Tuesday, March 27, 2007

News Roundup

Here's the latest news on the Dolphins front:

- DT Keith Traylor will not have to serve a suspension during the 2007 season for his arrest last May as a result of a DUI and malicious injury to property.

- Both WR Az-Zahir Hakim and OL Chris Liwienski were both signed to one-year contracts worth $720,000. Also, the signing of Liwienski does not rule out the possible signing of G Matt Lehr. Lehr's agent said that he would be renewing negotiations with the team on Monday.

- K Olindo Mare offered to return his $250,000 roster bonus in return for being released. However, the team has refused as it continues to try and trade him. Mare's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has said that there are teams willing to trade for Olindo. If that is true, Miami should pull the trigger and take whatever they can get for him now. The team can't hold on to him forever, and other teams know that. The longer Miami waits in engineering a trade, the less likely it is to get done. At this point, they can probably only expect a seventh-round draft pick, but that's certainly better than nothing.

- The trade that sent DT Dan Wilkinson to Denver for a sixth-round pick is likely to be rescinded. The Broncos no longer have any interest in Wilkinson, and even if he shows up for his physical, the team will likely find a reason to fail him. GM Randy Mueller said that he does not expect to have that extra pick in the draft.

Friday, March 23, 2007

New Discipline Policy; League Meeting Proposals

With the NFL owners' meetings coming up, it seems like Commissioner Roger Goodell will announce a harsher discipline policy, specifically targeting off-field behavior. I am all for harsher penalties to reign in the run-ins with the law that have become more widespread as of late. Most of the players Goodell has spoken to support his initiative, and I'm not surprised. The vast majority of NFL players are decent citizens and don't get into trouble on or off the field. A few players with bad character shouldn't bring down the prestige and reputations of all NFL players.

Miami has had its fair share of players getting into trouble lately, whether it be Randy McMichael or most recently Joey Porter, but overall the Dolphins have done a good job of finding players with little risk of behavioral problems. Even guys like Marcus Vick, who had character issues coming into Miami, have stayed out of trouble once in South Florida. Cameron has already stated the high value he places on "character-guys," which becomes that much more important under this new discipline policy. Hopefully Joey Porter finds a way to keep his fiery attitude in check until gamedays.


At the meetings, there will also be several recommendations for rule changes. Any rule change will have to be approved by 3/4 of the teams. Let's take a look at which ones might be worth pursuing:

- In overtime, the kickoff would be moved from the 30-yard-line to the 35.
Atlanta general manager Rich McKay, the committee's co-chairman, said the committee believed the kickoff spot was the major reason that that 62 percent of teams winning the coin toss won overtime games last season, not necessarily on the first possession, but because of the field position they got. McKay said it stemmed from the change in 1998 that moved the kickoff back to the 30 and added the "K-ball," a kicking ball harder to kick deep.

Until then, winners and losers of the toss had won just about equally.

"This is something we resisted," McKay said. "But there was an advantage gained by the coin toss. We think we can cure those stats and make the coin toss less of a factor."
I think this would be a good move for the above reasons. The coin toss should not determine the chance of winning the game, and 5 yards can surprisingly be a crucial difference. I have also heard another suggestion for an overtime rules change (although this idea has almost no possibility of passing). The idea is that the team that wins the coin toss can only win the game on the opening drive by scoring a touchdown. This eliminates the chance of a questionable pass-interference call setting the team up to kick a game-winning field goal from short distance. It also forces the team that wins the toss the march the entire field for a score. If the team fails to score a touchdown on the opening drive of overtime, the rules basically revert back to normal and the game can be won by a field goal. This rule would seemingly equalize overtime for both teams, maintaining the sudden-death structure but removing unfair field position issues and making it more likely that both teams will touch the ball at least once.

- Another rule would make instant replay a permanent part of the league's rules. I think this one is a no-brainer. Instant replay seems to be almost universally accepted now. One change I would make would be to take the college format of replays, in that the replays are conducted by referees in a booth rather than on the field. These refs then radio their call to the referee on the field. I think a referee removed from the chaos on the field would be able to get a clearer view of the play from up inside a referees' box.

- Players would be assessed a 5-yard penalty for spiking the ball on the field after a play (this would not include spiking the ball after a touchdown or out of bounds). I personally don't see the need for this rule. I'm not supporting Terrell Owens-type celebrations after every play, but there's already enough rules against excessive celebration. I like to see guys just hand the ball to the referee after a good play, but there should be leeway for at least some celebrations. Spiking the ball isn't going overboard.

- Injury reports would only use verbal categorizations like "doubtful" and "probable" in the Friday reports rather than on Wednesday. The earlier reports will simply say what the injury is and how much practice the player has missed. This seems like a reasonable rule. Most coaches (Bill Belichick comes to mind) place a dozen players on the injury list every week even if it is almost certain that they will play. The verbal categorizations carry little meaning and are used as misinformation as often as they are truthful.

- Similar to the radio in a QB's helmet, one defensive player would have a communication device in his helmet, allowing him to talk to the coaches before the snap. I don't think defensive players need this technology as much as QBs, but I don't see why the defense shouldn't have the capability as well.

- A period would be added between the championship games and the Super Bowl to allow assistant coaches to interview for head coaching positions.

- Tampa Bay has proposed including all penalties other than offensive holding as open for instant replay.

- San Francisco has proposed changing the pass interference rules to those used in college, with the exception of flagrant violations. In college, a pass interference penalty results in a 15-yard penalty rather than placing the ball at the spot of the foul. This makes a lot of sense to me, and it's a rule that I really hope the league looks into. Too many games are turned on questionable PI calls that move the ball halfway up the field. PI is a call that is so subjective and oftentimes far too harsh. Equalizing the penalty to 15 yards would be a good move. Of course, flagrant violations, in which the defender clearly and excessively interferes with the pass, would remain as spot-fouls.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Hakim and Liwienski signed, Denney re-signed

The Dolphins have signed free agent WR Az-Zahir Hakim and G Chris Liwienski to one-year contracts. Long-snapper John Denney was also re-signed to a one-year contract.

