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65 posts from March 2013

March 12, 2013

Dolphins to cut Karlos Dansby

The Miami Dolphins are parting ways with middle linebacker Karlos Dansby, according to a club source.

The team informed agent Todd France that his client would be waived this afternoon. The move to sign younger, cheaper Dannell Ellerbe from the Baltimore Ravens led to this move.

I explained the salary cap ramifications of this move in the last post.

But what you have to know is te team saved $3.9 million in cap space by cutting Dansby. The Dolphins apparently gauged interest in Dansby on the trade market but there was none of note.

By the way, aside from being a cap move, the reason Dansby is gone is his play didn't produce the kind of game-changing plays the Dolphins wanted or expected when he came to the team in 2010 as an unrestricted free agent addition.

In addition, Dansby irked head coach Joe Philbin on a couple of occassions  by openly criticizing the team's handling of the Chad Johnson cut and also by announcing he was playing with a torn biceps muscle after the Dolphins asked him not to speak about the injury.

Philbin discussed the issues with Dansby but it apparently left the coach at least wondering if Dansby was a fit.

If Dansby has been a better player, the issues with Philbin might have been forgotten. He wasn't so they were amplified.

Dansby, 31, led the Dolphins with 133 tackles. He had nine tackles for loss but he neither caused nor recovered any fumbles and did not intercept any passes.

This move takes into account the player Dansby is today, but also next year when he'll be 32 years old and costing $11.575 million against the cap.

Instead the Dolphins will carry $4.6 million in dead money for cutting Dansby this year and another $2.3 million in dead money next year.


Dolphins reach agreement with Dannell Ellerbe ... good-bye Karlos Dansby

The Dolphins have added up-and-coming linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to the fold, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun and that raises interesting questions for the Dolphins.

Terms of the deal have not been announced but it is unlikely Ellerbe agreed to a deal that would make him a backup.

[Update: I'm told the deal is for five years and $34.75 million. That is starter money.]

So yes, it is good the team is adding younger, faster, players with playmaking potential.

But ... The Dolphins have a solid linebacker corps in Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett and Koa Misi.

So is one of them on the outs?

Salguero answer: You betcha!

It won't be Misi. Even if the team moves him to defensive end he remains on the team.

The same would not be said if the Dolphins plan to play Ellerbe in the middle of their defense, which is where he made his mark with Baltimore.

Ellerbe had 92 tackles and 4.5 sacks for the Ravens in 2012. He's only 27 years old.

That seems to make Dansby expendable if the Dolphins wish to save money as well as cap space. Dansby is scheduled to cost Miami $8.575 million in cap space in 2013. If the club cuts him, it can save $6.05 million in cash and $3.925 million in cap space.

The club would also save $9 million in cash next year because that is what Dansby would be scheduled to make in base salary. Dansby's cap number in 2014 is scheduled to be $11.575 million.

The Dolphins might also ask Dansby to take a paycut, but that's also doubtful.


If Dansby, 31, is on the outs, it shows the dangers of unrestricted free agency. He came to the Dolphins in 2010 as the savior of the defense. He came the same year that Brandon Marshall came as the savior of the offense.

Marshall has since been traded. Dansby might be on the outs.

I suppose the Dolphins could decide Burnett is expendable in favor of Ellerbe. This is less likely because Ellerbe doesn't play strongside linebacker. But this also lead to a cap savings. If the Dolphins dump Burnett, they would save $3.2 million against the cap and $4.35 million in actual cash this year.

Again, this is the lesser likelihood.

It is possible the Dolphins are trying to get younger, cheaper and have someone that made plays for the Ravens last year when pressed into service.


Mike Wallace is a Miami Dolphin

MIke Wallace and the Dolphins have agreed to a five-year contract that will pay him between $60 and $65 million if he meets all its incentives.

The contract includes a substantial amount of guaranteed money. Although that figure is not yet known, it will be approximately $30 million.

Wallace will be the third-highest paid wide receiver in the NFL behind Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, according to a person familiar with the deal.

The contract is not yet signed. Indeed, the Dolphins are privately denying that it is done. But Wallace is in South Florida and taking a physical and could sign the deal if he passes, as expected. He will sign the deal this evening.

The Dolphins have been making press conference plans but that will likely happen Wednesday.

Wallace is the deep-threat receiver the Dolphins have lacked since Jeff Ireland became the general manager. Frankly, the Dolphins haven't had a similar deep-threat weapon since Irving Fryar played for the team in the mid 1990s.

The Dolphins are not finished revamping their offense, and specifically their passing game.

The club is deep into negotiation for bringing former Tennessee tight end Jared Cook to the team. Cook is the seam-threat player the team wanted but could get from Michael Egnew and Charles Clay.

Cook, however, is also negotiating with the St. Louis Rams.

Interestingly, Rams free agent wide receiver Brandon Gibson remains an option in Miami, particularly if Cook does not sign. The Herald's Adam Beasley is reporting Gibson will visit the New York Jets.

Free agency kicks off and Wallace has the ball

The so-called free agency War Room at the Dolphins training facility has been buzzing much of the day, according to a source who has seen the activity. And much of the buzz and anticipation has been surrounding the Dolphins making a fast and bold dive into free agency by landing you know who.

Mike Wallace.

Barring a major upset that the Dolphins are not expecting but still not 100 percent certain cannot happen at the last moment, the club expects to land the Pittsburgh Steelers free agent wide receiver by Wednesday the latest.

There has been contact between the Dolphins and Wallace for days.

That contact is supposed to be bear fruit starting now.

The Dolphins and Wallace's representative have been talking about a $5-year deal throughout that time. The deal will likely reach $60 million. Wallace wants more. Guaranteed money is an issue.

Wallace wants $30 million in guaranteed money per source familiar with the talks.

No, this is quite done yet.

Stay here for updates.

[UDPATE: Reggie Bush's departure from the Dolphins has begun with him setting up visits. First visit will be Detroit. I'd be surprised if it doesn't get done there, but there is also a chance he could visit Arizona. Bush already knows he will get somewhere north of $3 million per season.]

