Saturday, February 28, 2009

Joe Berger signed

On Friday the team signed G/C Joe Berger.

Berger (6'5", 315 lbs.) will soon be 27 years old. He's previously played for Miami during the 2005-2006 seasons. He has since played for the Dallas Cowboys and is familiar with Tony Sparano and Bill Parcells.

He has appeared in 7 NFL games, with no starts.

Some reports are saying that Berger will challenge Samson Satele for the starting center spot, but I'm not buying it. At this point, Berger is going to have to fight just to lock up a spot on the team as a backup.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Reader Mailbag: CB in FA?

As free agency kicks into gear, let's look at a reader question:

Do you think the Dolphins will pick up a corner? I'm thinking Leigh Bodden.

I have to believe that Miami will sign at least one cornerback in free agency, although at this point, they may wait out the big money period and try to find a cheap third tier kind of player.

I'd love to see them sign Leigh Bodden to replace Andre' Goodman, but he's visiting the Patriots today and they are apparently very high on him. Not to mention that he will probably command at least $6 million annually. That may be a bit too high for Miami to commit after signing Gibril Wilson and re-signing Bell, Crowder, and Carey.

Bryant McFadden, Ronald Bartell, and Jabari Greer are other possibilities, but again, they want big money that I'm not sure they are worth.

It is always a possibility that Andre' Goodman could return to Miami if he finds the market isn't as high on him as he thought it would be, but I am not comfortable with Goodman being the starter for this team again. I think last year was much more a late career fluke than something to expect on a consistent basis from Goodman.

Young CB options include Ralph Brown, Chris Carr, Daven Holly, Karl Paymah, and Stanley Wilson.

Now, I'm not saying that any of those guys are great options. Heck, they might not even be good options. But if this team is just looking to fill up the depth chart, rather than sign a starter quality CB in free agency, then these guys might be where they look.

Tuna, keep Marvin Harrison the hell away from this team!!!

PFT has reported that there are strong rumors of WR Marvin Harrison possibly being signed by the Dolphins.

This is probably the first time in some while that I have been really disgusted by a speculated free agent signing.

Harrison has nothing to offer this team.

Age? A geriatric 36.
Health? Played only 20 games the past two years; has balky knees.
Size? Only 6'0", not the big guy we need.
Character? Oh yeah, that gun case in Philly is real enticing.

I used to respect Harrison. He always seemed like the quiet player who just did his job day in and day out. That is until this gun case came up, and it came out that his quiet personality is pretty much just a cover for severe antisocial actions.

And everyone needs to quit spewing this trash about bringing in a veteran WR to mentor the guys that are already here. No, you know who needs to mentor them? The WR coach and Chad Pennington. We don't need a surrogate coach who takes up a spot on the roster. We need a WR who can actually play. Harrison is no longer that guy.

I will be pretty furious if this rumor turns out to be true.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Yeremiah Bell signs 4-year deal

Well, it seems like newly signed Gibril Wilson will indeed be moving to free safety.

That's because the Dolphins were able to re-sign SS Yeremiah Bell to a 4-year contract worth $20 million, $10 million of which is guaranteed.

According to Armando Salguero, the team told Bell that he will continue to play SS. It will be interesting to see then how active Wilson will be in run support, his obvious strength, since the free safety is generally in coverage a bit more than the strong safety. That was particularly true with Miami last year, as Bell seemed to live in the box for much of the time.

I think retaining Bell is a smart move though, and Miami shouldn't have to worry about it's deep secondary for a few years (although, it'd be nice to get a late-round pick in the fold to start developing now).

This move probably means the team will not be trying to re-sign Renaldo Hill, unless he comes very very cheaply.

Gibril Wilson signs 5-year deal

The Dolphins didn't wait for the official opening of free agency to start bolstering the defense.

The team signed S Gibril Wilson to a five year contract worth $27.5 million. That includes $8 million guaranteed, and the deal pays out $16.5 million in the first three years.