Hakim was a fourth-round pick of the Rams in 1998. He has played in 9 seasons with four teams. Known for his open-field speed, Hakim will likely compete for a roster spot as a kick/punt returner and as a 4th/5th receiver. His competition at this point seems to be WR Kelley Campbell and WR Marcus Vick.

Liwienski was a seventh-round pick of the Lions in 1998. He has played in 9 seasons, appearing in 110 games - starting 80 of those games. He has started at both guard positions as well as right tackle. Although he will probably be given a chance to compete for the starting LG spot, he will most likely provide some much needed depth along the line. The team is still interested in G Matt Lehr, and if signed he would man the LG spot. Liwienski has good physical size at 6'5", 321 pounds.

Re-signing long-snapper John Denney is a good move. He has been a very solid snapper for the team over the past two seasons - rarely, if ever, making mistakes in the kicking game. His signing will keep him together with P/holder Donnie Jones and allow them to keep their chemistry.

Deal for Green in the works?; other updates

Here's a rundown of the latest news:

- It seems as if a trade is in the works for Kansas City QB Trent Green. The major holdup in the deal is the contract that Miami is willing to pay Green. Green, who will be 37 years old entering next season, is currently scheduled to make $7.2, $7.7, and $9.2 million over the next three years. Miami wants to pay Green in the vicinity of the veteran's minimum contract. Sources say that compensation (Miami's second seventh-round draft pick acquired from New England) has been agreed upon between Miami and Kansas City.
"The Dolphins are talking with Green's representatives and, a source said, the two sides are "in the same ballpark" and the deal is "still likely" to get done."
Green's return to Kansas City has not been ruled out. It is also a possibility that Miami could wait for Green to be released rather than trading for him. Green seems willing to compete for the starting job in Miami.

- The Atlanta Falcons traded QB Matt Schaub to the Houston Texans and the two teams swapped first-round draft picks. This means that the Falcons are now picking directly in front of the Dolphins. With Houston now picking after Miami, there is one less team ahead of the Dolphins who may be in the market for a QB. This increases the chances of Brady Quinn perhaps falling to the Dolphins at #9.

- All this QB speculation revolves around the fact that sources say Daunte Culpepper's knee is not yet 100%.

- Free agent G Matt Lehr met with the team on Monday and Tuesday. Contract negotiations have not yet begun since GM Randy Mueller has been away from the team facilities scouting college players.

- Contract updates: FB Kyle Eckel signed a 1-year contract worth $360,000. CB Michael Lehan signed a 1-year contract worth $625,000. DT Kevin Vickerson signed a 1-year contract worth $360,000.

- Even though K Olindo Mare is on the trading block, he is being allowed to work in the team's offseason conditioning program.

- Free agent WR Az-Zahir Hakim is expected to visit Miami this week, possibly as early as today. Hakim played for Cam Cameron in San Diego last season.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Eckel and Lehan re-signed; Porter cited for battery

Here's the latest news out of Miami:

- The Dolphins re-signed FB Kyle Eckel and CB Michael Lehan, both to one-year contracts. Lehan was a fifth-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2003. Last year, he played in 15 games for Miami, mostly on special teams, recording 19 tackles and 2 passes broken up.
Eckel practiced with the team for the second half of last season after being dismissed from the Naval Academy. Both of these players will likely fight for spots on the roster in training camp.

- Newly acquired LB Joey Porter was cited for misdemeanor battery after allegedly punching Bengals OT Levi Jones in the face after a dispute at a Las Vegas casino. These players have a history of trash-talking on the field, and that trash-talking continued at a blackjack table. They took the dispute outside to the valet area, where Porter punched Jones causing a small laceration above his eye. No serious injuries were sustained. While no court date was immediately set, Porter could face up to a year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. The police investigation is not expected to be completed until the end of the week. Cam Cameron refrained from commenting.

It's a bit upsetting to see Porter involved in a situation like this, but it doesn't seem to be anything too serious. I don't expect Porter to miss any time for what happened. Hopefully, incidents like this don't continue to occur, especially with the league looking to crack down on behavioral conduct issues.

- In other legal news, a hearing for WR Marcus Vick that was scheduled to take place this week has been postponed until May 8. The hearing was for a teen girl who is suing Vick, accusing him of sexual battery upon a minor, fraud and other charges. The hearing is for the judge to consider a motion to dismiss the case.

- The team's interest in Kansas City QB Trent Green seems to be cooling.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Now Presenting...The 2007 Miami Dolphins Coaching Staff

Head Coach Cam Cameron has officially announced the completion of his 2007 coaching staff. (You can click on the above picture to see a larger image of the coaching staff). The most noticeable aspect of the staff? There is no Offensive Coordinator - at least not in the normal sense. As Cameron had talked about during the Scouting Combine, he will handle the dual roles of Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator. In a posting on Feb. 26, I had this to say about this possible situation, and I feel the same way now:
"There is no precedent to look back on and judge past successes or failures in this situation. I feel that the existing offensive coaching staff is large enough and experienced enough to collectively step up and fill the responsibilities of an OC (there are three former offensive coordinators on the offensive staff - Mike Mularkey, Terry Shea, and Terry Robiskie). Realistically, the OC would not have many duties that the existing staff could not handle, since Cameron will be calling the plays. With guys like Mike Mularkey and Hudson Houck, Cameron can be sure that he will be getting useful feedback and support from his staff. While a dual HC/OC may seem dangerous, it is hardly that. It will simply require more work from the coaching staff. Cameron deserves this chance, and perhaps it could be the innovation that Miami's offense sorely needs."
Confirming previous reports, Mike Mularkey was demoted to Tight Ends coach.


