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Heat loses out on Caron Butler; Incognito seeks help; Examining UM spring subplots, position switch; Hickey/Fins notes

Friday morning update: The Heat has lost out in the competition for free agent swingman Caron Butler. Butler has decided to sign with Oklahoma City, his agent told me this morning.

Butler, who was averaging 11 points in 34 games, will have a chance to get more playing time with OKC, and that was the determining factor. In Miami, he might only have played when there was foul trouble, injuries or when Dwyane Wade or LeBron James were rested in the Heat's maintanance program. Butler loves the Heat organization but ultimately didn't know what role he would serve here or how the Heat would create minutes for him.

The Heat would have welcomed Butler back, and several players (including buddy and former teammate Dwyane Wade) would have loved a reunion. 

But Miami does not feel any overwhelming urgency to add another veteran because it already has several capable veterans who aren't getting playing time.

The Heat will continue to monitor the waiver wire. Players who have played in the NBA this season must be released by Saturday to be playoff eligible elsewhere. That rule does not apply to players who have not played in the NBA this season.

Among others who could become available are Charlotte Hornets guard Ben Gordon, who continues to work on a buyout. Guard Stephen Jackson also remains available.

In addition to Butler, the Heat also spoke to Granger, but he opted to sign with the Clippers, with San Antonio also receiving strong consideration.

So though Miami remains an appealing destination for veterans, the Heat's impressive depth -- and the opportunities for more playing time on other contenders --- has clearly worked against Miami in this current round of buyouts.

## According to NFL Network and TMZ, soon-to-be-former Dolphins guard Richie Incognito -- who bashed his own Ferrari with a baseball bat this week -- has sought professional help and checked himself into an Arizona facility. Incognito has been under a lot of stress in recent weeks, clearly.

Presumably before he entered the facility, a Fox reporter in Phoenix went to his home to ask him about the Ferrari incident. Incognito posed for a picture sitting on the hood of the car and told the reporter: "Oh that was that was just me venting, that was self expression, that’s a piece of art. The happiest day of my life was when I got that car and now the second happiest day will be when I donate it to charity. The Ferrari is a story unto itself, the Ferrari is one entity, but I will tell you this the Ferrari is going to be for sale through my mission which is helping the brotherhood, whatever brotherhood it is.”

Incognito did not say why he was "venting."

### UM announced today that it will unveil new football uniforms later this spring.




Intriguing issues, beyond the quarterback job, percolate as UM spring practice opens Saturday. Among them:

### Outlook at running back. In a surprising development, a UM spokesperson said Thursday that Dallas Crawford --– who had the team's second-most carries last season --– is shifting to defensive back, with safety his most likely landing spot.

With Duke Johnson and ballyhooed early arrival Joseph Yearby out for the spring because of injuries, that leaves UM with four healthy backs: Gus Edwards (305 yards, 5.6 per carry last season), Walter Tucker (redshirted in 2013), former walk-on DeAndre Johnson (the former Iowa scholarship player who had five rushes for 21 carries for UM last season) and Norland walk-on Quincy Casimir.

Al Golden is not talking to the media until Saturday, and UM didn’t give a reason for moving Crawford, who averaged 4.2 yards per carry last season. But it strongly suggests Miami expects Edwards and Yearby to get nearly all of the carries behind Johnson in 2014. Tucker likely will play fullback.

Departing running back Eduardo Clements said Edwards “has to trust his blocks and his eyes more.”

One concern: Edwards runs upright at times “and when you run like that, it’s tough to learn not to do it,” Clements said. But “he’s going to become a power back.”

Yearby “will be the second-best running back on the team” next season, recruiting analyst Charles Fishbein predicted. “He’ll give you the same things Duke Johnson does.”

### What early arrivals will make a case to play? Four-star offensive tackle KC McDermott potentially can stake a claim to the starting right tackle job. “It wouldn’t surprise me if KC starts every game in his career at Miami,” Fishbein said.

Other early arrivals: Yearby and receiver Braxton Berrios (both sidelined this spring with injuries); defensive tackle Calvin Heurteleu (a junior college transfer who figures to get playing time immediately); offensive tackle Trevor Darling (a potential starter down the road), defensive end Trent Harris (14 sacks in 2013; good run defender who picked UM over FSU, Alabama and Ohio State), linebackers Juwon Young and Darrion Owens (Owens can play safety, if needed) and Ryan Mayes, who enters behind at least five returning cornerbacks.

