Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dolphins awarded compensatory draft pick

The 2010 compensatory draft picks were announced yesterday and Miami was awarded a seventh rounder, #252 overall.

Miami now has 10 draft picks.

Here is the team's full allotment of picks:

Round 1, (12th overall)
Round 2, (43)
Round 3, (73)
Round 4, (110)
Round 6, (173, from Kansas City)
Round 6, (174, from Washington)
Round 6, (179)
Round 7, (212, from Kansas City)
Round 7, (219)
Round 7, (252, compensatory)

Miami's fifth round pick was traded to Kansas City for Tyler Thigpen.

Ronnie Brown gets busted for DUI

The arrests, they just keep on comin' don't they?

Ronnie Brown was charged with driving under the influence this weekend in his hometown of Cartersville, Georgia.

Apparently, he was pulled over for failing to signal when changing lanes. He then performed poorly on a field sobriety test.

He is scheduled to appear in court on May 13.

Since this is Brown's first run-in with the law, I doubt he'll face any kind of suspension. Still, it was an incredibly stupid thing to do.

All three ERFAs re-signed

Exclusive Rights Free Agents are hardly free agents. They have no leeway to negotiate or talk with other teams so their only choices are to re-sign with their team or sit out the year - and that's obviously not going to happen.

So it's no surprise that Miami's three ERFAs - Davone Bess, Dan Carpenter, and Joey Haynos - all re-signed with the Dolphins on one-year contracts.

Bess and Carpenter are pretty much locks to make the roster this season. Haynos will have to battle for his spot in training camp.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Richie Incognito signed

After bringing G Richie Incognito in for a visit on Monday, the Dolphins sealed the deal by signing him to a contract on Wednesday.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that Miami pursued him since they put a waiver claim in for him last season when he was released midseason by the Rams. But the Bills had a worse record so their waiver claim won out.

Incognito is well known for his oftentimes idiotic play, marked by numerous personal foul penalties. As Football Outsiders Almanac so eloquently put it, his "existence seems dedicated to defying his last name through acts of embarrassing petulance."

There's no doubt this move carries with it some level of risk. Until he proves otherwise, Incognito is always a threat to destroy a drive with a flagrant penalty, and he's been known to yell at his coaches.

Still, the Dolphins only gave him a one-year contract at a paltry salary of just over $1 million. Even if he meets all the incentives in his deal, the value would still only top out at $1.3 million. If things don't work out, he can very easily get cut.

He does have some level of talent and he doesn't turn 27 until July, so he should be peaking. The coaches will probably have him compete with Donald Thomas and Nate Garner for the starting right guard spot. Incognito also has experience playing center and tackle. My question, though, is what does this say about the coaches' belief in the ability of Thomas and/or Garner? Does this signing mean they aren't progressing as the coaches would like? We'll have to wait until training camp to find out about that.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Second Annual Top 5 Prospects List

Around this time last year, I compiled my first Dolphins' Top 5 Prospects List. I made it in order to see how well the team was set up for the future in terms of rising young players on cheap contracts.

Last year's list was Tyrone Culver, Andy Alleman, Brandon London, Cameron Wake, and Donald Thomas. London is really the only guy on there that I missed on (and, truthfully, I was basing my selection of him on his ability to put on and maintain weight). Alleman was good enough to net the team a not-insignificant fifth-round draft pick in this year's draft.

To be considered for this list, a player must meet the following criteria (borrowed from
Football Outsiders Almanac definition of a prospect):
  1. Drafted or signed in 2007 or later
  2. Drafted no earlier than round three
  3. Less than five career games started
  4. Still on a free agent contract or their original contract
So let's check out my list for 2010:

