Dec. 23, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Reggie Bush (right) celebrates his touchdown with teammate wide receiver Brian Hartline (left) during the second half against the Buffalo Bills at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
The Miami Dolphins face a big task this off-season. Starting in 11 days, they will try and improve their roster and will have major decisions to make with their own free agents. Teams still have a few more days to designate the franchise tag but that will only cover one player for the Dolphins, should they use it at all.
So where might the impending Dolphins free agents end up? Here is a quick look at a few possible landing spots.
Reggie Bush – Bush wants to return to the Dolphins and the Dolphins are not opposed to it. But at their price not his. So, chances are, Bush will hit the market and leave. The popular landing spot according to rumors has Bush landing in Detroit and to be honest, it makes perfect sense.
The Lions can pay Bush what he wants and given the offensive firepower they have, Bush would give them a much added and diverse option for Matt Stafford. I believe this is a genuine interest and I would be surprised if Bush isn’t a Detroit Lion by the end of the first full weekend of free agency.
Brian Hartline – Hartline is one of those players that could be an intriguing option for a lot of teams. He is fast enough to create space and knows how to use the field to his advantage. His hands are very good and teams looking for a sure handed receiver will not be disappointed. There is a downside though. Hartline is not a number 1 wide-out and has a salary demand in the neighborhood of 6-7 million a season. That is going to take quite a few teams off the Hartline market.
That doesn’t mean he won’t get plenty of interest. The St. Louis Rams are set to let Danny Amendola go and frankly Hartline is as good and stays healthier. He would fit in with the Rams plans easily. The question is do the Rams believe he is worth 6.6 million and not Amendola? To me, the most logical landing spot is in New England.
The Patriots are sending their receivers packing and already are on pace to lose Julian Eddleman, Wes Welker, and they may be parting ways with Brandon Lloyd as well. That leaves a huge need for Tom Brady and the Patriots will want a guy who knows how to catch. Don’t be surprised if we see Hartline twice a year next season.
Sean Smith – Smith has an ego and wants to be paid for it. Seeking around 24-27 million guaranteed, Smith will likely be out of Miami unless they opt to use the franchise tag. Something that is not entirely out of the question. Smith is a good coverage corner but he needs to be in a system that works for him.
With the recent rumor of the K.C. Chiefs talking with Smith it would be stupid not to say “it’s possible” however I believe that if Smith goes to free agency he will sign with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles are cutting their former “Dream Fail” team and they will have a need at corner if they do in fact cut or trade Cromartie and/or Nnamdi Asomugha. Smith may not be the best fit for the Eagles but I think he fits better with them than elsewhere.
Matt Moore – Moore is reportedly on the Dolphins radar to keep. Something that I believe should be the number 1 priority for the Miami Dolphins. A consistent reliable back-up is a major necessity in the NFL and the Dolphins haven’t had a reliable back-up (or a starter) since Don Strock covered Dan Marino. Moore is a team leader even in a support role and that can not be overstated. Like all QB’s however, Moore wants a chance to start and the Dolphins are not going to give him that opportunity.
The Kansas City Chiefs have completed a trade for Alex Smith so they no longer need a starting QB. That leaves Arizona, Cleveland, Buffalo, and perhaps the New York Jets in need of a starter. Cleveland invested a high-draft pick last season when they took Brandon Weedon in round 1. The Jets have Mark Sanchez and his almost 9 million dollar salary, and I don’t think anyone really knows what Buffalo and Arizona will do. Of the four, only Arizona really give Moore a legit shot at starting and Moore would jump at the chance to move closer to his home in southern Cal.
I think the Dolphins would be the best option for Moore but I doubt he stays. Arizona seems like the most logical destination and to be honest, if he goes there he will start and likely make that team much much better. Moore is a guy that his team can rally behind.
Anthony Fasano – The Dolphins are hoping they can bring him back into the fold and that is likely what will happen. Fasano won’t be a sought after TE given the current free agent crop potential. The reality is that Fasano is too erratic and unless a team needs a blocking TE primarily Fasano won’t draw much interest.
Chris Clemons – Clemons is going to be on the market for awhile. Too many questions surround him and while his season last year wasn’t bad, it wasn’t a home run either. I expect Clemons to sign a deal to return to Miami after he tests the market.
Jake Long – Long continues to say that the Dolphins control whether or not he returns. In other words, pay me or I’m gone. The Dolphins appear reluctant to re-sign him let alone apply the franchise tag to and pay him 12 million for the season. They have other options and can let him walk.
Long wants to be paid like the number 1 LT in the league and he isn’t that kind of player of late. I believe that he may find some interest from the KC Chiefs who have the money to pay him and thus free up the use of the number 1 overall pick for someone else.
Randy Starks – Starks is a solid run-stuffing defensive end and likely will get paid somewhere around 4 million a season. It’s the guaranteed and signing bonus that will dictate his return. He is still only 29 and the Dolphins appear to have the interest to bring him back to Miami and they may use the franchise tag if need be. I believe he returns to the Dolphins.
Nate Garner, Tony McDaniel, and the group of restricted free agents will likely return to Miami unless the Dolphins opt not to bring them back. No one really stands out clearly but LB Austin Spitler performed well as a back-up last year. McDaniel and Garner both should be back in Miami.