[UPDATE: The Dolphins are juggling as they are showing interest in Titans TE Jared Cook. The Titans have moved on from Cook as they are expecting to sign San Francisco's Delanie Walker. Cook will be expensive.]

[UPDATE: TE Anthony Fasano has agreed to a four-year contract in principle with the Kansas City Chiefs, according to ESPN. I'm happy for him because that'll be a good upgrade for the Chiefs and it means the Dolphins will be upgrading, or at least making moves to upgrade that position.]

[UPDATE: Chris Clemons is signing a one-year deal with the Dolphins, according to agent Drew Rosenhaus.]

[UPDATE: Left tackle Jake Long will visit the St. Louis Rams, according to ESPN and NFL.com]

[UPDATE: Dolphins showed interest in Rashard Mendenhall but that has cooled a bit. He's already setting up visits with other teams ahead of Miami.]

What Wallace brings and what that's worth

So what is Mike Wallace worth to the Dolphins?

That's a question the Dolphins have been trying to answer for weeks since they identified Wallace as first a possible, then a likely, then a full-fledged must-have addition to the team.

We'll have an answer within 24-48 hours as free agency kicks off at 4 p.m. this afternoon and that signals the mad dash to get Burnell Michael Wallace II to put his name on a Miami Dolphins contract.

The deal is not done, contrary to a report yesterday. Indeed, after that "report" reared its head, I texted multiple team sources to see if it was true. "LOL the media," is one answer I got, which made fun of the report and reporter.

But if (I emphasize if because nothing is done until it is done) the Dolphins do land Wallace, what are they likely to pay and what are they likely to get for the price?

Let's start with performance. Remember that Nick Saban was fond of saying that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. And the best predictor of future production is past production.

In the last two seasons, Mike Wallace has provided the Pittsburgh Steelers an average of 68 catches per season for 1,014 yards and eight touchdowns.

Unimpressed are you?

Well, consider that the Dolphins as a team threw 13 touchdowns passes in 2012 and suddenly those eight TDs per year from Wallace are looking mighty valuable.

Now, how did Wallace come by those numbers?

There is a theory afoot that Wallace benefitted greatly from the fact Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is a champion of keeping plays alive and thus giving Wallace more time to get deep, get open and get the ball for explosive scores.

There is, admittedly, something to that. There's no denying Roethlisberger had something to do with Wallace's success and if the wide receiver's next quarterback doesn't play as well as Roethlisberger has, Wallace's statistics are likely to decline.

But ...

Notice that Wallace averaged eight touchdowns the past two seasons and averaged eight touchdowns over his career, as well. The player is nothing if not consistent in that regard. And that must therefore take into account that Roethlisberger missed games last year and Wallace still produced.

I also must point out that the Steelers' offensive line has been leaking sacks and hurries the last couple of years. That team has been unable to produce either a consistent running game or been exceedingly good in pass protection. So yes, Roethlisberger is a magician keeping plays alive but that's because he has to be.

A less magical quarterback with a solid offensive line providing decent time to throw can accomplish the same results, assuming the QB has good vision downfield and is accurate.

So production is not, or should not be a question mark for this prospective free agent wide receiver.

That begs the question how high will the market allow Wallace's price to go?

Remember that Dwayne Bowe recently signed a five-year, $56 million deal with $20 million guaranteed. That averages $11.2 million per season and surpasses the five-year, $55 million deal Vincent Jackson signed last year with Tampa Bay on a yearly average basis. Jackson's deal averages out to $11 million per season.

But's it's not just the overall money and average that are important. Indeed, the guaranteed money is the key.

Jackson received $26 million in guaranteed money. I believe that is the figure Wallace wants to beat along with the per year average.

I would expect Mike Wallace will get a five-year deal from whatever team he signs with and he'll be shooting for $12 million per season, as I've reported before. Depending on whether there is competition or not for Wallace will determine if Wallace hits that $12 million per year but he will certainly reach at least $11.5 million per year.

And that $57.5 to $60 million contract must come with between $27 to $30 million in guaranteed money.

Whopping numbers, to be sure.

But, barring new factors being uncovered between now and 4 p.m., that's going to be the cost of adding 8 TDs and 1,014 yards to Miami's passing offense. That's going to be the vicinity for signing Mike Wallace.

March 11, 2013

Smith, Long not necessarily gone from Dolphins

The assumption relative to the Dolphins and free agency is that Mike Wallace will be coming and several players will be leaving. Well, that might not be fully the case.

Prospective free agent cornerback Sean Smith isn't a certainty to leave, a league source tells The Herald's Adam Beasley. And prospective free agent left tackle Jake Long isn't a certainty to leave, a league source tells me.

Meanwhile, you know I've reported Reggie Bush is pretty much gone and that is still the expected course.

[Update: Detroit is interested and the Bengals may join the fray, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.]

So let's retrace:

Agent David Canter, who represents Smith, is said to be negotiating with multiple teams. And as the last time Canter was juggling teams his client Paul Soliai picked a return to the Dolphins for less money -- even as Canter had him set to get on a plane to visit another team -- it opens the door that Smith is still in play -- particularly since a source is saying as much.

For Long, the Dolphins want him back. But they don't want to back the Brinks truck to his front lawn. And Long wants that Brinks truck visit. So the market will  determine his worth. If the market for Long is as cold as has been reported in some sectors, including profootballtalk.com, then the Dolphins will be in the hunt.

[Update: Tampa Bay is among the teams interested in Smith.]

If the market for Long is as rich as he hopes and believes, then he's likely gone because the Dolphins will be outbid for a player with an injury history the past two seasons.

The answers will likely come quickly starting at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Dolphins interested in Rashard Mendenhall

The Dolphins will obviously add a running back to compete if Reggie Bush is allowed to walk in free agency as I've reported. Bottom line, they need more bodies because Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, Jonas Gray and Marcus Thigpen aren't enough bodies to take to training camp.

And a competition between Miller and Thomas for the starting job seems less that inspiring because Miller seems to clearly be the better back.

But Rashard Mendenhall to the Dolphins?

