Feb 20, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Miami Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey speaks during a press conference during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Do The Miami Dolphins Have A Plan?


While I am not looking to start a debate here it will nonetheless begin at some point.  Feel free to skip to the comments an read the names I will be called.  The truth is I don’t know if the Dolphins have a direction. A plan.  Regardless of what many of you believe there was at least a plan with the approach to the off-season under Jeff Ireland.  I know, I know Dennis Hickey has been here all of two months and it’s hard to figure out a GM’s plan in year one.

That doesn’t mean we can’t talk about it.

History will show Jeff Ireland to be a lot of things and for most those things will be negative.  His poor drafts surely didn’t help his status with the fans anymore than his shunning of the spotlight endear him to the media.  One look however at the last three years of his tenure will show that a plan was in place.

Ireland dealt with the NFL lockout and a pissed off head coach three seasons ago.  He entered the free agent market looking only for players who could help the team win.  Short term deals designed to get more money under the salary cap.  It was a three year plan.  In year two, he hosted a new HC and gave his coach a year to evaluate the team he had in place making minimal additions through free agency.  It was part of that plan to get to that year three.

Three came in like a hurricane off the East coast.  Mike Wallace, Danelle Ellerby, Brent Grimes, Phillip Wheeler and so on.  He upgraded the skill positions with over 40 million to spend and added players they felt would make the team better.  Our were the players who rubbed Philbin the wrong way.  Dansby, Bush, Long, and Bess.  In were players who had a higher “character” standing.  Ireland’s failure as a GM can also be traced in year three to the failure of Joe Philbin.

The Dolphins had talent on the field last season but poor offensive management by Mike Sherman, poor decisions by Joe Philbin, and a total lack of preparation by the coaching ultimately secured the Dolphins a third place finish in the division rather than a trip to the post-season.  While some of Ireland’s players didn’t work out the team was still one game out of two from going to the playoffs.  To say nothing of the locker room events that occurred.

Ireland failed to address the offensive line.  Why?  It was part of his plan.  I know because he spoke about his plan last year.  There were better offensive lineman in this years free agency than last years.  Ireland felt he could get by with what he had and a patch on the right side.  Tyson Clabo was supposed to nail down the position for a year next to John Jerry while he felt it was time for Jonathan Martin to take the next step at LT.  Incognito at guard next to him.

In the end, Clabo struggled the first part of the season, Martin quit, Incognito got suspended, and the team had to trade for Bryant McKinnie.

Ireland was right about one thing, the offensive line this year was much deeper.  And he had the money in space to spend it.

We can’t determine what Jeff Ireland would have done in this years free agency but we can say he would have attacked the offensive line.  Last year he tried to trade for Branden Albert but deemed the price too expensive for a guy he could get for free this year.  So fast forward this to Dennis Hickey.

Hickey came out of the gate with the Albert signing and quickly found a replacement for Paul Soliai in Earl Mitchell.  He re-signed Brent Grimes and Randy Starks while adding Louis Delmas and Shelley Smith.  He still has two gaping holes on the right side of the line and Shelley is no guaranteed starter.

This is not to say that Ireland would have done better.  I have no idea and while Ireland got some things right he got a lot wrong as well.  This is to show that Ireland had a plan and it’s hard to tell exactly what plan the Dolphins are moving forward with today.  Shelley Smith doesn’t fit a prototype Joe Philbin lineman any more than Earl Mitchell is a guaranteed replacement for Soliai.  It just all feels weird.

If the Dolphins “plan” is to go all in with the draft then it’s a bad decision.  Miami sits at 19 and there is no guarantee that a top RT or guard will be available when they pick.  It could leave them reaching for a player that is projected much later in round one or even two.  When you enter the draft with serious needs, you run the risk of leaving the draft with serious needs.   Miami has a serious need on the right side of their line.

What I find interesting is the fact that many of this years free agents were players who could anchor the line for another four or five years.  Not stopgap options for a year or two at the max.  Now the Dolphins are looking at their options as being just that.  Short term deals to develop their draft picks.  In the two years since Joe Philbin has been here I am not so sure I believe he can develop the talent he has.  I hope I am wrong.

I wonder if Stephen Ross has said anything about spending this season?  Perhaps the team sees better options next year or feel the draft is going to 100% fall into their favor.  Maybe Ross is wanting to scale back to give his next HC the freedom to spend with more funds in the bank.  Who knows.  The reality is you don’t have to agree with whatever plan is being implemented in Miami.  Would just be nice to know that there is one.

Free agency is a long way from over but the Dolphins options to fix not placate their offensive line issues are drying up very quickly.  The team seems content to keep things as they are, a team who was one win away from making the playoffs.  Maybe that is the only goal right now.  One more game.  Trouble is the AFC has become almost entirely a two team race between the Broncos and Patriots.  It’s March.  I know this. I never cared for speculation on something that won’t play out for another 11 months from now.  It’s still hard to gauge what direction this team is moving in.

I don’t want Jeff Ireland back in control.  I want Dennis Hickey to show he has control.  Show he has a plan, a direction, an agenda.  I see players who fill needs not players that will change the game.  I see players who make the team better because their absence would make the team weaker.

