Friday, February 29, 2008

Charlie Anderson signed

The Miami Herald reports that the Dolphins have signed LB Charlie Anderson.

Anderson (6'4", 243 lbs.) was a sixth-round draft choice of the Texans in 2004. He is 26 years old. He started five games for the Texans last season. Here are his career stats:

2004HOU15 13 9 4 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0
2005HOU16 18 14 4 2 1.0 0 0 0 0 0
2006HOU13 16 13 3 1 0.0 0 0 0 0 0
2007HOU16 31 19 12 1 2.0 0 0 0 0 0
Career 60 78 55 23 4 3.0 0 0 0 0 0

Josh McCown and Sean Ryan signed

Adam Schefter, of, reports that Miami has signed QB Josh McCown and TE Sean Ryan. McCown (6'4", 215 lbs.) was a third-round draft pick of the Cardinals in 2002. He is 28 years old. The contract that he signed is for two years and worth $6.25 million. Here are McCown's career stats:
Career Passing Stats
Year Team G Att Cmp Comp % Yds Yd/A TDs Int Sacked Yds Rating
2002 Ari 2 18 7 38.9 66 3.7 0 2 5 50 10.2
2003 Ari 8 166 95 57.2 1018 6.1 5 6 25 174 70.3
2004 Ari 14 408 233 57.1 2511 6.2 11 10 31 263 74.1
2005 Ari 9 270 163 60.4 1836 6.8 9 11 18 101 74.9
2006 Det 2 0 0 - 0 - 0 0 0 0 -
2007 Oak 9 190 111 58.4 1151 6.1 10 11 14 92 69.4
Totals 44 1052 609 57.9 6582 6.3 35 40 93 680 71.6

Career Rushing/Receiving Stats

Year Team G Rush Yds Yd/Rush TDs Rec Yds Yd/Rec TDs
2002 Ari 2 1 20 20.0 0 0 0 - 0
2003 Ari 8 28 158 5.6 1 0 0 - 0
2004 Ari 14 36 112 3.1 2 1 -5 -5.0 0
2005 Ari 9 29 139 4.8 0 0 0 - 0
2006 Det 2 0 0 - 0 2 15 7.5 0
2007 Oak 9 29 143 4.9 0 0 0 - 0
Totals 44 123 572 4.7 3 3 10 3.3 0

Here is a breakdown of his incomplete passes from the 2007 season:

Type Number Pct of Incomp Pct of Overall Attempts
Pass Dropped 4 5.1 2.1
Poor Throw 32 40.5 16.8
Pass Defensed 12 15.2 6.3
Pass Hit at Line 3 3.8 1.6
Other 17 21.5 8.9
Intercepted 11 13.9 5.8

McCown is a solid backup with a good deal of starting experience, but John Beck needs to be given more opport
unities to lead this team. McCown has only had one season in which he threw more TDs than INTs, and 5.8% of his attempts last season were intercepted, compared to John Beck's 2.8%.

Here is a look at McCown's career using the Football Outsider metrics.
Remember, "DPAR means a quarterback with more total value. DVOA means a quarterback with more value per play."


Wow, he was pretty horrible last season - one of the worst quarterbacks in the league. However, in '04 and '05 he was a decent player. The thing with McCown is that he's maddeningly inconsistent, and that's n
ot a quality you ever want to see in your starting QB. Thus, McCown needs to be kept on the bench unless the situation is an absolute emergency.

Sean Ryan (6'5", 265 lbs.) was a fifth-round draft pick of the Cowboys in 2004. He has good size and is known as a good blocking TE. Ryan is 27 years old.

Here are his career stats:

2006NYJ16 6 44 7.3 10 0 1 1 1
2007NYJ10 3 46 15.3 22 0 2 0 0
Career 26 9 90 10.0 22 0 3 1 1

Ernest Wilford signed

According to the Miami Herald, WR Ernest Wilford has been signed.

Wilford (6'4", 223 lbs.) was a fourth-round draft pick of the Jaguars in 2004. He is 29 years old.

Wilford provides a big, tough target to start opposite Ted Ginn, and his skill set compliments Ginn nicely. Wilford has demonstrated an ability to go over the middle and consistently catch the ball, and he is also a solid run blocker.

Here are Wilford's career stats:

2004JAC15 19 271 14.3 46 2 11 0 0
2005JAC16 41 681 16.6 39 7 35 0 0
2006JAC16 36 524 14.6 41 2 27 1 1
2007JAC16 45 518 11.5 35 3 35 0 0
Career 63 141 1994 14.1 46 14 108 1 1

Here's a chart I've organized, using the Football Outsiders metrics, to analyze Wilford's performance over his career. To put it simply, "
DPAR means a wide receiver with more total value. DVOA means a wide receiver with more value per play.":

Catch %

Wilford wasn't targeted enough in his rookie season to qualify for a ranking, but he was incredibly good in his sophomore season. His 2005 metrics certainly surprised me. He slipped a bit in 2006, but last year may be the best representation of Wilford's abilities, as it falls in the middle of his two extremes. If that's the case, then Miami got itself a top-35 receiver to start opposite Ted Ginn. Those metrics reinforce that this was a good move by the team.

Randy Starks signed

Adam Schefter, of, is reporting that Miami has signed DT Randy Starks to a five-year, $21 million contract with $7 million in guaranteed money.

Starks (6'3", 312 lbs.) was a third-round draft pick of the Titans in 2004. He is just 24 years old.

He played in a 4-3 defense in Tennessee, but he's very young, very big, and still has considerable upside.

However, there are character concerns with Starks. In August 2006, he was arrested for assaulting his fiancee. In the scuffle, she lost some fingernails and had her head banged against a wall.

I'm all for signing these really young guys who have a lot of upside, but I don't think it's such a good idea to pay out such a large contract to someone who hasn't really accomplished that much in the NFL yet and who does have character concerns. It's a reasonable gamble, but a gamble nonetheless.

