In this installment, I am going to look at how he fared in the other major area of a GM's responsibilities - free agency and trades.
Whereas I believe that rookies should never be completely judged on just their first season, there is more leeway to do so with veteran free agents, although there must be some considerations in these cases as well (such as training camp injuries, new systems, etc.)
I don't feel quite as rosy about Mueller when it comes to free agency as I do about the draft, but let's take an in-depth look at his major moves and see how they turned out.
Strong side linebacker: Joey Porter vs. Donnie Spragan
| ||Age||2007 Salary|| Games || Starts || Total Tackles || Solo || Ast || Sacks ||Stf||FF|| PDef ||Int|
| Joey Porter ||30||$3,850,000|| 16 || 15 || 65 || 56 || 9 || 5.5 ||7||1|| 5 ||2|
| Donnie Spragan ||31||$800,000|| 16 || 5 || 36 || 21 || 15 || 0 ||0||0|| 0 ||0|
Assessment: At the mid-season point, I gave this move a D- grade. Since then, my opinion has changed substantially. I still in no way think that Porter is worth the $20 million in guaranteed money that he received, but he's certainly not the gigantic bust that his first half to this season seemed to show that he would be. He turned a corner in the second half, and I think that happened in large part to him finally recovering from his preseason knee surgery. It's no coincidence that Jason Taylor also picked it up substantially in the second half; it's because Porter was finally able to be used properly in Dom Capers' schemes and started bringing some pressure from the strong side. The most encouraging thing about the second half of this season, is that Joey showed that he has not lost his playmaking ability - something that his backup, Donnie Spragan, completely lacks. While Spragan should get the boot this offseason (he's too old and has zero upside), Parcells should definitely keep Porter. I'm willing to write off the first half of this season to his knee surgery.
Grade: C+ (performance aside, that contract is a killer)
Tight End: David Martin vs. Randy McMichael
|Age||2007 Salary||Games||Starts||Rec||Trgt||Catch %||Yds||YAC||Avg||TD||20+||1st||DPAR||PAR||DVOA||VOA|
Assessment: The write-up I did for David Martin at midseason still holds true at the end:
"When Miami acquired David Martin to be its starting tight end, I cautioned everyone to not assume that he would become the next Antonio Gates. People were quick to jump on his "potential", but in reality, he was a 28 year old who very likely had already realized his maximum abilities. What we saw of him in Green Bay, is exactly what we are getting from him now. In fact, even as a starter, he's putting up backup-type numbers. The injury-bug label that followed him here established itself immediately, and he's always dealing with some sort of muscle issue."Even though he played in 15 games this season, I have to think that his propensity for injury slowed him down a bit, even if it wasn't as pronounced as in his previous seasons. I don't remember a single time that Martin made a big play in a big situation. The guy he replaced, Randy McMichael, put up much better numbers. Randy had only 5 more receptions, but gained 126 more yards and produced 12 more first downs. But more than just absolute stats, one should look to the excellent metrics provided by Football Outsiders (DPAR, PAR, DVOA, VOA). Explanations of those stats can be found here. McMichael far exceeds the ratings of Martin. Still, the major redeeming factor of the switch is the salary relief. Martin comes incredibly cheap - almost $4.5 million less than Randy is costing the Rams. Still, Miami got what it paid for in this instance. I added Justin Peelle's stats to the above chart because for most of the season, he played as good or better than Martin did, in my opinion. If he was given the starting job, I believe Peelle would have exceeded the numbers put up by Martin (and Peelle is a much better blocker than Martin is). It's pretty obvious that Miami needs to find a new starting TE, but I think either Martin or Peelle (preferably Peelle) should be kept on as the backup.