It’s hard to be a new GM that came into his job with a HC already in place.  He has to work his own fingerprint into the team while supplying the incumbent HC with the players he wants.  Players that may or may not be who you want.   Perhaps that is his direction.  Give him enough and make him prove that he can win one more game without cutting your own throat in the process.

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Tags: Dennis Hickey Jeff Ireland Joe Philbin Miami Dolphins Stephen Ross

  • Johnny

    Call ERIC WINSTON!!! He was rated as the 10th best tackle last year… He played college ball down here… As of right now he’s the best FA RT on the market.. Sign him and still draft Zach Martin who can play guard then move over to RT… Problem solved!!!

    • Johnny

      Not hard!!! And kills 2 birds with 1 stone.. Top G and top RT (on board) with the future RT already on the Line..

      • Johnny

        And hurry already with getting a Winston before Zona resigns him!!

  • Chris

    It looks like his plan right now is to sign whoever makes the most sense at the positions of need. We have a Center, we signed the best LT available, and a young Guard that can compete for a starting spot on the line. Miami was unable to sign a top notch Guard or RT but I didn’t really expect them to be able to shore up an entire O-line in FA either. So far though, I’m liking our new secondary or Reshad, Delmas, Grimes and Finnigan more than I liked the one from last year with Nolan Carrol and Chris Clemons. And if Soliai is such a dominant run stuffer, why was Miami so poor against the run last season? I just don’t think we should start scrutinizing our GM a month or so into the job. Let’s atleast wait until preseason before the official “FIRE HICKEY!” inevitably start being shouted.

    • txmedic5

      LOL…not going to jump on the fire wagon. Just don’t really see a plan of attack. The team hasn’t gotten better IMO. They have stayed somewhat the same. Only position clearly improved at is the LT spot but that’s a wash with the holes on the right side.

      • Pentax Shooter

        They will improve simply because of growth. If RT17 and Mike Wallace were just a little more sympatico last year, the Fins are in the playoffs. If the refs enforce the FG block rule against Baltimore, the Dolphins might have won and made the playoffs. Just a little better play-calling, the Dolphins are in the playoffs. The future is bright… not Superb Owl bright (yet) but bright enough to see the playoffs in the near Phuture.

        • Johnny

          It was the Dolphins scoring 7 points in the last 2 games combined… Is what prevented them from making the playoffs and knocked out in the first round.. They got a long way to go.

      • Chris

        I think bringing in Brandon Albert, Shelley Smith, Earl Mitchell, Cortland Finnigan and Louis Delmas does make the team a little better. Shoring up the LT position for multiple years is never a wash.

    • Emmett Buck Stiernagle

      run defense sucked cuz dansby was cut

  • Johnny

    Other then signing Winston and drafting Martin… The salary is the next topic.. WR Mike Wallace is getting 15 MILLION this year!!!! Atleast we can get that out of the way.. With his first year salary and signing bonus, after his 15 Mil. this year.. His garaunteed money should be done with.. I guess that’s good news.. So we can cut him, restructure, or keep him next year (I believe next year is 9 million)

    • Johnny

      With a 17.25 Million Cap hit THIS YEAR!!!!!

  • Johnny

    Just read a Feb. article with Winston basically trashing the Dolphins locker room, so I guess he’s not an option..

  • Steve Mecca

    I’m not sure it matters how good your plan is if you can’t evaluate talent. Ireland had a few hits, but far too many misses. And his plan is starting to show its financial cracks. Do you know that we already have 130M in contracts for the 2015 season? And that’s with no money for Pouncey & Odrick. Also, Tannehill will be in the final year of his rookie deal, so hopefully he will be due big money extension. And with all the multi-year deals signed last offseason, most of the players will result in millions in dead money if cut. So, while Ireland’s plan might have created a window of opportunity for 2014, it is rapidly closing. That’s what happens when you give 3 average LBs and a safety long term pro bowl caliber contracts. That’s what happens when you pay a good WR like he’s a hall of famer. That’s also what happens when you a slew of early round busts who’s positions (CB,OL,WR,LB) must then be fortified with veteran signings. I’m sure Hickey has some kind of plan in mind, but what matters most is his ability to evaluate players.

    • Johnny

      T-hill has a 5th year option.. So that won’t hurt for awhile.. Dolphins also will take Pouncy’s 5th year option.. But that 130M is not counting the few that will be cut…
      The biggest problem is MIKE WALLACES CONTRACT!!!! Just to show how much of an idiot Ireland was (and desperate)… His cap hit is 17.25 MILLION THIS YEAR… And the worst??? He will have DEAD MONEY FOR THE REST OF HIS CONTRACT!!!!!

      • FinFan

        Kindly check your facts. Ireland was not the one structuring contracts, it is Aponte. Hard to believe Dolphins fanbase has such ignorant members. Ireland’s job was to get players signed with the Fins, Aponte’s job is to offer them contracts.

        • Steve Mecca

          There’s a difference between hammering out the details of a contract and ‘structuring the contract’. You don’t think Ireland had final say in the rough framework of the deals? You crazy man. You think Ireland picked out the player that he wanted and then gave Aponte total control over how much and over how many years?