Here are Starks' career stats:
2004TEN14 28 19 9 3 4.5 1 0 0 0 0
2005TEN16 48 34 14 1 3.0 0 0 0 0 0
2006TEN16 40 25 15 0 3.0 0 26 0 0 0
2007TEN14 16 12 4 1 0.0 0 0 0 0 0
Career 60 132 90 42 5 10.5 1 0 0 0 0

Reggie Torbor signed

According to The Bergen Record, Miami has signed LB Reggie Torbor.

Torbor (6'2", 250 lbs.) was a fourth-round draft pick of the New York Giants in 2004. He is 27 years old.

Here are his career stats:

2004NYG16 34 25 9 0 3.0 2 0 0 0 0
2005NYG14 45 34 11 3 0.0 1 0 1 37 0
2006NYG16 30 23 7 1 1.0 1 0 0 0 0
2007NYG16 39 27 12 1 1.0 0 0 0 0 0
Career 62 148 109 39 5 5.0 4 0 1 37 0

Torbor has started 18 games in his career, including 5 last season.

Jason Ferguson traded for

According to the Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys will trade NT Jason Ferguson and their sixth-round draft choice to Miami for the Dolphins' sixth-round picks in '08 and '09.

Ferguson (6'3", 313 lbs.) was a seventh-round draft pick of the New York Jets in 1997. He is 33 years old. Last season, he tore his right biceps in the opening game.

Here are his career stats:
Year Team G TK Asst Sacks Yds Int Yds TDs PD FF FR
1997 NYJ 13 23 8 3.5 30.5 0 0 0 0 0 0
1998 NYJ 16 42 21 4.0 22.0 0 0 0 1 1 0
1999 NYJ 9 23 10 1.0 4.0 0 0 0 0 2 0
2000 NYJ 15 34 11 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2002 NYJ 16 42 21 3.0 24.0 0 0 0 2 0 0
2003 NYJ 16 52 23 4.5 40.0 0 0 0 4 1 1
2004 NYJ 16 38 21 3.5 28.0 0 0 0 0 2 0
2005 Dal 16 27 10 1.0 2.0 0 0 0 1 0 1
2006 Dal 16 32 14 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 1 0 0
2007 Dal 1 0 1 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 134 313 140 21.5 150.5 0 0 0 9 6 2

Personally, I think that Miami gave up too much to bring aboard a 33 year old nose tackle. What happened to playing the system that fits the players? This move stinks of Parcells trying too hard to force the 3-4 onto the team, and in the process giving up too much resources.

Remember that Miami would have had the top pick in the sixth-round. Now they drop to the bottom of that round, and so there will be a huge gap on draft day between the team's fourth-round pick (at the beginning of the round) and their sixth-round pick, which is near the bottom of the round. Miami traded its fifth-round pick to the Chiefs for Trent Green. That drop alone would be palatable, but then Miami also gave up its sixth-round pick in the 2009 draft.

Realistically, how much can we expect from a 33-year old nose tackle who is coming off season-ending surgery? Is he going to do more for this team down the road than two high sixth-round draft choices? Perhaps, but I'd rather take my chances of uncovering a young starter through the draft.

Assorted Free Agency updates 02/29

The Miami Herald is reporting that QB Josh McCown and LB Calvin Pace will be making visits to Miami today.

According to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports, Miami is preparing to offer Pace the same kind of huge deal that they paid out to Joey Porter last season. Now, Pace is younger than Porter is, and he seems to be entering his prime rather than falling out of it, but that kind of contract is really dangerous. I don't know if one good season from Pace is worth shelling out that kind of dough for. We'll have to see how much he does end up getting, if he indeed ends up signing with Miami.


According to the Palm Beach Post, the Dolphins are interested in DE Marques Douglas and S Eugene Wilson.


The Dolphins offered RB Patrick Cobbs an exclusive rights tender, which will pay him $445,000 this season. Cobbs is a useful fourth RB to keep around if Jesse Chatman won't be in the plans. In addition to being an insurance policy in case of injury, Cobbs can play special teams.

Justin Smiley signed

Miami wasted no time finding its replacement for G Rex Hadnot. Justin Smiley has been signed to be the team's new starting right guard. He agreed to a five-year deal worth $25 million, including a $9 million signing bonus. Smiley (6'3", 311 lbs.) was a second-round draft choice of the 49ers in 2004. He is 26 years old. He was placed on injured reserve in early November of last season after tearing the labrum in his shoulder and severely dislocating the shoulder. Here are Smiley's career stats:

Year Team G GS Pen Yds False Start Holding Sacks Allwd Yds
2004 SF 16 9 0 0 0 0 6.75 46.50
2005 SF 16 16 1 2 0 0 4.50 30.00
2006 SF 16 16 3 25 1 2 0.00 0.00
2007 SF 8 8 3 25 1 2 3.00 17.50
Totals 56 49 7 52 2 4 14.25 94.00

Judging by those numbers, Smiley had a fantastic 2006 season - zero sacks allowed in 16 starts! He doesn't commit many penalties, either. However, if 2006 is excluded, he seems to give up large amounts of sacks. In only 9 starts during his rookie season, he gave up 6.75 sacks. Last season, in only 8 starts, he allowed 3 sacks.

Using the Football Outsiders database for offensive lines, I tried to get a better sense for Smiley's run-blocking abilities. By no means are these numbers wholly representative of his role in the running game (particularly in the years where he didn't start all the games), but they do give some idea for what he offers in the run game.

ALY are Adjusted Line Yards. The Run % stat shows how often the team ran in a particular direction. In this case that would be up the middle behind the center and guards. The number following in parentheses represents the league average for running up the middle that year. More on these stats can be found here.

Run %
54% (50)
57% (49)
59% (50)

Looking at those numbers, Smiley seems to have consistently improved his run-blocking to a point where the 49ers were quite successful when running in his direction. For whatever reason, the 49ers consistently ran up the middle a larger percentage of the time than the league average. I can't say for certain whether that is because of Smiley's run-blocking skills or not, but it is one potential reason among many possibilities.

