Miami Dolphins 2013 Free Agency A Lesson In Mistakes


For the Miami Dolphins, the 2013 free agency period was supposed to elevate the team to at least division champion status. Miami played all of their cards close to the vest until free agency actually started. Then in a whirlwind that lasted most of the first week the Dolphins got very good on paper. On paper. 2013 should linger in the minds of remaining Dolphins executives as a lesson in how free agency can be a mistake.

I am not one of those people who believe you can’t build a championship team through free agency. I think you can use free agency to land top talent you failed to draft and supplement the roster from your successful drafts. In 2013 the Miami Dolphins began the 2nd season of Joe Philbin. 2012 was quite the wash as Miami dumped salaries and players left over from the Bill Parcells era that both Jeff Ireland and Joe Philbin didn’t want.

With a large amount of salary cap space the Miami Dolphins hit free agency running when they signed Mike Wallace. Wallace was the “it” receiver in that years free agency class. He was to give the Dolphins the vertical game they hadn’t had since Irving Fryar lined up for Dan Marino. Wallace quickly showed that he could get downfield but he and Ryan Tannehill never truly connected consistently…in fact almost not at all.

Miami made more moves on the opening weekend. They surprised a lot of people by signing Baltimore Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and then quickly lined up Oakland linebacker Phillip Wheeler. They added wide-receiver Brandon Gibson, tackle Tyson Clabo, and former Jets TE Dustin Keller. As the days ticked on they added DT Vaughn Martin and offensive guard Lance Louis. It was a spending spree that included the franchise tag for Randy Starks and a contract extension for Brian Hartline. And it failed.

The Dolphins reportedly are set to release Dannell Ellerbe at anytime now. Phillip Wheeler apparently has already been let go. Brian Hartline is gone, Brandon Gibson is gone, Clabo, Louis, and Keller have been gone for over a year. Rumors continue to persist that both Mike Wallace and Randy Starks could be gone as well.

The Dolphins find themselves in a similar situation entering 2015. While they certainly do not have the money they did three years ago, creative use of the cap has them in position to land Ndamukong Suh and possibly another top free agent. Like 2013 a similar vibe resonates from the Davie complex. Job security.

Jeff Irelands attempt to maintain his job fell flat as the 2013 Dolphins collapsed at the end of the season failing to win one of their final two games for a playoff spot. In fighting led to the decision to part with Ireland and Dennis Hickey was signed to take over as the general manager. Last year the Dolphins played it somewhat safe but still landed the top left tackle in free agency Branden Albert. This year the target is the best defensive tackle. Both Hickey and Philbin are entering the season on the final year of their contract.

Watching the Dolphins spend in free agency can be exciting and bring confidence to a fan base that has not seen a truly great team in over a decade. It should also come with cautious or tempered optimism. Failing to make the post-season after such high-profile signings should be immediate reason to be fired but the future of the team doesn’t lie within who the coach is. Not anymore, it lies within how these contracts are structured for the future because at some point, it’s all going to catch up. Like now when the high priced contracts you agreed upon don’t work out.