Well, that's the buzz going around the NFL as voiced most loudly by NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah on his twitter feed over the weekend. Jeremiah, a former NFL scout, obviously has connections around the league so he's as credible as most.

But Rashard Mendenhall to the Dolphins?

Apparently the Dolphins are eyeing more than one prospective Steelers free agent. Obviously the Dolphins cannot sign Mendenhall until 4 p.m. on Tuesday when unrestricted free agency's signing period begins. So we're talking interest in the abstract right now.

But Mendenhall is an interesting guy.

Yes, he has loads of talent. Yes, he is a load himself at 5-10 and 225 pounds. Yes, he is very fast, having clocked in the 4.4s coming out of college. He was even fast enough to be Pittsburgh's kickoff return man earlier in his career.

Mendenhall, 25, also has two 1,000-yard seasons to his credit, those coming in 2009 and 2010.

But Mendenhall is something of an enigma and 2012 was a disaster for many reasons.

In January 2012 he suffered a torn ACL injury to a knee and had to spend his entire offseason rehabilitating the injury. Unlike Adrian Peterson who recovered from a similar injury like a champion, Mendenhall languished and simply wasn't the same player.

He not only played only six games but languished by gaining 3.6 yards per carry. And when coaches didn't think he was trying very hard, they deactivated him for a game against San Diego. Well, Mendenhall didn't bother to show up for that tilt. And so he was suspended for the next game against Dallas.

Mendenhall also stirred some controversy in May 2011 when he got on twitter and chided Americans for celebrating the killing of Osama bin Laden. One of his tweets seemed to suggest he didn't blame bin Laden for 9-11 by raising the possibility of a conspiracy theory.

Mendenhall tried to walk back his position by first tweeting he was just trying to stir conversation and then apologized outright through the Steelers. But Champion Sporting Goods dropped Mendenhall from an endorsement deal.

Mendenhall's, cough, interesting history, diminished production, and Pittsburgh's difficult salary cap situation are undoubtedly reasons the Steelers haven't re-signed the player. That the Dolphins are reportedly interested in Mendenhall -- something I've not idenpendently confirmed -- might be yet another example of the paradigm shift the team is undergoing in its approach to free agency.

The Denver Broncos are also reportedly interested in Mendenhall.

March 10, 2013

Dolphins officially interested in Wallace, but ...

The Miami Dolphins have done what everyone expected them to do during this free agency signing period and have officially shown interest in prospective Pittsburgh Steelers free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace. (That is now fact).

So, as I write in my column in Sunday's Miami Herald, the question is no longer whether the Dolphins actually want Mike Wallace. We're past that.

The question now is whether the Dolphins can land Mike Wallace?

I have no tangible information what it will take. Presumably a deal for Wallace is going to hit at least $12 million a year. And presumably, it will be done sometime next week. (That part is speculation).

More facts, you say?

Well, check the column because it discusses how the Dolphins have shifted their approach this free agency -- at least somewhat. Let's just say that their interest in 36-year-old Charles Woodson is significant because it shows the team is more willing to expand its search for talent.

Older guys are not out of bounds any more as long as they offer significant talent.

By the way, because it will take a good amount of money to sign Wallace and eventually a good amount of the salary cap you should know the Dolphins are at approximately $30.5 million in available cap space.

And, as many of you come to this blog or follow me on twitter to ask my opinion, I tell you exactly what I think of Miami's chances of getting Wallace ... in the column.


March 09, 2013

Market for Reggie Bush is strong

The market for Reggie Bush is a good one, with multiple teams showing significant interest in the prospective free agent running back.

A source very close to Bush tells me three teams have been talking to Bush agent Joel Segal and that money involved in those talks is significant. The source would provide no details of the money or name the teams but it is clear the interest in Bush isn't just of the making-a-call variety.

The source is, however, telling me the Dolphins are not one of those teams.

Indeed, the source is saying Reggie Bush categorically will not be back in Miami.

Segal has not been available for comment. (Neither have most agents, by the way).

The idea that the Dolphins aren't working to bring Bush back is not unexpected. The club showed zero interest in doing a contract with him during the 2012 season and had only lukewarm interest recently.

The Dolphins expect to address their soon-to-be vacant running back position by giving Lamar Miller (first) and Daniel Thomas (second) the opportunity to win the job. The club might also add a running back either in free agency or the draft.

Bush gained 986 yards on 227 carries (4.3 yards per carry) last season. He scored six touchdowns on the ground and was also the team's fourth-leading pass catcher with 35 receptions for 292 yards and 2 TDs.

It was Bush's second season with Miami. It was also Bush's final season with Miami.

Mike Wallace getting interest from teams (no surprise)

While Dolphins fans have been debating the pros and cons of adding the major talent and major salary burden Mike Wallace brings, it is clear teams around the NFL don't need to weigh such issues.

They like Wallace.

And that's why, according to a league source, I'm told multiple teams are showing interest in Wallace and it started "well before midnight," meaning the time teams are officially allowed to make overtures to Wallace's agent.

Then there is this:

An NFL agent which I trust but does not represent Wallace told me early Saturday that he has it on good authority the New England Patriots are one of the teams showing some interest in the prospective Pittsburgh Steelers free agent.

Let that marinate for a moment.

You may recall I included the Patriots on the list of teams that could potentially be interested in signing him. This despite the fact the Patriots have not previously been prone to making splashy free agency moves.

Now, before you commit violence against yourself or the computer screen, understand the perspective here. Showing interest does not mean a contract is imminent. It doesn't not even mean\ a contract is being discussed. It might be just a phone call to gauge Wallace's interest and feel him out.

So this is only initial.

As to the Dolphins interest, I cannot confirm that officially. The club has locked up tightly. The club has also told agents not to speak with the Miami media or disclose information to the Miami media.

But I would be very, very, very surprised if the Dolphins also weren't one of those teams that at minimum are showing interest in Mike Wallace.

No free agent contracts for Dolphins at midnight

It's midnight and it is now officially allowable under NFL guidelines for clubs to begin calling agents of prospective free agents from other teams. Yes, teams can continue to sign their own prospective free agents, but the activity with other unrestricted free agents is limited to merely conversations.

