The Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero has stirred up quite the buzz this afternoon. The Miami Dolphins have suddenly emerged as the favorite to land Carson Palmer after Armando spoke of people inside the organization that have leaked the team’s interest in Palmer.
I’m always cautious to trust reports like this, this time of year, but I don’t doubt the Dolphins’ interest in Palmer one bit. The Dolphins are in desperate need of a franchise quarterback, or at the very least a reliable starter if they want to emerge from mediocrity next season. They could obviously look to the draft to address the need, but how often do rookies step in and take a below .500 team from the following year to the playoffs?
Realistically, if the Dolphins want to win now, pursuing a proven veteran would be the direction to take. Carson Palmer is the most proven of any of the veterans who are projected to become available. Sure, he’s shown some decline over the past few years, most notably tying a career high with 20 picks this season, but we’re still talking about a guy who threw for 26 touchdowns and nearly 4,000 yards in 2010.
With all that said, however, establishing that the Dolphins have interest in Palmer is the simple part. Things get very complicated from here. First off, this whole lockout mess has prohibited teams from dealing players. Meaning, even though the draft will still run as planned, the Dolphins won’t be able to use one of their draft selections to acquire a player in a trade until a new collective bargaining agreement is in place. Judging by how the talks seem to be progressing from the outside, I would be shocked if we had a new CBA before the draft.
Even if the players and owners are able to compromise, though, the Dolphins are currently void a second round pick. I would expect the Bengals to ask a first rounder for Palmer’s services, but with no second to work with, I have my doubts about whether or not the Dolphins would be inclined to wait until round three to make a selection.
But where the lockout could actually benefit the Dolphins is, the Bengals may be forced to start considering 2012 draft picks as compensation. If a new CBA isn’t agreed upon until after the draft as expected, and Palmer remains adamant that he will retire before he plays another down as a Bengal, Cincinnati will really have no choice but to either let him walk away or get what they can in next year’s draft for him.
I don’t know about you, but in an offseason where the entire running game needs rebuilt from the ground up, I would much rather prefer the Dolphins to deal a 2012 draft choice as opposed to one of their selections next month.
But the tricky thing with that scenario is, the Dolphins would likely have to risk not addressing the quarterback position at all this offseason with an upgrade over Chad Henne, by passing on a rookie prospect and holding out for the possibility or reeling in Palmer.
Is that a risk they should be willing to take? It all depends on how much they trust Chad Henne as their fall back option. Personally, I don’t think Henne will ever emerge as anything more than quality backup, but then again, with better coaching and a better running game in 2011, I would only expect him to improve significantly.
In news related to the Dolphins’ search for a potential franchise quarterback, the team is reportedly one of eight ball clubs that is scheduled to hold a private workout with Cam Newton. Of those eight teams, though, all select before the Dolphins’ 15th overall selection.
So unless Jeff Ireland is seriously considering trading up in order to land the Heisman winning quarterback, something I find unlikely already being void of a 2nd round pick, we might want to start assuming that the Dolphins will realistically be in the market for the prospects beyond the top two (Gabbert and Newton).
The third ranked quarterback may vary depending on which draft expert you talk to, but more often than not, you will find Washington’s Jake Locker as the next quarterback in line. Unless Locker’s stock takes a significant boost sometime between now and the draft or unless a top 15 team becomes sold enough on his talent to reach a bit for his services, he still should be on the board when the Dolphins are on the clock.
Now, just because he may be the most realistic option for the Dolphins at pick No. 15, does that mean they should select him by default being in desperate need of a franchise quarterback in a day in age where winning championships is not feasible without one?
Draft Projection: Mid to Late 1st
Pros: Yes, Locker had a disappointing 2010 season, but the skill set he brings to the table was impressive enough for him to be considered the consensus number one overall selection coming into the year. His combination of size and athleticism is about as rare as it gets. Combine his running ability with the arm strength good enough to make any throw in football, and it’s easy to see why his upside is so intriguing.
If you’re looking for a guy who could potentially step in from day one and contribute, Locker may be capable of just that, as he doesn’t project to have a steep learning curve having played in a pro style system at Washington. After witnessing two years of Chad Henne, Locker would also be refreshing change of pace from a leadership standpoint. He’s the type of quarterback that always plays with emotion and has the ability to put a team on his back. Most consider Locker a high risk, high reward prospect, but based on the fact that he was once considered a sure-fire franchise quarterback, the Dolphins may be in position to make the steal of the draft.
As the owners and players union continue to meet this week, we can only hope that both parties will be able to hammer out a deal by Friday’s deadline. Until they do, or don’t, however, we won’t be informed much into how the negotiations are progressing. Instead, we will all have to just sit tight and wait it out.