Wilson (6'0", 210 lbs.) is 27 years old.

He is incredibly active from the safety spot, and he is one of the best blitzing safeties in the league.

His acquisition is a bit curious though, since all reports seemed to point towards Miami re-signing Yeremiah Bell. Of course, they still could sign Bell, but then either Bell or Wilson would have to move to free safety. I think that is plausible, and would love to see Bell brought back on a short contract.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Crowder agrees to 3 year deal

Channing Crowder seemed long gone from the Miami Dolphins, destined to hit the market when free agency opens on Friday morning.

Certainly, of the 2008 starters set to become free agents, Crowder seemed least likely to re-sign.

And yet, after Vernon Carey, Crowder becomes the second player of the group to re-sign with the team. Today he signed a new three year contract. Terms of the deal are unknown.

I'll reserve judgment on the move until I see the money that was given to Channing, but I like the fact that it's a three year deal. That's shorter than normal, which provides some protection to Miami in case his knees cause him problems over the next few years.

A lot of people have been down on Crowder ever since it seemed like he wasn't going to return to the team, and I've certainly criticized him for his lack of big plays. But as far as our ILBs go, Crowder wasn't really the problem. I'd much rather see Akin Ayodele be the ILB replaced in the starting lineup, and now that may happen.

Amazingly, Crowder is still only 25 years old since he came out of college so young, and he has a leg up on this system over anyone else who would have been brought in to replace him. I'd much prefer Crowder to a guy like Bart Scott, who truthfully isn't that much better than Crowder, especially when you consider the money that he is going to demand and that he is three years older than Channing.

According to Crowder, the coaching staff put in place last offseason had a huge impact on his decision to stay:
"Not to bad mouth any other coaches, but if another coach had been here, I don't know whether I would have stayed,'' Crowder said. "I've talked to George Edwards everyday for the past two weeks about this."

Stay tuned for details on the contract.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Reader Mailbag: Next biggest need; Harvin at 25?

Time to dive into another reader-submitted question:

Now that the Dolphins have signed Vernon Carey to a contract where is the most pressing need? Is Percy Harvin worth the Dolphins 1st round pick?

Re-signing Carey definitely clears up what could have been a huge mess this offseason, and the team's biggest needs now no longer reside along the offensive line, in my opinion.

There are three big areas of need as I see the situation right now - the secondary, the inside linebackers, and the receivers.

As you are all aware, the only starter in the secondary under contract for 2009 is Will Allen. Miami is going to have to re-sign at least one of the remaining three, or else they will likely find themselves overpaying in free agency. Luckily, it looks like the team is adamant about re-signing Yeremiah Bell. Hopefully they get it done before free agency begins. But even if the team can't re-sign Renaldo Hill or Andre' Goodman, it's not going to kill the secondary. As long as Bell and Will Allen remain starters, the team should be able to find new starters to fill the two open spots. Now, whether they should do that or not is another question, but as long as Bell re-signs I'm not overly worried about the secondary.

The inside linebackers are another substantial problem because, as of right now, there is a good chance that Channing Crowder will not be back, and even if he does return, this team lacks any playmaking ability from the two ILBs. If Crowder leaves, that means Akin Ayodele will take his spot, and I'm not sold that he can be an every-down type of player in this defense. Miami needs at least one ILB who can rush the passer and cover running backs, not a guy who does one or the other.

But the most pressing need, at this point, looks to be the receiving corps. Greg Camarillo did a tremendous job acting as the No. 1 WR on this team this season before he got hurt, but on a good offense he's probably a No. 3/borderline No. 2 receiver. Likewise, Ted Ginn's ceiling, in my estimation, is a No. 2 guy. This team lacks anything even approaching an elite wideout, and they should be planning for the future (aka Chad Henne's arrival) by getting a potentially elite wideout on board now.

