Tick...Tick...Tick...Free Agency Hours Away

clock - art-collThe long countdown toward free agency is almost over.  With just over 14 hours remaining, the real kick-off to the 2008 season begins.  The Miami Dolphins are sitting around 40 million in salary cap space, and like the 2003 draft, find themselves sitting nice in a rather lackluster pool. 

Sure, as always there are some “names” on the list.  Alan Faneca, Assante Samuel, Lance Briggs, and, well, ummm, well there is 3 names on the list.  The talent pool drops off quite a bit after those 3, there are still guys like Calvin Pace and such, but the real cream isn’t going anywhere.  14 teams were tagged as franchise players this year and quite a few restricted free agents received tender offers.  The job of Jeff Ireland is not going to be easy.

If the talent pool wasn’t shallow enough, the draft ahead is lacking at the top as well…not in clear talent, but in clear number 1 overall talent.  Such is this new NFL.  Only 75 starters are hitting the market this year in free agency and 5 prospects could find themselves selected number 1 overall in April.  Not a great year to go through change. 

The question is will Miami make an immediate impact to the FA market at midnight tonight or will they slowly churn the butter and wait for the salary explosion to die?  If it is the latter, we will see a slow methodical process that likely sees the team signing 2nd and 3rd tier prospects instead of the high priced top that often leave teams bleeding in future years.

Predicting what may happen is almost as impossible as predicting what the Dolphins will actually do in the first round of the draft.  With no clear nose tackle, the Dline will likely include young 34 DE’s instead.  With no solid linebackers, the Phins will likely add to an offensive line that looks like Swiss cheese.  Justin Smiley is a likely target for the line, while Faneca likely is not.

Calvin Pace would make an immediate impact on the team, but his price tag of 6 million plus may be too expensive even for a team that has the money and is rebuilding.  Gibril Wilson?  Seeking 5 million a year at Safety.  Lance Briggs?  Seeking upward of 10 mill a year.  And it goes on and on and on.

So if your a Miami Dolphins fan, what can you expect come midnight tonight plus 1?  Little.  The Dolphins will not get into a bidding match for any player.  They will set a value and that value will not be reset.  The Phins will likely make a play on Smiley.  Likely a play on Flozell Adams if he is available.  Perhaps Will Demps.  Other than that?  Put the names in a bin and start pulling them out…eliminate two then put the next one aside, eliminate two and put the next one aside.  After there are no more names in the bowl, take all the ones you set aside, throw half of them away and there are your free agent possibilities.  Thats what you can realistically expect.  Everything else would be gravy!

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