Nov.25, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland prior to a game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Dolphins Ireland Needs To Learn From 2012 WR Error

Ask any Miami Dolphins fan what they want as a priority this off-season and 99.9% of them will tell you a pass catching number one WR.  Ask them about last off-season and the majority of them will tell you about the lack of replacing Brandon Marshall at the outset of the free agency period.  There is a lesson to be learned there.  One that Jeff Ireland needs to be careful not to repeat.

The concept was simple enough.  A trade had been brokered between the Dolphins and the Chicago Bears for the talented yet conflicted problem child.  Two third round picks for a WR that was facing yet another off-season incident.  The plan, according to a Dolphins source, was to fill the vacancy VIA free agency.  When the proverbial gun sounded, the Dolphins made the deal, and then started making calls.

Several free agent WR’s on the Dolphins target list but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins jumped into the WR market so quickly and with so much money offered on guaranteed deals that the market quickly inflated in value while declining in talent.  While players like Vincent Jackson and Pierre Garcon not only got large contracts, players like Mario Manningham found inflated deals with far less production.

With the plan of replacing Marshall now an issue the Dolphins turned to the draft where once again their plan to draft a replacement fell through as well.

The Dolphins entered the draft with the idea of taking a WR in round 3 according to the person I spoke with.  The Dolphins were very high on Tackle Jonathan Martin in round 2 mainly because he had been graded out as a round 1 prospect.  The thought was that most of the WR’s on the Dolphins list would fall to the 3rd round.  A run on WR’s in round 2 took the top guys off their board.

In retrospect it’s easy to see how making a mistake evolved into losing out on both a WR in the draft and in free agency could happen.  It’s also a lesson that needs to be learned from.  The Dolphins can ill afford to enter the 2013 season without a legit number 1 WR.  The good news for the Dolphins is that this year free agent WR crop looks to be much better than last seasons.

Leading the list is Pittsburgh Steelers Mike Wallace who will become a free agent if the Steeler’s don’t tag him again this year.  Dwayne Bowe is also a good possibility to leave KC and would give the Dolphins a player similar to that of Brandon Marshall.  Unfortunately Bowe still has a lot of maturity issues and could bring the same kind of problems to Miami that he had in K.C.  Of course the most talked about free agent WR this year will be the name Greg Jennings.

Jennings naturally will be linked to Miami thanks to the Joe Philbin connection.  At 29 years old, Jennings has been a major contributor to the Green Bay Packers and while he missed most of this season with an injury, he is still likely to make a huge impact for some team next year.  The Dolphins would gain in Jennings the talent of a Marshall without any of the associated attitude.  Jennings is the epitome of “team player”.  While Jennings is statistically one of the best WR’s to hit free agency, he lacks the bulking size that Bowe and Marshall have in terms of fighting for a ball.  In Miami however with the same offense he had in Green Bay, Jennings can find success in the timing offense that is employed.

Make no mistake however, Jennings is going to cost a lot of money.  Likely similar to the 55 million signed by Vincent Jackson last season.

If the Dolphins fail to land a top wide-out in the free agent market, there are some secondary options.   While each have a tremendous amount of talent, none of them have proven to be legit number 1 stretch the field options which is what the Dolphins need.

In Cleveland, Joshua Cribbs has been relegated to special teams play and while he is very good at returning punts and kick-offs no one really knows what he can accomplish as a WR.  That is both good and bad.  The good news is that he won’t command major money but the Dolphins can’t afford to add another WR that isn’t cut out to be a number 1 and that is where Cribbs, to me, falls.

Wes Welker is set to hit the free agent market and if he actually does hit the street, you can be there will be a lot of interest in him.  For as good as Welker has been in New England, he is still a number 2/slot receiver at best.  The Dolphins couldn’t slide him into the number 1 role opposite Brian Hartline and expect to see a major jump in offensive production.  Welker is a possession go to WR and even in Miami, he wouldn’t be much more than Davone Bess.

