The season is in the books, as if Miami Dolphins fans needed reminding and the focus now switches from the side show of Stephen M. Ross‘ ownership takeover and the King Carl Peterson watch to the task of evaluating what’s on the field now vs. what’s going to be on the field next season. The first step in doing so is to approach your own team, that’s what you control.
While it is fun to speculate on what this team or that team will or won’t do with their own free agents, the Dolphins have several key guys that need addressed before the March beginning of free agency. Have the Phins seen enough to open up their checkbooks early or have they seen enough to risk losing them on the free agent market? That is the question that Bill Parcells has told Wayne Huizenga he wants to address now.
So while fans all make room for life after the 2008 football season, the 2009 Miami Dolphins season is now getting underway. Here is a look at the top 5 Dolphins free agents and who may stay, go, and what might be enough to keep them in Miami.
Carey was the last first round draft product of the Rick Spielman/Dave Wannsted era and he comes into free agency for the first time with more questions than answers reagarding his future with the team. Carey has done well in his time with Miami but he is not protypical of a Bill Parcells lineman. Able to play all but the center position, Carey has value to many NFL teams. In 2003 the Dolphins traded a 4th round pick to move up one spot to take him, it was a mistake then, will it be a mistake to keep him now?
Why he could stay: The team knows he can move up and down the line as needed. The Miami homegrown product could take less money to stay in Miami, something he has said he would like to do. Carey is versatile and as evidenced across the NFL this season lineman are hard to find when injuries begin to take it’s toll late in the season.
Why he could go: Carey lacks the attitude of a road grader lineman and while he is good, he is far from great and never likely to be a pro-bowl caliber NFL baller. He tends to reach to much and his footwork can be unsteady at times. The real issue however is his size. Traditionally a Bill Parcells offensive line is big and stoudt and Tony Sparano was the O-line coach in Dallas and wants guys that will work up and not back.
Prediction: Barring a “hometown discount” I don’t think Carey stay in Miami. The Dolphins can ill afford to spend the 40 million that will likely be offered to Carey by someone because of his versatility and a committment of that nature would be a long term one and not a simple one or two year deal. Carey won’t be a candidate for a franchise tag because is not worth the top salaries of the league at his position. Unfortunately, barring that discount, I don’t think the Dolphins have as much value in him. I think he ends up elsewhere in 2009.
Tony Sparano calls him “Goodie” and after about the 5th week of 2008, he was exactly that. The team leader in interceptions, Goodman was more than just the teams ballhawk. He consistently defended his wr’s and rarely was called for interfererence. Something you can bet the team took notice of.
Why he could stay: The Phins know they need depth in the secondary and having a reliable CB is important to any team, especially one rebuilding. Goodman likes playing for the Dolphins and especially for this group of executives and coaches so he wants to stay. He is not considered a prime CB and therefore will not likely draw interest from winning organizations looking for a final few pieces and he doesn’t want to start over again with another team who is losing a lot.
Why he could go: Simply, he is not a shutdown corner. Goodman is a “good” corner but not an every down guy that a team can build around. He is over 30 and is only now beginning to show signs of his ability but it could be too late. With this likely to be his final long term contract, Goodman may want to test the waters and see what’s out there.
Prediction: Goodman isn’t going to find a huge payday and it may be in his best interest to stay put. With competitive teams likely to look ahead of Goodman for help, he likely will only find teams rebuilding willing to pay the money that he may want to make and he has stated that he is tired of losing teams. The Dolphins will resign him before he tests the market and will pay him more than what he is probably worth but less than what he thinks he might be. Goodman is needed for depth as the Phins wont’ look to him as a long term solution at the CB spot…Goodman knows that as well.
Of all the names mentioned, Crowder garners the most debate. An injury question mark coming out of college to a durability question mark in his 4 season, Crowder is plagued by injury concerns and consistent play. The MLB took over for long time Phin Zach Thomas this offseason and proved that he could handle the middle of the field, but questions about his game changing ability makes him a questionable return to the organization.
Why he could stay: Effort. Channing Crowder gives it all on every play and he is working to try and become the leader of the defense. He knows the system and has the ability to play the position and the team knows that. The Phins struggled without him in the lineup against Kansas City and their rushing attack and it showed when he returned for the final weekend game against the Jets. The Dolphins are thin at LB and losing Crowder wouldn’t help.
Why he could go: Crowder is not the bullish LB that is a Bill Parcells trademark. He is not a Lawerence Taylro type or a Demarcos Ware who were both products of a BP draft. Crowder has injury concerns and for the last two seasons has missed time while finishing 2007 on IR. Crowder will see some action on the FA market as teams will take an interest in his athletic ability and teams are always willing to overspend on potential…even when that potential has yet to materialize.
Prediction: Crowder is a good LB for the Dolphins but he is not great and he rarely makes game changing plays or even plays in the backfield. While his tackle numbers are consistent with his position, he is usually chasing rather than dictating and that’s a problem. The first offer made by the Phins was not even close to what CC want’s and until the realization comes into his head that his knees are a major concern for the team, he will hit the FA market. I think he finds the reception lukewarm and if so, then and only then will he be back in Miami.
Bell is the longest tenured Miami Dolphins draft pick taken in round 6 of the 2003 NFL draft by Dave Wannstedt. Bell is a hard-hitting Safety who has struggled with his health since coming into the league. 2008 was his first full year of being healthy, something that will help him in his contract negotiations.
Why he could stay: He loves playing for the Dolphins. Bell considers Miami his home and he has repeatedly said he couldn’t imagine playing anywhere else. While some NFL’ers say those things when contracts roll up to the table, many believe his comments to be genuine. He is a valuable asset to the defense and there is no reason to believe that he will not be lined up as the starter again next season regardless of what the team looks for in free agency.
Why he could leave: Bell proved that he could stay healthy and he overcame his Achille’s tear of last year. Hard hitting safeties that can blitz and read offenses cleanly are hard to find in the free agent market and if Bell finds his name unattatched to a contract when FA opens he will be one of the 2nd tier guys that teams will target and may find his name attatched to a few teams that are contenders and need solid help.
Prediction: The Dolphins will not let Bell go. The team told him early on that they would not talk contract until he could stay healthy a full season and Bell did that. Bell has said that he wants to see this through and really likes the direction the team is taking, heading, and the part they envision him playing in it. This one I think the Phins get right.
Hill is one of those enigmas. He has played well at time and at others has dissappeared. The team played better as a whole when Hill was on the field and his 3 interceptions came at times the team needed stops, but he is in his 30’s and is far from being an elite CB and doesn’t match well against physical receivers.
Why he could stay: Again, the Dolphins lack depth in the secondary and Hill has proven that he can play at this level. The Phins will likely make an offer to keep him but the question is will he get more on the market? The Phins worked on the interior last year and are expected to begin branching out which means the secondary could be a target, if there isn’t anything available, Hill becomes valuable.
Why he could leave: Pricetag. No one really knows what Hill is expecting to make and that puts the ball in his court. He could find it more lucrative to test the market and then come back to Miami with his best offer and see if they will match.
Prediction: I think Hill will stay because I don’t think there is a lot out there for him. He may overvalue himself and find that a 2 year deal to stay in Miami is better than what he will find outside. The free agent market will get tapped quickly this year and although there are not expected to be a plethora of CB’s at level one and two, the 3rd tier, where Hill should be, won’t be paying out much. I don’t think he leaves to take the same amount of money the Phins will offer him…which I don’t expect to be much.