Many fans want to complain about the lack of a superstar so far in free agency. My Email inbox proves that. Some complain that the Phins have done nothing more than sign castoffs of other teams and some with injury concerns. All of that is true to an extent. As the weekend dust settles in, one thing can be said with certainty. The Miami Dolphins finally got it right.
The players signed have in the past had an injury or two, which is one reason they are 2nd tier type guys instead of number 1’s. However, their injuries are nothing serious. No Achilles tears, no ACL’s, no stacked concussions. Nothing that prohibits full recoveries. The worst is Justin Smiley’s torn labrum. Recovering since last year, he will be ready for training camp…small investment. Castoffs you say? Not likely. Not one of these guys were cut or not tendered. All were the standard results of rookies who played well enough to prove they belong in the NFL and at a salary higher than what their previous teams could afford. The Giants took serious hits to their LB corp, and Reggie Torbor was one of them. It was not planned. It was because of salary cap. The Cardinals can’t afford Pace because of Larry Fitzgerald. The 9ers couldn’t afford Smiley because they found a capable starter in his backup. He was expendable considering they found a starter who cost less. This is the NFL.
Prior to the free agent period I warned fans that if you wanted names you would be disappointed. I said the way to build this team is to not target the number 1 guys but target the 2 and 3 guys instead. I predicted that the Phins would jump on 1 or 2 studs…namely hoping for WR Bryant Johnson out of AZ, but the real building process and turnaround begins with the guys coming off their rookie deals who have yet to reach their prime and potential. As it turns out, the Dolphins focused solely on that.
According to the Dolphins, their plan was to hit free agency avoiding the top level free agents and hit the 2nd tier free agents hard to avoid bidding wars with any other team. With the exception of Calvin Pace it worked out well. The Dolphins landed the top 2nd tier players in free agency while avoiding seriously inflated contracts at the top.
A few guys got some money, Sparks received a 7 million dollar guarantee and Ernest Wilford received a 13 mill contract with an addition mill in incentives. Neither broke the bank. Nor did the trade for 34 NT Jason Ferguson costing a swap of 6’s this year and 6 next. This is how you build a team and no, I don’t care for Kool-aide.
The Phins got in essence a mulligan on the 2004 draft. Of the 8 players signed on Friday 6 came out of the 2004 draft. Josh McCown was in 2002 and Jason Ferguson in 1997. The others all came out of the 2004 draft. For the record, our own 04 draft netted 4 players that made the roster. Only Vernon Carey is still on the team.
Some fans have been rather upset with the decision to sign this group, mainly due to a lack of “star quality”. Yet this team is in a rebuilding mode and to rebuild you need more than stars, you need a base and that base comes from guys who have very good upside. These players posses what Miami needs. Strong young guys coming off their first contracts who will be blossoming in 3 to 4 years. Right about the time that this team as a whole is competing for the playoffs. A 2 year turnaround.
With the rest of the weekend eerily silent, the Dolphins brass likely sat and awaited word from Calvin Pace, who now sits in his Atlanta home mulling offers from Miami and the Jets, and pouring through the rest of their free agent options. Their are players left on the market that are not marquee, there are a few players on the market that could be considered as such. Like on Friday the Phins won’t bite. This is about unity. This is about formulation of a plan and sticking to it. You may not like the names, you may question the talents production over the last few years, but these guys have shown the potential on the NFL stage and it is enough to believe they are coachable…and make no mistake we have a coaching staff that loves to actually teach.
This team got better over the weekend, it got younger too. Is it great? Not yet. Pieces are still missing but you can’t buy all the groceries at one time or they will go stale. The Phins have, in one day of free agency, shaped this team to what its future will be. Success is never guaranteed, which is why you don’t throw 10 million a year at the Lance Briggs’ or the Assante Samuels’ of the world. They get you one piece, but if they slip, they fall, they get hurt…you get screwed. You get as many up and coming stars, you lock them down, and you build your team with that type of quality depth. Guys who can come in, start, and be productive when you need it the most…the year that the rebuilding is over…not in the season following 1 win.
Like it or not, the Phins got it right.