I think Brandon London has a lot of upside, but there is absolutley nothing guaranteeing that he'll even sniff that potential. I for one am not okay to just stay content with what we currently have and hope that one of these guys rises to another level.

I'd like to see the team invest a high draft pick in a WR, but Parcells is notorious for picking his wideouts from the scrap heap. It's great to try and find diamonds in the rough, but I can't get behind a strategy that simply ignores skill position players in the first couple of rounds. If a WR is the best available player when Miami makes its picks on day one of the Draft, I hope they don't pass over him just because they think they can fill those needs with rookie free agents.

And that brings us to the possibility of selecting Florida WR Percy Harvin with the 25th pick. Harvin is probably the 3rd best WR in the draft, following Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin. He is an elite talent in the mold of Ted Ginn, but Harvin is heavier (192-195 lbs.) and his height/BMI combo place him into the elite "Short" body-type category. (For more explanation on this, see this previous column I wrote).

Like Ginn, he is electrifyingly fast and has great hands, but unlike Ginn he already has shown sharp route-running skills. The problem, of course, with being such a similar player to Ginn is that...well...we already have Ted Ginn. But should that stop us from taking Harvin if, as I think, his ceiling is much higher than Ginn's? I'm not sure it should.

That being said, there are several huge red flags when it comes to Harvin. Namely, his durability. Any team will be taking a huge risk by paying a lot of money to Harvin since he has proven to be so fragile already in his career. If Miami was already an established powerhouse, like the Colts for example, they could justify taking the risk on Harvin. But as Miami is in a rebuilding process, they have next to no room for error with their top picks. It's absolutely necessary that they get a return on all their top investments.

Another risk with Harvin is that he comes from an offense that has failed to produce many successful NFL-level WRs.

I like Harvin, I really do. And I wouldn't be upset if Miami selected him at 25. I think he can be much better than Ginn. But there are several other players I'd rather see Miami take over Harvin if they are still on the board when Miami picks. Also, I'd rather see Miami target a tall/thickly built WR to complement what they already have, rather than bringing aboard more of the same.

Rizzi hired as assistant special teams coach

The Dolphins had a void to fill in the coaching ranks after Steve Hoffman left to become the special teams coordinator for the Chiefs.

Tony Sparano reached back into his Rolodex to hire Darren Rizzi as Miami's new assistant special teams coach.

Rizzi worked under Sparano at the University of New Haven and was most recently the head coach at Rhode Island.

Hoffman's primary duties with the team involved coaching the kickers and punters. Those responsibilities will now likely fall to Rizzi.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Vernon Carey re-signed

Well, in yesterday's column that I linked to at The Phinsider, I argued that the best option at right tackle for the Dolphins would be to re-sign Vernon Carey.

Jeff Ireland and Bill Parcells must have felt the same way too, as Carey has been re-signed to a multi-year deal.

Terms of the deal are unclear at the moment, but I'll post them as soon as they are released.

[Update: The deal is a 6 year contract worth $42 million.]

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Should Miami Re-sign Vernon Carey?

Hey, just wanted to let you know that my latest column is up over at The Phinsider.

This week I look at what we have in Vernon Carey and if the available options in free agency and/or the draft are sufficiently appealing to let Carey go.

Check it out.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Reader Mailbag: Draft Possibilities (OL, ILB)

After reading my post about Samson Satele and the future of Miami's center position, a reader sent me these questions:

What do you think about the Dolphins taking Duke Robinson with their first pick? That is if he drops that far. Also, I have read that some people think that the Dolphins may go with the ILB position with the 1st. What are your thoughts on taking an ILB in the 7th round? I'm thinking Ronnie Palmer or Mike Rivera?

As I wrote in the aforementioned article, I think there are better areas to spend the first pick on than center, but I would not be opposed to using that pick on another offensive lineman, especially if the team decides to cut ties with Vernon Carey (I don't think they should).

