We’re deep into the task of opening the doors on TFQ’s NFL Draft Advent Calendar! This is our Christmas – when NFL teams get to decide what sort of new toys they get under the tree to play with next season.
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Door #19-The Dolphins
2012 finish: 7-9; missed playoffs
TOTAL PICKS: 11
24 (54) (from Colts)
20 (82) (from Bears)
33 (166) (compensatory selection)
18 (224) (from Cowboys)
44 (250) (compensatory selection)
Well, it’s safe to say that fans in South Beach aren’t going to be able to chastise ’Fins general manager Jeff Ireland for sitting on his hands anymore.
After an initial period as the Dolphins GM that was defined by harsh criticism from the fan base for what they deemed was a lack of action on the part of the front office to turn around the moribund state of the franchise, Ireland got things rolling prior to last season. He replaced dead duck head coach Tony Sparano with Joe Philbin, who had previously been the offensive coordinator for the Packers, and added former Green Bay head coach Mike Sherman from Texas A&M to oversee the offense. Then, with the eighth overall pick in last year’s draft, Ireland took QB Ryan Tannehill, who had played under Sherman in college. The jury’s out on Tannehill because he’s only played one season, but the early product looks promising.
Miami looked good in the early going of the 2012 season, but then floundered as the reality of the talent-thin roster had the final word, causing the Dolphins to miss the playoffs again. (The last time they made the postseason was 2008, the season before Ireland was hired.)
Ireland wasted no time or money addressing said roster. Here are lists of Miami’s free agent signings so far this season, their contracts (Hartline, Moore and Clemons were re-signed as unrestricted free agents), and who was shown the door.
Notable Dolphins Signed So Far in 2013 Free Agency
|Name||Position||Contract ($ millions)|
|Mike Wallace||WR||5 yrs, $60|
|Brian Hartline||WR||5 yrs, $30.77|
|Brandon Gibson||WR||3 yrs, $9.78|
|Dustin Keller||TE||1 yr, $4.25|
|Lance Louis||G||1 yr, $1.6|
|Matt Moore||QB||2 yrs, $8|
|Dannell Ellerbe||LB||5 yrs, $35|
|Philip Wheeler||LB||5 yrs, $26|
|Brent Grimes||CB||1 yr, $5.5|
|Randy Starks*||DT||1 yr, $8.5|
|Chris Clemons||S||1 yr, $2.75|
*- franchise tagged
Notable Dolphins Gone So Far in 2013 Free Agency
RB Reggie Bush; LT Jake Long; TE Anthony Fasano; CB Seam Smith; LBs Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett.
Give Ireland some credit – he’s going all in. But as such, too many of these deals can be interpreted as gambles. The only players on that list who are relatively free from being considered overpaid at this point are 3 of the 4 re-signed players (I can’t justify $6 million-per for Hartline, the slowest wideout in the NFL) and Gibson and Keller. Louis’ deal might look cheap, but he likely won’t be at full strength for opening day due to an ACL tear in his knee, and what’s worse is that he played for the atrocious Bears O-line for the last three seasons.
The linebacker transactions could turn out to be a downgrade. Dansby and Burnett were unsung stabilizing forces in the ’Fins D last season; Ellerbe and Wheeler are prospects that need to realize their potential more fully to justify their contracts.
Letting Long go to the Rams is too hard to evaluate until he takes the field and his physical health can be determined. But that likely means Ireland was smart not to overpay him to stay in Miami.
Bush is a tough one for me. I understand why he wasn’t re-signed. He would have likely cost too much, and Philbin wants a better idea of what he has in young backs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas. But something tells me the Dolphins might come to miss Bush’s 2,072 rushing yards and 78 receptions over the last two seasons.
If many of these moves seem iffy overall to Dolphins fans, there’s still even more to be done, since the team has a surprising total of eleven selections in this year’s draft with which it can either fortify roster weaknesses and/or trade for more picks as insurance for the future. (Loads of cap space and draft picks in one offseason? Gee, maybe Ireland was onto something standing pat while his fan base screamed in frustration.)
I think that it’s a crapshoot as to what Ireland does with most of his picks, since he has so many of them and could wheel and deal. But I think he’ll keep the 12th pick overall, and go with a lineman on either side of the ball. Miami could use another pass rusher to take the load off of Cameron Wake. DT Star Lotulelei (Utah) and DE Ziggy Ansah (BYU) could fit the bill as a player to penetrate opposing backfields.
That being said, Ireland was fairly direct about an obvious need to address in the draft the other day, when he said that Miami needs to “add some talent on the offensive line.” There’s a lot of pressure on second-year tackle Jonathan Martin to step up his game in 2013 – and that’s without even thinking of moving him over in to the void on the left side created by Long’s departure.
However, it’s unlikely that one of the premier left tackles will still be available at number 12. As I mentioned when we opened the Chargers’ door the other day, there are a lot of teams drafting in the top 10 of this year’s draft that have serious needs along the offensive line, especially at tackle. If the best prospects at those positions are taken, as well as Lotulelei and Ansah (which is even more likely), the Dolphins might be wise to opt for CB Xavier Rhodes from Florida State. I’m not as impressed with the junior as some others have been. In his games last season, plus the drills that I saw during the combine and FSU’s pro day, Rhodes looked great in press coverage, but a bit tight in the hips when playing off of receivers. Still, Grimes isn’t a sure bet in his first season while recovering from an Achilles injury (making his 1-year deal seem even more overpriced), and adding cornerbacks isn’t exactly a bad idea in this pass-happy era.
Whatever the case, Miami has already made more splashes prior to the draft than it has in a long, long time. The fan reaction to Ireland’s work will obviously depend upon how close the Dolphins come to making the postseason. But given how many changes the roster has undergone this offseason, expectations have intensified and that reaction is likely to be drastic either way.
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STAY TUNED FOR THE REST OF THE DAYS LEADING UP UNTIL THE 2013 NFL DRAFT. WE’LL TAKE A LOOK AT EACH TEAM, AS WE OPEN THEM UP IN THE ADVENT CALENDAR. WE’LL ALSO BE DOING A LIVE TWEET-UP DURING THE DRAFT.