where we’re going with it but things could change daily, hourly.  Continuity at the cornerback position always something you’re looking for.  So certainly Sean’s an option and maybe if we do use the tag, you know that’s for continuity reasons and then obviously you know having him back on the team would be certainly I would like to do as well.”

(On how important is having Randy Starks back) - “Well it’s very important to have Randy back if we could get it done.  I’m not really worried about where we’re playing (Jared) Odrick or the fact of the matter is we have a very good defensive line and keeping that in tack is a focus of mine.  It’s a strength, continue to build the strength is a focus of mine.  I don’t want to let that strength become just average.  I like where it’s at and keeping that a main stay is important to me.”

(On how much he would like to have Matt Moore back)  - “Well again Matt, there’s a lot of reasons why you’d want Matt back on your football team.  Matt’s been an outstanding teammate.  Been a good mentor for Ryan.  He was excellent when Chad (Henne) and him were in the room last year.  So there’s a lot of things of why you would want him back in the football team.  So, again, like every other free agent we’ve talked about there’s a process in place and you know they are all great character guys and it’s a business decision we have some tough decisions to make but again, I wish I could have them all back but I’m going to be disappointed and maybe possibly one of those guys are going to be disappointed if this doesn’t get done.”

(On bringing back experienced corners and how it affects the Sean Smith negotiations) - “We have some guys, I don’t know where you see a leverage or not, we have a guy that was injured and two guys that were injured that ended up one didn’t finish the season and one we end of claiming, Dimitri (Patterson).  So Sean started almost every single game he’s been since 2008.  Having that continuity back with Sean is important but we’ll have to see how that thing goes.”

(On talks if talks with Sean Smith have been optimistic) - “I guess optimistic.  We had a meeting the other day and I left it optimistic, but, still a long way to go with that one.”

Jeff Ireland: Use of franchise tag 'a likelihood'

There's been much talk of the Dolphins potentially using their franchise tag designation on one of their own unrestricted free agents. Well, this morning Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said that potential is quite real.

"There's certainly a likelihood we could use it," Ireland said in talking about the issue at the NFL Combine.

The Dolphins have several candidates to use it on -- Randy Starks and Jake Long among them. Several media outlets have reported Sean Smith would be tagged. I've reported he will not be tagged. Ireland addressed tagging several players as possibilities in only general terms and gave no indication which specific player he would tag if necessary.

(Understand, it makes sense for Ireland to threaten every player with the tag to induce them to sign a multi-year deal, which is more cap friendly for the Dolphins. He has no intetion on using the tag on certain players but if they are convinced it is a possibility, they might be willing to do a deal that gets them more guaranteed money but also gives the team a lower cap number. Ireland would be dumb to tip his hand and eliminate anyone from the possibility.)

Ireland was asked about the apparent slow pace of negotiations between the Dolphins and their own players. Well, Ireland says he's not been in a hurry to get deals done because he has a deadline in his head for doing that and that time is not yet.

"The date that I have in my head is March 9," Ireland said.

March 9 is the first day free agents can begin talking to teams other than the ones they played for last season. Until then, there is supposed to be no "tampering" or communication between teams and the potential free agents from other teams.

(Yeah, right.)

Anyway, Ireland says the Dolphins have formulated a plan for re-sign certain players and chasing others starting March 12 when free agency kicks off. 

"We know the guys we want back and we know the guys we will potentially go after," he said. "It's a strong plan to do a little bit of both."

The Dolphins want Jake Long back. As I've reported previously, they have made at least two contract offers. Ireland confirmed the club wants Long back after his presser.

The Dolphins are clearly moving toward Lamar Miller as their lead back next year. But Ireland suggested Reggie Bush could return (sources say only for the "right" price) and play more of a role in the passing game.

The idea is to help the Dolphins get better because they've posted records of 7-9, 7-9, 6-10, and 7-9 the past three seasons while the New England Patriots have been to two Super Bowls and the playoffs each year. The idea is to close that gap.

"There's a gap," Ireland said. "We've got to close that gap and we plan to do our best job getting that done."

The draft will follow free agency and that is perhaps more important to Miami -- a team with five picks in the first three rounds and nine picks overall.

Ireland quipped that the team brought every person in the organization to Indianapolis to get "eyes on every single player at the Combine." That's upwards of 50-plus Dolphins people in Indianapolis.

 "I think there are some difference-makers," Ireland said of the draft talent before adding he likes several offensive and defensive linemen and thinks there are good safeties available as well.


Injury to Milliner might be lucky for Dolphins

Sometimes it's just good to be, well, lucky.

In 2011, for instance, the Indianapolis Colts were awful and their Patron Saint Manning was seemingly done as an NFL quarterback. So they stunk. A lot. And they earned the dubious distinction of the draft's first overall selectiion.

Luckily, that stinkage happened to precede a draft in which Andrew Luck was available as the first overall pick. Stinky Colts pick Luck. Stinky Colts stop stinking and go to the playoffs in 2012.

Luck. In more ways than one.

The Dolphins have not often been so, shall we say, lucky. They had the No. 1 overall pick in 2008. No Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III in that draft. They had the second overall selection in 2005. Terrible draft. They took Ronnie Brown, who was serviceable but never a star.

Not lucky.

But on Thursday the Dolphins might have gotten a small, tiny slice of lucky.

The team that needs help at cornerback learned, as did the other 31 teams, that Dee Milliner, considered the best CB prospect in the coming draft has a torn labrum that will require surgery after the combine. The Alabama product will still work at the combine but will not participate in the Alabama Pro Day.

One of his reps told ESPN that Milliner should be ready to go for the start of training camp in July, which by the way, suggests he'll miss all the summer camps rookies typically participate in.

So why is that lucky?

Well, Milliner was expected to go in the top five picks of the draft based on his ability and team needs. But what if this injury/surgery red flag causes him to fall a bit to ... say .... to No. 12 and the Miami Dolphins?

No, there's no guarantee. Milliner runs well at the combine, team doctors suggest he can easily recover, his stock remains high. Indeed, the fact he played well with the injury last year might signal an added reason to like the kid.

Then the Dolphins will be looking at guys like Xavier Rhodes of FSU or John Banks of Mississippi State. But what if the stock slips and now Milliner is there at No. 12?

That would be lucky.

And aren't the Dolphins due for some of that?

[BLOG NOTE: GM Jeff Ireland will speak at the combine around 11:30ish today (and say nothing). But as it is the job of this blog to keep you atop the developments, circle back here to check the update on what he says.]