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32 posts from May 2015

May 30, 2015

Marlins vow not to repeat 2012 purge; Wade; UM recruiting; Dolphins notes


The last time the Marlins went on a spending spree and flopped --- just like they’re doing this season --- owner Jeffrey Loria pressed the “reset button” and slashed payroll from $101 million in 2012 to $50 million and $45 million the next two seasons.

So might Loria again shed salary to dramatically reduce the Marlins’ $81 million payroll, of which $12.5 million is being covered by the Dodgers?

Marlins president David Samson insisted that’s not going to happen again.

“No,” Samson said adamantly. “These are our players and they need to play better. And we need to win more games.”

So any talk of again hitting the reset button? “No. Absolutely not,” Samson said. Nor apparently is Loria so fed up that’s he ready to give up and sell, despite receiving occasional overtures.

Let’s be clear: If the Marlins remain well below .500 (they're 10 under after winning two in a row against the Mets), there should be roster changes and there assuredly will be. But what Loria absolutely cannot do is drastically reduce payroll for the next two years as he did after the 2012 debacle.

Even if the Marlins become sellers this summer and take cheaper players back in trades, they simply must re-invest that money next offseason and maintain a payroll at least in this current range, preferably higher heading into 2016. Not re-allocating money saved in trades would be a punch to the gut of Marlins fans and their best players.  

Frankly, there’s less the Marlins can do now to shed big contracts than they did in 2012, when Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle all had trade value.

Injured Michael Morse (two years, $16 million), injured Mat Latos (one year, $9.4 million) and Steve Cishek (one year, $6.5 million) don’t have much trade value the way they’re playing, though that would change if Latos and Cishek return to form.

The Marlins aren’t trading Christian Yelich, who had a big hit today and is finally coming out of his slump; he’s due just $1 million next season in the second year of seven-year, $49 million deal. Marcell Ozuna is very cheap for another two years.

Dee Gordon and Adeiny Hechavarria obviously aren’t going anywhere, though Hechavarria will become more expensive this offseason.

A few players who could attract interest if the Marlins become sellers: Martin Prado (the Yankees are paying $3 million of his $11 million salary both this year and next); Dan Haren (the Dodgers are paying his $10 million, which the Marlins have allocated to pay Latos) and Mike Dunn (signed for 2015 and 2016 at a combined $5.8 million). But dealing Prado would leave a gaping hole at third base.

And here’s another problem: The Marlins’ farm system is bereft of offensive prospects above Single A. Their top four position player prospects, according to Baseball America, are a long way away: second baseman Avery Romero (.279, 15 RBI at Class A Jupiter), outfielder Isael Soto (.125 at low-level Class A Greensboro and now out with a torn meniscus), third baseman/second baseman Brian Anderson (.235, 21 RBI at Jupiter) and outfielder Austin Dean (.280, 25 RBI at Jupiter).

There’s greater depth among pitching prospects, including Tyler Kolek (last year’s No. 2 overall pick has been uneven at Greensboro: 3-2, 4.73 ERA); lefty Justin Nicolino (“chance to be a back-end starter,” a scout for an American League team said); Jose Urena (was hit hard Tuesday in his Marlins season debut; “his secondary stuff is not very good; probably projects as a reliever,” the scout said); Kendrys Flores (3-3, 2.06 ERA in Double A Jacksonville; acquired from San Francisco in the Casey McGehee trade); and 2013 second-rounder Trevor Williams (1-6, 5.40 in Jacksonville).

Asked if Loria is dispirited, Samson said: “We all share the frustration. None of us ever believed this team would ever be 10 under .500. But it’s never too late. It’s still early enough in the season to turn it around.”


### If Dwyane Wade surprisingly leaves Miami, where would he go?

Two associates mentioned the Lakers as a possibility (he has a good relationship with Kobe Bryant) and another referenced Dallas. For what it’s worth, the Knicks have oodles of cap space and Carmelo Anthony reportedly attended Wade’s wedding.

So Wade will have options if he wants to have options. Wade’s preference is to stay if Miami makes him a “priority” financially, as one friend termed it.

### If Wade and the Heat compromise, a salary in the $15 million range in both 2016-17 and 2017-18 would be the logical end point. That would be less than what Wade wants but more than the Heat wants to give him those seasons, according to an associate briefed on the discussions. As of late this week, the sides weren't at all close in finding a middle ground. 

But even if the Heat could get Wade and Hassan Whiteside starting at $15 million each in 2016-17 --- and Whiteside could end up commanding more than that --- the Heat (with Chris Bosh and Goran Dragic) still couldn’t afford the top free agent small forwards in 2016 such as Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green, neither of whom would be available if they re-sign as restricted free agents before that.

And even if they trade Josh McRoberts in that scenario, Miami still probably couldn’t even afford the next tier of 2016 free agent small forwards, such as Chandler Parsons (player option), Nic Batum, Jeff Green and restricted free agent Harrison Barnes because their market value will increase as the cap skyrockets. (Danilo Galinari and Wilson Chandler are among other small forwards set for free agency in 2016, should the Heat move on from Luol Deng.)

Bottom line: Regardless of what Miami pays Wade, the odds are against the Heat being able to make a real significant move in 2016 free agency if Bosh, Dragic and Whiteside are all earning big money.

In determining what to pay Wade, the variable Miami can't predict is whether Whiteside will do enough next season to earn something close to a max contract. Remember: the Heat is not permitted to sign Whiteside until July 2016 and must save the cap space to fit Whiteside under the $89 million without surpassing it to sign him.

### The Dolphins, who are obviously shaky at guard, inquired in recent days about guard Chris Chester, who started the past four seasons for the Redskins before being cut last week. But Miami wasn't as aggressive as Atlanta, which signed him on Saturday.

The Dolphins, for now, continue to hope that a combination of Billy Turner, Dallas Thomas and Jamil Douglas can fill two starting spots. If they prove incapable, the Dolphins could turn to Jason Fox, J.D. Walton, Jeff Linkenbach, Jacques McClendon or another veteran in August or early September.

### Something encouraging about new Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi: Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon (San Diego's first-round pick) and Ajayi were the only two college running backs who caused opposing defensive players to miss more than 60 tackles last season, ESPN's KC Joyner told us. No other back had more than 50.

### Interesting career move: Former Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman took a job as a high school coach at Nauset Regional in Massachusetts. Good for him.

### There’s at least one coach skeptical about UM snagging oral commitments from 30 players (21 for 2016, five for 2017, four for 2018), which is by far the most in the Atlantic Coast Conference. By comparison, FSU has 17 over the next three seasons, including 14 in the upcoming class.

"There's an unnamed ACC team that's got this recruiting class full, another one almost full and half of the other one full, too," California coach Sonny Dykes, who didn’t mention Miami by name, told ESPN.

"Do they really think they're going to sign those guys? I mean, that's done as a signal: ‘We're ahead of the game, we know what we're doing, we're really cool,' and so there's a lot more going on behind the scenes than trying to find the best football players."

Though UM’s 2016 class is well-regarded, Dykes offers this caution: “If you look at Texas, they were done with [the next year's] recruiting class… by the second week of February… and a lot of those guys didn't pan out.”

### Plantation American Heritage coach and former UM player Mike Rumph told WQAM in February that he met with Al Golden to express his concerns that UM coaches need to make themselves more visible at local schools, like he says Southeastern Conference coaches do.

And now? “It has been a 100 percent change,” Rumph told me Friday. “They are connecting with guys on Twitter, being around a lot more.”

He said receivers coach Kevin Beard, defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio and defensive line coach Randy Melvin have all come by his school this spring.