Here is the Scouts, Inc. report on Smiley courtesy of ESPN Insider:
"Smiley is well-built, athletic and instinctive. He has good upside. He moves very well over short areas. He has good initial quickness. He pulls and traps effectively. He is quick into the hole and adjusts very well on the move. He is aware, alert and takes solid angles. He shows a solid feel for pass protection. He senses twists and stunts, and he can pass off and recover. He is a technically sound player who rarely gets out of position. He plays with good leverage, quick hands and very good hand placement. But Smiley lacks functional power. He gets overmatched in too many one-on-one matchups against bulky or strong defenders. He sometimes loses his power angles on down blocks. He doesn't play with great balance and winds up on the ground too often."
When all is said and done, I think Miami got a young guard with significant upside remaining. He seems to be a better run blocker than pass protector and will need to work on limiting his sacks. Also, I realize that this is free agency and the contracts are bound to get bigger and bigger every year, but I'm not totally thrilled about handing that large of a contract, with that much guaranteed money, to a guy who very recently tore the labrum in his shoulder. I understand that it's a calculated risk, but in this instance I think I would rather have had Rex Hadnot back. Still, that's not going to happen, and judging by the other options available, Miami made a pretty sound decision here by bringing in a young guy who can be a key part of the line for years to come.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Kircus signed

According to the team's official site, WR David Kircus has been added to the team.

Kircus (6'2", 192 lbs.) was a sixth-round draft choice of the Lions in 2003. He spent two seasons in Detroit, was out of football in 2005, and then spent one season with the Broncos. He was out of football again last season. Kircus is 28 years old.

This is a bad signing in my opinion. For starters, Kircus isn't even good. But more importantly is the fact that he is a "bad character" guy. He was convicted of DUI while playing for the Lions and was charged with felony assault last offseason. Apparently, he punched a man in the face and then said to him, "You don't know what I'm capable of." The victim then had to have surgery to repair facial fractures. The judge ordered Kircus to abstain from alcohol.

(Interesting fact to note: What did Kircus do with his time out of football in 2005? He worked at a fast food restaurant.)

This guy is not worth any amount of trouble that he seems to have a penchant for involving himself in, and I'm disappointed to see that Bill Parcells' "no thugs" policy has already been kicked to the wayside. Talk about hypocritical.

I really hope this guy doesn't make the team.

If anyone cares, here are his career stats:
Career Rushing/Receiving Stats
Year Team G Rush Yds Yd/Rush TDs Rec Yds Yd/Rec TDs
2003 Det 5 0 0 - 0 3 53 17.7 0
2004 Det 7 0 0 - 0 3 68 22.7 1
2006 Den 16 0 0 - 0 9 187 20.8 0
Totals 28 0 0 - 0 15 308 20.5 1
Career Returning Stats
Year Team G Punt Returns Yds Avg TDs Kick Returns Yds Avg TDs
2006 Den 16 6 86 14.3 0 2 38 19.0 0
Totals 28 6 86 14.3 0 2 38 19.0 0

Free Agency Preview: Defense

This is Part VI of an ongoing look at Miami's options in free agency. Due to the fact that free agency starts at midnight tonight, I won't have time to provide a full write-up for every defensive position like I did for the offensive side of the ball. Instead, I'm just going to highlight a handful of guys at each position that Miami should target (or avoid). For the previous installments, see:

Part I: Quarterbacks

Part II: Running backs

Part III: Wide Receivers

Part IV: Tight Ends

Part V: Offensive line

The Current Situation

After finishing as a top-5 unit in 2006, the Dolphins defense absolutely collapsed in '07. The main reason for such a monumental sea change was the defense's complete inability to stop the run. Add in the fact that the unit seemed to get old overnight and the new Dolphins' personnel evaluators have a load of work in front of them. With Miami's likely transition to more of a full-time 3-4 scheme, the team must look to add a nose tackle and some bigger linebackers. An upgrade at safety and corner can also be used.

Free Agents

Defensive Line

1. DE Marques Douglas

Douglas isn't a big sack guy, but he is built to play DE in a 3-4 alignment and he is excellent against the run - Miami's biggest weakness last season. He is a little older than I'd like, at 30 years old, but there isn't much to choose from in this free agent pool.

2. Antwan Odom

Odom had a solid season as a pass rusher, notching 8 sacks, but he wasn't a big presence in the run-stopping game. I have to wonder how much his successes last season were a result of playing next to the disruptive force of Albert Haynesworth.


1. Mark Simoneau

Miami needs another interior linebacker after cutting ties with Zach Thomas. There's been some speculation that they will target Simoneau to fill that hole. The only problem is that Simoneau really isn't that great. Sure, he's a solid player who is starting material, but he's not a playmaker and is a liability in pass coverage. I'd rather see Derrick Pope, who is six years younger, get the chance to step up and start, rather than handing a big contract to what is essentially "just another guy."

2. Landon Johnson

Johnson has put up two good seasons in a row for the Bengals and he is still just 26 years old. He may be a little on the small side for Parcells' taste, but I think his upside is worth giving him a look.


1. Asante Samuel

Samuel is probably the best player available in free agency this year. He's a young, shutdown corner who makes big plays and that is quite a rare combination to come by. Unfortunately, acquiring that kind of a skill set requires a monster investment that I don't think Miami should be looking to pay (even though they have plenty of available cap space to pull it off).

2. Jacques Reeves

Reeves, 25, had the most extensive playing time of his career last season. He held up pretty well in coverage, tallying 12 passes defensed and one interception. Of course, the reason that I list Reeves in place of other free agent CBs is that he played for Dallas last season, and Miami's new secondary coach worked with Reeves in Dallas. If the team wants to bring in players who they are familiar with, I expect them to go after Reeves. The thing that scares me about Reeves is that he was clearly not good enough to make teams stop throwing his way. He was targeted more than any other defensive back in the NFL last season (21% of the time). That's not a good sign, and it raises a red flag in my mind about how good Reeves really is. Then again, Miami's own Will Allen was targeted 20% of the time despite the fact the he had the tenth best success rate (62%) of any defensive back in the leageue.


