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Many Miami Dolphin fans, myself included anticipated the Dolphins coming out firing, contending for big ticket free agents like OG/OT Kelechi Osemele of Baltimore, St. Louis CB's Trumaine Johnson and Janoris Jenkins just to name a few.  Even with the fact that Miami had limited cap space at the time Free Agency was to begin, Miami had the ability to create more than enough cap space to be a player, and this is something which they did do.  By releasing WR Greg Jennings, OT Jason Fox, DE Quinton Coples, CB Brice McCain and restructuring DT Ndamankung Suh's contract, the Dolphins created well over 20 million dollars of salary cap space.  Restructuring TE Jordan Cameron and LB Koa Misi contract's help create more space.

 

But something happened along the way as Free Agency approaced and began.  Miami, known for winning the off season championship during free agency the last few years, did something that smart teams like New England, Baltimore, Green Bay and Cincinnati do.  The Dolphins took the time to place values on players they had interest in and they stuck with that dollar figure.  Miami decided not to over spend for GOOD FOOTBALL PLAYERS.  Miami got slammed last year for making Suh, a 4 time All Pro, 4 time Pro Bowl player the highest paid defensive player in football.  There are no players in this year free agent crop that is close to having Suh's resume.

 

Miami signed DE Mario Williams before the beginning of free agency and stuck by the value number they had assigned for Mario, coming off a down year for him playing in a system that was not a good fit for him, but also coming with a lot of question from people saying he quit on Buffalo.  But prior to this past season, in his prior 3 years with Buffalo, Williams had 10.5, 13.0 and in 2014 he had 14.5 sacks in a 4-3 defense, the same defense Miami plays.  He signed a 2 year deal with Miami for 17 million, or 8.5 million/per year with incentives that can get him to 20 million for the 2 year length of the contract.  Williams came to Miami anticipating he could be 10 milllion/per year from Miami, which he did not get.  He was suppose to have meet with the New York Giants as well, but when it became apparent that they were not going to give him that amount of money. he came back to Miami and the deal was done.

 

So far in Free Agency, Miami has completed a trade with Philadelphia which bought CB Byron Maxwell and LB Kiko Alonso to Miami.  They exhanged spots in the 1st round of the upcoming NFL Draft, Philadelphia moving up to the #8 spot, Miami moving down to 13.  The Dolphins signed Detroit FS Isa Abdul-Quaddas to a 3 year/12.75 milllion dollar deal and have signed Denver RB C.J Anderson to a 4 year/18 million dollar offer sheet.  The Broncos have until Tuesday to decide if they will match that offer.  Miami also signed Chicago OT Jermon Bushrod, who Adam Gase is familar with from his time in Chicago.  Bushrod is being bought in to compete at the troublesome OG spot for Miami.

 

WalterFootball.com has been very critical of Miami in the past and were critical of the Dolphins in the trade with Philadelphia, but they had positive things to say about the signing of Quaddas and the possible signing of Anderson.  Here are there quotes on these two players.

 

Dolphins sign S Isa Abdul-Quddus (3 years, $12.75 million): B+ Grade
I mentioned earlier that one of the many reasons the Lions had a surge at the end of the season was the insertion of Tahir Whitehead into the lineup. Another was the play of Isa Abdul-Quddus. He replaced James Ihedigbo and proved to be a major upgrade, playing well in coverage and being even better in run support.

His departure hurts the Lions, but the Dolphins won't mind, as he'll provide a much-needed boost for their secondary. He has shown that he can be a solid starter - albeit not with very much of a sample size (16 career starts in five years) - so this price is pretty good for him.
 
Dolphins sign RB C.J. Anderson to offer sheet (4 year, $18 million): A- Grade
Hey, look, it's another running back who happens to better than Chris Ivory getting less money in free agency. C.J. Anderson received a 4-year, $18 million offer sheet from the Dolphins, and the Broncos have five days to match.

I've been hard on the Dolphins this offseason so far, but this is a great move, provided it actually goes through. Anderson has started his seasons slow thus far in his career, but he has been terrific down the stretch when given the opportunity, and his performance at the end of the 2015 campaign was instrumental in the Broncos' Super Bowl run. Granted, Anderson won't be doing much (anything) in the playoffs with the Dolphins, but he won't have any sort of transition period, given that he'll fit right into Adam Gase's offense again.
 
This past week, the Dolphins had LB Sean Spence, QB Brandon Weedon and DE Jason Jones in for visit, but no contract agreements were reached.  They will be meeting with DE Chris Clemons and have interest in former Dolphin CB Nolan Carroll.  There are a TON of good football players out there still, and the mega deals and big money contracts that were signed the first few days of free agency are the thing of the past.  Smart deals for good football players are now what you have going forward.
 
Rich Rodriguez wrote an excellent piece on Saturday, and his header perfectly reflects my thoughts on Miami and what they are doing right now.  I actually like what the Dolphins have done, though I do have some criticism.
 
I had no problem with Miami letting Olivier Vernon walk, as he good a HUGE contract from the New York Giants, who are attempting to buy a Super Bowl championship.  This is a little snippet from a column Matthew Cannata wrote for The Phinsider
Just a few hours into the free agency period, that scenario played out as Vernon received a five-year, $85 million dollar contract from the New York Giants. A whopping $52.5 million dollars of it is guaranteed. This guarantee by the way is bigger than what All-Pro and multiple time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, J.J. Watt received two years ago when he signed a new contract with the Houston Texans.
 