And on Sunday, UM hosts a seven-on-seven tournament involving 48 local high schools. The on-campus tournament begins at 10 a.m., runs all day and is open to the public.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz    

May 29, 2015

Saturday: Ex-Heat player arrested for fraud; Dolphins coaches opine on issues; Heat nuggets; NFL players go homeless (briefly)

One quick item from this morning regarding a familiar name:

Chris Gatling, who played 78 games for the Heat and was a member of the team on three different occasions many years ago, was arrested in Scottsdale, Arizona on Thursday, on allegations that he masterminded an illegel credit card and identity theft scam, according to TMZ.

This wasn't his first brush with the law; he was arrested on theft and forgery charges two years ago.

Here's the TMZ link with details:


Gatling came over to the Heat in the Tim Hardaway trade in February 1996 and averaged 15.2 points in 24 late-season games for Miami in 1995-96.

The Heat acquired him twice more --- once, via trade, when he was on the team for just two months before being traded again, and another in time in 2001. He played 54 games in that final stint with Miami in 2001-02. The former All-Star played 11 years in the league.


A six-pack of notes on a Friday night:

We shared some insights from Dolphins offensive line coach John Benton in a post on Tuesday. Here are a few more notable comments from Dolphins coaches this week:

### Special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi told The Finsiders’ Greg Likens that there’s still faith in Caleb Sturgis, who finished 29th and 28th in field goal percentage his first two seasons and is now being challenged by RPI rookie Andrew Franks, who’s an underdog in this race.

“Caleb is a talented player; he hasn't lost that talent,” Rizzi said. “The first thing Caleb would tell you is he hasn't been as consistent as he's wanted to be. His injuries have hampered him a little bit…. It's been a little bit of a rollercoaster. He has been working his tail off. I haven’t seen a guy in the building more than him this offseason. I still think the arrow is up on this guy.”

### Incumbent Jarvis Landry, Alabama rookie Christion Jones (who returned two punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns at Alabama) and Kenny Stills all worked on returns this week, and Rizzi spoke of the challenges of using Landry both at receiver and in the return game.

“Obviously we know what he means to the offense,” Rizzi said. “He’s a valuable offensive player. And that is a delicate balance. It’s one of your jobs as a special teams coach to know how much play time the offensive and defensive starters are getting and factor that in.

"We’re trying to develop more of a stable of returners so we can have a little deeper pool. A guy like Damien Williams we saw back there a couple of times last year in kickoff returns. Jarvis is still a huge part of what we’re going to do. He’s a very talented player."

Landry finished fourth in the NFL in kickoff return average at 28.2 and 13th in punt returns at 8.2.

### I asked offensive coordinator Bill Lazor this week if he expects the additions of Jordan Cameron and DeVante Parker will help the Dolphins evolve from below average to above average in the red zone.

Curiously, Lazor didn’t discuss either of those players in his answer, instead opting to put the onus on himself.

“Let’s put it on me,” he said. “We’ve put the responsibility on me to evaluate the guys that we have and to use each of them the way they can best be used in the red zone. That’s the promise I’ve made to them. We haven’t started working on it in this setting yet, but we worked on it on air, we were at a pretty high completion percentage on air. That’s a start. I think that’s my responsibility and the coaching staff, to evaluate the guys you have and use them how they should be used.”

### Lazor on Dallas Thomas, who has been getting first-team reps at left guard: “I saw improvement as the season went on from the preseason through the season and I expect nothing less because Dallas has been busting his butt. I think everyone is going to be happy with the direction he’s going. Certainly we’re all rooting for him.”

### Couple Heat items: According to his agent, Luol Deng hasn’t made a decision about whether to opt out of a contract worth $10.1 million next season.

Apparently, Deng and the Heat are still mulling their options. If he opted out, it would be to try to get the security of a multiyear deal, as Dwyane Wade is currently exploring…

Mario Chalmers underwent arthroscopic knee surgery today but the Heat said he’ll be ready for training camp…. The Heat’s home preseason games: Charlotte Oct. 4, San Antonio Oct. 12, Washington Oct. 21. Tickets are already on sale.

### Media notes: The NBA Finals aren’t starting until next Thursday because the league decided (beginning last year) to set firm dates --- without a possible move-up –-- for logistical reasons.

Something unusual: Two St. Louis Rams immersed themselves into the city’s homeless community for an ESPN report airing at 10 a.m. Sunday, with re-airings on later editions of SportsCenter. 

In an attempt to get a closer look at the hardships homeless people in America endure, Rams defensive ends William Hayes and Chris Long took to the streets for 24 hours with no place to sleep or eat, no connection to the outside world and only $4 each. 

ESPN says “Haynes and Long wore second-hand clothing and makeup was used to help conceal their identities. They were outfitted with small cameras and microphones, and an ESPN crew observed them.”

Hayes: “It was the worst night I’ve ever had in my life for sure …. My body hurts so bad right now.” 

Long: “It’s amazing though when that cop went to talk to me, just how unsettled that felt, compared to like if a cop normally talks to me walking down the street.” 

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

May 28, 2015

Fallout, notes, thoughts on Wade/Heat contract impasse; Dolphins, Canes, Marlins


Please see the last post for our scoop on the Dwyane Wade/Heat contract impasse, which has left Wade mulling whether to opt out of his contract in late June and potentially consider other teams:

Here are some additional points to keep in mind: 

### One Wade associate said the Wade camp's impression is that the Heat believes Wade is bluffing and that he wouldn’t really leave.

It's still difficult to envision Wade leaving and only Wade knows for sure if he would really leave if the Heat refuses to budge in contract talks.

That said, several Wade associates have said he's open to considering signing elsewhere if the Heat doesn't increase its offer. And one of them said Wade simply wants to feel like he is being taken care of, like he's being treated completely fairly.

As hard as it is to see Wade departing, don't underestimate a proud, accomplished athlete's desire to feel appreciated.

It's not like Wade is asking for Kobe Bryant money, either. Kobe will make $78 million over a three-year period, including next season. But at the same time, Wade doesn't want to make far below what elite players earn. That's certainly a justifiable position.

### That said, this is certainly not a case of the Heat wanting to mistreat Wade. From Miami's perspective, this has everything to do with preserving cap flexibility.

Here’s what the decision essentially comes down to for Pat Riley and Micky Arison: If they give Wade the big-money contract he wants, and if they give Hassan Whiteside the type of huge contract he could command as an unrestricted free agent next summer, is a nucleus of Wade, Chris Bosh, Whiteside, Goran Dragic and Josh McRoberts (and potentially Luol Deng) enough to contend for a championship if supplemented only with very low-money role players and this year’s No. 10 draft pick?

That might get the Heat to the second round, but it’s questionable if it’s enough to get the Heat past Cleveland or beat Golden State or whoever emerges out of the West in future years.

Therein lies the Heat’s quandary in paying Wade what he wants. Deng, incidentally, hasn’t said if he’s opting out of a deal that would pay him $10.1 million next season.

Keep in mind that if Dragic re-signs, he could make as much as $21.8 million annually if he gets a max deal (and that might be necessary to keep him). Bosh’s five-year, $118 million contract will pay him $23.7 million in 2016-17.

If Hassan Whiteside continues to develop next season, he could command $20 million or more annually as an unrestricted free agent next summer.

So if the Heat kept Bosh, re-signed Dragic and Whiteside and gave Wade something much closer to $20 million than $10 million annually, that would leave the Heat with very little cap space for 2016-17.

Throw in the $5.8 million due McRoberts in 2016-17, let alone a new deal for Deng, and that would leave the Heat potentially well above an $89 million cap.

Conversely, most of the league would have cap space to pursue players in a 2016 free agent class that potentially will include Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Dwight Howard, Joakim Noah and Mike Conley, among others.

But even if Wade settles for something in the range of $10 million for 2016-17, the Heat still wouldn’t have the cap space to pursue the elite free agents of that class if it re-signs Dragic and gives a mega-deal to Whiteside.