1. Gibril Wilson

Miami needs a new starting safety and Wilson is probably the best option. He's only 26 years old, has good size, and averages 3.5 INTs per 16 starts.

2. Yeremiah Bell

Bell has so much potential, but he simply cannot stay on the field. He really showed what he can do during the second half of 2006, and then he promptly tore his achille's in the first game on '07, thus distinguishing all the built up hope surrounding his upside. All the injuries throughout Bell's career have essentially sabotaged his prime playing years. Once the 2008 season begins, Bell will be 30 years old. I'd like to have Bell back on the team as a backup, but it's not a good move at this point to pay him any kind of big contract to stay on as a starter. If that's what he has his mind set on, then it is time to wish him well and start looking for a replacement in the defensive backfield.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Free Agency Preview: Offensive Line

This is Part V of an ongoing look at Miami's options in free agency. For the previous installments, see:

Part I: Quarterbacks

Part II: Running backs

Part III: Wide Receivers

Part IV: Tight Ends

The Current Situation

Miami's offensive line started off the 2007 season surprisingly strong, but it faded a bit down the stretch, ultimately ending the campaign as just an average unit. That has as much to do with the revolving door going on at the quarterback and running back positions late in the year as it does with the actual play of the line, but there still remains ample room for improvement. There are really only two players currently on the team guaranteed to start next season - T Vernon Carey and C Samson Satele. Every one else is a question mark. That means that the Dolphins are going to look long and hard at their options along the the line in free agency and see if they can't bring in a new starter or two.

Free Agents

1. G Rex Hadnot

Why Miami hasn't made any efforts to resign this guy is beyond me. Hadnot has started all 32 games over the past three seasons in Miami, and has proven to be the team's best pulling guard. His versatility to play both center and guard is an added bonus. He is still very young (25) and seems to have the size that Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland covet. I think it's of the utmost importance for teams to retain the top talent that has been cultivated in their system, and it will be disappointing to see Hadnot simply leave without even making an attempt to hold on to him.

2. T Flozell Adams

Miami will very likely make a run at Adams given that Tony Sparano (and all the other former Dallas coaches now in Miami) have a great deal of experience and familiarity with him. Is he really what Miami needs though? Sure, Vernon Carey might be better suited as a RT, but should he be moved in order to make way for a 33 year old player who is clearly in the twilight of his career and who committed a whopping a 14 penalties last season (14!). What level will Adams be playing at 2-3 years down the line when Miami is actually ready to contend? I don't suspect he'll still be playing at a Pro Bowl level when he's that old, and bringing him in as a very expensive stop-gap player will only take away the development opportunities of other, younger players on the roster.

3. G Alan Faneca

Faneca is an interesting option for Miami. He's probably going to get the biggest contract of any offensive lineman in this free agent class, and it scares me a bit to hand out a massive contract to a 31 year old. I didn't want Miami to bring in any free agent over 30 years old, but I think Faneca could be an exception. I could see him still being able to contribute at a high level three years from now. I'm not completely sold that he will remain a top-tier player for that long, but it's possible. Also, while Faneca is as durable as they come, having missed only one game over the past eight seasons, there are some red flags in the amount of sacks he gives up. He allowed more than 6 sacks last season, and that number has been steadily increasing since 2005. This is a tough call for Miami to make, as he is one of the best lineman in the NFL. Ultimately, I'm just too leary about handing out such a large contract to an older player with a penchant for giving up sacks.

4. G Jake Scott

Scott is a very good young guard who has played on one of the league's best unit for the past several seasons. He doesn't commit an overabundance of penalties and is generally good in pass protection. I'd love to see Miami go out and get Scott to fill one of the open guard positions, but I have a feeling that his smaller size (295 lbs.) does not suit the tastes of Parcells and Ireland.

5. T Max Starks

Starks, on the other hand, has the gargantuan size (6'8", 337 lbs.) that will have the Dolphins' brass drooling. Starks has been hit with the transition tag, but that really won't stop interested teams from pursuing him, since it does not involve giving up a draft pick. Starks is only 26 years old and he commits very few penalties. However, he seems to be somewhat of a liability in pass protection. In the running game, he is quite good. Due to his youth, I believe that his pass protection abilities can be still be significantly improved. Bringing in Starks would give the Dolphins the option of moving Carey to right tackle if they so choose. Starks makes the most sense for the Dolphins out of all the OL free agents available.

With three vacant starting positions along the offensive line, Miami is sure to sign a couple of free agents to fill the gaps. Max Starks makes the most sense at the tackle position, and I think Rex Hadnot should be resigned, but that's not likely to happen. Hopefully, the ex-Cowboys now running the show in South Florida will stay away from Flozell Adams as its unlikely he'll be of use to this team several years from now.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Free Agency Preview: Tight Ends

This is Part IV of an ongoing look at Miami's options in free agency. For the previous installments, see:

Part I: Quarterbacks

Part II: Running backs

Part III: Wide Receivers

The Current Situation

Last offseason, Miami took a gamble on David Martin to come in and show that he can be a starting tight end after a career spent being a backup. Well, that experiment officially failed. Now will all those people claiming that Martin is the next Antonio Gates please be quiet? Thank you.

In fact, Miami's backup TE, Justin Peelle, outplayed Martin for most of the season. Peelle is in no way a starting caliber TE, but he's a much better blocker than Martin is, and if I had to guess, I'd say only one of these guys is going to make the roster next season. That means that Miami should be looking through the available free agents for a possible addition. Unfortunately, the talent avaiable is quite weak, and Miami is probably best served by looking for a new TE in the draft.

Free Agents

Eric Johnson

Johnson is marginally better than Martin, but his price tag would assuredly be larger than Martin's very affordable contract. Of course, Miami is awash in cash this offseason and can afford paying for guys like this. But just because they can afford to pay him, doesn't mean they should overspend. Any increase in price probably isn't worth the possible increase in productivity in this case.

