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As we move into Phase 2 of Free Agency, the massive deals that you saw the 1st week of free agency are pretty much gone. Teams are now bargain shopping right now, and Miami signed back a few of their own free agents this week. S Louis Delmas, coming off a torn ACL, re-signed with Miami on a 1 year deal that is incentive laden. At the time that Delmas tore his ACL against the Ravens, he was having a very solid year with the Dolphins, and the defensive play dropped when Delmas got hurt. He is ahead of schedule in regards to his knee and he vows to be on the field for the first game of the year. Miami also re-signed QB Matt Moore and RB LaMichael James.
In regards to adding talent, the Dolphins had WR Michael Crabtree and OG/C J.D Walton in last week along with QB Tavares Jackson. Miami signed Walton to add depth to the OL, as he can play both OG and C, and are hopeful of being able to sign Crabtree, although there is competition for his services, and I had read that the Chargers were interested. The Jackson visit help intensify the negotiations with Moore and got the deal done in regards to Moore signing back with Miami.
Crabtree would be a solid signing for Miami, as they run an offense he is very familiar with, as it is very similar to the offense Crabtree was in while at Texas Tech. Crabtree is trying to bounce back from an injury plagued few years and show the form when he had his breakout year in 2012, when he had 85 catches for 1,105 yards and 9 touchdowns. Crabtree fits into what the Dolphins want out of their wide receivers in that he is very good after the catch, aka the YAC. Even in a down year for Crabtree in 2014, 68 catches for 698 yards and 4 touchdowns, only Juice Landry on the Dolphins roster had more yards after the catch than Crabtree. Also, Crabtree is still only 27 years old, so he is in his prime still.
As you know by now, Miami refused to match the deal that Buffalo put together for Charles Clay, and he is now a Buffalo Bill. The average per year is very similar, as he will be making 7.6 million/per year. It was the enormous guaranteed money that swayed the Dolphins from matching the deal for Clay, over 24 million the first 2 years. Buffalo put together a contract offer specifically to attack the Dolphins salary cap in 2016, when Ndamankong Suh will count over 25 million against the cap for Miami. Also, the Dolphins will have to put together a new deal for QB Ryan Tannehill as well as DE Olivier Vernon, as both will be free agents. Miami had a number in mind for Clay and stuck with it, and I have absolutely no problem with the Dolphins letting Clay walk. Charles is a good tight end, he is not a Top 5 Tight end and he has only managed to stay healty in for an entire season once.
We had poster bemoan the fact of Miami letting their homegrown drafted talent get away, but Miami had values on both Jared Odrick and Charles Clay. Green Bay has done a great job of this, and they will not overpay for their homegrown talent. Both WR Randall Cobb and OT Bryan Bulaga took less money to remain with the Packers. Miami had a solid deal on the table for Odrick and Clay, but they both took the money. In Odrick case, he is still in Florida in Jacksonville, so he will get more of his money due to no state taxes in Florida. Clay will get hammered with state taxes, but Buffalo paid him like a Top 5 TE. I don't hold that against any of those 2 guys, as the NFL is a league that will cut you as soon as they feel you cannot perform, so get PAID while you can. But Miami did the right thing by sticking by the value they had on both players. Some want to give the Dolphins a hard time for the money they gave Ndamankong Suh, but he fits the bill of an ELITE player. Detroit was offering very similar money, but the ace for Miami was no state taxes. And to let it be known, this blog writer has NO ISSUES with paying ELITE players. Suh is that.
I want to address this also, as it was reported that the Dolphins NOW are a top the list of the NFL in regards to teams with the most dead money for 2015. I thought Jason La Canfora made an excellent observation on that situation for Miami.
"Yes the Dolphins currently have $22M in dead cap for 2015, and that's hardly ideal, but that was a necessary step to getting out from under some of these inflated deals, and the Dolphins are more than fine with $17M in cap space now once Clay's transition tender comes off their books. They took some of the short-term pain, but were able to mitigate it via the trades, and are being proactive and creative to try to make the best of what had to be a tough situation."
As we work our way towards the 2015 NFL Draft, teams are having prospect come in for visits and do individual works with players. A few weeks ago the Dolphins had DE/OLB Vic Beasley and ILB Stephone Anthony of Clemson in for a visit. This upcoming week, the Dolphins willl have Louisville WR DeVante Parker and S/CB Eric Rowe of Utah at the Davie facility this week. It seems the feeling around the league is that there is only 16 players that are have a 1st round grade, and DeVante Parker is one of those 16. Right now, it is up in the air whether Parker will be there at #14 for Miami, as Oakland, Chicago and Cleveland all could take receivers. Cleveland just signed WR Dwayne Bowe, so it gives them so wiggle room to look at another position, but it would not surprise me if they went receiver. Even if Miami were to sign Michael Crabtree, I think they will look to take that WR that is big, a Red Zone threat, and in the case of Parker, good after the catch. I look at Eric Rowe as a FS candidate, as he played both for Utah. He has the size you love at 6'1, 205 lbs and ran a 4.45 40 at the combine and has a 39" vertical. Good in press coverage, the concerns with him as a big corner is the smaller wide receivers and his ability to transition. Very physical and aggressive against the run. Has the ability to play both corner and safety, but with the weakness of the safety draft class, I see him as a safety, with the added versatilty to drop down and cover a slot receiver when needed. He is projected right now as a 3rd-4th round pick.