### For the Heat, the problem with Wade forcing the issue now is that it doesn't give Riley next year to judge whether his current nucleus is good enough. Riley would have cap room if he part ways with Whiteside next summer, but the Heat assuredly will want to keep Whiteside if he keeps improving.

At the same time, Wade's decision to try to force the issue now is understandable, because why risk an injury next season without the security of a new three-year contract? 

### One friend of Wade pointed out that Dragic’s future is another chip that Wade holds in negotiations, because the chances of Dragic bolting this summer would increase if Wade does.

For Dragic, one of the appealing aspects of re-signing with Miami is playing alongside Wade.

Dragic prefers to remain with the Heat (and playing with Wade), but the Lakers and Knicks, among others, are ready to pounce if Dragic considers other options.

### If the Heat relents and gives Wade a contract close to what he's seeking, there will be an even greater need for cheap labor to fill out the team's supporting cast. And that would make it more likely for the Heat to keep its 10th overall pick (instead of trading it) in order to add a player who would come cheaply, or relatively cheaply, for five years.

### The Heat has always prefered Wade be lighter than heavier, even more so now that it intends to run more next season. So it's encouraging that Wade has dropped his weight from 228.2 to 216.5.


### This was in no way related to the Wade story, but we hear the Heat auditioned two draft-eligible shooting guards Thursday: Auburn's KT Harrell, who averaged 18.5 points and shot 43.4 percent on threes last season (among the best in the nation) and Tennessee’s Josh Richardson (16 points, 35.9 percent on threes).

### UM and FIU, who meet at 7 p.m. Friday in the Coral Gables regional, haven’t played in baseball since 2008 because of bad blood between UM coach Jim Morris and FIU coach Turtle Thomas.

Thomas was on the UM staff from 1988 to 1999 (Morris came to UM before the 1994 season) but the two men had a dispute over recruiting practices and mutually agreed (in a midseason meeting with then-athletic director Paul Dee) that Thomas would leave at the end of that 1999 season.

According to a UM baseball source, UM believes Thomas put the Hurricanes in a “pickle” by making (accepted) offers to more players than they had scholarships for. There could have been other issues, too, but both coaches have shown no interest in discussing the matter.

### Good to see Joe Philbin (beginning his fourth season) brainstorming for ways to try to keep his team fresher at the end of the year. One player said he was worn out by the end of last season and blamed some of the coaching staff’s decisions as a factor in that.

The Dolphins lost three of their last four in 2014 and are 3-9 in their final two games over the past six years.

### Among the developments that impressed us during Tuesday's OTA session were the ball skills displayed by Brice McCain and Bobby McCain. Each deflected a pass.

On the flip side, Brice McCain was called for holding on DeVante Parker, and Bobby McCain let an interception bounce off his fingers, into the arms of receiver Tyler McDonald.

### The Dolphins have been impressed with Walt Aikens' maturation this offseason, and Aikens took second-team safety snaps Tuesday, behind Reshad Jones and Michael Thomas.

Thomas was filling in for Louis Delmas, who is participating in parts but not all of practice after last December's ACL surgery.

### Liked what we saw from defensive end Terrence Fede, who had at least one would-be sack.

### The private sentiment among some inside the Marlins clubhouse, expressed by one player, can be summarized this way: Yes, we like Dan Jennings personally and respect him. But if the team spent money and says it’s committed to winning, how can it hire a manager with no coaching experience beyond high school baseball? Jennings has leaned on Jim Leyland and Jack McKeon, among others, for advice.

Wade, Heat have significant difference in contract negotiations; Wade open to leaving Heat if it doesn't get resolved

The Heat and Dwyane Wade have been discussing potential resolutions of his contract situation and there’s a significant difference in what both parties believe he should be paid for the next three seasons, according to multiple sources.

Though Wade prefers to stay with the Heat, where he has spent his entire 12-year career, he is now open to considering other teams this summer if the Heat does not raise its offer, according to three sources with direct knowledge.

Wade must decide by late June whether to opt out of a contract that would pay him $16.1 million next season.

The Heat wants to keep him but believes that paying him what he’s seeking would dramatically reduce its flexibility to add additional players during the summers of 2016 and 2017.

Last summer, in order to give the Heat flexibility to augment its roster, Wade opted out of the final two years of a contract that would have paid him $41.6 million. He instead accepted a two-year, $31 million deal, which included a player option for next season at $16.1 million.

Wade said last summer that he was curious to see what he could command in the summer of 2016, when the cap is expected to skyrocket from $67 million to $89 million. That led to the belief that Wade would opt-in this summer.

But according to associates, Wade wants to opt out this summer, with the hope that the Heat would give him a  lucrative three-year deal that would extend past his 36th birthday.

That does not appear to be the Heat’s preference. The Heat apparently would be content with Wade opting in for next season, then re-signing for good, but not huge, money for another two seasons after that.

Regardless of whether Wade opts out or not, there is believed to be a sizable gap between what Wade would like over the next three seasons and what the Heat would prefer to pay him.

Wade's agent, Henry Thomas, declined to discuss the gap in negotiations, the chances of Wade leaving the Heat or whether Wade definitely will opt out.

“With the amount of time he has spent with the organization, every effort will be made to try to work something out," Thomas said. "The five times he played for a championship, resulting in three championships, is a significant accomplishment for any professional. We are continuing to talk about a resolution that would be satisfactory to both sides.”

Is Wade angry with the Heat's offer?

"I am going to continue to have conversations with the Heat and try to make this work," Thomas responded.

Thomas declined to speculate how he believes this will turn out. "We will continue to talk," Thomas said. "It’s relativity early in the process."

Wade hasn't commented about his contract situation but said after the season: “I feel like I’ve got a few good years left."

Wade’s desire for one last big contract from the Heat can easily be justified: He helped the Heat win three titles, played a vital role in luring LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami, has consistently performed at an All-Star level, sacrificed substantial potential earnings to give the Heat flexibility over the past five years and comported himself with class.

What’s more, Chris Bosh’s Heat contract averages $23.6 million per season and Goran Dragic (if he resigns with Miami) could be making as much as much as $21.8 million annually. And keep in the mind that the Lakers paid Kobe Bryant $30.4 million and $23.5 million the past two seasons and will pay him $25 million this coming season.

But here’s the conundrum from the Heat’s perspective: Say, hypothetically, the Heat gives Wade $20 million instead of, say $10 million, in both 2016-17 and 2017-18.

If Dragic re-signs and if Hassan Whiteside commands a huge contract from Miami as an unrestricted free agent next summer, the Heat could be paying more than $80 million to four players in 2016-17. Throw in the $5.8 million due Josh McRoberts in 2016-17, and that would leave the Heat with no room under an $89 million cap to address small forward or bolster its bench.

There’s also the delicate matter of Wade’s injuries. He missed 20 games last season after sitting out 13 and 28 the previous two. In a news conference after the season, Heat president Pat Riley emphasized the importance of Wade being available.

"He's got to change the narrative himself about his body and about his injuries and about his missing games," Riley said. "And we had a discussion about this. But he always has to answer those questions, and I know those questions are legitimate because they're real.

"So night in and night out, there's always the question of whether or not he can or he can't. And so I'd like to have him try to get past that first hurdle mentally and do whatever he has to do to get himself ready to practice and himself ready to play, each and every night….

There is no doubt that we're going to need Dwyane every single night that he's available. He is a great, great, great player, right up there in this organization for the 12 years he's been here, best of the best."

Riley added that “players today have a tendency to be able to play longer. And if you go back into the '70s, I saw all the great ones leave around 34 or 35 years old, because of injury or age. That's when you were supposed to retire. Very few played longer than that. This could probably be the greatest challenge in his career.”