- The team continues to consider unrestricted free agent guards and cornerbacks. They have also turned their attention to restricted free agents, expressing an interest in WR Terrance Copper (Saints), WR Clarence Moore (Ravens), CB Benny Sapp (Chiefs), and OG Adam Goldberg (Rams).

- Michigan State QB Drew Stanton and Central Michigan OL Joe Staley met with Miami Dolphins officials at their Pro Days on Wednesday.

- According to his agent, DT Manny Wright will rejoin the Dolphins when the team begins its offseason workouts on Monday. A fifth-round pick in 2005's Supplemental Draft, Wright left the team last year and was suffering from clinical depression.

- The Denver Broncos have extended the reporting deadline for DT Dan Wilkinson, who Miami traded to them for a sixth-round pick. He was originally supposed to report to Denver by tomorrow at the latest. If he doesn't report to the Broncos on time, the trade will be voided.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Thursday News Notes

There's a few new updates floating around. Let's check them out:

- The trade that Miami made with Denver, giving the Broncos DT Dan Wilkinson in return for a sixth-round pick, seems to be in jeopardy. Wilkinson must take his team physical in Denver no later than this Friday (03/16). If he fails to do so, the trade will be voided. On March 7, he told The Denver Post that he had "issues that need to be addressed" before he would discuss his future in Denver. Neither the Broncos nor the Dolphins have been able to get in contact with Wilkinson.

- Free agent DE David Bowens, a member of the Dolphins for the last six seasons, remains in contact with Miami even though he is visiting other teams.

- The team has made a contract offer to LB Donnie Spragan, who has played for Miami the last two seasons.

- There are reports that the team likes G Joe Toledo and have discussed letting him compete for a starting job.

- The organization is interested in meeting with QBs JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn, who are the top rated QBs in the upcoming NFL Draft. They could be brought to Miami as part of team's annual college player visits.
"The reason the Dolphins want to talk to both players could be telling: They could be considering a scenario where they trade up to the No. 2 overall pick, where Detroit is listening to offers. The interest also shows Miami's uncertainty over the status of Daunte Culpepper and his future with the team."
- Contrary to previous reports, no grievances were filed and no rules were broken in the Wes Welker trade. The NFL Players Association was simply seeking the details of the trade and not questioning its legality.

- There's a blog entry at Sun-Sentinel which talks about a new tactic the Dolphins may pursue this offseason:
"As the offseason unfolds, look for the Dolphins to lock up their top young players like Channing Crowder, Vernon Carey, Rex Hadnot and Matt Roth.

This is something the Dolphins haven't done much of in recent years.

But expect the new brass to identify good, young talent and sign them to contract extensions despite having to pay more for a second- or third-year player than they normally would have."

I think this is a great idea, and long overdue. The ability to lock up the team's young talent is vital for it's long term success. And it's better to do it now while the cap is inflated. We may pay them more in the short term, but will likely save on them over the long term. It's essential that the team is able to keep the talent that it grooms, and Crowder, Carey, Hadnot, and Roth have certainly shown they deserve to stick around.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

G Matt Lehr to visit; Other OL News

Updating a report from yesterday, free agent G Matt Lehr is planning to visit with the Miami Dolphins early next week. He has been offered a contract by the New York Giants already, but he realizes that the Dolphins have plenty of new openings along their offensive line, and if signed he would be able to fill one of the guard positions. His visit with Miami has been delayed up to this point because OL coach Hudson Houck has been away from the team facilities visiting different draft-eligible linemen at their respective college Pro Days. Lehr is still young at 27 years of age and has played under Houck as a rookie in Dallas in 2001. He spent the last two seasons with the Falcons, helping them achieve the top-ranked rushing offense in the NFL.

The team has also discussed bringing in G Zach Wiegert. He will be 35 years old in August and would only be a stopgap.


The most important position on the offensive line - the left tackle - remains a question mark for Miami. A few sources say that the team has discussed moving RT Vernon Carey to the left side where he played as a rookie in 2004. The other options available on the roster include RG L.J. Shelton who was originally brought in to play LT, and 2005 fifth-round pick Anthony Alabi, who has not started a game. The team believes Alabi is better suited to play RT, and unless Shelton shows up to camp in better shape, moving him to LT would be considered a "last resort."
"None of those options are any good," said a source who is aware of the Dolphins' considerations. "They've really painted themselves into a corner."
The top LTs available in free agency - Damion McIntosh, Leonard Davis, and Luke Petitgout - have already been signed by other teams. The team has not shown any interest in T Mike Gandy.

As for picking up a LT in the draft who could come in and start right away, sources say "the Dolphins do not want to give up the number of picks that would be required to move up from the ninth spot to even think about drafting [Joe] Thomas." Thomas is almost universally believed to be the best tackle prospect in the draft. Apparently, the Dolphins are not interested in Penn State LT Levi Brown, who would probably be available at the number 9 spot. Joe Staley, a LT from Central Michigan, has impressed the team and is viewed as a late first-round/early second-round draft pick. He was converted from TE, however, and has played only two seasons at LT so he would probably not be able to start right away.

As far as my thoughts on this situation go, I think it would be a mistake to change those aspects of the line that have been successful. Vernon Carey is reluctant to move back to LT and rightfully so; he has played tremendously at RT, and he should probably stay there. Also, while Shelton struggled last year at LT, he did show some good ability at RG. Ronnie Brown had much greater success running to the right side last year, and it should be a priority to keep the right side of the line intact. Rex Hadnot played adequately at center. So, the real questions are on the left side of the line. Nick Saban thought highly of Alabi as a LT, so it is surprising to hear that the team now prefers him at RT. If that is true then the team will have to look for its LT in the draft.

