The free agency period starts with a mad sprint but like all marathon’s the race isn’t won on the first couple legs. Many fans want to immediately compare Miami Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey to former GM Jeff Ireland. That’s a mistake. Last year people hailed Ireland for having the plan in place to have upwards of forty plus million going into the start of the new year. They applauded his signings and the shrewdness of Dawn Aponte’s contracts. Today, it’s Jeff Ireland’s plan and Aponte’s skill that has Hickey poised to spend with plenty of cap room.
Hickey however has already shown a propensity for smart free agent moves. Something that while on paper looked good with Ireland may look better with Hickey. Consider this. Last year the Dolphins needed to overhaul portions of their offensive line. Instead, Ireland either didn’t read the market correctly or set the team up to enter this off-season looking in one direction. Last year Ireland added LB’s to a unit that wasn’t actually in need of an upgrade. It’s likely that the releases of Karlos Dansby and Bennett were coaching decisions but my point is that by the time Ireland was through wrapping up Mike Wallace, Danelle Ellerbe, and Phillip Wheeler the St. Louis Rams convinced Jake Long they wanted him more.
The Dolphins missed out on all of the tackles and settled for two options. Move Jonathan Martin to the left or trade for Albert. Ireland isn’t a fan of trading for someone he can get free the following year. It’s not a knock as many GM’s follow the same line of thinking.
From last year to this year there is a change in approach. Quick out of the gate Dennis Hickey addressed the gaping left tackle hole realizing that LT’s would be at high premium. They were. So much so that all four of the top LT’s were gone in the first 35 minutes of free agency. Hickey then turned his attention to the defensive side of the ball where he quickly landed Texans DT Earl Mitchell. Shortly thereafter the defensive tackle market dried up for interior defensemen.
Hickey was able to see this and he acted. If he saw this and acted he should have also seen the RT and guard market being such a high need across the NFL. He made a pitch to land former Bronco Zane Beadles but was best by Jacksonville of all teams. The Dolphins can not afford to leave free agency without at least one if not two more starting lineman. The draft will not provide all those answers.
While it appears that Hickey may have missed on some lineman it’s clear that gauged the market for most of the positions well. He locked down Brent Grimes to a contract that is now dwarfed by several others in free agency. He signed a safety who has been a two time Pro-Bowl alternate. Louis Delmas inked on FA eve. Today he re-signed his own Randy Starks and helped solidify an already solid defense. In other words Hickey is acting with designed caution. He isn’t hitting everything yet and his plan may not be fully understood but there is no mistake that thus far, the Dolphins under his leadership are better today than they were two weeks ago.
At least on paper.