The Heat expects Wade to return for a 13th season with Miami. Kentucky guard Devin Booker, a strong candidate for the Heat’s selection with the 10th pick in the draft, said Riley told him that “D-Wade is getting older now, is on the last part of his career, and come and learn from him.”

Associates aren’t sure what will happen and would not be shocked if Wade leaves. With the history of success together and everything Wade and the Heat have invested in each other, it’s difficult to fathom Wade finishing his career elsewhere. But Wade staying can no longer be assured.

Keep this in mind: The chances of Dragic signing elsewhere increase if Wade leaves.

Wade is an 11-time All-Star and eight times has been named to the All-NBA’s first, second or third team. He was not on an All-NBA team this season but received two third-place votes.

He has ranked seventh, 18th and 24th in ESPN’s NBA efficiency ratings over the past threes season. He shot 47 percent last season, lowest since his rookie season but second behind J.J.Redick among shooting guards.

“I always figure out a way to keep myself being as efficient as I can be,” Wade said after the season. “For me, it’s always just about working on my game. This year, I became a better post player, became more comfortable down there…. I love to score. It’s going to be easy to work on trying to score.”

Wade said last month that the roster needs augmenting and “I have my own ideas but it’s not my job to say what areas need to be addressed. Our organization is going to address the areas that need to be. Obviously, it’s not enough [on the roster] because we’re sitting where we are right now.

“You want to always add to make sure you complement those players with other players around them. I know one thing about the Heat organization. We’re not going to just sit around and hope. We’re going to try to figure out to make sure we can be as competitive an organization as we became accustomed to.”

Wade is keeping himself in excellent shape. He announced on Instagram on Wednesday that he has completed a 30-day diet and has dropped his weight from 228.2 to 216.5.

"I now know what I need to do to lose the weight I want when I want,” he posted. “Now that my 30 days are over I must maintain this level of eating and make it a [lifestyle (with] some cheat days).”    

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

May 27, 2015

Wednesday night six pack: On Dolphins TE Jordan Cameron; Fins, Heat, Canes, TV notes

A six pack of notes on a Wednesday night:

### Don’t mention to Jordan Cameron the fact that he’s had three concussions in three years.

In an interesting interview with the Finsider’s Greg Likens, the new Dolphins tight end said today: “It’s annoying to hear all this concussion talk. I’m tired of hearing that stuff. I just want to get back to that form of two years ago.”

Cameron said: “I’m trying to get to the Pro Bowl this year. That’s my goal. I wrote it down.”

Cameron, who made the Pro Bowl in 2013 with Cleveland, said his transition to Miami “has been smooth. Learning a lot, jelling with the quarterbacks. I was in a similar system two years ago. It’s something I thrive in. A lot of stuff [where they] throw the ball to the tight end. You’ve got to be able to run and get some separation. That’s what I do best. It tailors to my game.”

### Cameron said offensive coordinator Bill Lazor “demands the most out of us. He humbles you a little bit, which everybody needs. We’re trying to be the best.” Cameron said tight ends coach Dan Campbell “knows the little things. He’s played and that helps.”

He said he has played with 15 quarterbacks in four seasons in Cleveland and is “looking forward” to stability at the position.

He said Ryan Tannehill: is “a guy who’s in here first, putting the time in…. It’s a work in progress as we get to know each other more. Looking forward to the next few weeks as we get our chemistry down…. If the ball is in the air, make the play. That’s my mindset. But it helps to have trust. The main thing we’re working on now is the timing and the trust factor.”

Last word from Cameron, to Likens: “I get the feeling we’re on the brink and we just need something to push us over.”

### Couple more observations from Tuesday’s OTA session, the first of 10 but one of only three open to the media: Yes, it’s awfully early. But Josh Freeman, who bounced a pass to a receiver, showed little to suggest he will give Miami much reason to keep him…Christion Jones, Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry all got work on returns…

Derrick Shelby dominated backup offensive linemen on passing plays, with Terrence Fede working as the other defensive end on the second team… Caleb Sturgis went 1 for 2 from 41 yards… Tim Semisch, the 6-8 tight end from Northern Illinois, made a nifty diving catch along the sideline.... Good to see former Hurricanes receiver LaRon Byrd make some plays.

### Wisconsin small forward Sam Dekker worked out for the Heat today, according to someone with direct knowledge, and is certainly a possibility for the Heat’s pick at No. 10. Dekker, 6-9, averaged 13.9 points and 5.5 rebounds last season, shooting just 33 percent on three pointers but 52.5 percent overall.

The Heat is working out more than a dozen draft prospects this week. UNLV shooting guard Rashad Vaughn, who shot 38.2 percent on three-pointers last season, was especially impressive among those who worked out for Miami on Tuesday, according to someone in attendance.

### Coincidentally, the UM football and UM basketball team each has the nation’s 28th shortest odds of winning a national championship next season, according to Bovada.com. UM football is 75 to 1. UM basketball is 66 to 1.

Brad Kaaya has the 22nd shortest odds to win the Heisman at 40-1, tied with FSU running back Dalvin Cook, among others.

### Hurricanes baseball coach Jim Morris said he will probably stick with Bryan Garcia as his closer, in the wake of Garcia blowing two consecutive saves…. Torin Dorn, a 6-5 guard who is transferring from the University of Charlotte, will visit UM next week, according to scout.com. He will visit North Carolina State this weekend, according to ESPN, and also reportedly is considering UF and Texas. As a freshman last season, he averaged 12.0 points, shooting 50.5 percent overall and 34.2 percent on threes.  

### Broadcast notes:  In a somewhat underwhelming choice, HBO and the NFL picked the Houston Texans as the focus of this year’s Hard Knocks. The Bills reportedly were among teams that said they weren’t interested… Yahoo! reported that Jeff Van Gundy interviewed for the New Orleans Pelicans head coaching job in San Francisco on Tuesday before working tonight’s Western Conference Finals for ESPN.

Van Gundy’s employer, ESPN, previously reported that Van Gundy had expressed interest in the Pelicans job. Van Gundy would be a big loss for ESPN, but his return to coaching was always considered likely at some point. Warriors assistant and former Heat coach Alvin Gentry is also reportedly in the mix for the New Orleans job.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

May 26, 2015

Four unproven Dolphins thrust into first-team roles as OTAs begin; Beckham/UM update; Heat summons draft prospects; Marlins


Because the Dolphins need to trust the development of their draft picks, and because big money simply cannot be thrown at every position, Miami began its offseason practices Tuesday with four young, largely unproven veterans thrust into starting roles.

A look at where the four of them stand:

### Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas. Turner, who played just 17 offensive snaps as a rookie, took the first-team snaps at right guard and Thomas handled most of the first-team work at left guard on Tuesday, with rookie fourth-round pick Jamil Douglas also getting some first team snaps in relief of Thomas.

“They’re obviously both very talented; they deserve first crack at that spot,” offensive line coach John Benton said of Turner and Thomas. “But it’s very clear to both of them that nothing is set. They’re all in competition.”

Turner, selected 67th overall out of North Dakota State in 2014, “is a very physical, explosive type player,” Benton said. “Something he has improved a lot on but still has a ways to go is his overall demeanor and playing with balance and under control.”

Benton said Turner also must use “his hands a little better.”

Turner, who was a tackle at North Dakota State, said he hasn’t played right guard in a game.

“I'm excited, after last year, being hurt, being out most of the year and not really getting a shot right away,” he said. “Halfway into the season, it's kind of hard to throw someone in when the season is almost already over. I've been working hard. We'll see if the hard work pays off.”         

As for the much-maligned Thomas, Benton said he believes it will help having Thomas work at just one position, instead of alternating between guard and tackle, as he did in the past.

Benton said Thomas, drafted 77th overall in 2013, is “so much better” from… “this point last year to this point this year. It’s a world of difference… His skills are more refined.”

