Tyler Johnson's splendid evolution from undrafted rookie to NBA rotation player to $50 million man came with its share of anxiety this summer, with Johnson initially unsure if the Heat would match the Nets' enormous contract offer.
But while Johnson would have been fine with joining Brooklyn, he's happy he gets to stay with the Heat, who matched the four-year, $50 million offer because owner Micky Arison did not want another team to pluck one of his emerging young players.
"This is where I’m most comfortable," Johnson told Heat.com's Couper Moorhead. "This is where I’ve found my way in the league. This is where my friends are at. These are the people that I’ve gone through battles with. At the end of the day I was still hoping I could figure out a way to come back and be in a Heat uniform.”
Johnson met with Houston and Chicago and Brooklyn in the early days of free agency. “You go through that similar in college but this is a whole ‘nother level of it,” Johnson said.
“I was trying to do what was best for my family, but at the same time you have to consider the relationships that you’ve built, what it’s taken for me to get here, and people I’ve gotten here with. So it was a lot of mixed emotions.”
Johnson, who was sidelined for three months after shoulder surgery last season, also told Heat.com: “I’m going to go in and do the same thing, and I’m going to be healthy. I remember how I was playing at the beginning of the season last year. I’m excited to be able to get back to that and show people that not only do I deserve it but in a couple of years they’re going to say they got me for a steal.”
Click here for Moorhead's Heat.com piece on Johnson.
ARIAN FOSTER SAYS HE'S STILL PRO BOWL CALIBER
6:45 p.m. Monday update: What Arian Foster had to say moments ago after signing with the Dolphins:
• What does he have left? "I still feel like I'm a Pro Bowl caliber player and I intend to show that."
• He said he's fully healthy after last year's ruptured Achilles.
• Does he expect to start? "I don't have any expectations. Just coming here to compete and help the squad out however I can."
• He said he told his agent he preferred to sign with Miami, though he had a visit scheduled with Detroit later this week. "After my visit with Miami, I kind of already made my mind up that's where I wanted to be. I see a lot of promise to this team. I feel I can add value and get the team to where they want to be."
• Foster, on coach Adam Gase: "Adam knows how to use a running back out of the backfield, which is my best quality, route-running, catching the ball out of the backfield. He knows how to steer the ship, man. I'm happy to have a seat on the boat."
• On if there was reluctance around the league to sign him: "I know this league knows when I'm on the field, I'm one of the most productive doing it. If there was any reluctance it was on their end. All I can control is how hard I work and what I put into this game."
• On his thoughts on the Dolphins: "A young team. Hungry team. Lot of talent on both sides of the ball. I think they have the right head coach, the right people in the front office. They're all committed to winning. I believe they are headed in the right direction. I feel we can do some good things this year if everyone is moving in the right direction."
• Asked about essentially switching spots with Lamar Miller, who's now with Houston: "Nothing to prove to anybody, man. The time I spent in Houston was an amazing time. I have nothing but love for the people and fans in Houston. This is just a new chapter in my life. I'm sure Lamar Miller feels the same way."
MORE ON ARIAN FOSTER
Some quick thoughts on Foster:
• The Dolphins believe they are getting the player far closer to the one who averaged 4.8 yards and ran for 1246 yards in 2014 than the one limited to 2.6 per carry in four games last season before a ruptured Achilles.
Foster, who ranks 10th among active backs in career rushing yards, is only 29. But durability has been an issue in recent years. He missed 23 of a possible 48 games, due largely to a 2013 back injury and last year's Achilles' injury, which was sustained in late October against Miami.
But Foster impressed the Dolphins in a workout today -- "looked good," one source said -- and the Dolphins wanted to move quickly before he had a chance to board a flight and work out for Detroit.
• Foster will compete with Jay Ajayi for the starting job. But regardless of who starts, both should get plenty of carries, presuming Foster stays healthy. Remember, Adam Gase has raved about Ajayi throughout the offseason program, though he has dropped a few passes.
• Particularly affected by this are Damien Williams (who goes from being the No. 2 or No. 3 back to potentially not making the team at all unless Miami keeps four backs), Kenyan Drake (will be on team but figures to be No. 3 on the depth chart or even No. 4 if Williams is kept), and Daniel Thomas and Isaiah Pead (roster long shots whose odds grew longer).
Drake had some moments in the offseason program but not enough to suggest he was ready to be a reliable No. 2 back. And his hamstring injury late in minicamp was his eighth injury in four-plus years.
• Gase wants a back capable of playing all three downs, because he prefers to substitute backs for an entire series, instead of during a series.
Foster is certainly capable of that. Besides his running prowess (4.5 career average in seven games), he also has a 9.1 average on 249 career receptions, and 14 touchdowns.
