In years past, many, including myself, would stay up well past midnight to break the news on who signs the first free agent deal and who the Miami Dolphins may sign first. This year, the expectations should be rather tepid to say the least when it comes to the Dolphins.
The Dolphins have at this moment about 13.8 million dollars to spend in free agency but they will direct their attention out of the starting gate to Matt Flynn or Peyton Manning. Two names that have been discussed at length by every major sports outlet over the past four days. While the Dolphins wait and they are expected to wait at least for Matt Flynn to make a few airline round trips, other names that could help the team will be gone quickly.
The Dolphins need LB help and there is no one bigger than pass rushing monster Mario Williams. Williams will leave Houston and will be courted immediately by teams like the Buffalo Bills and just about everyone else with cap space. For the Dolphins, the need for a QB once again pushes the ability to add other playmakers to the side. Consider that the Dolphins will not likely add any Reggie Bush types this season. More likely they will add one or two Kevin Burnett types or a few Richie Incognito’s. Not to play on their ability but in terms of where they were seen in the free agent market.
This year, because of the QB issues, the Dolphins will not likely make an early run at any of the free agents until they know whether or not they will be pursuing a QB in the draft to compete with Matt Moore. Reggie Nelson the safety coming out of Cincinnati is a name that many associate with the Dolphins given DC Kevin Coyle’s history with him but the truth is the market for safeties and corners this year is weak and the Dolphins may not have enough cap space to compete with those teams who have 20 million or more to work with.
For the Dolphins it’s not a matter of bad decisions that have led to just under 14 million to spend as much as it is pertains to the quality of players on the field. Most of the Dolphins money is tied to four or five guys. Jake Long will count over 12 million in cap space this year, Brandon Marshall will account for 11, Karlos Dansyb is pushing the 10 million dollar barrier, and Yeremiah Bell is sitting around 6 million. Those four account for almost 40 million dollars in cap space. Roughly determined.
The issue of course is that none of those guys throws the football. Matt Moore the starter this year accounts for around 2 to 3 million (I don’t have the exact numbers) so adding a free agent QB will drive that up a bit for that position. With the Dolphins needing a pass rushing LB, a RG, RT, depth at corner, safeties, and of course QB, all of the Dolphins issues can’t be easily fixed in the draft nor can they be achieved by adding 3rd and 4th tier free agents who may have some upside but are still back-ups. The Dolphins need starters and they need guys that can make plays. Not more “acorns” that fall of the tree.
This is where free agency comes into play. For years it’s been said that you build your team through the draft and supplant it with members from the FA pool. That is not entirely the case. It’s just as important to hit your free agent moves as it is to hit your draft picks. While it’s impossible to sign multiple top line free agents without having to pay the price down the road at some point (ask the Jets), a team like the Dolphins can’t afford to simply watch “playmakers” sign with other teams.
The Dolphins should be more aggressive in free agency but unfortunately they likely won’t. I picture the team signing Matt Flynn and then taking a collective breath and slouching back into a chair to take a rest while the rest of the NFL courts free agents. The other issue is that Miami will lose or potentially lose 17 of their own players that they have yet to re-sign. While two of those are restricted free agents, and the majority of them are back-ups, the Dolphins will still need to replace them and that takes time and money.
As the free agent hour approaches and thus the 2012 league year, my approach has turned from one that I presumed would be impactfull to one that I no longer think will be overly relevant. Sure the Dolphins may land Matt Flynn, and that’s all well and fine, but who will they add to the other holes on the roster? Matt Flynn isn’t going to come in here and win you games single handedly so the Dolphins need to be aware of other positions.
I’m sure that Jeff Ireland and the Dolphins have a plan of attack formulate and a plan B and C if it fails. The silence coming out of Miami is starting to make people a little nervous, myself included. In just over 24 hours we are going to see exactly what their plans are and whether any of them will make the team better on Sundays.