Alge Crumpler

One of the rules I established for Miami heading into free agency was for the team to only consider free agents under 30 years old. That is certainly not a hard and fast rule, and Crumpler is straddling the line right at 30. He is far and away the best TE available, but he's going to command a monster contract that Miami simply should not be handing out to aging players who are in their declining stages. Not to mention the fact that Crumpler fell off big time after Michael Vick started his new work banging out license plates. Crumpler is going to be hard pressed to find a QB who will treat him like the first, second, and third option that he was to Vick and he certainly won't find that guy in Miami.

Marcus Pollard

Pollard caught an amazing 80% of the passes thrown to him last season...too bad he's 36 years old. Pass.

Ben Troupe

This former second-rounder has certainly disappointed big time. He's coming off two really poor seasons, but he could still be an interesting project player to take on. After all, he's still just 25 years old. There's still time left to turn things around. His first two seasons ('04-'05) were solid so there is hope that he can be a productive player. Given his youth and upside, I'd like to see Miami take a chance on Troupe.

There's no clear player for Miami to target at TE in free agency, but there is a solid and unspectacular starter in Johnson and a young project player in Troupe. Hopefully the draft presents a better option.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Free Agency Preview: Wide Receivers

This is Part III of an ongoing look at Miami's options in free agency. For the previous installments, see:

Part I: Quarterbacks, Part II: Running backs

The current situation: Last season, Miami traded away its top receiver, Chris Chambers, and this offseason they ditched their other veteran presence at the position - Marty Booker. Miami's remaining pass catchers are greener than a well-manicured golf course, with an up-and-coming Ted Ginn as the best and most promising of the bunch. Aside from Ginn, the Dolphins have an unfocused and inconsistent player in Derek Hagan and a trio of young, project/practice-squad type players. For a rebuilding team, this kind of youth is a good thing, but Miami must find a starting quality receiver to play opposite Ginn and take some of the pressure off of him. A possession receiver would also be a nice addition to pair with Ginn's electric speed.

Free agents:

Randy Moss: Moss is in the perfect situation in New England, and it would make little sense for him to leave. Besides, he clearly needs a great quarterback to thrive and be happy - something that he is not guaranteed to have in Miami. I'd be very surprised if Moss left the Patriots after only one year.

Bernard Berrian: Berrian has managed to post impressive numbers over the past two seasons while playing for a Rex Grossman-led offense. This past season, he almost cracked the 1,000 yard mark. If he can be that effective with Grossman throwing him the ball, I believe he can be just as effective with John Beck or whoever else is lining up under center for the Dolphins as his QB. The biggest draw about Berrian is that he is only 27 years old and still has room to improve. A drawback as far as the Dolphins are concerned, is that Berrian is essentially a speedy deep-threat. They already have that covered with Ginn. Miami could use someone with a bit more diverse skillset.

D.J. Hackett: If I'm Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland, this is the guy that I go out and sign. Hackett is dripping with talent, size (6'2", 208 lbs.), speed, and youth (only 26 years old). He has everything Miami could want. Granted, he's a risk because of his injury history, but this is the kind of risk that Miami should be willing to take on. In his six games last season, he played like a star. In the limited action that he did see, Hackett managed to catch 68.1 percent of the passes thrown his way, dropping just one. Hackett could be a potential steal of a signing, and I think whoever gets him will be very pleased that they did.

Donte' Stallworth: On a team that set so many offensive records, you'd think that Stallworth would have contributed a bit more to the passing attack. In actuality, Stallworth seemed to disappear this year behind Moss and Wes Welker, and even Jabar Gaffney was outplaying him at the end of the season. I'm a little leary about taking a chance on Stallworth after his performance last season, and I have an inkling that he's already reached his full potential. He's still young, so I don't expect a drastic decline in productivity any time soon, and thus he is an option for Miami - just not the best option.

Bryant Johnson: Johnson is the type of possession receiver that Miami should have its eye on, although I think that Derek Hagan can be just as good as Johnson. Johnson gets a lot of attention because he was a first-round draft pick, but I think it's fair to say at this point that he isn't a first-round talent. Of course, that is no reason to exclude him from consideration as a free agent. What may be a viable reason to exclude him is the fact that he dropped four passes out of only 89 targets. Of course, he is still only 26 years old, and Parcells loves big possession receivers, so I expect Miami to take a serious look at Johnson.

Keyshawn Johnson: Speaking of Johnsons, Miami should in no way consider bringing Keyshawn aboard. I realize that Parcells loves him, but he can be of absolutely no help to this team in the long term and of very limited use in the short term. Why bring in Keyshawn if you can get a guy a decade younger who can produce at the same level with the added promise of improvement (aka Bryant Johnson and/or D.J. Hackett)?

While D.J. Hackett and Bryant Johnson are the best options available to Miami in free agency there are several other options that fit the youth and upside characteristics that the Dolphins should be looking for. They include: Justing Gage, Andre Davis, and Drew Carter.

In an otherwise shallow free agency pool, Miami has a lot of options to sift through at receiver, and most of them are still young enough to be able to contribute once the Dolphins are prepared to contend.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Huizenga sells half of Dolphins

Immediately following the season, there were reports that Wayne Huizenga was considering selling a portion of the team. Nothing materialized out of those reports until now.

According to the team's official site:
"A childhood dream is one giant step closer to becoming reality for South Florida’s own Stephen M. Ross as he is set to become part owner of the Dolphins. Ross, who lives in New York and Palm Beach, sat beside Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga today inside the club level at Dolphin Stadium to discuss his proposed purchase of 50 percent of the franchise, stadium and surrounding 110 acres of developable land.

Ross, who is the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of the Related Companies, has agreed in principle to the $1.1 billion asking price and will pony up half of that amount once the deal is approved by the National Football League. Huizenga will remain the Managing General Partner while Ross will be an active partner with the opportunity to become the Managing General Partner down the road, but for now they will be equal partners, with Huizenga having final say...

