NFL Free Agent Primer: 36 Days Until Start


The Miami Dolphins are getting ready for free agency.  So are the other 31 NFL teams across the country.  While each team huddles in not so dark rooms and formulate a plan of attack as well as prepare for the NFL Combine at the end of this month, the media and fans alike are left to ponder the direction that each team will take.  For the Dolphins fans and the media that cover them, that usually begins with the name Peyton and ends with the name Flynn.  Two names you will hear a lot of in the next 36 days and beyond.

There are however other areas that the team will need to explore either through the draft or free agency and there are a lot of free agents scheduled to hit the trail of freedom.  With the salary cap projected to hover around 124 million and the Dolphins sitting somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of possible cap space, currently they are believed to be around 116 million before contract re-negotiations and cuts, it’s hard to predict of the team will throw all their money at Matt Flynn or Peyton Manning or break it up and grab a few pieces here and there.  Thus concentrating on the draft to fill their bigger holes and needs.

For now, since all we can deal with is speculation, here is a list of the “possible”, stressed again…”POSSIBLE” free agents at each position.  Call it your, pre-NFL Free Agent Primer.

QB:  Yes the Dolphins need a QB.  Will they skip over Matt Flynn and wait on Peyton Manning possibly losing out on both?  Will they forgo Manning for Flynn?  Will they keep Matt Moore as the bridge and look to the draft?  This will be the most scrutinized area of need in the eyes of everyone.

Drew Brees – Third time will not be a charm.  It would most assuredly signal the beginning of the 2012 apocalypse if Brees is anything but a Saint.

Alex Smith – So close to being a Super Bowl QB.  Still he showed quite a bit of growing under Jim Harbaugh and will be re-signed by the team.

Kyle Orton – Let’s see if we can nail this down.  He is traded along with a first round draft pick out of Chicago for Jay Cutler, goes on the trade block to start last season, loses his job to Tim Tebow, gets cut, joins the Chiefs who are showing no real desire to keep him.  He sure does seem to be a fall back option in Miami doesn’t he?

Chad Henne – JP Losman – Chad Henne could come back if all the other pieces don’t fall into place, but it’s more likely that by the time the Dolphins get to that point, he will have already signed elsewhere.  Losman will head to free agency as well but considering that he was unemployed when Miami plucked off the unemployment line, he won’t likely be inundated with offers right from the start.

The rest:  Donovan McNabb, Brady Quinn, Drew Stanton, Chris Redman, Jason Campbell, Dennis Dixon, Caleb Hanie, Rex Grossman.

RUNNING BACKS:  The Dolphins don’t have RB as a priority this year but they could add some depth to replace Lex Hilliard or Steve Slaton…if they choose not re-sign either one.  Last off-season proved that RB’s no longer have the value to teams as they once did and that also shows in the draft as well.

Ray Rice, Matt Forte, Peyton Hillis, Arian Foster, Marshawn Lynch, and Cedrick Benson.  Of these names, Hillis is the most likely to sign with someone other than the team he is currently on.  Hillis’ falling out with Cleveland over his contract last year and then his teammates when he was injured has only made it a foregone conclusion that he won’t be back.  Miami is not likely to show much interest.

Michael Bush – The Raider product should find some options on the free agent market and teams like the Washington Redskins will likely be interested.

Michael Tolbert – Tolbert is a stud short yardage back but isn’t truly believed to be an every down runner despite the fact he carries the ball well.

Ryan Grant – with the connection to Dolphins HC Joe Philbin, his name will be mentioned a lot as the RB Miami will show interest in…if they show interest.

The Rest:  Ronnie Brown, Tashard Choice, Jackie Battle, BenJarvis Green-Ellis,

WR’s – The Dolphins could use a legit number 2 WR to compliment Brandon Marshall and the switch to a “West Coast” style of offense under Mike Sherman may force the Dolphins to look to FA for a WR to play in that system…however, the Dolphins have a lot of money tied to Marshall and the other WR’s are not free agents so there is very little, if any room without making cuts to the current players at the position.