There will be no contracts signed until March 12 at 4 p.m. Indeed, the NFL sent a memo to all 32 teams on Friday to make sure they understand that even a sourced media report of a contract agreement -- either implied or express -- is out of bounds.

"Any announcement of an agreement or an agreement in principle by a club or another party, including, but not limited to, a certified agent, player, or media organization may subject the club to a tampering investigation," the NFL letter obtained by The Miami Herald reads.

The NFL is allowing communication but that seems to be the only thing that is allowed. Free agency does not begin until Tuesday.

This also from the NFL:

"Beginning at 12 midnight and ending at 3:59:59 p.m. (all times Eastern) Tuesday, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents upon the expiration of their 2012 player contracts at 4 p.m. Tuesday.  However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4 p.m. Tuesday.

"Clubs (other than the player's current club) may not discuss or make any travel arrangements with prospective unrestricted free-agent players, their certified agents or anyone else associated with the player until the expiration of those players' 2012 player contracts at 4 p.m. Tuesday."

The Dolphins did take modest advantage of the ability to have their own free agents in for visits. The club had doctors examine Jake Long on Friday, presumably to confirm a YahooSports.com report that had Dr. James Andrews saying Long is recovering well and is one month from being 100 percent following his surgery to repair his torn left triceps.

Remember that Long also tore his right bicep in 2011 so I expect that was checked out as well.

This is not routine. It's obvious the Dolphins still value Long and could be preparing one more offer to the prospective free agent before March 12. I'm told no new such offer has been made at this time.

The club also might be willing to respond to an offer Long gets on the open market if it meets Miami's financial criteria. In that case, the Dolphins would be effectively letting another team negotiate the Long contract for them.

It's all a long shot. The more likely scenario is Long hits free agency and gets a big offer from another team. But the Dolphins are confident they have a good value set for Long and the market will bear that out.

The market for players cut prior to free agency, most likely as salary cap casualties, does not have to adhere by the unrestricted free agency rules. Those street free agents can sign anytime. To that, the Kansas City Chiefs reach a deal with former Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson, according to ESPN.

Dolphins fallout?

Well, if Sean Smith's rumored flirtations with the Chiefs -- the ones circulated by former teammate Vontae Davis on twitter and denied by Smith on twitter -- are true, Smith might have one less suitor in free agency. Philadelphia is a team expected to kick the tires on Smith but the cornerback market is saturated so we'll see.

[Update: Looks like Vontae broke this story! NFL.com is reporting Smith and the Chiefs are talking.]

[Update: The Miami Herald's Adam Beasley is reporting between "three and five teams" are showing interest in Smith.]

By the way, Miami's plan continues to be to make calls on multiple free agents including Mike Wallace, Greg Jennings and others. Not all the calls will lead to contracts or even negotiations.

And, as the NFL is mandating, no contracts will be signed until Tuesday the earliest.

March 08, 2013

Moore, Hartline, Starks for Jake Long money

Money matters in the NFL.

Players want as much of it as possible -- and rightfully so. Teams want to horde as much of it as possible-- and rightfully so.

Interestingly, fans often side with players they like or follow and root for more than the teams and are upset when teams let good players walk. Last year, Texans fans were upset Mario Williams was allowed to leave via free agency and right tackle Eric Winston was cut.

In the coming days, many Pittsburgh Steelers fans will be unhappy if Mike Wallace leaves the team, as expected.

And I'm hearing many Dolphins fans, some on this very site, bemoaning the possibility Jake Long will be allowed to walk via free agency because he's been a good player.

Well, the reason let players you like walk is because they make priorities of other players. And sometimes quantity is just as important as quality.

Consider that Long initially considered himself "highest-paid NFL left tackle material" and wanted to maintain his $11 million per year salary he's enjoyed recently if not get a raise. That would have put Long in the $11-$12 million per year salary range.

Then consider what the Dolphins have done the past week on the contract front. They tied up Randy Starks with a one-year $8.45 million franchise tag. They tied up backup QB Matt Moore for a reported $8 million over two years. They re-signed No. 2 wide receiver Brian Hartline for $30.8 million over five years.

That's a total of $47.25 million.

If the Dolphins had met Long's intial contract desires, they would have paid him between $44-$48 million for four years or $55-$60 million for five years.

So the Dolphins got Hartline, Moore, and Starks tied up this year and in Hartline's and Moore's case, for multiple years, for the same money they might have gotten for Long alone.

Obviously, some fans will believe that would have been alright for the right to keep a starting albeit declining left tackle. Some fans will be upset if Long walks.

The Dolphins are happy with what they've done.

“I am excited that we have been able to reach an agreement with both Brian and Matt to keep them as members of the Miami Dolphins,” said Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland. “Brian is an ascending player that has steadily improved over his first four years with the organization. He has represented himself positively both on the field and throughout the South Florida community. Matt has been a valuable contributor to the Dolphins ever since he arrived two seasons ago. We are happy we were able to resign him, and we think he combines with Ryan Tannehill and Pat Devlin to give us an outstanding group of quarterbacks."

I believe it wise the Dolphins are likely to let Long test the market. I definitely don't think the guy is worth even $11 million per season. Not when you can get multiple good players for that price."

Report: Matt Moore to remain with Dolphins

Matt Moore wanted a chance to compete for a starting quarterback job so he intended to test free agency.

Well, so much for good intentions.

Moore is staying with the Dolphins, as their backup and with the understanding he will not be the starter barring bad circumstances after he agreed to a contract with Miami late Thursday evening, according to NFL.com.

No numbers for the deal have been reported by reporter Jeff Darlington, who broke the original story, or The Miami Herald. But it is believed the deal will include escalator clauses should Moore somehow rise to the role of starting quarterback -- either as a result of injury or poor play by starter Ryan Tannehill.

[Update: Darlington reports the deal is two years for $8 million. It'll be interesting to see if that is all real money without playtime incentives, etc. ]

Let's face it, Moore isn't on the team to start. He's a solid backup. He's great in the locker room. He's a great sounding board and advisor to the younger, less experienced Tannehill.

