Even with all the speculation and uncertainty, previous looming free agency periods were fairly cut and dry when compared to the mess we have on our hands with no new CBA in place. Until the owners and the players union come to some sort of compromise, free agency won’t take place as scheduled in a little over a month. Instead we would have a work stoppage while impending free agents await their fate and teams looking to fill voids with veterans would be forced to put addressing their needs on hold.
Besides merely timing, we are also unaware of what the financial particulars of the new deal will be. Nobody knows what type of salary cap will implemented, thus further restricting our current perspective of how this year’s free agency period will play out. But we can still look into the hopefully near future, and take a glance at which players are scheduled to hit the open market. More specifically, we can set our sights on some of the key impending free agents that would address some of the Dolphins’ more pressing needs.
Let’s start our 2011 NFL free agency preview with running back, a position that the Dolphins desperately need to address in either free agency or the draft, but most likely both. I’m guessing everybody already knows that Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams will both be free agents when a new CBA is agreed upon. Ricky will be 34 by the time next season rolls around and he already appeared to have lost a step in 2010. Don’t forget he also took a few shots at Tony Sparano on his way out the door, which further suggest that his days in Miami are over.
Ronnie, on the other hand, would probably welcome a return to the Dolphins, but combined factors like his age (29), durability, and lack of productivity should insure that Jeff Ireland doesn’t pay him like a Pro Bowl caliber back. Other teams will be weary of those red flags as well, though, so Ronnie returning to the Dolphins isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
But it’s a foregone conclusion that the Dolphins will need to search for at least one starting caliber running back this offseason. Not to mention that backups Patrick Cobbs and Lex Hilliard are scheduled to become restricted free agents while Kory Sheets will become an exclusive rights free agent, giving the Dolphins zero running backs under contract for the 2011 season. Something tells me that Jeff Ireland will, at the very least, strongly consider some of the following free agent candidates.
1. Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants, 24: Ahmad Bradshaw is fresh off of a career year with the Giants, in which he likely played his way into a lucrative long-term deal in a contract year with 1,235 yards on the ground, a solid 4.5 yards per carry, and 8 touchdowns. Bradshaw is the homerun threat the Dolphins’ offense desperately needs, and still likely has four or five quality years left in the tank at only 24 years old. At only 5’9 and a shade under 200 pounds, though, the Dolphins would need to either draft a power back or resign Ronnie Brown, as there are concerns about whether or not Bradshaw could carry the load of a workhorse. Bradshaw would be a great fit in Miami, but it’s hard to envision the Giants letting him get away.
2. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers, 27: A couple rumors have been flying around the web that the Dolphins are very interested in DeAngelo Williams if he becomes a free agent. If legitimate, that news will likely excite many fans as Williams, when healthy, is one of the two or three backs in this league that can dominate football games. He was limited to only six games in 2010 due to a foot injury that landed him on injured reserve but in 2008 and 2009, Williams emerged as a truly elite back. In 2008, Williams surpassed 1,500 yards and racked up 18 touchdowns on 5.5 yards per carry; a season that arguably could be considered one of the better performances by a running back in the decade.
The following argument has nothing to do with soon to be former Raiders’ star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha as a player. As a player, Asomugha is, in my opinion, the best cornerback in the entire league. And yes, that includes Darrelle Revis.
No, Asomugha doesn’t have the reputation Revis has, but simply put, that’s only because the Raiders have been the laughing stock of the league for years and Revis’ Jets are the media’s darling. Also, Asomugha may get overlooked at times because of his lack of interceptions. It’s hard to get picks, though, when quarterbacks won’t even throw the ball his way.
I’m not aware of the number of times Asomugha and Revis were targeted in 2010 because Pro Football Focus is now a website that requires a paid membership, but in 2009, they revealed that Revis was targeted 111 times while opposing quarterbacks only tested Asomugha on 28 occasions. Not to sell Revis short by any means, he’s an elite corner that drastically makes the Jets a better defense and football team, but Asomugha has been just as dominate, if not more so. With that said, however, I don’t believe that the Dolphins should be in his sweepstakes when he eventually hits free agency, as NFL.com's Micheal Lombardi suggested yesterday afternoon.
Most fans are well aware that the Dolphins have themselves a young corner in Vontae Davis that may be on the verge of rising to elite status himself, meaning a lockdown corner is far from one of this football team’s needs in a offseason where several pressing voids must be addressed. Still though, many don’t expect owner Stephen Ross to be shy with his money this offseason, and the ideal of having an elite corner on each side of the field would be frightening for opposing quarterbacks. But that’s where Sean Smith comes into play.
With free agency inevitably in for postponement thanks to the impending work stoppage next month, I thought it was a good time to take a little two week hiatus from the blog to recharge the batteries a little before we delve into our regular offseason posting schedule.
