While it’s nice to revel in an AFC East Division crown, the truth is that aside from the hats that are still shipping out of Miami, the season is over with and done with and now, the hard work begins.
This team saw over 20 new faces last off-season and over 40 moves since training camp ended. It’s likely that we see the same type, perhaps not as much, as we did last year. The good news is that we will do so with Bill Parcells looking down over the coop from his perch.
Wayne Huizenga informed the media that two days ago, Parcells informed him that he was going to stay and not leave for another team. Stephen Ross has indicated that he fully expects and wants Parcells to stay as well. Parcells is a man who can change his mind on a dime, and has in the past. However, he rarely will inform someone that he considers a friend, one thing and then do another.
The sale of the Dolphins will be completed within the next two weeks and the more change will brought to the team. Stephen Ross is a local developer who actually comes to us from New York and other places but he is a Floridian and a Dolphins fan at that.
Ross was one of the investors who tried to buy the team from the Robbie Family but lost in his bid to Wayne H. Ross has said that owning the Dolphins has always been his dream. With the team now done in the playoffs, the focus for the upper management will shift away from football operations for the next couple of weeks and instead finalize the last 45% sale. Wayne H. will maintain a 5% stake in the franchise.
After the sale is complete, the next question will be what restructuring will take place in the management team? No not Parcells or Jeff Ireland, we are talking Bryan Weidemeier who has been with the team some 20 odd years and is now the President of the team. Those guys. It’s normal for a new owner to bring in his guys.
Shifting back to the football side, things are going to pick up for at least 5 guys or not at all. Fans will certainly take an interest in what happens there. Exit interviews will start the process sometime this week as Tony Sparano sits down with every player and goes over his thoughts on the season and what he expects next year and perhaps whether they will be back at all.
The Dolphins finished out the 2008 season roughly around the 100 million mark in salary. That includes roughly 21 million in dead cap space for players no longer on the team. The numbers may be off a bit. The Phins will turn their attention to getting the salary cap in line again before March when FA starts and the new league year begins. The salary cap for next season is expected to be in the 123 mill range which will give Miami around 25 to 40 million in spending cash depending on what drops off the dead money account (more on that in the coming weeks when actual figures are more readily available).
Of the 5 main guys Miami has as unrestricted free agents, the likely first signing will be Yeremiah Bell and it will be a surprise if he isn’t resigned. Bell has played tremendously this season and at times has kept the team in games and from losing games. Bell seems like the logical choice to be marked priority and it is not out of the question for the team to tag him if a contract can’t get done by March.
Channing Crowder is perhaps the biggest name of the 4 and while the team has started preliminary talks with the LB, the truth is that his injury late in the season and the lack of impact plays could hurt the guys chances. The good news is that Crowder is not a big name talent and therefore he is not likely to garner a ton of high-dollar interest on the open market, plus he really likes Miami, the coaching staff, and the fans. Crowder will likely take less than market value to stay with the Dolphins, if it’s offered.
If Bell is the must sign and Crowder is the name, than Vernon Carey is the guy who has more than likely played his last game in Miami as a Dolphin. Carey has heard nothing about a new contract and his play of late, especially against Baltimore has been nothing if not mediocre. Carey has suffered along with the rest of the line when it comes to dealing with changing faces and that has hurt his consistency, something he has been known for.
Saying Carey is a bust would be a lie, saying Carey doesn’t deserve a contract would be a lie. He has proven himself very valuable. He can play both tackle spots and both guard spots. The problem is that Carey is not the prototype lineman that Tony Sparano and Bill Parcells has employed int he past. In addition, past free agent markets have inflated the price of a starting lineman. If a 3rd tier no name can get a 45 million dollar deal to play guard, a 2nd tier starting LT, RT, RG should easily be able to get that same paycheck with more guaranteed.
Miami however, may not want to commit to Carey for another 4 or 5 years and that makes him expendable.
Andre’ Goodman has been playing some really good football and his performance against the Jets alone was enough to warrant contract talks (no they have not started yet). Goodman or “Goodie” as Sparano calls him will not likely hit the open market. The Dolphins will be looking to continue their restructure of the team but Goodman is still young and has a year under his belt with Todd Bowles (who will not be hired in Detroit), plus he won’t be overly expensive.
The last of the big 5 is CB Renaldo Hill and while he has played well in the second half of the season and one of the reasons the secondary has improved, he may not be worth the money he could seek. The Dolphins will probably work on a deal but it’s possible the two sides fall short and Hill goes out in FA and tests those waters.
The season may be over with, but the fun starts up very soon. Consider that the NFL’s season has 4 weeks left. A division weekend, a conference weekend, then two weeks to the Super Bowl. Throw away the following weekend for the Pro-Bowl and your looking at just shy of mid-February. In that time you will start hearing the words “transition” and “franchise” and contracts will be signed and sealed.
Then, in the first week of March, the league new year starts and free agency commences. A few weeks later and the Combine begins. A month after that and we are back in NY for the draft, mini-camps, schedule announcement, more mini-camps, draft pick signings, and your back in July and the Phins are back at camp. Next thing you know…Voila…it’s September and we are doing this all over again.
Yeah, the season may be over, but the real work on building this team starts now…we are after all still rebuilding…albeit an AFC East Division Champion!