On Monday we discussed the Dolphins’ remaining quarterback options if they take the free agency route, whenever it may be that free agency is actually permitted to take place.
While there are a few impending free agent quarterbacks that would make the Dolphins a better football team and could potentially unseat Chad Henne as the starter in an open competition, there’s no doubt that the best chance at ending this franchise’s long quarterback drought, would be trading for either Carson Palmer, Kevin Kolb, or Kyle Orton.
Throw in Matt Flynn from the Packers and Jeff Ireland has himself several intriguing options if he wants to stray away from his normal conservative approach and go all in for a reliable quarterback that would instantly put the Dolphins in the playoff discussion.
I’m not going to argue the case for which quarterback I would prefer Miami trading for. Although, I would say Carson Palmer and Kyle Orton are safer bets than Kolb even though the Eagles are reportedly asking for at least a first-round pick. Of the two, Palmer and Orton, I’m not exactly convicted one way or the other. Palmer was once an elite quarterback in this league but he’s never been the same after hurting his knee. Orton, on the other hand, will never be a top five passer, but he’s younger and is arguably the most underrated quarterback in the league with the stats to back it up.
The week before the draft, anticipating that the Dolphins would try to trade down in the first round, I decided to reach out to some blogs that represented teams that selected late in round one, and offer them hypothetical trade request. When thinking about what it would cost the Dolphins to trade for a quarterback, I thought I would reach out to blogs that represent the Bengals, Eagles, Broncos, and Packers, to try and get a feel for what they would accept for these quarterbacks.
Please welcome in Jason Garrison from Cincy Jungle, Thomas Jackson from Eagles Eye, Kirk Davis from Mile High Report, and Brandon Benson from Acme Packing Company. I asked the bloggers to answer my trade request with accept, decline, or counter offer.
Carson Palmer Trade Request
The offer: Miami Dolphins’ 2012 second-round pick for Cincinnati Bengals QB Carson Palmer
Response: Counter offer
Here's the deal, I'm going to have to decline your trade offer and make a counter offer. I would love to ask you for a 2012 first round pick but I know that a team wouldn't be willing to give up a first rounder for Palmer. At the same time though, I think Palmer's worth more than a second-round pick by itself.
So here's my official counter offers. The Bengals are in need of a running back. Cedric Benson is a free agent and it's unclear as to whether or not the Bengals will be able to re-sign him. With a new west coast system and a rookie quarterback, it will be important for the Bengals to be able to run the ball to keep some pressure off Andy Dalton. The Bengals did not address the running back position in the draft until they used their seventh round compensatory pick on Baylor running back Jay Finley.
The same goes for the cornerback position. Johnathan Joseph is a free agent and while Adam Jones and Leon Hall could start in 2011, they are both free agents in 2012. They Bengals also passed on cornerbacks like Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara so they could grab A.J. Green in the first round. The Bengals didn't address the cornerback position until they selected Southern Illinois defensive back Korey Lindsey in the seventh round. So, what I would propose is one of two trades:
One: The Bengals give the Dolphins Carson Palmer in exchange for a 2012 second-round pick and newly acquired Kansas St. running back Daniel Thomas. I believe that both Ricky Williams and Ronny Brown are free agents now, that, combined with the fact that I liked Thomas while he was at Kansas St. and I believe he could fit into their WCO well, are the reasons that I would want Thomas. So even though you'd be losing a good running back prospect, you'd be gaining a proven quarterback that knows how to win. or
Two: I would ask for a 2012 third round pick and cornerback Vontae Davis. I know that Davis is a first round pick, but so is Palmer and, really, you probably need a quarterback worse than we need a defensive back. In reality, this is the kind of trade Bengals owner Mike Brown would ask for. You would be getting a proven quarterback and losing Davis, but cornerbacks are easier to replace than quarterbacks are.
The choice is yours, but really, I'd be surprised if Brown is willing to deal Palmer at all in 2011. He's a stubborn man.
My counter offer response: Declined
I like Jason’s outside of the box thinking here by throwing in players to the deal. But honestly, I don’t find these trades very realistic. I highly doubt Jeff Ireland would be willing to give up a rookie running back he was high enough on to trade away a fifth-round pick to move up into the second round for. And I’m almost certain Jeff Ireland would hang up the phone after a chuckle if the Bengals asked for Vontae Davis.
Vontae is on the verge of blossoming into one of the league’s best corners. Not only do you need a quarterback more than ever in a league that is evolving more and more towards the passing game, you need lockdown corners to shut down the pass on defense. Vontae Davis is going to be a shutdown corner and paired with Sean Smith, the Dolphins may have the brightest cornerback duo in football. That isn’t something the Dolphins should be willing to part with, even if it is for Carson Palmer.