• Foster has 16 fumbles in seven seasons and has lost 11 of them. He had two in just four games last year, but just two in 13 games the year before.
• Foster is getting $1.5 million, with $2 million more potentially in incentives, according to a source. But Pro Football Talk says only $400,000 of the $1.5 M is guaranteed. He won't get the other $1.1 million if he's cut before week 1.
• So Foster and Lamar Miller essentially traded teams, with Miller now in Houston. Foster's contract is a one-year deal with Miami.
• If the Dolphins get the 2010 Houston Texans versions of Foster and Mario Williams, they'll be in great shape!
MORE DOLPHINS TALK
The good folks at Pro Football Focus, who evaluate tape of every play of every game, have been ranking teams, by position, over the past two weeks, and they apparently do not hold several key Dolphins units in particularly high regard, at least compared with the rest of the league.
Here’s where they rated individual Dolphins units in five categories and my thoughts on each:
• Where PFF ranked Miami: 21st of 32 teams
• Players at the position: Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore, Brandon Doughty, Zac Dysert
• PFF’s “Key stat”: Tannehill completed 61.9 percent of his passes in 2015, down 4.5 percent from the season before.
• PFF’s comment: “At one point, it looked like Ryan Tannehill could rival any QB from his draft class—a class that included Andrew Luck—but he has regressed since then, and last season was distinctly mediocre (at best). He had one excellent game against the Titans, but outside of that, he was more consistently bad than good, and was particularly inefficient underneath, despite having a weapon in Jarvis Landry that excels in that area. Tannehill has shown the ability to be far better than this, but right now, his play is heading in the wrong direction. Matt Moore was once one of the league’s best backup QBs, but he hasn’t played meaningful snaps since Tannehill was drafted, so it’s impossible to stay if he is still at that level.”
• My comment: For now, 21st seems about right, but Tannehill must rise to the 10 to 16 range to justify the financial allocation than kicks in for 2017 through 2020: a four-year extension with $77 million in new money.
For perspective, the teams rated 16th through 20th by PFF were Minnesota (Teddy Bridgewater), Washington (Kirk Cousins), Jacksonville (Blake Bortles), Kansas City (Alex Smith) and the Giants (Eli Manning).
PFF identified these teams as having a worse QB situation than Miami: Chicago (Jay Cutler), Detroit (Matthew Stafford), Philadelphia (Sam Bradford), Baltimore (Joe Flacco), Tennessee (Marcus Mariota), Los Angeles (Jared Goff), Houston (Brock Osweiler), Denver (Mark Sanchez), Cleveland (Robert Griffin III), San Francisco (Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick) and the Jets (Geno Smith, Bryce Petty; still unsigned is free agent Ryan Fitzpatrick).
RECEIVER/TIGHT END UNITS
• Where PFF ranked Miami: 25th of 32 teams
• Key players: WR DeVante Parker, WR Jarvis Landry, WR Kenny Stills, TE Jordan Cameron, TE Dion Sims, WR Leonte Carroo, WR Jakeem Grant
• PFF’s “key stat”: Carroo dropped just two of the 96 catchable passes thrown his way over the past two seasons at Rutgers.
• PFF’s comment: “The Dolphins’ wide receiver and tight end group has a lot of potential… [but] outside of Jarvis Landry, we’ve yet to see it fulfilled. Landry is one of the NFL’s top receivers in space, forcing 28 missed tackles on 110 receptions a year ago. DeVante Parker is a player we were very high on coming into the draft last year, and we saw flashes of how good he can be in the final five weeks of the season after injury slowed him down earlier in the year.
"Showing he can be very dangerous with the ball in his hands, Parker forced seven missed tackles on just 26 receptions. Tight end Jordan Cameron was a disappointment in his first season in Miami, but is two seasons removed from an 80-catch campaign in Cleveland. If Cameron can replicate his impressive 2013 season, and Parker can continue the momentum of his strong 2015 finish, this is a unit much better than their current 25th ranking.”
• My comment: 25th seems too low, based on Landry’s impressive body of work in his first two seasons, the potential that Parker flashed late last season, Stills’ performance in New Orleans in 2013 and 2014 (led the league in yards per catch one year) and Cameron’s high production in Cleveland (among league leaders in tight end passing yardage one year, yards per catch another). Of course, Adam Gase and Clyde Christensen must maximize the talents of Stills and Cameron far more than the previous staff could, and Tannehill’s performance will directly impact that….
A case could be made that Miami’s group should be ranked higher than several teams rated ahead of the Dolphins by PFF, including No. 21 New Orleans (Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas, Willie Snead, Coby Fleener) and No. 23 Detroit (Brandon Tate, Marvin Jones, Jeremy Kerley, Eric Ebron).
