The Miami Dolphins were supposed to be playing into late January. Instead they get to play one final game of the 2010 season and with it will come a slew of questions regarding the coaches, the management, the players, and everything in between. Stephen Ross will have to figure out what is the best course of action for this team to put people back in the seats at Sun Life Stadium…and that is only the start.
The Dolphins will wrap up the 2010 season with a trip to New England who has wrapped home field advantage throughout the playoffs and are looking, once again, like the best team in football. While the Patriots may rest a few players the Dolphins will be without return man, Nolan Carroll, LB Karlos Dansby, and TE Anthony Fasano.
While the three of them would appear locks to make the team next year, the future of many others is on the line following the game.
Dan Henning - Henning has retired twice and will point that out to anyone within ear shot. Despite speculation from some that Henning won’t step down, it would be a major shock to everyone in the NFL he was employed by the end of next week. Either through retirement or coaches decision. I would not however expect anything immediately until Tony Sparano chats with Stephen Ross about his own future.
Ronnie Brown – Brown is wrapping up his own tenure in Miami. He is without a contract and becomes an unrestricted free agent in February. The issue for Brown will be the CBA. If there is no CBA, then Brown will have no income and no chance to get some until that situation is resolved. That is not the concern of fans however, where he ultimately ends up is. There is a lot of speculation that he could end up in New England as a free agent. I believe the Dolphins may attempt or at least consider to use the franchise tag and trade him instead.
Ricky Williams – The R&R Express will be down one if not both heading into the 2011 campaign. Williams has stated he wants to play two more years and in Miami. I look for the Dolphins to get something done here. With his willingness to stay in Miami and desire to do so, he won’t come as expensive as some of the other FA runners.
Paul Soliai – Finally Miami has a legit NT that can move the line of scrimmage and take on two blockers. However, as is a repetitive problem for Miami, they stand to lose him to free agency. Solia was in line as a bust candidate but is one of only two to survive the Cam Cameron draft, Brandon Fields is the other. The issue with Soliai is money. He wants it and his asking price is rumored to be high. So it all comes down to what the Dolphins want to spend.
Tyler Thigpen and Chad Pennington – Thigpen want’s a shot to be a starter and the Dolphins are not going to give him a new contract after this season. They had an opportunity to see what Thigpen could bring to the team and opted to not go in that direction in the last three weeks, instead remaining with Chad Henne. It would be a major surprise if the Dolphins brought Thigpen back and if they do, it will be because no other team offered him a chance to start.
For Chad Pennington, his 50/50 status of retiring vs. playing next year would cost the Dolphins a couple of million to allow him to ride the bench or risk playing him and getting him banged up. Pennington is no longer reliable as an emergency third QB. He still has the talent to play at this level no question but his body can no longer take the hits and the smallest bump could send him to a 5th shoulder surger.
Tony Sparano – Sparano will meet with Stephen Ross following the final game, and that will either lead to his retention for a 4th season or his dismissal. I am still hearing that Ross is ready to keep Sparano and is listening to people around him regarding his options. Sparano has a lot of support for the job including every player in the locker room. But Ross needs to fill seats and by retaining Sparano, Ross may lose some of those coveted season ticket holders.
Jeff Ireland - Hard to say how much say Ireland had from the start with the personnel on this team but ultimately he is the GM and that makes him a target. If Ross does fire Tony Sparano and attempts to land Bill Cowher, then Jeff Ireland will be gone as well.
Likely To Stay:
Chad Henne - It’s hard enough finding a franchise QB or a wily veteran who will come in and take over a team so with Tyler Thigpen likely gone and Chad Pennington all but officially done, Henne is the only veteran on the roster. The Dolphins will likely draft a QB and sign an FA veteran that will come on and compete with Henne regardless of who the coaches are.