But what we can do is continue to look ahead to the 2011 free agency class, which will hit the open market whenever a new CBA is in place. More specifically, we can look at possible veteran solutions to the several key voids on the Dolphins’ roster. We’ve already taken a look at the running backs and interior lineman, now let’s take a quick glance at the speedy receivers that would give a slow Dolphins offense big-play potential.
For the record, I would prefer seeing the Dolphins look to free agency to bring in a running back and an interior lineman, and save bringing in speedy skill players for the draft. But if they truly feel that they can rebuild their running game in the draft exclusively, it would probably be wise for the front office to consider one of these speedsters if they want the Dolphins offense to have more firepower in 2011.
1. Santonio Holmes, New York Jets, 27: You have to put the guy on here because he’s technically scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent if the new CBA includes a salary cap, and he’s one of the more dominate blazers in the game. But realistically speaking, there isn’t a chance Jets’ GM Mike Tannenbaum is letting Holmes get away. If the Jets really can’t afford to retain both Holmes and Edwards, I don’t think there is any secret which receiver is going to be shown the door. Holmes was just too big of a steal for the Jets in 2010 and made too many game changing plays.
2. Mike Sims-Walker, Jacksonville Jaguars, 26: You don’t have to speculate about Mike Sims-Walker’s availability. The former Jaguar is going to become a free agent. And when it’s all said and done, after teams are able to resign players with knowledge of the financial particulars of the new CBA, Sims-Walker may be the best receiver period on the open market. He’s not your typical speedster, though. The kid has solid size at 6’2, 214 pounds to accompany his mid 4.3 speed.
But when you think about the type of skill set this Dolphins’ receiving core is missing, I’m not sure Sims-Walker fits the mold. He timed fast coming out of college, yes. But he never really emerged as a game-breaker in Jacksonville. His career long reception stands at 61 and he didn’t have a catch over 40 yards in 2010. That’s nothing to be ashamed of by any stretch of the imagination, but the Dolphins should be looking for someone with a few more home runs on their resume. He would be a solid number two in Miami, absolutely, but the Dolphins already have a solid number two receiver in Brian Hartline.
With the 7-day CBA extension in place, there is suddenly hope that we will have free agency in March this year after all. There isn’t a consensus about whether the prospects of a new deal being reached is favorable or not, but at least now we have hope. And if a deal is indeed agreed upon by Friday’s deadline, the flood gates will open and hundreds of pending NFL free agents will hit the open market.
We looked at the free agent running backs a few weeks back and now it’s time to turn our attention to the Dolphins’ interior offensive line. With news of Richie Incognito resigning with the Dolphins last week, I’m assuming that center is no longer a pressing need on this roster. Of course, the Dolphins could keep Incognito put at left guard where he started most of the 2010 season, but most would agree that his ceiling is significantly higher at center. Incognito just doesn’t have the athleticism to pull effectively, but does possess the elite strength to be a real force as the Dolphins starting center in 2011. With Richie’s move inside, though, the Dolphins have two gaping holes at right and left guard.
In house possibilities, Nate Garner and John Jerry, could potentially fill one of those voids, but both are far from sure things. The Dolphins could obviously hold off addressing guard until the draft, but with so much upgrading that needs to take place on the offensive side of the ball and with currently no 2nd round pick, Jeff Ireland would be wise to at least contemplate some of these veteran candidates.
1. Davin Joseph, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 27: With Carl Nicks and Logan Mankins no longer being possibilities outside of sacrificing a draft pick, Joseph may now be the Dolphins’ first priority this free agency period. Joseph was in the midst of a stellar 2010 season before he went down with a broken foot. He’s exactly what the Dolphins are missing from a run blocking standpoint and is also solid as a pass blocker. Joseph may be on the verge of emerging as one of the league’s elite guards and would drastically upgrade the Dolphins’ running game. Now it’s just a question of whether or not Jeff Ireland will be willing to dish out a lucrative contract and whether or not Joseph will be willing to move a few hours south.
2. Harvey Dahl, Atlanta Falcons, 29: The Dolphins were enticed by Richie Incognito’s nasty streak last offseason, and if they want to continue with that line of thinking, Harvey Dahl may be atop their wish list. Dahl has established a reputation as one of the league’s nastiest O-lineman and in Atlanta, combined with Ryan Clabo to form a dominate right side.
On a day where the biggest league wide news was supposed to be the opening of the 2011 NFL combine, the Dolphins have had themselves a buzz worthy 24 hours. We all know that the Dolphins have a lot of work to do this offseason on the offensive side of the football, but there was one crucial order of business that needed to be taken care of on the other side.