“He’s a valued member of the football team," coach Joe Philbin said of Moore late last season. "He’s an outstanding locker room guy. (He) played extremely well the game that he was called upon to play in. He’s a dependable guy and he’s been a joy to have on the team."

If the reported money is accurate (agents sometimes inflate contract values) then Moore is getting a good deal for a backup player.

But there is a feeling he might have been in line to compete for a starting job somewhere. Well, to that there is this:

I would assume one reason Moore is returning is he had no clear or obvious path to a starting job elsewhere. If his agent is any good, he spoke to multiple teams that might need quarterbacks about Moore. Had the response been enthusiastic about Moore getting a chance to compete, I'm sure the quarterback wouldn't have re-signed with Miami before free agency even began.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, have been busy. Free agency has not begun but they've already locked down a starting defensive tackle by franchising Randy Starks, a No. 2 wide receiver in Brian Hartline, and their backup quarterback in Moore.

The club still has holes or questions at the two tackle spots, both cornerback spots, No. 1 wide receiver, one safety spot, and tight end -- a point I make in the previous post.


A look at the available unrestricted tight ends

First the news: The Miami  Herald learned late Thursday that Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline will remain Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline as he has agreed to a five-year, $30.8 million contract with the Dolphins. The deal has $12.5 million in guaranteed money. So one wide receiver down but the Dolphins need more help for their passing game this offseason. Speaking of which:

The Dolphins need to upgrade their tight end position. Have I mentioned that a few thousand times in this space? Have I said it enough to get my point across?

Good tight end play is a quarterback-savior. Good tight end play is a red zone headache for the defense and a helpmate to the offense. Good tight end play is a matchup problem all over the field. Good tight end play is no longer a luxury in today's NFL.

It is a necessity.

And the Dolphins have had mostly average tight end play for way too long.

Don't misunderstand. Anthony Fasano is a smart, hard-nosed, try-hard player. He's a good blocker and able pass receiver. But he's not an elite player. He's not even a player New England coach Bill Belichick worries about stopping when he's forging a game plan to play Miami. Indeed, Fasano is the guy Belichick wants the ball to go to in the Dolphins pass offense because it means the weapons are being erased from the game.

Fasano is an unrestricted free agent. I assume the Dolphins will re-sign him or try. Why re-sign a merely solid player at a position that needs upgrade?

Well, the guys behind Fasano haven't been good enough to take his job and the folks the Dolphins might consider signing come with significant questions.

First consider Miami's history at adding tight end behind Fasano:

Charles Clay. He has little production but at least he's got unmet potential.

Jeron Mastrud. He tries hard.

Will Yeatman. His best career move was becoming an offensive lineman.

Mickey Shuler. Not his dad, unfortunately.

Joey Haynos. Tall. That's all.

Kory Sperry. One-TD wonder.

John Nalbone. Bust.

Michael Egnew. Not holding my breath.

Let's face it, the Dolphins haven't had a whole lot of luck finding great tight ends of late. But as unrestricted free agency is about to dawn over the weekend with the chance for teams to speak with agents representing all the league's available players, this is a good time to discuss the possibility that Miami's luck changes.

This coming free agency period actually offers a possible fit or two for the Dolphins that might deliver modest upgrade. (Honestly, I'd look more to the draft if I were the Dolphins, but one cannot discount the possibility Miami may dive into free agency to address the position.)

There are a dozen or so unrestricted free agents about to come to market barring them signing last-minute deals with their current teams. Here are some followed by my thoughts on them:

Tony Gonzalez: He's retiring and if he doesn't he's returning to the Falcons. Simple as that.

Ben Watson: Might have made mild sense five years ago but not now.

Martellus Bennett: Very, very intriguing. He has all the measurables -- 6-6, 270 pounds, runs well, strong. And he had a good season with the Giants. But his 55 catches for 626 yards was also his best NFL season. And he wants to get paid. I don't mind players wanting to be paid for their historic production and potential ahead. But when a player that has one good year wants to get paid, that worries me. The Titans might be suitors. I cannot say I'm sold if the price is going to be the $6-$7 million per year I've heard tossed around.

Dustin Keller: He's almost exclusively a pass-catcher. He's 6-2 and 250 pounds and has been something of a security blanket for Mark Sanchez. The Jets would like to keep him, but they're not moving heaven and earth to do it right now. They're letting him test the market. He's coming off an injury-riddled season so that raises questions. He's going to be 29 so that's not an issue. Yes, adding him subtracts from the Jets. But I'm not sure how significant that is in the grand scheme of things.

Delanie Walker: I don't like him. He drops way too many passes. He's only 6-foot. He is a product of a great system, great coaching and great complementary talent, in my view. Put him on the Dolphins and he does not beat out Fasano. He would be better than Charles Clay, but that's not the goal, I don't believe.

Dallas Clark: Only if Peyton Manning comes with. And he's not.

Jared Cook: He fancies himself a receiver and wanted to be franchise tagged as such by the Titans because he often lined up in the slot. The Titans decided not to wage that fight and so they didn't tag him and he's likely going to hit the market. Oh, and he also wants to get paid. The rumored orbit is $8-$10 million per year. The Rams, where former coach Jeff Fisher now works, are said to be interested. Dolphins fans are also interested. I'd be interested too if the price wasn't so sky high.

Fake GM Salguero advice: Draft a tight end. Or pray Green Bay's Jermichael Finley is released.


March 07, 2013

Dolphins have eyes on Cyprien, Tourek Williams

Last week I guess I went on something of a mini blog rant about how the Dolphins need to do a better job of identifying, scouting and picking up local college talent because it's embarrassing when other NFL teams come into Miami's backyard and find nuggets the Dolphins missed.

Well, I'm happy to report the Dolphins are at least taking steps toward making sure that doesn't happen this year. Today at the Florida International University and University of Miami Pro Days in Southwest Miami and Coral Gables, the Dolphins were out in full force.

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland attended both Pro Days. He and New England coach Bill Belichick were the only GM or coach types that did that, apparently.

The Dolphins had five people at FIU and they had their eyes set on safety Jonathan Cyprien and DE Tourek Williams -- two undervalued but solid prospects.