5. RB Lex Hilliard
Running back is the most fungible position in football, and Miami had to call on its deep reserves in 2009, after injuries to Ronnie Brown and Patrick Cobbs. That left Hilliard, a sixth-round pick of the Dolphins in 2008, to assume the primary backup duties behind Ricky Williams. Miami was able to call on Lex because they opted to keep a fourth RB on the roster to start the season. With Brown and Cobbs returning from injury this offseason, Hilliard may once again get shoved down the depth chart, but the RB situation for 2011 is completely up in the air at the moment since Brown's contract ends after this year and Ricky very well may retire. If Hilliard can stick on the roster for another year, his opportunities might explode in 2011. He impressed with the limited number of opportunities he had (169 offensive snaps). He hit the hole with authority and gained yards after contact at a rate better than Ricky and on par with Ronnie. He particularly impressed me with his receiving output (93.7% DVOA!), which I had believed to be a weakness of his coming out of college. He was also a key contributor on special teams, finishing with 14 tackles, third most on the team. With Lex on the team, there's absolutely no reason to draft a RB this year and it's very easy to envision him splitting the load with another runner come 2011.

4. S Chris Clemons
With the release of Gibril Wilson and the inability to sign either Antrel Rolle or Ryan Clark, Miami's free safety position would currently be filled by Chris Clemons or Tyrone Culver. And honestly, I'm fine with that. Sure, I'd like to see the team draft another safety to compete for the spot, but probably not in one of the first two rounds of the draft. I don't get why so many people are so worried about possibly starting Clemons this year. This is what happens on good teams! They draft guys who go on to start for them within a few years time. You have to put your faith in prospect development sometimes. Not every hole is always going to be filled by a first-rounder or a big free agent. When Miami drafted Clemons in the fifth round last year, I thought it was a great pick because he represented good value in that spot and showed future starting potential. It's not like he's completely raw either; he started for three years in college, playing 51 games (so he's very durable) and he was already called on to start for Miami twice in his rookie year. Now obviously, he didn't wow anyone in his limited chances, but the coaches must have seen something in him they trusted and liked. Another offseason should sharpen up some of his coverage skills and we all know about his blazing speed. Development also takes more than just years of waiting; it takes actual game experience. If you want a long-term starting free safety you've got to give young guys like Clemons real game opportunities to sink or swim. Personally, I think Clemons could handle the job this year.

3. TE John Nalbone
After a year in which the tight ends played magnificently (2008), they came crashing down to earth in a fiery wreck last year. Anthony Fasano seems like the only TE lock to make the team right now, so John Nalbone, a fifth round pick last year, will have every opportunity to make the team in a significant role this season. Nalbone is a complete tight end, meaning that he can both catch and block well. Those kind of TEs are tough to find and are very valuable. I wasn't too shocked that he spent most of last season on Miami's practice squad. After all, he was entering the NFL out of Monmouth, a small school, and that jump to the NFL level is huge and would take some time. He should be well acclimated entering this offseason, and I see no reason why he can't challenge Joey Haynos and Kory Sperry to be Miami's second string TE. Nalbone has future starting potential, and depending on how he performs this season, could be setting himself up to start in 2011 if the team decides to move on from Fasano.

2. WR Brian Hartline
Hartline was the second of two WRs drafted by Miami last year, but he ended up far outplaying Patrick Turner who was taken a round ahead of him. Hartline was very likely the best WR on the Dolphins last year. He is a stat-geeks' dream, too. In the past I've talked a lot about WR body types and how certain Body Mass Index/height relationships indicate whether a WR has a chance to be elite or not. Hartline's body type happens to fall into the "Slight" elite category. The one thing everyone noticed about Turner was his size, but that doesn't mean he has an elite body. Hartline's got one, and it showed up in his rookie season. He saw only 407 offensive snaps, but led the team with three TDs, showed an immediate chemistry with Chad Henne, and posted a fantastic 16.3 yards per catch average. His advanced stats were also off the charts; he had 156 DYAR (30th in NFL) and a 21.8% DVOA (10th in NFL). No one expects Hartline to be anything more than a solid number three WR but I think that's severely selling him short. This guy could be a true surprise player. I'm not saying I would be comfortable with him as the team's long-term No. 1 wideout, but if the season started today, he would be my top WR.