I am quite surprised that the team is not interested in Levi Brown. He is the second-highest rated tackle in the draft and will likely be an option at #9. Of course, the draft is still over a month away, and these whisperings could simply be rumors or the team trying to leak false information. I don't believe that if Miami is picking at #9 and Brown is available that they won't strongly consider him. Picking somebody up in the draft like Staley would be a good decision too, although the question would probably remain who would fill in at LT until Staley matured enough to take over.

There's little question that this problem will remain one until after the team has made its draft picks, and perhaps even after. Even if the team signs G Matt Lehr to play LG, and keeps Hadnot, Shelton, and Carey in their positions from last year, the LT could prove to be the line's undoing. It's unquestionably the most important position on the team behind QB, and if it isn't solidified then whoever is playing QB could face a lot of pressure when he drops back to pass. My prediction is that Miami will give Alabi a strong look at LT in training camp before writing him off as well as pursuing one of the top-rated LT prospects in the draft.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Welker trade violated CBA?

The NFL Players Association is asking both the Patriots and Dolphins for an explanation of how the Wes Welker trade was conducted. There are some concerns that it may have violated the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The controversy arose after Welker's agent complained that the Patriots offer of an additional seventh-round pick ultimately devalued his client. Initial reports said that the Patriots were prepared to sign Welker to a restricted free agent offer sheet worth $38.5 million over 7 years. This cost, in addition to a rumored "poison pill" clause in the contract, would likely have prevented Miami from matching the Patriot's offer. However, not wanting to take the chance of Miami matching the offer, New England threw in a seventh-round pick to their original offer of a second-round pick. Miami accepted, and New England signed Welker to a 5-year deal worth $18.1 million - about half their original offer. They didn't need to hand out such a prohibitively large deal since Miami would not have a chance to match the offer.

However, unless Welker's agent makes a big deal out of this, the league is unlikely to take any action. In fact, most of these inquiries "go nowhere" according to one agent.


- The Dolphins have shown interest in 27 year old free agent G Matt Lehr. Lehr, a fifth-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2001, spent the last two seasons helping the Falcons achieve the top-ranked rushing offense in the NFL. He has experience playing both guard positions as well as center. He also has familiarity with OL coach Hudson Houck, having played for him in Dallas in 2001.

- The team is still trying to trade Olindo Mare for a draft pick. Discussions are ongoing with the Giants, Falcons, Saints, and Browns.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Schlesinger Signed; Stallworth to Patriots

Miami reached an agreement on a two-year contract worth $2 million with FB Cory Schlesinger. Schlesinger is considered a "prototype fullback" and is "regarded leaguewide as one of the NFL's premier lead blockers." He was a sixth-round pick of the Detroit Lions in 1995, and has played all 12 of his seasons there. Last year, he did not carry the ball and has only carried it once over the past two seasons. Under Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz, his role was reduced significantly since Martz rarely uses a fullback. Cam Cameron, on the other hand, makes full use of the fullback as a lead-blocker.

Despite the fact that Schlesinger will be 35 years old entering the 2007 season, Cameron still believes he can be an effective blocker. He was selected as a Pro Bowl alternate from 2003-05. Also, his lack of rushing prowess will not be a problem. That's not the role he was brought in to fill. He has, however, shown the ability to be an adequate pass-catcher out of the backfield, which is a plus. He's durable too, missing only 11 games over 12 seasons. As long as his skills don't deteriorate too much due to age, he will be an upgrade over Darian Barnes, and he will give a nice boost to Ronnie Brown and the running game.


Although it was believed that Miami was WR Donte' Stallworth's preferred destination, he agreed to a six-year contract worth $30 million with the Patriots. Assuming he avoids a suspension as part of the NFL's substance abuse program, he will provide the Patriots with a true deep threat at the receiver position and could give Miami some problems if the secondary doesn't improve. They tended to have problems with some of the faster receivers they faced last season.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Saturday Update

[Update: 8:42 P.M.] SS Cameron Worrell's two-year contract with the Dolphins is worth $2 million and includes a $285,000 signing bonus. [End Update]

- Confirming previous reports, the Dolphins have indeed offered a contract to WR Donte' Stallworth. Although the contract offer was not appealing enough to immediately accept, the two sides are expected to continue negotiations throughout the weekend. It appears at this point that Miami is Stallworth's top choice.

- It is believed that Miami has already paid K Olindo Mare the $250,000 bonus that he was due. If true, that probably means that the team is pushing hard to trade him and get some value in return rather than simply cutting him. The team hopes to complete a trade before the April 13 minicamp, where Jay Feely will make his Dolphins debut. If Mare is not traded by that time, the team could still prohibit him from participating in the camp and other offseason activities.

- Although it was first reported that K Jay Feely's contract is worth $6 million, it is actually closer to $5 million, according to NFL Players Association records. His base salaries will be as follows: 2007 - $600,000; 2008 - $850,000; 2009 - $1.075 million.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Vickerson re-signed

The Dolphins re-signed DT Kevin Vickerson and allocated him to NFL Europa this spring. Vickerson was a seventh-round pick of the Dolphins in 2005. He spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve, and was inactive for all 16 games last year.

Thus far, the team has allocated 4 players to NFL Europa this spring: DT Kevin Vickerson, DT Steve Fifita, WR P.K. Sam, and RB Jesse Chatman.


- The team promoted equipment manager Tony Egues to become Cam Cameron's assistant for football matters. Assistant Joe Cimino was promoted to equipment manager.

- Miami has had conversations with several teams who are possibly interested in trading for K Olindo Mare. Those teams include Washington, Cleveland, Atlanta, and the Giants.