Visits obviously does not mean it is a sure fire thing that a prospect will be drafted, but it certainly does show that the team has high interest in a prospect. I expect one of these kids, Parker, Beasley, Anthony, Rowe and Perryman to be a Dolphin.
The process continues.
The 1st week of Free Agency has come and gone, and to say it has been very active and eventful for the Dolphins would be an understatement. The Dolphins started off the week by signing the #1 free agent this year, DT Ndamukong Suh. A few days later, the Dolphins add nickel/slot CB Brice McCain and then add talented TE Jordan Cameron. At this moment, the Dolphins are working to bring back TE Charles Clay, who they put the Transition Tag on. They are in a battle with the Buffalo Bills to retain Clay, and hopefully we should know something in the next day or so.
Miami was also very busy making moves via the trade route. Miami was able to get LB Darnell Ellerbe and his contract off the books by trading him to the New Orleans Saints along with a 3rd round pick for WR Kenny Stills. Stills is a very talented young wide receiver with great speed and play making ability. He had supposedly fell out of favor in New Orleans with one Drew Brees, but then again, the Saints have said EVERYBODY is available on their roster with the exception of QB Drew Brees and WR Brandin Cooks. And the Saints proved that by trading away All-Pro TE Jimmy Graham to Seattle, in one of the bigger trades stunners on Wednesday.
On Friday, the Dolphins traded away WR Mike Wallace and a 7th round pick to the Minnesota Vikings for a 5th round pick. It had been known that the Dolphins were not happy with what happened at the end of the season with Wallace pulling himself out of the game against the Jets. Apparently, there were some additional issues with the coaching staff, and it became apparent by mid week that Wallace future with the Dolphins was up in the air for the 2015 season. The trade for Stills made the move to trade Wallace a more realistic matter, and it came together on Friday with the Vikings.
The moves made by the Dolphins in regards to cutting players and trading players has allowed the Dolphins to open up 20.8 million dollars in salary cap space according to Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel. If the Dolphins were not to re-sign TE Charles Clay, that number goes up to 27.8 million. We know Miami is not finished in free agency yet, and we are about to get to the 2nd phase of free agency.
The Dolphins still need to look to add a cornerback, an offensive guard, a safety and perhaps a veteran wide receiver and depth at OT via free agency, or perhaps the Dolphins may look to address some of these needs via the draft. There was some talk that the Dolphins had been in talks with Phialdelphia about their veteran OG, Evan Mathis, coming off of 2 very solid years for the Eagles. The concerns are that Mathis will soon be 34 years old, and he missed 7 games in 2014. He is ROCK SOLID though, and adding a veteran OG to this young group would really solidify this offensive line and bring veteran leadership. A possible veteran WR to look at is Greg Jennings, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings. Once the Vikings traded for Wallace, the decided to part ways with Jennings. He does not have that speed he once had, but he is a solid route runner, still good after the catch and HC Joe Philbin is familar with Jennings from his days with Green Bay.
My thoughts are that the Dolphins will look to add a WR via the draft, regardless of bring in a veteran WR or not. I also believe the Dolphins will look to bring in a LB via the draft, and a couple of names to keep in mind is ILB Eric Kendricks of UCLA, ILB Denzel Perryman of Miami and ILB Stephone Anthony of Clemson. Kendricks could possibly sneak into the 1st round and would be a consideration if Miami were to look to trade down. Perryman and Anthony are 2nd round consideration, and the Dolphins have spoke with both recently, as they had both Anthony and Clemson teammate Vic Beasley at the Davie complex.
Some names to look at for Miami in the 1st round at WR are WR DeVante Parker of Louisville, a young man that the Dolphins have had at the Davie complex. WR Armani Cooper of Alabama is high on Miami list as well as WR Jaelen Strong of Arizona State. The big thing the Dolphins are looking for in their wide receivers are guys that are good after the catch, the YAC guys. The 3 receivers mentioned fit the bill of what the Dolphins want. Matthew Cannata of Phinmaniacs.com believes the Dolphins are interested in trading up to get Cooper. Time will tell, but I do feel comfortable in saying I think the Dolphins will look to go wide receiver EARLY.
A couple of wildcard names to consider in the 1st round would be SS Landon Collins of Alabama. Some question if he can play FS, but he is by FAR the best safety in this group. One thing that is a concern is the fact that I have read that DC Kevin Coyle's defensive schemes are VERY complex. They can be very difficult for a 1st year player to pick up. Another name to look at is OT La'el Collins of LSU. Some may not be happy to see the possiblity of another OL taken in the 1st round, but Miami has got to solidify the OG position. Collins had a very good combine and has the ability to be an OLT or ORT, but he has also play at OLG as well, and Miami could look to do what Dallas did with Notre Dame All-American ORT Zach Martin, moved him inside to OG.
We still have plenty of time in free agency for the Dolphins to look to fill holes. As they do, the draft falls more and more into focus.