Here’s one positive about Thomas playing guard: Though he yielded seven sacks in 333 snaps at tackle last season, he didn’t give up any in 362 snaps at guard, according to Pro Football Focus.

Can Douglas realistically challenge either of them (more likely Thomas) for a starting guard job?

“I don’t know,” Benton said. “We’re going to find out. He’ll have every opportunity in that mix with [Thomas] and Billy.”

But offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said his “first impressions of Jamil have been excellent.”

Joe Philbin cautioned that it's difficult to judge line play in OTAs, when players aren't wearing pads. So the starting guards likely won't be solidified until preseason. And it's still possible a veteran could be added if the right one shakes free.

Of those doubting the team’s guards, Turner said: “Anytime there are question marks, you want to prove people wrong. But everyone we've got on the o-line is confident in what we have.”

### Jamar Taylor. The third-year cornerback from Boise State, who has three career starts, took the first-team snaps opposite Brent Grimes on Tuesday and is the clear front-runner for that spot.

Coaches and the front office liked how Taylor played when he filled in for now retired Cortland Finnegan last season against Buffalo and Denver before Taylor sustained a shoulder injury.

During those games, “I liked the way he went out and competed, first and foremost,” Joe Philbin said Tuesday. “From a technical standpoint, fundamentally there were some really good shots of him doing things exactly the way we’ve been coaching in a variety of different coverages.” 

### Chris McCain. As an undrafted rookie last year, McCain showed flashes, including a sack, in just 46 defensive snaps. The Dolphins on Tuesday used him as ex-Fin Philip Wheeler’s replacement as the first-team strong-side (SAM) linebacker, a position McCain played some at the University of California.

“I feel very comfortable at the SAM position; coaches see I’m a lot more comfortable and put their trust in me,” he said. “I’m progressing really well. I’m long and lanky and pretty physical. I give it my all every play. I believe they can tell I’ve been trying to get the starting job.”

McCain, who said he also received “a little bit” of work at defensive end on Tuesday, has “talent, length, the right mind set,” general manager Dennis Hickey said. “We’re excited about the future with him.”


### Encouraging to see more excellent work Tuesday from DeVante Parker, who made several impressive catches against Grimes and others.

“He was great; you see tough catches with defenders on his back, in traffic,” Ryan Tannehill said.

### Branden Albert (knee surgery) and Don Jones (shoulder surgery) were sidelined Tuesday, but safety Louis Delmas and cornerback Will Davis, both off major knee injuries, were able to participate in much of practice.

Benton said Albert “promises me” he will be ready for the opener. Said Benton: “It looks promising [for Albert to be ready Week 1]. To say confident is probably a little bit of a stretch.”

### Of his offensive line, Benton admitted: “You wish you were a hair more stable.”

### Receiver Rishard Matthews, who skipped recent offseason sessions, declined to discuss his trade request (indications are that he still wants one), but said: “I’m here to show them that I want to be on the field competing to help this team win."

Is he getting a fair shake? “I’m not worried about that,” he said. "I'm here to show them I need to be on the field to help them win."

Philbin said “it was great to have him” back.

### Jordan Phillips and Anthony Johnson worked as the second-team defensive tackles, behind Ndamukong Suh and Earl Mitchell.


### UM doesn’t yet know whether a joint stadium project with David Beckham will materialize, but the Hurricanes were pleased with how the meetings with Beckham’s group went last week and intend to continue discussions.

There’s still a lot UM doesn’t know, including how much it will be asked to contribute financially (UM is open-minded) and if Beckham’s group can meet all of its requirements (including a stadium with at least 40,000 seats).

UM, which is interested in a stadium only near Marlins Park, hasn’t asked Stephen Ross if he would hypothetically be willing to negotiate a buyout of its lease with Sun Life Stadium (which has 17 years left) and will not broach the issue until the university has a stronger sense about whether a joint stadium with Beckham is likely to happen.

### The Heat began summoning draft prospects to Miami for workouts this week, and we hear Tuesday’s batch included Arizona small forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (a potential mid-to-late first rounder; 11.2 points, 6.8 rebounds last season but shot just 6 for 29 on threes); UNLV shooting guard Rashad Vaughn (a potential late first-rounder who averaged 17.8 points and shot 38.3 percent on threes in his one college season); Tennessee Tech 6-10 center Charles Jackson (13.0 points, 9.5 rebounds) and 6-11 center Mouhammadou Jaiteh (who averaged 11.3 points and 6.5 rebounds playing professionally in France).

None are projected for the range of Miami's pick at No. 10. Jackson, who ranked eighth in college basketball with 18 double-doubles last season, is a potential second round pick. Hollis-Jefferson (an excellent defender but suspect shooter) and Vaughn (who impressed at an L.A. workout last week) are projected by many to be drafted much sooner than the Heat's pick at No. 40.

Jaiteh, who has an NBA body and long wingspan, is projected to go anywhere from late in the first round to somewhere in the second.

The Heat plans to bring in a bunch of prospects for workouts before the June 25 draft but like the Miami Dolphins, the Heat isn't announcing who's visiting.

### After Tuesday’s Marlins coaching shakeup, pitching coach Chuck Hernandez also remains at risk if the pitching doesn’t improve, though Dan Jennings likes him… Brett Butler’s re-assignment from third base to outfield and base-running coach wasn’t a rash decision. According to a team official, former manager Mike Redmond also was unhappy with Butler...

Marlins management thought Redmond wasn't aggressive enough with in-game decisions. Now Jennings, with hit-and-run calls, is being too aggressive in the eyes of some players.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

May 25, 2015

Dolphins battles brewing as OTAs begin; UM baseball

Most Dolphins players have been sweating through workouts and either learning or brushing up on the team’s offense and defense for several weeks.

But in some ways, competition for jobs begin in earnest when the Dolphins on Tuesday hold the first of 10 voluntary “organized team activity” practices.

The team also will hold three mandatory mini-camp practices in mid-June before taking a six-week break until training camp.

Battles are brewing at nearly every position, some at the top of the depth chart, others merely for roster spots. Among the more interesting ones:

### The cornerback spot opposite Brent Grimes. Jamar Taylor enters as something of a front-runner but will be challenged by former Giants starter Zack Bowman and potentially Will Davis, who’s expected back from an ACL injury by the start of training camp.

“Taylor and Davis have a talented skill set,” Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey told WQAM-560. “Zack bring length [he’s 6-1] and a veteran presence.”

Though coach Joe Philbin has said the Dolphins envision free-agent pickup Brice McCain as a slot cornerback, the 5-9 McCain also has experience playing on the boundary. And rookie Bobby McCain will get practice snaps at slot corner behind Brice McCain.

“We like the depth there; you look at the teams we have to play, depth at corner is important,” Mike Tannenbaum, the Dolphins’ president/football operations, told WMEN-640 last week. “Some of those young guys are going to have to play for us.”

### The starter at left guard. Billy Turner is considered the front runner for the right guard spot, but the left guard job is a tossup between Dallas Thomas and rookie Jamil Douglas.

Tannenbaum said “three young guys are competing for two spots.”

That would suggest that free agent pickups J.D. Walton, Jeff Linkenbach and Jacques McClendon are viewed merely as depth, with McClendon in particular far from a cinch to make the roster. Walton projects as Mike Pouncey’s backup at center.

Offensive tackle Jason Fox, filling in at left tackle while Branden Albert works his way back from an ACL injury, also has been getting work at guard, according to the Dolphins.

### The starting linebacker job alongside Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi. The Dolphins could opt to start Chris McCain, who showed flashes in limited playing time as a rookie, at strong-side linebacker or could go with middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, who has started 32 games in four seasons.

If Sheppard ends up starting, Misi could shift outside.

The Dolphins also want to get a long look at four undrafted linebackers: Jeff Luc, Mike Hull, Neville Hewitt and Zach Vigil, as well as second-year player Jordan Tripp.