- Miami is expected to offer a contract to WR Donte' Stallworth. Stallworth spent the past two nights with Dolphins officials. The Eagles, Titans, and Patriots have also made offers for his services. Stallworth owns a home near Miami, and would like to play there, but it would have to be for the right price.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Team signs Feely, Worrell, and Campbell; Re-signs Traylor

[Update: 8:07 P.M.]
Updating a previous report, the team officially announced its signing of WR Kelly Campbell. [End Update]

[Update: 5:14 P.M.]
On Wednesday, a source said that the Dolphins are working on a trade that could send QB Trent Green to Miami as soon as this week. [End Update]

[Update: 2:34 P.M.]
WR Kelly Campbell is expected to re-sign with Miami today. Campbell, 26, was waived by Miami last September after missing the preseason with a quadriceps injury. He also missed the 2005 season for a similar injury. Prior to coming to Miami, he played in Minnesota for three seasons with Daunte Culpepper. In those three seasons, he played in 37 games (11 starts) and caught 57 passes for 1,062 yards and 8 touchdowns. If healthy, he has the speed necessary to stretch the field, as evidenced by his career catch average of 18.6 yards. He also has experience returning kicks, an area of need for Miami after Wes Welker's departure. [End Update]

The team signed K Jay Feely to a three-year deal worth $6 million, with about $2.5 million guaranteed. This move means that Olindo Mare's release or trade is imminent. Feely, 30, played the last two seasons with the New York Giants where he converted 84% of his field goals. He has played for six seasons, posting a career conversion percentage of 79.6%. Last season, he notched 12 touchbacks and average 64.6 yards on kickoffs. Feely's career-long is 55 yards.

Mare's departure is partly due to his scheduled $2.1 million salary which did not reflect the dropping level of his play over the past few seasons. His recent inconsistencies were also a factor. While he holds a career conversion percentage of 80.9%, he only made 72.2% of his kicks this past season, although he did lead the league in touchbacks. Mare has played his entire 10-year career in Miami. It's clear that this move was necessary. Over the past few seasons, Mare just seemed to lose the confidence that made him successful. While the team might be giving up the best touchback kicker in the league, Feely's more consistent accuracy should more than make up for that. Having the offensive drives end more frequently in some kind of points is more important than having the opponent start on the 20-yard line. Olindo, thank you for the decade of great service you gave to the Dolphins. We wish you the best of luck in the future.


The team also signed S Cameron Worrell to a two-year contract. Worrell played the last four seasons with the Chicago Bears. He saw time in 43 games, all in a reserve role. He was one of the leaders on Chicago's tremendous special teams units. While he will provide some depth at safety, his main responsibilities will be on kick coverage units, where he seemed to excel while with the Bears.

The Dolphins also re-signed DT Keith Traylor to a two-year contract. Even though Traylor will be 38 years old and entering his 17th season in 2007, he still provides a massive run-stopping body in the middle of the defensive line. Last season, he played in 14 games (all starts) and registered 36 tackles and a career-high four sacks. Since joining Miami in 2005, the Dolphins defense has allowed an average of only 3.6 yards per carry.


-Free agent fullback Cory Schlesinger and WR Donte Stallworth will meet with the team today. Schlesinger, 34, spent his entire 12-year career with the Detroit Lions.

- In other news, the team has no intentions of cutting ties with WR Chris Chambers, despite his $7.9 million salary-cap number. The staff believes that he is capable of returning to Pro Bowl form.

- In a press conference, Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said he plans to continue using the hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense from Nick Saban's tenure. Capers said he will get young DT Fred Evans "an awful lot of work" at nose tackle in the offseason. This statement was made before the team re-signed Keith Traylor. It now seems likely that Traylor will start at NT and Evans will be his primary substitute.

- Broncos running backs coach Bobby Turner is no longer a candidate for Miami's offensive coordinator position.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Wednesday News Items

[Update: 6:18 P.M.] Joey Porter passed his physical and officially signed his contract today.

-Since Miami has lost both RB Sammy Morris (Patriots) and now RB Travis Minor (Rams) in free agency, they are looking to add depth at running back. Ricky Williams plans to ask the league for his reinstatement soon, but even if he does come back, the team will still need another RB. They recently expressed interest in RB Maurice Hicks, and LaBrandon Toefield had a free agent visit with the team today. Toefield was a fourth-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2003. His productivity and playing time dropped severely last year with the emergence of Maurice Jones-Drew, as he played in only four games, rushing 10 times for 22 yards.

-The team also had a free agent visit with S Cameron Worrell. Worrell was signed by the Chicago Bears in 2003 as an undrafted free agent. He played in 16 games last season for the Bears, primarily on special teams. [End Update]

The Sun-Sentinel has posted an article with a few new tidbits:

- Along with WR Donte Stallworth and WR Kelley Washington, the team has expressed interest in WR Shaun McDonald. McDonald was a fourth-round draft pick of the Rams in 2003.

- Kansas City QB Trent Green was given permission to seek a trade, and the Dolphins will likely be one of the teams contacted. Wherever he ends up signing, he will probably have to restructure his contract. He is scheduled to make $7.2 million in 2007.

- The team is discussing a multi-year contract with QB Cleo Lemon. He was recently tendered as a restricted free agent with a one-year, $1.3 million contract.