Huizenga met this morning with Bill Parcells, Executive Vice President of Football Operations, to apprise him of the announcement and reiterated that Parcells will continue to report directly to him. Ross has yet to meet with Parcells but fully supported his hiring and is excited about the direction the team is headed."
By all accounts, this move is not in conflict with Huizenga's promise to Bill Parcells to remain as the majority owner during Parcell's tenure with the team. As long as that doesn't change, this move shouldn't have any major short term effects.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Free Agency Preview: Running backs

This is Part II of my free agency preview for the Dolphins. Part I, detailing the options at quarterback, can be seen here.

The current situation: One of Miami's few strong positions, both in the short and long term is at running back. Granted, there are serious concerns about Ronnie Brown's ability to come back fully healed from his knee injury by the beginning of next season, but that really is not a big problem to me. Why, you might ask? Well, I don't expect Miami to be competing this season anyway, so Ronnie has all the time in the world to rehab this injury at the proper pace and return to being one of the best backs in the league. Backing him up is Ricky Williams and Lorenzo Booker. I would expect the front office to dangle Ricky as trade bait for an additional draft choice, but even if he isn't traded, he makes for a solid backup. Booker showed at the end of last season how effective he can be on third downs and as a utility/receiving back. He's a great weapon for the team to have behind Ronnie and Ricky.

So, with this position seemingly set, is there anyone worth signing in free agency?

Well, if Ricky is indeed traded (and even if he is not) it would be wise to sign another backup as injury-insurance.

As for the fullback position, I believe that Miami is set with Reagan Mauia.

Free agents:

  • Jesse Chatman: Chatman's career was resurrected last season with the help of Cam Cameron. Previously out of football for two seasons, Cameron gave him one more shot and Chatman delivered. When Ronnie Brown went down for the season, Chatman took over the starting duties, running for 515 yards on 128 carries. He also added 27 receptions for 161 yards. Chatman showed a lot of toughness this season, as well, playing through injuries and showing an intense desire to turn his career around. He's still only 28 years old and it would behoove Miami to bring him back for another go-round.
  • Michael Turner: At this point in his career, I think that Turner has proven that he can be a starter in this league. That's not something that Miami should be looking for in free agency, and certainly not for the price tag that Turner will likely command. He's a good player, but not what Miami is shopping for.
  • Marion Barber, RFA: There's already been some speculation that Barber could be involved in a trade with Miami involving swapping draft picks in the first round. Whether it's through a draft day trade or an outright restricted free agent offer sheet, Miami needs to avoid this guy. He is a phenomenal young running back, but the Dolphins already have one of those. The team must conserve its draft picks and the trade value that derives from them for the other much more serious needs they have.
  • Julius Jones: Jones is a solid back to have in a two-man backfield, and he could mesh very well with Ronnie. However, the combination of Ricky Williams and Jesse Chatman would be just as effective and at a fraction of the cost.
  • Derrick Ward, RFA: He's restricted, so it's not worth it to consider him.
  • Chris Brown: Brown is injury-prone and inconsistent,and yet he is still effective. In 2007, his DVOA was 17.9 percent, good for tenth best in the NFL. He's big (6'3", 220 lbs.) and young (26), and would be a solid addition to Miami's depth chart.

In my opinion, Miami should target either Jesse Chatman or Chris Brown. Running back isn't a real position of need, so I don't anticipate the Dolphins spending a lot of money there in free agency.

Lehan re-signed to three-year deal

CB Michael Lehan was re-signed yesterday to a three-year deal worth $4.95 million. This includes $2.1 million in the first year.

Lehan started 14 games for the Dolphins last year after Andre' Goodman went down with an injury in training camp. Lehan proved to be a pleasant surprise, and while he is probably not starter material for the future, his retention is a good move. His is only 28 years old, so he still has plenty of good years left in him.

The structure of the contract is also beneficial. Miami is awash in cap space (~ $44 million) so it has the room to front-load contracts this year. Lehan's contract will only get cheaper as he ages, and thus he becomes easier to cut in future years if his play slips. This was a very solid move.

Lehan finished last season with 57 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, and 7 passes defensed.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Free Agency Preview: Quarterbacks

As the Scouting Combine begins to get under way, a lot of attention is going to turn towards the Draft. However, with free agency beginning on February 29, now is a good time to take a look at the likely options that will be available in free agency, and to determine which players Miami should steer clear of and which players might make a good fit for the Dolphins.

In order to properly assess the options available, we must establish some guidelines for what this team is looking for. This team is officially rebuilding. I would put its ETA as a competing team in the range of 2-3 years from now. Given that reality, any free agents the Dolphins add should be added with a view towards that eventual time frame.

Here are a few rules the team should adhere to as it starts to shop around:
  • Go for youth/stay clear from older players. This team is not one or two players away from competing. Thus, older veterans with little left in the tank should not be brought aboard. Miami needs to look for young players with upside still remaining so that they can be developed while the team is rebuilding. Older players have generally reached their potential already and will demand a large salary for little production. As a flexible rule, Miami should only look to add players who are under 30 years old.
  • Avoid the Joey Porter-type salaries. Maintaining a healthy salary cap from year to year is critical for any team, and especially one with a long-term plan of rebuilding. If Miami is going to spend the big-bucks on a player in free agency (and with $35 million in cap space they most likely will) that player had better be young and getting better, not old and declining. One bad contract could hamper the team for years down the line.
  • Avoid character-issues. Miami is in no position to be taking risks on players with character concerns. Their potential does not outweigh the risks.
  • Horde draft picks. Miami needs every draft pick that it can muster. It shouldn't even think about trading away picks for restricted free agents.
Let's begin our look at the possible free agents that will be available with the quarterback position.

The situation: Miami's only viable option at QB at this moment is John Beck. And that's not such a bad thing, in my opinion. He's young and has a great amount of untapped potential - a perfect mix for a rebuilding project. Miami has the time to let him develop, so let's let him develop. We don't need an old veteran to come in and start. What good will that be to this team down the line? However, an older QB could be useful as a backup/mentor for Beck.