Vernon was a player I wanted to keep, but there was no way I wanted Miami to pay him the Franchise Tag money of 15 million.  I thought the Transition Tag was in line with what Vernon should be paid, which was 12.75 million.  That contract was an example of a good football player getting paid like an All Pro player, something Vernon is not.
 
I did have a probelm with Miami letting RB Lamar Miller go.  Miami offered Miller around 5 million per year and a little more.  Miller ended up getting 6.5 million per year from the Houston Texans.  Lamar is an explosive RB that is good in the passing game, had improved as a pass protector, and is a homerun threat every time he touches the ball.  He is not as good an inside runner as C.J Anderson, but Anderson is not as explosive as Miller.  I would have thought the Dolphins could and Miller could have meet somewhere in the middle to make a deal, but that did not happen.  He was a kid Miami drafted and developed.  You are going to lose your own players sometimes, but this is a player the Dolphins could have kept at a cost that would not have busted the cap space.
 
Miami also had a chance to land OG Alex Boone and thought they had a deal in place.  Boone was set to take a flight to Miami when the Minnesota Vikings swept in with an offer that was more than Miami was willing to spend.  The OG position has been a problem for Miami for the last 3-4 years, and signing Boone would have been a big plus in helping to address the position.  Miami HAS to address this position, so I do expect more players to be signed to help address this troublesome spot.
 
One last note here.  One thing that the change in philosophy will bring to Miami is compensatory picks.  While Miami will not gain any compensatory picks this year, Miami will likely gain 3 compensatory picks for the 2017 NFL Draft.  A 3rd, 4th and 7th round picks are what is expect by the Miami brass in compensatory picks.  The thing that this does is put pressure on Miami to do something that they have been hit and miss on the last few years.  Draft WELL.  But the more picks you have, the better.
 
Will the change in philosophy help the Dolphins in 2016, time will tell.  Will the change help Miami in the years to come to help build a more fundamentally sound team and program, no question it will.  There more work to be done in Free Agency and the NFL Draft.  The process continues.
 
 
 
 

Rich Rodriguez, Phinfever.comI know there is a lot of vitriol towards these moves, but I actually like what the Dolphins have done, though I do have some criticism.

1. Mario Williams and Olivier Vernon - When you see what Vernon signed for, you sort of understand why the Dolphins did what they did. First of all, the Giants have grossly overpaid for a player that hasn't demonstrated he can be a 15+ sack guy. If that was the starting point for Vernon, then he was always going to be gone. I agree with the Dolphins for not overpaying him. I thought they should not have tendered. That seemed like a waste of time. Either let him walk and get a compensatory pick or franchise him and work out a trade.

The second part of this deal is Mario Williams. He can be a dominant player. I would almost dismiss his lack of production in Rex Ryan's system. Williams is a 4-3 end, period. I do have concerns with what he will add to the locker room, but on the field, I think he can be better than what Vernon has been. Williams can be a dominant pass rusher and good run stopper throughout his career. Vernon was good against the run and got pressure on the QB, but his sack numbers have usually been lacking. His propensity for personal foul penalties was also a concern. It would have been nice to keep Vernon, but I think some on the forum overstated the quality of his play. He is NOT a $17 million a year player. He is not a $15 million a year player. Quite frankly, I don't think he was even a $12 million a year player.

The other positive in this deal is the cap space avoided by signing Vernon to a tag or tender.

2. Kiko Alonso - I am going to look at this separately from Byron Maxwell first. I get it, this is a huge risk from the perspective of the player being a one year wonder and having injury issues. But based on what we saw in 2013, he is superior to any other middle linebacker we had on the team, if he can stay healthy. The MLB position has been upgraded and that was a huge hole in this defense. So if the comparison is Kiko versus what we had last year, the Dolphins are in better shape.

3. Byron MaxWell - Probably a downgrade from Brent Grimes. Maxwell looked good his last two seasons in Seattle, but flopped in Philly. Here's hoping the Dolphins are looking at him as a #2 corner because he hasn't proven he can be a #1 corner. His salary is a concern, but the Dolphins aren't tied to the signing bonus. I wonder how much of a factor his system fit was in Philly. He was certainly a system fit in Seattle for a couple of seasons. One area where he would be an upgrade is his size. He should match up better against big receivers than Grimes. Let's not forget Grimes got lit up a few times in 2015 by big receivers.

4. Miami - Philly trade - Looking at the trade chart, there is a 250 point difference between the 8th pick and the 13th pick. Therefore, for Miami to trade down, fair value would have been a 3rd and a 4rd round pick. The way to look at this trade is that Miami traded down 5 spots for Kiko Alonso in the 3rd round and Byron Maxwell in the 4th round. If you got a good starting MLB in the 3rd and a potentially boundary corner in the 4th, that's not a bad haul IF you get a good player in the first round and at least Kiko or Maxwell pans out.

5. CJ Anderson and Lamar Miller - I love Miller and I hate to see him go. But the running back position is what it is. The Dolphins (and quite frankly the Phinfever forums), set a price on Miller and the Texans offered more. I hope the CJ Anderson move pans out as he is another player that is productive when used, but underused. I believe the Dolphins avoid an additional $2 million a year in expense by going with this option. And with Ajayi already in the fold, the Dolphins will have depth at the position. Let's see if Denver matches.

6. Offensive line - One area of huge concern is still offensive line. The Dolphins signed Jermon Bushrod, who has always been a tackle, and is coming off a shoulder injury. If healthy, he has to be an upgrade at guard over what we currently have. But I would still hope the Dolphins look at this position in the draft as well.

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