New England, New York Still Outshine Miami Off-Season


It’s becoming almost a yearly theme.  The Dolphins land a free agent, New England lands two.  The Dolphins add another, the Jets land a big name.  While the Miami Dolphins and Jeff Ireland work at building a winner out of a team by using methodical means and younger options, the New England Patriots work on their already winning team by adding players with high ceilings, and high risks.

The Jets on the other hand simply add big names and bigger contracts.  The signing of big contracts will someday hurt you in the long run, but it also rallies the fans and gives them something to talk about, something to energize them, something to make them want to watch.

So far, these methods are working for the Patriots and Jets, not so much for Miami.  And that absolutely kills me to say it.

It was a shock years ago when Bill Belichick pulled the trade for Randy Moss.  It was a brilliant move.  A 4th round pick for a disgruntled lockerroom diva who had lazily played his way out of Oakland.  Belichick could afford to waste a fourth.  No other selection at that spot would have the “potential” that Randy Moss would.  If the move failed, you cut him and move on.  Simple as that.

So is it any surprise that the New England Patriots traded late round picks for Chad Ochocinco?  Double 88’s wanted to be in NE so bad that he tweeted he was praying to God.  He got his wish.  Does anyone think that Ocho won’t be on his best behavior or give his best efforts on the field?  Of course he will.  Everyone wants to win and that is what NE does.  Earlier it came as little surprise when New England threw a 5th round pick to the Washington Redskins for Albert Haynesworth.

Haynesworth was a brute in Tennessee, he was an absolute nightmare in Washington.  Lazy, overweight, took plays off, never finished them, refused to play nose tackle.  You name it.  He was benched, suspended, kicked out of practice and was still paid the majority of his 100 million dollar contract.  So New England gets the problem child but also get’s the talent that Haynesworth could bring.  They recycled Moss, they can recycle Haynesworth.  And if it fails, they simply cut him.

Either way, it’s a win win for Belichick.  Cutting him would show as much intelligence as trading for him.

So here we are once again, another off-season of watching New England make a splash with big names that have high payoffs for cheap, while Miami signs the exciting Justin Trusliks’ of the NFL.  Reggie Bush is an exciting trade, but no one can tell me that he also doesn’t come with some questions.  The difference is that Miami added Bush to bring excitement and be a game changer.  New England brings these guys in hoping to change the game but not really caring if they miss.  In other words they don’t rely on those players to make them a winner.  Miami does or at least needs them to.

While the free agent process of turning free agents into winning additions is a crap-shoot, the Dolphins have stuck commendably to their ways.  They don’t falter and they don’t waiver.  That is good in that it shows they do not panic and won’t overpay.  But they also miss on players that could be impacts.  It also doesn’t set them up to be a team that problem players would respect enough to come in and change their ways.

Jeff Ireland made a huge splash with the signings of LB Karlos Dansby and the trade for Brandon Marshall.  But neither made the Dolphins a winner.  The task for Ireland, who says he loves to turn over acorns, is to find the right mix of players to make this team a winner.  Signing for depth is great when you have starters that succeed.  When you have holes in that starting rotation or players who simply haven’t gotten the job done, signing depth behind them does not make your team a winner.

Sometimes it’s better to swing and miss than to simply stand at the plate.

The Dolphins will enter the free agent period of the 2011 season with needs along the offensive line, QB, TE, LB, Safety, and some of those “starters” should be replaced.  None of those players at those positions are clearly game changers.  Channing Crowder?  Nate Garner?  Vernon Carey?  Chris Clemons?  Anthony Fasano?  See my point.

Teams simply do not have the money to fill all of their needs each year and it’s never smart to focus primarily on free agents or trades to fill in your roster.  That is what the draft is for.  For Miami, 6 picks in the 2011 draft is not going to fill your roster anymore than adding from the free agent market.  Miami needs to be smart, but smart doesn’t mean you can’t take chances.  It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look at breaking the bank a little to add someone who will contribute more than 15 touches a game or change the way an offense prepares to play you.

This is the first year Jeff Ireland swims without the Tuna.  But he uses a similar formula and approach to building a football team.  The issue that Ireland is going to face is that at some point, wins and losses and ticket sales will catch up if his method doesn’t work.  Fans are getting tired of New England and New York winning the free agent on paper battle…especially when both sit atop the division at years end…when it really matters.