Cyprien, the better known of the two, has flown up draft boards since the Senior Bowl. He did nothing to stop that rise as he reportedly ran the 40 in 4.5 twice. He benched 225 pounds 18 times. He showed he has the measurables to go with a solid tape.

Williams was also quite impressive, if not moreso. He ran the 40 in 4.6 seconds on some watches at 253 pounds.


I frankly don't know enough about this player. So I suppose I will do what other NFL teams might be doing. They're checking the tape of him because that's a freakish time for that size man.

Defensive back Junior Mertile was the fastest player at the Pro Day. He ran a 4.3 time on some stopwatches. According to FIU reporter Pete Pelegrin, the Dolphins also administered a Wonderlic test to the player.

ESPN: Dolphins calling about Charles Woodson

A few weeks ago the Green Bay Packers cut safety Charles Woodson, a likely future Hall of Fame candidate, in order to clear salary cap space.

That made Woodson a free agent able to sign with any team he likes. Now ESPN's Josina Anderson is reporting that multiple teams have inquired about Woodson -- including the Miami Dolphins.

Citing NFL sources, Anderson says the Seahawks, Jets, Dolphins, and Giants have called to discuss Woodson as a possible addition.


I reached out to the Dolphins to ask if there is interest in Woodson and the reaction I got was like, "huh?"

Seriously. That was the text I got. It wasn't a denial, but neither did it seem like the Dolphins are fully in on the idea of adding Woodson.

Nonetheless, assuming the report is accurate -- and I must say Anderson is a crack reporter -- the Dolphins showing any interest in Woodson is a little out of character.

[Update: The report is accurate. Another Dolphins person is saying the Dolphins have called about Woodson.]

[Update 2: Now I'm told by someone else with the team the interest level in Woodson is "moderate."] 

Yes, Woodson played the last seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers after joining the team as an unrestricted fee agent. Yes, Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin was in Green Bay for six of those years as an offensive assistant.

But Woodson will be 37 years old in October. And everything the team has told me about its free agency approach includes the idea of adding young players in the prime of their careers that will be able to contribute for years to come. So I'd understand this if Woodson was 27 rather than going on 37.

There's also the matter of Woodson's health. He missed all but seven games last season with a broken collarbone. And did I mention he's going to be 37?

Nonetheless, the Dolphins do need help at safety. Chris Clemons is an unrestricted free agent. More importantly, Miami desperately needs a playmaker in the defensive backfield and Woodson is all that -- with 26 interceptions in the last five seasons. He also forced 12 fumbles during that span.

But there is a rub: 

Anderson tweeted she spoke with Woodson's agent Carl Poston and related this:

"Agent Carl Poston to me on Charles Woodson: 'I talked to Charles Woodson yesterday and we're discussing possible upcoming visits. There are a number of teams that have expressed interest in him. He is still interested in playing for a contender.'

Alrightie then.

Then why is he talking with the Dolphins?

The Dolphins are not today a contender for any type of championship. Sorry if that offends your fan sensibilities, but that's the truth. The club has had four consecutive non-playoff, losing seasons. The team has multiple needs. The quarterback has not yet proven he's elite. The team plays in the same division as the New England Patriots. And the last time the teams met, the Patriots dismantled the Dolphins in a season they swept the Dolphins and won five more games than Miami.

So if Woodson, who has said he wants to win another Super Bowl, is picking teams based on that, he might want to eliminate both the Dolphins and Jets from that group Anderson relayed.

But I guess anything is possible. (Not really).


Interest in Eric Winston makes sense for Dolphins

When Eric Winston was released by the Houston Texans last year he visited the Dolphins and that made sense because the club was looking for a good right tackle to replace Turnstile Colombo. Ultimately Winston didn't sign with the Dolphins because, in my opinion, his price was too high for the team and the Chiefs paid him closer to what he was looking for.

But that flirtation is important because he we are, one year later, and once again Eric Winston is looking for a team and once again the Dolphins are seemingly in the market for a starting right tackle.

Remember that I presented several scenarios by which the Dolphins could address their right tackle need in the coming days and weeks in a previous post. I say right tackle, because if one assumes Jonathan Martin moves to left tackle then that creates a need at RT.

Well, we can now add Winston as a possible solution.

And all this is good for Miami.

Understand that Winston was cut by the Chiefs because of money and that team's grand opportunity to upgrade the offensive line while paying less for the opportunity. The Chiefs signed Branden Albert to their franchise tag this year and can draft an outstanding tackle prospect with their first overall pick. So cutting Winston saved $3.5 million in cap space and over $5.5 million in actual cash for the franchise that can turn around and use its first pick on a very, very good, younger, cheaper player.

But it's not as if Winston, 29, played poorly last year. He yielded three sacks the entire season and was rated the No. 9 right tackle in the NFL by profootballfocus.com. The site also cited him as an undervalued player on the Chiefs -- in other words, he played better than his cap number.

That makes him a top 10 NFL right tackle.

Considering that there is a glut of right tackles about to hit the market -- including New England's Sebastian Vollmer and Minnesota's Phil Loadholt -- I'm not certain Winston is going to break the bank. Yes, he will have suitors. There is a report that the Eagles have interest in him.

But break the bank?

Don't see it.

Add to that the fact the Dolphins are in a much better salary cap situation now than last year, and it can be assumed they can get closer to signing Winston this year than last year if they wish.

I see that as the two sides being able to move closer to each other if they like. Financially, the addition of the former University of Miami standout to the Dolphins roster can make sense. It obviously makes sense from a mutual need standpoint.

The remaining question is if it makes sense from a scheme standpoint.

I think it does. Remember the Dolphins use primarily a zone blocking scheme up front. That's exactly the type of approach the Houston Texans use and used while Winston was there and the first six years of his career.

It makes sense for the Dolphins to at least show interest in Winston -- again.

March 06, 2013

Potential suitors for Wallace (of which he'll have several)

Everyone knows Mike Wallace is the No. 1 free agent wide receiver that will come available on March 12. And by know everyone also knows the Dolphins will make Wallace their top free agent priority starting March 9 when teams and agents can begin talking without concern about tampering issues. I feel like I've been saying that for months now.

