The offseason has begun for the Miami Dolphins. There's work to do, folks.
There is no time like the preseason to begin getting a plan in place for improving in 2015. I hope the Dolphins are eager and serious about such a plan.
I would lead the outline for my offseason improvement plan with these five points:
1. Get a new defensive coordinator. It has been five days since the Dolphins completed an epic defensive collapse to finish this season. They allowed 28, 41, 35 and 37 points in the final four games, thus losing three of those. The defense gave up last-minute or fourth-quarter leads in losses to Green Bay, Denver and Detroit. It doesn't end there. Two years after drafting him with the No. 3 overall pick, the Dolphins still don't have a solid plan for using Dion Jordan that everyone is confident about. The linebacker experiments from last year failed because Koa Misi proved incapable of staying in the lineup, Phillip Wheeler didn't settle in or improve as a weakside linebacker and, it turns out, backup Jelani Jenkins was good as a starter but the only reason anyone found out is because the decision to play him was taken out of the coaching staff's hands when Dannell Ellerbe went out for the season. This unit is rudderless. That must change.
2. Help Ryan Tannehill help the Dolphins. Tannehill proved in 2014 that he continues to improve at a more than satisfactory pace. And that good news might only be made better if someone puts a good offensive line in front of him. Tannehill has been sacked more than any NFL quarterback the past two years. The offensive line was a disaster in 2013 and only slightly better in 2014. But last season was important in that the Dolphins identified three benchmark offensive line pieces in Branden Albert at left tackle, Mike Pouncey back at center where he wants to be and plays better, and Ja'Wuan James at right tackle. So this offseason demands the Dolphins add two high-caliber guards. I'm not talking cheap rummage sale guards in free agency. I'm not talking desperation June signings that no one else wants. I'm not talking career backups or experiments that Miami inexplicably believes will go from lumps of coal to diamonds. I'm not talking sixth or seventh round picks from Astonia Tech that will never see the field next season. The Dolphins travelled that road last offseason and it failed. I'm talking investing dollars or important draft picks in worthy starters that will solve the problem once and for all. And solving the problem will make your quarterback better, which will make your offense better, which will make the entire team better.
3. Addressing the cornerback spot -- again. Jimmy Johnson used to say you can never have enough cornerbacks. Cornerbacks, cornerbacks, cornerbacks. And that was before the NFL turned into the passing league it is today. The Dolphins need at least one quality cornerback who can make the cutting of Cortland Finnegan this offseason a smart move. I don't know how Finnegan, representing himself, convinced the Dolphins to give him a two-year $11 million deal but that mistake has to be erased this offseason either by cutting Finnegan or forcing him to take a pay cut. Finnegan counts $6.475 million against the cap as it currently stands. Sorry, he's not that good and the Dolphins need the cap space. If he wants to play for an incentive laden $1 million (vet minimum) deal and the promise he can compete for a starting job, great. If not ... Repair that bad contract and replace an overpriced player. By the way, I do not count on either Jamar Taylor or Will Davis. Maybe they turn into something starting next year. But Taylor has durability issues based on his first two years and when he did get on the field he wasn't exactly Deion Sanders. Davis, a great person, has to get stronger to compete consistently in the NFL. He hasn't done it his first two years. So the Dolphins have to go cornerback shopping, folks.
4. Address other bad contracts. The Dolphins have half-a-dozen contracts that are head scratchers in that they pay high but the return on the investment is not good enough. So capologist Dawn Aponte, empowered by the plans of GM Dennis Hickey, must get busy on correcting these bad contracts. Which ones? Well, the cap hit for Dannell Ellerbe is scheduled to be $9.85 million. Sir, take a pay cut or you are cut. The cap hit for Randy Starks is $6 million. Pay cut, please. The cap hit for Brian Hartline is $7.35 million. That needs renegotiation because it's too high. Nate Garner is at $1.85 million. He's a third-string backup. We don't pay $2 million for third string. Brandon Fields's cap number is at $3.9 million in 2015. He's a punter. Coming off a subpar year. Much work to be done on this front.
5. Make a decision on Mike Wallace. Since his season-ending troubles in which he told Miami's receiver coach and then coach Joe Philbin he didn't want to play unless he got the football (Wallace denies this which to me is also troubling) the case for and against Wallace is difficult to litigate. This is not the first time Wallace has been upset or pouted. But he remains a supreme talent. So going into Year 3 of his contract the decision must be made to get totally committed or break ties before the draft. The current road is unsustainable. So this is what I do: I call in Ryan Tannehill and Wallace. It is a mandatory meeting. And I tell them, you guys are the dynamic players on this offense but strangely you have no chemistry between you. Get chemistry, dang it! Get to a field somewhere in the country and work every day on deep and intermediate patterns at game speed. Take an hour, run 10-15 patterns, go to lunch. Talk to each other. Do this five days a week for a month. Also, go to dinner once a week, no excuses. If you survive this terrible regimen, we'll go forward. If you cannot, if somebody finds excuses to be absent, if somebody has a hang nail, if somebody's tummy hurts even one day, somebody is getting cut and we'll go in another direction. Peyton Manning every year texts his wide receivers and they show up at Duke to work out on their own. Tom Brady works with his guys in California. Drew Brees works with his guys. Wallace is counting $12 million against the cap in 2015. I don't think this is asking a lot. And if he balks, we know what to do next. By the way, the fact that the people involved (Tannehill and Wallace themselves) have not done this before, like last year, says something. The fact they probably won't come up with the idea on their own this year says something. And everything being said is bad.