The Need For Speed

If you know what movie the title of this article comes from, then congratulations.  If you remember the title of this article because you sat in the movie theater and watched it, happy as hell to have finally gotten your drivers license, then congratulations on being as old as I am.  Regardless of whether you remember Top Gun or not, or heard the rumors of a “God please no remake” one thing is for certain, the Miami Dolphins do indeed have a “need for speed“.

We can debate where that speed is needed.  Some say it’s on both sides of the ball where the last three years of the Bill Parcellian model of protypical player did not involve speed.  For the purpose of this article, and an attempt to steer towards real football related topics instead of the CBA, we will look at options for the Miami Dolphins at the WR spot.

I suppose the first real question is do the Dolphins need speed at WR?  The answer is undeniably yes.  While Brandon Marshall is a big time game-breaker and legit number 1 wide-out, he is not a burner and isn’t going to get a lot of deep threat separation.  We all know that Davone Bess is the perfect slot receiver which also means, “too slow for the outside” and Brian Hartline, while fast, isn’t that serious down-field threat on any given play.  The remaining receivers, Marlon Moore, Julius Pruitt, and Roberto Wallace are simply projects at this point.

So the Dolphins need a speed guy.  Where they get him from is anyones guess and while the draft is one option, there are no full throttle speed burners in this years class.  Free agency may provide a few options but what happens with the above mentioned labor issue will go a long way in determining that avenue.The first thing we need to consider is money.  Assuming that we can’t even talk about free agency without the assumption that their will be a labor deal in place, it’s imperative to note that there likely will be some sort of salary cap structure in place and the Dolphins may simply have other areas more important in their budget.  So wide-receiver may simply not get addressed the way we want.

Free agent options:

Vincent Jackson – Franchised by San Diego.  The Chargers don’t want to let him go without getting something back so it’s very likely that we could see a tender signed and then a trade of the enigmatic WR.  The Dolphins however will not make a trade for another WR after giving up two second rounders last year for Brandon Marshall.

Sidney Rice – Rice is expected to be handed the franchise tag as well by the Vikings if it hasn’t happened already. (for some reason I thought I read that he was tagged but can’t find the link).  In any case, Rice would be that perfect fit for the Dolphins on the outside to compliment Brandon Marshall.  The problem is that he will be an awful expensive addition if he hits the open market.  Simply put, there is little chance that another premier WR would end up in Miami, the Dolphins simply have too many other holes needing to be filled first and money isn’t going to be that stretched.

A few names that will draw some consideration from fans are Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Steve Smith of the Giants, and  Randy Moss.  None of these players are likely to make an impression with Dolphins management because of salary considerations vs. age vs. production.  Of the four, Steve Smith is a solid option but he isn’t a barn burning WR and in fact is slower at a younger age than Randy Moss.

While Moss will be a free addition in terms of compensation, he still wants a few million a year to play football.  Some speculate him begging to be reunited in New England with the Patriots.  The Dolphins barely kicked his tires when he was released by the Vikings mid-season when they still had a shot at turning around the season.  Will Brian Daboll convince Sparano and Ireland that he can handle the diva?  Can the Dolphins survive with both Moss and Marshall on the field?  It will be something that fans will watch closely.  Especially if Moss is still available and the Dolphins still haven’t addressed the position.

Malcom Floyd - Floyd is a legit deep threat that has very good hands.  He would come to Miami from a very high pass oriented offense that spreads the field.  He would be a very viable compliment to Davone Bess and Brandon Marshall as well as that all purpose wide-out teamed to one side with Brian Hartline in a four receiver set.  In fact, Floyd could make the Dolphins wide-receivers one of the best in the NFL.  But, he won’t come cheap and there are plenty of teams, including San Diego who will have interest in his services.  San Diego may very well attempt to lock him up before any free agency begins.

Steve Breaston – Breaston is ready to break out, if he is healthy.  He has learned the position of wide receiver from two of the best in the game.  Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.  He knows how to run routes, is tough at the line of scrimmage, and can get separation deep.  He also possesses soft hands in the clutch.  This is a guy that the Dolphins could very well take a look at.  Especially given his relationship with last years big free agent Karlos Dansby.  Dansby knows his work habits and if the Dolphins need to find out more about Breaston, they will turn to Dansby first to get his opinion.  Breaston could be a star in Miami that would also hold his own against Marshall.  The two of them would easily free up coverage from the other.