Two other names that might get early conversations are Danny Amendola of St. Louis, a go to possession receiver that fits more along the line of Brian Hartline and Kevin Ogletree of the Dallas Cowboys.  Ogletree had a breakout game in week one of the 2012 season but then disappeared for much of the remainder.  Neither player improves the Dolphins WR’s for 2013.

Should the Dolphins pass or fail to land Wallace, Bowe, or Jennings, the best option for them would be to turn to the NFL Draft in late April.  Much like last year however they can’t afford to assume that a player will fall to them where they have them slotted.  If that happens we will be looking at a repeat of 2012 and wondering if the Dolphins will make any trades.  Without question the team needs to address the position in round 1 or round 2.

The addition of Armon Binns recently has the Dolphins appearing to be pointing in the right direction.  Binns wearing the cursed number 19 played well after being claimed off waivers from the Bengals.  Binns has a very solid shot of making this roster next season but he isn’t ready to make an impact as number 1 wide.  So while his production and his attitude has thus been impressive after one week, the Dolphins do not have on their roster a number 1 WR and until they do, this offense is going to have to manufacture yards instead of manufacturing points.

Tags: Greg Jennings Jeff Ireland Miami Dolphins NFL Free Agency

  • redteg02

    Great read, but the English teacher in me has to ask; what the heck does “Jennings is the penultimate team player” mean? Is he the second to last team player? Had to give you a bit of a hard time about that one.

    • txmedic5

      LOL…yeah totally screwed that one up!

  • Ranadicus

    I’m having trouble following this article. So did you want us to keep Marshall so he could emasculate Tannehill at every opportunity even though Philbin would never work with him anyway?

    Or did you want him to over spend immediately on mediocre talent in free agency, even though Miami has 20+ players in the expensive, final year of their deal and had no money to spend?

    Or did you want him burn a high draft pick on a WR, even though the 2012 WR class hasn’t exactly dazzled thus far and spending a pick would have meant not taking somebody like Martin, Vernon or Miller?

    Has it occurred to you that there simply were no good options to replace Marshall and wasting draft picks and cap space would only have exacerbated the problem? Outside of generically proclaiming not replacing Marshall to be a mistake, what specifically did you want Ireland to do? And what exactly was he supposed to learn? That he needs to go out of his way to please you? Is that it?

    And what is your plan going forward? To over-spend in free agency so you’ll have something to write about? Or maybe you just want something to make you feel excited? Personally, what I want is for Ireland to make the best decisions for the team.

    If Mike Wallace still wants Calvin Johnson money tell him to take a hike. If somebody wants to burn that much money for him, at the expense of other parts of the team that’s their problem to deal with. Look at the last three offseason champions and tell me where they are. The Bills, Eagles and Jets all threw a lot of money around in free agency and look where it got them. Ireland needs to stick to the plan, draft talent to develop and stay frugal.

    EDIT: Oh yeah, Greg Jennings is 29 not 27, and will be 30 on September 21.

    • txmedic5

      Actually I think he did exactly what he should have done. Not overpaying for WR’s was smart but it can get you into a bind when you assume you can fix a problem in the draft.

      • txmedic5

        re-signing Jake Long

    • txmedic5

      Oh, I’m not a fan of overspending on “names”. I want talent. If the Dolphins pass on the top 3 I’m fine with that. Spend too much money on one player won’t allow you to fix other areas of the team. It’s why I’m not worried about re-signing Jake Long

  • Fins4ever

    Last years free agency period and the high dollar signing of WR’s reminds me of being at an auction and deciding to make a fair bid on an item you want and some moron offers twice the value before you even get to bid.

    Not having a premier WR in 2012 hurt, but I understand why and it was still better than having Marshall screw up our rookie QB.

  • Ian

    I really like Tavon Austin as an option. Taking him at the #12 spot in the draft is a bit of a reach, especially considering he’s not a #1 type receiver, but the dude is a big-time playmaker which the Phins are desperate for.