But a return to health by either Justin Smiley or Donald Thomas is no sure thing at this point and in Thomas' case, he has a very limited (aka about two quarters) amount of playing time that we are basing his potential as a starter off of. Andy Alleman is really the only promising backup on the team at this point, so improving the depth with a player that could challenge for a starting spot immediately or at least develop into one down the road is a must.

To that end, Duke Robinson would certainly be an intriguing option with the team's first round pick, and especially with their first second round pick if he were to fall that far.

Robinson is primarily a guard, but he could probably make the transition to right tackle if Carey leaves in free agency. His forte is power run blocking, which is obviously a direction this team would like to move in.

Even if Carey sticks around, Robinson could be brought in to be the eventual replacement for Justin Smiley, if the team thinks his shoulder issues are going to derail his career anytime soon.

As far as inside linebackers go, we all know about Parcells' penchant for drafting LBs high in the draft.

If Channing Crowder leaves, and it looks like he will, Miami is going to have a gigantic hole in the middle of the defense. The two best remaining players will be Akin Ayodele and Reggie Torbor. Ayodele played adequately in his role this past year, but can he take over Crowder's every-down role and still thrive? And Torbor was thoroughly unimpressive. Things probably won't have gone all that well if he is starting at ILB when the season begins.

So that position is definitely a possibility with the first round pick. One possibility could be James Laurinaitis.

As far as the seventh round, anything is possible, but one key thing Ireland and Parcells will be looking for in those players is an ability to play special teams. Linebackers generally are useful on special teams, so another ILB could be picked up then.

Honestly, I'm not too familiar with either Palmer or Rivera, but from the quick search I did, it seems both will very likely still be around in the 6 and 7th rounds, perhaps even as free agents. The team definitely has a need for more bodies there, so they are certainly possibilities, possibily as practice squad players as well.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What to do at center?

I'd like to use this article, about the Wes Welker trade, as a jumpoff into a discussion about Samson Satele, and what direction the team should go in with regards to its center.

The article argues that Miami has been hosed on the trade that sent Wes Welker to New England in return for the 60th and 238th picks in the 2007 NFL Draft.

Before we even begin to consider who the Dolphins selected with those picks, receiving a second-round pick for a player who came to Miami for essentially nothing is a tremendous return on a negligible investment.

Of course, it's important to hang onto good young players as well. That's what forms the nucleus of championship teams.

And that's where the dilemma with Welker comes in. He's not and never will be a number one receiver. He needs a playmaker like Randy Moss line up opposite him in order for his true abilities to come to fruition. Just look at his performance in Miami compared to that in New England. He was quite good for Miami, but he didn't all of a sudden become an entirely different player when he got shipped off to New England. No, instead, the situation just fit his talents perfectly and his performance obviously ratcheted up a notch. It's easy to be sour about seeing him playing like that for the Patriots and realizing that the Phins could use a productive WR.

However, he never would have reached those heights had he stayed in Miami. He would have continued on being a pretty good player but nothing special because Miami lacks (and has lacked for some time) a big, elite WR. Without one of those, Welker's ceiling is significantly lower.

So getting a second-rounder for him when we could was a good trade.

Now, after only two seasons, people are already ready to throw out Samson Satele and move on to another option. But should the Dolphins do that?

Let's remember that he played pretty well in his rookie season, starting all 16 games and being voted to several all-rookie teams. He allowed only 2 sacks in 2007. Of course, he struggled in the running game, and that remains a big problem to this day. The team knew that that would be an issue coming out of college, since he played at Hawaii where they threw the ball on almost every play. But Satele is a very good pass blocker and he is one of the best when it comes to getting out in space and blocking downfield on screens.

But then this past year happened, and Satele's performance backslid mightily. He was still above average in pass protection, but the run-blocking got worse. After the season, a supposed answer for his struggles emerged when it was revealed that he played most of the season with a torn labrum in his shoulder. As we can all see with Justin Smiley, labrum issues with offensive lineman are very tricky and have the propensity to linger. So this obviously is not an issue to be brushed aside. But the fact that his struggles can be traced to injury instead of placing them solely on ability is better for his future.