Usually this is the period of the offseason where we enter the doldrums phase. In a normal offseason all of the big name free agents would have new homes, any blockbuster trades would have already went down, and the draft would be in the books. There wouldn’t be much left to discuss. There would only be waiting for the rookies to ink their first contracts and training camp to finally arrive. But as you can tell, this is no normal offseason.
I’m sure we would all gladly take the most boring phase of the NFL calendar right about now, instead of the uncertainty that hangs over the league’s head. But it’s the situation we’re unfortunately in, and we’ll have to make do. And if the courts do the right thing in the next couple days and lift the lockout, we could be in for some unprecedented excitement in May.
For a team like the Dolphins, with remaining major holes to fill, the lockout can’t be lifted soon enough. They addressed several pressing needs in the draft, but they are going to have to open up the checkbook and, at the very least, bring in a veteran running back, quarterback, and possibly offensive guard.
Of those positions, the one that is going to get the most attention, and rightly so, is quarterback. You’re not going to become a legitimate title contender in this league without a franchise quarterback. Chad Henne certainly hasn’t given us a reason to believe he can become one, but since we’ve seen late bloomers before, in extreme cases that is, I guess we can say the jury is still out. But after two inconsistent, mediocre seasons at the helm, the Dolphins must bring in someone that is capable of pushing him in a preseason competition and potentially unseating him as the starter.
The remaining options out there that are most capable of doing so would have to be traded for. Carson Palmer, Kevin Kolb, and Kyle Orton are, in my opinion anyway, the top three quarterbacks that are expected to be attainable this offseason. Sure, there are concerns with all three, which is why they are attainable in the first place.
There isn’t a quarterback in the history of the league that has entered the trading block without legitimate concerns alarming enough to scare away a few teams. But Palmer is one of the top quarterbacks in the league when he’s on top of his game, Kevin Kolb has flashed brilliance in limited action, and Kyle Orton is arguably one of the most underrated quarterbacks in all of football.
We will continue our discussion on the three, as well as Matt Flynn, tomorrow. Today, I want to go a different direction. A high draft pick would be worth the investment if the Dolphins are convicted about one of those guys. But what if they’re not high on any of them? What if they want to enter the 2012 draft with all of their picks to work with, instead of being handicapped by a missing second-round selection for the third consecutive year?
Well, there are some capable names on the impending open market as well. None of these options would restore hope to the franchise like Palmer or Kolb, but most are capable of pushing Henne.
6. Matt Leinart: Other than the potential he came into the league with, there isn’t much to get excited about with Matt Leinart. He’s also only 27 years old, meaning if the light bulb finally came on, he could be the long-term solution in Miami. But his career total of 14 touchdowns compared to 20 interceptions should be enough to keep the Dolphins away. And when you consider that ratio came from his four years with the Cardinals, where Leinart had weapons like Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin at his side, it seems pretty obvious he isn’t starting material in this league.
5. Marc Bulger: The now 34-year old quarterback didn’t get any action with the Ravens in 2010. Bulger threw more interceptions than touchdown passes in all three of his final years with the Rams and his QB rating never broke 71.4. It appears he’s as washed up as they come and probably wouldn’t be anything more than a solid veteran presence in the locker room.
4. Brady Quinn: At only 26 years old and with only 12 starts under his belt, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Brady Quinn could salvage his career. He does have one more touchdown pass than interception (10-9), and has experience playing in Brian Daboll’s system. But his 52.1% completion percentage is red flag to say the least.
As we continue to wait for the lockout to be lifted so free agency can open and trades be permissible, let’s take a look at the current state of the Dolphins’ roster.
As opposed to the defensive side of the ball, which is virtually game day ready personnel wise outside of a few depth concerns (particularly at OLB), the offense is far from settled.
The outlook offensively is better now than it was before the draft, but the Dolphins are still a veteran quarterback, a starting caliber running back, and an athletic, pulling guard away from filling all their needs before training camp.
Of those three remaining voids, quarterback and running back will undoubtedly be addressed via trade or in free agency. It’s still uncertain if the front office feels comfortable enough about the interior offensive line to move forward.
Personally, I think they should add a proven veteran guard if they intend on starting Mike Pouncey off at center because there will be question marks at both guard spots without one. Richie Incognito hasn’t given us a reason to believe he’ll be anything more than average at guard, John Jerry struggled as a rookie, and Nate Garner may only be valuable as a versatile fill-in.
We will have to wait for free agency to see how confident the front office is in their current interior O-line. For now, though, let’s see what the Dolphins’ offense would look like if they had to take the field today.
Quarterback: (1) Chad Henne, (2) Tyler Thigpen, (3) Tom Brandstater
The Dolphins tendered Tyler Thigpen this offseason, but it likely won’t matter once the lockout is lifted because there isn’t expected to be any restricted free agents. Thigpen would surely be welcomed back, as an athletic backup who could challenge a struggling Chad Henne for the starting job. But Thigpen will likely sign elsewhere, because the quarterback competition figures to be a two-man race once the Dolphins add a veteran. And like I’ve said before, it’s not a matter of if they will add a veteran, it’s a matter of who that veteran will be.