1. OLB Cameron Wake
Two years in a row on this list, whoo! Wake qualifies for the list because he was signed by Miami after 2007, even though he came out for the draft in 2006. Actually, I wish Wake weren't on this list because it would've meant the coaches finally gave him more playing time (and more starts). I realize that he still needs a lot of work setting the edge and stopping the run as well as working in coverage. But I guarantee he would do those two things just as well as Joey Porter supposedly did them last season. And at this stage of their careers, Wake is probably the better pass rusher. So why can't he start for this defense? The bottom line is that Wake was an absolute monster in his limited playing time this past season. According to
ProFootballFocus, if Wake had played even 25% of Miami's defensive snaps, he would have been the third best 3-4 OLB in the NFL. Obviously, we're talking a small sample size here (just 167 defensive snaps), but that mistake falls on the coaching staff. Wake should have been playing a hell of a lot more last season. He finished fourth on the team in sacks and third in QB hits in just a fraction of the snaps. He also had 20 QB pressures - as many as Jason Taylor. Even if he's not a complete player at this point, he needs to be starting, or at least heavily rotating. He's already 28 years old, so the team doesn't have forever to coach him up. We all saw how disruptive he can be; now it's time to unleash that to its full potential.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Phins re-sign Ferguson

Despite a looming eight game suspension to start the year and an ongoing rehab for a serious quadriceps injury, the Dolphins have decided to re-sign NT Jason Ferguson.

Ferguson hopes to be healthy by training camp, and despite the suspension, he will still be allowed to take place in all offseason activities including training camp and preseason games.

While I can't condone breaking the performance enhancing substances policies, I don't see a problem with bringing Jason back after he's served his suspension. Although not having him for the first half of the season will definitely alter Miami's approach to the draft. Had Ferguson been available from the start of the season, the team may have tried to push off drafting a new nose tackle until next year. Now, with only Paul Soliai left as a true NT, Miami will have to address that need in the draft.

And should Miami be in contention after 8 weeks, getting Jason back will really bolster the defensive line depth.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Jason Ferguson suspended 8 games

In what could be a blow to Miami's offseason plans, free agent NT Jason Ferguson has been suspended by the NFL for eight games due to a violation of the performance enhancing drug program.

This is his second violation of the program. He was suspended for four games back in 1999.

Ferguson had said that he would either retire this offseason or play for the Dolphins. And Miami certainly could use him for another year. But this suspension could affect either his decision to retire or Miami's decision to bring him back.

Regardless of what Miami does in the draft, it will probably still be wise to re-sign Ferguson. Even though he'll only be available for the second half of the season, his presence should be a boost. Miami could also choose to pursue a different free agent instead, like Jamal Williams.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Karlos Dansby signs with Miami; other free agent moves

Miami was able to land one of the biggest names on the free agent market, at a position of critical need.

They are expected to finish signing LB Karlos Dansby to a five year deal worth roughly $43 million by tomorrow. The deal will likely include $22 million in guaranteed money. That may be a lot of money, but it's a fair market deal. I don't think the team is really overpaying him, especially since this year is uncapped so it really doesn't matter how much he's paid this season.

The Dolphins were also able to re-sign Chad Pennington on a one year, $2.5 million deal. He will get an additional $1.515 million if he's traded.

To clear room for Dansby and Pennington and their contracts, the team cut LB Joey Porter, S Gibril Wilson, and LB Akin Ayodele.

Dansby should slide right into Channing Crowder's role on the defense, while Crowder should assume Ayodele's duties.

Miami is now going to have to find some way to trade Tyler Thigpen because the team can't keep four QBs on the roster. It was idiotic to give away a fifth round pick for him last season and re-signing Pennington is just further proof of that. Hopefully the team can at least recoup some of its losses in this one.

Gibril Wilson to be released

Chalk up another huge swing-and-a-miss for the Parcells/Ireland free agent acquisitions.

Gibril Wilson's agent, Alvin Keels, announced on Twitter today that the Dolphins will be releasing Wilson today.

Miami currently has Chris Clemons and Tyrone Culver on the roster as possible replacements, but his release probably means that the team is trying hard to land Antrel Rolle. But is that really a good thing? Rolle isn't that good of a cover safety and that's what this team needs at the free safety spot.