Free agents:
  • Derek Anderson, RFA: Anderson may sign an extension to stay in Cleveland, but if he doesn't the Browns might put a restricted free agent tender on him forcing any team that wants him to pony up a first-round and third-round draft pick or possibly even two first-round picks. Anderson was pretty good this year. He was nowhere near being good enough to warrant that kind of investment. Anderson came out of nowhere this year, and for all we know this season could have been little more than a flash in the pan. I doubt that it was, but no one knows whether he can maintain that level of play in the future. If he were an unrestricted free agent, I would be very excited about adding Anderson, but with the added price tag of high draft picks, it simply isn't worth it.
  • Rex Grossman, UFA: It should be clear by now that Grossman is too erratic to rely on as a starting QB. Sure, he may turn in a dazzling performance now and again, but more often than not you are going to get horrendous starts out of him. Some coaches might think they can fix that, but I'm not of that opinion. He's had ample opportunity to change, and he hasn't. I wouldn't expect that to suddenly change with a change in scenery. If Miami brought him in strictly to serve as the backup, I would be okay with that. But if he were to take starting reps away from Beck, that would not sit well with me. I doubt Parcells and Ireland will want him anyway, as he is much smaller (6'1", 217 lbs.) than they would prefer.
  • Daunte Culpepper, UFA: With the way that Culpepper and Miami parted ways, I think it's best to stay away from a reunion. Add to that the fact that Culpepper is 30 and will likely never be back to his old form and he becomes one guy to stay away from for sure.
  • Josh McCown, UFA: McCown is nothing special, but he is still relatively young (28) and isn't completely terrible - two things that would make him a decent backup for Miami. At 6'4", he's got the height that Parcells would like. Still, I think the Phins can do better than this.
  • Quinn Gray, UFA: I would love to see Miami sign Gray to be the backup QB. He's only 28 years old and in his brief appearances has played pretty well. Gray played in 8 games last season for the Jaguars (4 starts) and put up 986 yards with 10 TDs and only 5 INTs. His QB rating was 85.6 and his DVOA rating was a surpring 19.5%, good for 12th best in the league (see here for explanation). If Jacksonville doesn't resign Gray, Miami should jump on him quickly.
  • Trent Green, UFA: Yes, Miami recently cut Green, but both sides were amenable to rejoining one another. Green certainly doesn't fit the youth characteristic, but as I have written about previously, if Green were to come back strictly as the third string QB, I would like to have him back. In that position, he would serve primarily as a second QB coach for Beck, and it seems like Beck and Green had a very good relationship this past season. I think Beck would be well-served from another year with Green by his side. Unfortunately, I doubt Green's competitive desire will allow him to accept such a role.
While there are no "must-haves" in this pool of free agents, I think that Miami's shopping list should be (in order of preference):
  1. Quinn Gray
  2. Rex Grossman
  3. Josh McCown
Most of the other guys should be avoided.

My ideal lineup at QB next season would be:
  1. John Beck
  2. Quinn Gray
  3. Rookie

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Homage to Zach Thomas

Talk about having your heart ripped out on Valentine's Day...

Zach Thomas, the heart and soul of the Miami Dolphins, has been released by the team. This is a sad, sad day, indeed.

With the exception of Dolphins fans, I'm almost certain that a majority of NFL fans don't really know or understand just how amazing a football player Thomas has been for over a decade.

Quick, name the best three middle linebackers in the league over the past five years. Was Thomas on that list? He should have topped it.

In my mind, and the minds of many other Dolphans, Thomas has become somewhat of a "Dan Marino of the defense," if you will: The shining beacon for what it means to be the best at your position. He's the one guy you would point to if you had to show someone how to play middle linebacker.

An underdog from day one, Thomas was told he was too small to play in the NFL. After all, he's only 5'11", 228 lbs. But as they say, "It's not the size of the dog in the fight..." I have never seen anyone exemplify that old saying more than Zach.

Sure, he is undersized, but he has outproduced almost every other middle linebacker in the past decade. He already has more tackles than any other linebacker currently in the Hall of Fame, and there's no question in my mind that Canton is Thomas' ultimate destination, no matter how many more seasons he chooses to play.

The reason that Zach is continuously overlooked in the public eye for more high-profiled linebackers like Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher is largely due to his low-key personality and his incredible consistency. It seems like unless you are doing something to personally draw attention to yourself, the media and critics just don't care to pay attention to eye-popping performances year in and year out.

Sports Illustrated recently wrote that, "If you keep banging out great seasons with none standing out more than any other, who's going to notice?"

That quote was referencing Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs, but it may as well have been about Zach.

But like any great player, Thomas is much more than just his on-field production. He has the kind of character that ever athlete should aspire to.

Zach is the personification of heart.

For the past decade-plus, he has been the backbone of the Miami defense, and despite being overshadowed by the similarly great Jason Taylor, Zach has happily accepted his role as the "everyman" who plays like anything but.

Through intense physical pain and the even more intense agony that accompanies repeated losing seasons, Zach just quietly gritted his teeth and got his job done, even if the rest of the team was letting him down.

To succeed as Zach did, while almost the entire team collapsed around him, is amazing. A lot of players would simply have thrown in the towel as well, thinking it a useless cause to expend the energy towards a futile objective.

And that is what separates Zach from most other NFL players - his heart and his desire are unmatched.

I wanted to see Thomas finish out his career as a Dolphin, but that is not to be. He wants to continue playing, and I wish him the very best of luck wherever he may end up (even if he does go to New England). Whoever ends up signing him is going to be getting a gem of a player.

Of course, if there was any doubt as to where Thomas' true loyalties lie, he made it clear in his parting statement: "I am healthy and look forward to playing in 2008, but I will always consider myself a Miami Dolphin."

That is class.

Zach, you'll always have a special place in our hearts and minds. Thank you so very much for everything you've given to us as fans and to the Miami Dolphins franchise. You truly will be missed.

Phins to release Zach Thomas

This is truly sad news to me.

The Miami Dolphins are going to release Zach Thomas.

Zach is my favorite active player and second behind only Dan Marino. I can see the reason behind this move, but I do not agree with it.

I'll have more on this later.

Sad, sad day for Dolphins fans.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

After first purge, what did we lose?