Of course I’m referring to retaining nose tackle Paul Soliai, who was scheduled to hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent before the Dolphins placed the franchise tag on him today. It’s a huge investment for the Dolphins, as Soliai is now guaranteed $12.381 million in 2011. But you could argue that letting him hit free agency would have been considerably more costly. The Dolphins don’t have any legitimate weaknesses on defense, and with Soliai now slated to once again anchor the D-line, Mike Nolan’s unit may be all set to rise to elite status in 2011.
I still think they could upgrade in the pass rushing department and either Reshad Jones or Chris Clemons needs to develop into a reliable free safety, but bringing Soliai back ensures that the Dolphins should pick up where they left off in 2010 as one of the stingiest front sevens against the run in the entire league.
In other news, the Dolphins are apparently the leading candidate to land suddenly available Jeremy Shockey. League sources reported earlier today that Shockey passed a physical with the Dolphins. Although nothing has been confirmed as far as negotiations go, it’s only logical to assume that both parties are interested in getting a deal done.
Shockey reportedly would love to return to Miami, where he played college ball for the Hurricanes and where he currently resides in the offseason. The Dolphins, meanwhile, could use a tight end with the receiving skills Shockey would bring to the table. On paper, everything adds up. But let’s hold off on further delving into how Shockey would benefit the Dolphins until we hear official word of a signing.
Foxsports.com is reporting that the Dolphins are not expected to resign impending free agent left guard Richie Incognito. We were all well aware that the front office would have their hands full this offseason remodeling the interior offensive line, but their mysterious plans for Richie Incognito hindered how we perceived they would go about addressing the issue.
There was the possibility that the Dolphins would resign Incognito to move him over to center, where he showed some flashes of potential in the couple games he saw time there. They could have also brought him back and kept him put at left guard, where he was only decent and was a lackluster puller, but often times the only positive contributor on an otherwise putrid interior. Instead, though, if these reports are accurate, the Dolphins will have a little more work on their hands than we originally thought.
A couple other in house solutions to the interior mess include right guard John Jerry and the ever so versatile Nate Garner. Jerry didn’t show much promise as a rookie, but the fact that he was only a rookie leaves the door open for drastic improvement down the road. Garner was sidelined for the entire season with a foot injury, but he looked like starting material in 2009 when he was forced to play tackle, guard, and center due to a plague of injuries. It wouldn’t be shocking if one could fill one of the three voids inside, but to bank on both would be foolish.
I wouldn’t mind seeing the Dolphins allowing Jerry and Garner to battle it out on the right side in training camp, but that still leaves two gaping holes that need to be filled. But with Incognito supposedly soon to be out of the picture, we now know that center will be one of the biggest needs on the roster this offseason, with guard, either left or right, or potentially both being not far behind. Keep in mind, though, this is all still speculation at this point. These Incognito rumors come from Fox Sports, not one of the usually reliable South Florida media outlets. Until we hear consensus from the Dolphins’ beat writers or a statement from the team itself, let’s not rule out the possibility of Incognito returning.
Earlier tonight, Adam Schefter reported that the St. Louis Rams have released veteran free safety O.J. Atogwe. In the past two offseasons many fans let it be known their desire for the Dolphins to pursue Atogwe, as the free safety position has been a hole on this roster for several years.
Ultimately, though, upper management never made a serious play for Atogwe. Instead, they decided to bring in Gibril Wilson two years ago, who plagued the secondary with missed tackles and appalling coverage all of 2009, and last offseason, they chose to stay out of the Atogwe sweepstakes and entrusted the starting position to second-year safety Chris Clemons.
That decision should probably be looked at under a positive light, as Clemons was far from a disappointment and rookie Reshad Jones exhibited enough potential to forecast a stiff competition for the starting free safety job in this year’s training camp. Still though, both have a long way to go before we can proclaim that the Dolphins finally have themselves a solid starter at free safety. So when a sure bet like Atogwe becomes available, should Jeff Ireland seriously contemplate making a play for his services?
Matt Williamson of ESPN’s Scouts Inc. told ESPN’s AFC East Blog yesterday that “Miami’s defense is one good free safety away from being one of the elite units in 2011.” In his six seasons in St. Louis, Atogwe totaled 390 tackles, 22 interceptions, and broke up 38 passes. I would say that would qualify as a good safety. If it’s really that simple, should Stephen Ross open up the checkbook for a likely pricey contract if it means the Dolphins would project as an elite defense in 2011?