Sure, he may make a good number of big plays, but he's going to be giving up plenty of them as well. And isn't that what angered all of us so much about Wilson? Is paying a huge contract to another free safety who can't cover a smart idea?

I'd rather see Culver/Clemons/a rookie battle for the job.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Miami's RFAs get tendered

When I wrote about how I would approach Miami's restricted free agents yesterday, I left off Ronnie Brown because I mistakenly thought that the team had or was going to pick up the option in his contract for this year. They did not and instead tendered him at the first-round level. At that level he will earn $3.97 million in 2010, assuming he is not traded and signs the tender. At that price, he's an absolute steal for one more year.

But I nailed the other two RFAs on the head.

The Dolphins tendered both TE Anthony Fasano and OLB Quentin Moses at original round levels, meaning they will both earn $1.18 million in 2010. If Fasano is traded, Miami will be compensated with a second round draft pick. If Moses is traded, Miami will get a third round draft pick.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What to do with Miami's free agents

With free agency opening on Friday, Miami will have to make some decisions this week on how to approach their own players who have expiring contracts or who are restricted free agents.

Here's what I would do:

First off are the Exclusive-rights free agents - guys with 2 or fewer years whose contracts have expired. They don't really have a choice in accepting their tender since they can't negotiate with any other teams. Miami's ERFAs are Dan Carpenter, Davone Bess, and Joey Haynos. They should all be tendered and brought back.

Next up are the restricted free agents:

  • TE Anthony Fasano - Fasano had a horrible year in 2009, but he's still the best tight end on the team. He has to be brought back, but I don't think the team needs to tender him at the highest level. I think the first-round tender (as opposed to the first and third round tender) will be fine. And if any team really wants to part with a first round pick for him, then all the better. Of course, the team could also tender him at original pick compensation, which would only require a $1.176 million salary in 2010 and the team would get a second round pick if any other team signed him.
  • OLB Quentin Moses - Moses may not even make the team this year, but it won't hurt to slap the original pick tender on him and have him compete for a spot in camp. And remember, Moses was actually drafted in the third round, so if any team wants him that's the pick they'd have to give up.
And lastly, the unrestricted free agents:
  • QB Chad Pennington - I'm still hoping that Buffalo will trade for Tyler Thigpen, allowing Miami to bring back Pennington, but that's a long shot to ever happen. As it is, there's simply no room on the roster for Pennington, backup or not. Letting him go makes the most sense for Miami's young QBs to get more work. And it's important to remember that the more free agents Miami loses, the more likely they are to be awarded compensatory draft picks. Losing a player of Pennington's caliber will likely carry some weight in those decisions.
  • OLB Jason Taylor - He recently had shoulder surgery so Taylor may not be signed by anyone right away as teams wait to see how he recovers. But he played well last year and Miami really doesn't have much depth at OLB, so he really should be brought back on a two-year deal.
  • NT Jason Ferguson - Big Ferg's also recovering from an injury. He's likely to be healthy in time for the season and he said that if he decides to return to play in 2010 he only wants to play for Miami. And Miami needs him, whether they draft a top NT prospect or not. No rookie NT is going to come in and take over the nose position on a full-time basis right off the bat. Having Ferguson around for another year will really help out the D-line's depth.
  • CB Nathan Jones - This is a tricky one because Jones is still young, he was a decent nickel CB and he became the team's best special teams player this year after Patrick Cobbs went down with an injury. But now the team is stacked at CB with Vontae Davis, Sean Smith, and Will Allen. Will Allen will likely take over Jones' nickel role. And Jason Allen is capable enough to handle the fourth CB duties. So there's not really a role for him anymore. And with Cobbs returning, it's not as dire a need to keep him solely for special teams. The word is that Miami isn't planning on re-signing Jones and that's perfectly fine. He's been a solid player for the Dolphins but now the team can bring in another young defensive back to groom.
So that's it. I'd tender all the ERFAs and RFAs, I'd let go of Pennington and Jones, and I'd give one or two-year deals to Taylor and Ferguson.