The reasonable thing to ask after this first purge of the roster is what exactly did we lose, if anything, and were the right decisions made.

In every case (with a slight exception or two) the answer is 'yes.'

The Dolphins have entered a new phase - one of accepted rebuilding. Tony Sparano knows that. Bill Parcells knows that. The prospect of rebuilding can no longer simply be brushed aside and covered up, as older and excessively priced players are held onto to give the promise of a winning team. That strategy has led directly the depths of a 1-15 season.

This offseason, the Dolphins will need to adopt a set of guidelines that they should follow no matter what. These guidelines are based around the premise that the team is 2-3 seasons away from contending again for a playoff spot. I honestly believe that Parcells and Ireland can get this ship turned around with two good offseasons, but I'll tack on a third as added insurance.

Thus, given that timeline for contention, any player who won't be able to help out once that period has elapsed should not be considered as a potential Dolphin.

Does that mean that older Dolphins like Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor should now be considered useless to this team. Absolutely not. Both of those guys still can and are (despite Thomas' concussion) playing at All-Star levels. They haven't shown many signs of slowing down, if any. Essentially, it must be asked whether a player will be able to perform at a high enough level two years down the road in order to help this team compete in the playoffs. In the case of stars like Thomas and Taylor, I think the answer is yes. In terms of an old player like Keith Traylor, I think the answer is a definite 'no.'

The key for any move the Dolphins make this offseason is how it affects the future of the team.

Given that line of thinking, let's look at the nine players who were cut and see what their loss means to the team:

1. QB Trent Green
Green is now coming off two consecutive concussion-marred seasons. That fact cannot be overlooked. There are still some concerns about his doctors fully clearing him to play. Also, by the time the 2008 season begins, he will be 38 years old. An ancient QB with serious concussion issues is not the kind of player that Miami should be holding onto as a starter or backup - especially with the exorbitant $3.6 million amount he'd count against the cap in '08. The Dolphins can't compete with or without him playing this season, and he'll be into his 40's by the time they are in a position to reach the playoffs. All that being said, the team and Green have a mutual interest in rejoining each other, albeit at a much reduced salary. And this, I think, would not be a bad idea at all. Isn't that contradictory to what I just wrote, you might be asking? Well, no, because I would only want him to come back to the Dolphins if he would accept being the third-string QB. It was obvious that John Beck had a very comfortable relationship with Trent, and I think he benefited from having that guidance in his rookie season. Having him around for another year would be a good thing for Beck as he continues his development. It would at least provide him with some sense of continuity in the face of all the other coaching upheavals. As the third QB, there would be only a very slim chance that Green would ever have to take the field, so his role would essentially be as a second QB coach - one who already has a foundation built with Beck. If he'll accept a large pay cut and the position of third QB, I'm all for bringing Green back for at least one more year. If he can help in Beck's development, then that will essentially be helping the team in the long term.

2. WR Marty Booker
Booker can still be of service to some team in the league, but only a team that is already playoff-caliber. At times in Miami, it seemed to me that he was totally unfocused on the game. Hell, he wasn't happy to be traded here in the first place. There was absolutely no reason to keep him around for another season. Not only will he be 32 years next season, but his base salary of $4.3 million is so far out of line with his production that it's not even funny. Those are the kind of contracts that this team cannot bear any longer. If you need further proof that Booker is of no use to this team now or long-term, I need only point out that he caught only 47.6% of his passes last season, dropping 7, and only recording 11.1 yards per reception. His Yd/Rec numbers have been steadily decreasing since 2005. With Booker out of the picture, the path will be cleared for guys like Ted Ginn and Derek Hagan to step up and continue to develop for the future.

3. RT L.J. Shelton
Shelton is another player like Booker who can still probably be of service to a contending team that needs only a few pieces. He can certainly still play at a slightly above-average level, and he is the kind of huge body (6'6", 345 lbs.) that Parcells loves, which is one reason why this move surprised me the most out of them all. Since Shelton played so well at guard in 2006 and struggled at times at tackle in 2007, I was hoping that the team would keep him and slide him over to LG to replace Chris Liwienski. At RT in 2007, Shelton gave up a whopping 7.5 sacks compared to only 2 sacks at RG in 2006. He's a durable player, having started every game over the past 3 seasons. However, the biggest knock against Shelton, as far as Miami is concerned, is his age. He will be 32 years old next season, and while he might be of use in the short term, I can't see him being valuable to the team in 2 years time.

4. DT Keith Traylor
Keith Traylor was born in the 1960s. That should be enough reason to cut ties with him. Even though he possesses the size and skills of a true nose-tackle which are hard players to find, his body is breaking down. There is no point in retaining a guy who hardly practices and can only play on about 25 snaps per game. Traylor very well might retire, but if he wants to keep playing, a rebuilding team like Miami doesn't have any space for him.

So those were the four veteran starters to be let go. Here are the five other guys who got the boot:

5. T Anthony Alabi
Alabi is an athletic player, but he's had health issues throughout his time with Miami, and there comes a time when a project player becomes a failed project player. He had three years here and never started a game. It's time to start a new project.

6. T Marion Dukes
Dukes came to training camp with the Dolphins last year as an undrafted college free agent, but after a few months with the team, he decided to return to Clemson to finish his degree and become an assistant coach on the football team there. Miami retained his rights for the year, so cutting him now is just a formality.

7. T Joe Toledo
Miami spent a fourth-round draft pick on Toledo in 2006, and he has been an injury-laden disappointment. He simply can't stay healthy enough to take the field. Why waste the roster space and money on a guy like that, no matter what his potential might be? You can only realize potential if you get on the field.

8. DT Marquay Love
This guy came to camp this year as an undrafted college free agent who played on the offensive line. He was switched halfway through camp to defensive tackle, and I was shocked that he even made the squad. He's barely a practice squad level player.

9. DT Anthony Bryant
Another guy with the prototypical nose-tackle build who simply lacks the skills to be a solid player.

So there you have it. A lot of dead weight got trimmed off, clearing significant cap space, which will allow Miami to go after some young and promising free agents come March.