1 p.m. update from Boca Raton ---
Mike Tannenbaum, the Dolphins' executive vice president/football operations, addressed several issues from the NFL owners meetings just now:
• On sitting on $18 million in cap space (of which at least a third will be needed to sign draft picks and a practice squad): “It’s not lose it or use it as it used to be.”
• He admitted not wanting to lose compensatory 2017 draft picks has been one factor in not signing a ton of free agents but not the overriding one.
Teams can sign unrestricted free agent players (players who became UFAs without being cut) after May 12 without it affecting compensatory picks.
"Is it a factor? Sure. You’ve got to factor in a lot of things when you make decisions. That certainly could be a factor that has to do with longterm planning. It’s a very, very complicated formula. It’s an 18-page memo. We have two extraordinarily smart people who [study] that all the time.... We don’t know how that’s going to play out. It’s a factor. But it’s not the only factor because you don’t know all the factors that play into it."
• On his comment to Steve Shapiro that the 2016 Dolphins would kick the butt of the 2015 Dolphins: "The message I was trying to make was every year we’re trying to make progress. I’m optimistic, I’m hopeful. I’m very optimistic about the trajectory of our team not only this year but well into the future."
What makes him feel better about this roster, compared with the 2015 Dolphins? "When you look at athleticism at linebacker with the acquisition of [Kiko] Alonso, the size of Byron Maxwell, Isa Abdul Quddus will give us a caliber at safety frankly we haven’t had as much in recent years; depth at some positions. Jermon Bushrod's versatility. There’s obviously a lot more work to [do].... We have young players that are going to have to play more, guys like Kenny Stills, Jay Ajayi, Dion Sims. They will have a lot more opportunities this year. Improving from within is always an underrated aspect in trying to improve from year to year.”
What keeps him up at night? "Depth at certain positions, be it offensive line, secondary, running back.... We have a lot more work to be done at every position. We have done a lot of work trying to project our needs in 2017 and even 2018 guys we want to keep, and when we want to spend cap dollars on that.
"Other players will have to graduate. That’s the reality of it. When Derrick Shelby or Rishard Matthews leave the building, the way I look at is, I celebrate it. On one hand, it’s upsetting you can’t keep everybody but I celebrate the fact they were drafted by the Dolphins, developed by the Miami Dolphins, they were coached and they got better. You can’t keep everybody. Now it’s up to us to make Terrence Fede a good player when Derrick Shelby leaves. Is it Matt Hazel or a draft choice to replace Rishard Matthews or does Kenny Stills get more reps? That’s what energizes me, where’s the next hurdle, where’s the next opportunity for us."
• Tannenbaum declined to say whether he regrets not making an effort to sign Vernon last year. “I am really comfortable with what we did.”
• On Vernon’s contract with the Giants: “I can’t opine on other peoples’ decisions. I am sure people have rolled their eyes with some of the decisions I made in my career. I don’t think that would be fair for me to opine on that.”
• On the trade-down with Philadelphia, moving from 8 to 13 in the first round: "It’s reasonable to think we will get a starter at 13 if we stay there. To get three starters in one trade, we felt we’re not one player away. We all thought that’s an efficient use of cap resources."
• On free agents Kelvin Sheppard and Spencer Paysinger: “The door is open for both of them.”
• What convinced him that Jermon Bushrod could play guard? “He could really be a five hole player, which has incredible value when you’re filling out your game day roster. Most teams take seven offensive linemen. To have one guy who can play all five holes is incredibly valuable. High character guy, tough, versatile.”
• On the situation at guard beyond Bushrod: “We have three guys – Billy Turner, Jamil Douglas, Dallas Thomas. We could be adding another guard here imminently [Kraig Urbik, as we first reported last night]. We have feelings for those [three young] players. Competition will bring out the best in them. Who our starting guards are in September is impossible to say. There’s going to be competition from within and we still have the draft and several more months to go. Those three players will have a certainly big opportunity.”
• I didn't read much into this because he was just giving a hypothetical example, but he did say: "If the right opportunity in the draft presented for a quarterback, we aren’t going to rule that out. We want to have as much strength and flexibility in the draft."
GASE ON HIS OFFENSIVE WEAPONS
Among many things that Adam Gase made clear during his 60-minute session with reporters at the NFL owners meeting today at the Boca Raton Resort and Club:
He likes the players on this roster who will have the ball in their hands.
He indicated he has high regard for his skill position players (a group that lost Lamar Miller and Rishard Matthews).
“I feel really good about it,” he said. “It’s just going to be about putting all the pieces together, make sure we’re using them to their strengths. We don’t want to force guys to do something they’re not good at. It’s trying to do it at rapid rate, trying to figure out as fast as possible what everybody does really well. Those 10 OTAs and two mini-camps, you have to speed it up as much as possible. I felt really good about the group that we have, the skill guys. If we can stay healthy, I feel really good about that group."