 ### Settling on an offensive line: Seantrel Henderson and Brandon Linder are NFL-bound, and Malcolm Bunche transferred to UCLA. UM feels very good about Ereck Flowers (left tackle), Shane McDermott (center) and Jon Feliciano (left guard).

K.C. McDermott and guard Danny Isidora will have every chance to win starting jobs on the right side, and Sonny Odogwu and Taylor Gadbois will push for time.

 ### Gaining clarity at defensive tackle: With the departures of Curtis Porter, Luther Robinson and Justin Renfrow, three-quarters of the top-four tackle rotation could be newcomers, if summer arrivals Anthony Moten and Michael Wyche join Heurtelou and incumbent Olsen Pierre in the two-deep depth chart.

Wyche, a junior college transfer, is expected to play a lot, and “we’ll expect Moten to compete from Day 1,” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said. “Getting him was huge. He’s 298 right now. He’ll have a great opportunity.”

The four defensive tackle newcomers –-- including three-star Courtel Jenkins –-- will compete with disappointing Earl Moore, Corey King and Jelani Hamilton for time at tackle alongside Pierre. Ufomba Kamalu can play tackle but showed promise at defensive end in November.

### Sorting out linebacker, aside from Denzel Perryman: This group must improve significantly. UM believes Alex Figueroa, whose freshman season was cut short by injury, is ready for a major role; he has the skill set to be a more complete player than incumbent Thurston Armbrister. Raphael Kirby, expected to replace departing inside linebacker Jimmy Gaines, too often has been out of position, and that must change.

D’Onofrio expects undersized Jermaine Grace to assume a role at inside linebacker on third downs, replacing departed Tyrone Cornelius. Pompano Beach Ely inside linebacker Terry McCray (19 sacks as a senior) could play immediately if he impresses when he arrives this summer. So could early-enrollee Young, who had 118 tackles, three sacks and four forced fumbles as a high school senior in Albany, Ga; he can play all three linebacker positions.

And UM needs either Al Quadin Muhammad or Tyriq McCord to develop into more than pass-rush specialists, potentially as outside linebackers when Miami uses a 3-4, or Muhammad as a 4-3 end when UM plays that scheme.

Muhammad, whose only freshman sacks were against Savannah State, said he didn’t play nearly as well as he hoped last season. Among early arrivals, freshmen Harris and Owens also will compete at outside linebacker, with highly-regarded ends Chad Thomas, Demetrius Jackson and Mike Smith (off an ACL injury) arriving this summer.

### Secondary competition: UM expects Jamal Carter, who came on very strong, will challenge Rayshawn Jenkins and Deon Bush for a starting safety job, and Crawford is now in the mix there, too. Newcomers Kiy Hester and Marques Gayot join the fray this summer.

"Deon clearly [was] hampered all year [by last summer’s hernia surgery],” Golden said last month, adding Jenkins needs to be more consistent.

The cornerback competition will be stiff, with Artie Burns (coaches loves how he came on) and Antonio Crawford pushing Ladarius Gunter and Tracy Howard for starting spots. Corn Elder will be a factor when he returns this summer from a November knee injury.     


### Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey told WMEN-640’s Orlando Alzugaray on Thursday that he’s “optimistic” Miami will re-sign cornerback Brent Grimes. Grimes said Hickey made a point to tell him how much he values him.

Hickey told Alzugaray that contrary to an ESPN report, his deal is for more than two years (we were told weeks ago that it’s three); that he’s excited about Dion Jordan and loves his pass-rush skills (“we have some great coaches that are going to develop him”). He also indicated a commitment to center Mike Pouncey, who was implicated in the Ted Wells report.

“Pouncey is an excellent player,” Hickey said. “I’ve had good conversations with him in the last month. I’m excited about the future.”

### The Dolphins have told free agent safety Chris Clemons that they would be OK with him going out and testing the market and coming back to them. Miami still has interest.

### The Heat believes it has a better chance to land Caron Butler than Danny Granger but still was expected to have a phone conversation with Granger on Thursday, according to Yahoo! The Clippers reportedly are the front-runner for Granger, with Houston, San Antonio and Chicago also expected to have phone interviews with him Thursday. (1 a.m. update: Yahoo reports Granger has told the Clippers he will sign with them.)

Butler likes Miami, but Oklahoma City is expected to make a strong push for him, too, and Yahoo! lists those teams as co-favorites. OKC could offer him more playing time potentially, Miami more familiarity because he has played here before. “Caron would be a good fit,” Chris Bosh said.

### Please see the last post for details on Richie Incognito smashing his Ferrari... Twitter:  @flasportsbuzz