Satele is only 24 years old, and we've seen that he can be a capable starting center for this team. What would it mean to give up on him now? It would require the investment of another high draft pick (possibly this year's first-rounder) or a big free agent contract. Is is worth that price at this time?

The two draft options that would seem to be able to start right away from day one are Alex Mack and Max Unger, both of whom would almost certainly require the use of Miami's first-round selection and the contract that goes along with that. Choosing to go this route really hampers Miami's ability to plug other holes on the roster because it is willingly choosing to create another hole at center by abandoning the development of Satele. If the coaching decides to continue his development for one more season, that's one less hole that screams for attention with those first day draft picks. Can this team afford to create more holes than it already has?

Centers aren't traditionally drafted very high from year to year anyways, so even if the team sticks with Satele this year and he doesn't improve, they will still have the opportunity to get another good one in the draft next season.

As for a free agent center, the top of the class includes Jason Brown, Jeff Saturday, Matt Birk, and Brad Meester. Right off the bat, I'm throwing out Saturday, Birk, and Meester since they are 33, 32, and 31 years old respectively. This needs to become a young team and especially a young offensive line which can grow together. All of those guys are on the downside of their careers and their play will only get worse each year. They are not worth the big bucks they will likely command in free agency.

So that leaves Brown as the only real option. Brown is still very young, at only 25 years old, and he's coming off his best season as a pro. He's similar to Satele in terms of pass protection, but he's a significantly better run-blocker. Still, I ask, would paying out a huge free agent contract (and he will get a huge one since he is the best center available) be worth it.

It all comes down to whether more of Satele's regression in 2008 can be linked to his injury and having to play beside a rotating cast of average at best players (Ikechuku Ndukwe, Andy Alleman, and Al Johnson) or to his actual ability. At this point, I'm not sold that he has already reached his ceiling. I think his rookie performance is more indicative of his future than last season, and I don't think it is worth replacing him this offseason if it is going to cost a first or second-round draft pick or a huge free agent deal.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Smith and McChesney waived

The Dolphins have waived LB Kelvin Smith and G Matt McChesney.

Both players ended this past season on the IR and had little chance of making the team next season.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ugh...Jake Long hurts his ankle in Pro Bowl

For anyone who was watching the Pro Bowl, seeing Jake Long get his leg rolled up on in the fourth quarter was quite the scary sight.

The announcers made no mention of it at the time, but apparently Jake was on the ground in pain for a few minutes, and after the game he said he tweaked his right ankle - the same one he injured during the season.

While he did return for the final snap of the game (a kneel down) and has said that his ankle will be fine, I'll believe it when he's at offseason conditioning and walking without any kind of a limp.

The team certainly can't afford this injury becoming something that lingers.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Parcells' 30 day clause turns into a neverending one

Well, we as Dolphins fans no longer need to count down the days until Bill Parcells' 30-day opt-out clause runs out.

But it's not because those 30 days have expired.

Instead, Chris Mortensen has reported that before Wayne Huizenga sold the team to Stephen Ross he removed the 30-day opt-out clause and replaced it with an unrestricted option to walk away with full pay.

So essentially, the Bill Parcells-led rebuilding project is now on the clock every day from now until he departs. If Parcells were to leave for employment elsewhere, the team would not have any of his remaining salaray offset by any salary he would earn elsewhere. This ensures that Parcells will be paid every cent of his $12 million, four-year deal that he signed when he joined the franchise.

This development isn't that surprising, but by obtaining an unlimited ability to walk away from the team, it is becoming more and more likely that 2009 will be Parcells' last with the Dolphins.

Top 5 Prospect List

There hasn't been much to write about for the past few weeks, but I put together a list of who I think are the Dolphins' top five prospects for The Phinsider.

Check it out.