I reported on Feb. 12 to anyone who would listen that Miami would speak to both Wallace and receiver Greg Jennings. Wallace is the priority and Jennings is among the fallback options.

But as none of these things is a secret, particularly the part about Wallace being the top available free agent receiver on the market, you should know that he'll have other suitors. There is no doubt about that.

First, it is his agent Bus Cook's job to get other teams interested in Wallace. And, as his illustrious history suggests, he will do his job well.

Second, Wallace is a rare combination of production, youth, and no character red flags in a league that values deep-threat and playmaking ability on offense secondly perhaps only to top-flight quarterback play.

So, again, there will be a market of multiple teams vying for Mike Wallace. (The Dolphins understand this and I suppose that's one reason they have a fallback plan in Jennings if Wallace lands elsewhere).

But where?

Indeed, the only team that has been publicly connected to Wallace is the Dolphins. I assume Dolphins staffers that read this blog regularly will cringe at that last line. The Dolphins don't love having their business plans known when no other team's plans are quite so public.

Well, allow me to remove the veil from some of the other teams that might be in on the Mike Wallace sweepstakes:

This list is taken in order of teams that could be mutually interested in and interesting to Wallace.

1. Indianapolis Colts: Surprised? You shouldn't be. The Colts had a fine passing game last year with the steady improvement of rookie quarterback Andrew Luck and the sudden grasp at stardom by South Florida product T.Y. Hilton. Add to the that the veteran quality of Reggie Wayne and you have a solid core for a passing game. But ... Wayne is 34 and will be 35 in November. He's not going to play forever. And the Colts, while good at throwing the football, can certainly be better with a 27-year-old (in August) Wallace that would help make that passing offense formidable. By the way, the Dolphins are thrilled they will have approximately $36.5 million in cap space to pursue Wallace. It's the fourth most cap space in the NFL, not counting the likely re-signing of Brian Hartline. Well, Indianapolis has an estimated $43.5 million in cap space, which is the third most of any NFL team.

2. Seattle Seahawks: They surprised everyone because rookie quarterback Russell Wilson burst onto the scene and turned them into a playoff team. But it happened while the club had obvious need to improve on the outside as witnessed by the fact the offense was 27th in the NFL in passing. That's lower than the 26th-ranked Dolphins. I grant you, Sidney Rice is a good player and Golden Tate is improving. But Sidney Rice and Mike Wallace with Tate in the slot? Much better. The Seahawks don't have the same kind of cap space that either Miami or Indy do. They have approximately $17 million. But they have something that is invaluable: Moxie, aggressiveness and a belief that they must improve significantly to overtake the San Francisco 49ers.

3. Minnesota Vikings: The Dolphins privately see them as a significant threat. Their passing game is aching for a playmaker because Percy Harvin's status is uncertain and even with Harvin in the fold, the offense was pedestrian last year through the air, ranking 31st out of 32 teams. The problem for the Vikings, however, might not be their eagerness to get Wallace but rather Wallace's eagerness to go to Minny. Of the three teams I've already mentioned as possible suitors for Wallace, which has a worse quarterback situation than Minnesota? Answer: None. The Vikings' Christian Ponder is considered a solid game-manager. Yes, his stats were better than Ryan Tannehill's. But most NFL people would allow that Tannehill has better upside potential. The Vikings do have things in their favor, no doubt. They play on turf and indoors. They have a great, great player in Adrian Peterson and he can be used not only as an enticement but as a recruiter. And they did make the playoffs last season. But with $15 million of cap space today, are they one wide receiver away from being a Super Bowl contender? That's a question they will have address internally.

4. Houston Texans: Wallace would love to play there. It's closer to his home turf than most other teams. The Texans are clearly a very good team. Andre Johnson would be a great, great, great player to have in the same huddle. And the Texans need to upgrade at WR. But the problem is the Texans have constraints. They are only $7 million under the cap. They have other players such as Connor Barwin and Glover Quin that are free agents but they want back. It's a stretch -- a dangerous one for everyone else if the Texans pull the trigger.

5. New England Patriots: A Dolphins' fan nightmare, I know. The Patriots have great quarterback play, have great seam threats in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and they clearly need a deep threat because Gronkowski led the team with a 14.4 yard per catch average among players with more than 10 catches. The Patriots also have enough cap space with $25 million. They have the urgency with Tom Brady turning 36 in August, and they too have the moxie. Remember, this is the team that added Aqib Talib when no one else was really interested. This is the team that traded for Randy Moss in 2007. There is also little doubt they can pitch to Wallace that he'll be close to playing for a Super Bowl ring every year he's on the team -- something most of the other teams can say, but probably not as believably. Still, adding a super high-priced player while other players, including Wes Welker and Sebastian Vollmer, are unsigned would be a major gamble. The Patriots might decide picking Tavon Austin at the bottom of the first round might be a more cost-effective move.

6. Cincinnati: The Bengals have been to the playoffs the past two seasons and gone one-and-done. The reason is clearly that quarterback Andy Dalton is solid but not great. He's not elite. So how does one upgrade the passing game that already has outstanding wide receiver A.J. Green? I suppose you can add Wallace and turn this into the most dangerous receiver duo in the NFL. Sounds good, right? Meh. The Bengals have players they need to lock up in free agency including offensive tackle Andre Smith and linebacker Rey Maualuga. Still, the Bengals have the second-most cap space of any NFL team with $45.2 million. So they can try for Wallace. If they wish.

7. Cleveland: They have $46.6 million in cap space, which is the most in the NFL. They have a great need for a playmaker. I suppose they have a desire to stick it to the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, for which Wallace has played. But ... They don't have a quarterback. They don't have any sort of organizational stability, as they just hired a new coach and general manager (again). And they don't have a prayer unless they intend to vastly overpay.

Sleeper? San Diego has only $7 million in cap space and seems to be in rebuild mode with a new coach and general manager. But the Chargers have Phillip Rivers and a need to reverse the trend of steadily losing talent, particularly of the playmaking variety on offense.

