The question the Miami Dolphins must ask themselves is this. Do they spend the money on a big name free agent and then bargain shop or do they bypass the top tier guys in favor of the 2nd tier players like they did last year? Big money or no money at all? That’s the question.
The Dolphins have 24 million dollars to spend come next Friday, that number is likely to increase when the Phins begin to trim the roster and possibly restructure some of their larger contracts. Last season the Phins hit free agency running, avoiding the top of the line guys while making quick hits of the 2nd tier players like Justin Smiley who until a freak accident late in the season was playing very well along side rookie Jake Long.
Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland, and Tony Sparano have made it very clear that they have every intention on continuing this rebuild through the draft. This season there is no bank breaking 1st rounder as the Phins do not select until pick 25. The downside is they don’t pick until 25 and thus have less of a sure thing with their selection.
The top guys linked to potential free agency are LB Bart Scott, C Jason Brown, WR TJ Houshmandzadeh, CB Bryant McFadden, and DE Chris Canty. For the Dolphins each represent a need on their roster. However, the first two are likely to command big time money, and in the case of Brown, possibly the highest paid center in the league when it’s all said and done.
The Dolphins are not cheap but they are frugal. This team knows they are still in the second year of a complete and total rebuild. They have not gone the route of building around a certain player or group of players but instead a philosophy. A winning formula that has served Bill Parcells well in the past. That formula does not include big time frivolous spending.
On the final day of the NFL’s mandated franchise tagging period, record deals were signed by 3 players across the league. Nnamdi Asomugha signed a 3 year deal that could potentially be worth 50 million and will pay a guaranteed salary of 28 million in the first 2 years. Al Davis and his senility at it’s best once again. In Indy, the Colts dropped 45 million on CB Kelvin Hayden.
Perhaps the contract that hurt the Phins the most however was the deal the Panthers doled out on offensive lineman Jordan Gross. Gross signed a 6 year deal that will pay him 30.5 million guaranteed in the first 3 years. While Gross is a stellar left tackle, the contract will hurt the Dolphins attempts to possibly sign free agent to be Jason Brown.
Brown has stated that he wants to be the highest paid center in the league. While centers do make less money than LT’s the contract signed by Gross will give the rep’s for Brown some ammunition to justify making Brown’s goals closer to becoming a reality.
With Channing Crowder all but gone officially, the Dolphins will turn their attentions on defense to filling that vacancy. Veteran Akin Ayodele would immediately be penciled in as the teams starter and although he has recently been given high praise by HC Tony Sparano, it’s still uncertain whether Ayodele can excel for an entire season manning the position. Bart Scott however could.
Scott will be an expensive payout and while he would welcome the opportunity to play in Miami according to sources, he is also stated that he would be willing to sign with Baltimore for less money if it helps them retain some key free agents.
With the free agent pool not deep beyond the first and second tier’s the Dolphins can ill afford to allow their own free agents to walk without a plan in place to replace them. The Phins could avoid paying out the dollars to offensive lineman and address the position in the draft. Parcells and company have been keeping close eyes on the Lineman at the Combine and it’s likely they address the line with at least one of their first 3 picks.
Tony Sparano made it clear that this team is still rebuilding despite the 11-5 record they posted last season. Citing a plan that called for 2 to 3 years to complete, the team is not surrounding itself with names, but players who fit their system and philosophy. Will that translate to spending top dollars on a guy that will fill a need or will it equate to spending less money on a guy that fits the teams make-up and direction?
A week from now we will know.