Here’s what he had to say on each of the key players who will have the ball in their hands:
• On Jay Ajayi: “I feel really comfortable with Jay. I saw a lot of good things on film last year. I’m fired up to get going with him. The problem is, we can’t do anything until April 11, and those two weeks are meetings and weight-lifting.
“I remember watching [Ajayi] when he was coming out. What I see now is a guy who looks lighter to me and shiftier than I thought he ever was. His elusiveness, when defenders are coming at him, that kind of surprised me. I didn’t see that. I’m excited to see what we can do with him going forward. He is a bigger guy. I remembered him being more of a power guy.”
But obviously, another running back will be added.
“We’ve kind of gone after a few guys in free agency,” Gase said, of CJ Anderson and Chris Johnson. “We were looking to have more than one guy. Jay is going to be a big part of what we’re doing. I like to have multiple backs. We have only three guys on our roster. We’re going to need to develop that stable of backs. Options will present themselves. We need to stay patient, whether it’s through the draft or somebody gets cut…We’ll just keep investigating that."
• On DeVante Parker: “We’re looking for him to be a big fixture in what we’re trying to do. He’s a talented player. I’m glad we’re going to go into the season [with him] healthy. For him to be able to play at the end of the year, that was big for his development. We’ve got to bring him along, get him to grow at a rapid rate. We need him to be a good player. I think he will be. Love his skill set. Love what he can bring to this offense. Bring him along as quickly as we can."
• On Jarvis Landry: “I’m excited to get around Jarvis, the way he plays and just seeing what he does on film. I see him in the weight room a lot. There’s an intensity there I’m really excited to be around that guy. He’s such a competitor. He’s one of those guys a lot of people didn’t see this coming. He felt like I’m going to prove a lot of people wrong. I like being around guys like that, that have a chip on his shoulder. He still plays like there’s a respect factor he doesn’t get that he’s looking for. He plays like that."
• On Kenny Stills, Gase said he wants him to be more involved in the offense: “He will be. He definitely will be. I like Kenny’s skill set. We were involved in trying to acquire him in Chicago. We tried to make a play for him before he got traded to Miami. I liked him coming out. I am excited to see what we can do to get him rolling in this offense."
• On Jordan Cameron: “I’m excited to see where we can go with him. The tight end position of this offense has been one of the strengths as far as matchup issues with safeties and linebackers.
“I’m interested to see what we can do with him, what his strengths are. Right now, it’s so hard because you can’t practice. I need to see him live. I need to experiment, need to flex him out and see what he’s comfortable doing, what routes he likes to do. That’s going to be a learning experience for our coaching staff."
• On Dion Sims: “I’m interested to see how far we can bring him along. Potential has been used a lot with Dion. I told him this is probably the year we get this thing rolling. Let’s get the consistency going. That’s what we’re looking to do. Let’s get the consistency going. I expect him to be an important piece of what we’re doing this year, as far as him and Jordan.”
• As for Tannehill, Gase touched on a few issues:
1) He said his job will be “taking a little bit off of Ryan, not letting him get hit, get the sacks down, get him comfortable sitting back there in the pocket.”
2) On where specifically he wants to get Tannehill to another level: “I need to see him live. I’ve seen him play live two times in my life. In 2014, when he came into Denver, he played well in that game. And then I saw him last year preseason game. He was in for like nine plays and walked down the field and scored on us.
"I just want to see him [live]. From everything I hear, his intelligence level is off the charts. Offensively, we’re going to have to experiment, kind of figure out where we’re at with Ryan. Some of the routes that this group does really well, I haven’t been a part of in a while. Every quarterback likes different things. Ryan does excel at some concepts that I haven’t run in a while, that the last two quarterbacks I had didn’t really like.”
3) How much has he watched Tannehill on tape? “It has been real sporadic for me. I went back, saw the AFC East games. I wanted to see what was going on in the division, how we played against those teams. That was my starting point. I’ll watch a game here and there. It takes time to grind through all that tape when you have free agency and the draft.
“Now things are kind of slowing down. I am able to speed that process up. I want to watch what he’s done throughout his career. You start putting all the cut-ups together. Let me watch all the touchdowns. Let me watch all the interceptions. It’s a process. It took us a long time to get through. We did all these 5 year cut ups of Jay Cutler last year, watch five years of interceptions fast. You’ve got to figure out where were trouble spots? How can you help him? Where can you put him in better positions?"
• Couple quick news notes: After being moved to linebacker last summer, Chris McCain has been shifted back to defensive end… Walt Aikens indicated he was told to learn cornerback, as well as continuing to work at safety. But that isn’t unusual, and Gase said he will remain at safety. Armando has more defensive stuff on his Dolphins blog, so check that out…
Gase said Jarvis Landry will remain the returner until the Dolphins find someone who can capably handle the job and thus lessen the load on Landry…. Please see the last post for news on a guard the Dolphins are bringing in today and some insight on their decisions on their offensive and defensive lines.