What The Dolphins Could Have Done
By Brian Miller
The banter between writer to writer and fan to fan when it comes to the Miami Dolphins off-season moves thus far has been entertaining to say the least. There is very few straddling the fence, if any at all. In fact, it pretty much comes down to whether you believe the Dolphins need a few pieces mixed in to the team or a few star players. You either believe that Jeff Ireland did enough, or didn’t come close to fixing this team.
There was no off-season. No mini-camps, rookie camps, or mandatory off-season practices and no coach contact and blah, blah, blah. So to some degree, maybe everyone in the league deserves a rare pass for the recent transactions. Ok, they don’t. It’s a business. So did the Dolphins do enough?
I’m going to try and paint this picture in a rather balanced way. I’m one of those few who really are on the fence in this. As you read you will see why. But if this comes across as one side or the other, it truly wasn’t my intention. So with that said, here is what the Dolphins did, and what they “could” have done. It’s your decision on whether or not that “could have” should be a “should have“.
Who they signed –
Reggie Bush – Bush can explosive and exciting both as a running back and as a return guy. Despite the fact that he has largely been a bust considering his draft slot of second overall…Ronnie Brown statistically has done better, he holds some value in what he has yet to actually accomplish. Meaning he really was finding himself last year in New Orleans.
Who they could have signed instead –
De’Angelo Williams – It was reported that Miami was interested but were they interested enough to pay what the Carolina Panthers did? Williams is a big name with a high motor. A veteran who can change a game in one play. But he also has a real injury history. Should the Dolphins have paid that 43 million dollar deal?
Ahmad Bradshaw – When the dust settled, Bradshaw signed a deal comparable to that of Reggie Bush. Prior to that, he wanted something closer to D. Williams. Bradshaw is another game changer but without the pedigree of Williams. A RB who split time with the Giants “featured” back, Bradshaw has never proven he can carry the featured load. In Miami he likely would have become that third down back who split carries with rookie Daniel Thomas.
Willis McGahee, Marion Barber, Kevin Smith, Cedrick Benson, Ronnie Brown – Of all those names only Kevin Smith really is the kind of back that Miami found in Reggie Bush. While more polished, he too has a history of injuries.
Who the Dolphins signed –
Kevin Burnett – The Dolphins cut Channing Crowder and signed former SD Charger LB Kevin Burnett for roughly the same salary that CC was making. Burnett has been more explosive on defense and statistically has had better years.
Jason Taylor – JT is no longer the player that he once was and some will argue that he isn’t the same player he was two short seasons ago. In today’s scrimmage, Taylor was flattened on two occasions by lineman Lydon Murtha. Taylor’s signing still leaves question marks. Hardly as productive as he once was, he can still help the younger guys like Koa Misi and perhaps aside from mending some fences and reuniting JT with the fans, coaching up the young ones is his real task this season.
Justin Trusnik – The former Cleveland Brown is familiar to OC Brian Daboll as well as a player that was familiar to Eric Mangini who has served as a consultant to Tony Sparano. Trusnik was the first free agent that the Dolphins had agreed to a deal with when the season began. He will be a depth OLB but his strength is his special teams play.
Ronald Fields – Fields is a nose tackle and will provide depth for Paul Soliai. The former Bronco was brought to Denver by then DC Mike Nolan who coached him in San Fran as well. This is their third tour together.
Who the Dolphins could have signed –
Channing Crowder – Crowder could have been retained and asked to take a pay cut. The team decided to move on without him. The last three years, Crowder has missed considerable time with injuries.
Nick Barnett – The 7 year veteran left the Green Bay Packers after the Pack failed to trade him. He landed in Buffalo on a 3 year 12 million dollar deal. Two of the last three seasons, Barnett has either finished his season on IR…placed on in week 4 last year, or spent much of the year on injured reserve as he did in 2008 when he tore the ligaments in his knee.
Paul Posluzny – Poz was a stellar LB in Buffalo before signing a 6 year deal this off-season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He has spent time on IR in his rookie year and last year broke the same arm in a game against NE keeping him out of the lineup until week 6. His contract is for a whooping 7 mill a year.
Tully Banta-Cain – Cain was released by the New England Patriots after having led the team in sacks with 15. He suffered an injury that he is not expected to fully recover from until the first week of the season. When healthy, Banta-Cain is a force on the inside but injury is a concern. He is still available on the free agent market.
Who the Dolphins signed –
Marc Columbo and Ray Willis – Columbo had his best professional seasons under Tony Sparano and will compete at the RT spot that was vacated by Vernon Carey when Sparnao moved Carey to guard. Ray Willis will add depth to the offensive line as well. He has played both the guard and the tackle positions. Neither are sure fire starters although Columbo has the best chance to win the RT spot. Neither play cost much in terms of salary cap hit.
Who they could have had –
Harvey Dahl – The elite pro-bowl guard for Atlanta quickly found a home in St. Louis where the Rams continued their high dollar spending on offensive lineman. He will make around 5-6 million a season.
Ryan Harris – The Eagles of Philly signed Harris to a one year deal away from the Denver Broncos who made no attempt to re-sign him. Last year, the Broncos were one of the worst running offensive lines in the league.
Davin Joseph – The Tampa Bay Buc’s were rumored to have Joseph as a priority. He was. The Buc’s locked up their pro-bowler to a long term contract.
Tyson Clabo – After losing Dahl to the Rams, the Falcons ponied up 5 mill a year to retain Clabo.