- The team is concerned that DT Dan Wilkinson, who was traded to the Broncos for a sixth-round pick, may retire rather than playing another season in Denver. His retirement would nullify the trade, and the Dolphins would not receive the draft pick. However, Denver's defensive line coach, Bill Johnson said he is optimistic about Wilkinson playing another year.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Team signs Joey Porter; Set to cut Mare

[Update: 9:09 P.M.] According to the Sun-Sentinel, the team is set to cut K Olindo Mare if they are unable to trade him. Mare's salary for 2007 would be $1.5 million, with another $250,000 roster bonus. In his place, they are expected to sign Jay Feeley. Mare is 34 years old and finished last season with a career-worst 72.2 field goal percentage. He did, however, lead the league in touchbacks with 24. Feeley is 30 years old and made 85.2% of his field goals last season, playing for the New York Giants. [End Update]

It seems like Randy Mueller and Cam Cameron's trip to Bakersfield, CA to woo OLB Joey Porter paid off. The Dolphins have agreed to terms with the former Steelers LB on a five-year, $32 million contract, including a $12 million signing bonus and another $8 million in guaranteed salary.

Apparently, Miami's initiative paid off. Porter had been planning a tour of at least 5 or 6 NFL cities, but chose instead to sign with Miami without visiting the other interested teams. The 3-4 defense that he played in Pittsburgh is very similar to the one employed by Dom Capers, so he should fit in very nicely. His skill at rushing the QB (60 sacks over 8 seasons) will really add an extra dimension to the already formidable Dolphins defense. Channing Crowder and Donnie Spragan combined for only 2.5 sacks last season from the OLB position. Porter notched 7 sacks last season. He also adds an element of fiery leadership to the team.

Team meets with Porter; Stallworth to visit

It appears that the team is very interested in OLB Joey Porter, evidenced by the trip that GM Randy Mueller and head coach Cam Cameron took to his hometown of Bakersfield, CA. After the meeting, Joey's agent said, "[Porter] came away from the meeting very impressed with the direction they are taking the team." The front office must really want to sign Porter if they were willing to go to him, rather than having him fly down to Miami for a visit. He would be an immediate and significant upgrade at the OLB position.

WR Donte Stallworth plans to visit with the team on Thursday. Interest in Stallworth has been tepid at best due to recent reports that he is in the NFL's substance-abuse program. If the reports are true, another violation could result in a suspension. Miami's front office will surely look to get to the bottom of this situation in order to judge whether he is worth an investment. If signed, he would add a sorely lacking element of big-play capability to Miami's WR corps.


In other news, S Todd Johnson visited with the team on Monday. Johnson was a 2003 fourth-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears. He played in 12 games for the team last season (5 starts), notching 33 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 3 passes defended. He also contributed on special teams.

Also, the team has expressed interest in RB/KR Maurice Hicks. He is a restricted free agent, but since he was undrafted and the 49ers tendered him at the lowest possible tender offer of $850,000, Miami would not have to give up a draft pick if they were to sign him. The 49ers will have a chance to match any offer the Dolphins put forward. While he was used sparingly as a RB behind Frank Gore, he averaged 25.1 yards on kickoff returns.

Recently signed TE David Martin received a three-year deal worth about $3.6 million, including about a $1 million signing bonus.

Monday, March 5, 2007

McMichael and Harrington released; Welker traded to New England

[Update: 6:54 P.M.] The official team website reports that the team has released TE Randy McMichael and QB Joey Harrington. By cutting these two players, the team avoided paying them $4 million in roster bonuses. Also, the team hosted K Jay Feeley on a free agent visit today. [End Update]

According to the Sun-Sentinel, two sources have said that Miami will release TE Randy McMichael today. The team would have had to pay McMichael a $3 million roster bonus if he was still on the team next week. The team had placed McMichael on the trading block expecting a third-round pick in return but apparently could not find any takers.

This move surprises me to some extent.
I trust that the front office looked into every opportunity, but I really thought that if Randy were to leave then the team would be able to get some value in return for him. It's unfortunate that Miami could not find any trade partner willing to give up a pick for him, even if that pick wasn't a third-rounder.

Even though Miami just signed TE David Martin, I have a hard time seeing him as a full-fledged starter. I would expect them to look at more options as the offseason progresses.


Ouch. This one really hurts for me. Wes Welker was officially traded to New England today for their second-round pick (60th overall) and seventh-round pick. From any other team this would represent great value for a player who was an undrafted free agent. But since Wes is shipping off to a division rival, the deal is soured a bit. Miami still got great value and I think it was the right thing to do, but I will be sorry to see Wes go.

Since this trade was conducted without New England signing Welker to a restricted free agent offer sheet, they will most likely avoid paying him as much as was previously speculated. Terms of the new deal have not been released, but it was believed that New England was ready to sign him to an offer sheet close to $6 million a year.

I want to wish Wes the best of luck (except when he plays the Dolphins!) in his future. He was the kind of player every coach would love to have, and the toughness and heart he showed while in the aqua-and-orange will not soon be forgotten. Thanks, Wes.

The Proverbial Chill Pill

I was going to write this article on the first day of free agency, when most fans were foaming at the mouth and ready to crucify Miami's front office for its lack of action. However, I decided to let the weekend pass, not only to let the situation play itself out more fully, but also to allow most enraged fans to gain a larger perspective free from knee-jerk reactions.

To all true fans of the Miami Dolphins, please, get a glass of water and take a chill pill. Contrary to what some people believe, the front office is not clueless as to how to conduct their jobs simply because they didn't sign a free agent immediately, let alone the two or three high-end talents that some were expecting. In fact, in this shallow market, I would argue that Mueller and Cameron know a lot more about how to construct a winning team than most of those teams who jumped right into free agency and subsequently threw record amounts of cash at players who, on the whole, are unproven.