We won’t speculate on who that veteran will be right now, but just rest assured that the quarterback depth chart will include a new name by the time camp opens. The Dolphins won’t start the season with only two QB’s. Chad Henne needs to have competition and Tom Brandstater may be nothing more than practice squad quality.
Running Back: (1) Daniel Thomas, (2) Lex Hilliard, (3) Kory Sheets
The Dolphins must add another starting caliber running back in free agency. In today’s NFL, you can’t get by with a primary-back system anymore. Just about every offense is running a two-back system. And neither Lex Hilliard nor Kory Sheets figure to have what it takes to share the workload with Daniel Thomas.
If one were to step up into that role, though, it would likely be Kory Sheets. I’m not dismissing Lex Hilliard or even predicting Sheets would beat him out in camp for a roster spot, but if one were to co-start with Thomas, it would be Sheets because his speed would make him a nice change-of-pace complement.
After getting a little more familiar with first-round pick Mike Pouncey yesterday, it’s time to do the same with second-round selection Daniel Thomas today.
I was somewhat critical of the pick on draft night, simply because Ryan Mallett was still on the board. But with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams slated for free agency, the Dolphins were wise to pick up a running back with one of their early-round selections.
Having said that, I’m still not 100% sold on Thomas as the feature back of this offense. Not necessarily because he’s a bigger back that lacks big-play ability, but because of his ball security issues and upright running style.
But don’t take my word for anything on this kid, yet. Admittedly, I may have seen him play once or twice at K-State and wasn’t necessarily in scouting mode. So, once again, let’s talk to an expert. Please welcome in Tye Burger from Bring on the Cats, SB Nation’s Kansas St. Wildcats blog.
Phins Phocus: What are Daniel Thomas' biggest strengths that he will bring to the Dolphins' backfield?
Answer: Daniel Thomas' biggest strength is durability. He's not the fasted back, and he doesn't have the best moves, but he can take a pounding. K-State ran 894 plays on offense last year, and Thomas carried the ball on 298 of them. That's more carries for Thomas than the team had pass attempts for the season. I don't know if Miami is planning to make Thomas a feature back because I don't know enough about the Dolphins' personnel, but so far he's shown the ability to carry the load every game. In his junior season, he played the entire season and led the conference in rushing when it was well known that he had a bum shoulder.
Phins Phocus: What are a some of the things he struggles with?
Answer: As you mention in the next question, he's had issues with his ball security. Thomas was a quarterback in junior college, and he still has a tendency to carry the ball a little loosely. On top of that, he fights tooth and nail for every inch he gets, and that has led to him putting the ball on the turf occasionally. Other than that, he doesn't have great burst. Linebackers in the NFL will be able to chase him down in the open field, so he'll have to rely on his ability to find the seam and take good angles in the open field.
Jeff Ireland did a fine job filling some crucial needs for the Dolphins this past weekend in the draft. The offense as a whole is in much better shape than it was this time last week.
With Mike Pouncey, the Dolphins may have reached some and his brother Maurkice may always be a better pro, but they have virtually a sure thing. Pouncey is likely going to be a solid starter, if not a Pro Bowl caliber lineman on the interior of the Dolphins’ O-line for years to come.
In the second round, the Dolphins traded up to get a back they obviously had a conviction about. If they weren’t so confident in Daniel Thomas’ ability they wouldn’t have bothered trading up.
Quality backs like Kendall Hunter and Roy Helu Jr. would have still been on the board when the Dolphins were on the clock in the third round. I have my concerns about Thomas’ upright running style and ball security issues, but we will give the front office the benefit of the doubt until we see the kid play because they obviously felt they had to have him.
Then there is the guy everyone is excited about- Edmond Gates- and the elite speed he brings to an otherwise slow Dolphins’ offense. And in the sixth round, Jeff Ireland and company finally addressed the need for a receiving tight end when they took Charles Clay, who figures to play H-back for the Dolphins in the same manner Chris Cooley is utilized in the Redskins’ scheme.
So all in all, this once needy offense is looking a little more complete these days. But there is still plenty of work to do. The Dolphins weren’t able to address all of their needs and whenever the lockout is actually lifted for good and free agency commences, they’re going to need to spend a little cash to complete the renovation process.
1. Running Back: I thought the Dolphins might double up on the running back position in the same way they addressed positions like corner and defensive end in years past. Daniel Thomas gives them one starting caliber back, but unless the Dolphins plan on retaining either Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams, another back needs to be acquired via free agency.
They nabbed their power back in Thomas, so look for the Dolphins to reel in a scat back that is capable of bringing some big-play potential to the Dolphins’ running game. Obviously, the ideal signing would be DeAngelo Williams, who is one of the league’s elite runners, but don’t rule out slightly less expensive options like Darren Sproles and Ahmad Bradshaw.