“All are productive, all tough and competitive,” Hickey said of the four rookies.

### Roster spots at running back. Jay Ajayi is the front-runner to back up Lamar Miller and could eventually challenge Miller for a starting job.

“He’s kind of underrated; had 50 receptions as well,” Tannenbaum said of Ajayi. “Hopefully he has the ability to be a three-down player.”

But don’t discount Damien Williams; Philbin has praised his work this offseason.

LaMichael James and Mike Gillislee (who spent last season on injured reserve with a hamstring issue) also are competing for what could be one more job, if the Dolphins keep four backs.

### Sorting out defensive tackle. Earl Mitchell is the likely starter alongside Ndamukong Suh, but there’s competition for the No. 3 job among second-rounder Jordan Phillips, Anthony Johnson and A.J. Francis.

“We were very comfortable with Jordan to get him where we did,” Tannenbaum said of the second-round pick who had an inconsistent motor at Oklahoma.

“We were really excited. We think he’s going to come in with Earl Mitchell, Ndamukong Suh — Kamal Johnson is here, Anthony Johnson’s here. We think there’s really good depth there with a chance to earn playing time. But there’s no doubt when you watch [Phillips], he has a ton of ability.”

### Receiver pecking order. It’s clear who the Dolphins’ top four receivers will be: DeVante Parker, Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings.

What must play out is the order; the player who ends up the fourth receiver figures to play less than he’s accustomed.

Rishard Matthews, the No. 5 receiver, is missing voluntary workouts after asking for a trade.

His chances of getting his wish might improve if Matt Hazel, LaRon Byrd or one of several others (such as Alabama’s Christion Jones) has a dynamic next four months.

“I like our depth there; you have to pass to score in this league,” Tannenbaum said.

### Battles for other backup jobs. There’s competition everywhere, from the No. 3 quarterback position if one is even kept (Josh Freeman, McLeod Bethel-Thompson), the No. 3 tight end job (Arthur Lynch, Gerell Robinson, Jake Stoneburner, 6-8 rookie Tim Semisch), the fourth safety job (Walt Aikens, Don Jones, Jordan Kovacs, rookie Cedric Thompson), among others. Aikens also has been getting some work at cornerback.

### Kicker: Andrew Franks, a strong-legged rookie from RPI in New York, is Caleb Sturgis' latest challenger.


Check out Manny's UM blog for more details on UM's baseball regional.

This was a good day for the Hurricanes: They got a good seed (fifth nationally, ensuring they will play all their games at home before the College World Series) and a good draw, both from an attendance standpoint (UM-FIU should draw a sizable crowd at 7 p.m. Friday) and from a competitive standpoint.

UM (44-14), on paper, is clearly better than the other teams in their regional (29-29 FIU, 31-15 Columbia and 40-20 East Carolina).   

If UM wins this weekend, it would host the winner of the Dallas regional featuring top seeded Dallas Baptist, Oregon State, Texas and VCU.

"We've got a lot of good hitters," UM slugger David Thompson said. "If one guy doesn't have a good game, someone will pick them up. We've put ourselves in good shape, being a national seed."

UM hasn't made the CWS since 2008. "It's been time for a while," Thompson said today. "Hopefully, this is the year to finally get back."

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

May 23, 2015

Can Suh make others around him better? Exploring the issue; Dragic, Marlins, Canes


LeBron James makes players around him better.

But in a sport with 11 on the field instead of five, can the NFL’s best defensive tackle raise the performance of his defensive teammates?

Dolphins players believe Ndamukong Suh will do just that.

“Just his presence alone, the fact the offense has to focus on him is going to free everybody else up and make everybody else better around him,” Dolphins linebacker Jelani Jenkins said last week.

As safety Reshad Jones put it: “Hopefully it will make everybody's job a lot easier when you have a dominant force like that in the middle. It makes the linebackers able to flow and run and make plays. It should be a lot easier for guys.”

So how realistic is it to expect Suh to actually boost the performance of teammates? A few points to consider:

### Detroit finished second in total defense last season, but in Suh’s first four seasons, the Lions’ defense ranked 21st (2010), 23rd, 13th and 16th. That means Detroit's defense was average to below average in three of his five seasons --- certainly not a reflection on Suh but an indication that Suh cannot mask a team's glaring defensive weaknesses.

### As far as run defense, Detroit was first last season and sixth in 2013. But in Suh’s first three seasons, the Lions were 24th, 23rd and 16th against the run.

So is Suh’s presence enough to raise Miami from 24th against the run in 2014 to top five in 2015?    

“I don’t know if a top five run defense is within their grasp,” ESPN.com analyst and former Browns scout Matt Williamson said. “He will vastly improve it, so top 10 is realistic. He’s not an A plus run defender and he’s a better pass rusher than run defender, though he’s capable of being very good against the run. Last year, Detroit changed their scheme and he was better against the run. His presence will demand double teams and free up linebackers.”

### It’s notable that three current or former Lions front-seven players (George Johnson, Jason Jones, Justin Durant) were more productive playing with Suh than they were playing elsewhere, which is an encouraging sign for Miami.

Johnson, who didn’t have a sack in 11 previous career games for Minnesota and Tampa, had six for Detroit in 2014 without starting a game. The attention Suh commands was obviously a factor in that. Stephen Tulloch, a very good inside linebacker, was similarly productive with Tennessee and Detroit.

Three productive front seven defenders --- DeAndre Levy, Ezekiel Ansah and Nick Fairley --- have played only with Detroit (Fairley recently joined the Rams) --- so it’s difficult to assess whether Suh helped make them substantially better than they would have been elsewhere.

### Since he entered the league in 2010, Suh leads all defensive tackles in sacks (36), disrupted dropbacks, total snaps and is third in tackles. So is Suh worth the largest contract ever for a non quarterback (six years, $114 million)?

“He makes a great impact on the game [but] to give that much money to somebody, I want him to touch the ball,” former Dolphins and Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson said. “In today’s game, you have to score points. [But] I'm not negative toward it. He's the best in the league. The other 10 players will be that much better around him. Every team that lines up against the Dolphins must work on the scheme all week long on how they’re going to block him. Every team will have a different game plan against Miami than what they normally have.”

But former Redskins and Texans general manager Charley Casserly wonders: “How can we stay competitive paying a defensive tackle that much money? I’m not sure Earl Mitchell is a star [next to him]. Their defensive ends are undersized and that remains a problem. Linebacker remains a problem outside of Koa Misi. There are a lot more parts that just him.”

Williamson frames it this way: “You gain Suh but you also lost Jared Odrick and Randy Starks. It wasn’t like they’re nobodies. Yes, you are a lot better at defensive tackle and Tom Brady hates interior pressure.

“Is he worth that money, a $26 million cap hit next year? Nobody is worth that money [except] maybe J.J. Watt. In the end, they are going to say this is a restrictive contract.”

### The Dolphins are neither surprised nor angry with Suh for skipping much of the offseason program. Players, generally, aren’t either, though one questioned the wisdom of Suh’s decision to skip part of the on-field installation of the defense, considering he’s new here.

Dolphins president/football operations Mike Tannenbaum told WMEN-640’s Sid Rosenberg last week that “in a cap system players who take up a big part of your cap have to do more than just play well…. I challenged Ndamukong.” Tannenbaum wants him to help the team’s young players.

“We have a lot of young players not only on the defensive line, but on our team,” Tannenbaum said. “If we were sitting here in 10 years and Jordan Phillips is talking about hopefully the career he’s having, I’d love for him to say that in his formative years Ndamukong Suh impacted him.”


### Heat guard Goran Dragic, an impending free agent, feels strongly that the Heat must play faster and has been assured that’s a key part of the Pat Riley/Erik Spoelstra master plan, according to an an associate.