Yes, Nate Clements is an impact player and as close to a shutdown corner as was available - but the 49ers handed him the largest contract in NFL history for a defensive player. There are several cornerbacks, let alone the broader category of defensive players, who are better than Clements. There's no doubt he will make San Fransisco better, but how much will his salary hamper them down the road? Will they end up losing a rising young talent because of the financial restrictions of such a large contract? While that is unknown, such a huge contract only makes it more likely. Deals like Clements' were the rule, not the exception, as free agency got under way. Derrick Dockery signing with the Bills for $49 million over 7 years? Thats equivalent to the deal that Steve Hutchinson got from Minnesota last year. The only difference between the two players: how about four Pro Bowl selections for Hutchinson and zero for Dockery. Eric Steinbach signing with the Browns for $49.5 million? These deals are unprecedented, and what's more...they are for offensive guards! Don't get me wrong, I fully believe that the offensive line is the most important unit on the entire team, but with contracts being thrown around like those, one would think it was the only unit on the team. These 7 year, $49 million contracts seem like the norm, with Leonard Davis signing with the Cowboys at just such an asking price. Can someone tell me what Davis has done in his career (aside from being selected with the second overall pick in the draft) that would warrant such riches being thrown his way? Some people believe he still has potential despite the disappointing start to his career, but is fading potential really worth one of the largest contracts ever given to an offensive lineman? Surprisingly, even a fiscally shrewd team like the Patriots who get more bang for their buck than any team in recent memory, are reportedly ready to sign our very own Wes Welker to a deal that would pay him an average of $5.5 million per year!

Alas, all these monstrous contracts do is raise questions. Only after a couple of seasons will teams be able to look back and say, "Was it worth it for us to devote so much money to a single player?" Fortunately, one doesn't have to wait for the current crop of free agent millionaires to prove or disprove their worth. We just have to look at past free agent signings. When is the last time a franchise-type player was available in free agency (and by franchise player, I mean someone who may actually be deserving of such a high contract)? The simple answer is that teams just don't let those players hit the market. And if franchise players never hit the market, then where do they come from? That's right - the NFL Draft. Free-agents can certainly help teams, but a team cannot be built around them. The talent that is cultivated from the draft is what eventually becomes the core foundation of a team.

It might make sense for a team that has a realistic chance of contending for a championship to add a high-priced free agent in their 30s in an attempt to get over the top, but the only way that team reached its contender status in the first place was by building a solid foundation of players brought up through its own organization. The Miami Dolphins should not realistically be considered contenders this season. We have more needs than one player can fill.

So, why are most fans proclaiming Mueller and Cameron as imbeciles for their inaction? I think it's because most casual fans or ones who can't grasp a rebuilding project, simply want that one player who will create buzz and excitement due to the name on his jersey. The value of most players in free agency is so inflated that fans are tricked into thinking that one high-priced guy is enough to change all the losing and disappointment. How did Lavar Arrington and Edgerrin James work out for their teams last year? They may be good players, but not good enough to change things on their own.

Essentially, I hope that true Dolphins fans will relax and give the front office a chance to build the team from the ground up. Obviously, the team's approach in the recent past has not worked. Now the team is trying another direction and they shouldn't be berated for it. This is called learning from mistakes. And who knows, with a good draft, Miami could always surprise. That's the great thing about the NFL - on any given Sunday...

Sunday, March 4, 2007

And Miami's first free agent signing is...

Miami's first free agent signing of the offseason is TE David Martin. Martin was a sixth-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2001. He played his first six seasons in Green Bay. He measures 6'4", 265 pounds and is generally thought of as a good receiving tight end, although injuries have hampered him throughout the years. Last year, he played in eleven games (four starts) catching 21 passes for 198 yards and 2 touchdowns.

It's possible that the signing of Martin could be insurance in the event that Miami trades TE Randy McMichael.


Miami is likely to offer a contract to WR Kelley Washington as early as Monday.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Miami: Wheelin' and Dealin'

While Miami has yet to make its first free agent signing, the front office is making it clear that the team will certainly be undergoing an extreme makeover. Thus far, the front office has been content to shed expensive and under-achieving players while not making the mistake of overpaying for mediocre talent in free agency.

Along the offensive line the team has either cut ties with or not re-signed LG Jeno James, LT Damion McIntosh, RG Seth McKinney, G Bennie Anderson, G Kendyl Jacox, and G Toniu Fonoti.

On the defensive line, the team cut ties with DE Kevin Carter and DT Kevin Vickerson, and it has not re-signed DE David Bowens, DT Keith Traylor, or DT Jeff Zgonina. The clearly apparent youth-movement continued along the defensive line when the team traded DT Dan Wilkinson to the Denver Broncos for their 6th-round pick (183rd overall) in April's Draft. I think it's great that the front office was able to get some value for a player that the team was likely to cut. Rebuilding must be conducted through the draft, so this is a good sign that the team is making every effort to stockpile some draft picks.


Miami is trying to acquire another draft pick by placing TE Randy McMichael on the trading block. Miami is asking for a third-round pick in return. While McMichael is the most prolific TE in Miami history, I think it would be a good move to trade him for a third-round pick. He's a good pass-catching TE, but he just seems to disappear at the most important times and he drops an inordinate amount of passes. Add to that the fact that he is sub-par in the blocking department, and it would seem that getting a first-day pick would be a smart move. Cam Cameron uses the TE heavily in his offenses, so if he deems that McMichael is not able to fulfill that role then I trust his decision.

All this being said, Miami would be losing one of its few offensive leaders. Yet, I think McMichael's leadership role says a bit more about the rest of the offense than about Randy. Generally, the QB is expected to be the leader of the offense or maybe a star RB or WR. In a few cases, a guy like Tony Gonzalez is able to step into a leadership role, but Randy is no T-Gon. Unfortunately, with the revolving door at QB, a young RB, and a quiet WR in Chambers, Randy was probably the only one willing to be a leader. That must change. Regardless of whether the team parts ways with Randy, this offense needs a true leader - a guy who doesn't disappear in tight spots and who can influence everyone else on the field.