Robert Gallery – A bust on the left side of the line and at tackle, Gallery has improved his play by re-positioning to guard. He landed in Seattle on modest 3 year deal but re-united with former coach Tom Cable.
Rich Seubert, Leonard Davis, and Shaun O’Hara – The Dolphins brought all three in for a look but have yet to sign any of them. All three are still on the market.
Who the Dolphins Signed –
TE – None. The Dolphins are in camp with Jeron Mastrud, Anthony Fasano, Dedrick Epps, Mickey Shuler, and Brett Backett. The team also drafted flex TE/RB Charles Clay
Who they could have signed –
Zach Miller – much to the chagrin of many fans, Miller signed with the Seattle Seahawks and despite rumors to the contrary, the Dolphins never took a look.
Kevin Boss – Boss is heading to the twilight of his career and no longer is a seam route runner, at least not like he was. The Dolphins are need of speed and a TE who can hit the seam…or so the media says.
Todd Heap – Heap became available when the Baltimore Ravens purged some of their veterans. The Dolphins didn’t take a look. In fact, the Dolphins haven’t explored any of the free agent TE’s.
Who the Dolphins signed –
Matt Moore – Moore is not named Kyle Orton. The former Carolina Panther suffered a bad year with the rest of the Panthers last season. While he has solid arm strength and can make the reads as well as starting experience, he is still not ready to take over the reigns in Miami and without the benefit of the off-season will linger behind Chad Henne for a little while. Moore has a lot of potential and could be a solid starter down the road, but the Dolphins need a starter now and I believe most fans would agree with that.
Kevin O’Connell – KO was drafted in the 3rd round by the New England Patriots and was cut after a horrid pre-season game the following season in which he tossed three INT’s in the 4th quarter. He was signed by the NY Jets and landed on the IR with a torn labrum. He has attempted 6 passes in his 3 year career and completed four of them.
Pat Devlin – The undrafted rookie free agent signed with Miami on the first day teams were allowed to sign UDFA’s. The Delaware product compares to Chad Pennington and will be a developmental QB. He is getting reps in practice thus far and looks to be an easy lock for the practice squad. The problem? He is a practice squad player and will not challenge for the starting QB job.
Who they could have had –
Kyle Orton – No other QB was mentioned more than Orton. In fact, some still believe that by some miracle of ancient bluff tactics that Orton is still destined to join the Dolphins. That won’t of course happen. In the end, the trade talk ended with Orton wanting a long term contract with money in the 7 mill range. Orton has a solid arm but can be erratic at times. It’s easy to forget that he was traded out of Chicago and the year before was replaced with Rex Grossman. After two seasons in Denver, the Broncos were ready to move on as well.
Kevin Kolb – The back-up to Michael Vick in Philly landed a 63 million dollar deal after showcasing himself as a starter for 4 games in his career.
Matt Hasslebeck – The former Seattle Seahawk was never a serious option for the Dolphins. He was set to sign with the Titans immediately on becoming a free agent.
Tarvaris Jackson – Jackson was not on the want list of Rick Speilman in Minnesota, nor anyone else for that matter. He joined the Seahawks to work as a bridge QB until the teams rookie can get NFL acclimated.
Donovan McNabb – The Vikings got McNabb for two 6th rounders. McNabb almost balked at the trade after learning that he was not the Vikings first choice in free agency. After re-negotiating his contract, McNabb will make about 5 mill a season.
Vince Young – Young was let go by the Titans and quickly signed with the Philly Eagles to back-up Michael Vick, then called the Eagles the dream team after all their free agent signings. The Dolphins did their research but never truly became interested in the troubled but talented QB. Young has a history of off field issues, but more importantly, on-field issues with his own team.
Breaking it all down –
Alex Marvez of FoxSports called the Dolphins the biggest free agent losers and based his decision solely on the fact that the team failed to address the QB position. Given the options mentioned above, I’m not sure the Dolphins had as many options as the names would imply.
The Miami Dolphins may not have done enough on paper and it is too early to tell if they did enough on the field. They added pieces to the team that could be starters and others that should provide adequate depth as well. Free agent signings are not as simple as “hey we want you, how much will it take?” Coaches will sit and interview the players, the GM will interview the player, they will look at injury history, production, attitude, and whether or not they fit within the scope of what they are trying to accomplish. Is “X” free agent better than “Y” incumbent or “Z” free agent. If they all grade out equally, what intangibles sets them apart, who will cost the least.
When looking at what the Dolphins lost and what they added, on paper they seem to have done a decent job. Stellar? Not quite but they didn’t have to spend the money. There were a few players that the Dolphins could have targeted and honestly I am more discouraged by the fact they rarely take any chances. Sometimes those chances will pay off and sometimes they won’t. But if you don’t take them, they will never work out in your favor.
All things being equal, the Dolphins added players that should help the team win this year. Aside from QB where the debate will continue to rage on until it is fixed once and for all. The overall look of the list of additions isn’t a flashy one. It’s not filled with top to bottom star names like the Jets try and land. Perhaps that is why fans and some media tend to look at the Dolphins free agency as a failure or an example of why they could have done better. Because they didn’t throw their names into the mix for a high-profile exciting edition. Even Reggie Bush comes with questions.
And perhaps it’s that same reason that I sit on that proverbial fence. On one hand, I would have loved to see them enter the bidding for some of those high-profile athletes and on the other hand, I see how they didn’t overspend in one area to fill a need or depth at another. The Dolphins simply don’t mortgage the future to win now…and some wish to hell they would.