The week before and after the Super Bowl aren’t exactly what you call newsworthy for a franchise that didn’t even make the playoffs, but while I was off, a few noteworthy Dolphins related storylines developed.
Paul Soliai headed for free agency
The Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero broke news early last week that Paul Soliai, who is in for a big pay day after a monster year as the Dolphins’ nose tackle, will hit the open market. The Dolphins would normally get the first chance to sway Soliai to resign, but due the “30 percent rule” that is in place this offseason, they will be prohibited from resigning players to a contract worth more than 30 percent of their current deal.
Because Soliai drastically improved his stock, making a jump from borderline starting material to one of the premiere nose tackles in the league in the matter of only a season, the Dolphins have no realistic chance of resigning him before free agency begins. Instead, they will be forced to hand over a lucrative long-term contract to Soliai with possibly several other teams who are looking to plug up the middle of their 3-4 defense competing for his services.
I’ve heard some fans in the blogosphere suggest that the Dolphins should let Soliai walk considering he finally broke through in a contract year and has had trouble keeping his weight down in the past. Personally, I feel like resigning Soliai should be priority number one for the Dolphins’ front office in the free agency period. By season’s end, the Dolphins were becoming dominate against the run week in and week out. An awful lot of that had to do with Paul Soliai.
To run a successful 3-4 defense in this league you need a double-team commanding monster in the middle. They are some of rarest players around, but the Dolphins have one. You just can’t let someone of Soliai’s caliber walk without at least putting up a fight.
The Dolphins have a whole lot going for them on the defensive side of the football. Sure, their offense is light years away, but with a young defense on the verge of potentially making the jump to elite status, winning football might not be as far away as it may seem. Now, the Dolphins just have to make sure they keep the defense together.
Although the finale to the 2010 NFL season is still over a week away, the long, strenuous draft scouting process has already kicked off with the week’s Senior Bowl. Hundreds of NFL scouts fled to Mobile, Alabama at the beginning of the week to begin the evaluation of some of the nation’s most outstanding seniors.
Senior Bowl week culminates with the game itself tomorrow, but most scouts actually consider the week of practice more revealing and some have already made the trip home. From the fans perspective, though, tomorrow’s game will give many a first impression of some of the prospects we are going to ramble on about and dissect until the draft in late April. More importantly, from the Dolphins’ perspective, there are several quarterbacks, including first round possibility Jake Locker, that have one final game as a collegiate athlete to make the type of statement that could significantly boost their draft stock.
1. Jake Locker, QB, Washington: There may not be a bigger high risk, high reward prospect in this year’s draft than Jake Locker. Many draft experts believed Locker would have been the first overall selection in last year’s draft if he would have chose to come out early. Instead, Locker returned for his senior season where he finished his degree and got one more valuable year of experience under his belt. However, he drastically hurt his draft stock as his passing numbers took a dip and Washington stumbled to a mediocre season. Still though, Locker’s superb athleticism and arm strength and the fact that he played in a pro style system at Washington have many draft experts projecting him as the second ranked quarterback in the draft.
2. Titus Young, WR, Boise State: We all know that the Dolphins need to get faster and more explosive on the offensive side of the football. Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess, and Brian Hartline make up a pretty solid receiving core, but the lack of a true deep threat really hurt Miami’s ability to produce big plays. If the Dolphins are serious about addressing this issue, Titus Young would be the ideal selection in the second or third round. That is, if he doesn’t just play his way into the first round conversation this week. Young has consistently been getting separation on go-routes this week in practice and if he can run a sub 4.4 at the combine, comparisons to Desean Jackson would likely be soon to follow. The only problem is, when dealing with speedy receivers, you never know when you’ve got another Ted Ginn on your hands.
Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel is reporting this morning that the Dolphins’ plans are to release 32-year old cornerback Will Allen once teams are officially allowed to cut ties with veterans next month.
Allen was placed on injured reserve early in the year after he underwent a knee scope to help alleviate pain in his knee as he attempted to return from a torn ACL. From the outside looking in, it certainly appeared to be a premature move on the Dolphins part, as Jeff Ireland churned the roster by bringing in roster fringe lineman and wasn't willing to wait for the outstanding depth Allen would have brought to the cornerback position.
In his five years with the Dolphins, Allen arguably established himself as one of the most underrated cornerbacks in football, but the combination of his age, durability, the emergence of Vontae Davis and Sean Smith, and the fact that he’s owed $5.5 million in 2011, the third most of any Dolphin, makes this an almost compulsory move. Hopefully, by avoiding handing that big of a check to Allen, the Dolphins can put that extra cash to good use in free agency.