As a Dolphins fan who lives in New England, this next piece of news is extremely disheartening to me. According to ESPN, the Patriots plan to sign WR Wes Welker to a restricted free agent offer sheet. Once New England makes their offer, Miami will have seven days to match it. If Miami matches the offer sheet, they will pay Welker according to the terms that New England negotiated with him. If they choose not to match the offer, Miami will receive the Patriots' second-round pick in the 2007 draft.

I am a huge fan of Wes. Aside from lacking great physical size, he has everything you could ask for in a team player. He plays with heart on every single down, he has unparalleled toughness, and his versatility is tremendous. Seeing him leave to any team would be disheartening, but realistically a second-round pick is probably more helpful to the team. The fact that it's the Pats who may be getting him is the worst of all situations. They already have two first-round picks, so losing a second-round pick will not hurt them that much. Also, they will be taking away one of Miami's better players, which is addition-by-addition as well as addition-by-subtraction from a division rival. I've seen enough Pats games to know that Welker is exactly the kind of player that would thrive in New England. He's not flashy, but he gets the job done. While not gladly, I would accept a second-round pick from any other team in return for Welker. That second-rounder just doesn't seem to be worth as much when it's coming from the Pats.

And if possibly getting Welker wasn't enough, the Pats also signed RB Sammy Morris. Hopefully, Ricky Williams will be reinstated and able to back-up Ronnie Brown.

Friday, March 2, 2007

And so it begins: Sifting through the early free agent news

[Updated - 1:05 A.M. 03/03]

Well, now that free agency has officially begun, the news is pouring in fast. Let's look at the latest news concerning the Dolphins. Keep checking back for new updates.

Roster Moves
  • Starting LG Jeno James was released. Damion McIntosh and Kendyl Jacox were allowed to become free agents.
  • The team declined to tender DT Kevin Vickerson a contract as an exclusive rights free agent.
  • QB Shane Matthews, who signed with the team last year after Daunte Culpepper was placed on IR, has retired.
  • The official team site has reported that P Donnie Jones was tendered at his original draft status, which was as a 7th rounder. The team also tendered long snapper John Denney and FB Kyle Eckel, who were both exclusive rights players.
Free Agent Targets
  • LB Joey Porter's agent said that the Dolphins have expressed interest in signing the former Steelers' linebacker. Porter would be a huge upgrade over Donnie Spragan. Spragan showed an inability to effectively rush the QB, whereas Porter has recorded 60 sacks in his 8 seasons in Pittsburgh.
  • WR Kelley Washington will have a free agent visit with the team today.
  • According to his agent, Miami has expressed some interest in C Cory Withrow. Withrow played under Cam Cameron in San Diego.
  • The agent for G Kris Dielman said that his client probably won't end up in Miami. Given the huge contracts already signed by guards (Eric Steinbach - 7 years, $49.5 million; Derrick Dockery - 7 years, $49 million), Miami likely can't afford the price-tag of Dielman.
  • Miami has spoken to the agent for OLB Tully Banta-Cain. GM Randy Mueller has already stated that he is looking for a pass-rushing OLB, and he could do worse than TBC. While nothing more than average in run-support, Banta-Cain showed his ability to pressure the QB this year in New England.
Sources: Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald, Palm Beach Post

Team Tenders Bell, Lemon, Jones, and Welker

The Dolphins have made second-round tender offers to WR Wes Welker, QB Cleo Lemon, and S Yeremiah Bell. This means that each player will receive a one-year contract for $1.3 million unless another team is willing to give up a second-round pick for that player. If another team decides to give up that pick, Miami would have a chance to match that team's offer. The team also tendered P Donnie Jones at an $850,000 salary, meaning that any team can sign him to an offer sheet without surrendering draft-pick compensation. CB Eddie Jackson was not tendered.


In other news, Miami claims that it released DE Kevin Carter due to "evaluation" reasons and not salary cap reasons.

FB Darian Barnes said that the Dolphins will not be re-signing him. This could be opening the door for Miami to sign FB Ovie Mughelli.

The team does not appear to have much interest in keeping DT Dan Wilkinson.

If the team does not re-sign OLB Donnie Spragan, another free agent possibility could be Donnie Edwards. "Asked Thursday on ESPN which linebacker he would like to play next to, Edwards' immediate response was the Dolphins' Zach Thomas."

There are some reports that say Miami could be interested in WR Ashley Lelie.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Free Agency Updates; Potential Targets

With free agency only hours away, here are some updates concerning Miami's players:
  • If unable to re-sign LB Donnie Spragan, Miami is expected to pursue Minnesota OLB Napoleon Harris.
  • RG/C Seth McKinney and G Bennie Anderson were released today. Their release saved $5.3 million of cap room. WR Eric Kimble was also waived.
  • Joey Harrington will be released sometime today unless the team is able to trade him.
  • DE Kevin Carter was unable to reach an agreement with the team on a restructured contract and will be released Friday morning.
  • Both Cleo Lemon and Wes Welker's agents said they expect Miami to tender them offers. Lemon will likely receive a second-round tender.
  • LT Damion McIntosh, LG Kendyl Jacox, DT Keith Traylor, DE David Bowens, S Travares TIllman, DT Jeff Zgonina, and RB Sammy Morris are all expected to become free agents.
Look for Miami to pursue some of these players once free agency begins:
Offensive Guard - Kris Dielman, Eric Steinbach, Derrick Dockery, Cooper Carlisle
Offensive Tackle - Leonard Davis, Tony Pashos, Jon Stinchcomb
Fullback - Ovie Mughelli
Outside Linebacker - Napoleon Harris, Tully Banta-Cain, Cato June, Carlos Polk

Sources: Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald (1) and (2), ESPN