Vincent Jackson – Too much money

Wes Welker – Likes it too much in New England and they need him too much to let him go.

DeSean Jackson – This would be a great signing but D-Jax wants a big payday and will likely get it.  He also has some serious maturity issues.  Dolphins won’t show interest in all likelihood.

Dwayne Bowe – KC will do what they have to, to keep him.

Reggie Wayne – Wayne failed to reach 1,000 yards last season which is no surprise considering he didn’t have Peyton Manning.  Many will speculate on Wayne if Manning comes to Miami.  Even though Wayne is ending his career soon, he will still cost a lot and the Dolphins have more pressing needs than to spend big money on a name.

Mario Manningham – Coming off his fabulous game changing catch in the Super Bowl, M&M will garner a lot of attention…from the Giants as well.

Marques Colston – could be an interesting situation with MC.  The Saints will be trying to lock down Brees.  Colston may find free agency more appealing and more financially rewarding.

Brandon Lloyd – The Rams are likely going to try and re-sign Lloyd prior to the start of free agency.  Jeff Fisher needs to keep Sam Bradford loaded with help.  If he hits the FA market, I seriously hope that the Dolphins make a major push to land him.  He will command decent but not out of this world money, has worked with Brandon Marshall before and has zero attitude.

The Rest:  Mike Sims-Walker, Laurent Robinson, Stevie Johnson, Robert Meacham.

OL:  The Dolphins need to address the right side of their line and free agency is a great place to find someone to plug in.  With Marc Colombo and Vernon Carey both free agents, the Dolphins can shore up the worst part of their offense with one guy in FA and one guy in the draft if they desire.

Carl Nicks – This guy would solidify the Dolphins line for years…he will also take a HUGE chunk of money out of their cap.  Serious creative financing would need to be done here to land him.

Evan Mathis – Ben Grubbs – Both players would improve the Oline but they may be demanding more money than they are actually valued at.

Ryan Diem – Diem had a decent year for a very bad Indy offense last year.  He will likely get tertiary level money in free agency and would provide an upgrade over Columbo and Carey.  Diem is a player who needs a good supporting cast around him and as a guard, he would have Mike Pouncey to his left.

Samson Satele – Could Satele make another Miami appearance?  Not likely.  Satele no longer is a center making the move to guard in Oakland.

The Rest – there are a ton of second and third and even fourth tier lineman who could upgrade the depth and challenge to start on the right side.  You can view a better list, here.

TE:  The Dolphins have Anthony Fasano and hybrid Charles Clay.  It’s unknown if the Dolphins feel this is a must need upgrade.  Fasano has displayed a sound ability to get open and catch touchdowns but he is still too inconsistent at times and Clay is still raw.  Mike Sherman will most assuredly break down tape on both and advise Joe Philbin and Jeff Ireland about his opinion.  For Miami, the draft may be the better option.

Jermichael Finley – If the Packers don’t apply the franchise tag to Finley and he becomes a free agent, it’s hard to imagine Joe Philbin not wanting him on the roster.  The price-tag however will bring an elite contract for an elite TE.  If the Dolphins somehow signed Finley, Fasano would likely get cut.  I suspect that Finley will remain in Green Bay.

Fred Davis – The Redskins should try and keep him but Davis will likely test the open market.

Martellus Bennett – yes, he is another Dallas Cowboy but Bennett actually could be a major addition.  In Dallas he saw time in the offense and performed well playing behind a super star.  If the Dolphins look for an upgrade that could fit what Philbin and Sherman are trying to do, Bennett could be that guy.  His financial demands should be doable and he is only 25.

John Carlson – the 28 year old missed all of the 2011 season with an injury.  High potential but too much risk at this stage of his career.

The rest – Scott Chandler, Joel Dressen, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Davis, Leanord Pope

That wraps up the offensive side of the ball.  Later we will take a look at defense.