          • Johnny

            I understand that kid… But Ireland was desperate with his job on the line.. Dawn Aponte is excellent at what she does.. She usually leaves an “OUT”.. But not with Wallace’s contract.. And yes I do know what a general manager does.. Ireland was so desperate to sign Wallace he was all in it… That’s probably why there was a problem between Ireland and Aponte… You think so??? Dawn is great and I believe Ireland forced her hand with Wallace…

      • Pygskyn

        Now I could be wrong, but I could swear that I remember reading that Wallaces guarenteed money was spread out over the first two years of his contract and that after that we were in the clear if we cut him. I remember that being one of the reasons I was happy that we took a flyer on him last year. As far as I can tell, Aponte has been masterful at juggling the cap. If Ireland did his job half as well as her, we would be in awesome shape.

  • Johnny

    And again.. In the long run.. The signing of DT Earl Mitchell will prove to be a steal… He can play now naturally in his 3-tech.. 300lbs and ran a 4.75 40.. What??? Plus I heard he actually wants to play ball, he has a high motor.. Oh yeh, and he’s only 26yrs old… Keep an eye on this kid.. You heard it here first!!

  • Seann Carpenter

    Get Davin Joseph signed to shore up the OG situation, and draft Zach Martin at #19. or drop back a few spots and get Morgan Moses at, say, #25 or #26 and pick up a.mid.round pick. Then target David Yankey in the 2nd Round to compete with Shelly Smith for the other OG spot. Then get either Andre William or Charles Sims in the 3rd to give us another option at RB. Then we are starting to look pretty decent.

  • Dewbert

    Looks like our right side is in trouble, unless we can magically get some rookies to play at a veteran level out of the gate.

  • Thomas Kuntz

    This is the worst thing I’ve ever read. Next time, write something thought provoking and reference credible sources to support your argument, or go back to school to learn how to write rhetorical analysis. No plan? What did you want him to do, go on a spending spree like Ireland did? He upgraded at positions of need with young talent that WANT to play in Miami with upside at a reasonable price. Finnegan is the exception, but he is without a doubt an upgrade over Nolan Carroll.. The teams that are active in free agency are garbage. The Bucs, Raiders, Jaguars, Browns some of the worst run franchises in the NFL. It’s nice to see someone actually take the intelligent approach to free agency rather than join the frantic scramble to sign washed up veterans. This is merely a poorly constructed opinion piece. Peace.

  • DragonFly34

    This FA period in Dolphin land consists of Hickey(4th GM candidate) Dawnhoejoe and Philbin, its become a three headed idiot instead of one person with a vision. If Philbin is a HC, then Im a space shuttle commander.
    Hickey got this gig by relenting to Philbin and his wishes. Normally this would be a good idea but Philbin hasn’t a clue, he didn’t know what was going on inside his own locker-room, how is supposed to recognize talent? Im hopeful but the track record of this coaching staff leaves a lot to be desired, not to mention Hickey doesnt have the best resumé. So we’ll see, theres still a fair amount of disfunction with in front office.

  • Christian Paige

    I can tell you right not that I would be surprised if Hickey in the first three rounds does not go ILB 1st, RT 2nd, RG 3rd.

    • jeremy161616

      The only difference to my thought would possibly be they have a higher grade on their books for a running back in round 3.

  • 1sb1

    15/17.5 million Whaaaat??
    For dropping balls and not being able to go up and high-point/fight for them, or at least break up the Int??
    For a million dollars a game–you better be one of the best receivers in the game and he’s not even close.
    I am, however, hoping on a breakout year.
    lot of it was on THill as well, as many times Wallace had to literally stop and wait for the ball–allowing the defense to catch up to the play.
    And several times he was wide open and he got overthrown , too

  • Johnny

    2013 1,000,000 2,200,000 50,000 3,250,000 27,000,000
    2014 15,000,000 2,200,000 50,000 17,250,000 23,800,000
    2015 9,850,000 2,200,000 50,000 12,100,000 9,600,000
    2016 11,450,000 2,200,000 50,000 13,700,000 4,400,000
    2017 11,450,000 2,200,000 50,000 13,700,000 2,200,000

    And there you go… That’s the dead money through out his contract.. I believe it’s from over the cap .com..

    • Pygskyn

      Hmm, interesting. Where did you find this information at anyways? Do they have it for other players as well, I’d love to check the site out.

      • Johnny

        Also I’m sure Ireland forced Aponte’s hand on giving Wallace such a sweet contract… She is usually great at what she does.. Yeh, check that website out..

    • Pygskyn

      Never mind, found it. Hmmm, so after this year the dead money drops by about 14 million. It’s not an insignificant hit, but considering the size of the contract, it’s not bad. After the third year it is very reasonable. This year he’s making an insane wage, but considering how much cap space we have this year still, it looks like this was the perfect year to take that hit. I’d wager they front loaded it to make room for the hits that are coming next year when some of our High profile rookies end their rookie contracts… Aponte proves to be pretty clever with the cap again.