We’re told Dragic very much likes Spoelstra and Riley and nothing to this point has changed regarding the Heat’s status as front-runners to keep him. The Lakers, Knicks, New Orleans, Milwaukee, Sacramento are all expected to have interest

### We hear the Marlins gave Dan Jennings a raise when he decided to move from the GM job to the manager's job. So that means they are, in fact, paying three managers. 

The Marlins still must pay Mike Redmond nearly $3 million --- more than they’re paying five of their starting position players this season. The Marlins also also are paying close to $2 million to Ozzie Guillen this season.

Six teams already have reached out to Redmond about potential employment (non-managing jobs), but Redmond is laying low and spending time with his family in Spokane.

### Three scouts all prefaced their comments about Jennings last week but saying how much they like and respect him. “He’s very convincing,” one National League scout said. “He could sell ice to Eskimos.”

But two mentioned how incredulous some people in baseball are about appointing a manager with no on-field experience beyond high school.

“That’s a slap in the face of every big league manager,” one scout said. “That’s ridiculous. He’s going to be second guessed every night.”

One of the scouts said that experienced managers could get away with doing what Jennings did Tuesday --- leaving in lefty Mike Dunn to pitch to Arizona’s AJ Pollock, whose two-run homer gave Arizona the win, instead of going to right-hander Bryan Morris.

“But Jennings going to be killed [publicly] for stuff like that,” even though Dunn has been far better against right-handed hitters than Morris has been this season.

Jennings might have more job security than any Marlins manager since Jack McKeon, because Jeffrey Loria really likes him and can return Jennings to the GM job if this doesn’t work out.

When baseball people criticize Loria in private conversations, Jennings has consistently defended Loria and said Loria is misunderstood, according to an executive with another team. And Loria values that unwavering loyalty and Jennings’ eye for talent.

### Even with his team losing, Jennings opted for positive reinforcement instead of chewing out his players (at least entering the weekend).

“He wants to create an atmosphere we’ve never had,” reliever Steve Cishek said. “He’s putting speakers in the clubhouse [to play music]. He put in this machine to help us with our [physical] recovery.”

### The Marlins are puzzled how Mat Latos, one of only five pitchers to make at least 15 starts and produce an ERA of 3.50 each of the past five seasons, could be struggling like this (6.12 ERA). They believe knee inflammation is contributing to the ineffectiveness; he was placed on the disabled list Saturday.

“It’s heartbreaking to be going through this,” Latos said. "Mechanically, I’m fine. My velocity is there. I’m tired of embarrassing myself.”

### According to a UM football source, the Hurricanes football staff privately wants a new stadium just as much as the administration does, believing Sun Life is too big and doesn’t create enough of a homefield advantage.

UM was happy how Friday's meeting went with the Beckham group but there's no clarity on UM's potential participation in a joint stadium project.

Whether UM moves forward would depend partly on Stephen Ross' willingness to negotiate a buyout with the university. UM has 17 years left on its Sun Life lease.

Dolphins management declined to say Friday whether it would be willing to give UM a buyout. But the Dolphins believe they have treated UM well and aren't pleased that the Hurricanes are interested in bolting.

### If you haven't read it and are interested in such things, please see the last three posts for my three-part series on the biggest busts in South Florida sports history... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

Part 3 of our 3-part series: The biggest trade busts in South Florida sports history

Third in a three-part series. Please see the previous two posts for parts 1 and 2 of this series.

Picking the worst trade bust in South Florida sports history can be a difficult exercise.

There are four prime candidates:

Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin, the centerpieces of the package that the Marlins acquired from Detroit for perennial All-Star Miguel Cabrera; Daunte Culpepper, the quarterback Nick Saban decided to snag for a second-round pick instead of signing Drew Brees as a free agent; and Todd Bertuzzi, the key piece in a regrettable trade that jettisoned popular All-Star goaltender Roberto Luongo to Vancouver for nine years before his return.

In the past 2 posts (and 2 days in the newspaper), we’ve explored the biggest South Florida sports busts acquired via the draft and free agency.

Here’s a look at the 10 biggest busts added through trades:

1. Maybin/Miller. Unable to afford Cabrera longterm, the Marlins dealt him to Detroit in 2007 for six players: Maybin, Miller, Burke Badenhop, Eulogio De La Cruz, Mike Rabelo and Dallas Trahern. But Maybin and Miller were considered the jewels of that group, Maybin a five-tool outfield prospect and Miller the best pitching prospect in baseball.

Both bombed in Florida. Miller went 10-20 with a 5.89 ERA in three years here. Maybin also lasted three seasons, hitting .257, with 43 RBI in 144 games. Miller was traded to Boston in November 2010 for relief pitcher Dustin Richardson and has pitched much better since leaving Miami. Since departing Florida, Maybin has been generally mediocre for San Diego and now Atlanta.

Cabrera? He has solidified his Hall of Fame credentials, hitting .325 with 874 RBI in eight years with Detroit.

2. Culpepper. The Dolphins, operating on the advice of their medical staff who thought Culpepper’s knee was a safer long-term bet than Brees’ shoulder, traded a second-round pick to Minnesota for him in March 2006, believing they were getting the duel-threat Culpepper who made three Pro Bowl appearances for the Vikings in his five previous seasons.

But Culpepper was never the same after an October 2005 knee injury, played in only four games for Miami and underwent knee surgery in late November.

He asked to be traded the following June when Miami acquired Trent Green, was banned from Dolphins practice and released July 17, 2007. As for Brees, he would win a Super Bowl and earn eight Pro Bowl appearances as a New Orleans Saint. The choice of Culpepper over Brees stands as arguably the worst personnel decision in Dolphins’ history.

3. Bertuzzi. The Panthers’ June 2006 trade of Luongo, Lukas Krajicek and a sixth-round pick for Bertuzzi, goaltender Alex Auld and defenseman Bryan Allen is considered among the worst in NHL history, and much of the blame falls on Mike Keenan (who made the deal for Florida) and Bertuzzi.

The Panthers thought they were getting the dangerous scorer who produced 188 goals in eight seasons for the Canucks. Instead, Bertuzzi played in just seven games for the Panthers because of back problems, then was traded to Detroit for Shawn Matthias. Meanwhile, Luongo spent nine productive seasons with the Canucks, earning invitations to three All-Star games, before the Panthers reacquired him last year.

4. A.J. Feeley. Looking for an upgrade on Jay Fiedler, general manager Rick Spielman dealt a 2005 second-round pick to Philadelphia for Feeley in March 2004. With both quarterbacks sharing playing time, the Dolphins opened 1-9 and Dave Wannstedt was dismissed. Feeley finished the 2004 season as the starter, produced a meager 61.7 rating, was beaten out by Gus Frerotte the following year, then was dealt to San Diego in October for Cleo Lemon.

5. Chris Wells. In November 2006, former Panthers GM Bryan Murray tried to shake up his team after a slow start by acquiring Wells, a strapping 6-6 center who was a big scorer in the minor leagues. So he traded two productive players to Pittsburgh, Stu Barnes and Jason Woolley, for Wells, who scored just seven goals in 141 games for the Panthers over four seasons.

6. Pete Johnson. Needing help at running back early in the 1984 season, Don Shula sent a second-round pick (55th overall) to the Chargers for Johnson, who was the Bengals’ leading rusher for seven seasons. But he averaged 2.3 yards per carry for Miami and was gone after one season, his career over at 30.

7. Robin Sendlein. In August 1985, the Dolphins needed defensive help and thought enough of the former second-round pick from Texas to send the Vikings the rights to potential star receiver Anthony Carter in return for Sendlein and a second-round pick, which was later dealt to TampaBay for Hugh Green. Sendlein played only one season for Miami (three starts) and never appeared again in the NFL. Carter caught 486 passes in an 11-year career.