Kicker: Jay Feely vs. Olindo Mare
|Age||2007 Salary||Games||FG Att||FGM||Blk||Pct||XP Att||XPM||Pct||KO||Avg||TB||Ret||Avg Ret|
Assessment: By far, the best move made in free agency by Mueller. Not only did Mare hit a huge wall this year, but Mueller managed to pry a sixth-round draft pick away from the Saints for his services. Not too shabby. Among kickers who attempted at least 10 field goals this season, Feely finished as the third most accurate kicker in the league, behind only Josh Scobee and Jeff Reed. Feely is also three years younger than Mare, making him less likely to seriously decline any time soon. Of course, as we all knew, Feely has trouble with his kickoffs. His average kickoff length of 57.8 yards is pretty poor, although I think that the stupid decisions by Cameron to pooch kick far too often played a role in that. Still, he's not helping the coverage unit by kicking the ball so short.
Quarterback: Trent Green vs. Cleo Lemon
|Age||2007 Salary||Games||Starts||Comp||Att||Pct||Yds||Avg||1st||TD||Int||Sck||Rate||Rush Att||Rush Yds||Avg||TD||FUM/Lost||DPAR||PAR||DVOA||VOA|
Assessment: The Trent Green trade was the biggest move made by Mueller in the offseason. Even though I think that this trade was fueled in no small part by Cameron's desire for Green, Mueller must take responsibility for sending away the fifth-round draft pick that it took to secure his services. I argued from the very beginning that it was simply not worth having Green in camp for an extra month or two for the price of a conditional 5th round pick. Honestly, what did that time accomplish? Did Green play any better than he would have otherwise? Maybe slightly, but he didn't play that well anyways. I wasn't against getting Green, I just thought that Miami should have waited until he was eventually released. There was absolutely no way that Kansas City was going to keep him. Miami just wasn't patient, and now they have one less draft pick for which they got in return 5 below average starts. Cleo Lemon didn't play quite as well as Green, but it can't be forgotten that Green had the luxury of Ronnie Brown in all of his starts. With Brown in the game, that likely opened up the passing lanes a bit more than when Jesse Chatman was in the game. Green also had the talent of Chris Chambers in all of his games. When Chambers was traded away in Week 6, Lemon was left with Marty Booker and Ted Ginn as the starters. The offensive line also experienced a slow decline as the season went on. So there is enough clear evidence to suggest that Lemon would have been just as good as Green to start the season. And perhaps he should have. Lemon did not cost the team a draft pick in 2008 and his salary is more than $4.5 million cheaper than Green's. Ultimately, this was a bad trade for Miami.
Left Guard: Chris Liwienski
|Age||2007 Salary||Games||Starts||False Starts||Holding||Sacks Allwd|
Assessment: Liwienski was the biggest free agent addition on the offensive line, and it was clear during the course of the season that he was the worst offensive lineman out of the 5 starters. He almost lost out on the starting job in training camp to rookie Drew Mormino, but Mormino was sent to the IR. Then, at one point near the end of the season, Liwienski was benched in favor of Cory Lekkerkerker. Liwienski was average in run blocking, but he struggled in pass protection, allowing 4.25 sacks. At 32 years old, he's not going to get any better in the future and will likely start to decline soon. He did come cheap, but I would have loved to see Mueller nab Chris Dielman in free agency rather than settling on a guy like Liwienski, who is really little more than a backup at this point.
Conclusions: When your best move in the offseason is to bring in a new kicker, you know there is serious room for improvement. While Mueller may be good at drafting, he showed that he lacks the ability to bring in young free agents with upside. Instead, all these free agent moves were for guys who had clearly reached the heights of their abilities and were not going to get any better. The money handed out to Joey Porter was far too much, although the market was crazy this year. Also, to be fair, Mueller did not have a great amount of cap space to work with this offseason. Still, that makes Porter's contract even more egregious. Other moves he made included signing Cameron Worrell, who never played like the special teams ace he was supposed to be, and trading Chris Chambers to San Diego for a second-round draft pick, which was a very good move, in my opinion. To sum things up, Mueller showed an ability to parlay talent into draft picks (Chambers, Welker, Mare), but when it came to signing free agents, he went with older guys who lacked any discernible upside. For a rebuilding team like Miami, those are not the kind of moves that it can withstand.