The scramble begins March 9. 

Polian on Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings

Former four-time NFL Executive of the Year Bill Polian got on a conference with the media this week and the ESPN analyst gave his opinion about varying issues regarding free agency and the draft.

One point he made is that when he was with the Colts, the team studied the success rate of free agency and came away with the idea that 50 percent of free agents are successes and, obviously, 50 percent do not succeed with their new teams.

Polian has no idea which player will fall into what specific category but he judging by what he said about receiver Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings, one gets the feeling he likes the Pittsburgh player over the Green Bay veteran.

"The question of Wallace is that he is the guy who meets all of the parameters that you'd like," Polian said. "He is productive. He has great speed, which is always something that is desirable in a receiver.  He falls within the reasonable age parameters and he hasn't had a high history of injury.

"When you look at all of the things that you use to try to decide whether or not you want to pursue a player, he checks every box with few question marks. There was some issue as to how effective his hands were this year. I don't think it was a major issue, so there you have it. We'll see where the market goes. He's not 6'2" and 220 pounds, so that may be a consideration for some teams.

"But, in terms of the red flags that would cause you to turn away, he doesn't have many.  He's a guy that most people will feel is pretty desirable but, again only the market will tell. This is in many ways like an IPO. There is a lot of discussion, there is a lot of analysis, but only the market will tell you whether it's going to go or not."

And Jennings? Is he worth the $10 million per season he is reportedly shooting for in free agency? And is he even a No. 1 receiver anymore?

"Well, worth is in the eye of the beholder," Polian said. "He's got two things that sort of mitigate against a huge contract:  One is an injury history and the other is that he's 30 years of age and relief receivers, and I would categorize him as one, tend to begin to turn down at about 33 or 34.

"So, how long a contract do you give him, and what is his potential to continue to play at a high level, given the injury and age history?  Each individual club has its own individual metrics that would tell them that, and so I think that that's where it's going to go. I'm as anxious as you are to see who may step up for him.

"But there are two concerns.  There are clubs, we were one of them, that said if a guy's 27 years of age or above, we're probably not going to go for a long-term deal at big money. But if you feel you're one quality receiver away and the physical exam turns out to be okay, you might do it.  Again, that is what makes free agency interesting."

March 05, 2013

Bowe deal helps set wide receiver market quite high

The wide receiver market is apparently set.

It happened Monday when the Kansas City Chiefs signed Dwayne Bowe to a contract that profootballtalk.com reports is worth $56 million over five years. That's an $11.2 million per season average and that includes $26 million in guaranteed money.

That's now the starting point for a top 5 receiver considered to be a team's No. 1 pass option.

It is also happening at the Dolphins practice facility and South Florida as the agent Drew Rosenhaus and the Dolphins are negotiating a new deal for wide receiver Brian Hartline. Hartline wants to stay in Miami. General manager Jeff Ireland holds him in high regard and wants to keep him.

And as I wrote Monday on this blog, the price point is $6 million per year on average. That's apparently what a good No. 2 wide receiver will cost in this market.

And so the market is set.

Why is this important?

Well, because if you've been paying attention you understand the Dolphins aren't done shopping. They will chase Mike Wallace in free agency. They will chase Mike Wallace in free agency. Here, let me say it one more time as I've been saying it since January, the Dolphins will chase Mike Wallace in free agency.

His agent will argue that Bowe's deal was something of a hometown discount done with one team and no other suitors. Wallace will have multiple suitors.

So Mike Wallace will cost more than what Dwayne Bowe cost the Chiefs. He considers himself a top 5 wide receiver in the NFL and because so many teams need a guy with his skill set, somebody is bound to agree with that assessment.

That means the Dolphins must be prepared to climb the money mountain well past the $11.2 million per year plateau to get Wallace. And they must be prepared to not only make him one of the NFL's highest-paid receivers, but also the club's highest paid player.

Obviously this deal won't reach the top of the mountain set by Calvin Johnson ($18 million per year) or Larry Fitzgerald ($16 million per year) but Wallace's deal will conservatively come in around $12-$13 million per year when this is all done.

(Peanut gallery: But Mando, that's too expensive for the Dolphins. They only have $36-$38 million in salary cap space and about $5 million of that must be held in reserve for the draft.)

Thank you, gallery. But the Dolphins have plenty of cap space to afford Wallace.

To understand that you have to look at the breakdown of Bowe's contract. His salary cap cost for 2013, for example, will be $4 million. His cap cost for 2014 will be $12 million. His cap cost for 2015 will be $14 million and his cap cost the final two years of his deal will come in at $13 million unless the team does something different.

Looking at this example, you see that a contract similar to Bowe's would easily fit within the Miami cap structure in 2013. A $4 million cap hit is nothing. Dimitri Patterson is slated to cost the Dolphins $4.6 million against the cap in 2013 and he is unproven in Miami. Karlos Dansby and Randy Starks will cost the Dolphins twice that amount against the cap and I assure you they will not score 6-10 TDs per season as Wallace might.

So the first-year cost is not only acceptable but inviting.

Obviously, the real hit comes after the first year. Wallace would be Miami's most costly player against the cap. But again, comparing to Miami's cap structure, it fits because the quarterback is still cheap, the $12 million hit you accepted for carrying Jake Long is no longer on the books, and Starks won't be carrying that $8.45 million cap charge from the franchise tag next year.

I will say this: Assuming the talks yield a deal with Hartline as the present arc of negotiations are heading, the Dolphins are likely to add only one more expensive wide receiver. The idea of re-signing Hartline and adding both Wallace and Greg Jennings (who will fall somewhere between Hartline and Wallace on a per season basis) is likely out of the question.

The Dolphins are expected to speak to Jennings, but he would be a fallback position if the Dolphins cannot land Wallace. He wouldn't come in addition to Wallace and Hartline unless the Dolphins are willing to go on the cheap for everything else.

Back to the point: The issue of adding Mike Wallace this year is moot if you're worried whether the Dolphins have enough cap space. They have more than enough with plenty left over to do other business.

But it will get expensive down the road. That apparently is the price of doing business in free agency.