Rebuilding the Dolphins: + & -

Equation - NSF.govIn this the final part of our 5 point series “Rebuilding the Miami Dolphins”  we look at the “addition & subtraction” that needs to take place in order to move this team forward.  The previous parts are linked at the bottom. 

Addition and subtraction starts with free agency and the draft.

The Miami Dolphins will once again enter the off-season with a future that is not just dim, but after this season bleak.  The franchise must be rebuilt in steps and when all other portions are completed, the team must look at the final task, molding and shaping the roster.

The first step in this process actually started with the previous part, determining the type of team you are wanting to field.  High powered offense?  Bone crushing defense?  Finesse or smash mouth?   Once that has been determined the process moves away from evaluation and into availability and directly in the free agent market.

This years free agent crop is nothing to jump up and down about and the few players that may find themselves available for a nice pay raise will likely find themselves instead with a nice franchise or transition tag instead.  That leaves little for the helpless.  Put a contender out there with money, and chances are you either overpay for average talent or watch them sign elsewhere with that contending team. 

The free agent market however, is not about building your team, it’s about finding pieces for it.  Finding the young guys who have yet to reach their potential but show the signs of reaching it.  These are the 4 and 5 year players coming off either their 1st NFL contract or their second.  They are young, hungry, and cheap.  The problem is finding them and not giving in to the thought of making an immediate return on the investment.  Good to great free agent moves are the ones that fit within the concept of the team and grow as the team grows.  If you want the miracle worker, you will not find it in one person.

This years free agent market however could hold some gems if they are not tagged or signed early.  Lance Briggs the MLB for Chicago is young and athletic, but will also be expensive, Bryant Johnson the WR in Arizona is quick, eager, and will not be as expensive as many others.

The Dolphins need to work the phones with the agents.  Target not one, but several free agents and then make it happen.  The Phins must set themselves a target salary as well and if that number can not be reached, then neither should the deal.  It is smart football management and does not strap your team for cash in the future.  Simple moves. 

As the FA market shrinks after the 1st and 2nd full weeks, the remaining needs of the team vs. what is expected to be in the draft must be compared and evaluated and then worked upon to achieve.  For example, if you determine that the team after those first two weeks is in need of defensive tackles you have to gage where your picks are in the draft and then “mock” what you might get vs. what you want.  If you deem that there may be a solid CB in round 2 and the top DT you want is not until round 4, then explore the possibility of bringing in DTs during free agency.  The draft is a dart in the dark, but every team must have a goal set and a positional plan going into it that they can work within those contingencies with free agency.  A team that spends a fortune building in free agency will find themselves in a position like the Miami Dolphins are today and when that special player in the future does come available, you have no money to spend.

Working the draft is just as important if not more than hitting in free agency.  As soon as the season is over, a team must begin deliberation on the subject of it’s draft picks.  Scouts begin deep analyzation of their prospects, there is the combine, the pro-day workouts, the interviews, and all of that gets done after and action plan is in place to decide what directions the draft will take you in.

If all of that is not enough, the Dolphins need to start weighing the options of trading their first rounder or keeping it.  After that, value of that pick must be formulated.

If I am rebuilding this team, no one player is better than the other in terms of trading the number 1 overall pick.  A miscue here and the Dolphins will be paying for years to come with little or nothing to show for it.

Trade below the value, run the draft and don’t let it run you.  If a team like Atlanta offers a trade that values out 900 in their favor then so be it, if you can determine the players you get with those extra picks can provide solutions.

Darren McFadden is the premier player in the upcoming draft, for now.  That could change and at some point likely will.  Do the Dolphins draft a RB with it’s first pick over a player that fills a need?  The answer is not a certainty.  McFadden may be the only player in this draft that is worth first overall money, or at least close.  The reason is he touches the ball.  He is at one of those impact positions on the field that can immediately make an impact.  Even if he is drafted though, I would be trying to move him for more picks.

The NFL draft is where you build the future of your team and every effort must be taken to ensure that you have done your due diligence.  If you make a mistake, you put the team further back.

This all comes down to the formation of good planning and better execution.  Target players early in rounds 1 and 2 and not positions, then in rounds 3 through 7 target positions not players.  You may miss on a few of the “Marcus Colstons'” out there, but if you don’t have a need for that position, your not building your team, your giving your team depth.  When you are rebuilding, depth is the least of your concern.  You need to target starters.

There is no magic formula and no magic player that will immediately improve a team, there is however the possibility to achieve solid additions by making strides in every way you evaluate your roster.

The second part of the process is the subtraction of players.  After a yearly evaluation vs. salary vs. production vs. need, the Dolphins will have to make some cuts.  Some will be hard, and others will be much easier.  As players enter into their year of free agency, the Phins will need to explore who has the value and who does not.  Guys like Joe Toledo are always rumored casualties and this year will be no different. 

However, added to the mix of possible casualties are Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas who may find themselves playing elsewhere via trade.  There are a slew of other veterans who could find themselves on the outs as well.

The Dolphins need to take a step back and a deep breath and examine guys like Rex Hadnot who is scheduled to be a free agency.  Now is a good time to start those talks, get the young productive guys locked up.  It was a mistake that Nick Saban made last year that led to the departure of Wes Welker.  Had Saban taken the time to get him signed, that trade doesn’t happen.

There are a lot of things to do to rebuild this team, and a lot of steps to do it.  Shoring up both sides of the ball and the special teams will go a long way to instilling a positive, winning attitude.  Losers lose, winners play.  If the Dolphins want to win, they need to start becoming a team.  They haven’t been in far too long.

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