• Where PFF ranked Miami: 30th of 32
• Key players: 30. Jay Ajayi, Damien Williams, Kenyan Drake. (Foster is also on the roster but wasn't signed when PFF did this analysis.)
• PFF’s “key stat:” The three backs listed above have played a combined 484 pro snaps.
• PFF’s comment: “This is little more than a situation of lack of information. Jay Ajayi could be a great starting running back; it’s just impossible to tell after 49 carries as a rookie. Those 49 carries, though, were fairly impressive. On them, he broke 12 tackles and averaged 3.3 yards after contact per attempt, even though he only averaged 3.8 yards per carry—a ludicrous ratio. Kenyan Drake (Alabama) should step right in and be a competent third-down back, as well, and I would be very surprised if the Dolphins aren’t higher in the end-of-year RB rankings.”
• My comment: Foster will help, but again, he wasn't on the team when PFF did its rankings. Though Ajayi and Drake have considerable potential, it’s difficult to rank Miami much higher than 30th because of their limited body of work. The only teams ranked lower than Miami are Philadelphia (Ryan Matthews) and Washington (Matt Jones).
• Where PFF ranked Miami: 19th of 32
• PFF’s projected starters: LT Branden Albert, LG Laremy Tunsil, C Mike Pouncey, RG Billy Turner, RT Ja’Wuan James
• PFF’s “key stat”: Last year, the Miami offensive line recorded a pass-blocking efficiency of 73.9, the fourth-worst mark in the league.
• PFF’s comment: "The Dolphins’ offensive line was among the NFL’s worst last year, but there is reason to expect improvement in 2016. For starters, they should be going into the season healthy; Dallas Thomas is the only current Miami linemen that played over 900 snaps last season. If Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss) can get used to the guard position during training camp, he should provide an immediate upgraded there.
"There should be plenty of competition for the other guard spot, with Kraig Urbik (Bills) and Jermon Bushrod (Bears) coming to Miami via free agency. While this unit should be capable of producing adequate protection in 2016, thinks could very easily go downhill given the current roster, and the Dolphins may find themselves near the bottom of the O-line rankings once more."
• My comment: Considering the money and high draft picks invested in this group, this better be a top 12 unit by the end of the year. Anything in the bottom half would be unacceptable.
FRONT SEVEN ON DEFENSE
• Where PFF ranked Miami: 22nd of 32
• Projected starters: DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Earl Mitchell; DE Mario Williams, DE Cameron Wake; LB Koa Misi, MLB Kiko Alonso, LB Jelani Jenkins
• Key reserves: DT Jordan Phillips (could end up beating out Mitchell; battle is very close); DE Jason Jones, DE Andre Branch, DE Dion Jordan; LB Neville Hewitt, LB Zach Vigil, LB Spencer Paysinger
• PFF’s “key stat:” The Dolphins allowed 4.03 yards per carry in base defense last season, the 22nd-best mark in the NFL.
• PFF’s comment: “While it perhaps didn’t live up to $100 million in value, Ndamukong Suh’s first season in Miami was far from a disappointment. The pressure will be on him in 2016 to lead the D-line and add to his production in the passing game, with those around him looking to bounce back. A healthy Cameron Wake answers many questions off the edge, but will there be support from Mario Williams shaking off a sluggish 2015 in Buffalo? Will Dion Jordan be reinstated to add a wildcard to this mix? Wild would be an apt, if not terribly flattering, description for the Dolphins’ linebackers, too; if Kiko Alonso can recover his knack for finding the ball that he showed as a rookie in Buffalo, it would bring a massive boost to this defensive front.”
• My comment: With former All-Pros in Suh and Wake and Mario Williams and a former Defensive Rookie of the Year in Alonso, this unit has the potential to be far better than 22nd and it clearly needs to be. But Wake is coming off an Achilles’ injury, Williams is coming off a very disappointing year and the run defense was atrocious last season (28th in yards permitted). I’m not worried about the pass rush, but I need to be convinced the run defense will be substantially better.
PFF'S THOUGHT ON LANDRY
One final PFF category offered encouraging news for the Dolphins: Jarvis Landry was rated by PFF as the NFL’s 10th best gamebreaker, behind Todd Gurley, Odell Beckham, Doug Baldwin, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, Allen Robinson, Doug Martin, Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins.
• PFF’s comment: “The Dolphins’ commitment to feeding their top playmaker produced big results in 2015. Landry produced as a receiver, runner, and returner last season. He ranked second amongst receivers with 28 broken tackles, adding a further 12 from just 18 attempts on the ground.
“Landry also averaged an impressive 5.2 yards after the catch per reception. He contributed on special teams, too, recording the top grade of returners last season. Landry averaged 10.9 yards per punt return, adding a touchdown in the process. One gets the impression new head coach Adam Gase will get the best out of his versatile, talented weapon.”