Cheaper options in free agency:

Of the names below only two really stand out to me as realistic options.

Lance Moore - Moore won’t be cheap but he won’t break the bank either unless a team is willing to overspend.  The fact is Moore comes from a highly energetic attacking offense, a winning organization, and is a very complete route runner.  He does not possess breakaway speed but he makes up for it in his turn-on-a-dime direction.  This is a guy that knows how to get open and seems to always find a way to get down-field.  Still faster or as fast as Hartline, he is a couple inches shorter but has much better hands and is a lot more proficient in his routes and ability to get separation.

Sam Hurd – Hurd was highly touted only a short two years ago in Dallas.  He didn’t fall out of favor he simply got moved to the back of the depth chart.  The Cowboys found a sure handed number 1 WR in Miles Austin and made the decision to draft Dez Bryant last year in round 1 to compliment Austin and the traded for Mike Williams.  That left the up and coming Hurd relegated to a reserve role.  But when he played, he played well.  Hurd is one of those players that could over play his contract.  Speedy, good hands, solid routes.  He would be a deeper threat than Hartline and a realistic option on the outside, even in situational play.  He also holds the familiarity button with Tony Sparano and Jeff Ireland.

Undrafted in 2006, Hurd was signed after the draft along with Austin.  Hurd was actually ahead of Austin at one point but a breakout game by Austin put Hurd on the back burner.  At 6-3 and 209 pounds, Hurd is a big guy who will go up after the ball.  A legit threat he also can serve another purpose.  A special teams ace.  Hurd was the Cowboys special teams captain and leading tackler last season.  Hurd doesn’t have a problem with the ST role but is looking to make his mark on the outside.  His connection to the Dolphins could help bring him in for an extended look.

Early Doucet (ARZ)
Brian Finneran (ATL)
Donte’ Stallworth (BAL)
TJ Houshmandzadeh (BAL)
Rashied Davis (CHI)
Devin Aromashadu (CHI)
Chansi Stuckey (CLE)
Sam Hurd (DAL)
Jacoby Jones (HOU)
Mike Sims-Walker (JAC)
Kevin Curtis (MIA)
Hank Baskett (MIN)
Greg Lewis (MIN)
Lance Moore (NO)
Courtney Roby (NO)
Derek Hagan (NYG)
Darius Reynaud (NYG)
Brad Smith (NYJ)
Johnnie Lee Higgins (OAK)
Legedu Naanee (SD)
Ben Obomanu (SEA)
Laurent Robinson (STL)
Danny Amendola (STL)
Mark Clayton (STL)
Maurice Stovall (TB)
Santana Moss (WAS)

From the Draft:

There are no big time “Ted Ginn, Jr.” types in this year draft.  Unless someone steps up in next weeks Combine, the WR’s this year are actually weaker than years past.

A.J. Green – Green has posted a 4.5 40 and it’s unknown if he will perform at the Combine.  What is expected however, is his name to be off the available players list by pick 5.  Some believe that Green is the best overall prospect in this years draft leading other to believe he could go to the Carolina Panthers with the first overall pick.

Julio Jones – Alabama – At 6-4 220 pounds, Jones is a monster WR.  He has posted a 4.50 40 and is in reality a legitimate consideration for the Miami Dolphins should they stat at pick 15.  The problem for Miami however is that while the need for a WR is important, there are slew of other spots that need to be fixed first.  Drafting Jones at 15 is a luxury the team really can’t afford to make.  Should they trade down and still find Jones on the board, then his selection is much more valuable with the added picks that a move down would provide.  Currently Jones is slotted in the 10 – 15 range in many mock drafts.

The rest - No other WR’s are said to be first round projections.  There are some that fall later in the draft and in round 2.  I won’t bother to list the entire group because simply it comes down to how Jeff Ireland grades them out.  If they are looking for pure speed, then perhaps Jerrell Jernigan who posted a 4.35 time might be an answer.  Either way, the Dolphins will likely also be looking to have their WR, at least if drafted, play an integral part in their return game.  For those fans hoping that the Dolphins will get that second top flight WR, it’s not likely a priority.

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Tags: AJ Green Brandon Marshall Brian Hartline Davone Bess Julio Jones Lance Moore Malcom Floyd Miami Dolphins NFL NFL Free Agency Randy Moss Sam Hurd Sidney Rice Vincent Jackson

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