“We consider our needs on defense to be paramount,” Don Shula said at the time. “You hate to give up a player of Anthony Carter’s potential, but we feel good about our receivers, Mark Duper and Mark Clayton.”

8. Martin Muursepp. The Heat dealt a 2000 first-rounder to Utah during the 1996 draft to acquire the Estonian forward, who was selected 25th. Muursepp scored 17 points in 10 games in his only season for the Heat. In the process, he soured Pat Riley on drafting another foreign player for many years to come.

9. Alec Kessler and Brent Barry. Two Heat trades that didn’t work out: dealing draft picks Dave Jamerson and Carl Herrera to Houston for Kessler, the 12th overall pick in the 1990 draft, and shipping Ike Austin, Charles Smith and the 22nd pick of the 1998 draft to the Clippers for Brent Barry, who wasn’t a good fit.

Barry averaged 4.1 points in 17 games for Miami and wasn’t retained after the 1998-99 season. Kessler averaged 5.2 points in four seasons for the Heat and never played in the NBA again. He died of a heart attack when he collapsed in a pickup basketball game in Gulf Breeze, Fla., in 2007.

10. Jason Grilli and Nate Bump. Two years after he was named MVP of the World Series, the Marlins traded pitcher Livan Hernandez to San Francisco for two of the Giants’ top pitching prospects. Grilli appeared in only seven games for Miami, posting a 5.94 ERA, but has had a credible career since leaving. Bump had a 4.68 ERA in three undistinguished seasons for the Marlins. Hernandez went on to win 130 more games. 

Honorable mention: Dave Wannstedt traded a third round pick to St. Louis in 2004 for Lamar Gordon, who ran for just 64 yards on 35 carries in his one season for the Dolphins.

Please see the last two posts for previous installments in the series… Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Part of 2 of 3-part series: The biggest free agent busts in South Florida sports history

Second in a three-part series. Please see the most recent post for Part 1 and the next post for Part 2.

From American League catchers with a penchant for strikeouts, to underachieving offensive linemen, to a point guard who squabbled with a parking lot attendant, South Florida teams have paid a fortune for players who imploded or simply didn’t measure up once they arrived.

In our last post, we sized up the 25 biggest draft busts in South Florida sports history. Today, we rank the 20 biggest free agent busts. Later today, we’ll rank the 10 biggest trade busts.

This list does not include several Marlins who signed big-money deals (Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, etc.) who played well here but were shipped off as part of payroll dumps. Nor does it include players who signed here at minimum money at the end of their careers (Chad Johnson, Penny Hardaway, Tim Raines, among others), because not much was expected, so they cannot be considered busts:

1. Heath Bell. Signed to a three-year, $27 million deal during Miami’s wild spending spree in the months before the opening of Marlins Park in 2012, Bell was an excuse-making disaster from the start, blowing four of his first seven save opportunities. He ended up squandering eight of 27 save chances, with a 5.09 earned-run average in his one season in Miami. The Marlins shipped him to Arizona but were forced to cover $8 million of the $18 million he was still owed.

2. Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Months after winning a World Series with the Red Sox in 2013, the veteran catcher signed a three-year, $21 million contract to play not far from his home in West Palm Beach. But he led all catchers in errors and hit just .220 in 2014, then started 2-for-29 this season before the Marlins designated him for assignment.

3. Gibril Wilson. Impressed by his work with the Giants and Raiders, the Dolphins gave the veteran safety a five-year, $27 million contract, including $8 million guaranteed, before the 2009 season. But Wilson was horrendous in pass coverage, had no interceptions, and was released after one season.

4. John Buck. Deceived by his one excellent season with Toronto (.281, 20 homers), the Marlins bestowed Buck with a three-year, $18 million deal before the 2011 season. Buck flopped, hitting .213 with 28 homers in 246 games for Miami over two seasons, then was dealt to Toronto.

5. Jake Grove. Bill Parcells gave the former Raiders center a four-year, $28 million contract in 2009, including $14.5 million guaranteed. He made only 10 starts in his one season for the Dolphins, then was cut the following year when Joe Berger beat him out.

6. Eric Green. Green landed a six-year, $12 million contract from Don Shula in 1995, making him the highest-paid tight end in NFL history to that point. He caught 43 passes for 499 yards and three touchdowns in his one season here. But he had weight issues and a dubious work ethic, prompting Jimmy Johnson to release him when he took over for Shula.

7. Al Leiter. The veteran left-hander signed a one-year, $8 million contract before the 2005 season, but his second stint with the Marlins was a disaster: 3-7, 6.64 ERA, 144 base-runners in 80 innings. He was shipped to the Yankees in July and finished out his final season in the big leagues. (Thankfully, Leiter was terrific in his first stint with the Marlins, helping them win the 1997 World Series.)

8. Ernest Wilford. Parcells gave the former Jaguars receiver a four-year, $13 million package, including $6 million guaranteed, before the 2008 season. He responded with a measly three catches for 25 yards, thus earning about $2 million per reception before his release.

9. Dannell Ellerbe/Phillip Wheeler. Neither linebacker was a complete disaster but they were vastly overpaid, with then-general manager Jeff Ireland giving Ellerbe five years and $35 million, with $20 million guaranteed, and Wheeler five years and $26 million, with $13 million guaranteed. In recent months, Wheeler was cut and Ellerbe was traded to New Orleans.

10. Richard Marshall. The veteran cornerback signed a three-year, $16 million contract in 2012 but played in just four games before a back injury. He was subsequently released.

11. Reggie Torbor. The Dolphins gave the former Giants linebacker/defensive end a four-year, $14 million contract in 2008, but he started three games over two seasons and contributed only 40 tackles.

12. Justin Smiley. One of the first signings of the Parcells regime, the veteran guard was given a bundle (five years, $25 million, $9 million guaranteed) but lasted only two years before being cut.

13. Michael Doleac. The former pre-med student at Utah was one of the most intelligent players in Heat history but didn’t do much to justify the four-year, $12 million contract he signed in 2004. He averaged 3.7 points and 2.9 rebounds in three seasons, starting 11 games.

14. Rafael Furcal. The Marlins believed he would be their solution at second base last season. But he couldn’t stay healthy and played in just nine games, going 6 for 35. A wasted $3 million. He retired May 19.

15. Smush Parker. The veteran guard, given a two-year, $4.6 million deal by the Heat before the 2007 season, ended up playing just nine games before going on leave after a November altercation with a parking lot attendant. The Heat waived him in March.

16. Filip Kuba. The Panthers signed the defenseman to a two-year, $8 million deal to replace Jason Garrison in 2012, but he had only one goal in 44 games, and the Panthers were outscored by 19 goals with Kuba on the ice.

17. Garrett Jones. The Marlins, hoping he would be an upgrade at first base over Logan Morrison, signed the former Pirate to a two-year, $7.5 million deal before the 2014 season. But Jones hit just .246, led all first basemen with 13 errors and was dealt to the Yankees last December.

18. Damion McIntosh. In 2004, then-Dolphins general manager Rick Spielman signed McIntosh to a six-year, $23 million contract, convinced he would be the answer at left tackle. Alas, McIntosh was a disappointment and was released three years into the deal.

19. LaPhonso Ellis. Averaged 6.2 points and shot 40 percent for the Heat in two seasons after signing for three years and $10 million in 2001. It was a significant decline and Ellis wouldn’t play in the NBA again, done at 32.

20. Greg Oden/Eddy Curry. The Heat took low-risk chances on two once highly-regarded veteran centers who were still in their 20s at the time. But neither could rejuvenate their careers in their lone season here, or anywhere subsequently.

Honorable mention: Marc Colombo. Ireland envisioned him as the stop-gap solution at right tackle in 2011. The $2 million salary was palatable but the performance wasn’t (nine sacks allowed).